Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Fighting for survival

My determination is my greatest strength
Beyond that I have no exit from this rollercoaster
It goes up and down, and I with it
Surfing like surfing the tide but without escape
And love,
Love keeps me from quitting the rollercoaster, it keeps me on this rollercoaster
Even when hate tells me to beg for mercy at any cost as I plunge into the depths of despair
A despair that can only be endured
Like waiting on a storm to pass
And every plateau that I embark upon I do so with a liquid gold feeling of utter gratitude pulsing through my veins,
And it sparkles like a beautiful diamond
Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
And I hold onto that feeling so ferociously
With a rigid grip, I am so determined not to let it go
I have survived it again
And I will survive it again

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snail migration

One of the nicest things about having lots of rainy weather is seeing snails out and about. I don't particularly like snails (mind you, I don't dislike snails either), but seeing so many of them chugging along the footpath always brings a smile to my face. The baby snails are especially lovely.

I always try to mind where I walk so I don't smoosh them.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

My vegetable freak out moment

The first time (that I recall) that I had a sort of anxiety attack was at the West End markets in Brisbane.

It was a hot day, hotter than usual for that time of year. A close friend and I had gone to the West End markets to purchase some veggies and to have a look around. The West End markets started out as lovely small markets, under these enormous and magnificent trees, but I hadn't been in ages and now they were big and markety, with people everywhere and everything now out under the hot sun.

We went into a fruit and veggie store, but nothing looked too appealing. The next store yielded nothing and the third even less. Usually I would purchase similar types of food each week. But for some reason everything looked, well, yuk, and I felt increasingly less and less inspired to cook.

"I don't know which veggies to buy", I stammered to my lovely friend, tears suddenly spilling out of my eyes. Not even missing a beat, she patted my arm and reassured me, "hun, it's okay, now what do you need to get?"

"I don't know, I just don't know what veggies to buy!", getting closer and closer to panic. Sensing my distress she requested if I wanted to go home, telling me there was no pressure to buy anything if I didn't want to. A huge wave of relief washed over me, "yes, I've got to go home NOW!" But then a fresh wave of panic swept over me, "I can't go home without veggies!!" The crowd seemed to get thicker and we were fighting to get through. All the while it was getting hotter and my sense of panic increasing until I couldn't hide the tears.

I've got to go, now, but I couldn't go home empty handed. What would I cook and eat for the week?

I am blessed that I was in the company of such a good friend, who without judgement or question guided me home, with the reassuring words that there was no pressure to buy veggies.

We dubbed it my 'vegetable freak out moment', not really knowing at the time that it was the start of something a little bigger.

In retrospect, of course, I have no idea why I panicked so intensely. Anxiety is funny in that way. It's difficult to comprehend, even for me having experienced it first hand, until you're in it's grasp.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Throw away the book

We spend so much of our energy checking ourselves against what is considered normal or okay. We wind ourselves up in knots wondering if we're doing the right thing. People's advice, expert advice, books, magazine articles, the internet. Today our ability to access all types of information is forcing us around in circles, making us anxious and depressed because we're not certain we're doing that magical thing we think we should be doing.

Well, who says what the right thing is?

Is it time to throw caution to the wind and for once, listen to ourselves. Our own bodies. Our own minds.

Could it be time to throw away the book, and sit with our own thoughts, for just one minute, to see whether we approve of ourselves?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Sunday Age: booyah!

One of my little posts I love Melbourne trams, or most of it (all but the last two sentences) has made it to The Sunday Age, page 18, under 'Your say' in the opinions section. Hooray! Of course I helped it get there, and it's not an article, but I am still quite excited to see my name in print!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tumble Turn, by Doug MacLeod

I decided I was long overdue for a day of pure, not going anywhere, not doing anything, rest. Unemployment is good and bad. Good for afternoon naps. A little stressful though from time to time.

Instead of watching terrible day time telly, though, I read Tumble Turn, by Doug MacLeod, upon recommendation from my sister.

It's an extremely engaging read. Funny, laugh-out-loud hilarious, heartbreaking, honest and comforting.

I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

I have just finished reading Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel.


What an incredible book.

It is a fictional novel, written in monthly instalments with recipes, romance and home remedies.

It is a magical tale of a young girl, Tita, who, forbidden to marry through tradition, falls in love with a young man named Pedro.

I am not going to ruin the tale but the spirit of this book is truly magical.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The nook of happiness

This is one of my favourite nooks of happiness. I have a few favourite nooks and this corner is one of them. 

Today my nook of happiness provides me a place I can sit, comfy in the armchair, with my book, writing pad, and magazine all within reaching distance, while the windows are open beside me so I can feel the cool air, hear the rain, and see the lightening of the spring storm we're enjoying today. It is just splendid. 

I have always loved nooks. When I was very young I used to sit in this very corner (pre armchair days) and play with my toys. I would line up all my teddies and my cabbage patch doll and play doctors, or schools, or anything my imagination fancied. It was perfect for play. I could see out, open a window and enjoy the air, and the window sill provides the perfect little shelf. 

I heart granny blankets

I have started making a granny blanket.

This is the first time I have really sat down to crochet, and I must say I am loving it! It's quite automatic, so it's really brilliant thinking time. I have lots of thinking to do at the moment and so this sort of activity is perfect!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Riding in the sun

The weekend just gone was magic. It was the first real spring-weather weekend this year, and it didn't let us down. Not even once. 

I had gained quite a bit of colour on the Friday, playing cards outside with my sister, and so my sweet boyfriend diligently kept an eye on the sun, making sure my burnt shoulders were shaded for the most part. 

On Sunday we rode our bicycles (they were very excited to leave the house, it'd been a while) to St Kilda for a (Subway) picnic and to read our books in the (partial) sun.  We followed the shade around our palm tree, me with my shoulders in the shade but my legs in the sun. It was lovely until the shade was on the had rocky sandy soil and comfort became impossible. We rode on. 

