Category Archives: Baking

The Sponge Cake Queen…Friday Fictioneers.

This year the judging of the Best Sponge Cake at the Royal Sydney Easter Show was breaking with tradition. In addition to the regular judging panel from the Country Women’s Association, Melissa Leong from Masterchef was guest judge. She couldn’t wait to slice into Madge Gerbera’s sponge. She’d won Best in Show for 25 years, and was “the Sponge cake Queen”. However, the knife couldn’t cut through. There was something odd in the middle of the cake. Meanwhile, back home Grandma couldn’t find her teeth. Last seen when she helped herself to the mix. Humph! This was a truly unforgettable sponge.

…..

100 words

Ever since I was a small child, I’ve had an acute phobia of false teeth. So, while for some finding a rodent of any description in their cake would give them the horrors, for me, it would be a set of false teeth.

I had actually planned to write about my mother and her sponge cakes. She was the sponge cake Queen of our family and friends and she added a bit of melted butter and warm milk to her sponge cake. She icing them with passionfruit icing, filled them with cream, but also kept a piece plain for my Dad who doesn’t like icing.

The recipe came from a family friend, Val Gerber, who I believe had won at the Brisbane Show and the recipe was printed on the back of the Fielder’s Cornflour as “Val’s Sponge”. I remember meeting Val when I was a little girl out on the farm. We were treated to a very special country afternoon tea where the table almost sank under the weight of all the cakes and treats. Yum!

I hope this story hasn’t made you too hungry!

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Todd Foltz.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Masterchef 2020 – My Friends in the TV.

Over the years, I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned that I’m a die-hard Masterchef tragic. Indeed, I might not have let on just how much I long for Masterchef season to come around every year. Indeed, I’m there poised on the very edge of the couch with the same intense enthusiasm as a  Rabbitoh’s footy supporter longing for kick-off.  By the way, in case you’re wondering what a Rabbitoh’s supporter might be, they’re a particular crazed breed of Rugby League fan with actor Russell Crowe as their fearless leader. They’re anything but your average fan. So, that really says a lot about me and Masterchef. Indeed, I’d be wearing the apron if you didn’t have to go on the show to earn it for yourself. To the best of my knowledge, this is something money can not buy.

However, my love of Masterchef doesn’t stop at the couch.

I’ve also mentioned in one of my recent travel posts, that I’d consider moving to Melbourne for Masterchef, trading in my Sydney stripes for good.

That says even more!!!

Juli Rabbit Rowena in kitchen

Julie Goodwin (right) photographed in my kitchen. Rabbit and Julie hosted the breakfast run on  our local radio station.

Also, just to show off just a little bit, Australia’s very first Masterchef,  Julie Goodwin, has even been to our house to cook us a meal. My cousin also works on the show. However,  she has to adhere to a code of silence, and she also moved to Melbourne.

Anyway, every other year, I’ve been in parked on  the couch in front of the box gripped with tense anticipation on opening night. However, somehow what with watching all the coverage of the coronavirus, and all the car restoration shows my husband and son have been watching on some random channel, we not only missing the first night. We missed the first week. I was in shock! I know we’re living in a very strange world atm what with all the changes the coronavirus has wrought. However, the fact I missed the start of the new Masterchef season, shows just how far the earth has shifted from its axis,  taking us into very alien territory.

However, all was not lost. Last night, I wrestled with catch up and went to bed very, very early in the morning after binge watching five episodes of the show.

For those of you who follow Masterchef and many of you who don’t, you’d also be aware that Masterchef 2020 has had major changes of its own. At the end of last season, all three of the original judges (Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan) left, leaving a very big question mark over Masterchef’s future. Could the series survive? What was it that made the show Masterchef, and could that go on? In many ways, it felt like the end of the world with a bunch of survivors escaping through the flames on a life raft.

However, this show clearly has a lot of bedrock underneath it. In Masterchef 2020, they cleverly launched the new judges within very familiar territory. They brought back previous contestants…the people we know, love and have been gunning for in the past. Moreover, just to ensure the new-look season went off with a bang, they launched off with Gordon Ramsay Week. Could the show start off with more fire and brimstone?

I don’t think so.

Since we’re all in isolation, I haven’t been able to talk about the show with my two support workers who are just as passionate about the show. Obviously, I haven’t talked about it on Facebook either yet. However, this post might generate some discussion.

Reynold at Koi

Reynold Poernomo photographed at Koi a few years ago.

Personally, I love Masterchef 2020 just as much as usual, and I must say that I’m personally very glad to see Reynauld back. I’ve been to his Koi dessert bar in Sydney and his desserts taste just as exquisitely scrumptious in real life as they look on TV. I also have loads of other favourites on the show. Poh Ling Yeow, who placed second in the first season, has been a major personality on the show so far, and had been tipped to be one of the new judges. However, all of the contestants have unfinished business and are back to win.

Nomtella inside at Koi

A treat from the Koi…yum!

