Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Creme Caramel Queen

This week I finally made Creme Caramel for the very first time and I’m so proud of myself. While this might be a seemingly simple dessert to make, I had baggage. My Mum was the Creme Caramel Queen and I had towering high heels to fill. Of course, this fueled my usual fears of “disaster” and the cream sat in the fridge for a week before I could muster the courage to get started.

(Note to self: add “fear of making mistakes” to previous post!)

When I was was a child, my mother used to make Creme Caramel for dinner parties. I remember peering up as she carefully tipped the Creme Caramel with its scrumptious golden crown onto the plate. It was her piece de resistance!

Then, being a fiendish sugar-holic, I’d nab the dish to salvage the crunchy toffee off the bottom with a knife. The next morning, my brother and I would find our left over slithers in the fridge. The scarcity just added to its glory. With it’s caramalised, sugary sweetness, it was heavenly divine.

My mother’s Creme Caramel was an absolute treat!

Given how much I love cooking and how much I loved that precious Creme Caramel, you’re probably surprised that I’ve never made it before…especially as I stubbornly refuse to eat those ghastly supermarket frauds which could never measure up.

I’m sure I did my usual thing of turning a mole hill into a mountain and besdies, watching Mum make it as a child, there seemed to be some kind of alchemy involved. Of course, I forgot that these were the impressions of a 10 year old and I’ve now grown up. I can cook.

What spurred me into action was that my kids like the supermarket version and had no idea how to make a real Creme Caramel.  Indeed, when I explained how it was made, it was just like telling a kid that milk comes from real cows and wasn’t made in a carton! I was flabbergasted and decided that making Creme Caramel at home was about to become an important part of their education. After all, how could I deprive them of the joy of chiselling the toffee stright off the bottom of the dish? That’d be absolutely unforgivable!

So, I dug a recipe out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, which I believe is Mum’s recipe, and it was nowhere near as hard to make as I’d thought. Just toffee and custard baked in a water bath.

Easy peasy.

Nothing to fear.

That was until I had to convert  pints into millilitres, which is never an easy translation.

Miss helping.

Miss helping.

Then, disaster struck!

Perhaps, I was worrying too much about the measurements or was it my daughter’s chatter  or perhaps it was just me being me, which completely mucked it up. Instead of putting the milk and cream in the saucepan, I’d thrown them in with the eggs. Now, my precious first attempt had just become dog food.

Unperturbed, I read the recipe a few more times and without further dramas, it went into the oven.

This is when further doubts started to surface, just like air bubbles in the gurgling toffee.

How long should it stay in the oven? I couldn’t find small ramekins and so I was making mine in a larger dish, just like Mum. However, the recipe didn’t offer a suitable cooking time, leaving it up to guesswork or Google. This was when I dug up an article from The Guardian about How to Make the Perfect Creme Caramel. It was a bit late now that it was already in the oven but it did mention that my Monster Creme Caramel needed to cook for 1.5 hours. It also warned not to trust the timing and to “make sure it really does have a “slight tremble” in the centre, rather than a definite wobble, before you take it out of the oven.”

I wondered how  much wobble was ideal. I assumed more of a jogging along the beach kind of wobble than a lot of bounce or horror of horrors… sag!

Of course, I couldn’t over-cook it either and on this front it mentioned “rubber”. Ouch!

I had no idea that Creme Caramel could bounce. Indeed, I’d never seen Mum’s Creme Caramel bounce around the tennis court or being chased by the dog. Mine wasn’t about to start bouncing either. As I said, just a “wobble”.

I was going to have to watch that oven like a hawk and somehow pick exactly the right wobble without opening the door a thousand times and killing it altogether!

I know I’d heard of people catching cyberchondria by looking up medical conditions online but I didn’t realise it affected your cooking as well. In the past your dish either rose or it flopped but now there’s so much advice,  that I’ve opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of worries. Now, I was starting to feel like that parent with a newborn feeling completely confused, overwhelmed and wanting to head for the hills.

How could something so simple suddenly become so fraught with danger?

I didn’t know but but my nightmeres weren’t over yet!

I still had to extricate our precious Creme Caramel from the dish.

Of course, I don’t remember Mum’s Creme Caramel ever getting stuck but she was the Creme Caramel Queen. I was just the poor apprentice. She had Creme Caramel running through her veins… the same way she knew how to make the perfect, inimitable sponge.

This isn’t something you simply inherit in your DNA. It’s a gift.

So there I was. After hoping it had the right amount of wobble, I took my first ever, precious Creme Caramel out of the oven and transferred it to the fridge for a good night’s sleep.

Since I’m not one of those TV Cooking demonstrators who always have the next stage “prepared earlier”, we’ll fast forward 24 hours. I’ve now taken the Creme Caramel out of the fridge and with the two kids pestering me to dish it up, the big moment had finally arrived.

Would I, the Creme Caramel Apprentice, be able to get this thing out without it blowing up?

