Saturday, December 24, 2005

Two hundred degrees, that's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit

For the last couple of weeks I've been spending all the time that I can quarantine away from work, sport and social commitments; marinating in a vat of wool and soapy water. All in the name of Christmas. And with that, I may have said too much.

Having all these projects and one big deadline is GREAT. It means that I can watch hour after hour of Gilmore Girls on DVD (I'm well into Season two now), and still be 'doing things' at the same time, thus maintaining a completely self-imposed level of virtue by multi-tasking. Whenever the snappy dialogue (not to mention Rory's new, usually oddly little girly, formal dress for EVERY Friday night dinner) gets to be a little too much I swap to Wonder Woman, and at one point I balanced out the overall fluffiness level with a screening of Citizen Kane. AND the accomanying documentary.

It's just been a little bit hard to explain to other people. 'This is a really nice party, and I've having a great time, but if I want to get any sleep at all in the next few days, I have to go home now to, er... make things.'

Sunday, December 18, 2005

You just get up to answer the phone, leaving a dog in the living room....

I found this outside, hence the grassy embellishments.

Take care of those you call your own and keep good company

J and I concocted this wreath two Christmases ago. It has been sitting on the end of the ironing board for two years, because I forgot to even hang it up last year. That's the Christmas spirit. Anyway it has pirates

and dragons and dogs and lego,

and, of course, the King and the Princess.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I don't believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman

I went into a few clothes shops yesterday. In response to the standard Hi-how-are-you greeting, I have a usually failsafe combo of a quick, decisive 'fine thanks' and very brief eye contact, then rapidly getting back to searching the racks in a self-assured manner. Generally they get the message and leave me alone in my search.

Not this one. Once I had a couple of t-shirts in hand she approached with "You have two fantastic tops there". I replied factually, but already aware that I was straying from the proper script, "I don't know yet..." (ie, they will most likely look like crap but I'll try 'em) but I'm not sure she heard that. She went on to offer to take them to a change room. This is ok, I know this is often standard practice and also quite helpful.

I was now on my guard. Ooh, I hate being expected to rhapsodise about how wonderful the clothes are. As if I would happily snap up just about everything in the shop given the chance. Generally I go into a shop expecting almost everything to be unsuitable - colour, shape, requiring a little more in the bust region, just damn ugly - and look for the one or two items that might have potential. I'd have to be in a really good mood before I'd find myself going on about how lovely something is before I've even tried it on.

As I kept looking she continued to follow me around the shop.

"Don't you just love this season's colours?"

Now small bubbles of my blood were forming, and rising, in a way that suggested some boiling action was possibly on the cards. Pause. Breathe. "Actually, no, I don't like most of them". I felt a bit mean, but I really thought I had clearly signalled I didn't want to chat. "I'm kind of fussy". I regretted that as it came out of my mouth, it sounded completely pretentious. She looked surprised and quickly a bit miffed. "Oh? What colours do you like?" I only looked at her quickly, then continued searching. "Um....I know when I see it." As she was still following meI mumbled something back at her about ending up with a lot of black, as I fled to the back of the store.

I was so glad to see she was on the phone when I returned from the changeroom. I left the items on the counter, saying 'thanks, can I leave these here?' with a decent smile as I made my escape.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cause she knows that it's demanding, to defeat those evil machines.

We had a large work christmas party at the Convention Centre the other day. Couldn't help noticing the centre is looking a bit run-down, especially the outside where the trees and bushes haven't been pruned, and grass is brown, in spite of most of Canberra being bright green at present. Some voiced suspicions that there are plans to demolish and replace it; apparently ten years is about the lifespan of a convention facility these days. Seems disgusting to me to build a large public building with such a short lifespan.

In any event, I did much better food-wise than last time, mostly because it was a buffet and I could load up on the things I liked - baked potatoes, potato salad, and some ravioli featuring heavily. My only regret was that although we sat this close to the buffet - and there was no table order specified (whenever there is, my table is always called last) - we still waited way too long to fill our plates the first time - joining a huge queue seemed way too undignified - and they cleared it up before we got to seconds. This may have been a blessing in disguise because I then managed to put away two desserts (christmas pudding with custard, black forest cake), and that's not counting the fruit mince pies with coffee.