Binge watching Masterchef last night was also strangely comforting in this very strange world we’re currently living in. You see, it was filmed three months ago pre social distancing and the contestants are all standing in their regular positions at their benches. Indeed, they’re even HUGGING EACH OTHER!!! Wow! It’s absolutely wonderful to be a part of all that love, joy, friendship and community, even if it is on TV. I miss all of that in real life so much, and as we all know, the lines between the people on TV and us at home has always been blurry, and we feel we know these total strangers in quite an intimate and personal way. However, now more than ever, we need our TV friends and some sense of normal when reality is anything but.

So many people I know, especially people living alone, are really longing to hug someone, especially their friends. For huggers, it’s just such a part of who we are, our joie de vivre and even more importantly, our love and connectedness with people. I really miss that too, even though there are four humans and three dogs under our roof.

Although we’re all doing isolation together, not everybody here feels like a hug, and might not feel like a chat at the same time either. We’re not always on the same page. Indeed, my husband and I have ended up in different time zones, where I’m night and he is day. Of course, binge watching Masterchef only compounded this scenario last night. That was the latest (or should I say earliest) I’ve ever been to bed since university!!

C

Jonathon & Amelia Jan 2007

Kids learning how to cook January 2007.

Before I head off, there’s one other thing I love about Masterchef, and that  hasn’t changed this year either. That’s how it inspires my cooking and certainly raises the bar several  notches. While I’m fairly strong on the sweets front, I’m not so versed on the savoury side, and every season, I at least pick up a few extra ingredients. I started baking fennel last year, and I should be inspired to get my herb patch at home up and running. In my typical style, I bought a few punnets from Bunnings and they haven’t made it past the front door and are still in their punnets. I would love to be able to experiment with liquid nitrogen and see how that works for myself. However, that’s well beyond the scope of my home kitchen. So, I’ll just have to keep on dreaming.

ballet shoes

A current view of the whiteboard in our kitchen.

By the way, speaking of my home kitchen, while Masterchef is playing in our lounge room, our kitchen’s been converted into a dance studio. As you might be aware, our daughter is a dedicated, aspiring dancer and ballerina. Thanks to social isolation, all her dance classes are now being transmitted via zoom. She’s currently on school holidays, but rehearsals for a production whose performance date is very much in the air, continue and when you have a look at our whiteboard, you can see that is no small undertaking involving serious commitment from the studio and families alike. For the first time ever, I’ve truly wondered whether it’s all worth it. Of course, anyone with a more practical mindset, would already be questioning the viability of  career in the performing arts. However, I come from a family of professional musicians and so this world isn’t quite so foreign or precarious to me. I also have my own writing dream inside my heart, which was buried in the corporate world for quite awhile, but has found release. Even if I’m not paid to write, that should never detract from who I am. I’m still frantically working towards that one day which I’m believing will come. Thanks to the coronavirus, it’s taken another hit, although perhaps this time at home will finally mean it’s done. I hope so! Yet, my own dreams also mean I understand our daughter’s vision.

Have you been watching Masterchef 2020? What are your thoughts? Are you hooked just as much as ever? Or, perhaps, you’ve called it quits. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I would also like to acknowledge those of us whose dreams are currently in suspended animation with this incredibly powerful song from Les Miserables. Better still, I’ve chosen Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent: I Dreamed A Dream

I’ve dreamed a dream too. How about you?

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 16th March, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I thought you might like to be a bit adventurous and and a bit of the mug cake our daughter has made. She found the recipe on Tik Tok (a Chinese video-sharing social networking service). However, from my point of view, it seems to be home to the weird, wonderful and everything teen. Accordingly, Facebook is for old fogeys or “parents” like me. Well, anyway, getting back to this recipe, it’s hardly Masterchef. Indeed, you chop up Oreos, add milk. Mix. Cook in the microwave and hey presto watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat, you have instant cake. I made mug cake years ago with the kids. So, it’s not as though I have anything against making cake in a mug when a seriously uncontrollable craving hits, but at least my cake was made from real ingredients. You know the stuff. Or, maybe you don’t. However, it had an egg, oil, flour, sugar, cocoa and real chocolate bits. So, while it might’ve been fast, it wasn’t fake and I had made it from scratch.

Now that you’re snuggled up in your chair with your mug cake and your choice of beverage, let me ask you about your week? How are you?

For many, if not all of us, the coronavirus is making it’s presence felt. We live about an hour North of Sydney, which puts us a little out of the way. However, my husband commutes to work at Macquarie University in Sydney during the week. As luck would have it, some of the first cases of Corona Virus here in Australia were at the university’s child care centre and the nursing home next door. Then, there was a case at a nearby boys’ school where one of our close friends from Church up here works.  Considering that I am at a higher risk of both catching the virus and having a more serious outcome, alarms bells went off. Not panic. I am trying to isolate myself as little as possible at the moment, especially as this might go on for several months, so I don’t want to prolong the agony unnecessarily. At the same time, I’m lucky that I love research and writing and don’t mind being at home, aside from missing my friends and having  people contact which is so important to me. That said, I am also quite prepared to isolate for a few months to save my life, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

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By the way, when I was in the opportunity shop today, I found this grumpy-looking Minion in prison stripes which looked like he was in quarantine for the coronavirus. So, I just had to set him free, bring him home and have a bit of fun. Here’s to: The Cranky Minion in Corona Quarantine..

