Monday, July 31, 2006

Winter bliss in a bowl

brown pear

Oh. My. Goddess. Dessert orgasm still happening in my mouth and I just have to share before it fades away. Warning: vague cooking language follows, because I am quite often an intuitive cook.

medium saucepan. two brown pears, peeled and a bit of the bottom sliced off to let them sit straight, but leave the stalks on. Half a litre of water. Half a litre of red wine. A good big handful of brown sugar. four or so cloves. A vanilla bean. juice of a lemon.

Put everything but the pears in the saucepan and get it simmering. Sit the pears in the liquid and simmer on very low heat with the lid on until they are tender. At some point reasonably early on tip the pears on their sides and give them a few minutes to colour at the top. Then sit them up again. Once they are tender (could be 30 minutes, could be 2 hours, depending on the ripeness of the pears), place pears in bowls, slurp some syrup around them and add a big dob of very thick cream.

BUT! DO NOT EAT ALL THE SYRUP. Keep half of it. Once cooled, drain it into a container until the next time you want to eat pears (we lasted till the next night). Then put it back in the saucepan and heat until simmering. Add pears. You will have to lie them on their sides this time because there won't be as much liquid. If necessary, top up. But only if absolutely necessary. Cover and simmer on very low heat again, turning the pears occasionally to even the colour.

This time will be better than the last, because the syrup will reduce to a thick sauce, and the cream will make the combination taste like wine-flavoured toffee.

OOOooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.... I'd show you a photo, but all that is left is a pear stalk and some cloves in a skerrick of syrup. I think I have to go lie down for a while... it was SO RICH!

Cats... in... boxes...

(read that title like Pigs... in... Space...)

Adele, a friend who was very taken with Kate's knitted kittens, mentioned a new site called Cats in Boxes (the link is to one of her family's cats).

So I sent in a photo of my cats, who adore boxes. What cat doesn't?

POSTSCRIPT: They've just been made Cats of the Month! Probably because there wasn't a lot of competition ;)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Polite Night

I mentioned Polite Night a couple of posts ago. This was from an invitation sent to me by a friend (Gen) who I met through Best Beloved and his work. When Brad Pitt & Jen Aniston were still together I used to think of our friends Brad & Gen as 'the real Brad&Gen', but now they are tagged in my mind as 'the surviving Brad&Gen'.

Polite Night was just Gen, banishing Brad from (that part of) the building, showing her supportive female friends how her piano playing was progressing. Accompanied by a table groaning with fabulous home-cooked food and a never-ending flow of wine and champagne. I have the very elegant printed programme next to me, so I can tell you in detail what was played. Not being of a classical bent, there's no way I could remember the order of proceedings without written help.

There were 3 parts to the evening. The first romped through a few Bach pieces, Gounod, then Beethoven, on to Debussy and finishing with Miriam Hyde. Each piece played had a little bit of printed information about either the piece of music or the composer. I'd never heard of Miriam Hyde, an Australian composer (1913-2005), but Gen spoke of her with such infectious interest that I will seek out her music next time I visit Abels Music Store.

After an intermission full of home made dolmades and incredibly tasty vermouth-soaked olives, she launched into another Beethoven piece, followed by cranky little piece by the Russian composer Aram Ilyich Khachaturian, called 'Study from Pictures of Childhood'. According to the programme, the playing notes for this advise that one should 'aim for a dry and brittle sound ... reaching savage climaxes'. Indeed, after hearing this piece we all agreed that he was neither a happy child nor was he inclined to be endearing to children. The following image and caption were also in the programme notes:

Khachaturian in a light-hearted moment

Next came jolly old Mozart, and then Gen shifted into one of her own compositions, called His Red Coat. Her partner is one of those (very nice) people who likes dressing in historical costumes and re-enacting war scenes with other like-minded people, and this piece was inspired by Brad's amazing (and please forgive me if I get this wrong) Napoleonic War getup. A truly amazing getup, because he gets every. detail. right. Down to getting particular cloths and buttons sourced from the Right Places. Anyhoo, Gen was very impressed by Brad when they met, and went home and composed the piece she played, and it was beautiful. You could feel the love.

It was a much more thoughtful group of women who recharged their glasses in the next intermission. You see, all through the night Gen had been self-deprecatingly funny, and playing charmingly, but with a few little errors here and there. All nice stuff, and typical of self-taught pianists. But when she started playing her own music, it was quite a different scene. She had confidence, and poise, and talent.

The third section was all her own improvisations, from jazz to ethereal to blues. And lo, it was GOOD. We all felt absolutely privileged to have been there. The piano/keyboardy thing she was playing had a 32-track recording facility, and we urged her to record each piece, but she didn't want to. And then she played what she called 'Third Improvised Thingy', and it was REALLY GOOD. She used mostly only black keys, and only two white ones. Afterwards she said regretfully that she wished she had pressed 'record', because there was no way she'd be able to play it again the same way. So it was one of those moments you just have to hold on to in your head.

You know, even if she hadn't played her own pieces, it still would have been a great night; it's always a pleasure to see or hear someone having a go, and sharing what they love. I said the other day to someone that the best music I've ever heard has been live in people's loungerooms, and I stick by that.

Gen, it was a wonderful idea. I look forward to the next one. Make it ALL your music next time, truly.

Oh, and I hope you liked the bananas.

Childhood innocence blasted preserved

I woke up yesterday morning with a strange feeling. Well, not strange really; a feeling that is getting more familiar every day: 'oh shit, I've forgotten something major. Now what was it?'

Then I heard Bumblebee mutter 'fat cow' and it hit me, in full technicolour guilt:


Oh, remorse is worse than a hangover.

After a discussion about how busy the toothfairy is, and how it wasn't really nice to call someone as nice as the TF a fat cow (with a sideline in the use of the word fat in relation to women generally), we then agreed that he'd try again last night.

Last night I made a concerted effort to remember, even though I'd consumed quite a lot of champagne at the Polite Night (I'll blog that later today). I managed to get the tooth out from under the pillow and add it to my Box of Baby Teeth, and inserted a $2 coin, two jellybeans and a small note saying 'I am not a fat cow'.

This morning Bumblebee came in all excited, waving his treasures around and showing me the note, on the back of which he'd scrawled 'SORRY!!!!!'

And then he launched into one of his epic stories about how the tooth fairy uses the teeth to build houses and planes and cities and stuff, and how his (lower canine) tooth has been used for a crucial part of a jet submarine to help her get to kids faster.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

I walk the line

After an hilarious evening last night at Double Take* with BB, B and the delightful Dean (I'm sorry I haven't listened to you on 2XX, but I'll try to tune in next time), I awoke bright and bloody early (thanks Padge, for the purr alarum) to go to the markets.

For those who don't already know how fabulous Canberra is, read the comments to this post. Somewhere in there our Growers' Market is mentioned, and after visiting the lame and tourist-priced Growers' Market at Blackheath a few weeks ago, I am even more in love with this fabulous opportunity to buy excellent food. I fully blame this market for the slow but steady increase in my waistline (I originally typed wasitline, which I think I prefer), but hey, it's all good. Really. It's ALL good.

