Tuesday, November 30, 2010

of all the cheesy cynicism

A Target catalogue arrived in the letter box today. Along with about 10 other catalogues, in addition to the 15 which arrived yesterday. Christmas anyone? Usually I turf all the catalogues straight into the recycling and mutter something to myself about hurrying up with that 'No Junk Mail' sticker, which I would have stuck on the letter box two years ago except that I wanted to sand it back and repaint it first...

Today I flicked through the pile to see what was there. A Colorado 20%-off-if-you-join-the-Fusion-Club card, Animal Tuckerbox (don't forget the pets this Christmas), Healthwise Pharmacy (in case you overindulge come Christmas dinner), Mr Rental (this has nothing to do with Christmas but we thought we'd take advantage of your propensity to throw more money around this time of year) and Target.

The Target catalogue was thicker than all the rest put together. Pages and pages of toys and cameras and DVDs and hampers and clothes and decor. Endless ways to swap your hard earned cash for something you don't really need. And then I read it: 'Hope' with the Target target in place of the 'o'.

Hope? You hope we'll target our money at your till? You hope we'll see lots of things we don't need and buy them anyway? You hope we'll give lots of things to others this Christmas, and of course source them all at Target?

I don't know about you, but hope isn't about consumer products as far as I can tell. In fact I have a funny feeling our love of consumer products is damning us at the moment. To climate change, and if you don't believe in that, to polluted water ways and plastic fantastic ill health, and debt and injustice, and oceanic dead zones and extinction...

But by all means, I hope you have a happy Christmas, filled with every imaginable gadget and piece of entertainment, because that's what it's all about isn't it? Not.


Monday, November 29, 2010

i don't think i need south cape feta really

Those supermarket recipes make me laugh. They use every trick in the book to get you to buy more of their products. Feta cheese required? Not just any feta will do, it must be South Cape marinated feta brand. Don't just use a pan on the stove to cook things... no, you need to layer them in paper towel (don't have any - no worries, we stock it) and heat them in the microwave.

Anyway, once you wade through all the advertising twaddle, sometimes you get to the nub of a the recipe and discover something delicious.

Such was this evening's meal: Prosciutto, Pumpkin and Walnut Salad. I didn't follow the recipe exactly and I didn't take a photo. Because the non-marinated South Cape feta was a bit soft and went mushy and, to be frank, the whole meal looked disgusting. But it was yummo. Seriously good. I recommend.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

a stroke of forward planning

I'm writing Christmas cards. Amazing I know, since it's not even December and I haven't seriously done them for at least two years. Which means my list has whittled its way down to almost nothing because I don't even know if some people still live in the same place or what.

Anyway, I think all my energy has gone into writing cards (I can't abide newsletters in them. I can prattle on in a mass produced blog for billions to read at once (except billions don't, so it's OK), but I won't produce a newsletter for thirty. Too impersonal. Ha).

Not that I had much writing energy left anyway... twenty eight days down and counting, counting, counting. And it's been a busy weekend before the busy week before another busy weekend and another busy week... and then it's almost done for the year. (But I'm not wishing my life away, oh no I'm not, which is why I seized the day and wrote a few cards tonight)

... and now I'm rambling, so good night. (Oh, and if you want a card, message or email or skype me, because I'm on skype now and all and you can find me everywhere you look)


Saturday, November 27, 2010

in which i wax lyrical about cruise control

I've just dropped my young charge for the day home. She lives a bit over half an hour out of town. It's a wet, gloomy night and I don't like driving at night at the best of times, but especially not in the rain at night. (Of the relief when I was told I had astigmatism three years ago... to know I am not old before my time, or a big wuss. I have a valid reason for not liking night driving - I can't see that well. Don't worry - I can see enough to drive safely, just not enough to feel comfortable!) (I also have small island syndrome from living trapped in a space 68,401 sq km small for too long. A half hour drive to anywhere is a drive to the end of the earth.)

I cruised along in the rain this evening, and probably should have gone a little bit slower, but I was tired and the rain was gentle and I wanted to get home. There were no great swathes of water lying across the road and (here is the advantage of living on a small, isolated island) there was almost no other traffic. It seemed safe enough to sit on the speed limit in cruise control.

Ah, how I love cruise control. I'm a late comer to this marvellous invention, being unable to figure out how to get it to work for quite some time. It took reading the book to discover I had to turn the whole system on before pressing levers up and down to maintain the perfect speed. Now I can do it with ease, sit back, take the foot off and look around at all the beautiful scenery.

Well, that's what I'd like to do - cruise control tempts me to it! Turning it on seems to give over control of the car to, I don't know, a sentient machine. It does the work for me while I sit back and relax... if it can regulate my speed so appropriately (when it senses the looming slow car in front I'll be even more impressed!) surely it can also turn the steering wheel and apply the brake should anything untoward suddenly occur?

Alas no. I cannot enjoy the scenery so much as I might like, and still I must remain alert to the potential emergency that requires swift braking.

Today I noticed something else about cruise control. I've become a mildly nervous flier. I used to love it but now I tune in to every whine of the engine, every turbulent jolt, almost expecting to drop from the sky. I've learned to temper this with deep breathing and by reminding myself that if we go down, there's nothing I can do about it and there's no knowing in advance. I may as well relax and enjoy things in the meantime. I try my best. I also pay close attention to the safety demonstration.

