Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

Goodbye 2010 - good riddance, get packing, out the door, you are GONE!! 2010 is not a year I will look back on with fond thoughts. Some lovely and very happy things did happen, most notably my sister getting married, other friends getting married, the arrival of a clutch of beautiful babies, the new addition to the family being my sister's puppy, my new job but overall it has been a tough year.

Still it was this tough, unpredictable, emotionally trying year in which I had a particularly happy day for no reason whatsoever and I determined to preserve and nurture that happiness. I decided to put myself in a happiness thought spiral, where my concentration efforts would be focused on the stuff that makes me smile. I said farewell to negative thoughts, hello to the happy ones.

And for over half of the year, no matter how tough the day, I've found something good in it to write about. Sometimes I will admit, finding the thing that made me smile has been hard, but I've realised that I now really pay attention to the good things. My face breaks into a grin, or I feel suffused with a happy glow and I think "ohh, I can blog this". It has been the most wonderful experiment, and is one I will continue.

So 2011 I welcome you with hope for the future and a smile that I know will be present every day - even if I have to look hard to find it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jiggly, wiggly jelly!

Oh dear, two booze related posts in a row - well 'tis the season!

As I've written before a great event isn't just the event itself, the lead up, anticipation, planning and preparation are all really enjoyable parts too.

One of the most anticipated events each year is my friends' New Year's Eve party. I had always found NYE a bit of a let down - until I got my first invitation to this party. It is fabulous. There is always a theme and everyone goes all out on the fancy dress. It is a night that you know will be brilliant, so from about July on the hosts are questioned about theme, theories are explored and it all waits till the much anticipated invitation arrives.

I've spent a fair bit of time on my costume this year and I'm pretty happy with it. But I cannot bring myself to turn up to a party empty handed, so to NYE, I always bring the thing I have somehow become famous for - jelly shots. Yes, I do believe my culinary legacy will be in the form of exotic things set in jelly.

This year's jelly shots are rosewater and raspberries for the non-drinkers and lemon, absinthe and basil for the serious drinkers. They look beautiful, taste pretty excellent and will no doubt go down a treat!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boozy Boysenberries

Today I popped by Mum and Dad's to pick boysenberries. From a small vine planted years ago, they now run rampant through about a quarter of the garden. You would think that this would mean that we get overloaded with berries each year, but in recent years the drought has taken its toll, both on the number of berries and also in lack of food for the birds. We would race the wildlife for the few berries remaining and usually lose.

But this year's rain has delivered berries galore and is obviously feeding the birds with other things because there is a huge crop.

We have had bumper crops in the past. Previously we tried to preserve them in a variety of ways, most notably the year Mum and I made jam. It was notable because our first attempt was a dismal, runny failure. So we added more berries and boiled it further - still runny. Third time lucky we boiled up our batch again, this time adding a setting agent. It certainly did the trick and set our jam to a consistency somewhat like concrete!

Not keen to repeat the jam disaster, we had to find another way to preserve the berries and Dad came up with a doozy - a boozy doozy to be precise. In our house, boysenberries now become vodka. Oh yes, boysenberry vodka, it is as good as it sounds. And with this year's bumper harvest, the fridge should be stocked with berry-tastic vodka for some time to come!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weddings

So it might be terribly girly of me, but I do love a wedding, yes I really do. Today one of the followers of this blog and a long term friend of mine got married and it was just lovely.

A wedding is such a happy place. Full of love, promises for the future, people who can't stop beaming. Brides always look beautiful, glowing full of love. Grooms always look handsome, serious in the moment they first see their bride, then thrilled the rest of the time. Parents are proud, full of joy and friends, they just radiate the happiness they have for the couple.

This wedding was no exception. Even the weather put on a stunning day for them. All I can say is L3 I wish you a long and happy life together. May today's joy be the set the tone for the future.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The making of a tradition

In my experience one doesn't generally set out to start a tradition. Rather traditions form when a well received good idea is repeated a few times. My family has many traditions including a great many centered around Christmas but possibly the most recent and one I definitely enjoy each year is second Christmas.

Second Christmas has many reasons for being. First and foremost it is a way of thanking those neighbours who keep a vigilant eye on our house while we are away. It is a chance to entertain (something we always enjoy) and the opportunity for a small family to cook a big Christmas meal that would otherwise never be eaten up.

The date of second Christmas moves but the menu is relatively static - seafood entree, roast turkey and pork (or ham) with all the trimmings followed by a mango and raspberry trifle all washed down with unseemly qualities of very good wine. Most years we get to enjoy entree on the deck but this year's cold snap drove us indoors. Still it made a roast dinner all the more welcome. Good food, wine and (most importantly) company made it a lovely evening.

We may not have intended to create a tradition when we first hosted this dinner but it sure it a great one that will no doubt continue for years to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dolphins

One of the gorgeous things about being by the sea is the chance to see really lovely wildlife. This evening we had the joy of watching a really large pod of dolphins playing in the waves.

It had been a beautiful day but this afternoon it clouded over and stormed. After awhile the rain cleared but the sea was still stormy and gray, the surfers had disappeared and the beach was empty. It was then looking out the window that we noticed a pod of dolphins surfing. They were having the best time leaping out of the water, catching the waves and just hooning it up. One was doing leaps where it twisted about almost onto it's back. There were heaps, maybe 30 in the pod.

Eventually they must have discovered a school of fish which diverted their attention but for that time when they were leaping, playing itnwas just joyful to watch.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A langerous day

One of the great things about Christmas Eve being the big celebration is that Christmas Day becomes a day of true laziness. There is no desire to be up at the crack of dawn for presents so you can sleep in. There are leftovers galore to keep people fed and gifts to play with and amuse at your leisure. The day is spent in a pleasant stupor of relaxation.

Being the foodies we are a new dinner is cooked (roast duck) but even that is a more leisurely exercise.

It has been a truly indulgent and wonderful day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Christmas Spirit

My family celebrates Christmas in the European tradition on Christmas Eve. Our evening has been honed over a great many years. After quite literally days of food preparation we sit down to a massive smorgasbord of delicious food. There are salads galore, cold meats, cheeses, and being Australia in summer we also indulge in seafood. There is so much food that we have to extend the dining table!

Champagne provided by my brother-in-law is raised in a toast, a photo is taken and we dig right in.

After we are stuffed beyond any polite level and belts have been loosened, we move to the Christmas tree to exchange gifts. Every year we say that will be restrained, that hasn't happened yet! Present after present is unwrapped, much laughter is shared as our old dog helps with the unwrapping. In her puppy days unwrapping presents was one of her favourite things but now in old age it is more of a token effort.

The night wraps up with pavlova and reflections on what extremely privileged and lucky lives we live.

Christmas is a time to share, to laugh and to love. This Christmas Eve has been all that.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve, Eve

My family have all arrived at the coast set for Christmas. So tonight we headed out for a celebration dinner. We are lucky enough to have a fantastic restaurant (Tylers at Malua Bay for anyone in the area) as our local.

It is beautiful, fresh, innovative food. Each plate is a work of art and a taste sensation. Our meals included elements such as garlic custard, goats cheese cigars, chocolate dirt, not to mention the confit duck, slow roasted beef or crisp skin blue eye cod. It was all delicious, stunningly prepared and just a walk down the hill away. A lovely way to start Christmas off.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Family ties

Being a British colony, we have all heard all the terrible stories of the blitz in WWII. But no war is one sided and the British gave it back to Germany as well. During those dark and terrible days, my great-grandfather would spend his nights on the extremely steep roof of their house in Leipzig, Germany, armed only with fire-fighting equipment. As the bombs and fire rained down, he protected that house and almost miraculously it survived the war.

