Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ah tasmania!

I'm on a roll now - really getting into this 'love Tasmania' thing!

On the day I discovered a host of bike tracks I also discovered a small market. It's held every Saturday in a little square in the centre of town... and because I never visit this square I never knew about the market.

Admittedly it was a small market with just a couple of stalls, but as I was entering and exiting a shop, the proprietor of one of the stalls called out a cheery 'hello, how are you?' to me. As I went in and as I went out! On the way out I sheepishly checked out his stall - I felt kind of obliged, after he'd been so friendly to me.

And there I discovered a wealth of homemade goodies. Beetroot and Apple Chutney, Raspberry Jam, Garlic Sauce... and I got to sample some of them! I happily munched away, feeling even more obliged, so I bought some of the Garlic Sauce - it really was yummy.

As I turned to walk away the gentleman called out 'don't forget the recipe' that was a complimentary accompaniment to the sauce. I stuffed it in my purse with thanks, and hurried on to my next stop.

When I got home I pulled out the recipe and read it:

Marinate chicken in garlic sauce (add pinch of bi-carb)
stir fry onion or vege to your taste
Add chicken and garlic sauce to your Taste
Stir fry together

I had to laugh! I reckon I could probably have figured that out for myself without too much trouble! They were so well meaning in ensuring I had this recipe that I nearly forgot to take... and it was hardly a recipe at all! Very sweet, very kind, very cute.

You've got to love Tasmanians. They have big hearts and friendly souls.

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seeing the city with new eyes

I think I'm rediscovering my city! Which is nice, after complaining for the last four weeks that I feel trapped on a small island with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

The Christmas bike finally arrived, so we took advantage of the long weekend with a few leisurely rides. They would have been leisurely if my bottom didn't hurt so, and my legs didn't turn to jelly on the hills!

Apart from the discomfort, we had a great time and discovered a tangle of bike tracks I never knew existed. Ride along the river this way; ride along the river that way; head out to a heritage forest and ride around the forest; ride to the museum and take in an exhibition on woven baskets; ride to the fish and chip shop on the foreshore; ride amongst majestic oak and chestnut trees. It was wonderful!

Before my very eyes I felt our city being transformed into a place of hidden treasures and delight. Boring? Never! We didn't have time to explore every track in every direction, so I'm looking forward to packing a picnic and taking a different path next time.

We did stop at the museum and visit an exhibition called 'wovenform' that displayed woven baskets from many of the aboriginal communities. It was incredible what they can do with grass and plant roots. Truly beautiful, and if the warden hadn't been keeping a close eye on me I might have picked one up and brought it home to use! I'll have to learn basket weaving and make one for myself... or maybe it would be quicker to commission one?!

In the museum I picked up a brochure from the 'Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra'... I had no idea they host so many concerts throughout the year. Then in April there's a festival called 'Ten Days on the Island', featuring art, music, and theatre from the island nations of the world.

Who said nothing happens in Tasmania? Who said this city is boring? Who said Sydney or Melbourne or London are better places to be? Whoever it was, they were wrong! They just have to open their eyes and see what's already there and get involved!

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creating time, creating busyness, creating clothes

Life wasn't busy enough for me. You know January - lazy summer days, nothing to do in the evening, public holidays galore. I was getting bored... (yeah right!)... so I created some busyness for myself.

I decided to sew a top and a dress in one weekend. Busy, busy. Cutting, sewing, ironing, unpicking, sewing, trimming, ironing, trying on, more sewing. It was a marathon, let me tell you! But I did it, almost within the weekend... just finished off a couple of bits last night after work.

And so dahdah... I now have a new top, and a new dress and they both turned out OK if you ignore the slight puckering around the sleeves of the dress... I think I forgot to trim and clip. Oh well. Photos to come when life is less crazy.

The other reason for the big rush on sewing is that life is about to change here in Frank and Cecily's household. Lazy days of summer have been the order of the day, and I've loved it. In fact I've loved it so much I've elevated January to favourite month status. But not only is January about to end and with it the endless free evenings - I am about to start studying.

This morning I fly out to Armidale (in New South Wales) for a three day residential school to kick off a Graduate Certificate in Counseling. Goodbye free time, hello bookwork! I wanted to use my last weekend of freedom to do something I really enjoy.

I'm also tired of moaning about never having time to do things - a problem that has more to do with my time management than with life's busyness. So my weekend was one big creation - creating time, creating busyness, creating clothes. It was great!

So that explains the blogging silence. Boy I missed writing though - every night I had a long list of things to post about. Let's see if I can remember any of them now!

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Friday, January 26, 2007

australia day

It's the 26th January and we've all had the day off work... well some of us did anyway.

Why such luxury only a month after Christmas when we enjoyed oodles of public holidays?

Because it's summer and the government decided to give us a chance to get out and enjoy the weather? Because after time off at Christmas, we're all out of condition and need a breather if we're going to make it into February without too many sick days? Because it's good for business - the extra day off makes us more productive on Monday?

Wrong, wrong and wrong!
(Though I would suggest that four day working weeks are good for everyone's productivity!)

No, none of the above - it's Australia Day, when we celebrate the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip on Australian turf in 1788. OK - how many of you thought it was Captain James Cook who stuck the flag in the ground on that fateful day? I admit to thinking hard before remembering James Cook discovered these sunny shores, Arthur Phillip colonised them.

Back to the story... Captain Arthur Phillip landed on Australian turf on this day 119 years ago. Only it wasn't really Australian turf and he stuffed things up for the Aborigines well and good. So we don't really celebrate Captain Arthur Phillip and his merry convicts anymore - we do our very best to forget them. Instead we take time out to participate in all those things that make us Australian.

