Monthly Archives: January 2013

A New School Year

Once upon a time, New Year’s Eve was the beginning of the New Year…the turning point…that line in the sand with bad habits clearly in the past and only good habits ahead.

These days, New Year’s Eve is pretty quiet and we just stay home and watch the fireworks on the TV. That is life after kids. I’ve never even tried to get a sitter. After all the pre-Christmas running about followed by actual Christmas, by New Year’s Eve we’re too dead to even think about goals. We just want to see the New Year in.

I also have to confess that I’ve lost the faith or perhaps it’s the naivety to believe that your whole life is going to change just because a new year has begun. Seriously, how much can one life really change overnight???

These days, I also can’t presume that the New Year is going to be any better than the old year. We don’t know what lies ahead and these days I’m feeling a bit more cautious about crossing that line. No one has a crystal ball.

These days I know it easily could get worse…not that I’m a pessimist or anything.

I know I should have faith but God doesn’t promise us a bed of roses either. Just ask Job!

Tomorrow is the beginning of a whole new year for us…a new school year. For me, these days it’s the school year that’s important, not the real year. Our lives are now carved up into term time and holidays.

Tomorrow, a whole new school year begins. Mister will be going into Year 4 and Miss goes into Year 2.

Today, I was trying really hard to make the most of the kids’ last day of school holidays but couldn’t really get it together. It’s rained solid for the last few days and while it’s not flooding here, we haven’t been able to go outside. After a day in the car returning from Byron Bay and then two days indoors with the rain, the kids were ratty. They have been playing Minecraft on their ipods and they play games online together so it’s a social thing but being trapped inside wasn’t doing them any good. While they were playing games, I somehow became sidetracked and worked on my blog. There was talk about making a cake, going to the park and before we knew it, we were off to music lessons. We squeezed the park and the cake making in around dinner but we did it.

The kids were in bed late.

The dishwasher has broken down.

I can’t find Jonathon’s school hat but both kids have shoes.

My daughter’s school uniforms have been sitting on the couch for a couple of days. I was going to buy a new one but hate sewing up hems and was delighted to find a stitched hem when a let her uniform down. I hate sewing hems up on principle…what do these people think mothers are for? I have tried that hemming tape but it fell down last term and I had to resort to my personal school hemming solution…the stapler.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I don’t know whether 2013 is going to be a good year or a bad year at this point. We all hope for good teachers and I have been more than satisfied with the teachers we’ve had so far. We hope our kids keep and make good friends and are happy. Above all else, we hope we are all well and here to enjoy another year next year and that is a lot more tenuous than we would like to believe.

My ambitions for 2013 are quite simple really. I just want to get the kids to school on time with both shoes on their feet, their bags on their backs and hats on heads. If the nits can stay away, I’ll be a happy woman and if I can enjoy a coffee with a friend, I’ll be ecstatic!

I know that doesn’t explain my ongoing battles with my violin and getting the kids to practice their instruments and go to their activities week after week. It doesn’t organise our house, clean their rooms and improve their manners.

Yes, I do demand a lot out of life. I do squeeze it tight and try to get the most out of each and every day and yet somehow I need to allow just enough space for me to stretch out, relax and unwind. I can’t keep going and going and going without breaking down.

I have to admit that I am feeling quite ambivalent about school going back tomorrow. On one hand, I’ll get my days back and I can actually get something done. I will be able to walk out the door and just go anywhere I please without going bananas. But we’ve all had fun in the holidays and while part of me is keen to send them back, I’ll also miss them. I’ll miss all our little adventures and activities and their interesting slant on things. It will just be me and the dog and James, our automatic vacuum cleaner and after school it will be back to the mad rush of after school activities.

I know all this is sounding like some chronic whingefest but tomorrow is all feeling rather daunting. The clock has just hit midnight and I think I’m ready. I feel psyched up to face the morning but there is still this overwhelming sense of pending doom. I’ve forgotten something. Something is going to go wrong, majorly wrong but I just can’t quite work out what.

Hmm. Sleep deprivation has never solved anything so on that note, I’m off to sleep on it.

How do you feel about the start of a new school year?

Postcard from Coffs Harbour

When it comes to visiting Coffs Harbour (or “Coffs” as it is known), I must confess that we are fairly recent converts.