Fast forward to 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. It was at that point that my grandparents who had escaped communist East-Germany shortly after the war received some amazing news. They had made the decision to leave and had only been able to take with them one small suitcase of the essentials each. After many trials and tribulations ended up in Australia, a country that they loved and absolutely adopted as their own. But they had to start over again, build up a life from scratch.

The amazing news they received was that the house my great-grandfather had so valiantly protected was still standing and abandoned by them had been taken by the Communists. With the fall of communisim, it was being returned to its owners - my Grandparents! As they had no desire to move back to Germany, they sold it and with some spare money for the first time in their lives, they helped my parents buy a holiday house at the coast.

The coast house is our oasis. It is our healing place, somewhere for celebrations, for relaxing, for living the best parts of life. To be blunt, it is a pretty ugly house, it has features including astroturf balconies, but it is comfortable and has a view that can't be beaten. We all love it here and I hang out for any time I can spend enjoying it.

But without the bravery of my Great-Grandfather all those years ago, we couldn't have this place. So every time I come here, I think of the man I never met and how he is still having a very important impact on my family, all these years later.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Massage

Oh I am just a puddle of relaxed muscles! I had the BEST massage this afternoon. We have a fantastic masseuse, unfortunately she works about 2.5 hours away from my usual location, but whenever I come to Bateman's Bay for a break, I always try to get an appointment.

I don't know why she is so brilliant, but she really is that much better than anyone else, truly those are healing hands. My stiff neck and tight shoulders are all relaxed, my back feels wonderful, it is just fantastic.

Just the perfect way to start my holiday.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Communication

Tonight I watched a television show with my Mum. She is about 250km away at the moment, but once I spotted Jamie Oliver doing Christmas stuff I texted her about it, then we preceded to text back and forth about various aspects of the show and how we can use it for our Christmas.

I love all the modern communications we have on tap. I keep in touch with people around the world, across the country and even in my own city through email, phone, text, this blog, etc, etc. I still write old fashioned letters, but you just can't beat the immediacy of technology we have at our fingertips. What a great time to live in!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Mum - part 2!

Today, of course, was Mum's birthday. Mum is the best person on earth to buy a present for, because she never expects to get one - so pretty much whatever you get her will get a great reaction.

We have been planning for ages as it is a significant birthday. Many ideas were canvassed, then Mum started to mention how much she would like an iPad (mind you just as a concept, she would never expect us to get her one) and the decision was made. The iPad and various accessories were purchased.

But then Dad came up with a brilliant twist. Mum had recently watched "Julie and Julia" and really loved it, so we got her Julia Child's books and gave them first. Mum unwrapped them and was thrilled. She was busily perusing them when we turned up with the "extra" present. The reaction was fantastic. I've been looking forward to it for weeks (and have on more than one occasion nearly slipped up when chatting with her) and the reaction was as good as we could have hoped for.

My sister, brother-in-law and I got together to make a lovely gourmet BBQ which we enjoyed with a glass or two of excellent wine.

It has been a lovely day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Mum!

Tomorrow is my Mum's birthday and I know she will read this blog on her birthday morning over breakfast, so Mum, this one is for you.

I have a super excellent Mum. I've written before how I'm lucky to have the world's best Mum and I really think I do. She is a wonderfully caring, loving, supportive Mum and she has been instrumental in shaping me into the person I am today.

Just recently someone commented to my Dad that I'm a chip off the old block, but I think it is fair to say that both my parents are intrinsically represented in me. This is not always easy - I have Dad's hoarding tendencies and Mum's clean ones, which means I'm a bit of a household bulimic, I hoard then purge at regular intervals!

But back to Mum, it is fair to say Mum has had a shit of a year. Really, there have been good moments but on the whole it has been pretty awful. But throughout it, through all the rough times, she has stayed that special, caring, loving person. The way she has handled this year is really inspirational to me and has made me love her even more than ever.

So Mum, I hope you enjoy the day we have lined up for you and that this marks the start of a year that will be wonderful - happy birthday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Be safe

Please excuse me for a moment as I take a step into a more serious tone. Today is the last work day for a lot of people. Kids have finished school and Christmas is nigh. It is the time of year where news is filled with lighthearted stories on Santa getting ready, or the best Christmas lights, but it is also the time of year where the news starts to feature a map of the country with the road toll on it.

Last year TAC released a special 5 minute montage of the last 20 years of their road safety ads to the REM song "Everybody Hurts". It is a hard watch but a worthwhile one and I recommend that you all read it and forward the link on to your family and friends with a reminder to be safe on the roads this holiday season. Link

The thing in my life which most consistently brings a smile to my face is my family and friends. I'm surrounded by such an amazing circle of loving, funny, clever, talented and quirky individuals. Each and every one of them adds something special to my life and I will readily admit that one of them being hurt or killed is the top of my fear list - yes, everyone who knows me well, that scares me far more than standing on top of a mountain.

This is a wonderful time of year, really, my favourite time of year. So please, my Christmas wish is that you all keep safe and just enjoy yourself this holiday season.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A storm in sunshine

This morning I woke to the sound of rain absolutely pelting down on the roof, but was very confused by the sound as the sun was also streaming in through cracks in the blinds. It transpired that I had just been hit by the edge of a thunderstorm and soon the sky was dark and crisscrossed with massive bolts of lightening, but for those few moments I got the wonder that is rain falling through sunshine.

I just adore the combination of weather. The way the raindrops catch the sun turning golden, how much blacker the clouds look against a sunlight hill. There is something about the contrast that makes each of the parts just that little more beautiful.

The storms rolled around for a few hours before clearing to a fresh, blue sky day. The air still smells rich and moist from the rain, but the sun is warm. What a fantastic day!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lebkuchen

Let me tell you about the wonder that is lebkuchen. Lebkuchen (literally life cake) is German gingerbread. Rid your mind of any thought of English biscuit like gingerbread (not that it isn't great too, just different), lebkuchen is a fluffy, highly spiced cake. It is made into biscuit sized pieces in various shapes - most often hearts - and coated in chocolate. There are also filled versions with jam centres.

Lebkuchen, like stollen, is a German Christmas staple. My grandparents lived at a German retirement village and they had a little shop that sold specialties like it. Since they died we have occasionally found it at specialty delicatessens, but a week or so ago, Mum discovered it in all sorts of forms at Aldi. Now it probably isn't surprising that the German mega store stocks this fantastic German treat, but I went a little nuts and bought heaps.

I brought some into work, where with mouths full people have berated me for making them eat so much yummy food, but I've also kept myself a decent stash! I'm being good, limiting myself to only one (or two, maximum three) pieces at a time, but it is hard, lebkuchen really is that delicious.

Oh I just love these special treats that you can only get at a certain time of the year. I'm sure the fact that in my mind lebkuchen is tied to Christmas is part of what makes it so delectable. Bring on the Christmas treats I say!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Home!

Last night I was in Sydney for the U2 concert. It might be un-Australian of me, but I'm just not a fan of Sydney. Actually I'm really not a fan of big cities in general. The traffic, the crowds, the pollution and noise. Sure I happily go there for events, special shopping or family things and there is funky stuff there that I can't get at home. But every time I do visit Sydney, I appreciate my hometown of Canberra just that little bit more.