I didn't realise how closely I had tuned into the acceleration and cut back of aeroplane engines until my heart jumped as the car engine cut back while under the control of the cruise mechanism. 'We're going to cra... Oh, I'm in the car. Everything is fine.' It's a little disconcerting, being convinced we're on the way down while driving. Especially since this time I can do something about it because as much as I like to think cruise control is driving me, I'm driving myself, and if I don't get a grip then something bad just might happen.

It's silly I know. But I can't help this almost visceral response to the modulation of a motor. It isn't about to stop my using cruise control through! I love that once I've set it, I don't have to think about what speed I'm going!


Friday, November 26, 2010

nablopomo 2010 dud post ii

Whoops, I nearly forgot to post. Which shouldn't really prevent me from blogging in detail because it is still earlier now than when I start writing most nights.

But I'm tired, and I'm about due another dud post... so this is it.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

full of hot air (again!)

I've been holding in a gazillion opinions lately, too nervous to put them out there, but increasingly frustrated at holding them in.

Since I'm short on energy and long on hot air tonight, I'm going to puff your way about a couple of things on the news tonight.

Gunns pulp mill. You know where Frank and I stand on this one. I haven't joined Frank in getting arrested, but if push came to shove, I might. At the moment the whole project seems stalled. Gunns is shedding assets as fast as it can in an effort to make themselves more attractive to overseas investors and, consequently, lots of people are losing their jobs. Despite all this, no investors are forthcoming (long may the Aussie dollar stay high, although I may well be lynched for saying so) and it's anyone's guess when things might start moving forward. I'm not sure how long Gunns can keep going, pouring money into a bottomless pit with no return. What really gets up my nose is their duplicity. They have claimed we need the pulp mill in Tasmania because it will bring so many jobs to the northern region, and yet now they are selling assets and closing saw mills to make the possibility of a pulp mill more attractive and potentially viable... and people are losing their jobs. So let's state it like it is: Gunns don't really care about jobs for the region at all, they just think they can make lots of money for themselves and their investors if they can ever get this thing off the ground.

Hot air issue number two: the security measures recently introduced in the USA. (Impeccable timing, not) Recently I've was thinking about putting the US on my list of desirable holiday destinations. I thought I'd bite the bullet, swallow my pride at the finger printing and biometric measuring and think about when to visit my blogging pals. Truth be told, it was a pipe dream, but suddenly it's even pipe dreamier... If I can travel anywhere else in the world without being felt up patted down (which at present it seems I can) then I would prefer to travel anywhere else in the world. It's a little theoretical, for despite a daily strengthening of my hankering for foreign climes, we don't have any major plans to jump on a long haul flight... time, carbon footprint and moolah all play their part in our thinking. But such invasive screening puts me off. It turns us all into criminals. The majority of people are peaceful, law abiding citizens, and we are being disadvantaged due to the madness of a few. I know the mad few can do a lot of harm, but their last effort was with postal packages, not explosive belts or squidgy shoes. I'm not a huge conspiracist (I think I may have just made that word up) but what a perfect way to control the masses! For me it's a step too far, and I can avoid it, so I will. Sorry Sandy and Cherie and Deanna and Mike... I dreamed, but my dreams have turned to dust.

I'm debating whether I should tack a disclaimer to this post: "PMT inflamed cantankerousness contributed to this discussion." It might be pertinent. Or maybe I have some valid points here... hmmm. I'll leave you to decide on that one!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

in memory of miners everywhere

It's a sad day today, with 29 miners dead in New Zealand.

That's a lot of men gone.

This is perhaps not a politically correct thing to say, and I hope I'm not being insensitive, but did you know that every day in China 250 people never make it home from work (Bennett in 'Where underpants come from')? In 2005 a mine disaster killed at least 210 workers in Sunjiawin mine, Fuxin, China? In 2006, 4,749 miners died in China and in November 2009, at least 104 were killed by an explosion?

I can't get my head around 29 men and all the pain and grief and loss tied up in their deaths, leave alone 4,749 and beyond. These numbers are phenomenal.

I'm sorry, really, really sorry about the men who died in New Zealand.

I'm also sorry about all those men in China dying every day, month and year.

I'm perhaps sorriest that we don't hear about the deaths in China (if we do, they drop off the news cycle in about 12 hours) and yet we've been glued to the television about New Zealand. Yeah, yeah I know. The whole ANZAC thing, brothers, nearest neighbours... but are the men in China any less important than the men in New Zealand?

The media are infuriatingly shallow in their reporting of incidents, more focused on sensational scoops, drama and bumper ratings than giving me an accurate picture of what is really happening. (Think media pack fawning over the Chilean miners) Twenty nine men I have never met died in NZ and I hear about it a lot. 4,749 men I have never met die in China every year, and it barely makes a blip on the media radar and I don't hear about more than 5%.

On top of all that, I can't help thinking we're all a bit culpable. We use the products made from the minerals these men are digging out of the earth... our demand drives them into the dangerous places under the ground.

So yes, it's a sad day. In more ways than one.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

i do heart hand made, i really do

Shocker of a photo, but this is a little top I crocheted for myself in the last few weeks.

Align Center

It looks good with a long sleeve tee underneath it as well. Very happy with this one.

Cost: zip, zilch nada... given the yarn free from an older lady's stash.
Time: not sure exactly, but took about four weeks with a week's break in there somewhere


Monday, November 22, 2010

i heart hand made, but...

