Category Archives: cooking

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share 30th July, 2017.

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share!

It’s my birthday today. So, come along and join me. We can grab a huge chunk of sludgy chocolate cake with our coffee and swing from the chandeleir, until the whole  darn thing rips out of the ceiling. I might just leave out the bit about us falling to our doom.

I cherish each and every birthday and am grateful to be getting older…most of the time. I’ve never looked in the mirror and seen the wrinkles. However, I must confess that I’m profoundly short-sighted and as time’s gone by, I’m near sighted as well. So, I’d be lucky to see a fault line on my face, let alone a wrinkle without my glasses.

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Birthday Breakfast.

Anyway, we’ve had a fantastic day. It started out with a sleep-in. Our daughter made me a cheese and salami omelette, which she cooked up in heart-shaped silicone moulds. It really touched my heart.

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Mother and Son.

Not to be outdone by his sister, our son made pancakes for lunch and effortlessly flipped it. The smile on his face from pulling this off was priceless. He was stoked. I spent much of the day in my PJs, which I feel is the perfect birthday attire, especially for the middle of Winter. Then, we were ferrying our daughter to and from a last dance class before her exam tomorrow. She was be sitting for the RAD Grade 4 Class Award.

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Next, we were off for dinner with my parents at theThe Coast Bar & Restaurant, located on the Gosford Waterfront. I ordered a Pina Colada by some other name and shared a seafood platter. I wasn’t too sure about whether I would like the oysters. I’ve never been a huge fan. However, your tastes mature. So I thought I’d give them a try. I loved them. My mother has always been a huge lover of oysters and she’s always said that they taste like the sea. This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters where I’ve got that. They had that flavour of the sea and then, it suddenly intensified. Boom! They also had some charcoal coated prawns which were very crunchy and yum. Oops! I almost forgot to mention the lobster mornay. unfortunately, there was so much to enjoy and limited capacity.

Greed is good

Glasses? This might come as a surprise to you, but I always wear glasses but almost always take them off for photos. This is how I see myself. However, Geoff and the kids see me like this and think I look weird without them. Geoff actually likes to catch me with the glasses on. My shameful secret. 

For dessert, I had the cheese cake with salted caramel and chocolate ganache. That was so smooth and the presentation was incredibly artistic with a wave of caramel poised in suspended animation just asking to be photographed. Naturally, we had my camera there and that was more fun capturing those priceless memories of the family, and exploring some creative, photographic options.

Rewinding now to the rest of the week…

Yesterday, I went to an all-day drug and alcohol seminar at the local community centre. While this was geared towards people caring for someone living with drug and alcohol addiction (which I am not), it was also providing information on drugs and I thought my husband and I need to be more clued up. However, I not only learned so much about drug addiction, but I also learned some new strategies for getting through traumatic and conflicted family situations. So, it was really worthwhile.

During the week, my parenting skills were sorely challenged yet again when I caught our dog skyping the Queensland Governor’s do, Gavel from MY laptop at 2.00 AM. She gave me a bit of a woman-to-woman glance and crooned: “There’s nothing like a dog in uniform!” Turns out Gavel was training to become a Police dog. However, after being snubbed for being  “too friendly”, the Governor kept him on and he’s now been recruited as the Vice-Regal Dog. Well, thinking of herself as a real blue-blood, Lady’s fallen deep for Gavel. Or, was it all that bling on his coat and connections with the Royal Corgis.

Of course, I  snatched back my laptop and it’s now being stored in our room overnight.

However, my close friend who also has the rabbits and chickens which were of great interest to Lady, will be driving to Queensland this week. With a carload of kids all running helter skelter, I can just picture this sneaky little black dog who’s colouring enables to move with great stealth. She can’t chase a ball, but she can hunt AND she can hide.

You can read about Lady’s love life here: Love Is A Dog In Uniform. 

