Friday, November 30, 2012

why poverty?

I had a funny story to tell you tonight.  I relayed it to Frank over tea tonight and it seemed perfect for the blog.

Then we watched 'Why Poverty? Welcome to the world' on ABC2, and it's driven the funny story from my head.  Plus after watching a show about babies being born, and often dying, around the world... a joke doesn't seem appropriate somehow.

There were the usual shocking statistics about infant mortality rates in Africa (82 in every 1000 babies born in Africa dies before their first birthday), but did you know the maternal mortality rate has worsened in the USA in the last twenty years?  I find that rather astounding - the world's largest economy has the worst rate of maternal mortality in the developed world.

I'm incredibly grateful to have been born in Australia - we have the second lowest rate of infant mortality in the world.  And if I should end up having a baby, even as an older mother I'm in good hands... Australia has the fourth lowest rate of maternal mortality in the world.

If I can get iview to work with our current internet service to play iview, I think I'm going to watch the other 'Why Poverty?' episodes (there has been one every night this week).  It's always good to be reminded of how incredibly blessed I am, and to revisit what I can do to contribute to the redistribution of the world's resources so everyone has a fair go in life.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

my second rate life

One of the teachers at school is about to go on maternity leave.  It's a poignant event she thought might never come.  As is usual, all the staff brought baby gifts and morning tea for a celebration today.  The last one was held a month or so ago and a baby girl has since been born.  I avoided going to that event by hanging out with the kids, but today I felt I should be there.

The whole thing must have been weighing on my mind because I dreamed about it last night.  It all ended in tears when I walked out of the room crying about not being pregnant myself, but it was only a dream, and at least it reminded me to get up and get a present out of my present drawer (yay, one thing less in there) and cook something for the morning tea.

Of course everyone was talking about babies when I came into the staff room today.  This one is pregnant and so is that one, and did you know she is too?, and everyone seems to be pregnant now don't they?  Just the kind of conversation I love being around for.  Then the teacher came in and everyone rejoiced with her for having made it this far.

The formality was a brief speech by another member of staff before the official handing over of two baskets stuffed with baby gifts.  "Well done for making it this far... etc, we have journeyed with you all the way..."  Then the clincher:  "The best of your life is starting now."

Right then.  Meaning Cecily the loser, who doesn't have a child?  Cecily, the one with the second rate life who can't experience the best because she hasn't had a baby?

Thanks a bloody lot.

I left pretty soon after that.

Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure this person would be horrified to know what effect their words had.  But that's the whole point.  People don't think about what they say a lot of the time.  And I just suck it up all the time.  But if you think I'm becoming a recluse or avoiding you... maybe it's because you said something bloody awful and stupid.  Don't worry.  Even my mum does it.  And if my dad would stop asking me 'any more news?' all the time, things would be a whole lot better too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

traffic lights and human nature

I found myself musing quite a bit on traffic lights as I drove to and from work, although I'm not quite sure why.  I like to follow traffic rules, especially when they are going my way.  I like green lights all the way through town.  Sometimes I can even make it all the way to work with only one red light.  Fabulous!  Not so fabulous the red light after red light I experienced on the way home this evening.

After stopping multiple times already, there I was sitting in a right hand lane waiting and waiting to turn.  This is Tasmania, mind, so I probably waited one minute, but it seemed like an age.  First there were the ambling pedestrians, then a string of cars turning left from the other direction, and then the lights turned amber.  The 4WD in front of me quickly turned right and I hot footed it around after them, right on their tail, sneaking around in a rather daring and flagrant dash through what quickly became a red light.  It was a little disconcerting when the 4WD then turned into the gated police station car park and I realised I'd made my out of character running of the lights right behind a police officer.  Ho hum.  I seem to have gotten away with it.  (Perhaps they had bigger fish to fry.  I was rather tame by comparison.) Not five minutes later I caught myself grumbling about a car doing... um... exactly what I had just done.  Funny how it's OK when I do it, but not OK when someone else does.

My traffic light musing was around the angst lights create in me.  (Should I discuss this with the psychologist also?)  I get grumpy when the lights turn red on me.  I feel cheerful when they go my way.

How stupid!  Traffic lights are traffic lights.  They keep traffic flowing freely and easily (most of the time), and I'm grateful for that.  It could be as simple as, 'Oh, the lights are red and now the others get a chance to get to where they are going', rather than a crazy, 'OH, those darn lights are RED again, and now I can't get where I want to as quickly.'

I think I'm over analysing, but why do we always want to get through the lights before they turn red?  Or is it just me?  (I'm thinking not, since people run red lights all the time)

It's like driving on highways.  I sit on the speed limit and a car might sit behind me for twenty kilometres, also doing the speed limit.  I don't slow down, but all of a sudden they speed up and over take me... and sit in front of me, both of us on the speed limit again.  I catch myself doing the same thing, as if I can only sit and let someone else be dominant on the road for so long.

Then there are the people doing well below the speed limit on single lane highway.  There is no way to overtake them until the overtaking lane comes along - at which point they speed up to the speed limit meaning I have to break the speed limit to overtake them.

I'm a bit too obsessed with speed limits and traffic rules, I know.  (In many ways I am non conformist, but when it comes to road rules I am totally a rule follower)  It strikes me that something interesting is going on on our roads.  I suppose if some one was to explore things in evolutionary terms, they might trace it back to a distant past where the need to be dominant was crucial for survival.  We're all surviving pretty well these days, but the drive to dominate remains, and we act it out on the roads with our need to be first, and fastest, and most blessed with green lights.  Could be that's a long stretch, but hey... these are the things I muse on as I drive around the place.  Better that than admit I'm a selfish git who just wants everything to go my way!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

she was onto something after all...