Buddha banana

There are two things I regularly queue for at the markets: bagels and fish. If I don't go to the prettily dishevelled bagel girl first thing, they've all sold out by 8.00. That's because they are fresh, and $5 for 6, and people buy 4 DOZEN AT A TIME. Greedy sods!

The fish is also fresh, caught the day before at Batemans Bay on the trawler MARGY II (named, I found out this morning, not after the fisherman's long-suffering wife, whose name is Bernadette, but after the fisherman's long-suffering mother), and driven to Canberra that morning. Worth queuing for, especially the flathead tails, which go in a flash.

But now there's a third reason to queue: BANANAS. The bananas come once a fortnight, down from Coff's Harbour: beautiful little yellow ladyfingers, plump and fizzy to the taste. Before Cyclone Larry the stall just chugged along, but now the line goes along and out the building. That's because in Woolworths the bananas are between $15 and $18/kg, and here they are $7.99. 15 minutes in a queue is nothing when you think of it. I lined up and listened around me, and felt like I was in England during WWII:

'Just a few months ago there were piles of them, cheap as anything.'
'Yairs, took them for granted, didn't we?'
'These are such a treat, aren't they?'
'I wonder if he'll run out by the time we get there?' 'oooh, I hope not!'
'It'll all be over by Christmas, we'll be back to normal by then'

I got to the front of the line, and while the fellow restocked the table, I picked out a nice bunch and popped it on the scales. Then a smaller hand, to make it up to around 2 kgs. The stall holder barked out a laugh, because I'd managed to pick out 2kg exactly, right on the dot. 'Go buy a lottery ticket, luv!'

A friend puffed up to me just as I paid my money. He'd seen me and had thought of asking me to add another kilo on for him. Probably lucky he was too late, because there might have been a lynching from the queue if we'd tried. Bananas are precious, and worth fighting for, these days.

After I've done those three things, I then stroll around, buying vegies, bread, deli goods and fresh flowers, stopping to chat to people I know. It's a very social occasion.

Speaking of social occasions, apparently bananas are the new flowers to take when you visit a friend. I'm going to try it this afternoon when I attend a friend's girls-only 'Polite Night'. The invitation reads:

Once in a lifetime event - using one hand to cover your mouth as you politely snort while listening to G attempt to play the piano and, while you're convulsing, using the other hand to hold a glass of champagne without spilling it on the nice chick sitting next to you.

That must be after I've laid the bananas gently and reverently down on the coffee table.

JUST A QUICKIE: Happy birth day to baby EDITH, born a whopping 4.2kg on Thursday to Jo, who sounded amazingly sparky for someone who just given birth for the second time in 2 years and was home within 24 hours. Blimey.

* Double Take are the bomb (Postscript: check out their Quickies!). If you see them coming anywhere near you, catch the show. I used to see everything they did, many many years ago, and they've lost none of their naughty humour over the years. I've also contributed to their movie fund, and they've given me a very glam new look, a picture of which I may take into the hairdressers (when I finally get there).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

GUEST POST: advice needed please, all you smart people

I'd like to think that one of you clever readers doing or having done postgraduate studies can provide a little advice to a good friend of mine who needs Setting On Teh Right Path:


Dear Fellow Travellers,

I'd love to pick the collective intellect of blogsphere for advice as to tactics for applying for postgrad. A little background then the list of questions.

The area of research is in furniture design & research; it is not course work. The likely institutions at this point are UTS, COFA or an oddly stitched together cross-faculty marriage at USYD. Not particularly concerned as to whether it's Masters or PhD, but given the size of the research project, it's more likely to be PhD. A grad of ANU, I go bearing a Diploma of Visual Art & Grad Dip of Visual Art, which ANU treats as an Honours equivalent.

Now for the questions:

1. Do you approach the institutions through the postgrad co-ordinators only?

2. Do you, in that initial approach, send them material to dazzle & daze them?

3. Or do you simply quietly phone or send an email with a little info & ask them to outline their process of application? (institutional websites are big on graphics & not big on useful info)

4. Do you take another tack & having checked out staff, find someone who looks like they may be interested in your work, & approach them?

5. Or is there something I'm missing?

6. Or should I get an extension on my extension on my extension on my credit card & start slipping big green bills into envelopes under office doors?

Thank you, oh seers - fill my ears with your wisdom & I'll photocopy you some green bills as well.



Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Padawan days like these

Riding our bikes up the road on the way home today, Bumblebee looked around a bit, then said:

'Hey mum.'

'What?' I asked?

'It's quiet.'

'Yes, it is.'

'Too quiet...'

He stuck his head down low and rode very fast for a while. I'm not sure who or what was about to jump out at him, but he's in the back yard battling it now, armed with a green bamboo gardening stake.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hooray for Bertie Bee!

My sweetly silly ex-husband (who, I'd like to digress and point out for newbies is NOT the father of my son -- my bad) had a lot of odd sayings and habits, one of which was to call the motorbike-mounted postperson 'Bertie Bee'.

Here comes Bertie Bee! he'd chortle if he heard the buzz of the bike. And he'd caper outside for a chat with whomever was doing the delivery. Since he worked fulltime, this didn't happen often. But often enough that the postie always gave me a smile if I was in the front yard of a day.

Today Bertie Bee did himself proud. I got fantastic mail. No bills, a couple of boring thingies and two EXCELLENT parcels. Hooray!


I sent Kate a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic that I picked up at a Lifeline Book Fair, as a reward for her excellent and popular Joss Whedon post. I didn't send it straight away, because I am a slack tart, and the gap between impulse and post office is often wide. I'm delighted to find that Kate is a friend of the delayed impulse. She has sent me a gift in return, which she did not have to do, but hey, we're parcel sisters now. Check it out!

kate's parcel

There are some of her wonderful photos (thanks!), a letter, some nice wrapping... and... HEY WOW! Black knitted kittens! And a knitted bookmark (which Bumblebee has decided is actually a bed for the knitted kits and won't be persuaded otherwise)!

Black knitted cats are as hard to photograph at night as real black cats. I'm sorry about the photo quality, but if I don't blog them now, they'll never get posted (heh). Aren't they beauties? Padge thinks so.

Padge & the knitted kits

They bring out his nurturing side.

They now live atop my computer, looking down at me as I work.

kit sit

Thanks Kate, you rock!


dad does something White

We have a longstanding family joke that I stole all of my Dad's Patrick White books when I started uni 20 years ago. Whenever Dad visited he would look at my bookshelves and mutter something about getting them back sometime. My theory is that he stole them from my youngest Auntie on my Mum's side, who is a voracious and open-minded reader, and that she gradually took them back everytime she visited. I may be totally wrong about this, but it's not totally off-base.

I have 'borrowed' many of the books on my parents' shelves, but all of my PWs are post-1980 editions, which prove that I bought them for myself. The only PW books I definitely remember my Dad owning from my childhood are The Burnt Ones and A Fringe of Leaves. And until today, that copy of FoL has been on his bookshelf.

Along with his Collected Shakespeare, I have coveted his hardback FoL, but have never dared 'borrow' it because it looked so distinctive. When I visited the AP the other day I admired her shelf of Patrick White hardbacks -- nearly all first editions. (None of them are signed, but she does have a few letters from him!) I also noticed that her copy of FoL was the same as Dad's.