People bash Canberra all the time. It's boring, it's full of politicians, etc. I, however, love Canberra. As I drove back into our wide, tree lined streets, negotiated the few cars which we laughably call traffic and took deep lungfuls of fresh air, I felt that deep sense of contentment which can only come from being home.

This is a beautiful city. Easy to live in, it far from boring and for me, filled with the best things in life, my family and friends. Ahh to be home is to be happy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another week, another concert

So last week I wrote about how in the 90's I reverted to music of the 60's and 70's. But it isn't true to say that I didn't like any of the current music of my teenage years. There was one band that I really loved - U2.

Seeing U2 live has been on my bucket list for as long as I've had one, and in 2006 I managed to get to their Vertigo concert. It was fantastic and as we left, my best friend commented that now I could cross that one off my list. My reply however was "but I want to go again!"

Tonight was that opportunity. With a bunch of friends, I headed to see the amazing 360 tour. The thing with a U2 concert is that you just know it is going to be spectacular, they do not disappoint, and the "claw" at the centre of this tour is unbelievably cool. The crowd were amazing. Several times Bono stopped singing and took ouut his ear pieces to hear the sound of the people and you could tell they had a brilliant time.

Sorry to keep using the word amazing but it really was just the epitome of amazing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just wait one cherry pickin minute

I've written before about how much I love birds, and how my parents garden is an absolute haven for them.

A large part of the backyard is an informal orchard. In the orchard are two cherry trees. The original one was planted by my parents. It is grafted with a couple of cherry varieties and is carefully protected under a large bird net to make sure we get to eat them. The other is a self-sown child of the original tree. Now very large it also gets covered in cherries, but they are tart and not nearly as juicy, so it is left uncovered for the birds to feast on.

As it has grown, it has developed one, almost horizontal branch with very few leaves. This makes it the ideal bird perch. Today I watched a rosella systematically picking a cherry, climbing the tree to the perch branch where it would then sit to enjoy its treat. When finished, it would toddle off to a cluster of cherries and repeat the process. It was so cute.

Are you ready to roll...

Tonight I went to the Roller Derby. I had only the vaguest idea of what it was, something about skimpy dressed women on roller skates, biffing it up. However I felt there was probably more to the story given its huge popularity.

And there was. It is a really exciting, fun to watch spectacle. The girls are amazingly talented skaters, there is a load of tactics involved, they all obviously train really hard and it is engrossing to watch. Add to that a fantastically camp 80's tribute band at half time and that was one of the best spent $20 of my life!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back of the drawer

So possibly this indicates that I have too many clothes, but every now and then I find something tucked in the back of a drawer or the cupboard that I had completely forgotten I owned. This morning was one of those days. I was looking for a black top and grabbed a random bit of black fabric only to pull out a surpise! I honestly cannot remember when I got this top, but I really like it - which is probably why I bought it in the first place.

Finding something like that is the best kind of surprise, a bit like finding money under the car seat, it is manna from heaven. While it has always been yours, was hard earned and carefully considered, finding it again after your brain has so effectively wiped the memory of it is just like getting something for free.

It was a very pleasant way to start the day.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

We'll all be rooned

Dorothea Mackellar had it right when she said Australia is a land "of drought and flooding rains". After years of drought, the dams are full to overflowing and there are floods everywhere. While flooding is never good, there has been a hum of nervous excitement around town accompanied by the photos of the flood in Queanbeyan. Hundreds of people have turned out to look, several of my colleagues I suspect were heading off to check out the overflowing scrivinner dam after work.

But all of this crazy extreme weather just reminds me of a fantastic poem, Said Hanrahan. I've found it online for you, I don't think anything else could quite express the situation like John O'Brien's 1921 poem.

Enjoy!

SAID HANRAHAN by John O'Brien

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
They're singin' out for rain.

"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
"And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

"There won't be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
As I came down to Mass."

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak -
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If rain don't come this week."

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

"We want an inch of rain, we do,"
O'Neil observed at last;
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
To put the danger past.

"If we don't get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."

And stop it did, in God's good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o'er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the road again

A few weeks ago I had a little bingle in my car. Nothing serious but enough that it had to spend a few days at a garage being fixed.

I love to drive and I'm really very independent, so having no car for the first time since I was 18 was a bit of a shock to the system. It wasn't an issue as I'm surrounded by helpful family and friends but I still feel overlly guilty about putting someone out for me.

Last night the car was fixed so today I was back behind the wheel. Oh the joy of the freedom! It reminds me of getting my licence for the first time all those years ago. Driving is something I will never take for granted.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vegetables

Travelling is a great excuse for eating badly. Too much fat, salt and sugar in all sorts of tasty or convenient forms.

So when I get home, all I want is veggies. A big bowl of stirfried yummy healthiness. I like to head to the market, buy anything and everything which is really fresh and cook it quickly. I can feel my body relish the fresh, healthy food. Yum!

The Eagles - Part Two

When I was a teenager, grunge ruled. Cool equated to baggy pants, flannelet shirts, loads of eyeliner. I was not cool. Grunge was not and would never be my world. It isn't that I don't appreciate it, it is just not what lifts my spirit ... which I guess was the point, but I was never a depressive teenager.

So faced with all that angst I just retreated 30 years and found the 60's and 70's. When rock was young, when melody and lyrics were as important as each other. The music was beautiful sometimes massively complex, sometimes deceptively simple. My CD player was filled with the Beatles (I prefer them to the Stones - feel free to engage me in discussion as to why), Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Animals, Herman's Hermits, Cat Stephens, The Doors, Daddy Cool, the list goes on. I can pretty much recite all 18 minutes of "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie, give me a movie soundtrack from the era and I will sing along. I was definitely a teenager in the wrong era.

Now there is only one problem with my music tastes, it doesn't really make for many live music opportunities, but last night I got to live the dream, I saw the EAGLES!!!

The Eagles have long been one of my favourites. Made up of enormous talents, the sum of their parts is so much greater. They manage to tread a line that could almost end up country but stays so cool and unique, you couldn't imagine anyone else quite pulling it off.

They have a truly amazing catalogue of songs and even played some of Don Henley's solo stuff, however the moment I was most waiting for (and it is a cliche, I do know) was the first notes of Hotel California. It is such an iconic song, it must be a difficult choice for them about where they put it in a set. Last night it was the third song and they began it with the long trumpet intro. It was unbelievably good live - I actually shed a tear it was that good, but also because for me that song is my special car song that I listen to with my Dad and it was phenomenal hearing it with him.

A friend of mine is a massive Eagles fan, so I rang her and held the phone up so she could hear it down the line. I think she was thrilled, but I couldn't hear her over the roar of the crowd. I was sorry that my phone battery was dying and I couldn't let her listen to the rest of the concert.

I went to the concert with Mum and Dad - it was my Mum's first rock concert! What an introduction to the concert scene. It is one concert I will never forget.

The Eagles - part 1

I was at the Eagles tonight. It was truly cool but is very late - more tomorrow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nanna Nap

I am a fan of the nanna nap. I could easily exist in place where the siesta forms a part of daily life.

Of course, life is usually too busy to accommodate an afternoon nap, but today I worked hard cleaning the house and by 2pm, all was spick and span and I was ready to curl up on the couch for an hour or so.