Like eating Weetbix for breakfast. (I confess I ate porridge). And Vegemite on toast. (Yes, I had some for lunch) And firing up the barbie. (Not burning Barbie... just a barbeque, though maybe one could argue that the Aussie BBQ is just as inhumane) And going to the beach. (Far too blustery and cold for that in Tasmania today!) And waving the flag. (Did enough of that last year when we were in Sydney on Australia Day, for the last day of our honeymoon) All this to celebrate being Australian!

It's the one day of the year we turn patriotic. (Aussies aren't really known for national pride - unless it comes to sport)

When I stop and think about it, it is good to be Australian - we live in a beautiful country; people are friendly and kind; the lifestyle is up there with the best in the world; not too many people live here so there's space (admittedly most of it's in the desert, but never mind); we are safe and free and prosperous. Life is good in this wonderful country.

So thank you to the people who declared the 26th January a public holiday! I appreciate the chance to remember how blessed I am - and I love the extra day off work.

Happy Australia Day!

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beautiful beetroot

I've been reliably informed by my brother that vegetable posts are boring and even I admit that this blog is getting a little tedious - spiders, vegetables, vegetables, spiders.

So I apologise for yet another vegie post, but I'm just too delighted with this produce not to share! (I swear I didn't get picked enough for 'show and tell' in school)

Four little beetroots this time, and I made them up into a salad with lemon juice, olive oil, Italian parsley, and loads of garlic. Succulent and delicious.

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revenge of the spiders II

(apologies for 3 spider posts in one week, but this was huge)

I've done reasonably well at moving on from Monday's spider saga. I didn't see the little beastie again, and no point worrying myself to death over something I might never ever see! Spiders move on and so does life. Get over it. Even Frank noted that I'd recovered well from my arachnaphobic episode.

So there we were this morning, enjoying the opportunity for an Australia Day lie in, watching clouds float past the window and feeling satisfied with the world. Suddenly Frank grabbed me and attempted to flick me out of the bed. I barely budged an inch so he made a second attempt at the flicking, at which point I started to complain about such rough treatment of his beloved wife.

It was about then that I realised Frank wasn't joking. He had seen THE SPIDER - the 3cm long spider. He had seen it in THE BED - moving my way and only millimetres from my body! His seeming violence was a brave attempt to save me from an almost certain spider bite.

You can imagine the rest of the story. I flew out of the bed faster than a flash of lightening and we set about killing the little blighter. Except we couldn't find him! Under the bed, stripping the sheets, in the ironing board cover, shaking the pillows... no where to be found! After two close encounters there was no way we were letting him get away this time. We kept hunting until I saw him scampering across the floor boards.

Whack! He is dead. True to my promise I did not torture, I killed.

Autopsy revealed an adolescent huntsman.

This whole incident has left my skin crawling... I'm just glad I didn't see it in such close proximity.

A poem to bring closure:

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
There came a big spider
Who sat down beside her
So she clobbered him
Hard with her tray

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

unsettling reports

Apparently India's economy is experiencing phenomenal growth, and economists are predicting the trend will continue until India is stronger than Italy, the UK, Japan and eventually the USA. I heard the news this morning while I was fiddling around with the radio via the internet and I found it strangely disturbing.

I don't know much about economy and I don't pay huge amounts of attention to the stock market or reserve bank declarations, but even I can feel the world shifting under my feet. The balance of wealth and power that I have known all my life is slipping. New powers are forming and gathering strength.

And why not? They have the world's largest populations - surely it's only fair that they have the economy and recognition to suit.

But what about the world as we know it? How will it change?

I'm not into imperialism, or colonialism, or Western supremacy but... it's been this way my whole life! Like it or not, Western domination of the world has benefited me, giving me prosperity and security. Will that change? Will we in the West lose our power? Will control of the world's resources be taken out of our hands? Will things stop going all our way?

Part of me is pleased - we are far too rich for our own good, and billions of people are far too poor.

Another part of me is unsettled - I like being rich more than I care to admit. (And will the billions of poor really benefit from all this economic growth anyway?)

Most troubling of all is my response! My own imperialistic tendencies have been exposed!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

how to have a really bad sleep

Yes, I am still alive. I survived the spider infested bedroom, but only just.

I stayed on the computer as long as I could, but by almost midnight I decided it was getting a little bit ridiculous so I toddled down the hall. Well, I would have toddled except Frank had turned off the lights because they were keeping him awake, so I cowered along on tiptoe, expecting the squelch of a spider at any moment. No spider in the hallway.

After safely navigating my way into the bedroom I cautiously reached over and turned a lamp on. Again, no spider on the light switch.

Carefully, so as not to disturb any spider that may have clambered into a drawer for safety, I opened the drawer and removed a nightgown. No spider.

I shook the nightie out and... something fell out of it. ARGHHHHHHH. Nope, no spider. It was just a baby earwig. (Will you listen to me - 'just' a baby earwig?! It was so tiny it was almost cute and in comparison to a spider? Quite darling really)

Donn said nightgown and slowly pull back the sheets, all the time muttering to Frank and asking if he's sure there's no spider in the bed with complete disregard for his slumbering state. No spider, but I wouldn't really know as I wasn't game enough to look.

Gradually, ever so slowly I fell asleep but it must have be after 1am before I dropped off. (That is the exaggeration of a spider crazed mind for sure. I never take that long to drop off!)

And then every time I moved (and sometimes when I didn't) I jumped awake - certain that the spider had just run across my leg. No spider? I don't know - I didn't dare look.

It was a long night and I am alive, but I feel less than so. Thankyou for your thoughts!


Monday, January 22, 2007

revenge of the spiders

It's after ten and I really should be in bed, but I just don't want to go there. Not that I'm not tired, it's just that a spider jumped out of the bedclothes this morning.