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Attack of the killer toilet paper. 

Over the weekend, my husband and I binge-watched an American crime drama series, The Bridge. You might’ve already seen it considering it came out in 2013, but it was the first time I’ve seen it and it really drew me in. That’s a real shame considering it only ran for two seasons. However, we’ve still got the second season to go. I’m not much of a TV watcher so getting me hooked, says something for the series if it was short-lived. There were some scenes depicting some very raw emotion in a way I haven’t seen before. It certainly wasn’t your usual American TV crime show, although since it was based on the Swedish series that make a lot of sense.

My research into my Great Great Uncle’s WWI service in France is progressing well. I finally found his battalion’s diary online. I knew it was there somewhere, as I’d seen these online years ago, but I hadn’t been able to find it on the Australian War Memorial site. I don’t know who set up their web site, but it isn’t very user-friendly and let’s just say you need to know where it is to find it. Now, that I have, it’s naturally given me a much better idea of his pathway through the war and where he served. This should have been so much easier, but I don’t regret the 6 months of research I’ve put in trying to get to this point. I realized that I actually knew very little about what happened in the war and I’ve learned so much. Not only about history, but also about how people get through severe adversity and contrary to all the shooting up and blowing up we see in war movies, there was also a lot of compassion out there on the battle field. People sticking their own necks out in a very literal way to save a mate. Lastly, just so you don’t get the idea that these guys were all work and no play, they did manage to get away on furlough and see something of the world, especially London and Paris.

Anyway, that’s about all at our end and I’m starting to nod off.

So I hope you all stay health and out of harm’s way.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share -18th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Rather than joining me for coffee at my place, today I thought you might like to join me down at the San Antonio Bakery in Kirribilli. It’s right across the road from the stairs taking you up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the way, you might want to bring a bit of sun and the Northern Hemisphere Summer with you. It was a cheek-smacking 15°C (59° F) there today. Mind you, I must have Viking blood because yours truly sat outside this afternoon to soak up the Kirribilli charm, although I did wrap myself up in one of their blankets. By the way, the food there is amazing and I’ve indulged in a few of their delights. Today, I had a sort of nut crumble topping on a Nutella tart. The texture of the topping was fairly complex with a combination of seeds and nuts. The pasty was perfect and you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

Harbour Bridge Stairs

A wet day in Kirribilli. You can just make out the steps leading up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While I was there, I pulled out my notebook and simply started jotting. Kirribilli is a rather rustic part of Sydney with Victorian terraces heading down to the wharf and Sydney Harbour. If you were had bionic strength, you could throw a stone from Kirribilli Wharf straight through the Opera House windows if you were feeling like getting arrested and being rather unpopular.

As I said, I started jotted. A cold wind was blowing straight off the Harbour and round the corner blowing the Autumn leaves in the trees across the road. I was quite mesmerised by the fluttering leaves, although perhaps that was because the rest of me was snap frozen.

Of course, any sensible soul would’ve sat inside, but I wanted to experience Kirribilli. Be a part of it, and feel its breath blowing against my neck, even though it was freezing and giving me a different kind of goosebump experience.

However, my reasons for being in Sydney today weren’t social. After crossing the lung specialist off the list for the next three months, I was off to the gastroenterologist to see if he could do anything to get rid of The Cough. Well, he was full of ideas and conferred with the lung specialist on the mobile and they managed to cut it down to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. It’s not til August so I don’t need to get too excited about it yet. Some people go on a cruise, I’m cruising on off to the hospital. One thing I do know, is that a friend’s wife with MS died of bowel cancer because the early signs were dismissed. It’s important to keep in mind that things can always get worse and not to be complacent or in some kind of la-la land of uninformed positive thinking.

Anyway, aside from all that medical stuff today, there have been some great highlights during the last week.

Firstly, on Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter and friends up to perform in Starstruck at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, about 1.5 hours North of here. This showcases school talent in the performing arts, and our daughter appeared in two dance numbers with the Year 7 dance troupe. I have to be honest and say that during their performance, I only had eyes for her. She was like a twinkling star, and as much as their was that immense pride in watching her perform, I was also dumbstruck. She didn’t get any of this from her father or myself. Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder whether God can be a bit random in how he allocates gifts and interests. That, or he has a very good sense of humour!

scouts prepared

 

Also on Saturday, we dropped our son off for an overnight Scout Camp and something like a 17km hike. That meant he was sleeping in a tent in this freezing Winter weather, which as my Dad would say, puts hairs on your chest. They had to carry everything in, and everything out so it was quite a credit to him. The hike ended at the local tip and the backpack went straight into the car and tales of aching feet, back, neck began to unfold. Clearly, he went to great lengths to avoid going to his sister’s dance concert, and we’re proud of his efforts.