It really is the ultimate luxury. Just to stretch out and nap away the afternoon. I arose feeling all refreshed and had a busy, productive afternoon.

I vote for more siestas!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dance like no-one is watching

I love to dance and I generally dance with partners. I also love music and have days worth on my iPod organised into playlists by mood. It is rare for me not to have music playing if I'm home and some days the music really speaks to me. I find myself dancing, swaying and spinning to the music, almost unconsciously by myself about my lounge room.

There is something almost indescribably about how good it feels to lose yourself in movement to the music. I cease to think about anything, except for how my body feels responding to the lifts, the lows, swells and hits in the music. I dance for the feeling, not for an audience, I dance in response to how the music makes me feel, I dance for me.

I feel as graceful as a ballarina who has trained her whole life. Goodness knows what I look like, it doesn't matter. It is the experience of being swept away, abandoning myself to the music.

Today has been a dance day, even in the course of writing this blog a couple of good songs have played and pulled me away from the computer. It is a joy that I hope to continue to experience my whole life. And now if you will excuse me, the music is playing and I need to dance to this song.

Friday, December 3, 2010

After the rain

It has rained, boy has it rained. Facebook is full of references to the arc, streets have been flooded, houses inundated. But for the first time in who knows how long, definitely since long before we started paying attention, today the dams are 100% full.

And as if to celebrate, this afternoon the clouds parted and the sun streamed down. All the rain nourished plants glowed luminous green. The flowers lifted their heads which had been weighed with water and beamed colour, the air is warm and humid and so clear and clean.

In the distance bulbous clouds, white and grey still hang, full of promise in the air, but between them, the clear blue sky and the warm afternoon sun showed what a beautiful summer there is to come.

What a sight to behold!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Surprise - it is a free scarf!

We all know that I love something free, I also love surprises and I am slightly obsessed with scarves - so what could be better that a free surprise scarf! I know, really, does life get much better?

This is an original Larry Kazmerski design. If you are are struggling to remember a designer by that name, shift your thinking from fashion to solar power. That's right, Larry is one of the solar power industry's luminaries but every year for something like 30 years he has designed a scarf and tie that he gives away as gifts. People apparently hoard them and they are a real collectible for solar geeks.

And now I have one. Aren't the colours brilliant? It really looks fabulous on, several people not in the know about its solar significance have commented on its fashion worthiness. Now I just need to work on my strategy to continue to receive one each year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taking a breath

I've had a bit of a stressful day. Delayed flights, led to tense waiting, rushing to get where I needed to be, fitting too much into not enough time.

But as I rushed very late from the airport to my business engagement, I took a moment to stop and take a deep breath. The rain had finally stopped and I paused beneath a gum tree, heavy with blossom. The rain had brought out the deep, cleansing scent of the tree and it filled my head with a calm that had been missing.

It was a great moment to stop and get some perspective on a frustrating day and I entered the event in a good frame of mind and without the tension that had filled the day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Catching up with old friends

There are some friends, who no matter how long you spend apart, the time disappears the moment you are together again.

My high school best friend Alex is one of those. She now lives in England and I haven't seen her in over 2 years. We email and talk on the phone, but there is nothing like a face to face catchup. She is out in Australia but on a crazy whistle stop tour, so tonight I flew to Sydney to have dinner and drinks with her.

It was like the past 2 years had never existed. With screams of joy and tumbling words we were back our teenage selves again, catching up on all those important things like what we had done to our hair, which cocktails we now drink, oh and the rest of life.bwe even still dress alike in silk tops black pants and patent shoes with great handbags.

And I just know it is never going to change! Eventually we may not jump at each other for fear of breaking a hip, but it will still be the same old girls together.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Banter

Isn't it nice when you are served by someone genuinely friendly? You have a little banter back and forth while they ring up your purchases? I leave feeling all buoyed and satisfied at an excellent shopping experience.

Today I was served by two very lovely, smiley, chatty women at the post office and the bank. Those are both places where the queues are often horrendous and I imagine you get a load of not happy customers, so to have such lovely counter staff was brilliant. They were both quick and efficient but while doing so engaged with me that left me feeling all smiley too.

So here's cheers for great customer service!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A slow start

Last night I danced more than I have in ages and came home bone weary.

This morning I woke up, nestled deep in my bed. I lay there, muscles still tired but deeply relaxed listening to the sound of the rain on the roof.

Everything was still and quiet except for the raindrops on leaves and tiles. The world seemed calm, peaceful and I felt free of cares and worries, perfectly at one with the rain.

Eventually I got up. A hot shower revived the senses and I moved on with the day, but it was the perfect slow start to a Sunday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I know I'm early - but Christmas time is here!

I know it isn't quite December but I couldn't help myself, I've put up my Christmas tree. I love Christmas and I really enjoy all the trimmings. The ritual of putting it all together, the joy of finding favourite decorations, the satisfaction of sitting back and admiring all the hard work once it is done.

I love how the house looks kitted out in seasonal splendor. As well as the tree, I have a wreath on the door, a bowl of baubles on the table, a wooden advent calendar and numerous other decorations. I even decorate my front hedge!

Some of the decorations have been passed down the generations, others were gifts, still more were saved up for and then there are the ones from the $2 shop. They all work perfectly together to create my own special interpretation of Christmas.

Now to just finish the shopping and get on with the partying!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Memories

My primary school is closing down to make way for a super school, so today they held a special fĂȘte for past students and teachers. Mum was a teacher there so the whole family headed to the school for a trip down memory lane

There was a slight tinge of sadness as we walked into the school but it was soon overwhelmed by the joy of seeing old school photos and meeting up with our old teachers and friends. It was such fun. All the memories of the great years spent there.

Then we headed out to the fĂȘte and bought some food. I got an empanada con carne. I discovered empanadas in Argentina and loved them. The one tonight was surprisingly authentic and it brought back more memories of great times.

Tonight sure has been a fun memory trip!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A much heralded cuppa

I have been caffeine free for a couple of weeks - and not by choice. I was on some naturopathic medication that gets affected by caffeine, any caffeine. So that means no tea, no chocolate and definitely no coke.

I can cope without coke and can even get by without chocolate (although it is harder), but life without tea is just miserable. I try to substitute with rooibos but it just isn't the same.

Last year I travelled South America for a couple of months and a proper cup of tea with real milk was just not available. Our flight home stopped over in Auckland and there I sat down with my first cup of Twinings English Breakfast tea with fresh milk in 7 weeks. It was so good I quite literally shed a tear. Now it may be that I hadn't slept properly in many hours, but I prefer to think that the emotion was caused by the wonder of that perfect cup of tea.

So imagine my joy at finishing the medication. Carefully making the perfect cup, inhaling the delicious smell and taking that first, delicious, warming, senses reviving sip. I think it is true, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The super shopper

Today I was an awesome shopper! In well under an hour I managed to get two Christmas presents, a farewell present, Christmas cards, groceries, fill my tyres with air and tell a friend's sister what she should get her for her birthday!

Some days you can take your time, browse, wander and it is a lovely relaxing experience. But other days efficiency is the name of the game. Today was one of those days and I have to say I rocked!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Renewed shoes

With the weather heating up, last weekend I packed away my boots and other warm winter shoes and pulled out of storage all my cute little summer numbers. All of a sudden my wardrobe is filled with bright colours, bows and peep toes.