I love hand made, I really do, but to be honest, I'm getting a little tired of it. Not the actual making - that is as paradoxically relaxing and stimulating as ever. And I still ceaselessly gaze at and stroke everything I make. And tell everyone I made it. And wear it as often as is humanly possible... Oh the thrill of hand made, the sense of achievement, the buzz. But I can't help thinking the hand made market is a little oversaturated at present.

I went to two local markets on Friday evening. They show cased the best of hand made and design in northern Tasmania, and there were some incredibly beautiful products on display. Little girl dresses from vintage fabric and doilies, ceramic earrings, fabric covered buttons, Christmas decorations, little girl dresses from gorgeous contemporary cotton prints, fabric covered earrings, journals from gorgeous contemporary cotton prints, bags from vintage fabrics and doilies, cushions with beautiful contemporary embroidery, fabric covered hair ties. But it's all a bit same-y. I've been to Agfest and the Deloraine Craft Fair and several local markets and, apart from a few unique artists and designers, the same people turn up at the same stalls with the same wares, and I'm a little tired of it.

Don't get me wrong. The products were beautiful. I'm surprised the stall holders could even drag their eyes from their wares, so lovely were they. But how much can we take?

I may be the only one feeling this way - the blogosphere is gushing with praise for the markets; many stallholders sold out. By all accounts the whole thing was a huge success. Yay for hand made! Yay for beating those big, nasty corporations and choosing locally produced quality products! Yay, yay, yay.

So why did I feel a little deflated as I walked away with just a few carefully selected items? Is it because I have no children and might like to sweep all the baby clothes onto the floor and trample them into the ground? Perhaps I'm just jealous that I haven't made space or time for my own hand made business endeavours. Have I missed the hand made boat? (It sure is hard to find things to buy when every time I look at an item the thought bubble explodes from my head: 'I could make that!') Or is it that in hand made becoming so big it becomes its own corporation? Not individually, but on a grand scale. Consumerism is still consumerism, even when made by the girl next door... unless it's recycled or upcycled of course! I also know that in other suburbs of town there are people who would not pay anywhere near the prices being asked down town - a product's value is only as much as a person is willing to pay, and to those people, hand made is worth diddly squat.

In the end, I kind of decided I don't want to be part of it. (Although my heart betrays me even now, cruising around local crafty blogs and feeling a pang of envy at other's success) I still love hand made, I still love making things myself, but I think I'm going to keep it small scale - for loved ones, friends and myself. What I make might not be valued by what I can sell it for, but the feeling I put into them.

That's what it's all about really.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

books, books, books

Frank and I have been to Melbourne and back in the last 36 hours, to celebrate his mother's 80th birthday. It was a flying trip at a relaxed pace... which is to say we were away for just over 24 hours but didn't rush around too much. I'm still deciding if 'just over 24 hours' qualifies as my first escape from the island in 14 months. It doesn't seem long enough some how.

Near Frank's mum's place there is a 'Dirt Cheap Books' warehouse - every book is $4.99 unless otherwise marked. So many books, so much rubbish. Peter Costello's memoir was there for (yup, you guessed it) $4.99, a fact I noted with quite some glee. Cook books, kids books, novels, spells, colouring in... you name it, they had it.

I ended up with four books after culling several: Where underpants come from by Joe Bennett, Not Buying It by Judith Levine, Tilt by Nicholas Shrady and The end of food by Paul Roberts.

I started reading Where underpants come from last night, and I'm struggling to put it down. Hilarious, insightful, informative and downright fascinating, am I ever glad this one stayed in the purchasing pile. (Truth be told, if I'd been forced to choose only one book, this would have been it. I ordered it from the New Internationalist website a few months ago but they'd just sold all their stock. It was $25 or so dollars there, and here I got it for five bucks. What a score!)

The end of food was another New Internationalist selection on my wish list...

I'm not all about buying on the cheap, externalising the costs, blah, blah, blah, but it is nice to get a book for a bargain. And I thought I'd get a few last minute purchases in before 2011 (since I'm in discussions about committing to buying nothing new for the whole year...).

But is there an irony in buying a book called 'Not buying it'? Especially when I'm considering not buying lots of things? Hmmm.

Righto, I'm off to read another chapter or two.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

lessons learned while watching the chickens

  • Never give up hope.
While doing the washing today I dropped a bag on the ground to pick up later. Roxanne came running from the depths of the backyard just in case it was food for her. She quickly lost interest when it wasn't and headed over to peck at some nearby grass somewhat self consciously. (Chickens can be embarrassed can't they?) Frank and I probably have food for the chickens about a quarter of the time we go down the back, but if we have anything in our hand, those chickies come a-running as fast as they can. Just in case. Ever hopeful. Never giving up. That's the kind of hope we could all do with a bit of!
  • Get over yourself and enjoy what's in front of you.
Hector the Protector is hilarious. He takes his manly duties very seriously, and seeks out food for the chickens, calls them to it urgently then steps back while they consume his find. He is the perfect gentleman. When Frank and I take food down and the chickens run over to us, he gets a little put out. He kind of stalks over sulkily, picks out anything on the ground and starts pecking at it and calling to the chickens, "Over here, I've got food for you here, come on, don't eat what they've brought!" He doesn't have much success, because the chickens know a good thing when they eat it. Too many times have they run for Hector's shrivelled up leaves or every-day-stems of grass - they want porridge and rice and scraps. Poor Hector stands rather forlornly for a moment or two before he eats his pride and joins the party, though always staying on the fringe of the fun. I'm sure he would find it so much more enjoyable if he ran with gay abandon as the chickens do, straight to the food - no wasted emotion, no crushed pride, just pure bliss at the joy of beautiful food.
  • If you don't need to fight... don't.
The lovely thing about free range chickens is the incredibly delicious eggs. The down side is feeding every bird in the neighbourhood who has discovered the free seed. All day sparrows and starlings and wood pigeons flit in and out of the open coup for their fill of the goodies. I have no idea how much seed we lose this way, but Hector has decided it has to stop. Now if it was me, I might be charging at all these pesky birds with a gun. Perhaps if I was a rooster I might chase them, maybe even scratch them with my thorny talons. But not our Hector... he's a gentle soul. Morning and evening he plonks himself down right beside the seed feeder and just sits there guarding it. His simple presence is enough to send the smaller birds packing, and peaceful protest wins the day. You go Hector... we love you!