Rowena Backpacking

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again this week. This week’s effort was inspired by my trip to Europe in 1992. A week after I’d left, I’d had wallet stolen, I’d lost my passport and I was missing a love interest back home in Australia, and I burst into tears as I was locking my backpack in a locker and wanted to go home. I found a telephone booth and phoned the bloke back home. I still remember standing there feeding that handful of coins into the phone with such desperation. I’d fallen apart on the other side of the world, where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. That thought didn’t hit me at the time. However, in hindsight it does. That utter dislocation from everyone and everything you know. Back then, it wasn’t like now where you can leave home without leaving home and Skype people. You also have email, Facebook. Travel just isn’t travel anymore. You’re still attached to the umbillical cord. Not doing it tough. You can read my flash Here

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Well, that just about covers it. Can’t remember the rest. So, it must’ve been good.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster Blog.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend.

Best wishes,

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

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

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Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

Weekend Coffee Share Catch Up.

Welcome to an Extended Catch-up Coffee Share!

I’d better offer you a rather comfy chair today and at least some kind of snack (if not a meal) in addition to your beverage of choice. The last couple of weeks have been full-on. So, this coffee share gets quite philosophical.

Sorry, I’ve been MIA the last couple of weeks. While the saying goes that “no news is good news”, the reality is often quite the reverse. That no news is bad news and it takes time for you to emerge from your rock and return to the land of the living.

Bilbo going home

Bilbo leaving the beach for the last time. 

On Monday 26th June, our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo, who has featured on Beyond the Flow, passed away in the early hours of the morning. We’d taken him to the vet on the Saturday and found out he was severely anaemic and most likely had a severe auto-immune disease. The vet hoped for the best and didn’t write him off. However, when a ball-obsessed dog stops chasing his beloved ball, you are prepared. While in a sense losing Bilbo could seem like the worst, he passed away peacefully at home. It was his time and felt like part of the natural order of things. I’m also relieved we were spared making difficult decisions and didn’t have to weigh up expensive treatment for an elderly dog because we loved him too much to let go. Ever a considerate dog, he spared us that and I’m incredibly thankful and relieved.

Meanwhile, we go on.

For better or worse, we are not “Keep Calm and Carry On” people. Yet, at the same time, we’ve had things to do and places to go. No doubt, you’ve also had those times where you’ve wanted to switch out and hibernate. When, although you know it’s beneficial to keep going, that’s about as palatable as a spoonful of liquid antibiotics. No matter how much they try to disguise the taste, it still tastes “yuck”.

Unexpectedly, the kids went off to school on the Monday and Geoff and I stayed home. Monday night, our daughter was in the local Dance Festival with her school and that worked out well. I kept thinking about the dog throughout the performance, but dance is such a tonic. Tuesday, the kids stayed home and we were all subdued by an overwhelming blanket of sadness. I personally believe in indulging your grief when it happens, as I think that actually helps you to let it go. You go deep in and you come out of it faster rather than expending energy trying to keep the door shut while the monster’s trying to bust its way out.

What do you think?

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Lady has been pretty quiet without Bilbo.

We have another dog, Lady. So, we won’t be rushing out to buy another dog. Indeed, we adopted Lady 3 years ago thinking Bilbo wasn’t well and she gave him a very strong second wind. I’m not sure if he was trying to impress her but he lost weight, got fit and learned how to socialize with other dogs. He was quite an introvert, but he gained a lot more confidence. Lady, on the other hand, loves everybody, aside from the odd dog and wags her tail like a maniac.

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Jane Grover: Photo from her website.

That Thursday night, I attended a cooking demonstration by chef Jane Grover at Church. I really wasn’t sure about going and felt like I was dragging a sack of potatoes a hundred miles to get there. However, I had a nap and when I woke up, the clouds had lifted and I felt so much better. Going to see Jane, was such good medicine and without the awful aftertaste I mentioned earlier.  She had me in stitches and I felt very much in synch with her sense of humour and general zanyness. Of course, I had to buy her cookbook  Our Delicious Adventure

Here’s a link to her promo video.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

This Monday, was the first day of school holidays. I drove the kids to my parents’ place in Sydney and Geoff and I stayed for dinner. Our daughter came home on Wednesday night to attend dance workshops on Thursday with Daniel Russell  from West Side Story International Tour. These were such a blessing. It is hard for me to introduce Mr Daniel in a few sentences. His parents are the Principals at the dance school and quite aside from his professional success which has taken him to Broadway, he has a special place in our hearts. Our dance school is a close, loving family and we count on each other.