You read right - A SPIDER JUMPED OUT OF THE BEDCLOTHES this morning! Not just a friendly little jumping spider, not even a creepy daddy long legs - a 2cm long, reddish brown, hairy number that hitherto I have been unable to identify though I suspect he snuck in two nights ago when the front door was open and it rained outside.

This little creature has hung like a spectre over my whole day - running across my feet, dangling from my hair, tickling my arm, lurking in dark corners, jumping out of drawers. Of course, when I go to catch and destroy him, there's no trace of him and the spectre dances on across my mind.

Today's event caps off a couple of interesting spider incidents, one involving a jumping spider that I unwittingly tortured in a most cruel way.

The little fellow, decorated with a cheerful yellow stripe, was trying to walk down the side of the oven. Except the oven was on and it was burning his little feet, poor thing. He kept swinging out from the metal surface to escape, but, unable to maintain his position in midair, returned over and over to the searing heat of the oven. Soon he gave up and scurried back to the stove top where I waited, stirring a pot of stew. Momentarily defeated, he dropped himself a few centimetres from the stove overhang and curled up into a ball. Of course I blew hot air on him (how could I resist?) and he set off to prance around on the side of the oven once more. Poor little thing - he was obviously in pain, but my soft spot for jumping spiders does not extend to search and rescue. I let him be. Eventually he figured out that if he jumped far enough he would land on the side of the cupboard, which was not as hot, and there he sat until I turned the oven off, the furnace cooled and he could safely scamper wherever he liked.

This is rather a cute spider story in my opinion - 'arachnoid triumphs over trial'. The happy ending almost fills one with a warm glow...

Not so today's story. This makes me recoil with absolute horror. Especially since it went from bad to worse!

I flicked the doona off the bed so I could change the sheets, and as you know, out jumped THE SPIDER. I gasped rather loudly and squeaked out a plea for help. Frank marched boldly into the room and together we peered under the dressing table - sure enough, there was the big, reddish-brown hairy monster crawling along the skirting board. We breathed a collective sigh of relief that it wasn't a white tail and Frank exited the room to collect an extermination device. I stood by the bed shaking, waiting for Frank to return and rescue me from the hideous sight. Frank reentered and bent down to kill the spider and....

... it was gone! No where in sight! As I stood cowering in fear, the little bugger had scampered away to freedom. We moved the dressing table, the laundry hamper, lifted the mat but it all to no avail. He could not be found. (Why do I always think of spiders as male?)

How awful! Even now I don't want to enter the bedroom. Frank may be sleeping soundly and safely, but what if the spider comes out and eats us in the night? Too terrible.

So as you go about your day on the other side of the globe, please spare a thought for me, asleep with the spider! If I don't post tomorrow, you'll know I've been carried off by the hoary beast.

(Is this revenge of the spiders? A spider revolt? A reddish-brown hairy beast sent on a reprisal mission? If so - I repent. I promise to never again participate in any form of spider torture. I'll just kill you straight out! I hereby commit to the humane treatment of all spiders within the four walls of my home. I'll also shut the front door every night, even if it is hot and muggy)


Sunday, January 21, 2007

...of droughts and flooding rains

What do you know... huge swathes of Australia are in drought.


The ground is hard and cracked wide open, cattle are dying, crops struggle to produce with limited irrigation, city citizens face the indignity of not maintaining their beautifully manicured gardens, the economy takes a dive or two as food production costs rise astronomically, bushfires rip through tinder-dry national parks, farmers face devastation, townships run out of water. In Australia it's a familiar picture, a never ending story, but it's not a pretty picture.

And now much of the country is in flood. Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria have all had wonderful, drenching rain. Only the earth is too shrivelled and shrunken to drink in the blessed liquid, and it has run away into drains and roadways and unhelpful spaces. Rain has fallen, but we may well still be in drought.

It all takes me back to my school days of studying poetry, including Dorothy Mackellar's lines (1885-1968). Every time a flood follows hard on the tail of drought I can't help but recite a stanza from her poem "My Country"... 'I love a sunburnt country... of droughts and flooding rains'.

We may live in the grip of global warming that is tipping the scales of our climate, but Australia has been swinging from drought to flood for a long time. It's a long-term pattern that has helped make us who we are. We live in a beautiful country, but it's a harsh country, an unforgiving land. We Aussies are tough people (well we were, maybe we still are) because we've had to learn to survive in difficult conditions.

I love my country - I just wish it was a bit kinder to us humans! (Let's ignore the way we've raped the land and brought some of this upon ourselves for now shall we?)

In case you're interested, here is the complete version of Dorothea Mackellar's poem about Australia. Maybe it's emotional Aussie schmalz, but I love it - never fails to warm the cockles of my heart! Enjoy.

My Country
Dorothea Mackellar

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die-
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold-
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A willful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand-
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

cultivating the gift

Saturday is usually my slow down day. I slow down until 7:30, before jumping up and doing all the housework that has built up during the week. Depending on how thorough I am, that takes me up to lunch time, and then I slow down again before I crown the day by throwing myself into the kitchen and preparing a suitably time consuming weekend dinner. The whole thing flys by far too quickly, and before I know it, Saturday is over and I am thrown into the Sunday busyness of church.

Not today, however. Today was a completely different affair.

At Frank's suggestion, I booked myself into a vocal training session for the morning, so I toddled off at ten to nine for a morning with Erana. That's Erana Clark, the vocal coach of Australian Idol.

It was a fun time. My curiosity was sated by all the insider gossip of last year's idols - and I even learned a thing or two about singing! Like: your voice is a gift. Cultivate it. And warm up, warm up, warm up. And centre yourself at the beginning of each song. And experiment with the shape of your mouth. And know your lyrics. And...

Nothing ground breaking, but there were lots of tips for the taking. Now I just need to make the most of them. (I guess I'll be up at 6am in the morning, so I can fit in a shower and a thirty minute warm up before church!)