I mentioned this to Dad the other day on the phone whilst telling him about the Patrick White Reading Circle. He went and got his copy, and discovered that yes, indeed, it is a first edition. Not a pristine one: a bit shaggy around the edges, but well read (mostly by me!).

And today it arrived in the mail. Shucks, Dad. I'll re-read it and love it and care for it. And we'll know I haven't stolen it. xxx

Planet Gas


Much hilarity last night as we watched an episode of the BBC's latest David Attenborough showcase Planet Earth.

Best Beloved kept making demands of the show, and it seemed to respond. He'd say 'enough pretty views! I want otters!' and within a minute, there would be otters. Then he'd say 'Piranahs. We need Piranahs'. Lo and behold, there were the Piranahs (sp?). Finally he demanded bats. Bumblebee said 'There won't be bats. They don't live in water!' Heh. The promo for next week showed... bats.

We also had the mystery of the barking toad. No matter which area of the world the show was in, Best Beloved would say 'that's the haunt of the barking toad', and we'd hear its cry. It wasn't until Bumblebee shifted cuddles from my couch to BB's that he realised that the barking toad was a lot closer to home -- and very smelly at that :)

Heh. Kids are so gullible.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Noddy and the Jolly Fitball

Zoe introduced me to Fitball at the beginning of this year. She called it low impact hilarity. She wasn't wrong. While she's pulled back for more exciting pursuits like soccer and inter-campus bike-riding, I’ve kept going because it's the first exercise class I've ever been to where laughing is not only encouraged, but absolutely mandatory because it’s impossible to take yourself seriously when you're jiggling about on a large inflatable ball. The instructor (J) is eye-candy, the room is padded, and the music is now excellent, thanks to my introducing said instructor to the joys of arty fufkin and DJ Moule et al. J is hooked to the point of buying a broadband connection to cope with his joy, and we now bounce in mash-up heaven.

I'd like to introduce fitball to those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about.

Noddy (who had a bit of a rough day with a purple pen a few years ago. In our family he stutters in a very effeminate voice)
Funky the Lion (who used to wear a khaki safari suit and hat – what sick brain thought of that?!)
An odd imp dude (whose name escapes me. In fact he may not be named. For he is not one of The Four Who Survived Toddlerhood. He is temporary.)
Bertram (aka Ernie, but who has been renamed in an ongoing bedtime puppet play)
Bertrand (the pretender Ernie, found at a garage sale a few months ago, and briefly substituted for the real E. But discovered quickly, for there are no substitutes for a child’s first love)

The cream flannel sheets on Bumblebee's bed, in the hope that the various bits of fluff and detritus will echo the wrestling mat at the Strine Insetute of Sport, covered with wrestlers' bellybutton lint and leg hairs. Yes, ew.

The Arty Fufkin Workout Mix, 25 minutes of convoys, Daleks and other retro/po-mo delights.


We all choose a ball according to our tastes. Balls vary in size and softness, depending on how hard they are blown up. If you arrive late, you get the biggest/smallest/hardest ball. We all have our favorites, which can be spotted from a distance as they are released from the storage net, despite the fact that they are all large and silver. If you're not careful, blood can be drawn in the rush.

We start with bouncing up and down, side to side, and star jumps. If you're new, this is the first time you fall off.

bouncing gently warms the muscles
"Thank you Noddy, wonderfully gentle bouncing." "Oh, oh, oh... th th th thank you, Miss Duck!"

Then we start balancing: lifting one leg, boths legs, looking at the ceiling, lying back, each working up to our own levels.

balancing is a skill that must be worked upon
Noddy is learning to kneel on his ball.

Standing on the ball is pretty advanced. As is walking on the ball and bouncing around in a circle. I can't do those yet. I can, however, balance on the ball on one knee and one hand. This practice time is when most people have splendid falls off their ball. And laugh.

can I come down now?
Now Noddy is showing us how far he has come since his first class.

look at moie!
Now, of course, Noddy is just being a smartarse.

Usually after this we do exercises in a group, or we start the more deadly circuit. Today we will do a small circuit. Here Noddy is trying to lie on his back and hold the ball up in the air with his ankles. Unfortunately his head is too big.

bighead, la la la la
"I I I I'm doing my best, Miss Duck!" "I'm sure you are, Noddy."

Here Noddy is in the throes of an exercise whose name escapes me, but involves lying face down on the ball and raising your legs up behind you. Zoe used to crack me up during this by chanting 'I am a beautiful dolphin. I am a beautiful dolphin.'

I am a beautiful dolphin

And here is the infamous pyke, an exercise so horrid it makes grown women cry. Roll across the ball until it is at your calves, place your weight on your wrists, and push your arse towards the ceiling. Do a pushup. Repeat.

sadists thought up some of the exercises
"It h h h h hurts my wrists, Miss Ddddduck! Can I stop?" "No, only four more to go!"

The last five or ten minutes is made up of the most blissful stretches, and this makes all the pain worthwhile.


Then, at the end,


you collapse gratefully and crawl home to a hot shower and a good lie down. Then a spot of tea and toast (with marmalade) and a boiled egg. And lashings of ginger beer.

"Oh, I say, Miss Dddddduck! How spiffing! Can I invite Bertram?"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A day like a train wreck

a day like a train wreck

I can't believe today. One of those days when I really should have just lazed around the house with a good book or caught up on my sleep.

Instead, since it was Bumblebee's first full day home in two weeks, we took him and a friend to the swanky new indoor pool near the Belconnen town centre. When it came to paying the entrance fee, we (BB and I) discovered that we had no money. I had left my card wallet at home, BB had left his wallet at home (thinking that I would have enough cash) and I only had about $4 in loose change. Bugger. Luckily Bumblebee's friend's dad had given us $10 for her to spend, so we scraped together the basic entrance fee and I negotiated that if they let BB and the kids in with full waterslide rights, I would dash home in the car and get the difference. OK, said the prepubescent cutie at the cash register, and I went on a mercy dash, feeling cranky at myself.

Of course, crankiness begets brain slippage, and although it didn't take long to dash to the magnificently titled Downer (named after Alex's dad or grandad) and back, my embarrassment was still in its early stages.

Since I now had my card wallet (I keep a business card wallet full of cards and a separate change purse), I paid for a locker to stash my gear. These lockers are cunning beasties. You put your money in, key in a pin number, then it tells you which locker is yours and you have about 5 seconds to open said door before it locks again.

My problem started with being flustered and not reading the instructions first. I saw an open locker door, put my stuff in, and went to pay for it. Realised then that this was not going to be my locker, grabbed my stuff, then managed hastily to open the door of the right locker in time.

Swim swim swim, a few goes on the waterslide (which brought back memories of being a teenager in Townsville with only a waterslide and a skating rink for entertainment -- and also memories of those horrible stories people used to spread about the plastic tubes cracking and cutting people, or that thugs used to place razor blades along the tube with chewing gum for the next unsuspecting victim... oh, it still makes my skin creep now) and an attempt to do some laps for my health, and then we all wanted a snack and a drink. Time to get my money out of the locker.

