Monthly Archives: July 2016

Birthday #WeekendCoffeeShare!

Welcome to Weekend Coffee Share with a difference. It was my birthday on Saturday and we took our celebrations outdoors enjoying a history-themed cruise around our local waterways, followed by a bush walk. Although many consider Everest a challenge, for me this mountainous “hill” was challenging enough. While it was great starting off with a down hill trajectory, what goes down must walk up unless you get a piggyback. Or, in the case of the kids, Dad picks you up.

 

You can read more about our birthday celebrations Here. We had a great day!

Sorry that I can’t quite offer you a piece of birthday cake with your beverage of choice. We didn’t have one. The cake is waiting until we catch up with my parents. Makes the party last longer.

How was your week? What did you get up to?

I’m currently beavering away on a short story for a local competition. It’s probably what you’d call historical fiction and it’s seen through the eyes of a little girl whose father becomes delusional and cuts her mother’s throat and then his own. He survives. The little girl and her baby sister in my version are adopted out and she remembers nothing until her husband’s death opens Pandora’s Box and fragments of memory started flashing back. To establish the historical framework, I’ve set the short story in Sydney’s Balmain and the entire neighbourhood is seemingly jammed into the tiny terrace to watch the moon landing on TV. I was supposed to be born on the day man landed on the moon. So, it’s always been a big part of my own story, even though I ran ten days late.

Stay tuned. Although I can’t post the short story, I intend to post a write up about the case. What makes it even more tragic, is that it’s not about about a bad or evil man and it wasn’t what I’d consider domestic violence in the traditional sense. This was a  happy couple living an ordinary life with their two daughters. However, in the aftermath of the depression of the 1890s, debtors weren’t paying up and he was facing bankruptcy…at least in his mind. He literally lost his mind with depression and a week beforehand said he wanted to jump of Sydney’s famous suicide spot The Gap but wasn’t taken seriously. This was a guy who loved his wife, his daughters, went fishing and read the paper…a tailor running what appeared to be a thriving business.

Who would have thought?

I am wondering how far I can take this story and feel it really has legs.

So, I’ve been head down doing research, writing the story and crossing my fingers . It’s due 5th August.

By the way, if you remember watching the moon landing, I’d love to hear from you and find out where you were and what it was like.  It was such a phenomenal moment of our time, and yet as time’s gone by, it’s easy to forget what an achievement it was.

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Lady contemplating her next escape attempt.

On the home front, our naughty little black dog Lady, has been tunneling to freedom mimicking the Great Escape. With her black coat, Lady becomes completely invisible in the dark and having come from a farm where she went hunting with the other dogs, she knows how to hide herself well. Too many times lately, she’s been waiting for me out the front of the house when I’ve arrived home wagging her tail…the fiend! Given her black coat and camouflaging capabilities, blending in with the road and getting run over is a major concern. So, all of this means that last weekend, Geoff banged in more wooden slats and this weekend, he laid pavers over the side path… hopefully bringing an end to her excavations!

Lady at Ocean Beach

I hope Lady didn’t make it as far as the beach on her travels.

Not that Geoff had nothing else to do!

The rest of last week, has been a blur.

How was your week? I hope you had a good one!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click the  linky to read the other posts.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To Me…Enjoying the Australian Outdoors.

Happy Birthday to me!

We cruised by the sea.

Bushwalked to the lookout.

Then went home for tea.

Welcome to my virtual birthday party. Once upon a time, one of my friends would’ve turned up with vodka jellies and chocolate mouse, but I can offer you a Tim Tam. You could also join us to watch a great Australian movie: Oddball. It’s based on a true story of a Mareema Sheepdog, Oddball,  who saved a endangered colony of fairy penguins from foxes. We loved it.

Today, I reached the magical age of 21…again!

After opening presents this morning with the family, we set off bright and early for a history cruise along our local waterways with the kids’ Scout group. Although I’d originally planned to head into Sydney to the Koi Dessert Bar for my birthday, this cropped up and it felt like a ready-made party. We just had to turn up…perfect!

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy.

The cruise set out from Woy Woy, which is is roughly 2 hours drive North from the Sydney CBD. You might recall that Spike Milligan placed Woy Woy on the world stage, although you could say the publicity was hardly positive. He described Woy Woy as “the world’s only above-ground cemetery”.