Coffs was little more than a quick food or petrol stop roughly halfway between A (being Sydney) and B (being Byron Bay), although I did stay there overnight on my epic solo journey up to Queensland. However,  I considered Coffs as more of needing a bed to break the journey, not as a destination in itself. You see, when compared to the bright lights of the Gold Coast and the peace and serenity of Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour had a bit of an image problem. Moreover, for me Muriel’s Wedding, an Australian film classic set in the fictional coastal town of Porpoise Pit, didn’t help. Coffs Harbour wasn’t Porpoise Pit and yet…

That has changed. Coffs Harbour has now become a favourite stop-over. If we didn’t have family further up the road, we would definitely stay longer and I have no doubt we’ll be back.  There is so much to see and experience.

The Big Banana

The Big Banana

Although there is so much natural beauty in and around Coffs Harbour, Coffs Harbour is probably best-known for the Big Banana This is a big, smiling yellow banana perched beside the Pacific Highway.

For some bizarre and unexplained reason, Australian tourist towns have had a passion for big things and seem to compete with each other for the kitchiest objets d’embarrassment. I mean these things have an incredible cringe factor…a bit like having Dame Edna Everage as our national ambassador.

We have stopped off at the Big Banana a few times and the kids both peer out the window looking for it whenever we drive past. Even I feel a bit of childish excitement when I see it. Although these days, there’s also a sense of relief. The Pacific Highway seems to stretch on forever and the Big Banana now means that we’re more than half-way to Byron Bay, our usual holiday destination.

However, we didn’t stop at the Big Banana on this visit.

Seal Kiss

Seal Kiss

Probably the next best known tourist spot in Coffs Harbour is the Pet Porpoise Pool It is absolutely fabulous and we went there last January on our first overnight stay in Coffs Harbour. We had such a fabulous time being able to get up close to the dolphins and seals without the huge holiday crows you get at Sea World on the Gold Coast. This was personal, intimate and we weren’t jammed into a sardine tin supposedly “having fun”. I would really recommend going.

I was very pleased with this photo after capturing many a empty splash, missing the moment completely!

I was very pleased with this photo after capturing many a empty splash, missing the moment completely!

But we didn’t go there on this trip either. We wanted to do something different.


We booked into budget accommodation at the Clog Barn. We have been driving past the Clog Barn forever but have never stopped off before.

Wearing clogs in Coffs Harbour

Wearing clogs in Coffs Harbour

I was tempted to buy a pair of clogs yet succumbed to the beautiful blue and white Delft China and bought a cow milk jug and an ornament with a boy and girl kissing. It was great to have a genuine piece of Holland from Coffs Harbour. I couldn’t afford or carry around this sort of thing when I was backpacking through Amsterdam over 20 years ago.


The proprietor was very friendly and suggested we go to the Fisherman’s Co-op for dinner (which was excellent by the way).

One thing I really like about travelling is that you find these little spots where you experience something unexpected, breathtaking that may not be completely off the tourist track but is at least a little bit lateral.

That was Mutton bird Island.

Muttonbird Island is attached to the mainland and to get there, you simply go to the Jetty at Coffs Harbour and follow the walk across the breakwall.


From a distance, it’s hard to believe this little patch of ground is the summer host to over 20,000 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, or Mutton Birds. It looked almost uninhabited when we were there aside from a few walkers and joggers. However, a closer inspection of the ground beside the walking track revealed a series of holes or nests and very definite ankle-spraining territory.

Climbing up the hill.

Climbing up the hill.

What struck me most about Mutton Bird Island, however, was the steep hill. With my muscle disease, I usually can’t manage steep but I was feeling uncharacteristically energetic and took up the challenge.

shearwater chick

shearwater chick

We started walking up the hill. About halfway up, Mister calls out: “I’ve found a chick”. I was pretty impressed because these chicks live at the back of small burrows and they aren’t the easiest things to find. We even managed a photograph!

We kept walking up the hill. We still hadn’t actually seen a Shearwater at this point or even heard the much anticipated cacophony but the sunset was starting to look absolutely breathtaking.

Sunset Viewed from Mutton Bird Island

Sunset Viewed from Mutton Bird Island

Being a keen photographer, I have seen and photographed many sunsets, especially as I’m not much of an early bird and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen the sunrise. This sunset was pure orange with undulating volcanic hills in the background. I took so many photos that my trigger finger must have been close to getting RSI (repetitive strain injury). I felt such peace and serenity absorbing this incredibly beautiful sunset that it somehow became a part of me, somehow absorbed into my soul.