The Albert Park lake is surrounded by green, luscious, soft grass, too irresistible to ride past and do there we sat until we were hungry again and it was almost dinner time. 

Simply lovely. 

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Goodbye winter

Goodbye winter, we'll see you in a year. It's been lovely, sharing warm cosy fires and hot cups of tea with you, but now we must go outside and enjoy the abundant sunshine!!! It's exquisite! We won't miss you until Summer has worn us out. Goodbye winter.

Friday, 1 October 2010

One fine spring day

I awake later than I would have if I was working. Lovely.

I shower at a leisurely pace. Beautiful.

I clean out my new old coffee machine with two parts water and one part vinegar and make myself and my sister a coffee. Delicious.

My sister lays out her card deck (for Killer Bunnies) on the outdoor table in the backyard and arranges our chairs for maximum sun exposure. It is sunny outside. Devine.

Bundaberg Ginger beer is cracked. Scrumptious.

As the sun moves across the sky, we shift our chairs; the sunlight kissing our pasty winter skin too enjoyable to farewell. Wonderful.

Mum asks me, "what should we have for tea?" Following a few halfhearted ideas, Mum exclaims, "barbeque!!!". I love it. Sausages, onions, Greek salad, and corn on the cob. Spectacular.

We light the barbeque, make a fire in the Mexican oven, and cook the snags. The corn on the cob (plus butter, salt and pepper) is a party in my mouth.

I ring my boyfriend and say I would like nothing more than to be scooped up in one of his hugs, and that his presence here would make this awesome day even more magnificent.

Mum and I sit beside the Mexican oven toasting our chilly legs near the hot coals. Toasty.

I am the last one out here, inching my chair closer and closer as the coals die down, reluctant to go.

My sun filled body is happily dozy, wanting me to carry it off to bed. But I am finding it is almost impossible to say goodbye to this one fine spring day.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Doing things: an update

A few weeks ago I blogged about my desire to try new things.

The Update

The Pom Poms on a string.
I purchased some beautiful wool and made 2 red Pom Poms. I joined the two Pom Poms with a cream coloured finger knitted string. The reside happily around my neck on a jacket or coupled with my new red cardigan.

Finger knitting is extremely easy. Make a slip knot over your finger, then place the loop on your left index finger and pull tight-ish. Make a second loop slightly closer to the tip of your finger, and then pull the first loop over the second loop and that is the stitch. Repeat until you have the length you want. To finish cut the string from your ball of wool and pull through.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Lounge-room picnics

Indoor lounge-room picnics in the colder weather (in front of the heater, or a fire in my daydreams) is such a romantic thing to do. 

Fresh bread, cold meats, olives, oven baked Roma cherry tomatoes, smooth mozzarella and anchovies make a delicious antipasti plate. 

Serve with organic fresh orange juice and fresh strawberries.

To make the Roma cherry tomatoes slice a punnet of fresh Roma cherry tomatoes in half lengthways. On a flat baking tray sprinkle a thin layer of rock salt (or table salt if you don't have rock salt) so that the tray is just covered. Carefully place the halved Roma cherry tomatoes (with the sliced part facing up). The idea is that the salt doesn't flavour the dish but it draws the moisture away to aid the baking process. Place the tray in a warm oven for 1 - 1 1/2 hours on 150 degrees celsius, checking regularly after the first hour to adjust cooking time. 

Sundays in the city

I love spending my Sundays in the city. Nothing beats a delicious Sunday brunch with good coffee and fresh OJ, followed by a decent meander around the city and settling in for a lazy afternoon at Magnation or a cozy cafe, curled up next to my wonderful boyfriend, with a lady magazine or a good book. 

Monday, 13 September 2010

My first spring in years

I've been living away from Melbourne for almost a decade, and being back is just wonderful. It is my first spring in a long time, and I must say despite the build up it hasn't dissapointed.

The winter was quite cold and seemed to linger (although I have always loved winter). 1 September was not the usually fine spring day, but was wet, windy and freezing! But since then we have had beautifully warm spring days, well not so much warm-warm, but warm if you stand in the sunshine and there's no wind.

We have also had beautiful spring rain and a couple of storms. Ahhh I missed the seasons!

Monday, 6 September 2010

The countdown is on

I have finally reached my tenth last day working at my current role and for some reason (actually I know the reasons) my notice period has been dragging on.

Only ten days to go...

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Storage solutions

There is actually a category on eBay called "Storage Solutions". I discovered this only a moment ago and I am feeling quite chuffed right about now.

I love storage and other useful organisational devices.

Friday, 6 August 2010

A little bud of excitement is growing inside of me

A little bud of excitement is growing inside of me, and every micrometre more of growth and buddingness releases more general buzzing of excitement. It is gathering momentum and I am finding this hard to repress.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Florence and the Machine: an amazing gig

Florence and the Machine, 3 August 2010 at Festival Hall, West Melbourne.

It was so amazing I almost have no words, except that I really have loads of words, which I will share with you now.

The set opened with the giant purple curtain (erected so we couldn't see them setting up) fell to the ground in an instant and the drummer was beating on his drums with the intro to Drummer Boy.

Florence appeared centre stage wearing a long cream coloured dress, with sleeves that had pieces of the beautiful cream fabric hanging from her elbows so that when she dances her beautiful graceful movements are enriched with all the beautiful flowy fabric following her lovely movements. Is flowy a word? Say it with me "flow-ee". She wore her fiery red hair long and flowy too. Her microphone stand had red flowers wound around it. And most impressively, she had her own drum, on which she banged (and somehow gracefully) during a few of the songs.

An enormous harp sat to the left of the stage, stummed beautifully by a man named Tom. Thanks Tom, it really was very lovely. I've never been to a gig before where there was a harp (and I thought Matthew Bellamy was a revolution).

They gradually worked their way through their only album to date, Lungs, with each song more exciting than the last. (Although they also debuted 2 new songs in total, which were both incredible and very true to their style.)