I was about to find out.

The recipe said to cut around the edge with a thin knife.

This I did.

I carefully turned the dish upside down on the plate but didn’t push the matter too aggressively on my first attempt in case disaster struck.

I held my breath and all but said a prayer as I turned the dish upside down, sacrificing my Creme Caramel to the Lord of the Great White Plate.

Humph. Nothing happened. It was stuck.

A huge anti-climax, my heart started to race a little faster. Indeed, the accelerator was flat to the floor. How was I going to get this thing out without destroying it completely?

“Think, Rowena. Think”.

It still wasn’t time to go in with the jack hammer yet but tougher measures were required. No more kid gloves but just enough force to give it a shove. Well, more of a nudge….this time with a broad knife. It wasn’t quite the thin knife the recipe recommended but it could not so subtlely get underneath the custard and lever it out. This is where art was meeting science and where salvaging cakes out of stubborn cake tins finally paid off. I knew exactly how to extract this beast and by jove, I did it!

Our Creme Caramel had landed!

A slice of heaven.

A slice of heaven.

Of course, I was expecting animated “oohs and aahs” from the family…especially as the kids had being eyeing off that caramel sauce like would-be thieves.

I was in for a very rude shock.

Indeed, I’d less complaints when I last dished broccoli for dinner.

I even heard a “yuck”.

Neither of the kids liked the Creme Caramel and wouldn’t eat it. Indeed, they even had the gall to say they preferred the supermarket version.

Our daughter even said it was “like cheese”.

That was like slapping me in straight in the face with a fly swat and boy did it hurt!

How dare they! Yet, I wasn’t surprised. They’re both incredibly fussy and usually drink Soy milk and don’t like dairy. My son is also lactose intolerant so it was probably a good thing.

So, unlike my childhood where I was lucky to procure my precious little slither, Geoff and I will now be feasting on Creme Caramel for a few days.

Things could be worse…

Photoshopped: my Creme Caramel was turned into a Green Slime Monster. No respect!

Photoshopped: my Creme Caramel was turned into a Green Slime Monster. No respect!

Meanwhile just to top off her total lack of respect for my magnificent Creme Caramel, Miss did this on photoshop: Attack of the Killer Slime Monster.

No respect!

Have you ever tried to make Creme Caramel?

xx Rowena

My Greatest Fear: The Proust Questionnaire Continued.

To be perfectly honest, asking me to narrow down my swag of fears to my one, greatest fear was rather challenging.

Indeed, I even had to include myself on the list.

I understand that this might seem the ultimate in paranoia but if you were me, you’d also be afraid.

Make that very, very afraid.

Who hasn't shot themselves in the foot?!!

Who hasn’t shot themselves in the foot?!!

However, before you shoot me down in flames for delusional, low-self-esteemed thinking, who isn’t afraid of themselves…even just a little bit? After all, who hasn’t shot themselves in the foot often enough to know that you can be your own worst enemy?!! Certainly for me, this is no figure of speech or exaggeration but the hard core truth. My feet look like Swiss cheese, covered in bullet holes but I’m still smiling. If you can’t laugh at yourself, that’s when you really need to be afraid.

Anyway, aside from being incredibly afraid of myself, after much peering through the microscope over the last week, I’ve finally identified my greatest fear of all.

A family photo Mother's Day 2007...6 months before my diagnosis.

A family photo Mother’s Day 2007…6 months before my diagnosis.

That is that my children or those close to me will undergo extreme suffering.

As much as I thought death would top my list, in actual fact, it doesn’t. While dying certainly scares me and at times absolutely terrifies the begeebers out of me, extended anguish seems so much worse.  As much as we know life has it’s challenges and these lead to growth, there are what we would all consider extremes which we wouldn’t wish on anybody, especially our nearest and dearest. That doesn’t mean that I support euthanasia but what I’m saying is there are some things worse than death.

Our family at Yoda celebrating my birthday in July, 2014

Our family at Yoda celebrating my birthday in July, 2014

At the same time, I am terribly concerned about dying before my children are independent and that they’ll fall in a screaming heap. This is a very real consideration given my ongoing battles with a severe auto-immune disease and a complication, which causes fibrosis in my lungs. I have been fighting this even since my daughter was born almost ten years ago and there have been some very grim times when the worst seemed imminent.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Some days I even feel like Wonder Woman!

Some days I even feel like Wonder Woman!

However, I’ve now had so many threats and survived, that I am starting to feel strangely invincible.  I really shouldn’t be here and yet I’m still standing and I’m thankful for every year, every special moment we’ve had. My children are now 11 and 9 and are becoming independent. I need them to be independent and able to stand on their own two feet, even though they have their Dad, family and community support and I am determined to make sure they have me too. I have learned how to fight and have become a mighty warrior but we’d be foolish not to be prepared.

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

The darker the shadow, the brighter the light.