Last Christmas we were visiting my mother-in-law.  We were gathered around the table sharing small talk, and I was flattening out a lolly wrapper and fiddling with it.

"You're a nervous person, aren't you," she stated, "Fiddling with that wrapper."

"No." I replied, "I just fiddle and make things.  I'm always making things."

She nodded her head in that 'I'm agreeing with you to keep the peace, but I don't really agree with you' kind of  a way, and I kept flattening and folding the wrapper.

Fast forward through the year and here I am, ten months into what has turned into a very lengthy journey with a psychologist.  One of the surprising discoveries for me was the extent to which anxiety rules my emotional world.  I've hidden it well, often from others (except my mother-in-law, it would seem) and definitely from myself.  I remember the session when it all clicked into place for me - a cold breeze of shock and amazement hit me as my Johari window was flung open wide. 

Me?  Anxious?  No way!

Yes. Way. 

And now that I'm aware of it, I stumble across it all the time, influencing a decision here, holding me back there.  It's not crippling anxiety, but it has limited me a lot more than I've ever been willing to acknowledge. I've discovered a lot of my interpersonal interactions are mediated by anxiety and my subconscious defences.

My mother-in-law picked it up (I don't want to give her too much credit, but you know... maybe she did see things I couldn't).  The psychologist picked it up too, quite early on.  Perhaps my reports of almost constant dizziness, and high blood pressure, and being jolted awake with the awfulness of knowing I may never have children, and the spasms in my back were a give away?  I remember him talking about fear and hope and asking me to come up with things I hoped for.  I really struggled with that - my hopes seem so unlikely.  It never occurred to me that I was in the grip of fear.

Three months later I had my 'Johari window' experience, and three months later again we have finally started doing relaxation.  It took that long to get over my worry about closing my eyes and relaxing.  I've done it twice now, although deciding whether I wanted to do it again yesterday took some doing.  Relaxation seems such a waste of time for a talker like me - I only get an hour a fortnight.  There's a lot to discuss! But after almost a year of talking, I think I'm almost talked out.  I'm just going over the same old ground now, and that gets a bit tiresome and tedious.  I need some circuit breaking action, and as he said, I have an agitated mind a lot of the time - relaxation could be a key to turning that around.  So I relaxed and visualised a beautiful scene and journeyed to places in my mind while he talked calmly in the background.  You could almost call it hypnosis.  (All those terrible things I was taught were evil - visualisation and hypnosis.  Turns out they are rather helpful and freeing and not evil at all.)  I may be imagining this, but I've felt a calmness and stillness in my mind since yesterday.  Not completely still, but less... agitated.  I like it and I'm going to keep fighting the fear and doing it until I've achieved what I need to.  Whatever that is - I'm hoping I'll know when I get there.

And who knows... maybe when I visit my mother-in-law next month I'll sit quietly and still, no fussing, fidgeting or fiddling. 

And then she can tell me what a calm person I am.  And I will agree whole heartedly because I will be.

Monday, November 26, 2012

on and on and on... internet update

Writing this month hasn't worked out quite as I had hoped.  It was supposed to be a way of kick starting my writing, but mostly I feel like I've been cobbling something together at lightening speed.  The odd post has been thoughtful and deep, but a lot of them are fillers ensuring I meet the NaBloPoMo requirements... which I failed anyway due to a stupid internet company.

Speaking of which, they rang me again today.  The tech team, that is.  Asking me if I had cancelled my service with the company.  Um.  Yes.  Totally.

Turns out, no, I had to speak to the sales or cancellation department or something  (who would know which it is - I rang enough times to discover that it didn't matter which menu number I pressed, I still got the same person on the other end).  I spoke with Blake, who turns out not to be the supervisor Blake I almost wept on the phone to the other night.  This evening's Blake read through the records of previous conversations and said they had recorded I still had to pay the ETF.  That would be early termination fee.  I sincerely hope he misread that.  Anyway, he said that was crazy, since I've had not service, and he would make sure I didn't have to pay.  I dryly advised him that if I received a bill for early termination I would be going straight to the ombudsman.  He again assured me he would make sure it didn't happen.

I'm not holding my breath, but hopefully that was the last dealings I have to have with that company.  He said their codes had been removed from our line.  I still have a phone bill to come and that should be it.  Of course I'll keep you posted if it all turns nasty... I already have an ombudsman reference number from last week.

And now, to change the topic completely.  Here is something I found on the ABC Open page today.  It's really beautiful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

music, music

Phew!  That was a weekend and a half!  After carols on Friday night, and the quilling workshop yesterday, today it was the Vox Harmony Musical Moments concert.  It was all a bit of fun.  I like having a life, even if it's a little busier than I prefer.  I think it's all part of the 'fullness of life' I was raving on about a few days ago.

I was going to write about the Musical Moments concert, but I found a post I wrote about it last NaBloPoMo so I'll save myself the effort - I pretty much want to say the same things this time around anyway!  We sang different songs this time around, we fluffed bits here and there, we cheered the young ones, we felt proud.  It was good.

Now I just need to decide if I want to audition for 'Chicago' next week... I haven't even seen it (unless you count watching it on the plane without headphones in), which could be a bit of a problem.  The idea is tempting but I'm not sure if a) I can sing well enough to even get into the ensemble or b) I'll have time.  But tempting, yes.  Maybe I'll go find a copy and educate myself!