Sometimes when I see a band I love live, I'm dissapointed that their "sound" isn't captured in the same way the album captures it, or that they can't sing as well live. On her album, Florence has this enormous voice that fills every inch of the room and live her voice is every bit as enormous and incredible. Now I can add respect to the list of feelings I have of Florence.

When she sang Cosmic Love I (predictably) had tears streaming down my face. The harp, her voice, it was too much. That, and, her beautiful cream dress was made even more beautiful with her twirling around stage doing lovely graceful pirouettes and arm dancing things during much of the performance.

They thanked us for being a wonderful audience and said some lovely things about Melbourne and Australia and then left the stage, returning a few minutes later following the raucous sounds made by the clapping and stomping from the audience. They had to come back though, they hadn't done Dog Days!

The encore, a new song, followed by Kiss with a Fist and Dog Days. Florence arranged audience participation (in the form of jumping up and down) for Dog Days, and it fitted, because it's impossible to sit still when she sings that song. It makes me feel as though I'm flying through the atmosphere. Incredible.

The whole experience is my top 3 favourite gigs of all time, and it could quite possibly be number 1, a big call by anyone's standards. Okay I'll call it equal first...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Doing things

For quite some time now I have been flailing somewhat, searching for a sense of belonging to something, anything, to give me some groundedness and some perspective.

I'm over it, and I feel it's time to do something productive about it. I'm over feeling frustrated that my life is not where I imagined it would be, that essentially I've had to begin from scratch, again.

I'm going to make a point of trying to do more things. But I'm not going to make this epically difficult for myself, or unattainable, and so I'm going to space it out somewhat.

I'm going to do something every week. Just one thing. Not necessarily new, not necessarily amazing or impressive, but something.

Since I am a blank canvass ready to be filled with life's rich pleasures I'm going to start filling. Some will fail, some will succeed and some will be mediocre. I can't wait!

Today I was reading magazines, I love reading magazines as I am quite creative and find myself feeling inspired looking through their pages. I saw some fantastic things that in turn stirred loads of ideas in my head. This week I'm going to knit something with pom poms.

As I wrote that line I must admit I felt a little twinge of fear. What if I don't? Well, if I don't I don't but oh it'll be lovely to get the ol' needles out again and make something.

And of course, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Dear Universe...

Some time ago I was told if I wanted things I should 'put it out to the Universe' somehow. I had no idea how to do this and so I started writing letters to the Universe, of all things, and, obviously, not posting them.

Wouldn't that be funny:


Anyway, I must admit, either it worked or it didn't do anything but rather I made the things I wanted to happen, I'm not entirely sure which, but it did help me to at least identify the things that I wanted, so here goes, again:

And this time, I am actually putting it to the universe, well cyper space anyway.

Dear Universe,

A job that doesn't take over my life completely but that I feel rewarded and motivated and challenged and satisfied.

A house or apartment which I can call home and which I feel at home, and when I walk in the door I feel grateful for having, a haven, with space for my table and shelves for my books and a space for a small laundry and a large space for my clothes and for getting dressed and a full length mirror and lots of storage and windows that let in loads of light which I can open and breath cleanish air with a tree or some trees nearby so I don't feel like I live in a concrete jungle but also close enough to the city so that I feel excited about living near the city and space enough for a place to sit and work on my projects and to sit in the lovely sunlight and read a book or magazine and enough space and room to breathe so that I can love my partner without feeling snippy or resentful about anything, and so we can love and enjoy each other like we do when the pressure has been let go of.

Thank you.

Allergic to dairy...?

I think I may be allergic to dairy. Well, it's most likely dairy, otherwise it's saturated fats, which is far, far worse. Right now, I am dearly hoping it's limited to just the one junk food group.

Something has been not-quite-right with my body for a little while. At first I thought I was sick. And then I noticed that my body only reacted in the particular way (which shall remain unspecified) at seemingly random intervals. After it happened to coincide enough times to no-longer-be-considered completely random I reluctantly began to accept the inevitable, it's probably an allergic reaction to something.

I know, I know, you're probably thinking, 'well have you been to see a doctor'? And in my defence I did, but the advice I got given wasn't particularly helpful and so I feel rather stranded to work this one out myself. I could get a second opinion but I'm not quite ready just yet to know for sure. And what if it's worse than a simple reaction? What if it's some other type of horrible disease?

In any event I am fairly certain by now that the reaction is to cow's milk. It's a common enough reaction, apparently our bodies are not designed to process it, and my body reacts in the particular way every time I consume it.

This fact, I might point out, is completely devastating. Not only do I love drinking tea (with cow's milk, thank you), and lattes, but I love a big glass of cow's milk, just strait up. And Ben & Jerry's, what would I do without you? It's not that I don't love some soy milk every now and again (oh it goes so well in chai with honey), but if the reaction IS to cow's milk, then I'm really going to miss it.

*small sigh*

Although, I have always wondered how to kick the junk food group, shall we say, attachment. And perhaps this is it. I dearly love eating, oh how I love to eat. But my love of eating isn't limited to the junk food group, I enjoy food food too. And I suppose unless I want to feel as though I'm dying for between 2-4 hours every time I consume dairy...I will have to stick to just that. I'm not giving up cheese though, just to be clear.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Unimpressive new things, turned impressive old things

Who remembers these cups, and hands up (high so we can see them) if your parents owned a set!

How many things can you think of that your parents did when you were young, that you were so unimpressed by at the time, or perhaps even indifferent, that now make your heart sing with joy?

Oh the nostalgically fond and heart warming memories!

I don't think it's as simple as rose coloured nostalgic glasses though, I think it's more a case of the realisation that the decisions those people made for you were actually the best ones to be made, even though at the time it may not have seemed like they were.

Obviously, there are exceptions (there are always exceptions).

I hated home made rye bread as a teenager. I ate it every day for lunch, usually with peanut butter (delicious!). Or roast beef and chutney if there were left overs (especially delicious!). Every day I wanted horrible bleached white bread (preferably no fibre, please).