It has been a terrible thing to live with this threat hanging over our heads all these years, our very own sword of Damocles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damocles

However, it has also meant that we have tried to seize the day and squeeze the juice out each and every moment. Not everybody has this gift. We don’t always succeed and being the frog in the saucepan, is incredibly stressful and frequently the wheels fall off and even putting one foot after the other becomes incredibly difficult both on a physical and psychological level. Yet, somehow we seem to survive the storm and the sun comes out again…along with a rainbow!

So, you would think that living with this ongoing uncertainty and its implications for the family would have killed off all my other fears. I should be walking on water, instead of expecting to sink and I’d no longer be afraid of driving and where to park my car. I should be happy to see my daughter head off riding her bike and gaining confidence and independence instead of worrying about her falling off (she had another stack yesterday and I had to pick up the girl with two grazed knees and the bike in the car.). I should just wave my son off when he starts high school next year, instead of running through my A-Z of worries yet again BUT…

I ‘m still human.

That said, all this thinking about fear has highlighted quite a few patterns of avoidance and I might just make a list and start knocking a few things off.

Have a go!

If you’re game, please share your greatest fear and a link to any posts.

xx Rowena

Back to the Proust Questionnaire.

No More Detours! Today, we’re back to the Proust Questionnaire.

Don’t you just love how you announce a grand new project on the blog to keep you accountable and then you fall flat on your face and you’re left to crawl out, waving a white flag surrendering to your public shame?

Yes, I know that when it comes to public confessions, this is small fry.

However, 25th August (almost a month ago), I made a very grand announcement on my blog that I was going to be doing the Proust Character Questionnaire and finally getting the Book Project up and running (yes, this definitely deserves a serious drum roll and the whole red carpet treatment.): https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/in-pursuit-of-character-the-proust-questionnaire/

Indeed, every day I was going to be addressing a question from the Proust Questionnaire which, given there are 31 questions, would mean that I should be well on the way to finishing the @#$% thing by now.

2157931-Road-closed-and-detour-signs-on-road-barriers-Stock-Photo

Almost a month later, it is now the 18th September and Winter has even given way to Spring and in lieu of flowers, our duck population has exploded and we’re constantly stopping to let ducks and their clutch of precious ducklings cross the road.

This is my kind of detour.

This is my kind of detour.

Despite all this activity around me, all I’ve managed to get through is Question number 1: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Admittedly, this was rather a big question. The kind of question which really does warrant considerable thought, a few exploratory posts and even diving into The Pursuit of Happiness by no less than the Dalai Lama himself (in cahoots with an American psychiatrist)

However, while I know you’ve heard all these excuses before,  IT WASN’T MY FAULT!! Truly, it wasn’t!

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It's the first time I've been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It’s the first time I’ve been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Despite having my flu jab, I still came down with a serious case of bronchitis/pneumonia which saw my lungs shake, rattle and roll for a good 2-3 weeks. I even ended up on the nebuliser, all while exploring this issue of happiness.  All I’ll say is thank goodness for the industrial strength antibiotics, freshly squeezed orange juice and my husband taking a week off work.Somehow, I was well enough to get Miss to her audition.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Next, we had my daughter’s grand audition for the Sydney leg of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s: The Sound of Music. Moving on from happiness to tackling my greatest fear had to wait until we’d conquered “Do a Deer” and the house was well and truly groaning and complaining about the The Sound of Music .

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Then, there were all the follow up posts from “Audition Day”, including our trip up the Sydney Tower Eye, eating ice cream in Hyde Park, meeting Tim and his dog, Nugget, who sleep rough in Hyde Park across the road from prestigious department store, David Jones, which was having it’s grand annual Spring Flower Festival, including a sensational tribute to Chanel.

Of course, I couldn’t miss any of these “opportunities”.

So, after more detours than a maze, this brings me back to the Proust Questionnaire.

Here’s the list of questions again as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

Exploring Question 1:

The DNA of Happiness: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/the-dna-of-happiness/

What is your idea of perfect happiness? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/what-is-your-idea-of-perfect-happiness-the-proust-questionnaire/

End Detour.

End Detour.

Stay tuned…We are now finally progressing to Question 2:

What is your greatest fear?

Have you ever done the Proust Questionnaire? How about you come and join me on this intriguing journey!

xx Rowena

Grappling With Fear… the Making of Courage.

What is your greatest fear?

Today, we move onto the second question in the Proust Questionnaire, a tool many writers use to develop their character’s back story. Since I am the main character of the Book Project, I am going through the Proust Questionnaire myself and loving it.

While there are times most of us might struggle with even the concept of happiness (question 1), I’m sure most of us know fear. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, you could be well have your very own A-Z of fears, which you could could rattle off in a jiffy.

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

Christopher Reeve

When I first started thinking about fear, I started revisiting those dreadful moments where I was completely paralyzed and clearly an emotional wreck. However, the more I worked through fear, I came to appreciate that fear is an inherent ingredient in its flip side…courage.