I was encouraged by the mock auditions - I think I can safely say that I sing better than most of them! Yay. Still - no idol auditions for me next year, despite their coming to this city for the first time - I'm over the age limit. Maybe I could fudge my age? Oh, that's right... I'm totally content with not being an idol star!

So that was the pleasant aberration from my usual Saturday routine. I've managed to fill the afternoon with minimal housework interspersed with random songs. Just cultivating my gift!

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good for a laugh - and a think!

I would be very unhappy if this blog descended into one link after another, so I apologise for two linky posts in a row.

It's just that I can't stop watching this one over and over. It's hilarious - not to mention completely preposterous! (And I fall for English accents every time)

I wonder how many absurdly obvious things in my life I miss because I accept the appearance of things?! How often do I mislead people - just because I can or because I can't be bothered helping them?

Makes you think.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

So you think you can read people?

I swear I wasn't going to post today, but this one was interesting, so I'm passing it along!

If you've lived as long as I have - or longer - then you probably think you can read people pretty well. If you are younger than me (Luke), you may also think you can read people well, but obviously your lesser life experience makes it less likely to be true.

So, here I am thinking I can read people well and what do you know - someone has created an experiment to test this very thing and I took up the challenge to see if the reality matches my perception. It's the 'Spot the fake smile' test... and sadly I didn't do as well as I expected, though I did pick the right part of the face to watch out for. By the time I'd figured that out however, I was past half way and had no chance of redeeming myself! In the end I picked 10 of the 20 correctly.

So there you have the challenge - can you read people and spot the fake smile? Let me know how you go!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

um, oops

So the garden is going well, but... um...

...maybe I should have picked this one last week, rather than wait until I wanted to cook it. (Yes, that's a knife and spoon from our cutlery drawer)

At least the blackberries are looking ripe and ready to eat!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

revealing meme

As you know, I am totally enraptured by blogs. Writing them, reading them - doesn't matter. I may be too busy to contemplate tackling a host of useful tasks, but I'm never too busy to blog.

The more I blog, and the more blogs I read, the more fascinated I am by the whole concept of revelation and privacy in cyberspace. Some people hide behind code names, others fearlessly reveal every last detail down to their surname. Whatever tack we take, we all reveal ourselves in part, pulling back the curtain of our souls to the degree we feel safe.

I am fairly open. I use my real name, but I don't provide my surname. I talk about real events and I splash my emotions around for the world to read. I feel as if through my writing, you, my readers, know me. I even feel as if I know you through your writing.

In reality, even the most open of us provide only the narrowest of glimpses into our world. How can we ever fit our whole life into a few small posts? The emotions, events, people, hobbies, food, cleaning, reading, gardening, travels, scenery, smells, relationships, joys, heartaches that make up every minute of our existence can never be fully captured no matter how hard we try. As much as I might think I'm revealing my world, I'm not. Not much.

So here is a meme to fill you in on some of the extra details of me. For those of you as ignorant as me, according to Wikipedia, a meme is a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. Memes can replicate and spread, propogating themselves. This meme has been propogating through several blogs I've read, and now I bring it to you.

Five things you don't know about me:
  1. I sing, play the piano and am learning the violin. I do all three averagely, being a self-taught singer who croons in church, a lapsed pianist who quit classical training because of heavy study commitments (looking back, I had no idea what a heavy study commitment was and if I regret anything in my life, it is my decision to not continue piano lessons. I still play in church, but I am a lazy player), and a beginner violinist who picked up the art three years ago when my relationship with Frank appeared doomed and I had angst a-plenty to pour through the strings. Obviously I love music!
  2. My most embarrassing moment occurred last year when I set off the 'code black' (personal threat) alarm at work. I had long been fascinated by a small black box on the wall of the room used for nursing seminars. On this particular day, no one was turning up for the lecture I had planned and in my boredom my eyes lit upon the little black box. I gingerly tiptoed over and started fiddling around, my curiousity particularly piqued by the hidden red button which of course I pressed. Nothing happenned, though I was slightly disturbed when I realised the button did not return to its original position. No matter. A graduate eventually arrived, and as we chatted the 'code' beeps blared out across the hospital. "Code Black Margaret Macke room" and slowly it filtered into my consciousness that I had in fact pushed an emergency alarm. Security and staff flew in from everywhere, only to find me red faced and flustered by my foolish mistake.
  3. I have visited twenty countries in the world, ranging from North America to Europe to Asia. Travelling seems to be in my blood - this year Frank and I are contemplating a trip to visit his ancestral home in Eastern Europe.
  4. I like the house to be tidy, but find it physically impossible to maintain this through every last corner. Consequently I have one room that is in a perpetual state of disorder - any mess from the rest of the house ends up there, waiting for the day when I will create a tidy nook for it.
  5. I don't have my ears pierced because I was never allowed, but at the age of 25 I got my nose pierced. Three of us went to a seedy little hovel in London and placed our lives in the hands of a potentially drugged piercing artist. Thankfully she used a gun, so there was little risk of contamination. Initially I felt stunned and wondered if I should be classified as a punk who decorates themselves with chains from ear to nose to navel. Soon I felt freed by the stud. I proved that Christianity and spirituality are not about outward appearance - I can wear a nose stud and talk to God. Impressive! I love my nose stud, I love what it says about me, and I love what it says about God.
So there you have it - five new things you've learned about me, filling in the shape of Cecily. I now pass this along so that you too can reveal a little more of yourself to us.



Hot, hot, hot... 33 degrees C today! It's 9pm and still 28 degrees Celsius - the same as Adelaide! Unheard of! A Tasmanian heatwave. And the same is forecast for tomorrow.

I shouldn't complain too much, the hospital is air conditioned - it's just the walk home that nearly did me in!