(I should add, we have only one chicken and Hector at present, what with marauding stray dogs, disease and a strange disappearance one night when we were away. Roxanne remains healthy and lays eggs like a trooper, but we do miss the others)

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Friday, November 19, 2010

i'm so embarrassed!

I like to think I'm pretty careful with my internet identity, but I suspect there are a number of glaring holes in my anti-fraud armory. I do hope, however, that I am looking after things better online than I am in the real world!

Yesterday I needed someone to verify my ID for a good character check application. I took my driver licence from my purse because I didn't want to carry my purse around the school. A colleague kindly signed me off and I took the licence with me, but since I was on the way to a meeting, I just put it on top of all my papers. The licence stayed in front of me throughout the meeting before I gathered everything together, packed up for the day and drove home.

This morning I received a phone call from school: "A student found your driver licence in the library and has just handed it in to the office."

Thanks for that, I'll be in to pick it up later and hope I don't get stopped by the police or have an accident on the way, since I'm supposed to have my licence on me whenever driving. (I'm also hoping that the student who found it was one of the less literate and could not figure out my address or date of birth, although of course I'm pleased they recognised my picture and were honest enough to hand the licence in)

So ends embarrassing incident number one, but unfortunately it doesn't end there.

A friend and I decided to check out the Apron Design Market at Seaport this afternoon. After a coffee and chat we ambled along the board walk, enjoying people's creativity and skill, caressing each beautiful piece with our eyes. Into this moment stepped a journalist and cameraman.

"We're from 'The Examiner'," they said. "Would you mind participating in a survey? What do you think of Julia Gillard's decision to commit Australian troops to Afghanistan for a further 10 years."

It was a rude assault on our evening enjoyment really... you want me to stop ogling these items and condense all my thinking into a one word answer on an issue that had been debated in parliament for days, and in boardrooms for years? Hello?!

When I finally gathered my thoughts together I said I didn't really know...

"You're undecided?" she said.

"Yes, undecided. I don't really like the troops being there, but I'm not sure pulling out quickly is the right approach either."

In my mind I was thinking my comments were a waste, because obviously she wanted a one word answer. How wrong I was.

"That's a great quote," said the camera man, "may I take your photo now?"

At which point the penny dropped. This was not a carpet survey of everyone attending the market, while the journalist ticked a sheet: one hundred 'yes', one thousand 'no' and 10 million 'undecided'. Oh no, this was the 'Have your say' bit where they print one meaty bight of your response and plaster your photo beside it. By that stage she had my name and I felt gang pressed into going along with it.

I laughed hysterically before eventually regaining my composure and smiling as best I could for the camera.

"I hope you don't misquote me," I said, trying to figure out how on earth she was going to remember what I said when she hadn't even taken notes.

Another penny dropped (if only they had been real pennies - I might have bought something at the market after all) as I walked away... she had a voice recorder.

Now I feel totally gypped! Duped in front of the world! Deceived into responding because I didn't know what it was (although I had wondered why there was a camera man with her)... and recorded without asking!

So... ah... if you live locally, check out tomorrow's Examiner. I'll be grinning out of it like a mug. How embarrassing!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

a pleasing selection

Another day, another night... another late one. Sigh. My lateness at going to bed is minor in comparison to my father's early morning vigils and my brother's all nighters, but how I wish I could break through the 10 pm barrier more often - go to bed before 10 that is! Surely bed time is not genetically predetermined?

Here it is already after ten, so this post will be brief and light.

You might be forgiven for thinking Frank and I watch movies all the time. It isn't true! I can probably count on one hand the movies I've seen this year, including only two at the cinema - Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, both well worth the effort. I am prone to forgetfulness, so I may have seen more than this, but it's been a while between drinks movies. Even movies at home have been sporadic, though I did so enjoy Ever After in the middle of the day recently... so risqué!

Despite our dearth of 2010 movie viewing, this is my third movie blog in 18 days. What a binge we're having. Ever After as November commenced, Sound of Music one week in (you should have seen the girls at school stop and stare when I broke into 'Favourite Things' for their entertainment yesterday!), and in the last week Valkyrie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and, tonight, A Very Long Engagement. (The last three courtesy of Video City's "3 weeklies for $9.90" deal... such value for money, who can resist?)

We're on a winner, because all three were good... and that's despite war movies not being my cup of tea.