After all, without fear we can not be brave.

Consequently, instead of denigrating fear as an emotion and seeing it as purely negative, we can also re-brand it as a positive, uplifting emotion. That through embracing fear, challenge and overcoming hurdles, we find our inner strength and experience personal growth.

Getting back to answering the question at hand, of course, I could easily give you a simple one or two word response but where’s the fun in that? As much as I don’t really feel like exploring fear in all it’s goosepimpled glory, looking fear in the face and really feeling those emotions, that is the essence of writing.Immersing yourself into the character, the experience until you live and breathe through it’s heart, lungs and soul.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

After all, writing, good writing, is not about skating over the top of the iceberg. No, it’s about diving deep and dealing with the unexpressed, the hard to comprehend, those feelings which are so incredibly painful that any sane sole would stay well and truly away. Yet, we plow on. We can’t leave those pages unturned…despite the personal cost!

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

Christopher Reeve

While I posted a wide range of photos to show my happiest moments, my most fearful moments haven’t really been photographed and even if they were, they wouldn’t necessarily show the inner mechanics of fear which are perhaps concealed behind a seemingly calm veneer, a nervous smile or talking a thousand miles an hour to somehow calm my nerves.

However, when I truly think of fear, utter panic and all those alarm bells going off at once, there’s no greater representation of that enormous fear than Munch’s: The Scream. I actually have it near my desk, waiting to be framed and stuck on the wall. You see, I know that scream, the freak out very, very well.

Yet, although fear is portrayed as a bad thing and something to be avoided, fear is also part of any new experience, especially one which really stretches and challenges us, taking us out of our comfort zones creating growth.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

One of my greatest personal triumphs was skiing down Perisher’s Front Valley with my ski instructor despite having a life-threatening, disabling auto-immune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs. I still remember standing at the top of the mountain gripping onto the edge by the skin of my toes, totally overwhelmed by a tsunami of fear. At the same time, I’d joined up with the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association and my instructor was well-trained and experienced at enabling people like me to ski as independently as possible but with support. Probably the very worst part of it was looking over the edge and seeing how small the village was down below and how the car park was full of “ants” and I felt like I was about to fly off the edge of a cliff into abyss.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

TS. Eliot

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Vincent Van Gogh

Eventually, after a few falls and needing to stop to catch my breath, we arrived at the bottom. It didn’t feel like the exuberant triumph I’d expected but I’d pulled off my dream. Fulfilled a goal. Moreover, as much as I was afraid, I didn’t let that fear stop me from truly living. From seizing the day with both hands and swinging from the chandelier, even if my joy was, at best, subdued.

At the same time, I must confess that I haven’t skied down Front Valley a second time. That view from the top and the steepness of the slope was too much but I’ve subsequently skied through Happy Valley a few times and this time decided not to look down. Plus, my instructors carried my skis and boots back while I could the chairlift. (So you don’t have to go through fearful situations alone!)

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne

I was also terrified when I was having my first session of chemo. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it’s pretty scary having toxic stuff pumped into your veins…even if it is in a hospital. I half expected my veins to blow up, which naturally didn’t happen and I didn’t throw up or lose my hair either. I was suddenly somehow “lucky”.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

However, another important aspect of going through fear and surviving those nasty experiences is that we develop resilience and we start developing the skills and attitudes which enable us to overcomes adversity not just now and then but every day. After all, life is all about tackling ups and downs and standing only makes you stagnant.

“By adversity are wrought the greatest works of admiration, and all the fair examples of renown, out of distress and misery are grown.”

Samuel Daniel

So, even when fear is completely and utterly justifiable in a situation, the monstrous picture your imagination paints is often far worse than reality and you somehow manage not only to survive but feel a bit victorious…a real sense of achievement.

“To him who is in fear everything rustles.”

Sophocles

Phobias are a different story. A phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. Phobias come in all shapes and sizes but spiders, snakes, mice, heights are a few classics. While it is good to have a healthy respect for deadly critters(trust me Australia has more than its share of these!!), being terrified of these things and letting them get in the way of living is a different story.

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them”.

Andre Gide

Jaws...even the theme music inspired dread.

Jaws…even the theme music inspired dread.

At the same time, fear can also be protective and what might be a phobia can also be a real and very life-threatening. It’s not something to simply shrug off and ignore. I’ve never been scared of sharks but lately there’s been a string of shark attacks on Australia’s East Coast. Indeed, there’s been 13 shark attacks in New South Wales in 2015*. We’ll be off to Byron Bay again soon, which is right near a few of these attacks and it really is questionable whether we should swim in these shark infested waters. Do we love swimming that much? I don’t think so but I will seek local advice when we get there. To me, this is just being sensible…the same way I would go swimming with croco9diles in the Northern Territory.

“Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.”