Now I have a week off work. I am prepared. I have lots of this:

And a nice person let me borrow this:

I'm getting to the end of my first delicious day of wool-wrangling and DVD watching, and now I'm off to play soccer. This is when I discover that even though I never thought I was fit back in the winter, I must have been, because it is always so hard to come back. Even for slack-off summer soccer. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

All I need is a bumpin beat to bump away my blues

Since J bought an Ipod she has been listening to music a lot more often than she used to, and also seeking out more and more to listen to and to fill up those gigabytes. It makes me really happy to see this happening cause I know how important music is to me, the excitement of discovering new things and especially the connections between different styles and artists. I also like the being a music enabler, trying to finding those songs she knows she likes but can't name.

We've been comparing notes on how having music to listen to can make boring or repetitive activities so much more appealing. I used to occasionally try jogging but I never managed to keep it going over many days/weeks. Realising that I could run with my MP3 player made all the difference. (Buying $200 running shoes may also have been an important motivational factor.) I try to remember to take a spare battery with me too, because I learned the hard way that if the music runs out it's going to be a hard slog, possibly involving some dejected walking, to get home. The music is not really for running to as such. It's more to daydream to while running so I don't think about the fact that I'm running. Unless it's to imagine crossing the finish line of a race. Sometimes I'm skiing (bumps), and quite often I'm somewhere else entirely. Except - being Road Safety Girl - when crossing roads.

Today I finally made a new mix for the MP3 player. It had been months since I had changed the music on it, and I had been running to the same two albums - not even a decent mix of upbeat music - for way too long. No wonder I hadn't been feeling much like going out for a run. Today's run was the best I'd had in ages. With the new music I was inspired to change the route as well.

Later this evening I realised I hadn't listened to the new Darkness album yet (yay!) and also, that the bathroom was really really dirty (boo). It actually took more than the length of the album to finish the bathroom, but that was okay. I loved it, and instantly wanted to play it again. This lead to the motivation to cook dinner, which is worth noting because I generally need almost as much prodding to cook as I do to clean.

Rock music. Is there anything it can't do?

Monday, November 28, 2005

A thousand Cheshire cats grin inside of me

Recently at a party I had a long conversation with B, all about his family and growing up in Scotland. It came out that he still all his mother's knitting needles and wool stashed at home, as he hadn't quite wanted to just give them to Vinnies, after she died several years ago. He was thrilled to hear that I'm interested in knitting and offered to give me his Mum's needles and leftover wool if I wanted them.

Since I'm pretty sentimental, and almost as aquisitive, especially when it comes to craft supplies, I was tickled pink with this offer. Last weekend a few of us were at B's house. After dinner, he brought out a large alfoil box (you know those huge caterer's packs?) and I spend the next couple of hours gleefully picking through a large collection of knitting needles, crochet hooks and other bits and pieces, getting polite disinterested hmmms and ahhs when I couldn't stop myself excitedly pointing things out.

worn needle heads, originally uploaded by Olma.

As soon as I saw these I wanted to photograph them. Those needle heads with the paint mostly worn off and the metal showing through reminded of Dad's (lovingly kept) old Dinky and Matchbox cars.

I haven't crocheted for ages (and can only do very basic stuff), but fell in love with this wooden-handled crochet hook straight away. Don't you just want to pick it up and fondle it? I guess a photo can't capture how lovely it feels - since this came home with me I've already finished a little crochet project already. It just looks and feels like a real old-style, well crafted tool. (You can click for bigger pictures).

When I discovered this teeny tiny crochet hook hidden away in a plastic sleeve with a much larger hook, I really did squeal with glee. It's so tiny it would be easy to bend or break it, so it has its own protective lid. I haven't tried to use this one yet. The work would have to be lace-fine (or, maybe, a total disaster).

I felt I had to check several times that B really wanted to give all these away. It's silly but I felt better when, amongst the wool and unfinished knitting, we found a finished pair of grey socks, so he kept those. I assured him that I very much appreciated the gift and would treasure it - and use them of course.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I like my bands in business suits, I watch them on TV

The other night on the bus I saw a high school boy carrying a wooden coffee mug tree. Exactly the same as the ones we made in Year Seven. Exactly the same except for a few small details, like for example the rungs that the mugs are supposed to hang on didn't appear to be pointing down like mine had somehow managed to do. In the same class I also produced a hexagonal metal spinning die with drastically uneven sides. My woodwork and metalwork skills were kind of wonky.