Ferris wheel at Coffs Harbour

Ferris wheel at Coffs Harbour

Walking back, we couldn’t miss the lights of the Ferris wheel back in town. Even though it was getting quite late, we had to have a turn. My inner child remembered riding the Ferris wheel year after year after year at the Royal Sydney Easter Show and there was this magnetic attraction. It wasn’t cheap and we baulked at the price but relented. I’m so glad we did because there is something so special and timeless about the Ferris wheel that takes you back to your childhood and a sense that you never really want to grow up.

Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel

The view across the fairground was dazzling. Our daughter, who has quite a fear of heights, was pleased we’d dragged her along and also loved the view.

The View from the Ferris wheel.

The View from the Ferris wheel.

After succumbing to the Ferris wheel, the kids also went on a pony ride.

The swimming pool at the Clog Barn

The swimming pool at the Clog Barn

The beaches around Coffs Harbour are very beautiful but we didn’t get there on this trip. Instead, the kids were really looking forward to swimming in the pool back at the Clog Barn. That suited me just fine. The sand could stay at the beach. Swimming in the pool also opened up the opportunity for me to play rough and tumble games with the kids where the water helped to support their weight. Mister is often reluctant to practice his swimming but I challenged him to some races and we both got moving. I benefitted from a few laps myself. Strangely, Miss was feeling quite scared of the water despite years of swimming lessons so it was great to encourage her in and build up some confidence as well.

Model of Anne Frank's House

Model of Anne Frank’s House

After a swim, it was time to pack up and leave but we visited the miniature Dutch village before we left. This was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I flew into Amsterdam back in 1992 on my epic backpacking holiday after I finished university and spent a week there. The village even includes a model of the Anne Frank House. There was also a garden railway. Above all else, I was really struck by the friendly, chatty ambience. It was a lovely place to stop off.

Posing in front of a model of Gouda Town Hall.

Posing in front of a model of Gouda Town Hall.

Before we leave Coffs Harbour, I’ll just mention another popular spot we explored on our last visit.

Close encounter with a butterly.

Close encounter with a butterfly.

Mister and the Butterfly

Mister and the Butterfly

That was Butterfly House I’m not quite a butterfly fanatic but I am an enthusiast and it was amazing to experience so many butterflies at close range. I From memory, I had been a bit disappointed with the photos, however, when I finally found them (somehow they had been completely misfiled) I was pleasantly surprised. They were actually very good. I’d definitely recommend a visit and I would like to go back. Being surrounded by so many butterflies, we were in paradise.

Miss with a butterfly

Miss with a butterfly

From Coffs Harbour, we drove up North to Brisbane.

Our next postcard will come from the Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich.

PS It seems we timed our trip well. We enjoyed bright sunny days in Coffs Harbour well before the floods.

Taking the Road Most Travelled… the Pacific Highway.

Being beyond the flow, I usually take the road less travelled. However, when January comes round each year, our family is usually on the road most travelled…the Pacific Highway.  Just like birds fly south for the Northern Winter, we head North for the Australian summer chasing the sun and often the surf.

The long summer holidays can be a bit difficult for us with the kids and so Geoff usually takes time off work and we go to visit family near Byron Bay, on the Gold Coast and onto Brisbane and Ipswich.

Before I push the pedal to the metal and get started on a series of holiday snapshots, here’s a bit of road-building history.

Location Pacific Hwy.svg


The Pacific Highway is 960 kilometres long and connects Sydney and Brisbane and was completed in 1958. While the Pacific Highway has evolved from what seems like a one-lane goat track and now has stretches of freeway and numerous by-passes, there are still plenty of cracks in the bitumen. You see, the Pacific Highway might lead to paradise but it certainly isn’t the Yellow Brick Road. It still has hundreds of kilometres of single-lane road and it has a dreadful accident record.

Yet, the Pacific Highway is also a bit exciting. It has always meant holidays for me.

My earliest memories of the Pacific Highway were driving up to Newcastle in the old Morris Minor to visit my grandparents. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting as traffic stopped while they blasted through the Sydney Sandstone to build the toll road. I later remember stopping to pay the toll just North of Hornsby. Subsequent trips in the HR Holden were less eventful although my brother and I held some fierce battles in the back seat. This was long before the days of in-car DVD players or electronic games. We didn’t even have air-conditioning.  I’m not sure if we even had a radio but Dad used to sing We’re off to See the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma and the  Jamaican Farewell. I think all dads have their quirks.