I am not a technically unproficient person. I am also not a helpless female. But those f**king lockers had me beat. No matter how many times I keyed in what I thought was the right information, the screen kept telling me to 'sod off and get the manager, you daft twat'. When I finally got the lifeguard on manager duty, I could tell that the 'daft twat' thought didn't just belong to the machine.

Eventually we did get the locker open. And it was empty. And then I realised what I'd been doing. My extremely visual memory had locked onto the FIRST locker, the one I didn't use. DOH. So I thanked the manager and tried the right locker. The pin didn't work here either. Gritting my teeth worse than usual, I got the lifeguard again. And he all but rolled his eyes, of course. Opened that locker and yes, there was my bag. Very embarrassed, I grabbed my bag, thanked him and scarpered.

It was only after a snack and a bit more of a swim that I realised -- with a chill -- that I'd left my shoes in the locker. I really hate -- hate hate HATE -- ebing thought of as incompetent. But that lifeguard had me pegged. He saw me approach the machine, try my pin hopefully once more and fail, and he'd started walking towards me before I'd even turned to look at him. Gnash.

Driving home with a carload of warm chlorine scented people, I pondered what had gone wrong. I popped into the shops to buy some booze to absorb the crankiness and keyed my usual pin number into the EFTPOS machine. And then it hit me. I'd been trying the wrong pin. Because the locker keypad was upside down from the EFTPOS one, and there were no little letters to aid me visually.

Only minor glitches in relation to war in Lebanon and starving millions, but enough to make me wish I'd stayed home. Cats know these things. There are days when Padge gets up, looks at the day and goes for a wander around the neighbourhood. Other days, he takes one look outside, and rain or shine, just goes 'nuh' and keeps his head low. Don't you, big boy?

Padge extends a paw


POSTSCRIPT: I forgot to mention that not only did all the above happen, but Bumblebee's swimmers (an all-in-one suit) chose yesterday to completely lose all elasticity... what used to be a quite well fitted Spiderman suit suddenly looked like a wrist-to-ankle floppy see-through sack! He didn't care, just ran around hoiking it up constantly. Absolutely no inbetween sagginess over the last few weeks! Ay ay ay. I have to take him out today to find a new set before his swimming lesson on monday. But it's mid-winter? Will there be anything to find?

Actually, I'll probably have more chance of finding him a new swimsuit than of finding him a winter jacket, which was last fortnight's saga. Shops are weird that way.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Five Things Meme

Going around the traps:

The Five Things Meme

In my handbag
- a good black pen
- sugar-free gum (gives my teeth something to do besides clench when I'm concentrating)
- handmade diary (I needed a mix of diary and notebook, so made one)
- mobile phone hands-free headphones (I've got a radio in my phone -- but only FM. Why can't they put AM radios in phones? I want my Radio National and I'm stuck with JJJ)
- various hair ties and clasps (must cut hair)

In my fridge
- soft goats cheese (scrummy on toast)
- cat meat (Bee fart this week)
- milk (we still get it delivered. Gotta love your milkman)
- vegies in various states of decomposition
- Stringer cheese sticks (Bumblebee's fav)

In my closet
- lots of scarves, both silk and wool, to keep my neck warm. The silk ones are good winter or summer (if you wet them in summer, they're great to keep cool)
- A jumper knitted by my mother when she was pregnant with me. It still looks great (on me!)
- both my wedding outfits. The first is a purple and green pantsuit (total brain malfunction on every level, I tell you). The second is white/ivoryish. Cause that was the wedding that felt right.
- a lot of black, which simplifies wardrobe choices
- my precious fangirl bag, a pelorian cat bag made by Laura last year.

In my car
- A full juggling kit: balls, clubs and a set of metal boule balls (Best Beloved's: JUST IN CASE we find somewhere fun to stop and juggle.)
- lots of rubbish
- a metal wheelie trolley for market shopping (gets lots of admiring looks, but it steers like a cow)
- sugar-free gum (to stop myself teeth-grinding whilst driving long distances)
- a little Chinese jade lucky charm of a teapot which we bought when the car kept overheating. Buying a new radiator helped a lot more.

That's where the original meme finishes -- but shouldn't there be FIVE categories too? So I'll make one up:

In my bathroom cabinet
- tweezers (age makes you grow hair in very odd places).
- face packs, in convenient single serves. Love a bit of mud.
- fabulous bathsalts from the Blue Mountains that REEK of lavendar. Everytime I go there I buy at least three boxes.
- every bloody shaving fad that BB goes through -- cream, oil, lather & brush, triple-blade razor heads, you name it, it's there.
- face paints (the red is almost gone, from too many Darth Maul sessions)

Pass it on, or just move on. Whatever you fancy!

In praise of flowers

I don't want to repeat myself about poppies, so I'l just say that everything I said about them last year still rings true.

I have a glass jar of jonquils beside my computer that I bought at the markets last weekend and as I type the smell just makes me swoon.

There's an iris in the bathroom in a vase I adore -- made from a Strongbow cider bottle that has been heated and stretched to make a big bud vase that only fits one flower at a time -- the iris was bought tightly furled, and all through the week it unfurled to look extremely exotic and alien in its beautiful three-pronged way.

I just love flowers, but oddly, I appreciate them most in winter.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Remember to breathe

Try kissing, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

Ah, that's better.

I found this at Luna Park, in Coney Island. While Bumblebee and BB played, I held the bags and took photos of all the faded and worn bits. I'll show you some more later if I get the chance.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


SIGH! I hear you say. Another bloody template change.

Well. I was riding home on my bike today thinking about life, the universe and letterpress, as I am wont to do (mainly to stop myself thinking about how cold my hands are despite their leather gloves), and I thought about why I wasn't doing as many 'Remember to Breathe' posts.

It's because the 3-column format made all my images look like shit. They were too small.

So I decided to make more space for them, and when I start to tinker, I just can't stop.

I've got a gorgeous man lying on my side of the bed to warm it up, coughing discreetly to hint for me to come to bed and I'm still bloody tinkering.

I think I should take a hint. And stop tinkering. I'm quite happy with this. For now :)

Tomorrow I'll Remember to Breathe.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In the White Room

The place to be, my young chickadees, especially if:

a) you like a reading challenge, or
b) you're fond of Patrick White's books

is over at Sarsaparilla, where the ever-ingenious Laura has come up with the notion of a Patrick White read-in to:

a) protest about the PW malarky published by The Australian last weekend (check the Sars link for details), and
b) have a bit of fun as a literate blog community, to decide what we like or don't like about PW's writing for ourselves.

There's a discussion just ripping along about which book we should or definitely shouldn't read. High on the 'shouldn't' list are Voss and The Solid Mandala. i've got nearly all of his books and it's fun to go back along the shelf, dipping in to see what I like best.*

Join in!

Join us for the free love on the free love highway, where the love is free and the freeway's long. Journey begins once we agree what to read and when everyone has a copy (borrowed or bought).

Yeee haaarrrrr....