Rabindranath Tagore

The more I considered fear, the more I came to realise that fear was also coupled with courage, especially when we face our fears, instead of fleeing to the hills. Being prepared, having some training, tools etc obviously increases the likelihood of victory and a good outcome.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

Louisa May Alcott

What are your thoughts about fear and the interplay between fear and courage?

xx Rowena

Sources:

https://taronga.org.au/conservation/conservation-science-research/australian-shark-attack-file/2015

The House of Chanel, Sydney

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” ~ Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel at David Jones.

Coco Chanel at David Jones.

You wouldn’t believe that I am still writing about our trip into Sydney last Monday and still have new things to share. In case, you’ve forgotten or haven’t caught up, Miss and I went into Sydney for her audition for the part of Marta in the Sydney production of the Sound of Music. She didn’t receive a callback but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a day out.

David Jones's Flower Festival

David Jones’s Flower Festival

Being Spring in Sydney, Department Store David Jones currently has it’s annual flower show. These stunning window and store displays include an incredible tribute to the House of Chanel, where no detail was spared.

Here’s a photo of the real House of Chanel on Rue Cambon taken in 1962.

Douglas Kirkland Mlle Chanel on Rue Cambon, in front of the House of Chanel 1962 [printed later] archival pigment print, edition of 24, signed paper size 20 ..

Douglas Kirkland Mlle Chanel on Rue Cambon, in front of the House of Chanel 1962 [printed later] archival pigment print, edition of 24, signed paper size 20 ..

The Eifel Tower by Night.

The Eiffel Tower by Night, along with street reflections.

When we first arrived, the stylist was still applying the last touches to the display, which was also quite interesting to watch. By the time we returned from the Sydney Tower Eye, the display was up and running and the lights were changing colour from purple through to blue, red, pink and even the moon rose and set. The Eiffel Tower was made of flowers and there were little moving silhouettes of Coco Chanel in the windows…along with her perfume.

Window Shopping

Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz in Paris’s Place Vendome but worked and entertained within walking distance at Rue Cambon. There are four floors: the Chanel store is at street level, haute couture dressing rooms are on the second floor, her apartment is on the third, and her workshop is on the fourth. The rooftop of the building is said to have some of the best views of Paris.

Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco Chanel

Shades of Rose.

Shades of Rose.

With such incredible attention to detail, even the scissors opened and shut.

With such incredible attention to detail, even the scissors opened and shut.

While this was a sensational display and we must enjoy beauty and not always fixate on hardship, at the same time, please bear in mind that Tim and Nugget are selling the Big Issue only metres away from this luxurious window display. They sleep across the road at Hyde Park and a $50.00 a night spot at a caravan park is luxury.

You can read more of their story here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/sleeping-rough-in-sydney-meet-tim-his-dog-nugget/

Whatever else we do, we need to be thankful for what we have and appreciate the beauty and joy around us but we also need to think of those who are doing it tough.

Please don’t just walk past pretending that they’re not even there.Even if you have nothing to give, you could at least say a prayer!

xx Rowena

10 Reason to Read Children’s Books Instead of ‘Grown-Up’ Books by Isabelle Sudron

I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned my efforts to write children’s books…mostly dog stories. I’ve attended workshops with some exceptionally talented children’s authors such as Jackie French best known for Diary of a Wombat and Andy Griffiths of The Treehouse Series fame. I put that on hold to pursue writing for adults but I still love reading children’s books and really appreciated this post. Hope you enjoy it too! xx Rowena

Nerdy Book Club

Some may think that you grow out of kid’s books as you get older. There are those that think they are predictable and unrealistic. There is even the notion that children’s books are not challenging enough for our big old brains. However, there are many of us that feel otherwise, myself being one them. Children’s fiction can be some of the most honest, witty and humbling stories you’ll ever read.

  1. They’re more intelligent

a wrinkle in timeIf you place a confusing, fictional situation in front of an adult, then they will immediately start to question things. How did she get from there to there? Why did he do that, when he could have done this? Surely, that isn’t possible?

Children, on the other hand, have big, fantastic imaginations with no limits, as do the books they read. If you place an unusual, fictional situation in front of them, it won’t take them…

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#Weekend Coffee Share: Welcome to Sydney!

Today, I am introducing myself to a new blog share: 

So, if we were having coffee, I’d probably have to start off my introducing myself as I’m pretty sure this is my first coffee with you guys, although I’m pretty sure that I’ve, at least, dropped in before.

So, “Hi”.

If you want to know more about me, you can check out my About page here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

Next, I’d tell you that the last week was pretty intense in so many good ways and that right now, Two weeks ago, we found out my daughter had achieved an audition for the role of Marta in the Sydney production of The Sound of Music. Marta is the second youngest of the Von Trapp children. The same day that news came through, I was off to the GP with worsening bronchitis/pneumonia. She prescribed two different industrial strength antibiotics and I was to go on the nebuliser every 2 hours and if I hadn’t improved in 24 hours, I was off to hospital. I have fibrosis in my lungs and so I have to be incredibly careful. This thing was starting to look very nasty indeed!