Anyway, perhaps my favourite holiday of all time was when I drove solo from Sydney as far North as Maroochydore in my not so stylish Mitsubishi Colt… my first car. It took me at least a week to reach Brisbane as I stayed in Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay.  I then stayed with my grandparents in Ipswich and visited friends in Maroochydore. I particularly loved staying at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and it was still in the day when Kombis with surfboards on top were still lined up around the beach and Byron Bay was still a hippy paradise. I made a new friend and we had our Thelma and Louise experience heading out to Nimbin and visiting my favourite and very inspirational primary school teacher. He showed us round the local Steiner school and I still remember all the butterflies out there. It was a magical place and I wasn’t quite the same when I went back to work in the Sydney CBD in my poky little office with no windows.

That was the life of a single Rowena…poet, writer, photographer and dreamer.

My husband has his own memories of travelling along the great Pacific Highway…especially in his first car the legendary Datsun 120Y. The 120Y might have been a fairly ordinary, small car at the budget end of the market but in our household it’s legendary. Geoff took the 120Y on an outback adventure covering 4500 KM in just two weeks and even made it out to Birdsville and back. That is truly in the outback or as we Aussies like to put it “out the back of whoop whoop”.

Anyway, Geoff was driving up North on the Pacific Highway in the legendary 120Y. He’d reached Macksville, which is just over halfway to Byron Bay, when he was turning a corner and felt the back end of the car steering all by itself. For those of you like me who aren’t mechanically minded, this was serious. Geoff pulled over and discovered that the wheel was only attached by one wheel nut, instead of four and was about to fall off. He was lucky not to have a serious accident. He had had the tyres replaced before the trip and the mechanic hadn’t tightened the wheel nuts properly.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

My first trip up North with Geoff in the Austin-Healy Sprite was also memorable. Geoff was taking me up to meet his Mum for the first time. This isn’t so much a story of the Pacific Highway as we were diverted due to flood waters at the end of the freeway and had to take the New England Highway. We were driving over the Tenterfield Ranges after dark through pouring rain when the car kept getting caught in potholes ripping the exhaust pipe off. Reapplying the exhaust pipe in the dark and in the rain was great fun especially as it was very easy to get burnt. I remember a lot of stop start driving waiting for the car to cool down and plenty of frustration. I also remember wearing a raincoat in the car. For some strange reason, historic British cars aren’t that watertight. While I was discussing the romance or otherwise of our first long trip together in the Sprite, Geoff implied that I’d travelled in relative comfort. The previous trip up North, he had worn his wet weather motorbike gear because he didn’t actually own a roof for the Sprite. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds because you didn’t get wet driving over 80 KPH but there are a lot of 60 zones between here and Byron Bay.

There’s obviously a lot they don’t tell about these cute little sports’ cars.

Our trips up North have certainly changed since we had the kids. When they were babies, we seemed to stop for eternity breastfeeding at McDonalds, which was great for nappy changing as well. As the kids have grown bigger, there’s the attraction of the McDonalds playgrounds. We now try to break things up a bit and eat packed sandwiches or stop at some local food spots. We are very fond of a bakery in Bulladelah. They have the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever tasted.

These days, even I am starting to dream of an A to B drive straight to Byron Bay. Actually, I’d just like to click my fingers and magically be there. After all, it’s a ten hour drive from the Central Coast to Byron Bay and about 13 hours to Brisbane. That’s a lot of games of I Spy.

Stay tuned for a series of postcards from our trip starting out with a Postcard from Coffs Harbour.

Do you have any stories about travelling along the Pacific Highway or another road trip?

Surviving the Inferno…Sydney’s summer heatwave.

We have survived yesterday’s heatwave. There wasn’t any smoke or even a fire near us and yet the sky was a blazing inferno. We were down in Sydney and when I stepped foot outside beyond the air-conditioning, my eyeballs were burning. It was that hot! Geoff said it was like that rush of hot air when you open the oven door. At just under 43 degrees, it was obscenely hot even by Australian summer standards and we’re used to the heat!

As the day unfolded and the place began to heat up, the intensity mounted. Our local radio station was running a phone-in about whether you could actually fry an egg on your car bonnet. I found out today that a number of our local shops had closed. We live in a tourist area so when shops close during the holiday season, you know it’s serious!! One of my friends washed her sheets and they dried almost instantly but they were still hot when she was trying to get to sleep.