POSTSCRIPT: Laura's staging a White Idol tonight (19/7) to vote out the books we don't want to read and maybe some up with a conclusion about the book we do want. Be there or be square! Hit the link up above for all the action.

* Are you reading this, Dad? These are all *my* copies! Mine, I tell you. I didn't steal any of them from you, promise! They all have honourable provenance.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Wunderkammer: 4. The Mac Plus

Wunderkammer: a series celebrating the almost lost...

I've been trying all evening to find the source of that saying 'Get them while they're young'. It's probably a bible verse that has been condensed by someone brainy and historical. I should know who, and if any of you know who it is, I'll be the first to slap my forehead with one hand and utter that precis of the 20th century: DOH!

Anyhoo, Macintosh got me young. When I was a teenager my family bought a Commodore 64 but did nothing more than play games with it. It seemed modern yet a bit clunky. When I got to university and discovered the Mac Plus (whole roomfuls of them!), I was sold. Forever.

Streamlined. Self-contained. SCSI-enabled. Grunty. (1MB of RAM! Swoon!) What more could a girl want? The Mac Plus was the longest-running Macintosh computer to be produced, for the grand total of four -- yes, that's FOUR years. None of that new-fangled in-built obsolescence here, thank you very... well, until the Classic, the SE and the Mac II family came along, anyway. Still, the Plus chugged alongside these models, all behaving themselves nicely until they were all swept away by the Quadra, a confusing line of numbered models and then boxes starting with G.

Like the dial action on an old telephone, the thing I remember most about the Mac Plus is the wait. You'd ask it to do something, and wait. And you'd be happy, because while you waited you could do other things, like read the next chapter of the primary source you were writing a report on. And because there was really nothing to compare it to, you weren't impatient, unless you were naturally an impatient person. These days I get cranky if the internet doesn't load Bloglines within a nanosecond. But then I remember my Mac Plus, and take a deep breath. I guess running a program like Macpaint or Word back then was like trying to download photoblogs with a small modem and a shared phoneline these days. Patience, my young paduwan, patience.

I can thank Macintosh for my career path to date. Wherever I worked (except, maybe, the taxi I drove for a while), there was a Mac tucked in the corner, just to keep all options open, I guess -- these were the days before cross-platform compatibility -- and I quite liked the open, friendly layout of the Mac user manuals. Reading manuals and being prepared to press any button without fear of ex- or im-plosions means you become the Office Expert when something goes wrong. Putting 'Technical Adviser' on any CV helps a lot. I've started having to do this recently with PCs, because my workplace has lost their faith in Macs and are switching over to the Dark Side. Of course, being an Art School, they'll probably never totally get rid of the Macs, but I'm prepared to be prepared. At home, as a designer, I'm sticking to the (admittedly much larger than a Plus) fruity box I know and love so well. Even if it is increasingly hard to tell the difference.

Actually, I did make a Mac implode once. I used to have a small job teaching a nice letterpress printer how to use a Macintosh so that he could make the transition in technology from metal type to photopolymer plate. He died rather suddenly and I was asked to sort out his computer files for his computer-illiterate widow. I backed everything up, and then was cleaning up the desktop when I accidentally pressed a particular keystroke combination and heard an awful tolling sound. When I described this sound over the phone to the Apple fixit dude, he told me that I'd triggered the Apple Death Chimes, and that I'd killed the computer. It was honestly one of the most traumatic moments of my life, and believe me, I've had a few. Now, whenever I tell this story people look at me askance, like cranky chickens or Cate Blanchett in The Fellowship of the Rings. They insist there's no such thing as the Apple Death Chimes. Well. In the process of researching this post, I found this:

The Macintosh II was the first Macintosh to have the Chimes of Death accompany the Sad Mac logo whenever a serious hardware error occurred.

HA! Sigh. I would thumb my nose gleefully at those doubting people, but I'm too overcome by regurgitated guilt. Made worse by the fact that said widow forgave me utterly, having no idea what an expensive beast I'd macslaughtered.

Apparently Mac Plus and Classic models are now very cool as retro objects. They have fan sites, and support groups. There's a site which suggests ways to keep your old Mac alive and useful. The best idea, one I would be tempted to try if I still had an early Mac carapace, is a MacQuarium. I guess, if you wanted to recreate a retro Mac look, the fishtank screensaver is easier to do than the flying toasters.

Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla, along with the other Wunderkammer I didn't cross-post!

Another guest pome

There's been a bit of discussion at Sarsaparilla about children, poetry and school education. Hop over and join in if you haven't already. I'm going to post another Aki poem, because he's obviously enjoying writing poetry at the moment, and should be encouraged as much as possible. (My boy isn't a poet at all, which doesn't keep me awake at night. He'll find something to keep him going when he's ready.)

This is apparently a secret birthday poem:

Dear Alexander
I was going to buy you a card with candles that were red
But then I thought I'd rather spend the money on me instead
Happy birthday to you. Now I said it now I'm done.
So how 'bout helping me with my homework, what comes after one?
You see while lying on my back to make angels in the snow
I saw a greenish craft appear! A giant UFO!
A strange unearthly hum it made as it hovered overhead
And aliens were moving 'round in viewports glowing red
I tried to run for cover, but a hook that they had low'r'd
Snagged me by my overcoat and hoisted me aboard.
Even then, I tried to fight, and though they numbered many
I poked them in their compound eyes and pulled out their antennae!
It was no use! They dragged me to a platform where they tied me up
And wired to my cranium a fiendish suction cup!
They turned it on and a current coursed across my cerebellum
Coaxing from my brain tissue the things I wouldn't tell 'em
All the Maths I ever learned the numbers and equations
Were mechanic'ly removed in this brain draining operation!
My escape was an adventure (I won't tell you what I did.)
Suffice to say, I cannot add so go ask some other kid.

I think he's got a career with Hallmark, don't you?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Overcome by the experience

I spent this evening at the National Museum of Australia with the AP, attending a concert called Eternal Strings 2006. These annual concerts (this is the third) feature at least one instrument made by Arthur Edward Smith, a notable Australian violin maker of the 20th century. The Museum has a number of his instruments in their collection, and have made the admirable curatorial decision to let them be played occasionally, with great reverence.

Tonight's instrument was a viola very similar to the one pictured. The one I saw played was made in 1952; this is from 1999. It was a wonderful concert -- I'm not a regular concert goer, in any musical genre, but I do like to feel cultured every now and again. Sitting in the Museum's 'great hall' (or foyer, in everyday terms) was certainly a fine experience, although I find the architecture tends to interfere with both your concentration and the acoustics. Going with the AP meant I had a prime front row seat (more to do with the fact that she is very elderly and frail than from prestige), so I was lucky enough to be able to watch without craning my neck or looking at the large video screen above the stage. I like to watch the shadows of the performers more than the actual performers, so I was very happy.

Very happy indeed, except that someone sitting nearby FARTED.

I mean to say! Wafts of someone's rotten insides kept assaulting me from the left (which is why I know it wasn't the AP, bless her), about a third of the way through the second half of the programme. Totally unfair -- you can't move out of the way, you can't even cough politely. All I could do was breathe through my mouth for a while. I'm sure AP could smell it too, but she's too well bred to say a thing, even if I'd mentioned it later. No dears, I had to save this one for you. Ergh.