Indeed, this is what he had to say about Woy Woy back in 1959, when he wrote a portrait of his parents’ home “Goon Fishing”:

“There is, somewhere in the steaming bush of Australia, a waterside town called Woy Woy (Woy it is called Woy Woy Oi will never know).

 

Weekend Coffee Share 24th July, 2016

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If we were having coffee today, you’d be wanting to throw out your slippers and put on your dancing shoes. I spent the afternoon at a my daughter’s somewhat casual mid-year dance concert and we stayed on to the last session to see the teens dance, which totally blew me out of my mind. I didn’t think the human body was capable of such movement without snapping. For someone who lives and breathes inside their head, to see the human body explored and extended in this way was incredible…especially as I battle with a debilitating muscle wasting disease, which has fortunately been in remission for two years and while I’ neither nimble or graceful, I’m walking…and I’m still breathing. These days, I can easily forget how far I’ve come.

How was your week? Hope things went well.

Last Wednesday, I attended a local Authors and Illustrators Forum.  This was the second year it was held and I met a great group of writers and illustrators while taking some valuable tips away from the talk. Probably the most important take home for me, was deciding to get my manuscript for “The Quest: Letters To Dead Poets” professionally critiqued. I decided to put it aside to stew after writing it during the A-Z April Challenge and to be perfectly honest, I had to have a break from  that phenomenal intensity and get back to the “real world” for a bit. Working towards this professional critique gives me an interim, achievable goal rather than shooting straight towards publishing. This still means I have a lot of work ahead.

Meanwhile, just for something chillaxing, my frustrations with my family history and trying to find where John Gardiner came from continues. I’ve hit some brick walls with my research before but nothing like this. Until I find John Gardiner’s death certificate or possibly his arrival details, I have no idea whether our Gardiner family is English, Irish or Scottish. While this might appear semantic, when you have an Irish Australian identity, it could ruffle a few feathers.

However, as frustrating as it’s been, there is a significant upside of NOT being able to pinpoint our John Gardiner out of the plethora of John Gardiners who were living in 18th Century Sydney. It means all bets are off and as I’ve been trawling through the old newspapers online, any one’s a possibility. I’ve also tried to find other family members with a hope of finding him via the side door. So, I’ve been left to ponder whether we’re related to George Gardiner of Albion Street Surry Hills who tragically hanged himself at work for no known particular reason or his daughter, Florence Young whose husband tragically cut her throat having a mental snap or perhaps even mistaking her for a burglar in the dark,  while she was holding their 6 month old daughter, Sadie? There was also John Gardiner, a digger shell shocked during WWI, who stole a coffin and slept rough on Queen Street Brisbane and planned to take it for a sail along the Brisbane River. Apparently, he also stopped off at pubs along Queen Street, placing the coffin on the counter asking: “Where’s the dead man?” He was usually given a few drinks before he moved on. Thank goodness for the Salvos who gave that John Gardiner a home.Terrible to think that we couldn’t look after someone who fought bravely for our country when they returned home.

I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned that I’m totally addicted to watching Australian Masterchef. We’re now on the homeward strait and we’re down to the last three contestants. You can view past episodes of the show here and if you are much more daring and capable than I, you could even try out the recipes but I’ll wish you good luck. It’s not called Masterchef for nothing and these creations are miracles on a plate. Just spectacular!

While I haven’t even considered trying out the Masterchef recipes myself, the show has definitely helped me lift my gave on the home front. While I might not have crunch, creaminess and acidity in every dish, I’ve definitely been spreading my wings.

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The Waffle.

Last night, I finally found the courage to try making waffles from scratch and was thrilled with the results. I might have left the butter out of the mix, but they were great and also represented a small triumph over my paralyzing perfectionism. It only took me two years to find the courage to actually try making waffles in my waffle machine. You can click here to read how I went and check out my grandmother’s recipe.

Now the countdown’s on until I have another birthday. Next Saturday, I clock up another year. Hip hip hurray…I think!

How has your week been? Hope you’ve had a great one!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click the  linky to read the other posts.

xx Rowena

 

 

Waffling About Perfection.