Ideally, we would have spent the day at home in the lounge room with the air-conditioner blasting away. However, as luck would have it, I was booked in for my regular blood transfusion and I also had the kids in tow. We had been planning to catch the train down to Sydney which would have had us walking from the station at midday (we have a saying about mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun). So we changed plans and I took the kids to the air-conditioned shopping Mecca of Macquarie Centre before Mum could drive me down. While this was a great way to beat the heatwave, the kids were completely over-stimulated and wanted to buy the place out. I bought us some crayons to do some more crayon art and I did have to wonder whether the hairdryer would even be necessary. With this kind of heat, the crayons could melt onto the canvas all by themselves! 

My patience with the kids definitely melted but that’s another story…

In a past life, I used to live in Geraldton, in Western Australia. I have survived 46 degree heat over there and that was hot! Hot! Hot!!!! If I could survive Geraldton, I figured I could survive a relatively minor Sydney heatwave. I could survive this and I was somewhat right. The thing about the West Australian heat is that they have this phenomenon known locally as the Fremantle Doctor. It’s a very strong, cool wind that turns up like clockwork almost every afternoon and gets rid of the heat. That means you can usually get to sleep.

Not so with a Sydney heatwave. The heat sometimes just sits and waits, refusing to budge. At midnight last night, it was still 31 degrees and when I put the dog outside the heat was quite disturbing. We get quite a few bushfires around here and we’ve had some major fires under similar conditions. I was concerned and part of me was on alert. Not quite red alert because we don’t live in the bush but there’s a lot of National Park around here and fires are a community concern. I am also mindful of communities around Australia that are currently fighting real fires and there have been serious losses. In Tasmania, around 100 people are currently unaccounted for. My main concern was tossing and turning in bed feeling like a pig on a spit roast and I’ll survive.

Then somewhere in the middle of the darkness, I could hear something rattling and the sound of deep breathing. The cool change had finally arrived.

I could have sung the Alleluia Chorus!!!

Blue skies and sunny days can be rather over-rated.

There’s something to be said for grey skies…


Explorations with Google.

When considering great explorers, I usually think of intrepid adventurers who have “discovered” new continents, crossed frontiers and ventured into wild, uncharted places on this planet. People like Christopher Columbus, Captain Cook, Sir Edmund Hillary as well as adventurers like Dick Smith and Jessica Watson…  the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Yet, thinkers are also great explorers and we also uncover new territory. Or, as is often the case, we build bridges across distinct islands and create new nations of thought.

Keats expressed such intellectual discovery beautifully in On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer:

…Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken…

I don’t know if anyone else would consider me a great thinker. I’m a blogger and a very low-ranking blogger at that. Yet, I also explore foreign territory in my blogs and general writing, attempting to create new islands of thought or alternative ways of doing things.

Google has become an integral part of this process.

Google not only facilitates my research. It also takes me off on fresh adventures. You know how it is. You Google one thing and something else shows up in the search results and you end up pursuing a completely different line of thought.  Before you know it, you are a few mental light years away from where you started out and it’s all very, very exciting stuff! You’re mind is on fire!

Although it might be online, isn’t this is what learning is all about… going somewhere new and investigating, asking questions and sussing everything out? After all, isn’t this how so many of history’s greatest discoveries were made… by seemingly wandering off on a tangent, getting lost and then suddenly the light bulb goes off? Or, perhaps by putting a few random thoughts together creating something new and world-changing?

At the very least, Google allows you to check something out and reach your own conclusions.

Only yesterday, someone was telling me about a huge island of plastic rubbish in the Pacific Ocean. Now, I consider myself fairly well read with a keen interest in the environment but I had never heard of this island before. Thanks to Google, I was able to come home and not only read about it but I could even watch a documentary online. This thing (and believe me it really does sound like a “thing”) is called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or the “trash vortex” and while you can’t really spot it on Google maps, it is located in an area called the “North Pacific gyre” – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Due to these ocean currents, it seems that plastic rubbish pools here. As with most things scientific, there is considerable debate about this so-called island, which is also described perhaps more accurately as a plastic “soup”.  Thanks to Google, I was able to read numerous opinions on the subject and formulate a reasonably well-informed opinion without a science degree or PhD, all from the comfort of my own home.

Yesterday, thanks to Google, I was a budding “scientist”. Today, I was in much more familiar territory…poetry.