Meanwhile, with our daughter at an evening performance and our son away at camp, Geoff and I ventured out for dinner at Mum’s cousin’s restaurant Talulah at The Junction in Newcastle. This place has become a bit of a rock to me when visiting Newcastle and I think I’ve been there about 3 times in the last couple of years. I remember going up to Newcastle for family get togethers. My grandparents initially lived there, and then we went up to see mum’s aunt and her family and there were 21sts, weddings, birthdays, christenings and unfortunately too many funerals of loved ones who died before their time. The family home was sold years ago, so the restaurant gives me some kind of bearings, and there’s an old piano in there which I wrote into a story a few years back. I don’t know if it came from the family. Or, was simply found beside the road, but it’s over 100 years old and it tells a thousand stories, despite staying silent. There’s also a Cenotaph outside the restaurant where a soldier stands to attention. He looks like he’s standing over the place and looking out for us. Goodness knows we’ve needed it at times. Apparently, the pigeons poop all over him, and doesn’t show him an ounce of respect.

I’m not real good as a food writer, especially when I don’t take notes at the time. However, each mouthful had such a burst of flavour and the meal was very refreshing. The ambiance was also fantastic. Quite aside from the fact that we’re family, Talulah feels like a stylish yet casual family home with appealing paintings throughout and fresh, modern decor. It’s a fun place to be and I could feel the stresses of life fall away, although I was also rather conscious of a growing list of “absent friends”. You can read a review Here

Before I move on from Talulah, I just wanted to share about our navigation difficulties, which you could say are something of a feature of our marriage. Geoff drives the car. I navigate. Unfortunately, this division of labour is driven by necessity, not ability and I have no shame in admitting that I could get lost in our own driveway. However, when it comes to navigating our way through Newcastle, I’m back being a kid in the back seat of the Holden and Dad’s driving through the streets without a map saying he only needs to go somewhere once and he can find his way back again. Of course, this boast was filled with bravado and a bit of cheek, but it was true. Moreover, it did sting a bit as I couldn’t direct Geoff to Talulah using Google maps even though I’d been there three times before. Geoff turned down Darby Street and from there, we zigzagged back and forth desperately hoping to see a spark of familiarity but seemingly driving deeper and deeper into the maze. Both of us were getting frustrated and it came very close to simply driving home, but we persevered. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t have signs set up specially for my visit…”Rowena turn here!” It would’ve made it so much easier.

In terms of blogging, I posted two more family history stories. Firstly, there was Fire in North Sydney…Grandma & the Mosman Bomber. The next one focused on my difficulties to finding my 3rd Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Flanagan’s, name of birth: Digging Up More Family Bones. I’m hoping that by posting this info in my blog, that I might flush out the answers.

Getting these stories written up, is feeling great. I’m gaining more confidence in my ability to weigh up quite a mass of data, and actually get a story onto the page. As far as I’m aware, the data is well researched and documented, which is just as important in my mind as a good story.

Lastly, I wrote a story revolving around food for this week’s contribution to Friday fictioneers: Madame Cuisinier.

Well, I’m sorry for talking at you for so long. Clearly, there’s been a lot on and all the chatter in my head has spewed onto the screen. Thank you for listening and being there for me tonight. It’s much appreciated and I look forward to popping round to catch up on your week.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st May, 2018.

 “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.”

Alice in Wonderland.

 

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share on Yet Another Monday Night.

Well, my excuse is that I had to get all dolled-up and formal on Saturday, and it was such a shock to the system, that I had to retire to my bed for all of Sunday and even much of today. While I did have a bit of a joke about having a Front Row Seat at the Royal Wedding, the truth is almost as inconceivable. I was playing my violin at Gig Night at the music studio and being a violinist to the very core, I had to wear my blacks. Indeed, I dug the Winter-weight Calvin Klein number out of hibernation, and strutted my stuff. Well, I wasn’t strutting because my shoes were too tight, I can’t strut at the best of times and inspite of myself I was more than a tad nervous. Not because I’m scared of performing. I knew I hadn’t really done enough practice and that there would be mistakes, but I didn’t want too many mistakes. Moreover, I didn’t want to stuff up the bits I always get right. I did that at the end of year concert and actually pulled off the tricky bits. After much philosophical reflection, I’ve decided that the violin is a bit of a temperamental character, who is insanely jealous and refuses to cooperate when ignored and like to stuff things up for you just for the hell of it. Yet, for some strange reason, I’ve remained faithful and haven’t packed up my bags and returned to the piano. Not yet, anyway.

 

You can read more about my performance in A Legend In My Own Hair Follicles

 

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Alice in Wonderland

So how was your week?