We went into shutdown in preparation for today's high temperatures. Every blind in the house shut. The sun room (a delightful winter feature, but a hideous summer furnace) was closed off from the rest of the house. And we managed to keep the place fairly cool. Only now is the heat creeping into every last crevice.

No cooking tonight either - just salad, tinned tuna and ice cream*. (Choc Wedge Violet Crumbles that were the most luminous yellow - I dread to think just what artificial colours and flavours I have willingly consumed)

* In case you were wondering, we didn't eat the ice cream with the salad and tuna, rather we ate it after the salad and tuna.

Monday, January 15, 2007

strange shopping expedition

The January edition of Notebook magazine assured me that this year's holiday must-have is a summer dress, so I've been keeping my eye out. Gotta keep up with the fashions!

Yesterday Frank suggested I make my own summer dress, rather than spending a small fortune on something suitably fashionable. 'Good idea,' I thought. I used to sew a lot of my own clothes, and it was fun and cheap. Frank's Dad gave us a sewing machine that he couldn't figure out how to use and I haven't used it yet either. Now seems as good a time as any to get get sewing and put it to good use. So I headed out today with my sights set on a pattern and some sassy material.

I love shopping. I try not to love it, but I just can't seem to help myself, so it was more than just the hope of a new dress that filled my heart with pleasure as I set my path toward the shops. It looked like being a good afternoon.

And it was - until I started flicking through those pattern books. They've hardly changed in ten years! Some of them were exactly the same patterns as the last time I looked through the books! Have the designers no imagination?! And what chance did I have of finding a suitably fashionable number here?!

I flicked back and forth, comparing patterns here and there, even pulling one out of my bag, from 1996 mind you, comparing it with the 'latest' styles. I almost opted for reusing that one, but I managed to find a slightly updated version with less gather in the skirt.

The fabric choice wasn't any easier. Spotlight has ruined any chance of finding unique, quality fabric. Every independent fabric store in town has closed down since they imposed themselves on the local market. So it was large black flowers or large black flowers, all in the thinnest of material. I did eventually find a reasonable green floral print and decided it would have to do. For once I didn't have to wait 30 minutes for service, so I quickly but grudgingly handed over my money to the low-quality, fabric magnate of Australia in exchange for their paltry wares. A less than satisfying transaction in my opinion.

I needed to find shopping gratification somewhere else in town, so I headed to the sports store. My aqua aerobic swimmers are looking a little worse for wear - as I've toned up, they've lost all shape and it has become rather perilous jumping upwards at the same time as the water drags downwards on the cossies. I mightn't really need that summer dress, but I do need new swimmers!

What a disaster! I began with the size 10 swimsuits. They were all too tight. I know I've put on a few kilos since we got married, but surely not that much?! I reluctantly turned to the size 12s - but they were just that bit too big. Finally I settled for a brown size 10 cossie. (brown to match my swim shorts of course) It was a little uncomfortable, but would stretch in the water. And at least I could get it on - the pink size 10... it nearly killed me forcing my body into that one!

Just as I was about to hand over my card to pay, I saw it. G10. Girl's 10.

Both the brown and pink costumes were a girl's size 10! Weep no more! I have put on weight, but not so much I can't still fit into a girl's size 10! Woohoo. (I hope I haven't destroyed the swimmers for girl's who really do need G10!)

I went back into the change room with some women's size 10 and found one that looked reasonable. But it wasn't brown. And I was so hot and bothered, shimmying in and out of swimsuit after swimsuit that I just couldn't be bothered. I walked out of the store empty handed.

And that is the story of my shopping expedition. What a disappointment!

But I still love shopping. I do. I really do. Next time it will be better!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

one year today

On this day one year ago, Frank and I pledged our love and our lives to each other.

We had a near perfect day, so this post is rather a self-indulgent trip down memory lane, smiling at the happy memories of love and joy!

The weather was delightful, and the garden setting by the river was beautiful. Everything (except the hairdresser) went according to plan (she ran according to her own plan). Family and friends shared in our moment and gave us their blessing. The food was delicious (though I can't remember eating much!). We had a wonderful day of celebration.

I've learned a lot about Frank this year. For instance, he doesn't like chocolate ice cream - an unfinished tub has been in the freezer almost the whole time we've been married. (If you want to come over and eat it, you're welcome) He is loving, kind, faithful, gentle and generous.

More importantly I've learned about myself. I am inestimably selfish. (I knew that already, but this year has confirmed it) I am unbelievably controlling. (Ask Frank the meaning of 'food fascist')

Thank goodness we've had lots of wonderful times, or I'd be totally depressed by how revealing marriage is! ( I've learned good things about me too, but the bad seem to stand out in my mind - plenty of room for improvement there!)

We've had loads of fun, laughed together, cried together, traveled together and just been good company for each other. I love that no matter what I serve (except chocolate ice cream), Frank invariably likes it (oh, and tuna mornay). I love that we work on projects together, creating ideas from the synergy of two minds sparking off each other. And that when one is tired and flat, the other one picks up the slack and offers support and hope.

May there be many more anniversaries to come, with lots of good years in between!


Friday, January 12, 2007

stand up and be counted

OK, I know you're out there. You read my blog. Often. But you don't comment!

Now is the time to stand up and be counted!

It's international de-lurking week (thank you merry for the reminder!) so step out of the shadows and make yourself known.

Here is the gentle invitation:

What? You're still not keen on leaving a comment? Then this is for you:

And if you're just not sure how to do it: click on 'comment' and follow the instructions. I'd love to meet you!

Looking forward to hearing what you've got to say.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

skipping a beat

Our lawn is looking pretty grim at present, which I suppose is not surprising, since 2006 was the driest year in Tasmania for 100 years. Add to that an abundance of weeds that suck up any remaining goodness that lingers, and the poor old grass doesn't really stand a chance.