But, I hear you say, home made bread (and rye home made bread at that) is "da bomb"!!

Yes, I am quite aware of this fact.

Oh but everything sometimes seems so backwards! Why is hindsight the best kind of sight?!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Cooking from scratch: Chicken pie

Have you ever made chicken pie from scratch? Oh, it is such a delight. The making of it is not terribly difficult, ie a little more fiddly than spaghetti bolognese, but worth it as the results are tremendously impressive!

This will feed 4 people comfortably. I often double the receipe and freeze portions of it in the freezer for a quick and tasty dinner without any fuss! If you take the freezing option, simply freeze the filling and then defrost and bake - it works really well this way, I'm not sure how it would freeze after it has been baked with the pastry, etc.

Okay now I have warned you that this is not the simplest recipe to make. It's not like making a pasta bake. But if you follow my explanations you won't find it terribly difficult, just make sure you follow them and you will be fine! If not please feel free to leave me instructional tips and I can go into more (or less) detail.

So first up, a pre preparational tip. Measure 1 and 1/2 cups of tap water into a large saucepan and have a look at how much that much liquid looks like in your saucepan. I usually get a patterned cooking utensil (I use a chopstick) and stick it upright in the liquid and remember where the water level sits, or mark it with a stratch or something. Trust me, just do this and it'll save you wondering how to do something a bit later on.

Discard the water from the large saucepan, and then, using the same large saucepan, bring 2 cups (500 ml) of chicken stock and 3/4 cups (180 ml) of white wine to the boil. Add 500 grams of whole chicken thighs (do not chop them yet) into the simmering liquid. Simmer the chicken (uncovered) for around 10 minutes until the chicken pieces are just cooked. Do not overcook the chicken. In fact, err on the side of undercooked chicken because there is more cooking in store for the chicken.

Remove the chicken from the liquid and place to one side. BUT keep the liquid!

Now, here's where your chopstick / other cooking measuring utensil will come in handy. You need to leave the stock and wine liquid boiling on the stove to reduce it down to 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid. At this point in time you'll probably find that it is around double that. So keep boiling it and keep checking it to see the levels. Here's the thing, if you reduce it too much it's easy to add a bit more water! But, if you don't reduce it enough your pie might be a bit runny (which is no big deal really, but still it's nice to have a lovely consistency).

While you're waiting for your stock to reduce preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Take your puff pastry out of the freezer and place 2 sheets (or 3 if you think you'll need 3 to cover the base of your pie dish) on a counter to defrost. And crush your garlic, chop the leeks, celery and mushrooms.

Check your stock liquid level. Once it gets to the level required just turn the heat off. If it's not there yet, keep it simmering.

In a separate saucepan, you'll need another large one, melt the butter. Add the garlic, mushrooms, celery and leek and cook until it is all softened, the leeks are translucent and everything smells delicious. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes, keeping the saucepan on the heat. The reason you leave it on the heat is you want to cook the flour for a while (so that the flour taste gets cooked out). Just note that if you've added more butter than specified below (which I sometimes do if I think it'll be more delicious) you'll need a little more flour.

Check your stock liquid level again. If it's too low just add a tiny bit of water to it. You can always add water to the chicken mixture before it's poured into the pastry lined pie dish too, so no need to stress.

Once your stock liquid is around the level you've marked turn the heat off. Using a ladel, ladel a little bit of the stock into the flour, butter and vege mix (which should still be on the heat, or back on the heat if you'd turned it off, while waiting for the stock to reduce). Stir with a wooden spoon until a sauce starts to form and the flour and butter combination starts to loosen up a bit. Keep stirring, and adding a little of the water at a time so that lumps do not form. Keep the pie filling on the heat stirring frequently.

Coarsely chop the chicken up into inch-ish size pieces and add into the filling. If you like corn, corn is a fabulous addition into this pie. Add as much or as little corn cernals (frozen or canned) into the pie filling. Remove the filling from the heat and stir the cream through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point it might be an idea to test the consistency of the pie filling, and by test I mean look at. If you think it's a bit runny maybe stick it back on the heat for a little while to thicken it up a bit. If it's not pie consistency add in a little water at a time, stirring continually, until the pie filling has reached your version of perfect (consistency wise).

Grease a deep pie dish with butter or oil and line with a sheet of puff pastry (or two sheets if necessary). Pour the pie filling into the lined dish and top with another sheet of puff pastry. Brush lightly with milk.

Bake in a 180 degree celcius oven for around 20-25 minutes until the pie is golden brown.

Serve and eat while hot. Delicious!

Shopping list

500 grams chicken thigh
2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
3/4 cups (180 ml) white wine
40 grams butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small leek, sliced finely
2 celery sticks, sliced finely
8 medium mushrooms, sliced finely
1/4 cups (35 grams) plain flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
2-3 sheets puff pastry
Milk for brushing

Friday, 9 July 2010

I hate vomiting

Around 18 months ago I had a rather bizarre experience very late one night...

I awoke with a start, my body already sitting in a rigid upright position. My heart was pounding loudly and quickly, and my stomach was in knots. I was about to puke. I checked the time; 3:00am. I slowly got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, taking very careful steps in case any particularly quick movement would spur it on.

I hate vomiting. If I can do anything to avoid it, I will. Even if it means feeling horrendously nauseous for a long period of time I avoid it like the plague. Of course, my tendency to foresee all manner of possible outcomes (however remote) to any one event, including the worst possible scenarios, means I avoid any situation that could even potentially lead to vomiting, amputation, or setting myself up for severe disappointment. By extension, this means I don’t need to vomit very often (and yes I am aware that if I vomited on a more regular basis I would probably not hate it so much, but I do completely hate it so there, that’s all).

Of course, whilst sitting very near the toilet, willing my body not to puke, it occurred to me that it was very strange that I should wake in the middle of the night and vomit for no particular reason. I made a list of all the possibilities. One, analyse food ingested in the past 4-6 hours. None. That was easy. Two, do I know anyone who is sick? Not that I was aware. Three, (please God, no) am I pregnant? Unlikely as I was on the contraceptive pill, although notorious for forgetting to take it.