So, the baby blanket. The first I have attempted. I based it on this very basic pattern, but I didn't love the garter stitch. I tried stocking stitch, but the edging wasn't anywhere near tough enough to stop it from curling badly. So, I thought I could make the blanket a bit more classy (and smooth/soft) by substituting basket weave. It started ok.

The pattern involves knitting on the bias, which, as I had recently found with knitting the insanely popular (and rightly so) Clapotis, makes a nice drapey fabric, and I could see how it was supposed to make a nice snuggly blanket too. By the time I got to the halfway point, and turned the corner, I could see that the overall shape was going to be more of a diamond than a square.

I'd only tried blocking once before (a lace scarf) without much lasting success, and this yarn was acrylic which is less inclined to change its shape than wool. But I gave it a go anyway. I pinned it out into a pretty nice square, and left it to dry for a day or two. But when I unpinned it, it really didn't stay much more square than before.

Mum suggested steaming it with the iron held just above the fabric. This certainly helped - see how I've stretched the sqares out one way on two of the corners (left)
and the other way on the other two (right), in an attempt to make all the corners closer to being the same shape. I was pleasantly surprised that the effects of the steaming remained after I rewashed the blanket, but I don't really expect them to survive repeated machine washing.

Fundamentally, it's just not square. See? Bit tricky to fold.

I thought long and hard before I handed this over to the intended recipients. I hoped they would lean to the side of appreciating the charm of its wonky-ness, more than being put off by the not-squareness. (Guys, if you were just being nice, thanks anyway!)

Acknowledging one knitblogging inspiration.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm trying to tell you, it will if you don't even try

This is the time of year when the start of every day requires a tough decision. Is it warm enough to wear sandals? Getting dressed for work in summer is so much simpler, just pick three things that don't clash - top, pants or skirt, and sandals. No decisions about which combination of jumper, cardie, jacket, coat, scarf, and tights is necessary, and still making sure there's a decent t-shirt underneath it all for when the office heating gets too much. In summer I generally keep a cardigan or two sitting in my cupboard at work, cause often the air-conditioning is way too cold, so I don't need to worry about carrying extra layers.

Oh, how I love not having to wear socks or tights. But at the same time, I always feel a bit bad that men still have to wear socks and shoes. It seems kind of odd that they have a much smaller range of choice in work attire, though I know many wouldn't have it any other way.

I used to think I should at least always have covered toes at work (ummm, cause toes are rude?). But I found that my feet get so sweaty, I generally need socks or stockings with any kind of closed toe shoes, even if they are open at the sides. Actually, for my first couple of years of office work I never went bare legged. But it seems to be ok to be more casual in summer. And life's too short to spend time and energy (and sweat) following self-imposed rules that few others, if anyone, cares about. So now I just try to keep my toenails reasonably presentable, and bare them for all the world to see. Who's looking anyway?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just a little bit of guilt

If it's a warm morning, this is what Mia does straight after we get back from our walk. Only for a minute or two, just enough to cool down.

I drafted this little post earlier today, with the slightly iffy title, 'Won't you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff'. We're now just back from the vet, where Elvis had a grass seed and a whole lot of assorted gunk and matted hair cleaned out of his ear, under anaesthetic.

We knew something was hurting - unlike his sister, Elvis is not too stoic and squeals if something hurts - and he had been holding his head to one side and doing a lot of head shaking and scratching. The other day Kam pulled out grass seed out from the skin behind his ear, and at first we thought that was the source of the problem.

This photo was actually taken a couple of weeks ago, and since then the backyard grass has got a lot longer (to the point where it was falling over in great sheafs) and sprouted a whole lot of seeds. Even when the grass is short, the dogs still manage to pick up grass seeds now and then. But still, that long grass can't help matters. I'd been focusing on getting the front mowed so we don't look like the shame of the neighbourhood.

PS Kam mowed it yesterday. Love you, Kam!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A long time ag... far far where?

My movie date for Friday night was postponed, so I took the opportunity to continue the Star Wars trilogy (the real one) with The Empire Strikes Back. I'd been meaning to re-watch all three movies properly for ages - properly meaning all in one go and figuring out which bit was in which movie, cause I saw them all in bits so many times at parties and group gatherings.

So, I have an confession to make. I have a problem. Those text introductions to each movie, the ones that scroll away from you at a funny angle? I have so much trouble reading them. I am a pretty good reader, relatively fast, always been a good speller too, not that that's likely to be relevant here. But I just can't keep my eyes and brain focused on that crazy scrolling text. It seems like it's going to shrink away to nothing before I can take it all in. I had to pause three times to read it on Friday night. I had only had one beer. At least I was watching alone so I felt free to pause without embarassment.