Frank is slowly working his way around the yard, removing the weeds with a crowbar. Some of the roots are knocking on half a metre long, with only slight exaggeration helping them grow to such lengths.

Tonight I discovered a mechanism for keeping the remaining weeds under control.


My real Christmas and birthday present is a brand spanking new bike, but we didn't go shopping in time, couldn't get a small enough bike without ordering it in, and are still waiting for the fine specimen to arrive. In lieu of the real present, Frank bought me a skipping rope.

Before you start wondering just what messages Frank is trying to give me, with a bike and a skipping rope - I requested the rope! Bouncing up and down, supple arms, toned legs, healthy heart, glowing skin, flowing hair, picture of health and happiness - I've always found the idea of getting fit by skipping to be rather appealing.

Until I tried it on a cement yard in London and it gave me shin splints.

That memory has obviously dimmed enough for me to revisit the whole jumping rope thing again. This time I'm skipping on the shrivelled lawn - softer than cement, though in the present dry clime, only just. I've discovered that if I sneak down to the back corner of the yard, there is a spot where nobody can see me. If I stay within the narrow parameters of the tree, fence and garage I am shielded from any neighbour's prying eyes and can skip with joyful abandon.

If only it were that easy. I am yet to discover the joyful abandon. No supple arms, strong legs, healthy heart or glowing skin. Just gasping breaths, tripping feet, aching knees, flopping hair and dripping forehead. My body betrays me, and it's all I can do to last for five minutes of activity, punctuated by frequent pauses to catch my breath and compose myself. I'm determined to work my way up to an unbroken ten minutes, but it may take me some time. I might also need to start taking glucosamine!

Back to our poor, sad lawn. The weeds are flowering. This is very bad, because flowers produce seeds, and seeds produce more weeds. It would be far more desirable to prevent such a progression if at all possible. And skipping solves the problem! With careful placement of the rope, I can whisk the flowers off their stems as surely as any scythe. No more flowers, no more seeds, no more weeds.

Only one problem - I have to move out of my secret skipping nook and expose myself to the world in order to cut off all the weeds...

Oh hang the weeds - the lawn doesn't stand a chance anyway! I think I'll stick to my corner and keep my uncoordinated skipping to myself. I will reach the bouncing, beautiful picture of health. I will.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

tastebud burst

This is the first fruits from our garden - one big, fat zucchini.

How good does that look?! OK, so I hid all the bird pecks away from the camera's prying eye, but still...

More importantly, how good did it taste? Delicious. Our very own organic, spray free produce.

I have a sneaking suspicion we have planted five too many zucchini plants! The six of them are growing bigger and bigger and bigger, overrunning the whole patch, and producing fruit galore. I've heard you can also eat the flowers, so I'm going to experiment with a sweet potato stuffed version that I found here. Should be interesting.

Another vegetable attempting to take over our garden by storm is a gianormous rhubarb plant. I swear this thing is over one metre across! Every time I hack a few stalks off, they replace themselves in a trice and the plant is bigger than ever.

We love rhubarb and so do the earwigs - there are dozens of them hiding in the damp environs of curled up leaves. I'm pleased to report, after a rather hurried internet search, that earwigs are entirely harmless and only turn their pincers on ants who attack them from behind. What a relief that is - though I still prefer Frank to dispose of our unwanted leaves, just in case those pincers turn on me!

Rhubarb triggers off a wealth of wonderful memories in my mind. Four years ago I travelled to Tajikistan. I stayed with a wonderful Tajik family who opened their home and their hearts to me.

They also introduced me to the wonders of Tajik cuisine. Including rhubarb.

Tajiks don't eat rhubarb like we do. I cook it up into Rhubarb and Coconut cakes, or stew it with sugar by the cup full. Frank then eats it on his cereal, or with yoghurt or icecream. That wonderful blend of ascerbic and sweet flavours is a delight to the taste buds.

But the Tajiks don't eat it like that - oh no they don't!

Every spring the rhubarb bursts into life. The locals harvest it and cart it along the streets on small trolleys. Anything edible has the potential to create income in a country where income is hard to come by. I have vivid recollections of rhubarb trolleys rumbling past me on sun dappled footpaths, the purveyors doing their best to bring in a dollar - or a Somoni in this case.

Rhubarb is something of a delicacy in Tajikistan, and once purchased it is quickly consumed. The stalks are cut up into small pieces, dipped in salt and eaten raw. It sounds perfectly awful, but it really doesn't taste so bad! Tart, but refreshing and invigorating as well.

I can't chop rhubarb now without popping some of it into my mouth, raw. As the flavour bursts onto my tongue, my mind explodes with a myriad of memories. Memories of beautiful people with sunny smiles; of women and old men cutting grass in curbside flower beds; of old women selling pumpkin seeds by the roadside; of children playing in the streets; of flowing dresses and head scarves; of bed bugs; of feeling like a queen as they treated me like royalty.

Tajikistan openned its heart to me, and I will never forget it. Long may the rhubarb in our backyard flourish and soon may Tajikistan prosper in the same way.

Monday, January 08, 2007

day 3: delights of the land

To me the journey home from a wonderful trip is deflating. You pack your bags, load the boot, and reluctantly point the car homeward; back to the real world, a world of work, cooking, cleaning, washing; back to commitments and responsibility. A lingering sadness edges its way across your thoughts as you turn away from the place that has brought happiness and rest, realising that life cannot consist of endless holiday, but wishing it could!

That's how I usually feel! However, this homeward journey held no such emotions. Our day turned into a lovely extension of the holiday as we filled it with numerous mini-excursions. There was still more scenery to explore...

...before the fun really began.