Guest Poem


In the future, when Howard dies
up to heaven his spirit will fly
but alas they’ll kick him out
and send him to Satan with no doubt
They’ll send him to the place called hell
but they’ll probably kick him out as well
so there stands his spirit, right over there
giving the revolutionists quite a scare.

By Aki

Aki is a friend's son; he's at Bumblebee's school, in grade 5 or 6 (sorry Aki, I lose count :) ). He also does fantastic pictures. Always happy to publish you, Aki!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggety jig!


My goodness, a week away from a computer and my bloglines list is bursting at the seams! So many posts to read! And comments to respond to! Especially the nice person from Bulldust and Spangles who responded a few months late to my tepid review of their Woodford act last festival. Thanks for leaving a comment -- all good points raised, and I'm sorry I didn't give it more of a chance, but when the sun wakes me up at frigging 4.30am (come on Queenslanders, take on daylight savings! PLEASE!!!) and I work all day and there's masses of good stuff within a kilometre's radius, then truly, if a show doesn't grab me in the first 15 minutes, it's best to walk on. And it doesn't bother me if you're an all-women show or not -- in fact, all hail to you, cause that's what made me walk in the tent in the first place. But sex doesn't come into it when you go to a circus. Showmanship does (that's why I have major problems with the so-called Terry the Great, but that's another story). I've just been told that my visual arts gig at this year's festival is a goer, so I'll look forward to catching this year's effort -- best of luck!

Also -- I've had Thom Yorke's the eraser on very high rotation for the last couple of weeks, since a friend at art school gave me a copy of his downloaded version. I played it for ages before I googled it and realised that it was at that time unreleased. I know this sounds terribly innocent and naive, but I felt very naughty! Didn't stop me listening to it so hard that I'm almost over it. Lucky then, that someone like Arty Fufkin is able to freshen it up for me, in a lovely yet wry way. it was nice to come home to a finished version, after Arty had sent me a sneak preview of 30 seconds that wouldn't get out of my head.


What else? Oh yes, Boysenberry asked for the Hari Krishna Kheer recipe... here it is:

BENGALI KHEER (Rice Pudding)
From The Higher Taste: a Guide to Gourmet Vegetarian Cooking and a Karma-Free Diet (Hong Kong: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1984), p. 105.

6 cups milk
3/4 cup rice (I use arborio or short-grain)
1/2 cup raisins (or sultanas, or currants)
1/4 teaspoon fresh cardamom powder
1/2 bay leaf (I use a whole one if it's a supermarket one)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)

In a large saucepan combine milk, rice and bayleaf. Cook on high heat for 15 minutes, stirring very frequently. Bring to a rolling boil and then lower heat. Simmer for 40 more minutes until it thickens. Remove bay leaf and add sugar, raisins and cardamom. refrigerate until cold. Kheer thickens as it cools. Serve cool. Serves 4.

Ok -- a few notes on this recipe. Stir it a lot, even -- especially -- in the later stages. Treat it like a risotto. Wash the pot up as soon as you're finished. I find I don't need 40 minutes, especially if it's arborio rice. 25 usually does it, as long as the rice is cooked and the mix is slightly thickened. Don't let it cook until it's as thick as you think rice pudding should be. It should pour comfortably into the dish and then will congeal when cooling into a solid mass. Having said that, we only end up with half of it cooling because it's yummy when hot. But it is also fantastic when cold, so if you can be patient, it's worth it.


I'm absolutely touched that in my pile of crap mail collected by the housesitter was an envelope containing the payment for my Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser book. When I opened it, the purchaser had sent me almost double what she'd bid for the book, with a note saying that she felt that she'd got too good a bargain. All I can say just in case you're reading (and I'll be saying it in a note back as well), is YOU ROCK, and of course the whole sum will be joining the fundraising total made by the exhibition -- and I'll let you know what that was, as soon as I know myself. Hooray! What a lovely thing to do.


Firstly, I must say that it's really nice to be home in my own space, away from Beatrix Potter-covered Wedgewood china and bone-handled fish-knives* and dishes underneath the condiment bottles. I ate noodles straight from a cardboard box last night, swigging cider from the bottle and it was good.

Still, it's always nice to visit the Blue Mountains and catch up with Best Beloved's relatives. Mother BB has a grey chinchilla cat, the sort of wildly fluffy pedigree cat with large black eyeliner-rimmed eyes that every movie villain strokes whilst plotting world domination. This one has always suited that scenario -- disdainful, spoiled and spiteful, vicious around small children -- but since my last visit has had a stroke which seems to have left her with the kitty equivalent of a frontal lobotomy. She keeps following people around, maiowing and being sweet and cuddly. I found it disarming at first, and was quite mistrustful, thinking that she was plotting something scratchy, but it turns out that the bit of her brain which tells her she's eaten has been switched off (along with the nasty bit) and she's always thinking she's hungry. By the end of the week I was quite chummy with her. Of course, my black panther boys still have top place in my heart, but I can no longer say nasty things to them about their aunty.

Highlights of the week were: catching the train down to Sydney for a day and catching an iceberg's tip of the Biennale; going for a walk along the Charles Darwin track at Wentworth Falls; sitting through Superman Returns one more time in order to look sideways at Bumblebee's delighted face as he watched (priceless!); having my dad stay overnight with us as he was passing through on the way home from a conference; going to a Youth Theatre production of The Princess Bride at a local small theatre, and second-hand book and clothes shopping (great new little book shop at Wentworth Falls -- lambda books. Check it out if you're ever in the area).

I spent a lot of time lolling about, which is what a holiday should be full of. Lolling about and eating nice food, so I'm a bit rounder than I was a few weeks ago. (I had every good intention of going to fitball today, even told Zoe this when I delivered her some scrummy cakes this morning, but the rain and the sight of BB in bed with the papers when I returned from the markets just made me want to continue lolling. So I did.) I lolled with the first two of John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy, Weapons of Choice and Designated Targets. I must say, for anyone clicking those links, that I like the covers of my editions waaay better than those. Mine are a very cool black, white and red, with a nice interplay of varnish and matt. How much do I love these books? LOTS. I'm grumpy with myself for not reading them later, when the third one is out, because now I've been rudely jerked out of the headspace they placed me in and I have to wait and probably re-read to get into the third. And I will be re-reading. It's not the action, all the gumph about weapons and warfare, it's the ideas about our (future) society and the impact this has upon an older version of it. I love a bit of good speculative fiction, and reading something written by someone who *can* write was a real treat. And they also led me to JB's blog, which lists some fanfiction inspired by his books, so I guess there's a bit more reading to keep me going.

After JB I read Vernon God Little (I know, I know -- I really don't jump when things are new). Enjoyed that too -- I'd had mixed reports about it, but it was a nice way to segue back to real life after JB's high speed vortex of time and place. I'm just about to start Kate Grenville's latest, since I've got a childfree week ahead of me (Bumblebee's with his dad for the rest of his holiday) to concentrate on it.

The best thing about my week away was spending qwality time with my sister outlaw Naomi. It's one of those 'never rains but pours' times; she came over for the dinner party in the last post, then we caught up the next day at a jelly-filled tea party at Barbara Blackman's house the next day, and then we all went back to the Blue Mountains, where N lives. We went to see Pirates of the Caribbean together (follow the link for her review) and then met up a couple of days later for two hours of just the two of us, no kids or partners, in a local coffee shop. I've never drunk so much chai in my life, but hell, we covered a lot of girlie ground. I don't think we've ever had proper time alone (as opposed to sneaking it while the family talked around us or the kids played). It was ace. I'm very fortunate in my relatives by marriage -- having lost a sibling years ago, I'm very unpracticed in sibling matters. Suddenly I've been immersed in a large vibrant family, and the in/outlaws like Naomi and E (the other brother's wife) have been invaluable navigational tools. Hooray!

Sorry for the long post, but having relaxed my neck and shoulders for a week, I wouldn't feel like I was home without that familiar tightness and ache when I step away from the computer (my osteopath would kill me for saying that!).

* Pulled out to eat take-away fish & chips. I AM NOT KIDDING.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blog feast

It was blog dinner party time at Chez Duck last night. I'm kicking myself for not taking a single photo, but you'll understand why as I progress. I thought I'd give you a cooking photo nonetheless, so here's Bumblebee making meatballs with Mr Pooter a few weeks ago:*

Cooking cat

The dinner party attendees were:
-- Naomi (my sister-in-law and LP regular), her partner (BB's big brother) and son;
-- Liam (also an LP writer and his partner;
-- Zoe (the newly mainstream print-published crazybrave) and her partner and son,
-- and myself, BB and Bumblebee.

The out-of-towners (Naomi and Liam et al) were in Canberra for a history conference at the ANU.

I decided to cook an Indian feast, so spent all of tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon cooking. Late Tuesday night, stirring the Kheer, all I could think was why I hadn't suggested going to a restaurant...

And the answer is... because sitting around the table together while the kids ate pizza and played with Duplo in the corner was really pleasant, and much merriment was made.


Freshly salted pistachios and tomato & basil pretzels

Kuruma Iraichchi (Sri Lankan beef pepper curry)
Ooroomas Rathu Curry (Sri Lankan pork red curry)
Gobi Foogath (spicy fried cabbage)
Tamarind Chick Peas
Steamed basmati rice
Various condiments, including lime pickle, yogurt and garlic pickle.

Kheer (Indian rice pudding, spiced with cardamon and bay)
Cumquat brandy & coffee

Yum! The first three mains are from The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon, the chick peas were from a low-fat Indian cookbook I picked up cheap somewhere, and the Kheer recipe is an old favorite from a free Hari Krishna recipe book they used to hand out on the streets of Sydney when I was a lot younger. The pistachios are done by an old Polish guy called Zivko who has a deli in Queanbeyan and comes to the local Farmers Markets. They are just delicious.

The company was excellent. Liam really does wear a black beret! Naomi regaled us with tales of teaching drama, and Best Beloved and his brother M kept us in stitches with family tales of prank phone calls and other merry japes. Much wine flowed, and we all stuffed ourselves to the gills while the kids got faster as they wearied.

Zoe and I fantasised about winning a sum in the lottery and what we'd do with the small but ample windfall: plan a dinner party and fly our chosen participants in. A-la Judy Chicago, we would lay a table for a host of interesting Australian women bloggers: Pavlov's Cat, Laura, Kate,Georg, Thirdcat, dogpossum, and many more. What a feast of conversation we'd have! But what to feed them?

If I get the chance tomorrow, I'll post again. I've got a list of posts that I've been trying to write, including a review of a marvellous exhibition up at the Manuka Contemporary Art Space until July 9. Run! Go see it! Don't delay! Only two more days to go. Unfortunately (or, rather, for my sanity, fortunately) tomorrow I go away for a week to visit the in-laws at the Blue Mountains (and to try and catch a bit of the Sydney Biennale), and there won't be a computer within cooee unless Naomi lets me near hers. So this may be it for a week, or if I can get organised quickly tomorrow, it may not be.

* I must reassure you, to allay hygienic concerns, that no cat touched any of the food in the photo or at the dinner party :)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rant du jour

One of the reasons I like reading The Monthly is because it does usually take me about a month to read. I leave it in the toilet, and because the articles are long and substantial, I can't just ingest one a visit (unlike Who Magazine, which I can read in entirety during one wee stop).

The June issue has an article written by Anne Manne on 'The New Narcissism'. It's an essay about the shift from inward to outward in human self-perception.

Of course, keeping a blog is probably exactly what she's talking about. There are so many of us out there now, and people are starting to think more and more about what blogging is all about, and who should be doing it, which makes a kind of vicious circle (or should that be bitchy circle?).

Me me me, I'm so interesting, read all about me. Ahem. It's a bit disconcerting, when you stop to think about it like that. But, hey, it's been nearly two years now and I haven't run out of steam yet, so let's move on. If it's any consolation, I don't think I talk about myself nearly as much in 'real' life. Unless you ask what I've been up to, of course, and it's always surprising how many people don't ask.

Anyhoo, I'm going to focus firmly on myself in this post, absolutely aware of the irony of using Manne's article as a launch-pad. Ready? Lets go.

Manne wrote about the change in sense of self over a hundred years, that we have moved from a moral sensibility to a more physical sensibility. She illustrated this by using two diary entry from an adolescent girls, once from 1892:

Resolved, not to talk about myself or my feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversation and action. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others.

... and one from 1982:

I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can with the help of my budget and babysitting money, I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got a new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories.

What I want to know is -- HOW DID SHE GET MY DIARY???!!

I was 14 going on 15 in 1982, and that's exactly the sort of crap I used to write.

You see, in 1981 I was a spotty, greasy, thick-bespectacled, long-stringy-haired kind of bookwormy girl who hung out at the local rollerskating rink with all her better-looking friends and would skate around the rink (to the soundtrack of Xanadu or some such crap) looking wistfully at a long, dark, lanky, spunk-rat who didn't know I existed. He knew me and my name, but preferred my girlfriends, and tended to ignore me. So I wrote wistful aspirations like 'Must change my hair. Must get new glasses. Persuade Mum to buy me a bra. Maybe then he'll look at me.' (I can prove this, I've still got the dratted diary.)

All the fairy tales I'd devoured told me that if I transformed myself, I'd get the lad. So I did my best. I persuaded Mum to let me get a haircut (flicks! on both sides!) and a new pair of glasses. I got some new threads and I tried wearing make-up. I shaved my legs. (This caused a whole new argument within my family. Dad put his foot down about someone my age shaving, Mum told him that she'd done it at that age so butt out. He made a bigger kerfuffle when I stopped shaving my legs a number of years later. My response was for him to make up his mind.)

I went to the skating rink with my friends after my makeover... and blow me down with a fevver, it worked. The nice young fellow skated straight over to me and proceeded to chat me up. After a moment I realized that he didn't recognize me, that he thought I was new to the area. It was only after he saw my friends that he worked out who I was, and he didn't mind. We ended up being the first big relationship of my life.