Now I'm telling the internet.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved

Monday morning was one of those. I was tired, and didn't have time to make coffee before going to work. Once I got there I made the mistake of getting settled in at my desk and checking email (etcetera) for too long, feeling more and more like a coffee would be really useful to kick start a few brain cells, but less and less inclined/able to get up and actually make the coffee. Finally I trudged into the tiny kitchen to wash out my mug. There, a man I kind of know (as in, I know he works on my floor) gave his usual cheery Hi-how-are-you greeting. I mustered up a half-enthused 'ok, thanks', with a little gap before I remembered that it's polite to ask how are you back.

As I was scrubbing my mug with a dish brush which had seen better days, he said, deadpan, "I think it's time that brush was returned to the men's toilets".

I've been trying to think of a circumstance where I might have found that funny. Maybe if it was someone I knew better. Nope, probably not funny but I might have humoured them more willingly. Maybe if it was later in the day. No, I think that would just make it more likely I'd have a cleverer comeback. Or be more willing to hide my disdain.

I started to laugh politely but as I realised how truly uncalled-for the comment was, I let a little disgust show on my face. What I was hoping to convey was less 'ew! you really grossed me out and now I can never use this cup again' and more 'Hmph. I can't believe you would be so juvenile'. (I may have a little pride issue about not often being offended or surprised by anything.) He left the kitchen.

Later in the day I made another coffee and he was there again. Straightaway he said, "I hope I didn't offend you with that comment this morning? I just think that brush is really pretty old and mangy."

I looked at him, trying to decide how to respond. I was surprised to find that I really was still a bit annoyed about it. After a pause, I said "I'm not easily offended". I hoped he would take this to mean I hadn't been offended, but was happy for the ambiguity to remain.

The thrills continued on Tuesday, when I played basketball and could not sink a single basket. It's not like I'm some hot shooter but I've had a few good games lately, and I always get a few points at least. Oh yeah, our team lost... but my individual performance is more important, dammit.

Wednesday began with the discovery of a mystery pile of - something - on the path leading to the washing line. If you're eating as you read this, you might want to skip this bit. Every ant and fly in the neighbourhood had come to check it out. My first thought was that it was something one of the dogs had chucked up. Eventually I realised it was some little creature, probably a mouse, that one of the local cats had caught in the night, and partially eaten.

I had to clean it up before the dogs finished their breakfast and came to investigate. Mouse entrails. Ew ew ew ew ew ew.

Later in the afternoon, Wednesday improved astronomically, when I was able to purchase a first edition of Stephen King's Carrie for $5! At least I think it's a first edition, and if it actually isn't, I don't want to know.

Today was warm enough to wear my new green sandals. I love coloured shoes but have mostly only ventured into reds before (cherry docs, etc). Green shoes - what fun. I was like Leo in Twin Peaks this morning - "New Shoes! New Shoes!"

Tomorrow night I'm going to see the creepy movie, The Exorcism of Sally Rose with S. Kam had grudgingly agreed to see it with me (in daylight) but I was able to let him off the hook.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What have you been up to lately?

For some reason this question inevitably causes me to freeze up. I find my mouth opening and closing wordlessly as my brain tries to work out some things I've been doing lately, significant things that other people might find interesting, and then to work out which things I might have already told this particular person, and which things might be appropriate to tell them. And often all I can think of is the content of my lists - call x, y, and z; finish projects a,b and c; wash some clothes for work; clean the shower.

Thursday night was the opening of Gormley's School for Lion Tamers. Lots of people came to the opening, including Mum and Dad all the way from Newcastle. It was a great party and of course a wonderful exhibition. It's on til 13 November (Wednesdays to Sundays 11am to 5pm). Go. See it.

Earlier in the week, thanks to J's visit, I discovered Magna Carta Place near the Old Parliament House. Apparently it was a Centenary of Federation project and a joint Australia - Britain effort. What we liked about it was the acoustics, and we stomped around in it making different echoes. I also liked the rich timber construction but fear it won't wear well.