I turned each of these possibilities over in my mind. After 15 minutes I joyously returned to bed, having not vomited after all. “Ha!”, my brain gloated to my stomach. I carefully slid back under the sheets, and pulled the bucket I had brought in with me to within reaching distance, and tried to fall back to sleep.

It was not five minutes later that my body almost involuntarily jumped out of bed. I grabbed the bucket on the way out of my bedroom, sat down just outside the doorway and had a massive puke (sorry to be graphic).

After cleaning up, and getting back into bed, I felt much better. There hadn’t been much inside my stomach so it wasn’t too painful, and I felt completely well again, and maybe even better than I had felt before.

The cleaned bucket sat beside my bed, as I assumed I would awaken at some point to re-vomit. But once I had fallen asleep I did not wake until the morning alarm.

The following day, and feeling absolutely fine, I mentally crossed possibilities one and two from my list. A quick pregnancy test, and a huge cry following the relief that ensued after, also revealed possibility three struck out.

I briefly wondered what had prompted the need for my body to expel the contents of my stomach in such a particularly urgent manner, and then pushed the thought aside. I felt fine now.

Later, having relayed the story to a friend, I decided it may be worth further investigation. Hello, Dr Google. (For all you doctors out there reading this, if in fact anyone reads this, please stop expending your energy getting people to stop Googling their symptoms, concentrate on making sure there is accessible information online! Forgive me, I digress.) It said, “the signal to vomit can be stimulated by smells, taste, various illnesses and strong emotions (such as anxiety or fear)”.

I still remember the feeling of the back of my neck prickling in fear from those thoughts that were becomming increasingly impossible to ignore.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

At a crossroads

I feel as though I'm standing at a crossroads looking at a collection of possible life paths. I suppose it's a good place to be standing, although I prefer not to have the feeling of being quite so overwhelmed so as to not want to make a decision at all. I prefer a small measure of certainty. Anyway, how will I make the correct decision without the benefit of hindsight. Perhaps it doesn't matter, perhaps I can make a decision and then unmake it, or remake it later. I don't want any decision I make to have an adverse effect on me later. I don't want to be bitten on the behind.

Although perhaps this is part of my journey.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

You haven't lived until...

You haven't lived until you've tried Gippsland Dairy fruit twist yogurt.

It is soooooo delicious (and I'm not even that into yogurt). *drool*

The creamy (oh so creamy) yogurt is complimented by lovely fruit all twisted through. You really must try it!

If all your friends jumped off a cliff...

If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?

Apparently I would, or rather, I did. Up until that point I usually made a point of not following the crowd but rather doing what I wanted or what I considered right.

Apparently, my usually strong sense of individualness was left beind with my forgotten umbrella that day.

Dalwood Falls is a waterfall, natural pool and weir located on Ballina Council land near Alstonville in New South Wales (see pictured right). The pool is surrounded by high 10-ish metre rock faces, forming clifts in almost a perfect circle around a relatively deep pool of lovely swimming water.

Apparently, the done thing is to jump from one of many possible "spots" up on the clifts.

During a camping trip with a few friends one weekend (a few years back), we decided to go to the Falls. The others were planning to "do" the jump but I declined as I have a (mostly) risk averse personality and a convenient excuse for getting out of almost everything, being my (considerably) bad eyesight. If I was at all inclined to jump I would want to see what I was jumping into, ie. whether that white blurry thing was light refracting off the water or a very sharp rock jutting up out of it.

One of the others was afraid of heights and also declined to participate, and on that basis, once we had hiked the short distance to the Falls, I was feeling fairly comfortable to undress and lie on a warm rock in my bathers. That was, until Mr Afraid of Heights decided to jump. In an all too spontaneous moment I too decided to jump. I removed my glasses and peered over the edge, squinting suspiciously at the bits of white down below. "If you think about this, you won't do it, just jump and don't be a 'fraidy cat", said the not so nice part of myself. So I did.

You may not know (and I certainly didn't) that it actually takes quite alot of time to fall 10-ish metres through the air. I figured I needed to pull my legs up fairly quickly after hitting the water, but after jumping from the ledge decided I'd prepare to pull up in advance. I hit the water in an almost sitting position. It hurt, but not too badly. I climbed out of the water and made my (horibbly scary without glasses and in bare feet, is that a leaf or a rock?) assent back up the clifts (via a ridiculously steep and winding dirt path) to rejoin my belongings above.

I quickly noticed it was actually very difficult to sit down without being in quite a lot of pain. Once my full weight was on even the softest of chairs it was still quite difficult to sit comfortably and even more difficult standing up (you would not believe the number of muscles located in your bum that you use to rise from a seated position). During the period that followed I found it near impossible to sit on a bus. Of course, as there was no crying in agony or anything, I didn't see my doctor and the pain continued for at least an entire month, and then only completely abated after many more.

So no, I wouldn't jump if everyone did, but in the past I have! I have since been reacquainted with the risk averse part of my personality.

Of course, the most infuriating part of the whole experience was a handful of people who (not having ever been to the Falls) insisted the actual height of the rock face couldn't have been more than 3 metres. Although, the fact that I couldn't sit down without pulling the I'm-in-extreme-pain face (whilst unpleasant for me) was the cause of ongoing raucous laughter (which I always enjoy, even at my own expense).

I love Melbourne trams

Melbourne trams, especially the old green and yellow ones, are so lovely.

I have a vivid memory of feeling inexplicably happy sitting in an old green and yellow tram chugging along Chapel Street on a freezing cold and drizly Melbourne morning. The rain was hitting the old window panes, and droplets were splashing up from the old style window sills, and some drops even ventured inside the surprisingly warm carriage. Old, maybe, but cold, absolutely not.

These trams are getting old though. One broke down near my apartment when I was on my way home last night. Another lovely old tram came to its rescue though.