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Daniel Russell, West Side Story. Photo: © Johan Persson

I have mentioned before that my grandmother was an International concert pianist and this has given me a different appreciation of what it means to be a star. That while you have that stage and professional life, you are still human. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you still have the everyday and you are still somebody’s son, cousin, friend who’ll always know you without all of the trimmings. Personally, I think that’s critical for some kind of balance. After all, the clouds roll in, and you can’t always see the stars. Everyone needs some kind of grounding.

Eunice 1948 USA

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She juggled having seven children and a successful career as a performer, critic and professor of piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There’s almost too much to fathom. 

Anyway, I really appreciated Mr Daniel and Miss Carley putting back into the kids and giving them such encouragement and for giving us parents a smile, as we were treated to a brief performance at the end. We deserve it, you know. As much as I love and support my daughter’s dancing and love dancing myself, it is a sacrifice. While I spent hours working on her knotted hair last night, I can’t remember when my hair last got seen to. Unfortunately, I just can’t drop it off at the dry cleaners and pick it up later.

Today, my daughter had in-house dance exams…ballet, modern, jazz and tap all in one day. One day was great, as they didn’t take up the entire school holidays. However, this was very stop-start and loads of deadlines and this is not my thing. Time to leave the house, arrive, exam start time, pick up multiplied by four. This was exacerbated by disentangling a bird’s nest the night before, despite weeks of coaxing to apply the treatment sitting in the bathroom to her hair, me not sewing the elastic into her ballet shoes until this morning and finding out when I dropped her at the studio that she didn’t have a hairnet, hairpins or any organization whatsoever. I did ask her last night. I have bought it all before. But, who am I? Mum is about as useless as those flaps of skin hanging off the side of her head…ears. I don’t get worked up easily and I was fuming. I am also going back to the drawing board and devising: “Standover Mum”. This is anything but a helicopter parent. This is tough love on steroids.

Yet, we survived.

Being a dance mum isn’t a glamourous occupation. While the swan’s shining like the sun up on stage, you are the feet madly paddling in the dirty pond, doing all that hardwork behind the scenes. However, you can rise to the surface and there’s nothing quite like seeing your own up on stage…any stage. It doesn’t have to be Broadway. It could be your loungeroom at home. You don’t care. This is your child, your star and not even the most discerning of audiences, could ever love them quite as much.

Speaking of performances, our son will be appearing in The Gang Show next week, an annual variety show put on by our local Scouts, Guides and their leaders. They rehearse for months and really put heart and soul into it. I almost split a gut laughing through last year’s performance, which incorporated Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was fantastic. Our son is singing and dancing and I can’t wait to see him up in lights.

This leaves me searching for a light.

My next challenge is writing a short story for the local short story competition. I don’t write short stories and had been meaning to get some practice in after last year’s story didn’t place. That said, I have been writing flash fiction almost weekly so hopefully I can expand on that and put out a winning entry with a 1500 word count.

I’m sorry this update has sprawled on for so long. It’s a cold Winter’s night here. The heater’s on and the neurons are defrosting, and starting to fire up again. So, you could say I’m clearing the backlog. Indeed, it’s been good to share the last couple of weeks with you as I’ve been feeling bottled up on so many fronts and after almost 1500 words, the cork has popped off.

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you.

xx Rowena

 

 

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Weekend Coffee Share 4th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m offering you something a little different…pumpkin soup. Perhaps, this might’ve been healthy once upon a time. However, I’ve ramped it up tonight  with a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of home-made croutons. I don’t know what it is about this recipe. However, it’s the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. I always make it using butternut pumpkin, but it seems to have a special something. Could it be love?

Hope you like the photo I snuck in of the kids eating their Pumpkin Soup! It’s only a few years out of date, but they looked so cute!

Now, that you’d been fed, let  me ask you how your week was?

One of these days, I’ll have to add a rating scale.