I'm listening to the new Wolfmother album. I use the word album deliberately. The CD booklet has gorgeous Frank Frazetta art. All the print in it is really small, as if it's a much older album that has started out with a full size LP cover and later shrunk to fit a CD. What really brought a smile to my face was the way the tracks are laid out in two separate lists on the back, it doesn't actually say 'Side A' and 'Side B' but that's the flavour. Old school. I was amused to hear about Justin Burford from End of Fashion taking potshots at Wolfmother - apparently he called them 'another fucking retro band cashing in on what everyone's done years before them'. Not very gracious, given that End of Fashion beat Wolfmother to win in the Breakthrough artist - single category.

Maybe that's why I like Wolfmother, cause I am a bit 'musically slow', and I get what they're doing. Not a few trends - Oasis et al, Nirvana + grunge, the list goes on - have totally passed me by at the time, only for me to finally GET IT several years later. Because of these experiences, I haven't been willing to completely write off this stoner rock thing. I still don't think I'm really ever gonna love it. But I went to see Sons of Kyuss last night with Kam (their final show in fact) and it was a great show! I really enjoyed it. I think I was in a mellow mood, and that helped.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

You've come looking for me, like i've got to set you free

More art from Bunda St Canberra City

Friday, October 28, 2005

So, what is the connection between Apple and Scientology? I'm glad you asked

This one's for Mr Mabootoo.

Found in Bunda Street today, though by the looks of it, it may have been there for a while. I walk that way most days but I can be pretty unobservant. Luckily I had the camera out in my hand (it's always in my bag), which tends to change all that.

From across the road the Apple logo shape was pretty convincing - at least at first glance - then I had a closer look:

It's a collage made of Scientology leaflets. The Scientologists have a big tent set up in Garema Place this week, and I was kind of surprised to see some people in there apparently succumbing to the "free personality tests" et al. I don't know if the timing of this art was deliberate - hard to even guess, given that I don't know how long it's been there.

So, you want to know what it's all about? There was an artist statement right beside it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Working for peanuts is all very fine, but I can show you a better time

This construction site used to be a carpark. One day, something like ten years ago, Kam and I went back to this carpark and walked around it several times, trying to find the car. I'll admit sometimes I don't remember exactly where I parked the car. I can usually figure it out if I don't think about it too hard. But this particular time I was quite sure where I had left the car, and it simply wasn't there.

We reported the theft to the police and caught a bus home. Dad got on the phone and put the word out with lots of people, and the very next day one of his friends spotted someone driving it.

When the police approached, the guy got out and ran away, leaving the engine still running. There was no damage. I was allowed to take it home straight away. The police knew who had taken it. They thought he owned one of the same model, and had probably nicked it for parts.

If you're going to have your car stolen, this is a pretty good way for it to go. Better by far than having it go for a joyride with a bunch of unsavoury yoof, which is what happened the second time a couple of years later. Still, I'm a pretty lucky person. I got it back again, but with broken rear and side windows. It had been dumped off-road in some bushes. Probably the worst part was that they had doused it in motor oil, I guess they intended to set it alight, though for some reason they didn't get around to that. Because of the broken windscreen, the oil made a huge mess inside the car.

I always kept a bottle of motor oil in the boot, because the engine leaked like a sieve and I had to continually pour oil through it to keep it running. It was the kind of car that you shouldn't ever park in a tidy person's driveway. (It took me a while to realise that it wasn't exactly normal for cars to drip oil; I thought all driveways had those stains.)

I got new windows from a wrecker, and painstakingly cleaned out the oily mess as well as I could. Even after that I still got a good bit more driving out of it. It was a '76 Corolla, I bought it in '94, and drove many, many kilometres as far as Melbourne and Noosa on various trips. The engine finally died in '99. On the way back from a Sydney Eurythmics concert, near Goulburn, unfortunately. Thanks for the 3 a.m. rescue, Mum.

I loved that car. It gave me independence, adventure, and the abillity to do a perfect hill start. It meant being an adult who could come and go as I pleased (and deliver pizza). No car will ever be as cool as my first car.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Gormley's School for Lion Tamers

If you'll be in Canberra from the 3rd to the 13th of November, come and see Demelza's show at Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka (19 Furneaux St). It will be very cool. Works including, but possibly not limited to, photos, drawings, prints and paper dolls. We've got some great wacky alternative circus music to play during the opening. Melz has been working really hard to bring this show together, and I can't wait to see it all set up.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mairzy doats and dozy doats

Things are good.

Today I had a lovely visit, with a lovely friend, to the Old Bus Depot Markets. On my way back to the car I took a few photos of the old power station and another nearby building, and put them in my Flickr album. I also added some photos of the same buidings, from back in June.

My good friend Bertie is blogging heaps, after a long absence. I have to agree with him about those damn ads.

I bought some comics today, from my favourite comic shop, where else?

There are still a couple more hours to the weekend, and dinner's made already.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Now, I just want to play on my panpipes, I just want to drink me some wine.

I bought an Ipod. After a year with my no-name MP3 player bought cheap at the computer fair, I was ready for more. More functions, and A LOT more capacity. Much more than my computer, in fact. (Yes that says 60 GB. No I haven't filled it yet.) I'm not going to retire the little one though. Being small and having no moving parts, it's great for running jogging and other active pursuits.

Ever since I got my first Walkman I've always loved being able to take my music anywhere and listen to it privately. It's especially important when I'm away from home. I have a lot of different favourites, a lot of CDs to rip, a lot of songs that form the soundtrack to my thoughts, ideas and daydreams. Hence the engraving (free if you order from the Apple online store).

In other news, the magpie saga might not be over. Apparently the pair were spotted mating yesterday. Don't know if there is still time but maybe they will get another chance to raise some babies.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The end of the Best.Toy.Ever

This soccer ball squeaky toy lasted years longer than any other puppy toy in this house. Possibly because Mia was Chief Toy Deconstructionist, and it was always Elvis who was more interested in this one. She would occasionally make a show of nicking it off him. Then she would lie on her back with the toy in her mouth, lazily biting it to make it squeak, while Elvis jumped around barking madly at her.

Mostly it was Elvis who liked to chase it and pounce on it like it was alive, eventually settling down for a good squeaking session. But one day last week, Mia finally got her teeth well into it, and that was that. I'm keeping an eye out for another one.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

If you want to know what's really going on in a war or disaster zone, read the on-the-ground blogs. Of course personal blogs are not edited or regulated like the mainstream media, that's part of their value. I don't think it's exactly a replacement for old fashioned journalism, but what a fascinating supplement. Sure you can't believe everything you read on the internet... but then you need your bullshit meter switched on just to watch the news on tv anyway.

Photographer Clayton Cubitt's Operation Eden is his ongoing story of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina in his home town of Pearlington, Mississipi, where the home he bought for his mother and younger brother was wrecked along with most of the town. Let the whole page load and then start from the bottom. It's an amazing read.

Josh Norman and Mike Keller, journalists with the Sun Herald in South Mississippi, in Mike's words: "two guys too dumb to get out of the way of what is turning into one of the most destructive natural forces to hit the mainland U.S. ever", hunkered down in their newsroom to ride out the storm and then got on with documenting the aftermath - both for the paper and their blog - and helping with relief efforts (and apparently subsisting on Spam). Eye of the Storm is their personal outlet, way of keeping in touch with friends elsewere, and a place for their many photos that don't make it into the paper.

While we're on bad news, remember those magpie babies? Sadly, last week, we noticed the nest was empty. On Monday I looked out the window during a thunderstorm, and the mother was sitting on the nest. Tuesday, nest empty. There is no way they were ready to leave yet. I hadn't even been able to get a photo that showed more than an undistinguished pile of fluff. We think something probably ate them. Nature at work.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Good news everyone! You don't have to eat meat. I made enough gazpacho for all! It's tomato soup served ice cold!

I would hate to seem like a whinging vegetarian; there are enough of them around. I don't eat meat, for my own reasons; but I don't preach it as a way of life or even know for sure what I think is right for people as a whole. I don't think of myself as a persecuted minority group like some vegetarians do.

Kam and I still often retell (to each other, if no-one else will listen) the story of a couple we met, friends-of-friends at a restaurant, years ago. They had only recently decided to become vegetarian. When the seafood platter came out, they went into raptures about how wonderful it looked and how awful it was that they couldn't have any. We both - me vego, Kam not-so - were amazed and annoyed at this. Just eat the damn seafood already, or shut up about it.

People often ask me if it's hard to get vegetarian food, generally, or in certain places. When we pick a restaurant for lunch, I'm always consulted - can you get anything there? I shrug off these concerns because I don't find it difficult. I'm used to having just a few choices, and actually get paralysed when faced with an all-vegetarian menu. I also don't mind at all if I have to resort to the side dish consisting of an enormous bowl of potatoes in some seasoned or beer-battered form. I've only really had trouble in more fancy restaurants. Generally, cheaper restaurants seem to have more choices on the menu overall. So the fancy place with only three entrees and five mains on the menu is very unlikely to have more than one vegetarian option. Sometimes it's not even on the menu, you have to ask specially. Also, some fancy places seem to exude an attitude of 'why are you bothering with our gourmet food if you won't eat meat?'