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of it? What were the standouts? While I didn’t have the opportunity to conduct a representative survey, from what I’ve heard, the Address seems to be the most talked about aspect of the wedding. It seems some people loved it, others thought it went on too long, and I’ve downloaded the transcript to fully get my head around it, although I’m yet to read it fully. In terms of the Address being too long, if I was the Most Reverend Curry, I would’ve made the most of having my one chance in life to speak to the world. While he might not have been Dr Martin Luther King, he had a beautiful and very powerful message about love and acceptance and with all the awful things happening in our world in both public and private arenas, we need a good dose of what he had to say. Indeed, we each need to wake up and start trying to make a difference in the same way that Harry and Meghan are already doing, and it will be exciting to see what kind of impact they’ll have, now that they’ve become a team.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my lung specialist. He’s usually happy to see me twice, or even once a year.However, after my lung function tests two weeks ago, it was “I’ll see you in two weeks”. They showed that my lung capacity has dropped 20% in six months. Mind you, I’ve had a lot of lung and even a severe sinus infection, and so the big hope was the the drop was due to infection. So, he whacked me on more “horse pills” and I tried to exercise more and do what I could to save me from more intervention. Of course, I’m “feeling better”. No, I truly am and I’m not coughing anywhere near as much. Indeed, a week ago when I was talking to my mother on the phone, she noted that I hadn’t coughed. Hopefully, her observations will be supported by tomorrow’s results.

By the way, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but Masterchef Australia has started up again for 2018. I’m an absolute diehard fan of the show, and while I might not make the recipes they create, I do add little bits and pieces to my own cooking, to add a bit of pizazz. I’ve even cooked with fennel, which felt far more alien to me than a thing called a “custard apple” (thanks to my mother being a Queenslander).

Anyway, it’s Nigella Week on Masterchef and tonight, there was a an eleimination pressure test… Nigella’s Chocolate Feast. It was a hard show for a chocoholic like me to sit through. However, I’m already planning to make her fudgy brownies. They were so gooey and sensational.

Nigella Nutella Cake

Nigella’s Nightmare…The Avalanche.

I must admit I sympathized with Nigella’s Victims tonight, as they were making her Chocolate Olive Oil Mouse. Two years ago, I also came a cropped making Nigella’s Nutella Cake. Like one of the contestants, I also over-beat the egg whites, and it ended in disaster, which I dubbed:  Nigella’s Heartache. After all, it’s all well and good when people post beautiful recreations of your recipes, but it’s not so good when they flaunt their disasters all over the World Wide Web.

Before I head off, I just wanted to mention my latest contribution to Friday Fictioneers…A Special Child. This is written about a young girl on the Autism Spectrum who goes missing in the bush.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running along the beach.

Oops, I almost forgot. The dogs received a bit of an update this week…Pup Psychologist, Anyone? Since I posted this, we went on a disastrous trip with the three dogs to the beach yesterday when all three refused to come when called and Zac and Rosie were sprinting up and down the beach and Lady was wondering off on her own. There were a few fishermen along the beach and we could see the dogs stealing their bait, their and getting tangled in the lines. Time to go home. That is, if you can catch them. Training will now be intensifying for both dogs and humans.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a long and big day ahead tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

J – Jackson Pollock…Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

As you may be aware, my theme for the 2018 Blogging A-Z April Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Today, I will be writing to American Abstract Expressionist, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). He will be accompanied by Elvis singing: I Did It My Way

In 1973 the National Gallery of Australia purchased Jackson Pollock’s masterpiece, Blue Poles, for a staggering $1.3 million…the highest amount ever paid for an American painting at the time. Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, the purchase was highly controversial, triggering a wave of debate across the country.

Blue Poles newspaper article 1974

Opinions came in thick and fast. Indeed, I even saw him described as “Jack the Dripper”:

“I THINK the money spent on Jackson Pollock’s painting “Blue Poles” would have been better spent on building a four-lane highway linking the capital cities of the Eastern States. The Hume and Pacific Highways are not fit for the traffic they carry these days, and many lives, as well as time and money, would be saved by their improvement.$2 to A. W. (name supplied), Gladstone, N.S.W.[1]

“Mr Daniel Thomas, senior curator of the Art Gallery of NSW and Sydney Morning Herald art critic, described the purchase as “the greatest thing that has happened to art in Australia”.

Artist Sali Herman said, “The whole thing just stinks. I am all in favour of the National Gallery buying good paintings . . . It seems that they have money to give away. I don’t think Pollock is worth two million”.

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Mr Henry Hanke, a winner of the Archibald and Sulman art prizes, said he had not seen ‘Blue Poles’ but he “did not think much of paintings created by dribbling paint”.

Another Australian artist, Russell Drysdale, was in favour of the purchase. He said, “The whole art world was affected by Pollock and this was one of his masterpieces. If you have a masterpiece then it is priceless[2]“.

After arriving in Australia in 1974, Blue Poles was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney and our family joined the throngs of Sydneysiders to just to see it. I was almost 5 years old at the time and had just started school. Indeed, I hadn’t even had the suggestion of a wobbly tooth.