A Very Long Engagement was a quirky mix of moving, funny and... well... French. We both giggled a little, enjoyed it a lot and found it touching.

But now: So long, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen, Good night.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

making cecily happy

I don't know if you noticed, but I'm we're (because it's more than just me) more than half way through NaBloPoMo. So far so good. I haven't missed a day yet.

When I began 17 days ago, I was in the depths of despair, scraping the bottom of the barrel and resorting to self diagnosis. Now might be a good time to check in with a little progress report.

On one level I'm doing well. I haven't walked every day (yesterday I wussed out in the rain and... well... aren't weekends for sleeping in?), but most week days I'm getting up at six and walking. I've noticed I'm a lot more motivated and my mood has really lifted. (I've even noticed a bit of the silver lining the last few days!)

Take a deeper look and things aren't much changed. The contributing factors remain the same, and I'm sure there's still quite a bit of sadness in there. Life has picked up its pace the last few weeks too, and I haven't made space to look inside much... besides, the sadness is not oozing out at unexpected moments so I'm not going to push things. I feel OK and that's enough for now.

ABC started a series called 'Making Australia Happy' on Monday night. Eight people completed a Happy 100 Index to determine their level of happiness, then they were put through their happiness paces, a series of activities designed to increase their happiness. They completed another Happy 100 Index questionnaire to see how these activities had affected their happiness levels.

What really caught my ear was the observation by Dr Tony Grant that scientists now believe 50% of our happiness is genetically determined, 10% relates to life circumstances and 40% has to do with how well we look after ourselves.

Thinking back over the last two weeks, I can attest to that. My circumstances have barely changed, yet I am feeling better. Not where I want to be yet, but certainly moving in the right direction. What has helped with that? Journalling, exercise, spiritual reflection, allowing myself to feel my full range of emotions. I'm pleased that my pro-activity is making a difference... and I'm going to stick with it.

Especially since I just took the test and discovered my Happy 100 Index is only 54 - barely on the positive side of things! I can't compare this to a score at the beginning of the month, but I'm sure this is an improvement on what it would have been back then.

For now, I must to bed... sleep is important to happiness too you know! And I won't be able to drag myself out to walk in the morning if I don't!


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

yum, yum, yum

This cooking post is to balance out the cooking disaster of the other night.

I had an eggplant in the fridge and was on the hunt for a suitable use for it. I've made stuffed eggplant so many times, and I love it, but tonight was not the night. You have to feel like stuffed eggplant, you know? You also have to feel like cooking it, which was not a happening thing.

I also had a little bulgur in the cupboard. I love bulgur and I remember cooking a delicious dish with it a while ago. I've searched and searched but cannot find the recipe.

Time to find another one. I plugged in 'eggplant and bulgur recipe' on Google and this is what came up: Eggplant, bulgur and tomato casserole. Looked good and sounded delicious but I wanted to see if there was anything less fiddly around, so back to the search results until I came across this: Taste of Beirut style eggplant tomato bulgur casserole without the dish. Different site, basically the same recipe, groovy presentation - a sign surely? I just had to cook it!

This is the result:

If you think it looks good, believe me it tasted even better! I'm definitely going to be cooking this one again!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

phone manner

I think I need to work on my mobile phone manner.

Twice people called me today and said 'it sounds like you are very busy so I won't keep you'.

The first time I was sitting in the sun doing some work from home... so yes, I was working, but 'very busy' might be pushing it too far. The second call came just as I was paying for my groceries, so the timing wasn't great, but I was nearly done and could have chatted.

Truth be told, I don't like calls on my mobile. I don't know why. I tend to just say 'hello' because they already know it's me. No need to say 'Hello, Cecily speaking' or 'Australian Tree Care, Cecily speaking'. And mobile calls often come at the most inconvenient times...

Maybe that does come through in my voice. I think I answer with a tentative upwards expression, almost a question. Not annoyance, but it could almost be interpreted that way. Time to put a smile on and say hello cheerfully I think. I really do want to talk to you!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

a curious case

I was going to tell you about my cooking adventure this evening, as the loss of kitchen creativity has left me open to disaster.

There's nothing quite like a new internet recipe or two to reinvigorate cooking passion. Most of the time it works, tonight it was (how shall I say this)... less than a success. Sweet potato gnocchi would be fine I suppose - if the recipe was correct and I didn't have to more than double the flour in it, such that I ran out and augmented with flour of the wholemeal variety, which changed the taste of the thing all together, after which I rolled it as specified and made gnocchi three times the normal size.

Pesto covers a multitude of culinary sins, and just when I thought this one would find its way to the bottom of Frank's preferred meal list, it saved the day. Frank liked it, I could tolerate it, and with gnocchi the size of small golf balls, we'll only be eating it for one more meal.

However, what I really want to say something about is the movie we watched tonight. 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. Oh my, what a movie. Beautifully made and wonderfully told, but deeply disturbing.

It's probably a good thing I've ended up telling you about the meal rather than the movie, because I can't quite gather my thoughts together to write much anyway. Frank and I sat there kind of shell shocked when it finished, strangely moved but unable to express what was happening for us. I'm wishing I could age backwards so I could go back to school and study it in detail, explore its themes, examine the characters and dig deep inside it.

Then again, can you imagine being treated completely the wrong way around all your life? People assuming you are old when you're not, or treating you like a teenager when you have more life experience than the average person around you? That would drive me insane.