For last year's ski trip we spent a bit more than usual to stay in a lodge in Thredbo, instead of driving up from Jindabyne every day. The package included a hot breakfast every day (bliss) and two dinners. The lodge's restaurant was known as one of the finer dining establishments in Thredbo. I noticed when we first got there that there wasn't anything vegetarian on the rather short menu, so I mentioned it at the check-in desk. They asked if I could please let them know the day before if I was planning to dine there. I agreed but privately was pretty unimpressed. It's not that rare to be a vegetarian! Even if they don't have something on the menu, I do think any restaurant should have the capability to come up with something on the night. I guess there's no law that says they have to. I just don't think it should be that hard. It's not unusal for meat-eaters to order meals that don't contain meat, not for any particular reason but just as another option. It has become much more normal and acceptable.

Not so much in Poland. Before I went there, I made sure to learn how to say "I don't eat meat" in Polish. At least I think that's what I was saying... Family were willing to indulge me in this strange diet, but I think they most likely thought I wasn't allowed to eat meat. When we went to a wedding, my cousin said, "Surely you can, just this once." It was difficult, through the language barrier, to explain that I didn't actually want to! But they goodnaturedly kept on piling up my plate with potatoes and salad, and mostly (some aunts better than others) remembered to leave the chicken bones out of the soup, with much urging from my Grandma.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Don't kid yourself Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!

The kinda-semi-formal do last weekend was a set menu served at the table, rather than a buffet. When I bought my ticket I had ordered a vegetarian meal. The women's soccer club has more than the average number of vegetarians, so this is nothing unusual.

I was on the last table served. I had already mentioned that I was a vegetarian when the entree came around. Every second entree was vege spring rolls, anyway, so that wasn't a problem. Of course, there were several waitstaff, so telling one person didn't mean I would automatically be presented with my vegetarian main course. When they started bringing those around I asked again. A minute later, a plate was placed in front of me. Within one second, another waiter whisked that plate away, saying, no, that's not for her, and placed another down. It looked the same as the chicken filos that others were eating. In the brief time we had to inspect the one that was whisked away, the consensus was that it had looked similar, but with huge serves of vegetables, and a different sauce - which thanks to another vegetarian at our table, we concluded was a sign of the non-meat version.

Knowing what I would find, I cut into the filo. Chicken, of course.

By the time I got the waitress' attention and it was taken away, they had obviously run out of vegetarian meals. After about twenty minutes, this hugely heaped up plate appeared. It was obvious they had gotten all the leftover side vegies, mixed them with some rice, and added some kind of sweetish tomato sauce. It was like something I might throw together in desperation after finishing soccer training late. You could possibly pull this kind of thing off with a decent sauce. This one actually tasted much like Heinz tomato sauce. Even the promise of tequila shots if I cleaned the plate could not induce me to make much of a dent in it.

This isn't a great photo but you can get a sense of the overall size of the serving. And see how large those vegetable pieces are?

I should add that later, the waitress I had originally spoken to about a vege meal apologised for the mixup. That was nice of her, but she wasn't the one who overruled the decision to give me a vege meal.

This has happened to me before. It was a lunch as part of a conference at a winery. The restaurant was supposed to be pretty exclusive. This time, too, mine was the last table to be served. Predictably, they had run out of vegetarian meals, even though I had pre-ordered. There was a really long wait. I observed the lovely roast potatoes and stir-fried mushrooms that the others were enjoying with their steaks. I thought even if I just got the vegies that would be ok. I waited some more. Finally, long after everyone at table had finished eating, I was presented with a plate containing a bunch of steamed asparagus, with a slightly congealed hollandaise sauce poured over the top! I had to scrape most of the sauce off. That might have been something from their entree menu, certainly it wasn't a main. I guess fancy restaurants wouldn't dream of keeping a frozen quiche just in case. But couldn't I at least have filled up on some potatoes? I don't expect caterers to have much extra or be able to invent something new on the spot. But I do think a restaurant should be able to come up with something.