Persevering with the keyboard while on the nebuliser. I only need it a few times a day so not a big deal.

Persevering with the keyboard while on the nebuliser. I only need it a few times a day so not a big deal.

I wasn’t the only one overcoming hurdles to get to the audition. My daughter was diagnosed with severe vocal nodules a few months ago and has been having intensive voice therapy for the last month or so. This has made a huge improvement but we all knew her voice wasn’t ready yet. However, Miss was determined. She was the right height and she would never be the right height again! Not wanting to be the one her smashed her dreams before they’d even set sail, I submitted her application. https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/climb-every-mountain-singing-towards-her-dream/

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

You can read about preparations for the audition here: The House is Alive with the Sound of Music: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/the-house-is-alive-with-the-sound-of-music/

However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I was just as determined to accompany our daughter as she was to sing . Yet, even I, who has phoenixed out of the depths so many times before, had serious doubts. Call it determination or desperation, I was filling my daughter and I up with freshly squeezed orange juice and vitamin C to give us both the best shot. After all, she also had to be well and we needed to protect her precious voice most of all.

I even arranged for us to stay with friends near Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter where the auditions were being held to give myself the best chance of getting there and even more importantly getting us there on time…especially as my friend is an Army Major! Being late meant instant elimination.

Miss with the Major

Miss with the Major

Let me just add, that the trains were out and so my husband drove us down. On the way to dropping the spare car at the station for the return trip, the gear box blew up. Geoff’s trip back didn’t go too well either. There was an accident and they were stalled for an hour.

All that was missing from our dramas was the mandatory car chase!

The audition process went well, although Miss didn’t receive a callback. We were quite philosophical about it all and she wants to keep auditioning.

Looking East over Sydney Harbour from Sydney Tower

Looking East over Sydney Harbour from Sydney Tower

After her audition,we made the most of the day in the city. We went up the Sydney Tower Eye and enjoyed a 360 degree view taking in an 80km radius of Sydney.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

This is when we weren’t suddenly captured by a ginormous koala which was demanding more gum leaves. It had an absolutely voracious appetite and availability was scarce. It was absolutely terrifying but we were rescued by none other than Crocodile Dundee who just happened to be in the area.

David Jones's Flower Festival

David Jones’s Flower Festival

We toured the David Jones Flower Show, which was absolutely incredible. David Jones is an exclusive Australian Department store and their Market Street store is something like Harrods in London.

The House of Chanel comes to Sydney...look for the flowers.

The House of Chanel comes to Sydney…look for the flowers.

They even brought the House of Chanel to Sydney.

We were given a free tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and daringly asked for spoons from the David Jones Food Hall and headed up to Hyde Park.

Tim & Nugget

Tim & Nugget

On the way, we met Tim and Nugget who are Vendors for the Big Issue. They usually sleep rough in Hyde Park, which is just across the road from David Jones. The irony wasn’t lost on me. A good night for Tim is when he can afford to stay at a caravan park in Hurstville for $50.00 a night. Indeed, this is luxury!

You can read Tim & Nugget’s Story here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/sleeping-rough-in-sydney-meet-tim-his-dog-nugget/

We ate our ice cream in front of the fountain and then headed across the road to visit St Mary’s Cathedral. My grandparents were married here in 1940 during WWII.

St Mary's Cathedral viewed through Hyde Park.

St Mary’s Cathedral viewed through Hyde Park.

That was Monday…obviously a HUGE day but it wasn’t over yet. School photos tomorrow so there I was sewing up my daughter’s school uniform. Actually, my husband did that. I was a bit gaga after our mega day out.

Tuesday…slept (have you read Jackie French’s Diary of A Wombat? I was sure feeling like a wombat!)

Our Wedding Day....The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

Our Wedding Day….The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

Wednesday, Wedding Anniversary. Happy Wedding Anniversary, darling! 14 years.

Thursday: Blank.

Friday: Kids sick…we all slept. That is except for Geoff who went to work.

Saturday and Sunday: preparing for the Royal Visit. My aunt’s coming over tomorrow. So we’ve washed dogs, washed dogs’ bed, mowed lawns, still getting stuff out for council cleanup. Aunt was due Tuesday so stuff will still be out the front tomorrow but at least it’s on its way.

I am hoping this week things will return to normal. Next week…school holidays await!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and have enjoyed having coffee with me.

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the “Linky“.  I encourage you to click on the “linky” to see to meet some other bloggers and even join us if you haven’t before!

xx Rowena

Sleeping Rough in Sydney…Meet Tim & his Dog, Nugget.

So often, we ponder what we can do to help “the homeless” and yet, the answer is simple: “SOMETHING“. Don’t just simply walk past. After all, good intentions still amount to doing nothing!

Yes, I know that’s not always as easy as it sounds BUT…

One thing I do is buy a copy of The Big Issue magazine when I’m in the city. It’s a small thing but it’s SOMETHING and it’s helping people through established channels. That takes all the guesswork out of what happens to your money.