It is so exciting to get them all out again, like having old friends around for a cup of tea, they all have stories associated with them. I start planning outfits that will work with the insanely high multicoloured pair, or what will go with leopard print peep toes (in my world - everything) and remembering shoes which had slipped my mind during the long winter break.

So this morning I was able to reach in and select a pair of white peep-toes with black bows to go with my outfit.

The only thing now - I must start painting my toenails again!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Those magnificent men and their cycling machines

Canberra is a great city for cyclists. You see great pelotons of them at the traffic lights, the city is criss-crossed with bike paths. The buses even have special bike racks on them so that you can ride to the bus and then catch it into the city.

Today as I was driving along I saw an amazing assortment of bikes. There were the usual road and mountain bikes, the low recliner with a flag on top, a high recliner bike.

But the thing that really made me laugh was the guy riding the unicycle. And not a little one, the single wheel must have been a meter high! Not only that, but he was dressed in a business suit. He was wobbling along and it would be easy to think that he was about to fall off but he was completely in control. I watched him cycle down the street, jump up the curb and head off down a bike path. It was just so very unexpected and completely hilarious.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Lazy Afternoon

This afternoon I joined some friends to laze on a picnic rug in the park.

We sat under shady trees in the warm afternoon air, talking, laughing, or just sitting in companionable silence. All through the park there were people doing much the same, having picnics, supervising children on the play equipment, enjoying each others company.

As I lay back, enjoying the way the sunlight lit up the edges of the oak leaves above me, I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to live in a city with such beautiful parks and where I can spend an afternoon doing nothing more than lazing about it one of them.

The Social Whirl

So you may notice that this blog entry is a little late, that is because yesterday I got caught up in the social whirl that often seems to happen at about this time of year. Everyone has emerged from the hibernation of a long winter and as the weather warms they are inspired to get out and socialise.

I had a delicious brunch with Mister M and Gorgeous A, attended a ladies only dance body movement workshop (so much fun, it was all wiggles and giggles), met up with friends for a dinner to farewell someone off to work in America for a few years and finally made it to a 30th birthday party! What a day.

One of the amusing things was seeing the same people at each event. We would arrive, and leave at different times, but it seemed our circle of friends really was circling yesterday. Such fun, it really was a day of smiles.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tasty Treats and Spontaneous Visits

There was a birthday in the office today. You know what that means - a trip to the Flute Bakery. Today's request was a mixed berry frangipan tart (and yes, I do take the picture in the box, once out it never lasts long in this office). Oh it was good, the berries juicy, the frangapan moist, the pastry crisp. It was a delicious combination.

Of course I needed a little reward for driving all that way and today it came in the form of an apple and rasin strussel danish. It was another stunning example of their brilliant flakey, buttery golden pastry, topped with apples, a few raisins (not to many which was good) and excellent straussel. My Mum is the straussel queen and I can say, that the Flute's almost completes with hers. Toped off with a light dusting of cinnamon, it was worthy of licking the paper bag out for any last crumbs.

But today had an extra surprise. Only moments after happy birthday had been sung and the tart devoured, my phone rang and it was A who was in the vicinity and wondered if I had time for a quick coffee. I love a spontaneous occasion, so I jumped at the opportunity. We had a drink and a catchup while baby-S slept peacefully.

What a particularly excellent morning!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Bush Capital

When things aren't too busy in the office, I try to get out for a walk around the block at lunchtime. 15 minutes away from the computer screen moving limbs that are otherwise stationary, it is a good feeling.

And today is just a sublimely beautiful day to be out and about. Clear blue skies, warm sun, perfumed breeze. The rain has Canberra green but now the grasses have grown long seed heads which sway like a silver wave over the verdant green landscape. Young birds have emerged, I watched a spindly breath of a wren hopping along a hedge with its parents and a baby currawong eyed me wearily from a branch that was probably a tad too low for its comfort.

The first flush of spring flowers have disappeared but in their place are leaves of every shade including an amazing purple/red stand of trees which line my path. As I peer over hedges of the nearby townhouses there are roses and lavender filling courtyards and their scent combined with the jasmine vines that wend their way up the houses is tantalising.

I'm not the only one out and about at lunch. I saw people sitting eating their lunch in the park, or on similar brain break walks like me.

I'm right in the middle of the city, but being Canberra, the bush isn't confined to the edge of the city. It isn't unusual to see a kangaroo mid-town and today as I walked back into the office a blue tongue lizard was also wandering in. I love that I live in a place where in the middle of the city I can take a stroll out of the office and be so surrounded by nature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An opening worth savouring

Ahh the joy of reading that first page of a new book that tells you, this is going to be a good story. Really there is nothing like it, I simultaneously want to rip on in, but at the same time want to eek it out as long as possible.

I'm always slightly saddened when I finish a great story. When the tale has been told, the characters finished with. I know I can read it again (and I often do) but there is just nothing quite like that first time, when the story is new, the outcome unknown, it is all just so exciting.

Today while waiting for an appointment I started reading "Water for Elephants"by Sara Gruen. People have been raving about it for ages, so on a weekend away I bought it and promptly lent it to my Mother. She assures me I will love it and while I managed to read less than a chapter she is right. The writing is beautiful, I'm already compelled by the characters, in short, I can't wait to get home and reading!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A new taste sensation

Trying out a new recipe, it is fraught with both danger and anticipation. Will this be a new favourite or something that is so terrible you have to bury it in the garden (it has happened)?

Over the years I've been witness to many a memorable failure, plenty at my own hands. Among the most infamous in my family was Mum's 7 hour leg of lamb. Yes, 7 hours worth of cooking. It wasn't that the result was terrible, but it certainly wasn't good. It was awfully bland and my extremely fussy Dad and sister just pushed it around their plates. Certainly not 7 hours that Mum would say was worth spending.

Tonight Mum invited me over to try a new recipe she had read in the paper. Paprika chicken with new potatoes and spring vegetables. Sounded great and it was! I think we have discovered a new favourite - what a joy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Honey Toast

What is going on with the weather? Hot and humid one day, cold and clammy the next.

I've spent the last few days eating loads of salad and fruit with all the hot weather but as today went cooler, I knew what I wanted - hot buttered honey toast. Mmmmm, honey. Did you know it is the only food that doesn't spoil? It will literally never go off.

Anyway, today's afternoon tea was two golden slices of toast, dripping with honeyed perfection. What more could one ask for on a rainy afternoon?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sharing the love

Today I had the privilege of being a witness to a naming ceremony for my friends' baby boy. Surrounded by family and friends, he was officially welcomed into the family, had given his name.

It was a lovely gathering, many of us brought contributions to the afternoon tea. I brought these apple custard tea cakes and a bunch of roses from my garden. We sat around with children running wild, eating, gossiping, laughing.

Joining together to celebrate a new life is a wonderful thing. The love and good wishes heaped upon that small boy should see him have the most wonderful life.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Free Stuff

Do you know what is even better than ice-cream and a movie? FREE ice-cream and a FREE movie!

Today I've been truly spoilt. It started with the opening of a new gelato bar where they gave free scoops to everyone. I had a scoop of delicious blackberry gelato.

Then tonight, Mister M took me to Koko Black where he had a chocolate ice-cream martini and I had a blood orange sorbet martini. It was so very good. Deliciously sweet with the piquant edge of an orange, complemented by chocolate wafers. Mmmmm.

