Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lipstick stains

I am a devoted user of eyeliner and mascara.  Since the moment I left high school (where make up was banned but I still wore concealer least people ask me what was wrong at home due to my naturally dark under eye circles) I have worn eyeliner and mascara at every practical - and many not practical - moments.  My love of makeup however didn't really extend past my eyes.  I have always loved how lipstick looks and admired those women with glossy red smiles, but I could never quite be that girl.

All that changed last August when I went to Charm School.  Finally I learned how to wear lipstick without looking like a clown.  As a fan of a vintage look, particularly the 40s and 50s, changing to a slick of winged black eyeliner and red lips was probably inevitable, but what has amazed me was how instantly it became my "face".  Not only that it has actually cut down the time I spend doing my makeup in the morning!

And so it was that today I found myself, giant cup of tea on my desk complete with lipstick mark, reapplying said lipstick while wearing a full skirt and heels, and it occurred to me that I look like a perfect 1950's secretary.  And you know what, so long as no one treats me like one I'm just fine to look like that.

Have you ever changed your look?  Was it a conscious decision or did it just evolve like mine has?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happiness - A Sense of Occasion

We live at a point in history where most of the time, if we want something we can get it.  I'm not talking the big stuff or life ambitions.  I'm talking consumer goods.  Feel like a particular type of food, it is probably in your local supermarket.  Want some new shoes, there are stores both physical and online full of them.

Gone are the days when a roast chicken was enough of a treat that it was limited for Christmas, dessert was only had after a special Sunday dinner or when a new item of clothing was controlled by rations and expense.  In the first world at least, food, clothes and other materialistic possessions in general are cheaper and more readily available than ever before and I think it means that we have forgotten how to make things treats, we have forgotten how to have a sense of occassion.

When I was a child soft drink was reserved only for parties.  I remember the almost ceremonial process of choosing the soft drink that we would be allowed to have for the day and then the super excitement if there was any left over that we could have a glass of with dinner over the rest of the week.  It was just soft drink but its scarcity made it exciting.  Something to look forward to and enjoy.

These days I don't drink much soft drink but there is usually some in the cupboard or fridge.  Soft drink has lost its aura of specialness.

I may have lost the battle with soft drink but I do try to maintain a sense of occasion in my life.  Any birthday cards or presents I get early are only opened on the day.  Christmas decorations go up in December.  Special tablecloths and good dinner wear is used for family functions.  And then there are hot cross buns ...

Mum talks about how when she was a child they were available for the week before Easter.  They were a treat you looked forward to for the whole year.  Now you can get them on boxing day - so you can have roughly 4 months of hot cross buns.  I love hot cross buns, I really adore them but I know that if I ate them from the moment they were available some of that joy and anticipation would disappear.  If they become just something that gets added in the shopping basket by habit they would lose that feeling of treating myself.

I do not quite have the self control to limit myself to just the week before Easter, so I limit myself to having them during Lent, the 6 weeks before Easter.  And in those 6 weeks I savoir every mouthful.  They truly are a treat, something to look forward to, to relish and enjoy.  In this way I make sure that they stay special.

Anticipation of something good is a fantastic feeling but it doesn't have to just be associated with waiting for a big event like a holiday.  Adding a little anticipation into every day life by taking things that could be ordinary and making them special is one way to add some great feeling into every day.  Hot cross buns are just one of those ordinary things that I make special in my life.  It is all about taking a day and making it an occasion.

Do you have things you save for special?  What was the last "occasion" you created?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dressed for Success

I have been a little absent from my blog of late.  Sorry about that, I put it down to my new job.  I'm having a fantastic time but my brain has been bursting at the seams with all the new knowledge I'm acquiring and it hasn't left much space for creative writing - or creative anything really.  However I'm going to make a concerted effort to get back into the swing of writing and reading everyone else's blogs, I feel out of the loop!

There are many great things about my new job but one thing I've noticed that I really hadn't expected is how excited I've been about the clothes.  It isn't that I have some brilliant uniform or anything it is that over the last few years I've worked in a very casual environment but now I'm in a bustling office full of well dressed women.

When I started working one of the things I was most excited about was the clothes.  Random I know, but after too many years of bottle green uniforms followed by my uni uniform of jeans and a t-shirt the idea of dressing up for work sounded brilliant.

I've been through various fashion phases related to the work I was doing.  At first I wore a lot of suits.  Skirt suits, pant suits, greys, blacks, pinstripes.  There was one fantastic bright red suit - I really loved it because it made me stand out when I went to the numerous events full of men in black and grey.

As my work moved away from lots of formal goverment meetings I moved to a slightly less formal style of dress.  Lots of jackets were still involved but not so matchy matchy.

Then there was the last few years working for a small business where it was rare to have clients visit.  It isn't that I still didn't dress nicely, but the very lovely team of guys I worked with would just never notice.  How do I know?  They didn't notice for a week when I wore ugg boots in winter and there was never a problem if I just felt like wearing jeans to work.  To be honest I probably could have worn a track suit and no one noticed.

Now I'm back in an office environment complete with a team of well dressed women.  Actually the women in this office are quite fantastically dressed and it has me upping my game.  I'm back paying attention to what I wear in the morning, thinking about outfits, accessories and different ways to wear things and I'm LOVING it.

There are many aspects to work.  Lets face it, the primary reason most of us work is for the income, but there is so much more you get out of the experience.  There is the social interaction, the intellectual stimulation, the satisfaction of achieving outcomes.  And so for me the clothes is something I'm really enjoying about my new job.