But perhaps if I aged backwards I could take all my life's lessons and put them into action with my new youthful body.

I'm mid stream in one of a series of age crises... Benjamin Button plugs into that I think. If anything, it makes me want to get the most out of every moment of my life while I'm fit and able to. Am I doing that? I feel strangely dissatisfied with some of the things I put my time into.

Hmmm. Shall I tell you another cooking story? So much less confronting!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

use it or lose it

We had a small gathering at our house today, in which I was an MC of sorts. The event was low key and ran smoothly, but I didn't feel comfortable in the MC role.

I'm not really sure what's going on there. I used to lead services at church, sang in front of congregations all the time and did so much public speaking I didn't suffer from nerves very much. (Although I did seem to have an adrenalin rush after the event, shaking for half an hour or so) It feels strange to be so lacking in confidence in front of seven people.

This isn't the only time it has happened. In other small groups I've felt out of place and unpractised, and when presenting at work training I have lacked boldness in my presentation.

Perhaps it's a case of 'use it or lose it'... I haven't been using it so I'm losing it.

I suppose it's possible that something else entirely is going on. When I speak publicly in front of a large group I tend to get into character - not that I'm faking it, but I steel myself for the event, run over in my mind what I want to say, and get my head into a particular space. In a small group I just go with the flow. No special head space, no character, just pure, unadulterated Cecily. Maybe the public persona carried me through, and I need to find it again... I'm certainly missing my previous levels of confidence.

(Hopefully I find them quickly. I think I'm leading the community singing at a nearby carols event in a few weeks!)

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Friday, November 12, 2010

i forgot what i wanted to say

I had a post all planned. It was partially written in my mind's eye, but I've done quite a bit today and I seem to have misplaced the whole lot.

And it's Friday night.

And I'm tired.

So that's all you're getting for now.

(No NaBloPoMo would be complete without such a post. One can hope it's the only one!)


Thursday, November 11, 2010

cecily's natural home remedies ii

I sit on the fence about natural therapies. Last year I went to a naturopath and while I thought she was odd and said some really strange stuff, some of the things she recommended made a lot of sense... and I felt a lot better. (Except for the bovine colostrum thing - that was weird and I felt nauseous the whole time, but I kept on taking it because those capsules cost me a lot of money)

Here is my dilemma with alternative and natural therapy. Some of it makes sense and does seem to help, yet at the same time there is negligible evidence to prove it is really doing anything. Not that lack of scientific evidence means it's all a load of hogwash - Dr John Ioannidis has sifted through a lot of medical research and found some pretty big holes. Holes so big I don't think I can trust medical research results ever again.

So who should I believe: the naturopaths who swear by their alternative treatments that helped so-and-so so much, or the doctors with their cautionary warnings and evidence based practice? Or perhaps take them both with a grain of salt, pick and choose what fits with my nursing knowledge and go with what works for me? (How very post modern)

If you've been my facebook friend for a while, you'll know I diagnosed myself with gout a few months ago. After the initial sudden onset of great pain in my great toe joint, it settled down and has not been too troubling (thus the self diagnosis, and if it gets worse I promise to go and have some tests and get a proper diagnosis). I suspect I've had it for years, but I thought it was a bunion developing - mild pain, slight swelling of the joint. At this stage my toe joint gives me intermittent pain, a dull ache interspersed with a stronger throb or stab most days, sometimes worse than others, particularly after I walk.

Here's where the natural therapies come into play. I bought a bottle of turmeric capsules to see if they helped with period pain. I know - totally crazy. I threw up all night. So then I had this expensive bottle of tablets and nothing to use them for. But did you know, turmeric is, among other things, an anti-inflammatory? Gout is a variation of arthritis. Arthritis is helped by anti-inflammatories and (you can see where this is going I'm sure) I wondered if turmeric might help with my gout.

I took one a day for a month, at which point the bottle was empty. The only time I had joint pain was after lengthy walks, but it didn't last too long. I decided to become my own medical research experiment. I would not buy any more turmeric tablets and leave my toe joint to do its thing for a while. If the pain increased, I would take that as a sign the turmeric did indeed work. If not, I'd save my money and know turmeric is not what it is cracked up to be.

The first day or two there was no change in my pain levels and I thought the decrease in pain must have just been a result of a remission of sorts. But then the ache came creeping back, each day a little bit longer and stronger until tonight, I was in quite some pain. It's nearly a week since I stopped taking the turmeric, so I'm going to wait and see a bit longer, but I think I might be onto something here. Turmeric could be an effective treatment for gout.

That's if I have gout! I forgot about that minor question.

Anyway, I'm still on the fence when it comes to natural therapies, but this one seems to work so I'm going to go with it for now!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

more than marking time

Would you like to know exactly how many days are left in the school term? Because I can tell you. I might even be able to give you hours and minutes if you didn't mind waiting a moment.

It's that time of year when I find myself all tired out. I've given as much as I can and the tanks are running low - I need a break so I can refuel and charge up. I've started dreaming of summer, beaches, books and rest, and the final five weeks and two days (not counting weekends) seem like a marathon in the endurance they demand (although I have never run a marathon so I can't be sure about that).

There's a gigantic white board in the staff room at work, marked out with the weeks of the school term. As each day ends, its date is wiped away and the following morning we all pause and gaze at the board, do the maths, count the days and weeks, and feel that little bit more relieved as the end of the year creeps visibly closer.