How long has it taken me to actually use my waffle machine for its intended purpose and actually make waffles?

I’m not telling. This is a blog, NOT a confessional!

While I’ve crushed, fried and crunchified boiled potatoes in the waffle iron before, I’ve NEVER ever made a waffle. Yet, tonight I finally walked the plank, jumped over the edge and straight into the raging waves only to find absolute calm…still waters!

The waffles worked. Were delicious! I succeeded!

So why have I put it off for so long?

Of course, you know why. You know the crazy reason why. I’ve been too scared. Scared I’d make a mistake and botch them up.

That’s right. I’ve been yet another a paralyzed perfectionist.

How about you? Are you also guilty as charged?

There’s nothing more annoying than a perfectionist who isn’t perfect…especially when it’s yourself!

Perfectionism is a sneaky, cunning beast. It doesn’t knock on your front door and announce its arrival. It doesn’t have flashing neon lights with ringing sirens either. Instead, it silently sneaks in through the back door and creeps up on you from behind and grabs you by the throat.

It also gets you busy. In the case of the waffles, it threw a bamboozling array of recipes at me, followed by a plethora of different waffle irons and that was before we’d even considered toppings. By this stage, there so  many rats going round and round in spinning wheels inside my head, for me to do anything.

Although it might be cliched, paralysis by analysis is real. Too many cogs spinning all at once and your exhausted, over-worked brain is blowing a gasket. Boom! Bang! Crash!

So, as I said, I made waffles for the first time tonight and they were great. Covered in creamy vanilla ice cream and maple syrup dripping off the fork…So yum!

Why on earth did I put it off for so long?

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The Lutheran Church in Wollongong put this recipe book together in the aftermath of WWII. Having members from a multitude of European countries, some being enemies at home, the idea of the cookbook was to bring people together and sharing recipes is a great way to start.

We didn’t have a waffle machine growing up at home. Even though I ended up using my grandmother’s recipe to make our waffles tonight, she’d never made them for me either. I found the recipe in a Church cookbook she’d edited back in the 1950s. Of course, all the measurements were in “ancient” and had to be translated. I also wondered whether I really did have to separate the eggs, or whether I should use a simpler recipe, which just throws the ingredients together? I chose the complicated path, hoping for fluffier waffles and I used my egg beater as well. It’s also ancient.

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As I was saying, we didn’t have a waffle machine growing up and I have to admit that making the waffles, was like magic. The batter looked just like pancake mix and I admit that as I spread it over the waffle iron, I doubted it could actually make a waffle and I had that child-like sense of wonder, when I opened up the machine, and found the sculptured waffles cooking inside.

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Abracadabra!…Waffles!

I’m proud of my waffles. Not just because they were good, but also because in tackling that challenge, I crossed a new frontier…just like an explorer crossing a mountain for the very first time. I did it. I actually extended my wings and allowed myself to leave my cage and truly soar.

While making waffles might only be a small step for woman and nowhere near actually landing on the moon, all these steps add up and could ultimately build a ladder. You never know.

So, in case you want to follow in my esteemed footsteps, here’s Grandma’s Waffle Recipe:

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My Grandmother’s Waffle Recipe taken from the “Around the World With Cooking” Cookbook.

Grandma’s Waffle Recipe

250g Plain Flour

Pinch salt

1 teas Baking Powder

1 generous cup of milk and a splash (270 mls)

2 eggs, separated.

50g melted butter.

Directions

  1. Start preparing the batter about an hour before required.
  2. Take eggs out of the fridge 30 mins beforehand and at room temperature.
  3. Sift flour & salt into a basin. Make a well in the centre.
  4. Separate eggs and put the whites aside.
  5. Beat egg yolks and add hald the milk. Pour into the flour and mix into a smooth batter, gradually stirring in the rest of the milk.
  6. Beat mixture and allow to stand for an hour.
  7. 15 minutes before the mix is ready to cook, beat egg whites until stiff. Put aside.
  8. Once the hour is up, add the melted butter to the mixture and then stiffly beaten egg whites and baking powder.
  9. Spray waffle iron with oil or butter and have it hot to make the waffles.

Enjoy!