Then we headed to the movies with tickets Mister M's lovely girlfriend, Gorgeous A, had given us a few weeks ago as a surprise present. We saw "Wild Target" and it is fab. That brilliant dry, dark English humour had the whole cinema laughing aloud.

What a particularly excellent day, filled with freebies.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The first taste of summer

Today is the first day when wandering around it actually feels hot! Not just warm, hot enough that coming inside to the air conditioning is a real relief. The heat hints at all the summer fun to come and there are other signs pointing the way to a rapidly approaching summer.

Summer by the senses for me equals:

Smell - dusty dry, eucalyptus scented, those days when you can smell the heat before you feel it.
Sight - a hot hard blue sky. That cloudless sky so blue and bright you have to squint to look at it.
Taste - a mango dripping with juice.
Sound - cicadas singing their lungs out, amazing me with the ability of such a tiny insect to make so much noise.
Touch - the sizzle of bare legs on overheated car seats, or those few searing steps on the sand as you sprint into the cool of the ocean.

Along with that heat, today another of those signs of summer arrived - I heard my first cicada!

But even with all those signs of summer, our wet spring still has Canberra the most glorious shades of green. The city mowers are working like crazy trying to keep up, but in the unmown patches wildflowers like Canberra Royal Bluebells have popped up. I can't remember the city looking so wonderful for years.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anticipation

I have a lot of great things coming up over the next few months, concerts, get togethers, special events (not to mention Christmas, the best time of all). Today, I've spent a bit of time lining up the ducks so that all these varied activities can happen and it has got me so excited with the anticipation of great times to come.

You can't beat a surprise for that immediate joy, but there is something particularly special about the anticipation of a special event. The planning, imagining, expectation - it is a special part of enjoying an experience.

So while I'm sure I will be writing some happy blogs about great events soon, right now I'm enjoying the anticipation of great times to come.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All the yummy stuff in one bowl

On Sunday I had a lovely time at the markets enjoying all the fresh produce on offer. It isn't just the freshness that is so great it is also the variety of produce we have at our fingertips. From Asian vegetables to Italian herbs. We are so lucky to have such easy access to quality produce from across the world.

Tonight I really felt like a bowl of Chinese inspired soup. Popping into my local Woolworths I was able to buy ingredients like lemongrass, coriander, chilli, ginger, mushrooms, fresh rice noodles and construct a delicious bowl of soup.

I've travelled to countries where buying anything outside the national cuisine is difficult and bland, this is one of those days when I reflect on just how many ways we are the lucky country.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vegemite

I'm a happy little Vegemite as bright as bright can be - well I certainly am after a good dose of vegemite.

Like any good Aussie, it is my cure-all. Hangovers, colds, mid-afternoon slump, it can all be solved with vegemite. I even traveled with one of the squeezy tubes of it through South America. My companions laughed when they first saw it, but a week into the sugary confections that equal breakfast in South America they were begging for it! It was such a staple of our trip that we created this photo of us with our beloved tube of vegemite out on the salar in Bolivia.

This afternoon I smelt the delicious smell of vegemite toast and I just had to have some - thank goodness for an office that provides the ingredients, it was the perfect afternoon tea.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Storms

Thunderbolts and lightening, very very frightening, me!

Not really, although the hail this morning did wake me up. I love a thunderstorm and they certainly have been rolling about the skies today. Dark threatening clouds, that particular smell of ozone, the sudden clash of thunder as the rain pours down only to clear to sunny blue skies minutes later. It just makes me feel that little bit more alive.

I have also developed a slightly unhealthy addiction to the Bureau of Meteorology's radar viewer. I don't know what it is about being able to see where the rain is but I love it.

Fingers crossed for a storm tonight. Sorry parents with small children or owners of nervous pets (I used to have one, but she is deaf and can't hear the thunder anymore) but a storm at night, the lightening tracing across the darkened sky, just fantastic entertainment!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Afternoon Tea

I think there is something hugely indulgent and utterly enjoyable about those in-between meals that have been created simply for socialialising and enjoying food. Brunch, supper and of course, morning and afternoon tea. While formality can be imposed, I find people are generally more relaxed. You aren't eating to fulfill hunger, it is to enjoy tasty morsels and the company of others.

Afternoon tea comes with many traditions, the correctly brewed pot, scones - light and fluffy topped with lashings of jam and cream, finger sandwiches, cake cut into bite sized mouthfuls. They all contribute to an indulgently lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Today I hosted an afternoon tea to thank those who had supported me through Frocktober. There were many tasty treats including a lovely cake from my Mum and gorgeous sandwiches and cupcakes from my friend N. We sat, chatted, enjoyed the food and were hugely entertained by N's 18 month old who demonstrated just how many blueberries a small boy can eat (the answer, is apparently all of them!)

It was such a lovely afternoon, what a brilliant way to round out a weekend.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Market Fresh

There is nothing I like more on a Saturday morning than sleeping in. But next on my list would be going to the fresh fruit and vegetable markets. This morning I had to be out and about early which meant that I got to the markets by 8am.

I find being surrounded by all that fresh produce just inspiring. There are rows of gleaming fruit and vegetables like a very healthy rainbow. The butcher and fishmonger are stocked with the best and not to mention the delights that await in the bakery. I always find time disappears whenever I enter one of the deli's as I wander the aisles checking out all the preserves, oils and vinegars or trying to decide which of the lovely cheeses to enjoy.

Being out there in the early morning also meant I almost had the place to myself, so it was a lovely relaxing shopping experience. It might have been an early start to Saturday, but it was an enjoyable one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Casual Friday

Does your workplace do casual Friday?

My workplace is generally pretty casual unless we have clients in, but because of my role, I tend dress "corporate" although not necessarily suited up. However, I do join in on casual Friday, usually by wearing jeans.

Today is my first Friday since Frocktober, so it was the first day back in jeans since September! Oh how I love jeans, I really do. They are just a brilliant item of clothing, so comfy, look so good, just so nice to wear.

Maybe it was because it was my first day back in jeans in a month, but when I went out to lunch, I noticed how many people do the casual Friday thing by wearing jeans. But while jeans may be the staple for casual Friday, what people wear on the top is very variable. There are plenty who go very casual top to tie. Personally I like to wear nice shirts or a jacket because it still makes me feel " worky" and I noticed quite a few people do that, but one guy was taking it to the extreme. With his jeans he was wearing a white business shirt, tie and suit jacket - he had literally just replaced suit pants with jeans to go casual. He reminded me of the old shots of newsreaders with shorts on under the desk!

So whatever way you do it, I hope you have had a great casual Friday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Best night of the week

Thursday night means family dinner night. For years now every Thursday we have convened, usually around Mum and Dad's kitchen bench, for dinner. Occasionally we go out but more often than not Mum cooks up a storm to feed her brood.

We are a close family, I'm in contact with everyone most days but I don't think anything replaces the banter of a family over dinner. We laugh, gossip, console, even argue on occasion and it really is the stuff of life.

So thanks Mum, I appreciate your efforts hugely - Thursday is my favourite night of the week!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sun on the roses

This morning I opened my curtains to a beautiful sight. My backyard is full of roses. They were coated with a thick layer of dew from yesterday's rain which had caught the rays of the rising sun. Each leaf, bud, flower and stem was outlined with a glowing silver edge as the dew and sun combined. No jeweller could ever recreate the brilliance of this morning, even with the most sparkly of diamonds and the sight lifted my heart.