It's summer here, and the countryside is dotted with orchards and farms laden with succulent fruit, all advertising their wares by the side of the road. Who can resist such lushness? Not us! We'd been anticipating one big farm crawl, and all the way home we stopped in at farms and stocked up.

It turned out that we got more than we bargained for - delicious fruit at incredible prices and the chance to rub shoulders with some real Aussie battlers.

First stop, the strawberry farm. The pick-your-own strawberry farm.

Neither of us had picked strawberries before and we were delighted. After being taught how to remove the berries without damaging the plants, we set too, munching as we went. Ah, the taste was wonderful! We ended up with over 1kg of strawberries - all polished off within 24 hours, half of them in the car before we left the farm!

The farmer did more than just teach us how to pick the berries - he taught us how to grow them! Don't treat them too well - let those little strawberries think the soil is bad and not worth reproducing in. Only two minutes of water a day, and food every couple of weeks but no more. The little plants will think they are almost dying, and rather than send out runners, they'll produce fruit so their seed may be scattered far and wide until it finds fertile soil to settle in. There'll be strawberries galore for months at a time. We are now in the process of starving our plant! Hopefully it works for us as well as it works for him!

Next we stopped at an apricot farm and purchased 1kg of very small apricots. I looked at them and wrinkled my nose up on the inside. But I figured we'd better buy them - didn't want to disappoint the farmer after we'd stopped and all! It's possible he wouldn't have even noticed if we'd slipped away without purchasing any - he talked and talked and talked; about coming to the farm 26 years ago and digging a bore; about never needing the bore because there was plenty of water; about buying a tractor and hiring out its services to other farmers in the area when the vegies weren't paying enough; about two years of dry, rainless weather that had rendered his dams empty and reduced his fruit to their present state; about firing up the pumps on the bore that very day so he could maintain his gardens.

As he talked I realised how foreign his farm life is to my city breeding. Two generations back my family lived off the land, but now I know little of it. He's been living with a water shortage for two years, while only now is it beginning to affect me. The farmers are the hard workers who fill our pantries with good things. His story prompted me to spare a thought for the people on the land. Their labour in the dirt enables me to prosper in the city.

Finally we got away and bit into the apricots. They may have been small but they were packed with flavour and juice. Mmmmm. Delicious.

Soon we added freshly picked cherries to our bounty. More taste bud heaven.If you're anywhere near Sydney, you might be eating some from the same batch! Picked on Friday, in the Sydney markets by Saturday. I don't think you'll get them for $5 a kilo though!

We enjoyed one final stop on our journey home. Richmond. Back to our convict roots. A gentle rain began to fall as we wandered the historic streets. In the park we eyed off the convict built bridge - the first such bridge in Australia, built in 1823 and still used today.

We might have tried to ignore our seedy, criminal past, but there's no way that we can deny that the convicts paved the way for civilisation to prosper in Australia.

Hooray for convicts! And hooray for holidays! What a great time.
It's back to work tomorrow for me - and I don't think I'm going to find it easy.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

day 2: hauy that's magnificent

It was impossible to reduce so much beauty and activity into one small post, so here is another record of our adventures on the Peninsula. This map of Tasmania shows you exactly where we were.

Day 2 we decided to journey into the wilderness - us and hundreds of others. All of us so busy trying to escape the crowds that we created our own! It didn't ruin the beauty - we exchanged knowing smiles with one another, subtly acknowledging our shared appreciation of the sites.

Our wilderness experience began with a drive into the Tasman National Park. Click here for a map. At road end we tumbled out of the car to discover Fortesque Beach.

From the beach we headed west, towards Cape Hauy. The Parks and Wildlife Service website states that the 4 hour return, moderate grade walk passes through a variety of heath and woodland to the magnificent views of steep cliffs and spectacular rock formations.

At times we felt we were walking through a moonscape, as some of the heath and woodland had been consumed by bushfire, but if we looked closely we could see the ground bursting with new growth.

The Parks and Wildlife Service were certainly right about the views! We discovered magnificence at almost every bend in the track.

Stunning coastline one direction...

...dramatic cliffs the other. Stunning.

Ah, did I mention the dramatic cliffs?

At times we were walking within inches of the edge, and once when Frank got close enough to peer over the side, it left him feeling just a little dizzy! With the brisk wind added in, it made for rather cautious stepping at times!

The whole day went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Beauty on a grand scale gave way to the delicate, fragile, tiny beauty of the wild flowers. I fell in love with them.

After several hours of walking in sandles (sturdy sandles, but I'll never wear them bushwalking again!), my thoughts started turning back to that beautiful beach. As the sweat dripped down my back I guzzled water and imagined cool refreshing water swathing my body as I plunged into the ocean.

When we did make it back, the water was certainly refreshing - in fact I think I can safely say it was the most refreshing swim I've ever had. (read: "the coldest, iciest swim I've ever had") I cooled down quickly after that one!

We sat on the beach until I got too cold, absorbing all we had seen and done and thanking God for such riches on our very doorstep.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

day 1: convicting scenery

Three days on the Tasman Peninsular has chased away the lurking gloom from my heart. In fact, after visiting Port Arthur I've decided my life is positively charmed.

If I had lived in Tasmania between 1833 and 1877 things would have have been much much worse. Especially if I was a felon who had been sent to Australia for breaking the law, and was caught repeat offending. I would have ended up at Port Arthur - the end of the earth reserved for the very worst of offenders.

Over 2000 convicts and soliders lived at Port Arthur at any one time, and if you were a convict, this was your home. The Penitentiary.

If you were a solider, your quarters could be just as crowded but you had the privilege of being a free person responsible for controlling the uncouth criminals.

The whole system of life was designed to grind the convict down until they were cleansed of evil and ready to return to normal life.

The powers that were employed two main mechanisms for their grand reforming process.


...and religion. (Shades of my own childhood!)