By the way, just to encourage you and humble myself a little further, when I went to reheat my cup of tea in the microwave, I found the melted butter for the waffle mix in there. That’s right. I’d left it out. This could explain why the waffles weren’t quite as crunchy as expected, but I’d instinctively added butter to the machine for the second batch.

Have you ever made waffles? How does your recipe compare to mine and do you have any tips and topping suggestions to share?

I look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

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My Grandparents.

Weekend Coffee Share 16th July, 2016.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If we were having coffee today, we’d be having to resort to pens or typewriters to jot down any writing ideas because we could well be too busy using our phones and other devices capturing Pokemon. Not that I’ve been hugely into Pokemon Go myself but I had a couple of creatures invade our lounge room, evading me, the dogs but not my son’s eagle eye armed with his ipad. One of these things even had the audacity to sit on the couch. No doubt, it was responsible for the latest packet of Tim Tams which went missing, instead of the usual suspects.

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The Kids Arriving At The Theatre.

Pokemon Go was launched in Australia just over a week ago and it’s gone manic. My kids woke up all ready to go  hunting, only to find out the site had crashed and once it came up, that they couldn’t play with their phones. They don’t have WiFi. My phone’s from the ark and we couldn’t get it connected. So, the kids just had to satisfy themselves with the few Pokemon who ventured into the house. Meanwhile, however, a friend who took her toddlers to the park, said they were the only little kids there and the park was packed with teens chasing Pokemon. Well, at least they got out of hte house and found out those feet were made for walking!

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Today, we finally saw our kids perform in their Scout/Guide Gang Show. Have you ever been to a Gang Show? This was my first. So, throughout all these months of rehearsals and the last couple of weeks getting costume details finalised, I really felt I was flying blind. Although I’m quite used to being in the dark, that doesn’t mean I like it. I ended up delegating the “navy dress pants” to my Mum who ended up running round and round  Sydney’s Macquarie Centre with the kids like rats stuck in a maddening maze. They were having terrible trouble trying to explain what dress pants were and kept getting shown formal pants and you wouldn’t think that buying a pair of pants in a big city could be become so difficult…or so complicated! In the end, they were using my Mum’s navy pants as an example and in the end , Mum remembered she had a smaller pair or navy pants which might do the job. So, our son headed off to Gang Show in Grandma’s dress pants with a belt. Our other drama was our daughter’s hair, which had gone very dry over Winter and is getting very knotty. I swear I used half a jumbo bottle of Pantene conditioner to  get that hair plaitable!

Take it from me, there’s absolutely no glamour involved in being a stage parent. The kids might be shining, but our lights have gone out.

Yet, if you knew me, you’d be saying: “Come on, Ro. We know how much you love it. You just can’t get enough!”

Too true!

We attended the Matinee Show today and absolutely loved it. I can’t show you any photos from inside but suffice to say that I walked about feeling a hell of a lot better than when I went in and had so many belly laughs. The show was called : Once Upon A Time and had had a series of fractured fairytales including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel with so many hilarious twists and turns. They sang and danced to Waltz Disney classics like “When You Wish Upon A Star” (while flashing their torches. Scouts and Guides love torches!!) Bad To The Bone and an a more extended version of this poem from Dr Suess’s The Places You’ll Go:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

O course, there’s that surge of pride of seeing your kids on any kind of stage and they don’t have to be the star to to feel absolutely and totally blown away by their performances. The whole concept of Gang Show is that it’s about the gang and while some of the older kids and leaders had some more extended solo parts, most of it was done as a group. My kids each had about 5-7 costume changes in the show and multiple stage entries, so it was a fabulous introduction to what it’s like to be in a theatre production.

However, as much as they were performers performing on a stage, they were also Scouts and Guides and the show finished off with everyone in their uniforms, marching and proud of who and what they represent.

While a group of Guides and Scouts performing on a stage might seem of little consequence given what’s going on around the world at the moment, I disagree. Although the current state of the world feels overwhelming and somewhat scary, we still need to believe in the future and our kids, our teenagers and young adults are our immediate future and we need to keep building them up. Teaching them the importance of good values and character and standing up for what is good and just in this world and how that doesn’t begin somewhere out there in the adult world but starts with them where ever they go. This is where the rubber hits the road for all of us. Being nice to your brother or sister and not erupting, even when they deliberately press all your buttons all at once just wanting for them to go troppo and get in trouble with Mum and Dad. It means being patient in traffic and not even muttering words under our breath, thinking they can not be heard.