See, old trams, they're so friendly.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Addicted to eBay

I am not sure if I have an addictive personality (does such a thing even exist anyway?). I know I can be quite obsessive at times, but not addictive. But I must admit there are two exceptions, okay maybe three. Okay maybe, MAYBE four. Or five.

My obsessions, okay let's not call it that, rather, my keen and consistently loved and rigorously pursued interests, include (and I must point out there are more, but I selected carefully): watching Frasier (an all time, never exhausting favourite); reading lady magazines (as my boyfriend, the sweetheart, likes to call them); shopping for clothes (I'm not really fussy about shoes or bags though); buying, reading and looking at books (I LOVE books); eating chocolate (watch my pupils dilate); buying and looking at coloured pencils (and yes I realise I hit four already); playing Bejeweled on my iPhone; and eBay.

Ohhhhh eBay how I love thee. Actually when you think about it eBay assists me maintain most of my other consistently loved and rigorously pursued interests.

Seriously though, do you ever look around at all your "things" and wonder how you accumulated so much stuff? I am frequently forced to do this. I am, by nature, a keeper of things (and apparently reluctant to say "hoarder"). However, when I was 19 and moved out of home I didn't just move out of home and down the street, I moved 3000 kilometres away (and no, Mum was not impressed). Cue disposing of large amounts of stuff (removalists are expensive!). After a period of rebuilding my stash of things, I moved again, this time not quite so far (1600 kilometres back towards the general direction of my original home). More disposing of large amounts of stuff. More rebuilding and recollecting, et cetera. I left my marriage and a bunch of stuff fell away with that departure. Then I moved the much smaller (and carefully chosen) pile of my belongings back to where I started: home, Melbourne. This is where I can really start rebuilding and recollecting!

Which brings me back to eBay. I LOVE eBay. I have used it to dispose of some of my things. I have used it to acquire, and reacquire some of my most precious things. (And yes, I have a very good rating, it's 100%). I like to think that eBay is the epicentre of swapping and trading. It's the modern day hand-me-down of almost everything. Have you read a book you loved but will never read again? Sell it on eBay! Did you lose a dress you always loved and wanted to buy it again? Buy it on eBay! Do you have a spare fridge? Sell it on eBay!

My Mum, when she was younger, read a much loved book (a family book that stayed in the family home), 'The Children Who Lived in the Barn'. For years she would tell the story of reading it and never being able to finish reading it for the last 2 missing pages. For years whenever my Mum, sister or I were in a second hand book store we would do the obligatory "ummm, there's this book called 'The Children Who Lived in the Barn', it's a kids book and we're looking...oh you don't have it...yes we are aware it's quite rare".

And where did we find it (and by "we", I mean my sister whom it occurred to one day to actually look for it there...and I consider myself an eBayxpert)?! Yep, eBay!

I love eBay.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Insides vs Outsides: we are not alone in that boat

I find myself sometimes feeling affected by other people or other peoples lives. By affected, I mean experiencing some sort of emotional response, anything from happiness or joy, to sadness or pity, and sometimes even envy, depending on the person and the situation they portray themselves to be in. These kinds of responses I am positive are natural, however they're senseless and absurd!

It has taken me a long time to realise that people are people, and we all have things going on, whether good or bad, that we choose not to share with the rest of the world. To a certain extent, and due in part to our culture of privacy, we all have party faces, that we put on when we're out and about, showing the best part of ourselves to the world. I have been guilty of this myself, without realising it or the effect I had on other people.

A bi product of this culture of privacy, and with us all having party faces, my belief is that many people feel "alone" in their boat of "insert relevant issues here", that none of us really open up and show ourselves, in the fear that we'll be the only freak with the ol' crooked smile trying to hide imminent tears. None of us are really alone though, all you have to do is look at statistics, or speak to someone that you feel comfortable opening up to. Most of my emotional experiences and responses, I am told, are quite common. There is nothing new under the sun, et cetera et cetera.

The most wonderful thing, the golden egg, or one hundred carat (does that even exist?) diamond is finding flaw with someone, or perhaps a situation, previously considered flawless. I suppose this is why we love to see celebrities without make up. And I don't mean revelling in someone's misery. I mean seeing a person without the mask, that someone else might reflect the way we feel about ourselves, or validate some part of ourselves.

Facebook is the perfect example. We can each broadcast our successes and credits (the best face of our life) with photos, witty status updates and the number of friends we have. I believe sometimes we can forget to really show ourselves. The effect of this, of course, is that we are constantly bombarded with one hundred other best faces, and over time forget that people have issues and things to deal with that are not broadcast with the same dedication and tenacity.

And so that feeling of being alone in that boat continues. And I am not saying that we should all get our whinge on over Facebook, necessarily, but you understand what I am trying to say, that sometimes we might need this reminder, that what we see every day in magazines or on Facebook may not be the entire picture, and that the ugly bits are often left out.

There is nothing quite like honest conversation, to break the false facade that makes so many of us feel alone in that boat. We're not alone in the boat, there are loads of people in all types of boats, each feeling alone without needing to. It takes courage to be honest about the way you really feel, but it's liberating in two ways. The first, that once we have borne ourselves to our loved ones, or indeed to the world, and realise that no one has fled from the room weeping in embarrassment or pointing at us and shrieking in hysterical laughter, we realise they love us for who we truly are, warts and all as we just bore our souls honestly. The second, that anyone a little too timid or uncertain who cannot step forward and bear their soul may be more open to doing so or feel inspired to once they realise there is someone else in their boat.

I...well, I reside in many boats! And I am (slowly) learning to get more comfortable in there, too, with myself I mean. It's taking time but it's happening.

Cooking from scratch: Lasagne, with green salad

One of life's greatest pleasures is making things from scratch. Sewing, painting, beading, anything that involves taking something and making something else. The greatest part is that you can have it exactly the way you want it, all you have to do is know the how, and it's usually very simple. My favourite way to make something from scratch is cooking, after all, what better way to enjoy something than to eat it?