(Oooo I think I'm gonna try.  Maybe)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

just a day

I'm not stuck for words, but I haven't really thought about what to blog today... so there's not much coming to mind.  Here's a run down of my day instead:

Slept in after watching Mamma Mia until late last night
Ate breakfast
Final preparation for quilling workshop this afternoon
Walked to town
Accidentally stumbled across the Christmas Parade - you couldn't really miss it, I'd just forgotten it was on
Bought a nice summery black dress for the choir concert tomorrow afternoon
Ran the quilling workshop.  Three takers and they all did some lovely quilling.  I even managed to almost finish another one because the group was so small.
Agreed to run several more workshops next year (yay)
Walked home
Internet surfed
Read a book
Ate tea very late
About to crash into bed

Exciting stuff.

Friday, November 23, 2012

breast care

Some time ago I picked up a bra at the op-shop for $1.  What a steal, hey?!  One buck for a bra that would have cost me at least $50 new.  It was unfortunate the tag had been cut out and I couldn't tell the size, but it looked about right, and it was in such good nick and... well, you can't really go wrong for a dollar can you?  And when I got home and tried it on it almost fit if I ignored that it was a little tight.  It looked fine under all my bulky winter clothes which hid any give away bulges, so I wore it and rejoiced at my spend thrift purchase.

I can't even remember where I first read about it, but the library has a good book called Breasts: A natural and unnatural history by Florence Williams.  The book begins with a couple of chapters on the evolutionary history of breasts, and (even if you're not into evolution) they provide a fascinating conversation around the main purpose of breasts - sex objects designed to attract a suitable mate to ensure the continuation of the human race, or lactation, which also ensures the continuation of the human race, albeit in completely different fashion?

Williams leans towards lactation holding the greater significance, but there's no denying the sexual power of breasts, especially in our sex saturated society.  Enhancing their sex appeal with implants is consequently big business.  Williams outlines the history of boob jobs from the first fumbling attempts using injected paraffin (unfortunately the paraffin melted in the sun and translocated to different parts of the body where it led to hard lumps and infections) to the silicone and saline of today (which may also lead to hard lumps and infections).  It isn't a pretty story, but so convinced were some doctors that breast enlargements were necessary, they even created a new disorder.  Micromastia.  If small breasts have a diagnosis, you must need breast implants mustn't you?

The book goes on to explore changes in the breast during puberty.  Girl's are developing bigger breasts a full year earlier than the average age when I was a teenager - which isn't that long ago for such significant changes to have taken place.  The jury is out on why this is occurring, but it could be to do with the artificial (chemical) hormones swimming around us these days. 

Those nasty toxic chemicals are believed to have other effects too, like increasing rates of breast cancer.  And since we're having kids older on average, or not at all, our breasts are at increased risk of being affected by the chemicals stored in breast fat tissue. 

When it all boils down, there are so many factors at play in the cause of breast cancer (genetic factors cause only around 10% of breast cancer) that scientists can't give any definitive answers on how to reduce risk.  Breasts seem to be very sensitive to environmental toxins (they store the toxins in their fat), and since we're living longer and getting breasts earlier, the toxins sit in our breasts for ages and so the risk of developing breast cancer is increasing and increasing.  I'm not sure if that is depressing or reassuring.  Maybe both? The longer I live the more at risk I am, but there's not a lot I can do about it so stop worrying? 

There's a whole lots more in the book, and all of it was fascinating, informative and entertaining - well worth a read. 

Bras did get a mention in passing, since there have been suggestions that ill fitting, too tight, underwired bras may increase the risk of breast cancer.  From memory, there wasn't any research evidence to back this up.  But just in case, today I went and bought myself two new, well fitting bras.  Actually, I'm not sure if reading 'Breasts' was my main motivation. The arrival of warmer weather and the consequent uncovering of previously hidden bulges may have tipped me over the edge.  Whatever the cause, I looked at myself today and could not bear to wear that one dollar bra another moment.  Judy fitted me out at Judy's Body Fashion, and either she has a fantastic manner or I've suddenly outgrown my self consciousness and am not embarrassed to be fitted.  Or both.  I walked out $119 poorer but with two great looking and well fitting bras.  If there is any truth in the possibility of ill fitting bras increasing breast cancer risks - I've just defended myself against that one! 

Now to get rid of all the furniture laced with flame-retardant.  Good luck with that!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


There's a bunch of beautiful, beautiful roses sitting on my bench.  Delicate pink petals with a dusty pink rim, they come from our neighbour's garden.  He gave Frank the bunch on Saturday, and they've opened up and filled the kitchen with sweet, delicious scent.

We don't have any flowers worth cutting, although I do eat them from time to time.  The marigolds and nasturtiums that is.

Anyway, I thought I might make some muffins for him and his family in exchange.  A way of saying thank you for the beauty he dropped into our world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

the saga goes on

What on earth happened to our ADSL/phone line?  Whatever it was, the problem is still plaguing us.

Today I received a text advising me the new ISP could not connect ADSL on our line because there was a 'fault code' or 'ADSL code' preventing them from proceeding.  I would need to contact the previous ISP and ask them to fix the code, then reorder the ADSL service.  This left me with a less than good feeling, seeing as two days ago the very same previous ISP told me they couldn't figure out the problem and I would need to look for service somewhere else.  I imagine I had buckley's chance of them being able to fix anything.

Sigh, sigh, sigh.

I rang the new provider to clarify the problem before steeling myself to ring the dread incompetent ISP.  They were confused. Since the connection couldn't be actioned it looked like I had cancelled an account with them.  I gave him the brief version of the last week (nightmare decision to sign with a dud ISP, blah, blah, blah, no internet for over a week etc, etc, etc), and after listening, he thought there could be a way around the issue and promised to phone sales and call me back.  Fifteen minutes later I received a text informing me the problem had been fixed and they could proceed with the connection.