Today, is my Mum’s birthday and my Dad’s birthday is later in the week. Usually, we’d go down to their place in Sydney, but we’re so busy. Our daughter has dancing on Saturday mornings and our son has rehearsals for the Scout Gang Show. I’m hoping we might be able to get together yet.

The past few weeks have been fairly stressful. I don’t know if  is the sort of stress you experience when you’re stretching and growing. After all, growth is by nature uncomfortable. So much is going well, and yet my awareness of all these things I’m struggling to change, has also increased. So, while I’m now tap-dancing and doing yoga, I’m still wading through stuff trying to clear up the house. I won’t use that dreaded word “declutter”, because I don’t believe in it. Indeed, after spending hours working on my daughter’s room, I arrived home with a crate of books from the op shop. These weren’t any ordinary books either. They included a four volume set of Home Mechanics Books from around 1910. They were more about repairing things around the home  such as your Grandfather clock and were absolutely fascinating. However, I am trying to follow what I’ll call a “trading policy”. That for everything that comes in, something has to go out. It works well for me in theory. However, like so many things, not so well in practice.

Jeffrey Smart Car Park in Bologna

Jeffrey Smart, Parking Lot Near  Bologna 1992.

This weekend, the whole issue of my teenage son’s school assignments reared its ugly head again. He’s been unwell on and off and the night before his assignment was due, our wifi went down. I don’t need to tell you that was a catastrophe of epic proportions. Anyway, not unsurprisingly, yours truly found herself researching Australian artist, Jeffery Smart, and his painting: “Parking Lot Near  Bologna”. Not to do his assignment for him, but to be able to help.

To be perfectly honest, this painting did nothing for me. Yet, I had to find something. Understand, at the very least, why it was considered worthy of an assignment. I personally prefer more of an expressionistic style with thick, lashings of paint, whereas this almost has a flat, photo finish. No, not my style, but I could see why the trucks might appeal to my son. That said, he’d probably prefer a Ferrari!

The last part of the assignment involved writing a 100 word story about the painting. It finally clicked that this was just like the flash fiction challenges I do. So, we talked through various plot ideas and possible names for the two men (Luigi for the Italian and Sergei for the Croatian) and then moved onto people smuggling. I wanted to teach him the thinking that goes into writing something like this, particularly the structure involved. Having that twist or punchline at the end. So, I wrote an example for him.  Here’s the link. It was very difficult to write, being set in Italy. However, as usual, Google came to the rescue.

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Hugh McKay

In  between the assignment and playing Scrabble with the lad, I also read read a fantastic novel, Selling the Dream by Hugh McKay. Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and the author of 17 books, mainly in the field of social analysis. Selling the Dream is his seventh novel. I am in the throws of writing a review. However, if you enjoyed reading Graeme Simsion’s: The Rosie Project, you’ll love it. It’s hilarious and despite being classed as satire, it’s incredibly real. Sorry, I forgot to tell you that it’s set in a Sydney advertising agency and has a serious swipe at the industry and it’s “heroes”.

I really loved reading this book and am really going to try to read books more often.

However, I’m sure you know how it in. Before you know it, the day just disappears.

As has the weekend. So, I’d better get this posted quickly.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share 20th May, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m going to be a better host, and offer you a choice of coffee, tea or Bonox before we get started. I know there have been some weeks where I’ve forgotten my manners. My apologies. This week I’m going to try to be a better listener, reminding myself that I have two ears and one mouth.

So, how was your week?

Perhaps, we should come up with some kind of rating system to sum up the week. You know, the sort of thing they have on those survey questionnaires where you rate your attitude between one and ten. The trouble is, that my mind goes a bit blank by the time it’s Sunday and last Monday seems a lifetime ago.

In so many ways, it was a fantastic week.

On Monday night, my adult dances classes started up again and this term, we’re doing tap. This is the first time I’ve really done tap, other than a few classes at school. I wasn’t too sure how I’d go and wondered whether I’d go for six trying to walk in my tap shoes. I was also concerned that it would be too hard on my legs and I’d need to sit down. That was quite a realistic expectation and I was getting tired. However, fortunately we ended up shifting to the corner and taking turns, giving me a chance to rest. I really loved tap and felt almost euphoric by the end of the class. I might not be Ginger Rogers, but I extended myself out of my comfort zone and all this exercise is so good for me.

