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)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Wild Canberra

The other day the cleaner came into my cubicle to peer out the window. This is not an easy thing to do because you have to navigate the towering stacks of my floor filing system. Also it was a bit weird cause I was sitting right there.

Turns out there is a magpie's nest in the tree right outside my window. I have ambivalent feelings about birds in general - not a fan of the beaks and claws and feathers - so I didn't show much interest at first. But I've only ever seen magpie babies once they are on the ground, looking pretty much the same as the adults, except for the incessant squawking for food. Curiosity got the better of me and I started checking out the nest through the day.

The eggs hatched recently, but I haven't gotten a good look at the babies yet. The mother sitting on the nest doesn't leave very often, but sometimes her partner brings her food (I wasn't going to make assumtions but according to Burke's Backyard, it's the females who look after the babies). I did once see the nest when she was gone, but it was getting dark. I could just see some wriggling movement.

So far these birds aren't swooping people and I'm very grateful, cause you can't get into the building without crossing their territory. Year-round I always say hello to magpies when I'm walking the dogs, in the hope they'll remember I'm one of the friendly people.

To add to my wildlife week, last night we saw a wallaby (or small kangaroo? Can someone who knows more than me confirm please?) in my friend's front yard. It wasn't too troubled by me taking photos, though I didn't get too close.



I also managed to catch a series of these fluffy semi-wild things...

in their natural habitat (click for more).

Monday, September 12, 2005

Out along the edges, always where I burn to be

Silky drawers
More pictures from this show are here.

Ah, my sister, she is good with the knickers. On the weekend I went to see 'Baby You're So Vain', an exhibition of wearable art at ANCA, which included these two pink lovelies by Demelza. (Price on application). Unfortunately the show has closed now - I really wish I'd plugged it here sooner - but I took quite a few photos of turn-of-the-century circus performers May Wirth's and Bird Millman's silky drawers.

Also I promised to tell the internet that J had her Best. Coffee. Ever. (Hudson's Dickson) A latte topped with perfect froth, in a beehive shaped glass. So good that she had a second one.

I finished the soccer season on Sunday with a brutal semi final. It was always going to be a hard fight, against a team that beat us 7-0 just two weeks ago. Of course we wanted to win, but in the end we thought we did well to keep it to 1-0. I went in pretty hard but often a split second after the fact. I have a few bruises from a backswing and a stepped-on foot. As Kam will knows only too well, I am always proud of my bruises. I feel they are proof that I am holding back less and getting more fierce. (Grrrr)

I'll be going skiing again this Saturday. My skiing buddy plans to take a lesson like last time, but I'm going to try something different.

Step 1. Load up the MP3 player with a lot of punk music.
Step 2. Ski VERY sedately, while ...
Step 3. Pretending I am in a Warren Miller film.


I did plan to blog this weekend,

but I was just too pooped.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The one about my Dad

Last Friday I was invited to Father's Day Dinner. Our friend's father died many years ago. A few years ago he and his brothers organised a dinner near the time of Father's Day. Each year more of their many siblings have become involved, and then a couple of father-less friends were invited along, and now other friends are welcomed too. The members of this family have a beautiful tradition that they share with whoever is at dinner. Each year one of them is tasked with writing a letter, which includes things they remember about or learned from their dad. That letter is hidden away until the next year when one of the others reads it out at the dinner. I am honoured to have been invited to this dinner. I am very sentimental at heart and love seeing this tradition that they have created. I'm not one for continuing old traditions just for the sake of it. I hope to see this one continue. It is both sentimental and practical, in a family where the younger kids have grown up mostly without their dad.

Last Christmas Eve my family went to church. It was a nice little friendly church and there was a fun show put on by children, teenagers and adults, mostly one extended family, and including Jesus played by a real baby. There was cake and ginger beer afterwards. The service didn't go too long, and there was no-one fainting at the back in the heat like the last time I went to midnight mass. All this was good, but the highlight for me was standing next to Dad and hearing him singing Christmas carols, loud and perfectly in tune.