This kind of thinking strikes me as a bit of a waste. There's five and a bit weeks until school ends, nearly eight to the end of the year - that's almost two months, yet here I am wishing it gone. I do the same thing every November/December, which means I've wished away several years of my life by now. Crazy.

Time to seize the day, capture the moment and fully inhabit the space that is mine to live in. I want every minute to count with those kids. I want to be fully with them, not in some future holiday dreaming head space.

Of course I can't do that if I'm exhausted, so it's beddy byes for me right now. L'chaim!


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

green, green my days are green

One of the enduring memories of my journey with depression a few years back was the blackness of it all. Nothing touched me, not people and certainly not beauty. A stunning scene, a golden day, lightly scented roses - none of it moved me. As the depression began to lift, the stand out moment was walking home from work and feeling a frisson of delight at the gilt silver edge of the clouds.

I think I may have had such a moment today, but it wasn't clouds this time, it was the green, green grass on my drive to Ross and back.

I've been troubled all spring at my lack of joie de vive as the trees dressed themselves up, the birds went crazy with love songs for one another and flowers bust open on every bush. It may just be me, but that has to have been the dreariest winter I've ever seen in Launceston. I anticipated a little dizzying joy at the coming of spring, but no such emotion.

That was my sign (one of many) that things were not so good in Cecily street. Just last week I related my decision to be honest and give some self care... and I think it's already working. Getting up at six each day for a walk may not be everyone's cup of tea, but boy has it added a zing to my days... a spring to my step even!

And now it's added colour. I'm not there yet I know. This isn't the most terrible depression ever (not even close) and I need to keep working on things, but I'm going to take the encouragement of the day.

Green. Green against a back drop of beautiful mountains.

Perhaps next time I will stop and stare a while, instead of just sneaking quick glances as I drove along my way. (I have a theory we are too focused on deadlines and clocks and schedules, and we don't take time for good things that will bring healing. Not stopping today is an example) For now I breathe 'thank you' for the colour splashed so verdantly across my path.


Monday, November 08, 2010

doing it their way

One of my little endeavours this year has been setting up a knitting group in a local community house. From small beginnings we've grown to six or so regular members and there is a lovely feel of friendship in our weekly gatherings. Excitingly, a local yarn store (LYS) has also come to the party and offered a discount for group members.

The group combines several things I love: people, conversation, cake, knitting... I look forward to Monday afternoons with 'my' knitters.

Today we were discussing a suitable Christmas celebration. A couple of months ago we went on a successful 'excursion' to a nearby town, and everyone is keen for another social event. I had in mind a jaunt to a local cafe or perhaps lunch at a restaurant. No cooking, no dishes, no fuss.

Here is my active lesson in running things in a community based organisation. It's just not about me. So when the group asks for a pot luck affair, my role as facilitator is to suck it up, save my cafe lunch for personal friends, and embrace the idea that has burst from the group.

Actually, I think I can do better than just embracing the idea and going with it. I'd like to celebrate the idea! The knitting group is alive, vibrant and self sustaining (it even went ahead when I was away one week). That is brilliant... even better than any of the items we've successfully knitted this year.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

how not to adjust for self raising flour

Yesterday was the day for cooking with a little friend who visits regularly, so I opted for the easiest cake recipe around: 'Any time chocolate cake' from The Women's Weekly Quick Mix Cakes. I've made it so many times I can almost do it with my eyes shut.

Lately I have taken to not buying self raising flour. There is a half baked reason in my head, but it is slightly crazy and indefensible, having to do with organic wheat and calico bags. So I've been adding baking powder, cream of tartar and sodium bicarbonate to plain flour as per the reliable instructions of a trusty 'substitutes' page. Everything turned out just fine, but yesterday I had run out of baking powder.

'No worries,' I thought, 'baking powder is just cream of tartar and sodium bicarbonate so I'll add extra of both and she'll be right.'

I was a little foggy on ratios of bicarb to cream of tartar, but I sallied forth undeterred. I didn't even bother getting out the trusty 'substitutes' page, because I've done this enough times now to know. Yes I have.

Cue sloshing around a few teaspoons of bicarb here, a bit of cream of tartar there, mixing up the cake and (voila) into the oven. I didn't think about it really - the batter tasted good and it all looked fine.

Forty minutes later we removed the cake from the oven. Actually, that's not quite true, because quite a bit of it is still stuck to the floor of the oven (I hate cleaning ovens)... we removed a gooey mess of tin and what would better be described as chocolate pudding. There was burnt cake around the tin, dripping off shelves and (as I said) baked onto the oven floor.

How could this be? My favourite recipe! The easy one that works every time! What had we done to create this disaster in its stead?

And then it dawned on me. Plain flour, no baking powder, lashings of bicarb... I had inadvertently created a bubbling mess.

Kinda funny I think. And it still tasted good, especially with a scoop of ice cream!

(Now, where's my shopping list? Baking powder Self raising flour it is for me)

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

fun in the sun

Life's too short to sit at home and twiddle your thumbs or twist yarn around a crochet hook all day.

So today Frank and I and a little friend took some time out at the Tamar Island Wetland Reserve.

Seriously, why do we not go here more often? It was beautiful.


Friday, November 05, 2010

a spoon full of sugar

I'm mixing my metaphors (or musicals), but when Frank and I watched a scratchy old copy of The Sound of Music this evening, it struck me as being quite the spoon full of sugar. (Although it blew my early night right out of the water)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad.