DSC_5378

Thai-Style Chicken Burgers.

Tuesday night, I finally summoned up my courage and I cooked the Thai-Style Chicken Burgers from Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook for dinner and her Apple Crumble Slice for dessert. They were both sensational. You can read about my efforts Here

Sometime last week, my daughter also found out that she’s been accepted into the dance stream of the selective performing arts or CAPA class at our local high school. She’s thrilled about this, as she’s really got into dance this year. It’s really become her thing. Meanwhile, she’s still waiting on the results of the selective high school test. I think it will work out either way.

Friday morning, I went to My First Yoga Class  Like the tap class, this was another tentative, new experience. Given my mobility and health issues, trying something new can be more daunting and those usual fears and concerns ramp up a bit, sometimes to the point of paralyzing panic. However, my physiotherapist had recommended this particular yoga class because it’s being taken by an occupational therapist. All of us in the class, have the same physio and it’s turning into what’s known as “adaptive yoga”. They have the same thing in other sports. It just means that its designed for people with disabilities. I loved yoga, particularly the last 15 minutes where we lay on our mats under a blanket and wearing lavender scented eye-masks and falling into a deep state of relaxation. I had such a glowing sense of well-being at the end. Needless to say, I’ll be back next week.

In between all these upbeat happenings, I’ve steadily been reorganizing our home. A few months ago, I received a government assistance package for people with disabilities called the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). In addition to receiving occupational therapy and physio at home, I also get  7 hours of cleaning and a mentor for 7 hours. So far, we’ve been focusing on reorganizing and getting rid of stuff. I don’t know quite how I feel about all of this. There a lot of stuff to process and you have to decide what you’re going to do with each and every item, which becomes quite draining after awhile. The other problem is that you pull all this stuff out of nooks and crannies, but it doesn’t seem to fit back in. Inevitably, I’m left with huge mounds of stuff and need some kind of compacting system…something like the station guards on Japanese bullet trains who heave commuters into the train. Today, I just wanted to move a book shelf about 40 cm to the left, but because I needed to empty everything out of it, it became a massive and really quite overwhelming job. Both our kitchen table and another large foldout table were both piled with books. Indeed, I had enough books left over after I’d filled the bookshelves to fill another book case. Unfortunately, I’ve only found about ten I can part with.

My son did offer to burn the extra books. I told him that burning books was a crime and you could be sent to jail. He’s 13 now and he knew better, but I almost got him.

Clothes Horse

Clothes Horse??

I also had a run in with an Obstinate Clothes Horse

By the way, last week I mentioned that I’d taken our son to Emergency with weird symptoms. Thanks for your concern and best wishes. He seems to be doing quite well and doctors are suspecting migraine aura, without the accompanying headache. Still, that generated medical appointments with more to come just to be sure. Next week I also have an appointment with my rheumatologist in Sydney. So, there’s another day gone.

I am starting to feel quite conflicted by the amount of time which is going into sorting the house versus do my writing and research. While I was happy to put them aside short term, getting the house sorted is turning into a long term, intensive project and almost a full time job. While I want the whole family to become more organised and sorted, it does come at a cost to me. I am now conjuring up ways to get the kids to do more. Kids seem to be rather pampered these days, and have taken to enslaving their parents.  I’m now needing to turn the tables a bit. Get us all working together as a team, when none of us is exactly what you’d call team players. We seem to operate better as Lone Rangers.

Kings Cross

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

By the way, I also wrote a flash for Friday Fictioneers. Every week, I marvel at what enters my brain for these challenges. It’s always such a long way from my everyday life in  an Australian beach town. This week’s was Missing: Kings Cross, Sydney.

Hope you’ve had a great weekend. It’s now Sunday night here and I’m heading off to find something for dessert. Sweet Week on Masterchef starts in ten minutes. My laptop could well be in danger as I drool at the screen.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ally over at Nerd In The Brain. You can click on the linky and I hope you’ll join us.

xx Rowena