This is where our visit starts getting personal, because when I saw Blue Poles up on the wall, it reminded me of the painting my father had done blowing swirls of colourful paint across a dark blue background through a straw. So, what does this one in a million, little kid do? She walks straight up to Blue Poles with all the confidence of the Director of the Art Gallery himself and points a finger right on the painting: “My Daddy painted that!” My 2 year old younger brother also touched it, at least as far as our memories are concerned. Humph! I also remember just as clearly being told off by a very austere Guide of Gestapo proportions, who snapped: “Don’t touch the painting!!” Clearly, I’m lucky I kept my fingers. But, isn’t that what every little kid wants to do, especially with all that thick, oozy paint splashed all over the canvas? It was just begging for sensory-seeking little fingers to touch it, especially back in the olden days when we didn’t have fidget spinners to keep them occupied.

Dads Painting

Dad’s painting 1974. This now reminds me of fireworks over Sydney Harbour, which weren’t a thing back then.

I was quite excited to find this film footage from 1974 showing Blue Poles on display.

After such an experience, how could I not write to Jackson Pollock in this series? Blue Poles could well have been the very first painting I ever saw in an art gallery, and that scolding “Do not touch the paintings” hasn’t left me either. Of course, we can’t have such masterpieces destroyed by grotty fingerprints, but surely art can also be tactile, a complete sensory experience? Indeed, couldn’t art also be an active thing for the viewer, as much as the artist themselves, the creator? Why should they have all the fun?

I was reminded of this hands-off rule of art, when my husband and I took our then four year old son to the Art Gallery of NSW (returning to the scene of my crime as a parent this time, not the child). He was very well-behaved, but he was active. Indeed, I remember feeling very nervous as he started looking at some thousand year old sculptures, wondering if he’d accidentally knock of a head. He wasn’t always looking where he was going.  Could you imagine the guilt of that as a parent? The headlines! No, thanks.

Then, taking after his mother, he walked up to a painting, and said he’d painted one like that at school and I photographed him standing beside it.

Next, after leaving the gallery, we were walking through the park across the road when he found a large autumn leaf on the footpath. He was so excited and he wanted to take it back to the art gallery so someone could make a painting. You should’ve seen his eyes light up with childish enthusiasm and he was so sweet. Meanwhile, I was lost for words. How could I explain that they didn’t want a leaf? Or, for that matter, a pressing of a leaf like he’d made at pre-school? How could I throw cold water on his flame?

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Who’d refuse a leaf from this little rock star…

Perhaps, we should’ve taken him back. I’m sure the gallery staff would’ve thanked him for it and been considerate. She wouldn’t have laughed in his face and told him how much the paintings in the gallery are worth, and how they’re only done by real artists. In other words, that they don’t have leaf prints hanging in the gallery. Instead, I just told him that they don’t make the paintings there. That they’re only on display.

….

Who Was Jackson Pollock?

Jackson Pollock Life Magazine

Beyond all these family anecdotes, there was an artist…Jackson Pollock.

In terms of his bio, he was born on the 28th January, 1912 in Wyoming and grew up in Arizona and California. In 1930, he moved to New York with his brother. 1938 – 1942 he underwent Jungian therapy to treat his alcoholism . October, 1945 he married fellow abstract artist, Lee Krasner and in November, they moved to Long Island. On August 11, 1956 Jackson Pollock died aged 44 when he crashed his car within a mile of his house under the influence of alcohol. Jackson Pollock was an Abstract expressionist.

Pollock provided a solid account of his artistic processes in an interview with Life Magazine in 1949, which was headed: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?”

“Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyo. He studied in New York under Realist Thomas Benton but soon gave this up in utter frustration and turned to his present style. When Pollock decides to start a painting, the first thing he does is to tack a large piece of canvas on the floor of his barn. “My painting does not come from the easel,” he explains, writing in a small magazine called Possibilities 1. “I need the resistance of a hard surface.” Working on the floor gives him room to scramble around the canvas, attacking it from the top, the bottom or the side (if his pictures can be said to have a top, a bottom or a side) as the mood suits him. In this way, “I can… literally be in the painting.” He surrounds himself with quart cans of aluminum paint and many hues of ordinary household enamel. Then, starting anywhere on the canvas, he goes to work. Sometimes he dribbles the paint on with a brush (above). Sometimes he scrawls it on with a stick, scoops it with a trowel or even pours it on straight out of the can. In with it all he deliberately mixes sand (below), broken glass, nails, screws or other foreign matter lying around. Cigarette ashes and an occasional dead bee sometimes get in the picture inadvertently. “When I am in my painting,” says Pollock, “I‘m not aware of what I’m doing.” To find out what he has been doing he stops and contemplate the picture during what he calls his “get acquainted” period. Once in a while a life-like image appears in the painting by mistake. But Pollock cheerfully rubs it out because the picture must retain “a life of its own.” Finally, after days of brooding and doodling, Pollock decides the painting is finished, a deduction few others are equipped to make. [3]

Of course, so much more could be said, but I guess it already has been. So, that leaves me with a letter to write.