It really was a gorgeous morning. Canberra looks stunning at the moment, with rolling green hills, lush gardens and full lakes. It was beautiful and sunny, with everything glowing green and sparkling clean after the rain. There were a few clouds about, but they only served to create a marbled effect of shadows over the mountains, allowing shafts of sunlight to highlight particularly verdant areas of hillside.

What a glorious way to start the day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Race that stops the office

The Melbourne Cup. From outside Australia it must seem like madness. An entire city stops for the day, the whole nation stops for the race. It is the day where suddenly everyone has an opinion on horses, where someone who has never been to a track will rave on about form and pedigree. People hold parties, office get togethers, run sweeps, place bets when they never usually go near the TAB, not to mention the hours and money spent on outfits and hats for the event - and it is all for a horse race that is over in a few minutes.

Well even if it is a form of group madness, it is something I love. The tradition of sitting around watching a horse race with my colleagues, usually with some sort of tasty afternoon tea item in hand, is one I cherish.

For the last few years in the ACT we have had a public holiday on Melbourne Cup day. It was moved to a different day this year because in short, it was bad for business and people actually really enjoy the camaraderie of Melbourne Cup in the office. I've really missed Melbourne Cup in the office, so today I had a load of fun, settling down with my colleagues and watching the race. This year I didn't even manage to get a bet on but it still made my heart leap to watch those horses.

I even wore a giant fascinator into the office in the spirit of the day. No one else dressed up, but it sure was fun for me!

I hope you had a great Melbourne Cup day and that it was luck or fashion filled for you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lucky black pants

Skirts have been very much on my mind as the last few days of Frocktober drew to a close. I love a swishy skirt, but you know what they say, you can have too much of a good thing.

So today as November arrived, my old faithful black pants (trousers for my UK readers) made a triumphant return! It is a windy day and I could walk along a main road not wondering if the world was getting a view of my underwear. I happily crawled under a desk to fix a cable and generally just spent the day enjoying the freedom.

It makes me endlessly grateful to be living in an age where our clothing choices are just that, a true choice. As a young woman my grandmother went to a fancy dress party as a man, wearing a suit with pants (!!!) and a drawn on moustache and was thought of as very daring. Yes we still have social conventions that relate to clothes, but compared to other times and even today in other countries, we are extremely lucky.

So today I have reveled in the freedom - who knew what joy a pair of black pants could bring?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Frocktober Finale

So Frocktober is officially over! It has been 31 days of cold ankles, inappropriate work wear and fear of windy days. But it has also been a month filled with the most amazing support.

From the girlfriends who lent me their dresses, to all the kind comments on Facebook, not to mention the donations of money, I just couldn't have imagined how phenomenal this experience would be.

I started Frocktober with the hope that I would raise a bit of money, but as of this morning I had raised over $2,000 for ovarian cancer research. I feel extremely proud that I've been able to do my part but I also feel so loved by those around me, it has just been a brilliant experience.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My productive garden - part 2

I've written before about the joy of my productive garden, how it provides me with fresh ingredients for my cooking. But it also provides stunning ornament for my home.

Look at this vase of roses, fresh from my garden. This week I've also been able to give my Mum a big bunch and the bushes are still covered. There is nothing like having garden fresh flowers in the house to give a room a lift and really announce that the warm weather is here.

Another day, another inappropriate dress

So while yesterday I was getting in touch with my 60's housewife, today I went looking for my inner Greek goddess. Long ago at the start of Frocktober I promised that should I be successful in reaching my goal of $1,000 I would wear a formal gown to work.

Well I reached that milestone by my birthday and ever since the debate has raged over which dress should be worn. Votes were solicited, counted and the tally was in favour of a red goddess number with black sequined collar by Matthew Eager.

It is such a long dress I need to wear very high heels with it which meant I also had to be careful of such things as catching it in the wheels of my desk chair or sweeping past the kitchen where goodness knows what had been spilt on the floor.

Still I had another marvelous day sweeping about the office. There is just something about unusal attire that makes the day enjoyable.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A touch of madness

Today when getting dressed for work I decided to channel Betty Draper. For those not familiar with her, she is the gorgeous wife of Don Draper, the central character in Mad Men.

Small and petite, she has perfectly coiffed hair, full skirts and immaculate makeup.

So I took a simple grey dress, added a voluminous red petticoat (styled to allow a bit peaking out the bottom of my skirt), red shoes and a cardi. I've swished about all day, getting fantastic compliments along the way. It has been lovely, I think I need to channel Betty more often.

The picture is Betty, I'm not quite that polished!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Woo Hoo, Wednesday Lunchtime

Being a blogger, I like to read other blogs too. I really appreciate the enormous amount of effort and time people invest in their little online treasure troves and it inspires me to work harder on mine (I think it may get a new look when I have some time over Christmas).

There are heaps I like, but one of my favourites is a little bit more like a weekly newsletter of funny stories than a real blog (sorry Tony, I know you take your role as "blogger" very seriously). Anyway, the blog in question is The Scrivener's Fancy.

Described as "lowbrow commentary in elegant surrounds" every week it contains 4 articles written by Tony Martin, Avril Rolfe, Matt Quartermaine and a guest writer. They are usually stories based on the minute of life, written from a comedian's point of view and without fail, I enjoy them every week. It is published on a Wednesday.

So despite the temptation to put off my work and just straight online each Wednesday, I save it up as a special treat to enjoy over lunch. It is great, an excellent lunchtime read and the perfect way to mark the middle of my week. And it is surprising how often they relate to me! For example, after wrestling with the BigW DVD scanner today, it was highly amusing to come back and read Tony Martin's article on the same topic.

So if your mid-week needs a lift, give it a go!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First impressions

So today I've been putting smiles on a lot of other people's faces.

I decided I needed a water bottle on my desk, I'm just not drinking enough of the good stuff. But I'm not a fan of plastic, so I wanted a glass bottle and it occurred to me that a Bombay Sapphire bottle would be perfect - they hold quite a bit of liquid, are nice and solid and best of all are an attractive blue colour.

For those of you not familiar with Bombay Sapphire, it is a very nice gin, one of my favourite tipples! Of course water looks much like gin, particularly when in a gin bottle, which makes it appear that I'm swigging my way through glass after glass throughout the day.

The significant pauses that have been made as people stop to evaluate just what is happening at my desk, have kept me amused all day!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tip of the day

Don't you just love a time/money/effort saving tip?

Today I discovered that hairspray works just as well as any kind of anti-static spray for clothes. My inappropriately clingy skirt has been dealt with and is now floating gently around my legs rather than adhering suggestively to my rear end.

Other recent discoveries have included: vodka in the water will keep tulips from drooping, don't store your cucumbers with apples, pears or stone fruit as they will go off quicker and if you have an open bag of potato chips, store them in the freezer and they stay fresh (just need to give them some time to go back to room temperature).

Don't you just love a good tip?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food and friends, a good combo!

On Sunday nights I like to cook for friends. Cooking a nice meal for people I love is one of the best things in the world.

Tonight I made this chicken cacciatore with baked potatoes and brocolini. It was delicious and filled my friends up with yummy (and healthy) food. A glass of wine, good food and fun friends, a perfect way to wrap up the weekend.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A tango, a scavenger hunt, pancakes and flowers

I know this is repetitive, but I really have the best friends.