I've given some thought to a solution. I don't know if its ideal but it would have to be better. For this kind of do you are always asked to request special meals when you buy your ticket. So when you arrive and present your ticket, you could be given a small place-card for your table, so even if you're out of place when the food starts arriving, the staff know where the (pre-ordered) special requests should go. Those who forgot to order ahead or who just don't like the look of the meat options would have to make do with what's left over.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What not to wear

There is NOTHING in these bags that you would, or ever should, wear. I promise.

For months, nay, years, I have been piling unwanted clothes under the ironing board in the spare room. This evening I was doing the what-to-wear-to-a-kinda-semi-formal-event bedroom shuffle, which inevitably involves giving undeserved consideration to items from long-undisturbed corners of the wardrobe. I got serious and managed to cull quite a few more sad cases from my wardrobe. I also slightly reduced the pile on the piano, which represents things that I might get around to altering one day. I can only cut a vertical slash in the neckline of a too-high round neck t-shirt so many times before it stops being a new and fresh look.

This looks just like the other bag, but it isn't. It contains things you probably wouldn't wear either, but which just aren't quite as hideous or out of date. Things that my sister might, just might, want to take to a clothing swap party or try to sell.

I suspect I've actually only scratched the surface when it comes to clearing out and refreshing the old wardrobe, because there's nothing in those bags that I felt the remotest need to document in any way before letting them go, a la Fussy.

I did put aside a couple more old soft t-shirts, to cut up and knit with. Why? Just wanted to try it. You can actually buy kits at Lincraft that include pre-cut strips of fabric and instructions for an ugly handbag. But who needs a kit when you have old, charmingly faded t-shirts? The knitting process is very tough on the hands, and the resulting fabric is not very soft, but I'm thinking it will make a good strong and washable shopping/lunch bag.

After some unsucessful shopping, and even some tragic/desperate perusal of Trinny and Susannah's advice I also managed to find something to wear tomorrow night, (and no it's not a tank top and shorts). Basically the same thing I wore last time I needed something for a-kinda-semi-formal-event, almost a year ago, with just a change in footwear. I guess if you're never really in fashion you don't go out so fast either. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A tank top and shorts

Canberra schools finish at Year 10 and you go on to a different school for year 11 and 12, and this is why there is a tradition of a year 10 formal - 'the grad'. Some people thought that a formal dinner and dance, requiring metres of taffeta per girl and the hiring of tuxes for the boys was probably a bit excessive, considering that it wasn't really the end of school for more than a very few students. I remember a letter going home to parents suggesting something along the lines of a modest 'bush dance' in the school gym instead of the extravaganza at the Lakeside that we had spent four years expecting. You'd better believe that didn't fly.

For weeks leading up to the event, all the talk amongst many of the girls in Year 10 was of what you were wearing. Since Mum is a fantastic dressmaker, of course she was going to make my outfit. We came up with a most cunning plan, Mum started sewing, and I waited for someone to ask me what I was wearing.

My friends were totally in fashion, grad-fashion-1990 that is. Somehow we had landed right on the cusp of a fashion wave. Abruptly from the next grad season onward, there was little-to-no taffeta and not a poofy sleeve or full skirt to be seen in young ladies' formal wear. It was all slim and slinky and much more grown-up.

My outfit, on the other hand, was never really in fashion, yet it is extremely dated now. That's a kind way of putting it.

The bottom part is culottes. Short, well-above-the-knee ones. You know, they look mostly like a skirt, but crucially, aren't. I don't think there was any point to this choice other than to be as deliberately weird as possible while still not looking actually weird (well, maybe a little bit). For the year 12 grad, I had black satin jeans... see a theme? (At least those saw more use later.)

The jacket is batwing. I don't think I need to say more. I suppose you could call it a shrug, a largish one, and try to get away with it now. I still love the fabric though, it's some kind of velvety stuff.

The top is a very nice green satin tank with some tasteful beading on the front. Because everything was oversized back then, I've even been able to wear it recently, though I had to put little splits in the sides so it didn't bunch up over my hips.

My shoes were flat. (Heels? Ew!) I wore no makeup. (Makeup? Double ew!) But I certainly had BIG earrings which matched the colour of my top.

Finally the day came. One of the girls at school (not one of my close friends, they of course already knew all the details) asked me the very important question: what was I wearing to the grad? The tone of my reply was as casual as the answer itself.

'A tank top and shorts'.

I savoured her response, expecially as there were others around too. The look of horror, then superiority and pity.

'You won't get in!'

(I did)