A Letter to Jackson Pollock:

Dear Jackson,

There’s so much I could ask you, but I couldn’t resist this simple question:

Are you the greatest dead painter in the United States?

That’s all.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Reply From Jackson Pollock

Dear Rowena,

Am I the greatest dead painter in the United States?

I’m still not saying.

Heard you playing the violin(4) last night. Smashed mine as a kid, after it refused to cooperate.

Left you one of my signature apples pies (5) in the fridge, but I ate your pavlova. Would love the recipe. Could you please send it in your next letter. Promise not to get paint all over it.

Keep up these letters. We’ve been passing them round so much, they’re about to fall apart. Looking forward to “K”.

Yours,

Jackson

References

[1] Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), Wednesday 6 March 1974, page 43

[2] Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), Tuesday 25 September 1973, page 7

[3] http://www.theslideprojector.com/pdffiles/art1/pollockarticle.pdf

(4) Bruce Claser “Jackson Pollock: An Interview with Lee Krasner” Arts Magazine 41, No. 6 (April 1967) pp 36-39.  Reprinted in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles & Reviews edited by Pepe Karmel, 1999, The Museum of Modern Art. Distributed by HN Abrams. p 34. Link.

(5) Jackson Pollock loved baking and also made a great spaghetti sauce Ibid p 33.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share, April 1st, 2018.

Welcome to our Easter Sunday Weekend Coffee Share…and April Fool’s Day!

Personally, I’m not too sure about Easter Sunday also being April Fool’s Day and as if that wasn’t already bad enough, here in Sydney, we’re turning the clocks back an hour and it’s the end of Daylight Saving Time. However, you just try telling that hot sun that it isn’t Summer! It’s currently 27ºC or 81ºF and I feel like heading off to the beach.

How was your week? Are you doing anything special for Easter?

We celebrated Easter with my parents last night, to avoid the traffic today and we also wanted to attend our local Church. Things can get a bit crazy at times, can’t they and you just have to spread things out to dissipate the madness.

Anyway, I made a pavlova to take down for dessert. This turned into quite an epic saga, because the eggs refused to separate and I basically went through twice the number of eggs to get 6 that worked. Then, just to totally blow out my stress levels, I dropped he final egg yolk into the five, perfect egg whites and it was looking like I was having to start again from scratch if it wasn’t for a bit of artful “fishing”. Even then, I still wasn’t sure I’d removed all the stray traces of yolk and thought I’d beat them up and see how it went. Fine! Phew! Anyway, of course when I arrive at my parents’ place, my Dad said it looked like the perfect pavlova and by the time our daughter had added the cream and decorative touches, it was. Goes to show, you don’t always knows what goes on behind the scenes to produce perfection, and we could all ease up on ourselves a bit.

Our big news last week was the our daughter had an audition for a speaking part in a musical, and the two of us headed down on Thursday to Surry Hills. Surry Hills is a short walk from Central Station, which is about a 80 minute train ride from here. Our daughter recently turned 12 and she had her first audition for the Sound of Music a few years ago. That was for the second youngest Von Trapp and it was a singing part. So, we had a fair bit of practice in the kitchen. I had the flu at the time and was on the nebuliser for asthma, so it was a surreal experience, but I got her there…along with an army escort from her Godfather who is in the reserves. This time, the reheasal side of things was easier, but I had trouble finding a reasonable head shot. Although I clearly do a lot of photography, she avoids the camera and a head shot is different from your standard photo. It’s like a portrait crossed with a passport photo. I chose a photo which I thought was alright. However, when I printed it up, there was one stray hair across her face and her makeup was ever so slightly cakey. So, I had to dash home and search for some more before the shop shut. I realize that I now need to take some purpose head shots. They’re very demanding and every little freckle or touch of poor lighting shows up so they need to be done with meticulous attention to detail on my part, while trying to capture a relaxed, natural look on hers. That’s going to take some practice, and a bit of luck.

Before and after her audition, we walked around Surry Hills and watched the neighbourhood pass by. Anything goes in Surry Hills, so people watching was a lot of fun and a few of the local dogs also entertained us. You can read about it here: Surry Hills Through the Lens.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to prepare for the Blogging A-Z Challenge, which also kicks of today. This year, my theme is…Letters To Dead Artists. I love my research and am finding it very hard to pull back and actually write. These artists are fascinating and when I’m looking at how their artworks inspired me as well as their bios and background info, it’s very hard to pull back and keep the word limit down. Find a focus and just stick to that narrow piece of what really is a mind-bogglingly huge and complex puzzle. After all, we’re talking about trying to encapsulate creative genius here and that’s no easy undertaking at all. Indeed, I know I’ve bitten off too much and I’m already feeling very stressed and wondering how I’ll ever get it finished in time. Yet, two years ago my theme was Letters to Dead Poets. That was equally intense and overwhelming. Yet, I finished and I had a solid body of work at the end of it. It was a significant achievement.