We might not be able to change the big staff, but at least, we can work on our own stuff, the seemingly small, insignificant stuff which doesn’t seem to matter until it does.

Before I head off and unfortunately we’ll really be heading off soon because we have to pick the kids up tonight from their finale performance tonight at 11.30PM. I think Dad’s Taxi’s going to need a double expresso before we leave. It no doubt think it’s gone to bed for the night and won’t be happy heading out there again…especially in the cold.

Yellow taxi

It’s not quite this wet as we head out tonight. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story?!!

By the way, what do you think of my new writing mug? I bought it tonight when Geoff and I went out for Churros after the performance. It all but says “writer” on it and I stuck my black Artline pen in there because that’s what I use to do much of my writing. It has a really smooth action, almost enabling my fingers to keep up with my surging train of thoughts. By the way, I have been known to chew my pens and turn the clock back 20 years and I chewed my pens until they cracked, splintered and and no doubt damaged my teeth. Thank goodness, I have chilled out since then.

So, how has your week been? What have you been up to?

I hope you and yours have all been safe during the terrible events of recent times. As much as I’d love to travel, at the moment I’m just wanting to keep everyone close and stay put.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click the  linky to read the other posts.

Drats! The Sunset Which Got Away!

Check out this breathtaking sunset!

It all but escaped my snap-happy finger, while we were driving down to Sydney. As much as we’re inclined to pull over to immediately capture that stunning sunset, we had the trailer on the back. Moreover, due to the an accident on the freeway, we’d opted for the “scenic route” along the rustic and rather windy Old Pacific Highway, and couldn’t stop. Out of sheer desperation, I managed to snatch this shot through the windscreen and you too can enjoy water droplets bouncing around like ping pong balls, wrecking what might have been a stunning shot.

Of course, I know I shouldn’t get upset about not being able to photograph a sunset. There are, after all, much more pressing issues in our world, and it wasn’t like I was trapped underground and couldn’t see it.

However, therein lies the problem. I could see that sunset in all its technicolour glory and felt the call of the wild. Such an incredible sunset isn’t something you just see through your eyes, but also through every part of your being…mind, body, spirit and it somehow becomes a part of your very being. So, to be able to capture that, it’s a bit like sticking your bubble gum to the bed post over night. You can come back and relive the experience later.

I also enjoy sharing a little taste of Australia with you. Through even this less than perfect photo, you can still appreciate an Australian bush sunset with those towering gum trees silhouetted against the setting sun. You can also sense the vibrant intensity of the colours…molten oranges and yellows slapped across the sky like generous coats of paint. It looks so good, I want to eat it! Yum!

However, as much as I’m disappointed about missing the sunset, I must admit that I think it’s good for me to just to stand back and appreciate the bigger picture now and then. Take in the vast enormity of an endless sky. Feel gobsmacked! Awe inspired! Instead of trying to work out how I’m going to frame it. Shove it inside a 6 x 4 box to contain it. By trying to constrain the heavens and stick boundaries around them, they lose some of their magic. Like wild animals caged at the zoo, they’re still great to look at, but it’s not the same as seeing them in the wild. Or, experiencing a sunset simply for its intrinsic beauty without trying to turn it into something it’s not…a photo!

These two opposing views, however, bring me into conflict with myself. How can someone whose love of photography could be described as a chronic twitch, ever happily let a brilliant sunset go and simply let it be?

I don’t know but every now and then it happens. I spot something and don’t have my SLR with or my phone and I have that experience, albeit reluctantly…a lesson in savouring the moment…!

Meanwhile, could you please pass me a Kleenex. I still have a bit of work ahead on acceptance! I’m still thinking about the sunset which got away!

What do you think about savouring the moment? Is it better with or without the camera?

xx Rowena

PS: By the way, if you like a good sunset photo, here’s one I prepared earlier.

sunset dove

Sunset Down the Road a few weeks ago.

 

 

Katzenjammer Kats

It must be the Day of the Cat on my blog today as I reblog another cat post. I really enjoyed these insights into the character of the cat.
xx Rowena

A Smidgeon's Toll

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