Lasagne is a dear favourite of mine. To make an enormous lasagne, enough to feed 8-10 or so, even more if you team it with other delicious accompaniments, you take 2 brown onions and roughly dice, and crush 4-6 cloves of garlic (to taste). Warm some olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions followed by the garlic. Add 2 teaspoons of chilli flakes and stir. As a real treat I like to also add in 100 grams of sliced and chopped salami. Continue cooking until the onions are soft and a tiny bit browned.

Roughly slice 300 grams of mushrooms (or approximately 10 medium-large mushrooms) and add into the saucepan. Continue stirring until the mushrooms are soft and coated in the delicious chilli infused olive oil. Add in 1 kilogram of good minced beef and continue stirring so that the meat does not brown in big lumps. As soon as the meat has browned add in 2 tins of tomatoes and 1 jar of pasta sauce and combine. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and reduce the heat so it simmers gently. Grate 1 zucchini and add into the sauce, along with 4 frozen spinach cubes. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar (or more if the tomatoes taste too acidic), salt to taste, and any herbs you like. Dried oregano is fabulous, or fresh basil and parsley. Continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and start on the white sauce.

Now people for some reason get a bit nervous with making white sauce in a saucepan, something to do with it going lumpy. Okay so let's address this now to dispel your fears, so we can just get on with it. White sauce is essentially butter, flour, and milk (with cheese for this lasagne recipe). If you follow my instructions it shouldn't go lumpy, but if it does, so what?! It's lumpy, they'll never know. AND if it's really lumpy and gross you can always start again. No biggy.

Take around 50 grams of butter and melt gently in a small pan. Add around the same amount of flour (use plain flour too) - no need to measure, just keep adding flour until there's not butter left on it's own in the pan and the mixture comes together in a big glob. Now here's the first important thing. Make sure you fry the butter and flour mixture for a few minutes. Otherwise your sauce will taste floury and a bit yuk. Just leave it on the heat and keep stirring. Once that is done, add in 2 drops of milk, quite literally 2 drops, this is the second important thing. If you add the milk slowly and incorporate it at each step the sauce will not be lumpy. Incorporate the 2 drops of milk then add a little more and incorporate that. Make sure the milk mixes in and the mixture becomes smooth again before adding the next slosh of milk. Once the sauce becomes saucy (as opposed to globby, as it will look starting out), you can add a larger volume of milk, and stir until it thickens. If it's too thick, just add more milk. Add in some parmesan and some grated tasty cheese, and melt, and there's your white sauce for the top of the lasagne.

To build the lasagne, start with a few ladles of the red sauce (so it's around 1-2 cm thick in a large baking/casserole dish, make sure it's large!). Atop this goes lasagne sheets, then more red sauce, then more lasagne sheets. If you like you can add a layer of white sauce here, but I only do that if I've made too much white sauce, it's not necessary. Continue building until you either run out of room in your large baking/casserole dish or run out of red sauce and then place the final layer of lasagne sheets on top. Cover the top of the lasagne sheets with the white sauce, and then top with more parmesan and more tasty cheese (just enough to make a lovely golden crust on top). Bake the lasagne for 40 minutes in the oven, or slightly longer if you need more goldenness on top.

A really lovely way to serve the lasagne is with a green salad and garlic bread to accompany it. You can make garlic bread from scratch if you like, but I don't think there's anything wrong with buying it. After all, it's bread, butter and garlic. It is lovely to make it, but don't be hard on yourself if you can't be bothered after all the other cooking!

For a great green salad, roughly chop up 1 large or 2 small green coral lettuce. Finely dice (into small cubes) 2 tomatoes, 4 mushrooms, 1/2 a red spanish onion, and 1 ripe avocado. Place into a large salad bowl. To dress combine 1 part olive oil, 1 part white vinegar, 1 dollop of dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, pinch of salt and shake of pepper (all to taste) into a clean jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake until the mixture looks creamy. If the mixture isn't creamy add a little more mustard and shake again. Add a small amount of dressing to the salad bowl and mix all ingredients with your hands (clean hands please). The mushiness of the avocado will add creaminess to the salad.

This really does make a lovely meal, enjoy!

Shopping list

1 kilogram minced beef
100 grams salami (optional)
Olive oil
2 brown onions
4-6 cloves of garlic
Chilli flakes
10 medium-large mushrooms
1 zucchini
Frozen spinach cubes
2 tins of tomatoes
1 jar pasta sauce
Instant lasagne sheets (2 boxes)
Parmesan cheese
Tasty cheese

White sauce
50 grams butter
Plain flour
Parmesan cheese
Tasty cheese

Green salad
1 large coral lettuce (or 2 small)
2 tomatos
1 ripe avocado
4 mushrooms
1/2 red spanish onion

Olive oil
White vinegar
Dijon mustard

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Conversation is accidental

So much of our important conversation is accidental. Experienced planned occasions for conversation (the weekly phone call to mum or to a close friend) often does not achieve a sense of closeness with a person, whomever that person may be.

True intimate sharing of thoughts and experiences with someone involves a consistent presence, so that spontaneous thoughts can be shared and conversation flows and isn't necessarily forced.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Just one day

How much difference can one day honestly make? I have been raging against this question all day. In the blue corner, we have All In One Day! Annnd in the red corner, we have Everything Takes Time!!

I am impatient by nature, extremely impatient (although I will resent anyone who says it's because I am a Gen-Yer, I was raised believing I am a Gen-Xer so you can't blame my impatience, generations withstanding, on my Yness or Xness), and although I do possess patience for some things (teaching, for some bizarre reason, and sewing) I do not possess general patience in life. Gimme my perfect life, I want it now! Quite what that perfect life is I'm not quite sure yet, but I still want it! (Side note, I know there are cushions involved, and I've made those cushion covers myself, yes.)

I suppose for me, one day can make all the difference. If I don't know you well once you've fallen out of grace I hesitate to admit it'll take you quite a bit to get back there, if you can at all. Although it takes a lot for anyone close to fall out of grace with me...BUT once you're off that wagon, that wagon waits for no one.