I also like to chat to the Vendors and hear their stories.

Miss and Nugget.

Miss and Nugget.

On Monday, while Miss and I were in Sydney, we met Tim and his dog, Nugget. Tim and Nugget are both Vendors for The Big Issue.

The Big Issue is a fortnightly, independent magazine that is sold on the streets by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. Vendors buy copies of the magazine for $3 and sell them for $6, earning the difference. There are vendors set up right throughout the Sydney CBD (and beyond) and they’ve become an approachable interface where you can get to know “the homeless” and appreciate their individual stories and destigmatize sleeping rough. The magazine is available in both print and digital versions from vendors. The Big Issue also sells subscriptions to the magazine, providing jobs for homeless and disadvantaged women through their Women’s Subscription Enterprise. Here’s a link: http://www.thebigissue.org.au/the-big-issue-magazine/about/

Vendors usually have “their corner”, which I guess you could say, is something of a “pop-up shop”. Tim and Nugget are usually on the corner of Elizabeth and Market Streets, Sydney outside David Jones’s exclusive city store, where everything is pure luxury and glamour. Quite frankly, you can’t help notice the enormous gulf between these two worlds. That said, money doesn’t buy happiness either.

So often, I hear the question: Is sleeping rough a choice or a necessity?

Quite frankly, this is something I know nothing about. As much as writers are told to write about what they know, I also believe we need to pursue what we don’t know, ask questions and investigate the great unknown. I know nothing about being homeless and have always had Mum and Dad…that safety net. What I took for granted, is seemingly a luxury. Family is something we should never take for granted.

Tim tells me that finding accommodation is difficult. Hostels are full and it’s hard to find accommodation which accepts dogs.As for making the leap from living on the streets to finding bond and paying weekly rent, that’s a huge step and as much as someone might want to climb back up the mountain, it can be incredibly intimidating.

Becoming a Vendor for The Big Issue is one way of making those baby steps forward.

Hearing Tim and Nugget’s story, you might also wonder whether homeless people should have pets.

As much as you might think that responsible pet ownership should include having a home, Tim explains how Nugget gives him love, companionship and a reason to wake up. Although Tim has been sleeping rough for a long time, he adopted Nugget recently after a devastating personal loss and Nugget is family. Consequently, Tim and Nugget usually sleep rough in Hyde Park across the road.  However, on a good day, they head out to a caravan park out at Hurstville, which accepts pets and charges $50.00 a night, which is their idea of 4 Star!. Tim also has a collection for Nugget and I did notice two lamb’s hearts on the mat, so Nugget isn’t going without..at least today!

Nugget might live on the streets but he is much loved, cared for and well fed.

Nugget might live on the streets but he is much loved, cared for and well fed.Tim also tells me that Nugget chewed that hole in his jumper.

By the way, you’ll notice that Nugget is sporting a highly fashionable woollen dog jumper. To the best of my knowledge, this didn’t come from the David Jones “Dogwear Department” but was a gift from Pets in the Park to keep warm through Winter. Although Sydney’s Winter’s are comparatively mild, even a street dog needs a bit of added TLC!

I’d never heard of Pets in the Park before.

Pets in the Park (PITP) aims to support, build relationships with and improve the wellbeing of homeless people in society living with animal companions. Many people who are experiencing homelessness own pets which offer unconditional love, companionship, emotional support and security… basic human needs that are often not met elsewhere. Although pet ownership greatly enriches the lives of those who are homeless, it also comes at a significant financial cost. Annual vaccinations, flea treatment, routine worming, and de-sexing and microchipping an animal costs hundreds of dollars.

PITP is a registered charity with DGR (deductible gift recipient) status that runs free monthly pet health clinics in Darlinghurst and Parramatta and free quarterly de-sexing clinics. PITP is run completely by volunteer veterinarians and veterinary nurses, and strives to provide emotional and educational support to owners and practical help to their pets in a social and friendly environment. By reducing the financial burden of pet ownership, and by promoting access to human social services by operating in partnership with established providers such as Rough Edges Darlinghurst, PITP aims to make a difference to both animals and people in Sydney experiencing homelessness.

So, you could say, you learn something new everyday. That instead of simply walking past and getting caught up in the philosophical rights and wrongs, supporting homeless people through recognised channels is an effective way of making a difference.

Even the smallest contribution can bring more than a smile!

Moreover, just because we do not have the answers, that doesn’t mean we should stop asking  questions.

xx Rowena

PS: Tim consented to be photographed and appear in this story, which I will be forwarding to the Big Issue.