Things have been super busy and a little crazy recently, so my flatmate - Gorgeous A - decided to spoil me and her boyfriend, who happens to be my best friend and dance partner and who has also been flat out with work.

First she organised for us to have a dance studio to ourselves for an hour. We have both been so busy we haven't had much time to dance recently. We didn't do anything training like, just danced and enjoyed the opportunity.

Next she sent us on a sort of treasure hunt. We were sent to the pancake parlour to find Paul. He seated us, presented me with flowers and then food and drinks arrived! Gorgeous A had organised it all, right down to knowing the perfect things to order us. I think it did confuse the staff somewhat that Mr M's girlfriend had organised it for the two of us but it was wonderful.

Stuffed full of delicious food, Pancake Paul arrived again, now bearing movie tickets, but we decided that we would prefer to go with Gorgeous A, so wrapped up and went to find her.

It was such a lovely unexpected morning, I really enjoyed it. I am so lucky to have people who would go to that effort in my life.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oh my, I've got a very full tummy

My Mum sure can cook. She can create a feast, there is no doubt about it and when it comes to a special occasion like a birthday, she goes all out.

Tonight was an early birthday dinner for my brother-in-law and that means the traditional birthday dinner - roast duck with dumplings and red cabbage. Is your mouth watering yet, let me describe it in a little more detail.

Mum has perfected the art of roasting a duck. She produces crisp skinned, succulent meat where the fat has melted away (but is reserved to fry potatoes in later) leaving just juicy, duck perfection. She takes the drippings and turns it into rich gravy which we pour over potato dumplings and red cabbage till they are infused with that ducky goodness.

It is the kind of meal where you end up picking up your duck bones to crew every last morsel off, where plates are scraped (and licked when no one is looking). It is a meal where you eat till you are full, then eat a bit more because it is just so good.

And when you think you may explode, the chocolate mousse arrives.

What a meal, thanks Mum it was brilliant.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vampire Attack

I saved three people's lives today - yup, you got that right, three people! And I did it by sitting in a chair and I got rewarded for it with a chocolate milkshake.

Yes, I gave blood. It always makes me feel good, well not literally, it usually makes me feel a little light headed. But it gives me that good feeling that I really am helping people.

For anyone who hasn't done it, give it a try. I'm terrified of needles, but I make myself go to help me get over that fear and because your donation really does save lives. And there is nothing like starting your day with a bunch of people thanking you - the donor staff are brilliant.

So go on, let the vampires have a go and donate blood today!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reliving a childhood breakfast

I'm a weetbix girl. 2 every morning, soaked in milk so they are nice and mushy (I know people eat them crunchy, but I think they are saliva suckers if you leave them like that) and they keep me going till my mid morning cup of tea and piece of fruit.

But a couple of weeks ago I had to make chocolate crackles, so this morning I had the leftover rice bubbles for breakfast. They definitely didn't fill me up for hours like the weetbix, but boy was it an entertaining breakfast!

It has been so many years since I had a bowl, I had forgotten just how loud that snap, crackle, pop really is! I kept stiring them under the milk to keep it going. And the texture sensation that is a rice bubble - honestly, they are food brilliance.

So while I was more than ready for the staff morning tea, it was a fun breakfast and trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Scent of a ... tree?

At lunch today I ducked out of the office for a breath of fresh air and some time away from the computer screen. It is easy to head into the office in the morning, then look up and discover the day has slipped away, so whenever possible I like to sneak at least a 10 minute walk around the block into my day.

Today, as I rounded one corner, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a fantastic perfume. It took me a moment to identify the source because the blossoms on this tree aren't nearly as spectacular in appearance as many of the other trees or flowers around, but boy is that perfume something to behold.

The tree is huge, packed with clusters of little white flowers and the air is absolutely heady with the scent of them - it must be wonderful in the owners house which sits nestled under the branches. I wasn't the only one whose attention had been attracted, the tree was literally buzzing with hard working bees.

It is just another one of those moments when I love living in the "garden city".

Monday, October 18, 2010

The fluff is flying

Once, many years ago, a large number of cottonwood trees were planted in Canberra. They are lovely trees, members of the poplar family if I'm correct but can be pests because they spread so easily, so only female trees were planted. The thing is, female trees produce this light fluffy (cotton like, hence the name) seed. When it isn't fertilised, it is extremely light and blows around in the wind, in massive quantities. For weeks every year, large parts of inner Canberra are covered with white fluff from the cottonwoods.

For students, the cottonwoods hold special significance as the general consensus is that if you haven't started studying for final exams when the fluff starts flying you are in deep ****. As a result, the sight of that first piece of fluff in the air causes nerves and apprehension for students.

For those whose student days are past them however, the sight of fluff reminds one that while some of the freedom of those times might be gone, so too is exam stress. Every year as I pass through drifts of white I feel a deep sense of relief that I no longer have that pressure on me.

Today, I glanced out the window and against the blue I spotted a small white object. Seconds later I noticed another, then another. That is right, today is the day the fluff has started to fly. Within days there will be great drifts of it caught in the grass or swept on any breeze into our building, but even those first few pieces are enough to make me revel in the joy of not having to do exams!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My productive garden

My little garden gives me such pleasure. I love getting out there and working in it to be rewarded by beautiful flowers and even better, by homegrown produce.

Winter has been a quiet time in the garden, however the herbs have held their own over the cold months. The warm weather has now reinvigorated them and the sage is just about to flower with its gorgeous purple blooms.

Also sitting quietly over winter have been my broccoli plants, but today I noticed the first tiny little broccoli heads forming. A week or two and broccoli will be on the menu.

I may only have a few square meters but it is immensely what you can produce in that space.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Automating tasks

Hand washing - that small print on a clothing label that causes one to reconsider purchase, except that it always seems to appear on everything that I want to buy. It used to be that I would allow said items of clothing to pile up in the dirty clothes basket till my cupboard was bear and then spend hours, my hands turning into prunes as I wrestled with buckets of cold water and Martha Gardener's Wool Mix.

However those days are past - I have a washing machine that handwashes. But I hear you say, all washing machines have an illusionary delicates setting which lures you in once only to ruin a perfectly good outfit. No, my washing machine has that setting, but it also has a handwash setting and it is so gentle that I will trust it with silk, delicate knits, even embroidery and sequins! Owing to the wonder that is my washing machine, my delicate hands have not been immersed in the laundry sink for 4 years now and my wardrobe of handwash only items is larger than ever.

So why is the marvelousness of my washing machine particularly pleasing me today? Well frocktober is providing me with a disproportionately large amount of said handwashing - but I'm doing it right now, as I type. And who doesn't love that!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Super dooper pampering

A couple of months ago I bought a voucher to a local day spa at a fundraising event. Given it was basically a donation, I didn't pay too much attention to it and it was just sitting in my desk drawer. This week I suddenly realised it was going to expire, so I booked myself in and went off for a "body" treatment with no idea of what it included.

I am now a puddle of relaxation. I've been scrubbed, oiled, massaged and moisturised to a point where I had to think carefully before standing up. It was FANTASTIC.

I love pampering treatments, but they are definitely at the luxury end of the scale, so they don't fit into my budget very often. Today I was treated to a foot spa, a body scrub, hot oil treatment, head massage, spa and finished off with an all over body relaxation massage. I feel sooooo good.

If I win lotto one day, this will definitely be at the top of my list of life improvements!

P.S. Picture isn't me, just illustrates how great I feel about today's treatment.