Phew - if it really works.  I'm not sure I'll hold my breath.  But I have it on good advice that this company is good.  And I'm not even a paid customer yet and they've potentially fixed a problem created by another company.  This is good.

I'm sure you're busting to know how it all pans out, so of course I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, enjoy this one (with thanks to 'Lost at E minor'):

Captures in one why I keep raving on about this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

online again

The dark cloud of internet-less gloom has lifted.  In a stop gap measure, I went and bought a wireless dongley thingy and plugged it into the computer, and we're set.  The overall situation is not resolved, but at least we can now do the internet jobs we have to.  And reconnect with all the people we lost contact with.

It's been interesting tracking my emotions over the last six days.  At first I thought the ISP would be able to fix the problem, so I was hopeful and impatient.  After three days it became apparent they didn't have a clue, their technicians knew little more than me (how many times do I have to reset the modem before they will acknowledge there is a serious problem here?), and they weren't doing anything to fix things between my increasingly agitated phone calls.  By Friday evening impatience had turned to resignation - there would be no internet over the weekend.  May as well settle in for the long haul and find another way to pay staff. (We ended up opting for lunch at a cafe with wifi)

Monday morning, armed with the knowledge the problem wasn't ours (thanks to a good tech-savvy friend) I phoned again.  Still no answers.  And to my surprise they just gave up.  Said they couldn't find the problem and we could find another ISP, they wouldn't charge us the termination fee.  I felt rather elated.  Except that this morning when I tried to go back to our previous ISP (why, oh why did we ever leave?) they advised me they have no ADSL 2+ ports available at our exchange.  I find that pretty ridiculous in this day and age.

In the end I have signed up with another well recommended provider but we have to wait ten business days or more to be connected.  I'm just hoping that the problem with the other company hasn't complicated things with the new provider.  I found two phone messages from the first company this afternoon - the tech team saying they could see I was using the internet and if there were still problems let them know.  Infuriating.  I do not have internet.  I have had to buy wireless.  I rang the ISP and nearly cried as I asked them to stop ringing me, and could they please confirm our contract has been waived.  Emotionally overwrought.

Anyway, here I am back online, feeling more cheerful and less stressed.  I don't like to think I'm addicted to the internet, and I'm not really sure I am.  I can go away for days at a time and not check in without problem.  My emotional state was not just about facebook, email and missing NaBloPoMo for the first time ever.... we had bills to pay and things to organise and we rely on the internet to do that.  I've just started an online course.  My choir pieces are all online and I would like to practice them before our concert on Monday.  It's stressful not being able to complete necessary tasks that have big (and not-so-big) implications.

Call me shallow.  Tell me it's a first world problem.  I suppose I'll wear it.  But do let me know how you go when your internet unexpectedly fails for a week.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

still no internet and no one knows why.... tomorrow may have to break with principles and go to Maccas!

Ooo if I html it I can blog one painstaking letter at a time on the phone. So here's the thing. We swapped internet providers and it has gone horribly wrong. Their end shows we are good. I can connect to the modem, but I can't view a single page. Most annoying. Hopefully it's fixed before the weekend but I'm not holding my breath. Looks like being a long almost internet free haul.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

my internet isn't working but I'm posting :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

tuesday moaning

Tuesdays are busy around here.  So are Wednesdays.  Thursdays are starting to calm down.  Fridays are catch up.  And then weekends are busy. Nice busy, but still busy, cause the sun is shining and the days are long and I want to get out and about and do things and see people.  Mondays are semi-busy.

I was going to write about how busy Tuesdays are, but on reflection, most of my days are busy.  Not nasty, ugly, desperate busy, just constantly going from one thing to the next.

Anyway, tonight I had choir practise, and since we have 50 concerts between now and Christmas (or maybe five?) we practised long and hard.  We were squashed into a different, smaller room from normal and there were no chairs and my legs are sore from weeding the other day and my back is sore from the sunburn sustained while weeding and my throat is sore from singing for two hours, and now I have to blog.  Wah, wah, wah.

The carols are nice though, and we'll be singing them at the lighting of the Christmas tree in the mall next Friday night (23rd November).  Our choir is scheduled for 8.30pm.  You should come.  It'll be awesome.

And then on Sunday 25th November, 2pm we're presenting our Musical Moments concert at Scotch Oakburn College.  Cost is $15 with proceeds going to the Examiner Empty Stocking Appeal.  Seriously, you should come to this too.  It'll be even more awesome... there are four choirs singing!  What more could you want?

And now I crash into bed, exhausted.

Monday, November 12, 2012

mobile free(dom)

I accidentally left my mobile home this afternoon, a situation only discovered when I went to check if a client had texted me or not.

I like leaving my mobile home.  I'm not contactable.  No one knows exactly where I am, not even the mobile phone companies tracking my movements, since my device is sitting quietly on my bench tehehe.  (Except the people with me.  Of course they know where I am.)  I feel free, daring, released from the tyranny of always being at someone's beck and call.

At the same time, when I leave my phone home I feel a little anxious.  What if someone needs to contact me urgently?  What if I miss out on important information?  What if something has gone wrong?  I feel isolated and cut off, even a little vulnerable.

I find it kind of funny that I feel that way.  Once upon a time I backpacked around the world.  Mobile phones were around, but I didn't own one until I'd already been away for two years.  It was a clunky thing that made calls and sent texts, which was pretty cool if you were waiting at Covent Garden and your friend hadn't turned up: 'Where are you?'  Of course it only worked if they weren't underground.

Anyway, I tripped all over the place without any mobile connection.  The internet wasn't in every home.  I visited internet cafes to send emails.  And that was enough.  I survived.  I'm still alive.  I didn't actually need a mobile phone.

Turns out I had my mobile phone with me the whole time today.  I found it tucked in exactly the right pocket in my bag, right where it was supposed to be.  The feelings of freedom and fear were all wasted after all.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Ahhhhh Sunday.  Enjoy it before it's back to the daily grind :-)

So said a page on my facebook news feed this afternoon.  But I don't buy it.

Not the 'Ahhhh Sunday. Enjoy it,' section - I'm enjoying today with the rest of you.  The weather is glorious and I've managed to make it a 'four loads' washing day (they may even all get dry), the garden has a whole lot less weeds than it used to and a friend and I have cleaned a manky fish pond we've been promising to clean for months. I have a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, and now I even have time to relax a while.

What I don't buy about the above statement is 'before it's back to the daily grind'.  What a drudgery life is for us all if the workaday week is a grind.  And I know for many people it is.  Who hasn't dragged themselves out of bed unwillingly and trudged to work reluctantly?  Who hasn't wished they were home doing things they really want to be doing instead of at work doing what the boss wants?  I know work is like that sometimes, but what a shame if we live to work and work is a grind.  To me, such a life is missing the point of living.  I want to squeeze every drop of deliciousness out of my life.  Jesus said 'I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of'*.  He says this, contrasting himself with a thief who comes to take and to ruin.  Jesus is all about life, fabulous life in all its fullness, revelling in every single gift, enjoying moments, being aware, seeing and living beyond the here and now.

I don't think many people live a full life in this sense.  Instead we live lives that are full in that we are too busy to scratch ourselves.  We fill every single minute with a job or activity or duty.  That's not fullness of life.  That's over commitment that can result in a whole lot of unhappiness.

I realise I am writing from a position of wealth and comfort in a western, developed country.  We are rich here and most of us have far more than we need.  Even people earning a pittance have houses full of junk they never use.  I also write from a place of choice.  I have an education and options that many people don't have. I am able to choose to work in a part time role that I love. I can afford to take things a bit slower. However, I am not so well off that I've forgotten most of us have to work to eat.  My dream would be a world where we all have the choice about how we earn our money to eat.  Where we all have sufficient such that we can choose to cut back on work if we want to and appreciate life more. (And for those who love their work, they can continue to appreciate it as many days a week as they like of course!)  Where we all have our needs met to the point of being able to step back and be more aware.  Where we can revel in the things we've been blessed with.

Then even our work ceases to be a grind as we live consciously, mindfully, thankfully and vibrantly.

So let me rewrite the news food:  Ahhhh Sunday.  Enjoy it.  And then enjoy the work you go to tomorrow too.

* John 10:10 MSG

Saturday, November 10, 2012

quinoa recipes

I've been a fan of quinoa (keen-wah) for several years now.  I vaguely remember timidly buying a box and carefully reading the instructions before cooking it up.  The remainder of the box sat on a shelf in the cupboard for quite a while - I just didn't know how to use it.

That was a long time ago!  Now I use quinoa a lot, often as warm and nutty quinoa porridge, sometimes in stuffed vegetables. I don't use a recipe for the stuffed vegies, I just cook up the quinoa with stock and tinned or fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms, capsicum and the innards of the stuffed vegetable (usually eggplant or gigantic zucchini).  Spoon the mixture into the vegetable shell, sprinkle with parmesan and bread crumbs and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Yummo.  They're my two favourite ways with quinoa, but I do all sorts of things with it, some delicious, some... not so delicious.  It's all about experimenting I say, although Frank isn't so keen on the whole experimentation thing, particularly when I forget to wash the grain! (I've found an organic Tassie source of quinoa, Kindred Organics.  They don't have the facilities to wash the bitter coating off the grain and I've ruined a meal or two by cooking it straight from the bag.  Whoops.)

Towards the end of last year I was pleased to find a quinoa recipe book called Quinoa 365, so pleased in fact, that I bought two copies.  One for a friend and one for me.  The recipe book is beautifully presented, covering everything from breakfasts to snacks to soups, mains and desserts.

It includes plenty of different ways to cook with quinoa, but as someone who has been using quinoa a while, it just wasn't very revolutionary.  Most of the recipes use small amounts quinoa to supplement common recipes, for example the Ranch House Omelet on page 29.  Good quality eggs are so full of protein, what's the point of adding two tablespoons of quinoa?  I guess I'd been expecting more vegetarian recipes that used quinoa as their base and built around it, rather than recipes which added quinoa as an optional extra onto the side of fairly traditional meals.

Still, if you've never cooked with quinoa before, Quinoa 365 provides a great place to start.  You can cook familiar recipes (such as the beef and vegetable soup on page 61) and tart them up with added quinoa, developing both the taste for it and the skill in cooking it.

The section of the book I've used most are 'Cookies, muffins and more' and 'Everyday desserts'.  Again, quinoa is often used to compliment the wheat flour in the recipe, but here and there you can find recipes that rely solely on quinoa.  I cooked one of them tonight, Moist Chocolate Cake (p159), and it was amazing.  There's no flour in the recipe, just cooked quinoa grain which is blended with milk, eggs, butter, cocoa and bucket loads of sugar.  Delicious!  The cake was moist with a pleasantly light but crunchy crust, and the flavour was rich.  The Raspberry Coconut Bars on page 149 also rely solely on quinoa flour in the crust.  This slice has a more obvious, slightly bitter quinoa taste which was balanced by the sweetness of the jam and coconut toppings. My slice was a fairly floppy affair, not very bar like at all, but a few more minutes in the oven may have fixed that.

I'm still wishing there were more vegetarian quinoa recipes amongst the main meals in Quinoa 365, but the desserts and sweet treats have sufficiently inspired me to keep testing different recipes... and soon I'll be confident enough to develop some of my own quinoa cakes and biscuits.  For now I'm heading back to that Moist Chocolate Cake to polish off a few more pieces! Mmmmmm.

Friday, November 09, 2012


Friday night is for chillin'.  So I have been!

A little TV ("In her shoes" just happens to be on)
A little crochet pattern searching on etsy.
And a teensy, tiny little bit of blogging.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 08, 2012


I blame my lecturer at Uni.  She sent me left.

The year was 1995, the subject 'Health 3', and over the course of a semester I was introduced to New Internationalist, Noam Chomsky and a whole new way of thinking.  We were taught to view health from a global perspective, and as my outlook on health expanded, so did my worldview.  My major assignment was a project comparing the effectiveness of various modes of foreign aid.  Much of what I believe today about poverty, development, justice and politics can be traced back to what I learned in the process of writing that assignment.

'Aid' from the IMF or World Bank was the pits - it was often granted for large scale projects that ended up wreaking devastation on the very people it was supposed to be helping.  What stuck in my mind were the stories of large scale dams for power stations which resulted in the most vulnerable people's homes being flooded.  Meanwhile the recipient countries were saddled with enormous debt and crippling interest rates which resulted in greater poverty.  Should the struggling countries fail to repay their loan according to the strict guidelines, they were slapped with financial sanctions that resulted in even greater poverty.

Intergovernmental aid was slightly better.  When a developed nation provided aid directly to a developing nation the country received the financial benefit, rather than being lumped with a burden such as those created by IMF and World Bank aid.  Sadly, the general population often continued to live in poverty.  Their government received the foreign aid, but large amounts of it were embezzled or wasted.  The overall benefit to the people who really needed it was not as great as intended by the donor nations.  In terms of effective foreign aid, there was still a way to go.

Enter non-governmental organisations (NGOs).  These much smaller organisations operate at a grass roots level.  Principles of community development are often embedded in their structure and modus operandi.  Foreign aid given through an NGO is most likely to reach those who really need it.  More than twenty years have passed since I did this assignment, but I don't imagine much has changed.  My understanding is that a significant proportion of the Australian Government's foreign aid program is channelled through NGOs, although I haven't looked up the figures.  This would seem to suggest NGOs still provide the best bang for foreign aid buck.  (Incidentally, I found that child sponsorship was a poor way of sending foreign aid.  In those days it meant individual children being singled out for favour and fortune while the community continued to suffer.  A lot of that has changed now, with a child sponsorship being the hook for getting donations but the support structure behind the scenes ensuring the whole community benefits from the sponsorship. Some organisations have gone so far as to move away from child sponsorship altogether, focusing instead on community building projects.)

And thus my distrust of institutions began.  I remained oblivious to the cynical way foreign aid was and is at times used to shore up the economic and political security of donor nations (that came later), I just knew that if the IMF and World Bank wielded their considerable power in such a way that their 'aid' damaged the people it was supposed to help, then I wanted nothing to do with it.  And if governments with the best intentions in the world could not get the aid to where it needed to go, then what was the point?  I threw my lot in with small scale projects built from the ground up.  I became passionate about consulting the people who needed help.  I decried bombastic solutions applied from above.  In short, I became a bleeding heart lefty.

It took another nine years before I broke with the familial voting tradition and instead voted in line with my own left leanings (a situation partly created by missing an election or two during my sojourn in the United Kingdom), but once I made the break I could never go back.  Through lack of use I've lost some of my familiarity with the development lingo, but I remain as passionate as ever about these issues, and much of my study and reading since has followed these lines of thought through the years.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Have I blogged about politics before?  I can't quite remember, but being as opinionated as I am, I must have at some point.

Anyway, it's not my country and I don't have to live with the nitty gritty effects of it, but I like today's election result in the USA.  I would even go so far as to say I'm relieved Obama won.  Republican principles make my skin crawl, as do many of the values of the Liberal Party in Australia.  I'm not sure I view the Australian Labor Party much differently, nor the Democrats, although I confess to being less well informed on the Democrat front.

It seems to me most political parties are tarred with the same brush.  They walk hand in hand with large corporations and, often times, the media.  Together they form a money making machine that I consider to be immoral.  Corporations aggressively lobby politicians, who then make laws to aid and protect said corporations and help them grow their profits at the expense of the people (whether in our developed countries or overseas) and the environment (usually overseas because we no longer tolerate degradation so willingly in the developed world).  The people (who the government should be working for) are forgotten in the equation - so long as corporations make a profit and economic growth takes place, government is happy. They fob off the people by telling them how much better off they are because of the economic growth, but in the meantime biodiversity is lost, pollution kills people, workers aren't paid properly, suicide grows, domestic violence is rampant, child abuse overwhelms government systems, cancer and chronic disease are on the rise.  Hardly a pretty picture.  Economic growth is a bitter pill to swallow, and as far as I can tell, it's killing us, no matter what our helpful governments try to tell us.

Recently a Christian friend questioned my political persuasion.  She wanted to know how I could vote for a political party that supports abortion and gay marriage.  She didn't mention euthanasia or legalisation of drugs, but the Greens also support those policies.

I can't say I see those questions as non issues, but they seem to me to focus on personal morality at the expense of what I will call social morality.  While the environment crumbles and humans languish under appalling labour and living conditions, we have too often stood back and done nothing, or wrung our hands over that person having an affair here or aborting their child there.  I'm not saying those things are right, but I cannot sit back and ignore big picture scenarios anymore.  The injustice of our world is not OK.  The raping of the earth is not OK either.  Too long we have let it happen, hiding behind ignorance or our own inflated sense of superiority because we don't engage in such personal immoral practices ourselves.

My friend said (and I quote): my 'religion' (for want of a better word) is my moral compass and can't be divorced from any political persuasion I have and with this I totally agree.  My religion is also my moral compass, only I cannot limit that compass to personal morality.  I read of a God who cares deeply about civic morality, a God who abhors poverty and injustice, a God who glories in a magnificent creation, and so I am guided to vote for politicians who also care about such things.  And if, in the process of voting for them, I have to give ground on personal issues, so be it.  I read of Jesus responding with the utmost compassion to people who committed personal transgressions.  While others pointed the finger and sought to bring the sinners down, Jesus loved and forgave them before lambasting the societal leaders of the time for their double standards and tricky laws that allowed greater profits while keeping up the appearance of doing the right thing.  It seems to me that Jesus' life was a lesson in subversion.  He took all the known laws and relational networks and turned them on their head.  He aimed to create a new social order with love as its core.

I don't know of any political party that goes that far.  Certainly not the two main branches of politics we have today.  However, for me, the left of the political spectrum best honours Jesus' message and mission.  Thus I'm pleased Obama won.  His way of seeing the world aligns slightly more closely with this.  But Obama is hardly left wing, and he has done many things that fly in the face of love and justice (drone attacks to name just one).

I'm still waiting for the perfect political party that most truly reflects the values Jesus promoted.  In the meantime, I'll keep leaning left as far as I can and hoping our corrupt and greedy systems one day come to naught while people and the earth are valued and cared for as they should be.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I'm not sure if I'm getting nicer as I get older (unlikely but possible), or if a little bit of perspective just goes a long, long way.  Whichever it is, I find myself a whole lot more tolerant of people who don't fit within the narrow confines of societal norms.  And oh how narrow those confines can be at times.

The other day I was in one of my usual food shopping haunts.  I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention, just gathering the items I needed, but the conversation at the checkout registered with me at some point.  It wasn't the words so much as the context.  The checkout operator was polite. Very polite.  The customer was talking a lot. Possibly too much.  And after he had been served he just hung around and kept on talking, perhaps lingering inappropriately.  I tuned into the words as I joined the line - something about going from three people at home to only one now.

Cheerily he said goodbye, oblivious to the odd looks coming his way from here and there.  He was one of those people who misses social cues - socially maladjusted I suppose you might call it - and after he left, the checkout operator made a comment I didn't quite hear about it being any wonder there was only one person at home now.

It made me kinda sad, partly because I realised I had met the man just days before.  He'd turned up on our doorstep asking for Frank.  There was a problem with a lock on the gate over the road where both he and Frank park their trucks, and he needed a phone number in order to get the lock fixed before he could go home.  I suppose he was a little odd. One of those people who leans on their words and phrases to impart a meaning I can never quite work out, despite their assumption we are on the same wave length and I know the secret meaning of the raised eyebrow and meaningful look. He was a nice man though.  Friendly, reliable, and certainly helpful when Frank locked himself out of the truck yard on Saturday.  He might not fit the shallow mould our culture attempts to squash us all into, but he is honourable and plays his part in the machinations of society - holds up his corner of the world I guess you could say.

It makes me sad thinking about people like this.  There's a whole host of them out there.  The misfits who don't quite understand all those unwritten societal rules, like not talking too long or loud at the check out.  Some more obviously don't fit, the people with physical disabilities.  We're slightly kinder to them because we feel sorry for them and society dictates we mustn't discriminate.  But people with learning disabilities, or brain injuries, where the difference isn't so obvious, we don't cut much slack.  We stare, we judge, we comment after they've left the room.  We don't know how to deal with them.  And the eccentrics?  There's no need to feel sorry for them or worry about discrimination so we outright mock them.  They're a little bit cooky aren't they?

I have a suggestion.  Perhaps we could just deal with them all as people?  They're different from us for sure - but who wrote the rule about everyone having to be the same anyway?  Identical cookies cut out of dough.  Carbon copies.  Can't we accept people as they are?  Yes, they might lurk on the outer edges of our spectrum of normal, but they're still people and they make our society richer in so many ways.  Sometimes economically, but more in terms of adding colour and spice and variety and joy and challenge and compassion and truth.

People who don't fit our social norms are rarely pretentious - they're as real as they come, and I love them for that realness. I want what they have.  I want to care less what other people think and to motor through life doing what needs to be done without worrying so much about how I look or what I'm wearing or what she said behind my back.  Maybe they miss out on things because they can't do all we can, but maybe they have true gold.

People who don't fit - I think I can learn from them.  When I see them in the street, they are a gift to me.  They remind me of what is important and what is not.  My petty worries slink away when faced with such authenticity.

I might be getting nicer, and maybe I'm more tolerant.  But maybe I need to try a little dancing on the edges of societal norms and see where it takes me.  It could be liberating.  A journey into living true.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Frank is an arborist.
People who own shacks on the east coast have trees.
Put the two together, and we got to spend the long weekend on the east coast doing trees for a shack owner.  Which is much better than it sounds, because after the tree work was done there was still plenty of time for enjoyment!

Two weeks ago we went on a reconnaissance mission and checked out the trees while we stayed in a holiday house.  The weather was sunny and beautiful and almost warm, and we did lots of beach walking.

This time we went down on Saturday and stayed an extra night.  We were joined by a friend and her six and four year old kidlets.  If that sounds less than relaxing for childless Frank and I, think again!  It was all deliciousness.  We enjoyed having kiddies along and it was a great chance to spend more time with our friend - when else do you get to play midnight chess?  Not me of course - I detest chess as I am far too lazy to ponder fifty moves in advance and those horsey pieces unfortunately keep bolting away from me.  I cheered from the sidelines before falling asleep!.

We ended up doing a lot of sitting around, reading, playing games, colouring pictures.  And eating.  I definitely ate too much!  We ambled down to the beach a a couple of times despite the weather being less amenable than two weeks ago - but a beach is beautiful in any weather.  It was warm and muggy and I worked up a big sweat power walking through wet sand.

I like the east coast.  And I like being married to an arborist - the next door neighbour asked Frank to come and do a tree or two for her while we stay in her shack.  Good news!  We have to go again!

Sunday, November 04, 2012


I haven't been blog reading for a long time.  I don't have time, because I'm too busy repeatedly visiting the same seven sites over and over in closed circuit repetivity.  However, in the interests of NaBloPoMo community spirit, yesterday I clicked through to one of the blogs I used to read.  It has been closed down.  Not completely closed down, just 'I am not writing any more, that phase of my life has past, I am all about privacy now' closed down.  At least I know the author is still alive and has not met a grizzly demise.  (Actually, I re-found them on Twitter and they tweeted less than an hour ago - definitely alive and kicking)

It got me musing on privacy.  I haven't blogged much lately.  Apart from having no time because I am repeatedly visiting the same seven sites over and over in closed circuit repetivity, I haven't had the heart to blog.  It's been a hard year.  A bloody hard year.  I have not wanted to share much of that with anybody.  (Except my psychologist, who is perhaps rather tired of hearing of it all ad nauseam but I figure that's his job.)

Am I more private now than I was?  Maybe.  Maybe I'm just embarrassed that the same issues come up over and over.  Personal growth.  Not.  Possibly I grew tired of being judged for airing my private troubles and exposing my vulnerability without reciprocation.  One of my friends told me I am over emotional and need to deal with it.  Meanwhile their battles are played out in the privacy of their mind. (To be fair, most of my blogging friends were airing their thoughts.  Real life friends not so much)

Perhaps I'm not more private or more scared, just more wise in what I share. Staying away from blogging has meant I've journalled my most intimate thoughts and feelings.  That has been healing.

So if I jot out posts about the trivia of life, maybe that's not about privacy so much as with  finding little things soothing when big problems refuse to resolve the way I'd like them to.  Or maybe, like my blogging friend, it's time to hang up the blogging hat.

I'm not sure.  In the meantime I'm blogging but not linking anywhere, a kind of semi-false privacy.  If you stumble across this, well done.  If not, my musings are between me and... the world I suppose.  All food for thought don't you think?


Saturday, November 03, 2012

banana muffins

I like cooking banana and choc chip muffins.

Frank likes eating mushy bananas. (Actually he likes eating almost any bananas.  I, on the other hand, only eat them within a small window of ripe opportunity.  Not too green, not too spotty.)

One cannot cook banana and choc chip muffins without mushy bananas.

Here we have a dilemma.  Frank eats the mushy bananas and I never cook the muffins.  Until last week, when I fought tooth and nail for the overripe bananas.  (That is perhaps an exaggeration)

Every day Frank asked me if I was going to use the bananas.  Every day I assured him that they were perfect for cooking, and the longer they were left, the better.

Eventually I baked the muffins.  Frank ate them.

Strangely enough, there are now two very ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl, and no sign of them being eaten any time soon.

I guess I'm cooking banana and choc chip muffins again soon!  Yay!

Friday, November 02, 2012


So I've just committed to writing every day for a month again.  Which has the benefits of getting me writing, but at times it leaves me typing late and leaving Frank a NaBloPoMo widower, just when I need to be spending less time on technology.

I'm not hooked like some people I know. (Ah the sound of self justification)  Partly because our internet connection isn't great, and a little because my mobile phone is only a semi-smart phone and it just won't do all the things I want it to, and a teensy bit because I don't want phones and laptops to rule my life.

But if I'm honest, they rule me more than I want them to.  I pull the laptop out at the dinner table more than I like to admit.  I check in to facebook a little obsessively, especially if I've written what I think to be a particularly clever status update... Instead of signing up to write online every day, it would be more helpful if I was winding back my technology use and focusing more intently on the people around me.

Oh well.  Thirty days it is.  Let's hope the benefits of reflection and musing (aiming high to begin with) outweigh the disadvantages of tapping our a line or two and constantly checking for responses.


Thursday, November 01, 2012


Happy chatter has been somewhat grave-yard-ish for a while now.  A virtual wasteland filled with naught but ghosts of posts long past.

Hurrah for NaBloPoMo, surely sent to rescue me from the blogging duldrums, beating back the encroachment of teensy tiny facebook status updates on my writing world.

Let's face it, who really needs to blog after dribbling a constant feed of froth and bubble chatter to a bunch of carefully selected friends?

Me! Me! Oh yes, me!  I still need to blog!... I just haven't been.  Instead I've clicked through a mindless routine of six or seven sites over and over and over.  And over.  I'm rather tired of them really.  That part of my brain stimulated by new inbox notifications just isn't being stimulated anywhere near enough.  (Honestly, how can it be?  I visit every ten minutes.  I'm not popular enough to receive emails, hits, likes or comments to satisfy that much unhealthy craving for positive feedback - especially not since I ditched half my facebook friends in a fit of pique.)

It's time to break out of the stifling straitjacket of internet addiction and start thinking again.  Think and puzzle and write.  Ponder and express.  Speak my mind freely and at length.

So yes, hurrah again for NaBloPoMo.  Just in time to kick start my writing endeavours once again.