Does this sound unusual? We grew up with Dad always insisting that he couldn't sing at all, and refusing to ever do so. He claimed he had no ear for music. But he always had a few significant records, and later CDs, that he loved to listen to. And now he sings too. He still doesn't believe he's tuneful, he just feels free to sing along in church. Next, we'd all like to convince him that he's actually good at it. (Although I like the idea that he has a place where he feels free to do it badly).

That night when we got home, we celebrated Dad's birthday. It's actually December 25th but we usually try to have a separate party. Dad admitted that he had already peeked at one of his presents. Granted, it had come in a postpack without any wrapping inside, but Mum had checked it first and warned him not to look. The previous night, he had finally succumbed to temptation. He told us about how when he was a little kid, he and his younger brother knew exactly where their parents kept the Christmas presents before they were wrapped. It was in the wardrobe in their parents' bedroom, where they probably never dreamed their well-behaved children would dare to go. Dad and his little brother were completely unable to resist, and would always check what they were getting. Then they always went to some effort to act surprised when they opened them on Christmas day.

The present that Dad peeked at last Christmas Eve was from his brother, and included a birthday card with a lovely compliment and encouragement about his writing. I know this meant a lot to Dad. More recently Dad has had to defer his studies, and his blog writing, to spend all his time doing much less fun and engaging stuff. So I was thrilled to hear that he has a preaching gig today in Sydney. Dad is really meant to be a speaker, preacher and teacher, and I can't wait til he can get back to making that happen on a more permanent basis.

I love you Dad. You really can sing. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Turn the radio up, for that sweet sound

A few people have asked about skiing and the state of the Wahoo. Well, I'm still frustrated with my skiing.

The other night I saw 'De battre mon coeur s'est arrĂȘtĂ©' (the beat that my heart skipped) at Electric Shadows. It involved a young man attempting a return to serious piano playing after along absence, engaging a coach to help him prepare for an audition. During the scenes of his piano lessons, I was reminded of my own years of piano lessons, and (oh!) the sense of relief when I finally let go and stopped taking lessons. I never really reached a particular standard of proficiency. I kept going, because that is how I do things, I don't quit, for a long time.

There was a specific scene in the movie was when he plays a certain passage, the teacher says "again", he plays it again, and then again, and then again. I just felt glad that I didn't have to do that any more.

Skiing has gotten a bit like that. During the afternoon lesson last Saturday, I found myself in a painful, familiar cycle of getting tireder and more frustrated by the minute. Taking off behind the instructor, trying to follow his tracks, getting further and further behind. Getting a couple of decent turns in, until the last few when the intructor is waiting and watching and my skiing degenerates into swervy Z-shaped things. Trying to be receptive as he patiently explains the just-one-thing that I should try emphasising or thinking of on the next bit of the run. Remembering how many times I've already thought I mastered that particular aspect, only to lose it the next day, week or year. Feeling like I know enough about what I'm doing wrong to fill a book, and being unable to make my body just do it.

Hell, people have bigger problems than this. My house hasn't blown away in a storm or washed away in a flood. I can probably even find more significant things in my own life to get worked up about, and certainly those close to me can. Still, 'the skiing thing' is a big deal to me. I've thought of myself as a skiier, and have aspired to be a good skiier, for quite a few years. I'd always rather spend my money on a ski trip rather than a beach holiday. I'm at the point where I'm deciding whether to spend a huge sum on a trip to Canada and an intensive bout of coaching. I don't want to do that if skiing's not going to be fun any more. I'm determined to believe that it will be, if I can just get over this hump. But the hump is starting to make me not feel like bothering to get on the snow at all.

I know I should keep in mind that although I've had quite a lot of lessons, I've only ever skiied 5 days in a row, and not many more total days than that in each year. And as I have observed before, that is really not much time to teach the limbs and muscles new tricks.