Sometimes when I write the issues don't resolve themselves, I apologise.

Friday, 25 June 2010

TFI Friday

Thank Goodness It's Friday!

I can never decide whether I want time to fly or crawl, I suppose it's a good thing time isn't in my hands!

This week has just flown by, but this usually means the weekend will fly by even faster (what with there being less of it and all).

With each passing year time seems to spin even faster. Is this part of the theory of relativity?

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A poem by 16 year old me

Wind on my face
Salt in the air
Water in the sea
Dirt in my hair
Flowers that bloom
Bright morning sun
White fluffy clouds
Poo up by bum

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Shades of black and grey

I am beginning to love that there are shades of grey in life. When I was much younger I believed only black and white really existed, but more and more I am seeing shades of grey in everything and I find this oddly comforting (you would think the opposite to be true). I suppose it's some form of maturity, and probably more so life experience that teaches me this.

I agree that there are things in life that are quite obviously abhorrent and inconceivable, and I am not condoning the commission of any sort of atrocity. But my point is that there are shades of grey even in those abhorrent events. Something wrong to one may not be so for another, and so on. (And I apologise in advance if this idea causes any offence).

To a degree I would agree if you were to accuse me of fence sitting, but sometimes I prefer it up here, at least as a temporary option. Until I know which side of the fence is the better side, as an almost certainty, I'm going to stay on the fence and observe - is there anything so wrong with that?

To be fair, on myself that is, for some things I do not fence-sit, but rather am located squarely on "a side" (for instance I have never considered it bad to eat chocolate or ice-cream, in my view whatever your "diet" you should be able to partake in these delicious delicacies).

A most surprising turn of events is a recently learned idea, that some consider me to be a "strong" person. The fact that at times I consider myself quite sensitive and vulnerable apparently doesn't factor into this at all, it seems to only strengthen this viewpoint. I suppose I feel as though I am strong in some ways, though in other ways a feather could knock me out cold.

What makes a person strong? Does the fact that I go for what I want, or stand by what I have decided (painful obstacles notwithstanding) make me strong? Is it that once I've made up my mind I stick to my guns until I grow up enough to see that there are more shades of grey I have uncovered? Is it that even though I am fragile I still do these things?

This of course brings about the old adage, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I think there is truth to this. But what of people who have not had to endure some sort of extreme pain? Does any such person exist? How do you even compare types of pain? Is pain even relevant to strength? Perhaps strength is tested and proves endurable once, and only once, some sort of pain is present.

Strength does not necessariliy relieve the severity of pain though. If I possess any strength then I can attest to this firsthand. I find the most soothing antidote to pain are these shades of grey that I can see everywhere. It diminishes the effect of hurtful words and gives objectivity to hurtful behaviours.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Happiness is...

More and more I am becoming convinced that life is not supposed to be easy, and that sometimes you have to be able to take your happiness wherever you can find it. Actually, I think I have heard or read this before (probably both) but, I suppose, it's meaning is finally oozing into my consciousness.

A happy disposition often makes for the spreading of general feelings of wellbeing, much like a contagious virus. And I think that the opposite is also true. How often have you found yourself arguing with everyone only to realise later you were the antagonist. Then, of course, there are the times that you smile at a stranger for no reason and they grin madly back at you (it's impossible not to).

I don't even think it really matters how such a state comes into existence or how long it should last, only that it was. Many a happy memory is replayed in my mind and often I find this sustains me. Also, many a fantasy of happier times has in the past sustained and motivated me to make good decisions, or rather decisions that would make for me new and cherished happy memories for the future sustaining of my soul.

I wonder at this point what causes those moments to fulfil us in such a way. And there doesn't seem to be any fantastic consistency that makes happiness happen in the same way you can a chocolate cake. Eggs, butter, sugar, chocolate, milk plus flour does not always equal happiness, but it will always make a chocolate cake (and indeed for some this is happiness, include me in that one, so long as it has icing).

Sometimes we crave complicated unachievable ends toward the pursuit of the golden life full of happy moments, investing hours of energy, tears and sleepless nights, and yet, some of my most happy memories have come about by complete accident. I'm not talking about moments that seem magical wherein you sigh and wistfully wish it could go on forever. I'm talking about moments of pure joy. Although, is there any real difference? Do these moments blur under the one label of 'happy'?

Does experiencing something worthwhile, whether this stimulates a feeling of happiness or sadness, lessened if it does not bring pure joy? And is happiness generally a feeling of satisfaction and contentment or is it joy and laughter? Is consistent laughing resultant in happiness?

So many questions.

I have been attending mindfulness therapy on and off over the past year to resolve some issues that overwhelmed me and for which I am in need of ongoing assistance. The biggest thing that has spoken to me from this study of mindfulness is acceptance. That whatever we feel, whether it is happy, sad, anger, jealousy, contentment, joy, is what it is, not to be diminished or dispensed of, but accepted because it is.

Oddly, I have found joy in this fact alone and I have noticed a considerable abatement of the anxiety I have recently experienced. There is joy and happiness and contentment because I am.

Don't eat all the vegetables!

One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting in Mum's kitchen while she prepared dinner, baked bread, or cooked my family a treat. We had an island bench in the middle of our kitchen. Mum would be doing her thing on her side of the bench, I would sit on the other side and watch her, and we would chat and drink tea.

I would always snack on vegetables she would chop (my favourite was green bean ends). Sometimes mum would say, "don't eat all the vegetables or we'll have none for dinner!"

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Coloured pencils

There is something so wonderful about coloured pencils, I can never have enough of them. I love them most standing upright in a clear glass jar, their colourful tips pointing towards the sky.

I was given my very first set of coloured Derwents as a very young child. My Dad put them in a cupboard to keep for special occasions, and I would ask him if I could use them to colour in. I still have those pencils now. Red was consistently my favourite colour.

The red pencil is now a very short stump.