I recently bought some antique sheet music on eBay. One of the pieces was called My Heart is a Silent Violin. I noticed that the words were actually a poem by Eric Von der Goltz JR. It is a very romantic piece and being a lover of all things violin at the moment, I Googled the poem. Halfway down the list, there was a link to The Old Violin – The Touch of the Masters Hand . The link mentioned that it had been his late father’s favourite poem. As a poet and lover of poetry, I was intrigued about what made this particular poem, out of all the millions of poems which have ever been written, that one in a million million… so I clicked through.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was very moved by this poem, which talked about how an old violin was being auctioned. At first, the auctioneer was struggling to get more than a couple of dollars for it. However, a master violinist stepped up and played the violin beautifully and suddenly the price jumped up into the thousands. It is a religious poem and God is the Master who appreciates and brings out the best in us. However, I also saw an application in how we treat people who are different, or at least different from us and often dismiss them.

We all deserve to be given a chance to shine with our own unique beauty.

The humble violinist

The humble violinist

As a violinist and yes I know I’m only a beginner violinist but a violinist is a violinist…I also viewed this poem from the perspective of the player, the violinist and not just the violin.

Being so moved by the poem, I wanted to find out more about the poem and its author, Myra Brooks Welsh.

Back to Google.

Yet again, Google didn’t disappoint. I found a brief biography of Myra Brooks Welsh written by Lilly Walters, who has her own story of triumphing over adversity. Lilly Walters, whose story appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul 2nd Helpings, was inspired by the poem after she lost most of her hand in a farming accident as a child. Her mother was terribly distraught at the time but she was inspired to help her daughter learn how to type and Lilly went on to share these strategies with others. You can read Lilly’s story here:

Science, poetry and then Google took me into the world of cricket…an exceptionally foreign land!

We have been watching the Sydney Cricket Test or should I say we’ve had it on in the background today. It’s a very hot, very sunny languid day outside and we are pretty much huddled indoors. We are having a day of rest, a non-day or what is often referred to as a pyjama day, although we have managed to get dressed. I must also say that the dog is walking around looking quite pleased that he’s lost his fur coat and has been spotted actually lying in the sun at times.

Anyway, the Cricket Show had been interviewing cricket legend and commentator Richie Benaud. I am not into cricket at all. In fact, I have historically detested watching the cricket in the way that only a big sister with an obsessed little brother could. Wars were fought not over who could control the remote but over who could keep hold of the on and off switch as well as the dial which manually changed the channels. It was such a different era!!

Watching Richie Benaud doing the cricket these days is like seeing a history in motion. Born in 1930, he’s now 82 years old and he actually retired from playing cricket way back in 1964, five years before I was even born! He has personally experienced such a vast spread of cricket history that even I find him interesting, just like I enjoyed hearing my grandparents talk about the olden days.

I have grown up these days and while I don’t watch the cricket myself, I no longer mind or even notice when it’s switched on and Geoff will often have it playing in the background at home. To me, cricket is still about Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Kim Hughes and the West Indies were the ones to beat. Lillee retired in 1984 (Thanks again, Google!) That gives you some idea of just how long it’s been since I’ve watched the cricket!!

Back to Richie Benaud. Our son watches a bit of cricket but when I mentioned Richie Benaud, he hadn’t heard of him. Being a modern parent, I immediately looked up Google and was able to click on images and it brought up an entire gallery of portraits of a very young, muscular Benaud directly alongside his somewhat shrunken but ever so endearing, elderly self. There was even one of elderly Benaud checking out a much younger statue of himself:

Harrods Bear Christmas 2001 in our daughter's pram

Harrods’ Bear Christmas 2001 in our daughter’s pram

I thought I had done just about enough googling when our daughter wandered in clutching what she described as her “winter bear”. Winter Bear is actually a 2001 Harrods’ Christmas Bear. Harrods has been producing Christmas bears since 1986 and each bear comes with “Harrods” stitched in gold on its paw along with the year. I have to admit that it’s looking very overdressed in its plush velvet snow coat in a sweltering Australian summer  (bring on the Speedos!)

Harrods 2001

Harrods 2001

I took this opportunity to introduce my daughter to Mecca of retail therapy and we googled Harrods. I have to admit that the website itself was a bit disappointing but I found this great blog post with a link to their annual Christmas parade:

So thanks to Google, I’ve covered quite a lot of intellectual territory in only a couple of days.