If that's not cognitive therapy I don't know what is!

To add to the pleasure of it all, I sang along to my heart's content, remembering the crazy Sound of Music sing-a-long I attended in London (waving scraps of fabric and yelling 'look behind you Maria' at the big screen) and movie afternoons dad and mum staged for us, complete with intermissions filled with ice cream and popcorn.

What a lovely evening. Thank you Frank.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

sorry about that

One of the things I love about being a primary school chaplain is the chance to do heaps of childish things and call it work. Silly jokes, special drawing techniques, and string games send the children into a veritable frenzy. I might be old, but hey, when I teach them something new I. am. so. cool.

The craze right now is whistling through the hands. Despite my mother's best efforts to teach me, I never did master wolf whistling (although after discovering the youTube video maybe I can still learn), but I'm a dab hand at whistling through my hands.

After demonstrating the technique once or twice, I am now bombarded every recess and lunch with (mostly) boys asking me how to 'do that thing'.

Put one hand out palm up, place the other hand at a right angle across it, wrap your fingers around each other, seal up all the edges so there are no gaps (hold your hands to the light to check), put your thumbs together, place your lips over your thumb knuckles and blow in a downward direction.

Once so taught, off they go and wander dazedly around the school yard, squinting up at the sky looking for gaps, then, hands at their mouth, they huff and puff for all they are worth. Their studied concentration and determination is quite touching. And hilarious.

I laughed and laughed at the line of them practising hard today (some of them are getting quite good at it) and then hoped they aren't working on it in class. Sorry to all the teachers enduring this new found skill... the thrill will pass soon I'm sure!


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

an unhappy catalyst

I confess I didn't want to do it at all. In fact my attitude was about as stinky as it gets, but for the sake of creating an opportunity, I agreed to join the group. Participation was optional as far as I was concerned. I would turn up, do my time, tick the box, get the piece of paper. And that was it.

Ha. The plans of mice and women, eh! That group has been my undoing. Or perhaps it was the making of me as I grudgingly engaged, shared and emotionally thawed. The gentle prodding and questioning helped me see the extent of the knots I've tied myself up in. Strong knots that have held me together, but are ultimately tearing me apart.

Because in all my tenseness I've lost the ability to be nice. I'm so busy pretending I'm OK, sucking my stomach in (or the tears) (or whatever) that conversations bounce right off me. I can't absorb anything, I just react - ping. You're knocked down and I feel good because now you hurt like me.

Only I don't hurt because I'm pretending not to, so maybe it's just that I ate too much sugar today - or not enough? Or went to bed too late last night? Could it be the lack of exercise? PMT? (Because anything is better than admitting I'm suffocating in agony on the inside)

And then this group came along and people just would not let me be, and then I started crying. And then I was undone.

But in a good way. A freeing way. The knots loosening, the tension easing. I'm not there yet, but it's happening - the slow unravel.

And I like it.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

is that a black dog i see?

What's that joke? The one about plumbers and painters and tree surgeons having the worst plumbing, paintwork and trees in the street? Oh, it isn't a joke - it's the truth of it.

Well, I'm the counsellor who doesn't follow her own advice. Actually, that's not quite true because a) I wouldn't call myself a counsellor, and b) counsellors don't give advice. I have, however, dished out a good idea or two in my time: write a journal, breathe deeply, be true to yourself, all of which I have steadily ignored in the last little while.

I'm not sure when I started pretending everything was OK. Possibly in that new job, the one where no one knew me or wanted to know me as myself. Perhaps when everyone else's joy shimmered, and my pain seemed a dark blot in their golden moment. Maybe because I felt ashamed of what I didn't have and couldn't possibly achieve. It certainly wasn't a deliberate choice, just something that snuck up on me.

No matter the cause, the pain and sadness and hurt surrounds me now, and I realise I may be experiencing a visit from the black dog. No motivation, no energy, no interest - signs I've seen a thousand times in others before dishing out my good ideas.

The black dog has visited me before. With the support of friends I beat it then, and I plan to beat it now too. Which is why I got up and went for a walk at 6am today. (If I can commit to blogging every day for a month I reckon I can walk each day too) I've even been letting myself cry (shock horror) and I started writing a journal again.

My circumstances may never change, but I'm pretty sure I can live better within them and enjoy life still. That's the plan at least!


Monday, November 01, 2010

whoops i did it again again

I'm still here... are you still here?!

It's been a while I know, but I am still alive and kicking. And very occasionally blogging.

Crazily I signed up for NaBloPoMo again - it turns out I'm a bit of a traditionalist, and try as I might, I couldn't say no after four years of NaBloPoMo success.

I do have a blogging dilemma though. I am not in a particularly good place right now. Should I be fraudulent and pretend I am OK? Or hang out the washing and let you into my reality?

Truth be told, I don't want to let you in. Instead I might proffer the held-together me. The me who smiles and laughs in all the right places as she quietly falls apart on the inside. The me who blithely navigates her way through all life's troubles seemingly unharmed.

It will be interesting to see what spills out.

In the mean time, I have discovered why I have not blogged for months - silence is so much easier. (If I hit delete now I could deliberately fail the challenge on day one and not write another thing for the next thirty days!)

Darn it. I might be miserable, but I still love a challenge. So NaBloPoMo it is.

Let the fun begin.

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