Do you like dressing for work?  And what are the aspects of work you really enjoy?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day)

Today is Shrove Tuesday - aka pancake day.  It is the Tuesday before Lent begins when you are meant to use up all the sugar, eggs, fat etc that you would be giving up for Lent and what better way to do it than in the form of pancakes.  Those who have read this blog for awhile will know however, that as a non-Christian, for me Shrove Tuesday instead marks the end of my self imposed hot cross bun ban.  From now until Easter I shall be scoffing them at every available opportunity.

But back to pancakes.  S and I haven't been eating many recently.  It may just be that the hot summer weather hasn't encouraged warm breakfasts, but they haven't been on our menu very often.  When we do have them my sour cream and orange pancakes with blackberry sauce are still a favourite.  However when we don't have all the ingredients to hand (which given the shocking blackberry harvest this year will likely be often) I revert to an old recipe based loosely on a Jamie Oliver one.

It is very simple.  Mix together 1 cup of self-raising flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 egg and 1 grated apple or pear.  Pan fry as per normal and eat topped with maple syrup or jam.  Simple, tasty and given the fruit content actually fairly healthy.

Will you be enjoying pancakes today?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

National Multicultural Festival

I often describe Canberra as a hidden city.  When giving advice to new arrivals I tell them that you have to do your research, there is plenty on but it is hidden away.  It isn't like you can just go into the city and find a heap of stuff to do.  However there is one exception to that rule, and that is the National Multicultural Festival.

Over one manic weekend, the city really does come alive in a massive celebration of all the fantastic elements brought to our community by the many cultures present here.  Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people turn out and the whole centre of the city is cordoned off and filled with stages and stalls.  There are bands, dancers, all sorts of festivities but what it is really about is the food and drink.  In fact the colloquial name for it is Beer and Meat on a Stick Day.

S is not a big eater but I was determined to eat my way around the world.  We actually only had one thing on a stick, a fantastic satay from the Mong Chinese stand.  I could have eaten several of these but there were more tasty treats to be had.

Our favourite item of the day was larp from the Laotian stand.  We got the very last serve of the day (much to the annoyance of the woman behind me in the line).  We had never eaten it before and its rather bland appearance belied its fresh, spicy flavours.  We loved it so much that when we got home we quickly started googling recipes.

However it was quite hot, especially with the extra chilli flakes we added so a mango lassi was in order.  Unfortunatly it was a little light on the mango, definitely not the best we have had but the yogurt was still nice and cooling to our chilli filled mouths.

A few years ago I travelled through South America, so the Peruvian street food stand caught my eye.  We had a Peruvian chilli which I really enjoyed, although S didn't rate it.  It was full of corn, beans, potato and meat, I thought it was delicious.  We washed it down with Inca Kola, the ubiquitous Peruvian drink.  If you haven't experienced it, it tastes somewhat like creaming soda, is luminous yellow and has enough sugar and food colouring in it that I was hyperactive for several hours after.

Finally, I had to get myself a chip on a stick. I've got no idea what the multicultural part of this is, but who can go past a whole potato cut into a spiral, stuck on a stick, battered, deep fried and tossed in your choice of salt flavour (we had salt and vinegar).  It was super!

We wandered through the crowded city streets filled with people in national costume, stalls sending out delicious scents and stages where music from all over the world was playing.

In past years S has performed in various salsa routines but this year we just went to cheer on friends.  We saw one of dance teachers giving the crowd a meringue lesson (and nearly falling off the stage) and watched friends perform a rueda (a type of salsa from Cuba that is danced in a circle with a caller calling the moves).

The atmosphere was wonderful.  Sure it is crowded and noisy, but the sights, sounds, smells are brilliant and the crowd is happy and ebullient - probably helped by the beers of a dozen nations or more that are on tap.

I think Canberra has a very white image.  White faced public servants dressed in grey suits.  Certainly if you watch the evening news that is what you see.   The National Multicultural Festival gives a brilliant insight into what a complex and culturally diverse place it really is and I for one do my best to never miss a Beer and Meat on a Stick Day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Last night we spent a fantastic evening at a friend's house playing games.  There were tables playing all sorts of complex, strategic games but I ended up playing Mousetrap with the kids.

For those of you who don't remember the game from their childhood, it involves building a complex mousetrap then being the last mouse uncaught by the trap.  It was hilarious and I was the cause of much of the laughter as I managed to land on the only spot that sends you back to the start 8 times in a row.  In the end a friend had to roll the dice for me to get me out of there.

Later in the evening we sat around, glasses of red wine in hand discussing our dream holiday destinations and plans for the future and I reflected on what a great place my life is at.  When a single night can include rolling on the floor with laughter over a kids game and intellectual discussion over delicious red wine, it is a pretty great night.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Home Grown

I have a fairly tiny garden but I do make it work hard.  All year I grow a range of herbs - rosemary, bay, oregano, thyme and parsley.  I have a lemon tree and in summer I add basil, tomatoes and other veggies to the mix.  This year we are growing zucchinis and eggplant.

We have harvested kilos of tomatoes and quite a few zucchini but our first eggplant is still growing.  Every year at about this time as I admire my bountiful supply of tomatoes and other veggies I'm filled with pride and a short lived sense that I could be self sufficient - short lived because I quickly realise that growing a few plants is not equivellent to growing all you need to live on.

I dream of one day having a huge vegetable patch with a rotating planting system, growing a significant portion of our food each year.  I would really love to grow my own fruit, I know from experience it tastes so much better than what you can buy in the shops.  But in the meantime I continue to feel very proud of the delicious food my tiny garden produces.

Do you grow vegetables? And does ti give you a somewhat overwhelming sense of pride when you get to eat what you have grown?