Like anything, Google isn’t perfect and like that vortex in the Pacific, there’s a lot of junk floating around in there. This might lead me into a whole new post about how we deal with information overload in contemporary world and the need for discernment. Just like any other source, we need to challenge and question what we find in Google.

My husband also mentioned another teeny little problem with Google… Internet Distraction, which I, of course, know nothing about!

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever

Acute cyberchondria

Acute cyberchondria

There is also its evil twin, cyberchondria, which is well and truly fed by Google.

However, just a word of warning! Not all cyberchondria turns out to be chondria after all. Sometimes, all those dreadful imaginings actually do turn out to be real and when they do, we can’t blame Google.

Other times, somebody might just want a day off school!

So I guess Google is just like everything else.

It’s not perfect!

What are your thoughts about Google?

xx Rowena

Expressing Myself… and my struggle to blog about it!

This is a reverse post. It’s actually my third attempt to write about my foray into crayon art. Note that it’s now Friday 4th January and I’ve been trying to write this post ever since Boxing Day!

Thursday 3rd January, 2013

I'd do anything for a quiet cup of tea and a chance to catch up on my blog!

I’d do anything for a quiet cup of tea and a chance to catch up on my blog!

Trying to get anything done during school holidays is mission impossible.

I don’t know whether you can appreciate just how hard it is to string a row of thoughts together when your kids are on the loose at home. I know some people can actually work from home quite successfully during the school holidays but I’m having trouble breathing, let alone managing something more complex. The kids are either under foot or up to mischief. I seemingly can’t turn my back without some disastrous mess erupting, seemingly out of nowhere.

We have also been attending Beach Mission at a local school and haven’t been home much. Consequently, my blog, my violin and the house are looking rather neglected. I miss my blog and my violin dearly however, when it comes to the house, neglect can be a blessing. With any luck, it might stay exactly how it is. As I’m sure you know yourself, school holidays aren’t kind on homes and I have no delusions about the house getting any better before it gets worse…or even self-destructs!!

So here I am and all I want to do is write a brief post about doing crayon art we did way back on Boxing Day, choose a couple of photos and click on the publish button. Surely, it shouldn’t be this difficult?!!

Hold that thought.

The dog is now barking ferociously at something out the front. I am in the office overlooking the backyard and the kids are missing despite the television being on. (Isn’t the TV supposed to be the ultimate babysitter?? My kids also received iPods for Christmas and they’re also supposed to be like a drug but they’re not working and I feel like taking them back to the shop in disgust. My kids can barely sit still.) Mr was last seen heading out the back door with a ball of wool he was tying around the garden furniture, around the rose bush and I now suspect he has absconded somewhere down the street.

I’ll be back…

Amelia creates a spider's web. Daddy beware!

Amelia creates a spider’s web. Daddy beware!

I actually found Miss out the front trying red wool around magnolia tree, the letterbox and around and around the trampoline, recreating a scene out of Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones. I’m just hoping Daddy doesn’t get stuck when he arrives home from work. He certainly doesn’t like getting caught up in their webs!

Rewind, rewind, rewind…Boxing Day…crayon art…

After being at home with the kids for only half the day, I am feeling sleepy, very, very sleepy!!!!!

Wednesday 2nd January, 2013

I know I probably shouldn’t be blogging in the middle of the day, especially when we are having guests for dinner tonight and there are layers and layers of clutter stacked up on just about every flat surface in the house (chairs, tables, floors) but I just needed to chill out and connect with someone on my side and have a metaphorical cup of coffee. After all, isn’t that what blogging is all about? Connection?!! I know I should be connecting with my kids but my daughter in particular is malfunctioning today. She can’t seem to listen at all. This morning when I asked her what her ears were for, she replied: “earrings” so you can understand what kind of day I’m having!!

But I am persistent…determined. I am going to write about crayon art even if it kills me!

Boxing Day

I don’t know what Boxing Day was traditionally for but when I was growing up, Boxing Day was always a day of complete and total rest. We never went anywhere or saw anyone and Dad quite literally locked the doors and barred the windows.  We are perpetuating this tradition. After all the pre-Christmas “excitement”, we just needed to stop!! Make that a full stop!!

Somehow, I had managed to resuscitate sufficiently by mid-afternoon to embark on some crayon art.

There are plenty of sites which outline how to do crayon art so this isn’t going to be a how-to guide. I just wanted to share my own experience because I had so much fun and the results, at least as far as I am concerned, were quite spectacular without being too tricky.