A Homeless Story from Hawaii

Recently, my friend Tom and dog Max from Within the K Streets blogged about a homeless man in Hawaii. He hadn’t seen One Guy for awhile and was concerned about what might have happened. https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/one-guy/

Tom later went on to hear that One Guy had had a heart attack and had been taken to hospital by a stranger and then received appropriate treatment and is now doing much better. His daughter, a photographer, was doing a story about homelessness and actually found here Dad living on the streets and this is her story: I Thought He would Die: Daughter Documents Homeless Dad’s Life: http://kindnessblog.com/2015/08/18/i-thought-he-would-die-daughter-documents-homeless-dads-life/

360 Degrees Around Sydney.

On Monday, my daughter and I visited Sydney Tower Eye, which is the tallest point in Sydney and offers such an expansive view of this sprawling city, that you can see about 80 kilometres away in all directions.

Construction of the Sydney Tower was completely in 1981. It is 304 metres tall and weighs 2,239 tons. It cost $26 million to construct the entire building. Taking the lift, it takes 44 seconds to get 250 metres above sea level.

Sydney Tower might not be the tallest in the world but it overlooks the world's largest natural harbour.

Sydney Tower might not be the tallest in the world but it overlooks the world’s largest natural harbour.

Of course, the incredible beauty of Sydney Harbour makes this a knock out view, it’s also so intriguing to view my home town from a different perspective and be a bird for a few hours looking down. It reminds me of that great scene in the movie: Dead Poet’s Society where Mr Keating gets the boys to stand on their desks to see that same old ordinary classroom with fresh eyes.

Miss standing next to a model of Sydney Tower.

Miss standing next to a model of Sydney Tower.

So, please come and let your eyes do the walking. Join me on a 360 Degree Photographic Tour of Sydney where I’ll share views from the tower with views from the ground and even a few intriguing facts about this incredible place.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from Sydney Tower Eye.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from Sydney Tower Eye.

Unfortunately, the view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, also known as “the Coathanger”, wasn’t great from the Sydney Tower Eye, being seriously over-cluttered by other buildings and poor urban planning.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House viewed from a ferry looking East.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House viewed from a ferry looking East.

Sydney Opera House

Speaking of crowded views, here's a back-end view of the Sydney Opera House. It's a bit like reading

Speaking of crowded views, here’s a back-end view of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a bit like reading “Where’s Wally?”!

The Spectacular White Sails of the Sydney Opera House.

The Spectacular White Sails of the Sydney Opera House.

East Looking Towards The Heads and the Naval Base at Garden Island.

Looking East Towards Sydney Heads and the Naval Base at Garden Island.

Looking East Towards Sydney Heads and the Naval Base at Garden Island.

HMAS Toowoomba

HMAS Toowoomba at Garden Island.

Darling Harbour and Looking West Towards the Blue Mountains.

Darling Harbour viewed from Sydney Tower Eye.

Darling Harbour viewed from Sydney Tower Eye.

St Mary’s Cathedral

St Mary's Cathedral viewed through Hyde Park.

St Mary’s Cathedral viewed through Hyde Park.

Catching a glimpse of the funeral of much loved Australian Horse, Bart Cummings from the Sydney Tower Eye.

Catching a glimpse of the funeral of much loved Australian Horse, Bart Cummings from the Sydney Tower Eye.

St Mary's Cathedral -street level.

St Mary’s Cathedral -street level.

Inside St Mary's Cathedral.

Inside St Mary’s Cathedral.

ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park.

ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park.

The Queen Victoria Building.

Queen Victoria Building, viewed from the Sydney Tower Eye.

Queen Victoria Building, viewed from the Sydney Tower Eye.

The Queen Victoria Building or "QVB" , Southern end.

The Queen Victoria Building or “QVB” , Southern end.

The Lavish interior of the QVB.

The Lavish interior of the QVB.

Kings Cross's Famous Coca Cola sign viewed from the Sydney Tower Eye.

Kings Cross’s Famous Coca Cola sign viewed from the Sydney Tower Eye.

Goodbye from your tour hosts.

Goodbye from your tour hosts.

Thank you very much for joining us on our 360 Degree Photographic Tour of Sydney!

xx Rowena & Miss.

Photo Booth: Centrepoint Tower, Sydney.

After Miss finished her audition, we caught the bus into the city and we caught the lift up Centrepoint Tower. On the way up, we found ourselves being photographed in front of a green screen and when we returned, these irresistible photos were waiting at the counter…$40.00 Mum. How could Mum say “No”? They were incredible shots and that T-shirt Miss is wearing looks a rather surreal with that rabbit on the front..especially when you look at all the amazing places we ended up!

Coming up next, we’ll have our 360 degree guided tour of Sydney and I’ll try to match the aerial photos up with images taken on the ground. This is going to be fun.

Stay tuned,

xx Rowena & Miss.

Miss in front of a Sydney nightscape.

Miss in front of a Sydney nightscape. You wouldn’t catch her standing out on a ledge like that, especially on her own.

The view from Centrepoint Tower

The view from Centrepoint Tower

Transported to Sydney's New Year's Eve Fireworks extravaganza.

Transported to Sydney’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks extravaganza.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.