Soldiers maintained order in the penal colony with regular roll calls, recapture of escapees (the lie of the land made it almost impossible to escape the peninsular), and general oversite of convicts performing their duties. Convicts were required to attend church every Sunday, enduring sermons calling for obedience to the laws of God and King.

Port Arthur was also inhabited by a number of civilians and their families, including Anglican clergy, Catholic priests, and resident surgeons. The ladies strutted around in beautifully manicured gardens, modelling the perfect life that every convict should aspire to.

Some convicts did their time and earned their freedom, leaving Port Arthur for good. Others couldn't manage to reassimilate into civilian life and returned to the safety and security of the colony. When they died they were buried on the Isle of the Dead.

In fact 1100 people were buried on the Isle of the Dead, a 2 acre island - 200 free people who were honoured with grave stones, and 900 convicts with no markers of any kind. Free people on the high side, convicts on the low side.

Not such a great life really.

The location was beautiful, but I had to keep reminding myself that life would have been less than wonderful for those living there in the 1800s.

We explored the site for 8 hours enjoying the setting before heading off to drink in the local scenery.

Friday, January 05, 2007

life is beautiful

oh. my. goodness.

How can I have lived in Tasmania for six years without hearing about the incredible beauty of the Tasman Peninsular?

Absolutely magnificent!

Around every corner, every bend in the road we found another stunning vista of dramatic cliffs; another long sandy beach; another shady tree lined cove; more rolling farmland. More and more beauty that took my breath away.

Is my life wonderful or is my life wonderful? What a privilege to experience all of this and more... stay posted for the 'more' tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

32 today

The big birthday has finally arrived! Since I had my age-crisis almost a month ago I am quite happy today. And besides, cards, presents and candle lit breakfasts are not to be moped over. This is a day to rejoice and celebrate and love life.

Which I will. Soon. I just need to finish the pondering I started yesterday.

Contrary to popular opinion and the posts on this blog, my life is not perfect. Far from it.

There are things I want that I do not have. At times I am overwhelmed by the intensity of my longing for them, and the pain of hope denied runs deep. I am tempted to wallow in self-pity, to give up on life, or worst of all, to descend into bitterness, none of which provide particularly attractive alternatives. To avoid these horrors I'm working at living with the pain and relishing the wonderful gifts that I do have.

The other day I walked past a young Down's Syndrome girl. She would have been in her early teens and was dressed in a bright yellow dress over a purple t-shirt. She had a look of joy on her face - the excitement in her expression was tangible, and she got me to thinking. Here was somebody who's life was not perfect - certainly not in the sense we shallowly judge perfection in the West. She represents an anomaly that we do our best to avoid in this society. And yet she was beautiful, walking along in her colourful clothes with her wonderous smile.

I'm crying as I think about her - can my life not be like that too? Not perfect, and full of unsatisfied longings. But beautiful just the same. Wonderous and delightful nevertheless.

Bother, I've messed up my carefully applied makeup. I must be off to repair it, and to revel in my delightful life! Frank and I are heading to Tasman Peninsular for a few days of exploration of our convict history, gentle bushwalks, candle lit dinners. How good is that?

I can't complain really. 32 years young and life is good.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Yay, 2007 is here! Well I think it's 'yay'... I can't quite figure out what happened to 2006, but the new year has roled in regardless.

There's something rather refreshing about new year - there's the excitement of the clock ticking over; the reprieve of a whole year with no mistakes in it yet; a chance for a fresh start; expectations for all that is to come. That instant in which the date changes isn't so different from any other night when the date changes - just time doing its thing and marching on as it does - and yet everything is different all at once. I never can get my head around the almost artificial demarcation from the previous year, but I do love the fireworks and the emotion of the moment.

That being said, I felt anything but refreshed today. In fact I felt down right seedy!

It's several years since I stayed up until midnight, but friends spontaneously invited us over and we had a delightful evening introducing them to Carcassonne and enjoying being together. We arrived home just in time to watch the city fireworks through our back windows before tumbling into bed. And today I've had a headache from dawn until dusk. Don't tell me my old body isn't up to midnight stands anymore?!!!

New Year always provokes deep reflection in me. It's not that I don't reflect any other time - I invest far too much energy in naval gazing - but at new year I start reflecting on a grand scale. Not 'what kind of a person have I been today?' but 'taking stock of all that my life is'. This year is producing some interesting reflections.

I live in Tasmania, but am I Tasmanian? One of my friends recently realised she was Tasmanian when she went to Melbourne - she kept stopping in the street and staring up at the skyscrapers!

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would live in Tasmania. Not that it isn't a wonderful place to live - it's beautiful, there aren't many people (483,000 to be precise), and there's a layed back feeling that pervades life here. But at the same time it's an island that sometimes feels too small.

2007 and life has brought me to this place. I'm trying to get my head around it - my soul catching up with my body, so to speak. This morning I read something in 'The Message' that is helping me to process.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be too impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (Galatians 6:4,5)
I think part of my struggle with being in Tasmania is that while my wildest dreams didn't include Tasmania they held aspirations of greatness aplenty. It's such a quiet backwater. I'm wasted here! (Oh the visions of grandeur!) I have friends in Lesotho working amongst AIDS sufferers, changing the world. Others work with recovering drug addicts. Still others work amongst Aboriginals. And me? I'm in beautiful Tasmania.

And there my quote is the key: "Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

I'm on my own journey. It's a different journey from that one I had anticipated, but it's mine. No one else's! And it's brought me to Tasmania, and what a treat that is.

So there's no grand New Year's resolutions from me, just a desire to do the creative best that I can with my life here in Tasmania. And who knows, maybe by the time 2008 roles around I'll decide that I am Tasmanian after all!

May you grow through life on your own journey wherever you may be - all the best for 2007!