Getting started.

Getting started.

Essentially, you glue or position wax crayons onto a canvas and blast away with your hairdryer to melt the wax. I could only buy jumbo kindergarten crayons at our local shops, which took forever to melt and had a very limited colour selection but they still worked pretty well. I couldn’t find my glue gun. Actually, I didn’t even know where to look for it so I made do and balanced the crayons on the canvas. This was a bit tricky but once the wax started to melt, the crayons stayed in place.

Molten Lava

Molten Lava

I loved, loved, loved blasting away at the crayons with the hairdryer and watching the colours melt away, running along in tiny streams and crosscurrents down the canvas. It was so cathartic!! You could put a lot of energy into it the same way I’ve hacked into a garden hedge and found such release.

Pablo Picasso said “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” and I felt so many dusty layers simply disappear and vanish as I blasted away at those crayons. All my inhibitions were gone and I was set free! I could truly express myself and I didn’t need to be a creative genius. I just had to be me!

By the way, while I was working on our masterpiece, I was reminded of the wax “sculptures” they used to do on wine bottles back in the 1970s. You melted different coloured candles and the wax built up layer up on layer building colourful and intriguing stalagmites. They were so much fun and way cool! Do you remember them at all? Mum and Dad had one which had all sorts of rainbow colours all over the bottle. I loved it!

Anyway, as much as I loved crayon art, I am a little unsure of where it lies on the “artistic spectrum”. Does it actually rate as real, serious art or is it for kids and people who can’t do anything “better”? You often hear people putting down modern art with comments like “a kid could do that” and that’s supposed to be the ultimate artistic put down. Sure kids can do crayon  art but do they get the same results? Moreover, some kids are naturally much better at art than many adults so kids’ art should also be appreciated for what it is and not automatically dismissed or prejudiced either.

I enjoyed this quote from Picasso:

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: the sky, from the Earth. From a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web…Rowena has added melted crayons to the list!

Crayon art with the kids.

Crayon art with the kids.

My kids did “help me” a little with my creation, although it was my project. They just had a few token blasts with the hairdryer to feel involved. Like any artwork, I had to select my colours. Put them into position and then direct how the wax travelled along the canvas. I turned the canvas backwards and forwards to mix the colours and I also manipulated the wax by moving soggy, waxy lumps of molten crayons around the canvas to create balance.

My initial concept had been  to have rainbow colours streaming down the canvas. However, one half of the crayons looked fabulous with bright vibrant reds, orange yellows and a pink for dramatic effect, while the other end of the “rainbow” looked very drab with dark green, navy blue and not the bright vibrant colour variations I prefer. Hence, I tilted the canvas and mixed the colours. I also added some white crayons. I like mixing white in with my colours and I thought it would look interesting.

So while the concept of melting crayons onto a canvas sounds simple enough, there is sufficient scope to express your artistic talents and produce your own legitimate masterpiece, which just happens to be made of wax instead of oils.

City Reflections.

City Reflections.

I was very pleased with the results and I’m actually quite proud of our “painting”. We have an up version which is titled City Reflections. It looks a bit like high rises reflected onto the harbour. Geoff suggested turning it around and we called our down version Fireworks. With all the splatters of colours and dripping wax, it really does resemble fireworks. The more I look at it, especially after watching the amazing fireworks over Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve, the more I prefer the upside down version.

As much as I am promoting crayon art as a serious artistic endeavour, it also offers those who perhaps feel artistically challenged, to be creative. You don’t need to be able to draw, manage a paint brush or mix the colours well. You can just blast away at those crayons and watch the colours ooze all over the canvas and let yourself go. Your artwork doesn’t need to look like anything in particular, be realistic or even pretty. It just is. You can just have fun for the sake of having fun!

As Vincent Van Gogh said:

 If you hear a voice within you say `you can not paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. (and that doesn’t need to be with a brush!)

The kids also loved it and were in raptures about the results. “Mummy, you’re an artist!” There was certainly no doubt in their minds although they haven’t really been able to clarify what they actually liked about it. My daughter just mumbled something about the hairdryer and the crayons. By the way, this activity is unsuitable for young children and requires close adult involvement.

Anyway, I encourage you to have a whirl at crayon art for yourself. You never know. You might just unleash some lost inner artist and find yourself.

By the way, hope you had a Merry Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

xx Rowena

Zoomed in.

Zoomed in.