You'd think I felt like Cinderella. But actually, no, I felt like Sandy from Grease. Delighted with my new image, but destined to never maintain it, because it was just. not. me. After I moved away and time gave me a chance to think about it, I felt cranky that it had worked, and annoyed that I'd had to undergo all that just to make him look at me. Thank goodness there had been no plastic surgery, nothing irreversible.

I got crankier as I got older. Hair, shoes, face, dress size, all seemed to be things that conspired against me. During my uni years I worked out that it wasn’t my vital statistics conspiring against me, it was ad agencies, women’s magazines and dress designers!

So I entered a time of late 80s/early 90s leftie feminist anti-fashion statements. Shapeless clothes, hairy bits, no makeup, hennaed hair, sensible shoes. Eventually, over the last ten years or so, I’ve moved back to a middle ground, only because anti-fashion is really as high-maintenance as fashion. These days I wear a bit of lippy, I shave my legs, I dye my hair to hide the greys (but only on top*) and I choose most of my clothes to roughly fit my figure. Of course, I’m never going to win beauty prizes, but I do enough to look ok without having to think too much about it.

Growing older helps. I’m moving closer to the point where society won’t care how I look either. As I get there, my ‘beauty regime’ will not be nip and tuck, but pluck (my chin!) and moisturise. I can live with wrinkles, and I’m working out the best way to phase in those greys without having a gruesome tideline through my hair.

And in the place of all that faffing about, I've got extra reading time, time to spend with my son, time to pat the cats, time to think about art or solve the problems of whomever I'm helping at work. Well, that's the theory. Most of my time seems to be spent working. And Anne Manne has good things to say on that, too.

It’s great having a life that isn’t dominated by the physical. And I’m not talking sex here, thanks, I get my fair share of that. I mean an inner life that isn’t worrying about whether my husband will leave me if I don’t lose two kilos. So what if he does? I’m sure my art would improve. Bring it on, life! (Just not today.)

I’m sure those research agencies that supply societal trends to advertising agencies have a ‘type’ that I fit into. I’m sure there’s more of me out there. We’re resistant to ads, hostile to marketing gestures, determined not to be sullied by trends. I’m probably being manipulated in other, subtle ways, but if I find out about them (and I make a habit of glancing through industry journals when I get the chance) I’ll resist those too.

I've never embraced the whole 'new me' thing, and I guess I have first boyfriend Clive (yes, true name) to thank for bringing the point home when I was so young. I think I've moved a long way internally from that 13 y.o. I hope so. I'm still writing about myself, but I do that as a sort of gentle life affirmation exercise. If I gave up tomorrow I'd go back to writing occasionally in my journal. But blogs are magic journals, and they talk back -- don't you?

That's more fun than just writing to and for yourself.

* I mentioned other grey hairs in a comment to this excellent post at Sarsaparilla)

Big Palaver

I think Ms Fits is really on the ball today.

Remember to breathe

Padge in the bathroom

Still life with cat. Padge was getting a drink of water and sniffing the jonquils (my favorite flower scent).

Another cat tale: Bumblebee has learned to use my record player, and his favorite album is Elvis's Greatest Hits, complete with *bubblegum-pink* vinyl records. He put on some music this morning and since we were in a hurry and I was coming back home to work, I told him to leave it playing as we left, because it would switch itself off.

I came home 40 minutes later (made a detour to the school Clothing Pool) to the sight of Pooter on the couch looking wild, big black eyes and ears back, as Elvis repeatedly jumped over a scratch in the middle of Wooden Heart:

And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]
And if you... say goodb [zzzp]

Enough to send any kitty mad!

Monday, July 03, 2006

As I went riding on a cool winter's morning, hi diddle i di ho...

I was overtaken on the bike path by one of these, diddle i ho di hi:

A very, very tall bike (without the biblical fire play). Nonchalantly riding to work, soaking up the smiles and cries of wonder, was a fellow who kept biffing his bike helmet on the overhanging trees. At the lights (he had to cling onto the traffic light pole to stay upright) I asked if he was the same fellow I see riding a unicycle down the roadside bike paths, and he replied that he wasn't, but that fellow was probably a member of his group, the exotic sounding Rat Patrol. Apparently they take old bikes and make them into strange and wonderful new mutants hybrids.

A bit further down the bike path there was an Asian student tripping along on very odd wedge heels that made her look like she was about to fall on her face. She just happened to have her camera out, and struggled mightily to take a photo and stay upright, with a very cross expression on her face. It's moments like these that make freezing your nose off worthwhile. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me. But I have the website now, and that will keep me amused for ooooh, five minutes.

If you like weird and wonderful bikes, or even if you just like tinkering with machines, check out the Rat Patrol. It's a US site, but if you follow the links, there's an Australian chapter with a Canberra branch. Steev, if you're reading, they also have a section of photos of dead bikes, right up your cycle-of-death alley.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Unscarred by the experience

We are child-free for most of this weekend,* but we still went and saw Superman Returns. I mean, Bumblebee will no doubt see it with his father (who will absolutely adore all the 'father/son' crap throughout it and will probably buy his own copy and watch it ad nauseum, just like with Finding Nemo), and if we don't watch it we won't know what the hell he's talking about for months.

Anyhoo, Best Beloved totally confused the child behind the ticket counter by asking for 'two tickets to Superperson, please'. By the time she'd worked out what he was asking for the line had gone in and we had to fight for decent seats.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The new Superman is a pleasing meld of Clarkville looks and Chris Reeve characteristics. Not too fussed with Lois Lane, but then I never was (the original was way too gaunt for my liking). Kevin Spacey and Posey Parker were probably the best things in it, along with the little Pomeranian dog.

I have a great ability to suspend disbelief. I can watch really crappy movies over and over and enjoy them. But to be honest, I would have found this movie much more enjoyable if someone -- anyone! -- showed a bit of bruising. I mean, everyone in this film gets bashed around dreadfully, over and over, and no-one bears a mark. The only person who gets wounded is Superman, and he's supposed to be indestructable. Just a bit of a scratch somewhere on Lois's body would have satisfied me.

This movie really does raise a lot of questions. There's of course the usual ones like:

-- How does the hair gel appear?' (I understand the clothes under the suit, but the hair?!);
-- Where do the glasses go?
-- Why doesn't anyone notice that Clark disappears for the exact periods Superman appears?
-- How did Superman beget a child with Lois without blowing her brains out?

But there's one issue that really nags at me. How does Superman find the time to be Clark Kent? Why bother, if he can always hear all the trouble in the world? Why isn't he out there 24/7? Surely there's enough trouble in the world to keep him away from his desk job? Or, like most men in the universe, does he have selective hearing and domestic blindness?

It really isn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours. Some of it's even a laugh. You know, that thing, at the back of your throat. Or maybe that's vomit...**

* We're picking Bumblebee up early tomorrow to take him to a ten-pin bowling birthday party. O joy.
** I should disclose that this has been written after a very large Indian meal and half a bottle of nice white wine. We went to a nice local restaurant with friends who also saw the movie. They liked the dog best too. We ran into another friend (Zoe's boss) at the cinema who fell asleep for the middle hour of the movie. Best Beloved envied him immensely. It was that sort of film.