Well, on that note, I’d better get moving. Are any of you taking part in the A-Z Challenge? If so, please leave a link in the comments below as well as a brief overview of your theme. A inherent part of the challenge is that you read at least 5-10 other blogs every day, which is also why I’ve been trying to write ahead and get this series cracking. Unfortunately, the other areas of my life haven’t got with the plan and so I’m concerned. Can I pull it off? Yes, I can…

Well, on that note, I’d better head off and get cracking. I hope you have a great week!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Silent Bomb- Carrot Ranch.

It was Henry’s tenth birthday and strangely his big sister, Kate, was only too happy to bake his cake. Indeed, she even suggested Mum took Henry out for a special, birthday milkshake.

Mum was so proud of her thoughtful daughter, that she jumped onto Facebook: “Proudest Mum moment. World’s Best Daughter! Milkshakes with Henry, while Kate’s baking Henry’s Birthday Cake.”

Meanwhile, Kate carefully cut out the middle of the cake. Blew up the balloon, stuck it inside and smothered the lot in chocolate icing. The bulging cake might have looked nine months pregnant, but at least it didn’t tick.

……

March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 13, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 14). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share February 26, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If you’re joining me for coffee today, you’re in luck. You’re welcome to check out my daughter’s gallery of birthday cupcakes which she and a friend decorated with a veritable rainbow of artificial colourings. She’s gone away to camp for a few days, and I’m seriously hoping she hasn’t gone all twitchy. We don’t usually have colours around here, but every now and then I forget or I let the festive spirit over-ride my better judgement.

My daughter turned 12 on Saturday, which felt like an absolute whirlwind swept through the place. It wasn’t any ordinary whirlwind either. This one had swallowed up half a dozen tins of paint and then proceeded to spew the contents out all over the place. The colouring-in began at our local Sephora makeup store where my daughter and her friend went “swatching” through the store trying out a multitude of lipsticks, eye shadows, blushers, foundations and lets just say there wasn’t much skin on her arm which hasn’t been swatched. She also ended up wearing some blue mascara which looked very striking, which she paired up with cobalt blue lipstick. Meanwhile, after feeling like a fish out of water on our previous visits, I got into it this time and sported mauve lipstick which I kept on to go home. That was so liberating and I felt like I could be anybody and express myself in unreserved abandon in there and it felt so good.

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After our shopping expedition, the party started back at our place. A few of the girls were staying over and we’d set the tent up in our poor excuse for a backyard better known as The Wasteland. With the dogs outside, I didn’t have any concerns about the girls being safe, but I hadn’t factored in the dogs’ determination to get inside the tent and join in on the fun. Lady, our 5 year old border collie x cavalier is very mellow these days. However, our 8 month old pups, Zac and Rosie, are too intelligent for our own good. They found  way into the tent and chewed up one of the girl’s prized makeup, which I’ll need to replace. Grr. Actually, Rosie’s been chewing up everything lately and the pair of them have de-stuffed a second dog bed.

Anyway, the party was a lot of fun and a good way to help our daughter make friends at her new school. You can check out the photos and read about it Here.

Also during last week, our son took part in a program at our local sailing club where the juniors had the opportunity to skipper a member’s yacht for the twilight sailing race. I could only stay long enough to see him climb on board, but the owner of the boat greeted him with a warm handshake and treated him with warmth and respect. I managed to photograph a heartwarming handshake and it was great to see he was going to have a fabulous time. As it turned out, they also came first. So, he had a wonderful time, and you can read about it Here

Less exciting news from last week, was that I developed a severe sinus infection. I didn’t know what was going on for a few days and I was becoming concerned. My eyes were aching and really heavy and I also had the tell tale facial aches. Anyway, I was almost relieved to blow what looked like an alien out of my nose and finally find out what’s going on. So, I’m back on the strong antibiotics again and filled the repeat today. BTW I thought you’d love this. When I blow my nose, my son says I’m playing my “nose trumpet”.

Thanks to the sinus infection, productivity has plummeted and I’ve been sleeping a lot, drugging up on Codral and trying to ward of fierce headaches while being the mother of the birthday girl and trying to ensure she had a Happy Birthday. That’s been a difficult balancing act. She’s missed out on really celebrating quite a few birthdays because I haven’t been well, and I naturally feel bad about it, even though it’s not my fault. Every parent wants their children to have a “normal” childhood, even though we don’t exactly know what it is. That said, I mightn’t know what’s normal but I can certainly pick was isn’t.

In terms of the blogging I’ve done in the last week, I wrote a contribution for Friday Fictioneers: The Last Rose of Summer. I also wrote about the Sinus Attack. 

So, how was your week? What have you been up to? Hope you’ve been keeping well.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

xx Rowena

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

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Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

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It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

Chocolate fruits

Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

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You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena