Tag Archives: mum

The Piano Deconstructed.

As the saying goes “you can’t even give a piano away anymore”, especially when it’s over a hundred years old, out of tune, verging on decrepit, but with just enough life left to hope someone else might take it on. For the last five to ten years, we’ve been trying to give our piano away. Although we’ve had a few nibbles over the years, there have been no takers, and it just kept sitting here covered in picture frames, and an accumulation of household detritus and dust.

“Some people are aware of another sort of thinking which… leads to those simple ideas that are obvious only after they have been thought of… the term ‘lateral thinking’ has been coined to describe this other sort of thinking; ‘vertical thinking’ is used to denote the conventional logical process.”

Edward de Bono

However, as we found out, it’s all about the packaging. Or, perhaps I should say, how you package it. While no one wanted the entire piano, we finally managed to get our friend Neil interested in the parts. Indeed, he ended up towing most of the piano away in pieces over a few trips, and we were particularly excited to be able to keep the strings in tact, even if Geoff did have to saw through more than 10 centimetres of solid wood to pull it off. Neil’s already mounted the felts in his loungeroom where they’ve become an curious discussion point, and there are plans for a seat out of the wood. Meanwhile, I’m wondering how the birds and possums are going to respond to the ghostly sounds the keyless strings will be playing out in the bush until he works out what to do with it.

Yours truly photographed with the hammers extracted out of our piano. Neil’s cleverly mounted this on a wall. It’s intriguing.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you how much we enjoyed deconstructing this humble 100 year old piano. I know that sounds absolutely terrible, especially when I’m from a family of accomplished pianists. Indeed, it felt very much like a chainsaw massacre, especially after we found out much of it had been glued together, and the only way to get it apart, was to saw it to pieces.

However, ironically pulling it apart emphasized the beauty of its parts, which had become lost in the whole, especially once some of the keys weren’t working, and the cost of restoration was never going to pay off.

Indeed, it was quite incredible to appreciate just how much work, skill and attention to detail had gone into constructing the piano, and I guess we felt a bit sad that it had ended up being a useless lump of furniture and a burden. Indeed, it went further than that. The piano had actually become a significant roadblock, stopping us from renovating our loungeroom and getting it to a state where we’d be comfortable inviting friends over and dare I say it (drum roll) ENTERTAINING!!

So, I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that this situation with the piano has become a great analogy for explaining how to deal with a large persistent problem. Somehow, we need to find a way of carving it up into smaller components which will be much easier to deal with so we can clear the decks.

I also think our handling of the piano problem also shows how persistence can backfire. Sometimes, we need to stop persisting and give up. Stop putting up with a burden, problem, difficult person or situation and decide that “enough is enough”. It is going, going, gone!

Do you have any special memories of the piano? Or, perhaps you have a few horror stories instead. It’s a shame that the piano no longer holds it’s place at the heart of the family home with people gathered round to sing and play together; and also how it’s demise can also be attributed to the clutter Nazi’s who on’t let another gather dust. It is OUT!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Honey Biscuits – My Grandmother’s Recipe.

Today, the forces of chaos which govern my scrambled egg existence, conspired together to prompt me to sort out my Grandmother’s recipe for Honey Biscuits. I am an Australian of German descent on my mother’s side, and my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits were as much a part of Christmas as my mother’s traditional English-style Christmas cake and my Christmas pudding. The biscuits were round with half a blanched almond stuck in the middle like the star perched on top of the Christmas tree. They lived inside big glass jars from another time zone, which always seemed strangely magical (even when they were empty).

These Honey Biscuits were very special, but they were also my grandmother’s thing. I’ve never seen my mother make them, although she’s always been an accomplished cook and was famous for her Sponge cakes, which were typically served with lashings of passionfruit icing and a thick layer of whipped cream.

Not having the recipe until after my grandmother passed away, I found an alternative in a German cookbook my grandparents had given me. These were very nice, definitely German, and were reminiscent of the Honey Biscuits, but were definitely NOT THE SAME!!

I don’t know if that really matters. Or, whether it’s just the spirit of the thing that counts. Moreover, I guess you’ve got to ask at some point whether you really want to keep on eating food from 200 years ago every Christmas just to satisfy tradition. Or, do you try something new? Indeed, do you make Christmas food that you and your current day family actually likes, and is more in keeping with your usual fare?

Being a lover of history, ceremonies and traditions, I’m all in favour of going retro one day a year and having the same old same old. Without the carving of the Christmas ham and the lighting of the Christmas pudding along with my aunt’s Mango and Avocado Salad with cashew nuts, it just wouldn’t be the same. Actually, you can add scorched almonds and shortbread to the list. However, what I really love about Christmas lunch is catching up with the extended family after another year and seeing how everyone’s changed. Or, indeed, how some have stayed the same. I come from a large family too, so that makes for added excitement, a swag of personalities and stories. Moreover, there’s always one of two who enjoy too much Christmas cheer.

However, this year our Christmas will be rather different, as we will be hosting Christmas Day at our place with only my Mum, Dad and possibly brother coming over. This has sent us into quite a tailspin and we’re currently in the throws of carving up an old piano and trying to vacate the loungeroom to get the new floating floor down in time. It’s a nightmare, but at least I now have a pile of cookbooks ready to exit the house.

It was sorting through these cookbooks, which took me back to my grandmother’s Honey Biscuit recipe. You see I found a recipe book from Hahndorf, the German-Australian village in South Australia which my grandfather and three generations before him called home…”Recipes From My Grossmutter”. I also found “The Barossa Cookbook”, which was published at the end of WWII. The Barossa Valley is best known as a wine-producing region, and it’s not far from Hahndorf. So, when it came to sorting out this recipe, I thought this cookbook was almost a sure fire bet. After all, it’s one of those community cookbooks where people contribute their favourite recipes, and their names are printed down below.

Fortunately, although I’ve never made my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits, I do have her recipe and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her make them. However, while this sounds like I’ve got it sorted, the handwritten recipe didn’t inspire me with confidence. Had she left something out? It was also written in pounds and ounces, which always does my head in, and is almost a sure fire recipe for catastrophe.

My Grandmother’s Recipe for Honey Biscuits

1/2 lb Honey

1 lb Sugar

4 eggs

4 teas bicarb soda

a little acid

a few drops of lemon essence

Flour – flour enough to roll out.

After she lists the ingredients, she seemingly inserts herself into the process, and it soon becomes clear that my grandmother is leaving the main road and making her own way cross-country. There’s what the recipe says, and then there’s HER WAY which she introduces as “I use”. She then proceeds to halve the recipe, which seems fair enough, as I reckon the full amount would keep the entire Von Trapp family in biscuits from one Christmas to the next.

However, it’s the next bit which really captures my attention: “I beat the egg whites till stiff, add sugar and beat for awhile then add the yolks and beat again.”

Why does she separate the eggs and beat up the egg whites by themselves? This is what you do for making sponge cakes. However, as I glanced through the other recipes for Honey Biscuits in the Barossa Cookbook, nobody else mentions that. So, why did she do it? Was this her special secret for producing feather-light Honey Biscuits? Or, was she just making more work for herself?

I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to post her recipe on the blog. I need help. Do any of you know why this is so? If so, please explain.

The other thing I’d like to address is what constitutes your authentic German-Australian Honey Biscuit, and how does it compare to the German original? Or, is there a German equivalent?

I thought the Honey Biscuits were a form of Lebkuchen. However, Lebkuchen is more of a spiced biscuit based on ground nuts, where the Honey Biscuits are only lightly spiced, use flour and are as the name suggests, honey flavoured. Apparently, the Honey Biscuit is an adaptation to the Australian context, where German immigrants couldn’t access spices easily back in the day, and in a sense developed their own baking dialect in the same way they came to speak: “Barossa Deutch” (Barossa German). That said, there are variations of Honey Biscuit which are a lot more spicy, and more in keeping with their authentic, German roots.

So, there is this sense of recipes migrating from the mother country and being translated and adapted to the new one, with Australian-Germans putting their own stamp on this old tradition. On top of this, you have people like my grandmother who did their own thing, experimented and adapted. For me, this is very much in keeping with the same pioneering spirit, which saw my ancestors embark on ships for an unknown country on the other side of the world and take a chance.

So, which version of the Honey Biscuit is the real McCoy? Which should I bake and carry forward to my own children?

I wasn’t sure. However, an inspiring solution hit me in the face this morning, after I’d had time to sleep on it. That just like Refrigerator Biscuits where you can make variations from the one basic dough, you can also make a batch of Honey Biscuits where some taste more like honey, and others are more richly spiced. After all, nothing is set in stone – even traditions. They can always be taken forward and adapted with themes and variations.

Have you ever tried making Honey Biscuits and how does your recipe compare to my grandmother’s recipe? Meanwhile, in addition to baking the Honey Biscuits, I’m going to have a go at making authentic German Lebkuchen from a recipe over at Daring Gourmet. She even making her own candied peel and spice mix, so it could be a bit much on top of getting the house ready for Christmas, but isn’t Advent the season of insanity where we always do, spend and eat too much? It’s too late for me to challenge that this year, but January is only round the corner along with an end to 2020. I know for many, that will be the be st Christmas present of all!!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s the link to the “Authentic German Lebkuchen Recipe” if you’re feeling daring.. This recipe is based around ground nuts, has no flour, and seems heavily spiced: https://www.daringgourmet.com/traditional-nuernberger-elisenlebkuchen-german-lebkuchen/

Weekend Coffee Share…27th October, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How are you really? Are you fine and everything’s going along with the flow? Or, are you a bit like me and a few of your own cogs aren’t quite moving smoothly and those around you are doing it tough?

That’s where I’m sitting at the moment. I haven’t got my own house in order, but I’m being much more constructive helping a few friends who are doing it tough and it’s so much easier to see the necessary steps for them, but so much harder for myself. I’m staring too close to it and it’s gone a bit blurry. Actually, it’s not really my stuff I’m trying to get sorted. It’s my son and his choices for his last year of school. He wants to do sound engineering when he finishes up and has a good aptitude for it, and he’s gaining good experience at Church, especially when you consider other options have closed down. He wants to put his foot down on the accelerator and get on with it. I’d just like him to slow down and finish school. Have another year before he heads out into the big wide world. I am trying not to blow up like a firecracker and am saying very little, while I try to do my research and get my head around what he wants to do.

Meanwhile, I took my elderly neighbour to the specialist today. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which had got into his bones. He’s 90 so we know he isn’t going to last forever, but we love this couple dearly and they have always been a second set of grandparents to our kids and were such a help when they were small. Now, it’s our turn to look after them. They said they were right, but I said it’s always good to have someone else to listen and take notes. Moreover, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been through a bit medically so I’m well versed on these things. Well, at least, I knew to take pen and paper and write everything down. I could work out what was important later. It was also good that I could drive them there, and take that pressure off. It was only later on tonight that the reality of his situation really sank in and how incongruous it was that we were talking through cancer treatment very matter of factly. No tears. No emotions. It was business. This is what needs to be done. However, there are emotions and it’s only now that I’ve stopped for the day and am unwinding for bed, that the reality has sunk in. By the way, it’s no trouble to be there for them. It’s just what you do. Besides, my grandparents’ neighbours took very good care of them We were living 1000kms away and couldn’t be there for them in that day to day way. In fact, I don’t think I ever drove any of my grandparents anywhere. So, this is rather nice and while we were waiting, I listened to his stories. They both lived through the London Blitz and were also sent away to the countryside as children were. They’re a fascinating couple, and they walk down to the local shops together, and are so sweet. You rarely see a couple still living at their age, let alone walking around and still living in their own home.

Tomorrow night, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party and I’ve offered to make the cake. I’ve been having better luck of late, H owever, I’m concerned about how this cake is turning out. I’ve made a caramel mud cake with caramel icing. I’m hoping it’s okay. My friend lives in a pole home perched high upon pillars like telegraph poles and set among the gum trees. He calls his place: “The Treehouse” and its beautifully decorated with vintage and antique ephemera and he’s a fabulous host, especially when you bring the food and cake. So, so his cake, I’m wanting to build a treehouse. Fortunately, I have a mould for a small chocolate gingerbread house. I haven’t used it before but I’ve poured in the chocolate and I’m just wanting for it to set. I’ve also got ini Violet Crumbles and chocolate sticks and I’ve going to set up an invading hoard of Tiny Teddies. It’s going to be a lot of fun assembling all these ideas. I’m just not quite sure how we’re going to transport it there and whether to assemble it there. Finger crossed it works out well.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing on with my research and it’s taking shape, which is a relief. I have so many stories but am getting them structured and it’s all heading the right direction.

Anyway, I’d better head off and get to bed. I hope you’re going well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Me and My Boy…

After taking our son on a long, epic drive last week, I was reminded of the walks we used to go on when he was just knee-high to a grasshopper. I know it’s such a cliché, but I’m still amazed how much time’s flown under the bridge. That with the click of my fingers, he’s now turned 16 and at the end of next year, he’ll be out of school and on the cusp of adulthood. Where did all that time go? I don’t know. However, paradoxically as we headed forward on our journey North, I was taken back to those very special early walks together. Walks with me and my boy.

Ironically, what I remember most about our walks together, is how I’d be tugging on his small hand trying to get him moving, while he was enthralled by some random “treasure” he’d discovered on our path. Of course, I tried to slow my pace down to appreciate that lump of gravel, or rusty bottle top through his eyes instead of my own. However, there were understandably times when my patience grew thin. I just want to go, and he’d become equally immovable. However, back then I had one thing in my favour. When all else failed, I could pick him up and cart him off, even if he wasn’t happy.

I can’t do that anymore either.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis
Swimming with our son at our local beach.

Anyway, our son has decided to go into sound engineering when he leaves school, and he’s already getting good experience helping out at Church. That’s why he needed the lift. He’d been offered further training and the opportunity to help out at a funeral at our main Church campus an hour’s drive away.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t mad keen on driving him up there. Indeed, I’m sure you can read my mind: “What the???? Can’t you catch the train? A bus? Fly on your broomstick?” Moreover, when all of those avenues failed, there was the added annoyance of having to fill in a few hours before driving him home. Indeed, it was looking like much of my day was going up in smoke with the barest slither remaining. Not that I was counting. Or, that I minded. I am his mother. If I can love him to the moon and back, surely I could drive him there as well?!!

Humph! I’m not so sure that was part of the contract.

Rather, it was looking like the perfect time to play the dying swan. Get his father to drive him. However, Geoff is working from home, not doing long distance parent taxi duties. So, for better or worse, I had to rise to the challenge.

Meanwhile, alongside this protesting siren of complaint, was gratitude, relief and a sincere desire to do whatever it takes to help our son to find his feet and get his career established. I mean that too. Whatever it takes, especially when he’s so keen and he has an equally keen mentor volunteering to train him up. With our local theatres closed down due to covid, Church is one of the few venues where he can get some experience. Indeed, as we all know, it’s a hard world out there. No one’s knocking on your door to give you a start. You have to go hunting. Go all out. Eat humble pie by the kilo, just to have a chance of getting a toe through the door.

However, instead of being an onerous ordeal, our trip turned into an adventure, and reminded me:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

― George Bernard Shaw

That’s exactly how our drive together panned out. We had an hour each way to chat, but then there were some complications. For those of you who know me well, you won’t be surprised to hear that we experienced some navigational difficulties. However, this time I blame my son. I was pretty sure we were meant to take the next exit, but he was insistent. Moreover, although I know he is “often wrong but never in doubt”, he has a much better sense of direction. So, I bowed to his expertise. Indeed, I carefully followed his directions to turn right at the roundabout, and drove along until it was clear we were in the wrong place, even if we weren’t officially “lost”. I must admit that my heart rate started to increase a little at this point. I mentioned heading back to the freeway to take the next exit. However, he was quite confident. Knew there was a Bunnings Hardware Store on the left coming up and a shopping centre. Sure enough, he was right, and good enough with his sense of direction to redirect us. Meanwhile, in the end it turned out that we were both right. Both exits worked.

When we pulled up, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the next few hours. However, one of the guys showed me a local map and I spotted that Norah Head was nearby. Now, I was set. With my camera in the car, I set off to revisit Norah Head and the lighthouse where I’d been as a young child with my family and on a couple of slumber parties as a teenager with friends. By now, I was actually quite excited and grateful for my big day out. You could even say I was happy!

Just to top off my day, I bought myself a beautiful new skirt and a tray full of red Salvias which I’ve planted out the front. I ate a pie in a park surrounded by lush green trees and ocean views feeling pretty chuffed our day was going so well.

After walking around the lighthouse (which you can read about here), I was back to pick him up. I was even given a tour of the sound desk by his mentor, who had no idea just how untechnical I am and how I even struggle to operate out TV. However, I did gain at least a cursory view of the thing which makes our son tick, and is going to be a big part of his future. That was pretty special. After all, being understood has always been very important to me, but the flipside of that is to understand. Put yourself into someone else’s shoes even when they don’t fit particularly well, and go for a walk.

Or, perhaps even go for a long drive.

That certainly worked for us!

Has our day out brought back any memories for you? Do you have something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 28th September, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, after all these years of blogging, I’m lucky not to be battered and bruised!! When I pulled up to my desk this morning with my cup of tea, I noticed the counter had not only clicked over 200,000 hits, it now reads 201,823. Wow! I can’t believe I missed it so spectacularly, because I was keeping an eye out, even though I no longer take much notice of my stats. 200,000 hits is something to celebrate. Ring the brass bell and break out the champagne, or a personal treat, get stuck into the Tim Tams. The Vegemite can wait.

Meanwhile, it’s Spring over here and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the local wildflowers as much as I can. Unfortunately, my mobility has been hampered by that spot of rock surfing I mentioned last week, and my knee is still sore and going down stairs is quite tricky and I’m trying to rest my leg. However, a friend whose been living in Northern NSW, came down for a visit and so I took her out to see the Waratahs (scene of my rock surfing accident). While we were out there, I spotted a beautiful yellow wildflower I’ve never seen in the wild before. This striking flower is Isopogon anemonifolius, and its common name is “Drumsticks”. It was such a blast to come across this new flower, and I feel like an intrepid explorer when I’m out there. It doesn’t bother me that car after car is also pulling over and that all these admiring pilgrims have even forged a trail through the bush. After all, I don’t view these discoveries through the eyes of many, but my own and I’m just spellbound. You don’t need to go past nature to be inspired and feel your heart soar, even just a little. Of course, another aspect of that is that it’s free and I barely need to travel.

Of course, for most of us 2020 is the year of local. Anywhere but local or at least outside the state is banned. In many ways I don’t mind staying local. We were lucky that we managed to get up to Byron Bay for a week or so in January after the bush fires up North had settled down a bit. That’s a 10-12 hour drive with stops and even though I don’t do much of the driving, looking at the grey bitumen and the white line for all those hours, even if I am reading, talking or looking out the window, grates on you. You just want to wave a magic wand and turn up.

Our kids (now teens) are on school holidays for the next two weeks. Next weekend, our daughter has the Dance Production, which will be incredible as this is put on by the dance team at the dance school. Also, rehearsals take up much of this week. Notice that I’m not too disappointed about that. While they naturally need some time to chill out, smell the roses and socialize, too much time on their hands can be problematic.

This brings me to the subject of the end of school muck-up days which were held last week. Oh dear! It seems the end of this school year, has drawn out the most putrid pus out of our young people and made it public. I am hoping this students are the exception and not the norm and I really believe they are because there are beautiful young people who are an inspiration and are doing the right thing. There are also vulnerable, disadvantaged and simply uncool kids and members of our society at large who have been targeted through these well-planned, detailed scavenger hunts and these people are make of flesh and blood. They hurt. They break and they can’t always be put back together again. Unfortunately, a prestigious Sydney boys’ school seems to have taken this despicable form of scavenger hunt to another level, producing a pdf document which looks all the world like a business annual report. It’s seems that at least one of the boys receiving the document blew the whistle and I commend them 100%. I also feel for the boys in that year who have done and have always done the right thing and I feel for the parents of all. However, then I found out that my old school had their own not dissimilar treasure hunt circulating and today I heard about a school in Newcastle which outed a young woman who is a child sexual abuse survivor and sent her spiraling back down into the most intolerable depths of despair. To make matters worse, those details were made public by a trusted friend. I don’t know who this young woman is but I send her my love and hopes of a miracle. That she will find healing and reassurance of the good in humanity. Indeed, I’m struggling with that myself after these documents have come to light. Here’s a link to details of the list: https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/private-school-students-tasked-with-vile-muckup-day-challenges/news-story/10a74efdfcedc9a0df6291ebde25383a

Meanwhile, we’re pottering along with our own kids, which has made me more compassionate to parents whose kids don’t believe like automated robots even after expensive schooling and possibly even intensive parent input (or absence which might be the case). You can’t make assumptions, because then someone will always rub your nose in your mistakes saying “Didn’t you know that “assume” means making an ass of you and me??!!” Anyway, I’ve been pleased that our son has been volunteering with sound at Church so far these holidays and will be helping out at a funeral tomorrow, even if I do need to drive him up. I might detour up to Maitland for a bit. Meanwhile with our daughter, she’s now going to parties and wanting to push the envelope. Stay out late. Walk around at night with her friends. Weekends are starting me mean “on duty” for us and I’m mighty grateful to have everyone tucked into bed at night, and a sense of relief.

I’ll leave you with an entertaining pic I took of a dog I saw at the shops on Friday. Max is some kind of Mastiff and looked straight out of a movie when he pulled up in a bright yellow ute. However, watching his owner try walk him down the street was hilarious. When he’s not on guard dog duties, Max is a big softie and just wants to play with other dogs. We were sitting at a cafe where there was a tiny toy poodle parked under an adjacent table with their ball. Well, Max spotted the tiny dog which was about the size of half his head and wanted to pass with the dog and ball. However, this massive, bony colossus was clearly to big for the footpath itself, let alone the tiny dog and his owner who seemed to be inversely proportioned to the dog, was also struggling to contain him. It was funny, although it might not have been. An inch either way, and there would’ve bee tables and people flying and a toy poodle crushed into a floor rug. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemonium, you couldn’t but love Max and wrap your arms around him in a hug, even though he could well take your head off if he’s on duty.

Meanwhile, our Rosie’s just appeared with the rope toy. She has no doubt about her purpose in life. It’s to chase. This also means that it’s my job to throw…my only job.

How has your week been? What have you been up to?

I look forward to hearing from you.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli here: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/weekendcoffeeshare-a-lot-im-getting-good-at-descriptive-headlines/

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I also got a haircut for the first time in over six months. Indeed, it could well have been 12 months thanks to the bush fire smoke and covid. No point restating the obvious. 2020 has been a difficult and very weird year.

Weekend Coffee Share…20th July, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? Goodness know how things are in your neck of the woods. I am feeling rather lucky to be living just North of Sydney As you may have heard, there’s been an outbreak in Melbourne and Melbourne and an adjacent region have gone back into lock down. While there’s always been rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s hit new heights at the moment and the Victorians are banished. Indeed, some of these dreaded Victorians escaped and spread the love to us here in New South Wales, and now our Premier has moved into double-speak. Says a lot about not going into lock down every time there’s an outbreak, but we’ve been moved to high alert and we’re teetering on the very brink. I hope people get a bit of sense and at least some idea of self-preservation, even if they can’t get their heads around “doing the right thing” or being community-minded. AS much as I don’t want to catch it myself (especially with my compromised immune system), I don’t want to give it to someone else, let alone kill someone by being thoughtless.

Anyway, there is a world behind coronavirus and quite a lot’s been going on. Tonight, the winner of Masterchef 2020 was announced. It was Emelia. It was a tough final and the two women are very close friends, which must’ve been difficult. There was virtually no difference between them on the entre and the main but unfortunately Laura left her fridge door slightly ajar and her ice cream went a bit grainy. It was such a pity, especially as she fought back from a severe born and beavered away one-handed through most of the cook. She was incredible. Last night, was the finale of The Voice, and so that was another night of intense emotion and quite seriously I felt all four finalists deserved to win. The winner was Chris Sebastian.

Meanwhile, I’ve been battling a cold and have had to withdraw from social interaction myself to ensure I didn’t infect anyone. That felt almost as weird as shying away from people everywhere I go in case they might have the virus. Golly, it all just seems easier to become a hermit for awhile and get stuck into my research. Get it finished and have something productive to show for 2020.

 

 

Anyway, after my husband came home from sailing with some fabulous sunset shots, I twisted his rubber arm yesterday and we drove of to nearby Hardy’s Bay to photograph the sunset there. It was absolutely magnificent and I hope you like the photos. I was pretty chuffed, especially after being stuck at home for a few weeks. Here’s a link to the post: Bathing in a Glorious Sunset at Hardy’s Bay.

Zac

I also wrote a post about taking our dearly beloved dog, Zac (AKA Isaac Newton) for a walk. I learnt a lot about Newton’s 1st Law of Motion from him as he yanked me around the block. He wasn’t going to stop even to sniff the wind…Walking With Isaac Newton

 

Lastly, I shared about the chaos that was our kitchen table on Saturday morning. It was quite interesting to check out all the detritus deposited there as though the tide had washed overhead leaving these relics of our lives behind. I am constantly trying to keep this rotten table clear, but it’s a thankless task. All the same, I can’t turn my back and give up on it either. I don’t want it to reach a dreaded state of no return. Here’s a link to that post: Home On A Saturday Morning.

Anyway, it’s really late and the kids are back to school tomorrow and they’ll be up before I get to sleep at this rate.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Walking With Isaac Newton…

You would expect that after going for a walk with Isaac Newton, I’d finally understand a bit of physics, and if an apple fell on my head, I  might end up with more than a bruise or an apple pie.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. A lesson in physics was exactly what I got, especially Newton’s First Law of Motion, which states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

Indeed, as soon as I attached Isaac Newton to his lead and opened the front door, that’s exactly what I got when this mild-mannered iso-sloth was catapulted across the road and down the footpath at an alarming speed and strength and despite my concerted efforts to reign in the beast, I almost became airborne. Isaac Newton was strong, enthusiastic and while he might’ve given me the occasional backwards glance to ensure I was still attached, he never paused long enough to check if I was still alive, or might actually need a rest to catch my breath.

Needless to say, walking with Isaac Newton is an experience. I usually take him out with a Halti collar on to reign him in. However, I couldn’t find it and had to use stealth to get him out the door without the other dogs cluing in, which is pretty difficult because all I have to do is put on my joggers and I have three gun-ho, enthusiastic dogs swarming at my feet complete with sound effects. It makes it very hard to decide who I’m going to take, because I clearly can’t walk all three dogs by myself. Two of us could mage the three at once, but that would involve cooperation, teamwork, thinking outside one’s own sphere, which does occur but just not in any regular, predictable pattern. They have to be “in the mood”.

Zac & Rosie

Rosie & Zac at home

Anyway, Zac is peering over my shoulder wondering who on earth this Isaac Newton is as his sister Rosie leaves another tennis ball on my desk and his hovers in her shadow.

Isaac Newton, for those of you who haven’t met him before, is our Border Collie x kelpie who I think is now 2 years old, although another year might’ve passed. Indeed, I think it has. I’ll blame covid for that missing year, even though I probably post it long before, but I can at least blame Covid for losing much of this year…the dreaded 2020.

“Genius is patience.”

Isaac Newton – a message to Zac from his wise namesake.

Walking with Zac is an experience. He doesn’t stop the entire time, and he doesn’t slow down either. Rather, he maintains a strong, fast determined pace which is only disturbed when he sees another dog. Any other dog seems to be the devil incarnate, and Zac lunges, gnashes his teeth and is quite terrifying. So, we’ve now taken to walking off the beaten track, and avoid other dogs like the plague. Clearly much training is required and I am working on it, but with such a strong dog, prevention seems better than cure at the moment.

Lastly, as we were tearing round the block yesterday, I started chatting with an older woman (while maintaining social distancing, of course!!) and after a very short time, Zac was just like that annoying kid tugging on her hand and whingeing: “Mum, I want to go home”….”Mum, stop talking!” Zac started crying and carrying on. He liked moving at a quick pace and wasn’t happy about coming to an abrupt standstill.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Confucius – a message from Zac.

Personally, I felt some negotiation was in order. A bit of give and take. If you take me “walking” at a flying gallop, then I can pause for a chat, check out a cockatoo, or even to take a photo if I like. It doesn’t even need to be a friend and I don’t need to get your paw print of approval in advance either. That said, I’m not unsympathetic to his plight. We’ve all been caught out waiting and waiting for someone to wind-up that conversation so we can keep moving. However, Zac also needs to understand that he’s not the centre of the universe and us humans are simply planets caught in his orbit.

Lady at Ocean Beach

My favourite photo of Lady at the beach, which was taken 5 years ago, which is a long time in dog years. 

Meanwhile, back at home, there was also much complaint. None of the dogs like being left behind, and I’m sure Lady believes it’s her ordained right to go on each and every walk, and in some ways she has a valid point. She’s the only one who walks well on the lead and doesn’t take off like a bullet train. The interesting anomaly here is that we adopted her as a two year old and she came to us fully trained (even if that did include getting up on the kitchen table to steal food!!) So, that seems to suggest we’re at fault.

Anyway, my walk with Isaac Newton at least ticked off the exercise box for yesterday, and I also managed to lure Geoff out to photograph and watch the sunset over at Daley’s Point about 15 minutes drive away. This way I managed to get my exercise and sunshine with Zac and conversation, photography and nature with Geoff. It was a win-win, especially when I got home and checked out the photos which are coming up.

How does your dog go walking on the lead and do you have any tips? Isaac Newton might be needing some expert training, especially as he’s supposed to be a support dog and not a greyhound racer. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

When to Stop…? Friday Fictioneers.

“You can’t put me in a box,” Ava spat at her mother. “Why can’t you be normal, and not a shrink?”

Ava didn’t want to be seen, let alone analysed, and slammed her door shut.

Sarah stared at the closed door wondering  how her precious, much-loved baby girl had turned into this fragile, self-loathing teen.

Inside, Ava was painting all four walls of her room black, and was thinking about cutting off her tongue, so she’d never have to talk again. Why couldn’t her mother give up, and just let her drown quietly in peace?!

Finally, Sarah made the call.

…..

100 words

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays.

As a mother of a 16 year old son and a 14 year old daughter, I’m well-versed in living with teens, although mine are going quite well atm. Well, at least I think they’re going okay. Our daughter’s madly catching up with all her friends in case we we end up going back into lock down. Sydney and Melbourne have always been rivals, but now more than ever those Victorians can stay South of the border.

I hope you and yours are keeping safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Y – Yachting Holiday – Hawkesbury River, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series: Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re jumping back into our time machine and re-setting the date for the 13th December, 1982. We’ve just arrived at Mangrove Creek, where we’ll be picking up the yacht and sailing down onto the Hawkesbury River. Of course, you’ll be meeting my Mum and Dad, my ten year old brother and my 13 year old self. By the way, you might notice that my Dad bears an uncanny likeness to British actor, John Cleese. I always used to wonder why people used to say to him:”Nudge, nudge wink wink, say no more”. However, the world’s full of so many mysteries for a kid, and this was just one of many which were never sufficiently explained.

My apologies for the lack of photos. My 13 year old self wasn’t much chop with the camera, and the camera wasn’t much chop either. I’m pretty sure I was still using my Kodak Instamatic, which had the cartridge of film you put in the back which you dropped off at your local chemist for processing. My parents and brother have also requested not too subtly, that I don’t post their photos on Facebook or the blog, and I mostly honour that request.

Anyway, on the 13th – 18th December, 1982 our family spent five days onboard a yacht slowly sailing from Mangrove Creek along the Hawkesbury River into Pittwater.  Mangrove Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River which flows into Broken Bay not far from where we now live at Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast.  We also stopped off at a picnic spot called The Basin where they have a shark net set up for swimming. My Dad flew over the Hawkesbury River once when he was young and saw loads of sharks in the water. So, beyond The Basin, swimming was out.

My Dad’s had an almost life long interest in sailing, and has since become a fully-fledged sailor. That is, even if he hasn’t completed the Holy Grail…the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

However, back in 1983, he hadn’t quite gained his stripes. So when the bloke hiring out the yacht asked Dad if he could sail, he could give an honest “yes”. However, I only found out a few months ago, that Dad didn’t actually know how to stop the boat. Of course, this was only a minor detail, and thankfully, everything went swimmingly well. My Dad in his typical try his hand at anything fashion, pulled it off and we were right.

By the way, “she’ll be right, mate” is something of an Aussie creed. It’s more or less  the reverse of catastrophizing where you just take everything in your stride. Of course, the little Aussie battler who’s even had it harder than most, will always triumph in the end. If they don’t, they’ll probably just find their way down to the pub.

DSC_1193

One of the things I clearly remember from the trip, is that the yacht came with a dingy out the back with a pair of oars for rowing out to shore. While Dad took us out for a bit of exploring, clearly the idea was to go out by yourself. However, Dad had this thing about needing to pass your rowing licence first. Of course, my younger brother who was more sporty and better coordinated, received his licence straight away, and was able to scoot off without me. However, it took me a few goes, which I was naturally unhappy about. Indeed, I was a ball of angst…sad, angry, jealous, disappointed…every intense emotion you can think of under the sun. Of course, being 13 and the eldest didn’t help either. Well, eventually, I also managed to get my rowing licence and loved exploring the little bays and beaches along the Hawkesbury River as well.

 

Another indelible memory, was when we sailed across the heads into Pittwater battling against strong winds and a larger swell. Indeed, I still remember the slap of the salty wind in my face, and my hair taking flight. As the yacht keeled right over with the gunnels in the water, I was helping Dad with the ropes and loving every minute. The exhilaration of speed and flying into the salty, ocean wind was incredible. However, my mother and brother were both below deck and couldn’t stand it. After my difficulties getting my rowing licence, it felt particularly good to be outdoing my brother at this point, even if he was younger than me. This was my moment of triumph, but I also truly loved sailing.

Above: we went out sailing around much the same area on the 19th December, 2010 with my parents and our kids almost 27 years to the day after our family sailing holiday and now, even that’s 10 years ago.

Although we’re now mostly a sailing family, we’ve only ever had that one family holiday sleeping onboard the yacht. Indeed, we still haven’t christened Dad’s current yacht, which is quite a shame. It would be rather magical to fall sleep on nature’s water bed, don’t you think?

Have you ever been out on a yachting or boat holiday where you’ve actually slept onboard? Or, perhaps you’re more of a day sailor? Or, you love your land legs. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

V- Places I’ve Played My Violin.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which is rapidly drawing to a close. I had considered heading to Victoria, and was going to write about visiting the vineyards of Australia’s Hunter and Barossa valleys. However, as experienced in previous posts, I’ve been having a lot of trouble digging up my old photos and so I decided to bail. So, instead, I’m writing about where I’ve played my violin, although I’ll also throw in my daughter’s grand violin performance, which humbles mine completely. Indeed, I’ve become her humble shadow.

Violin & concert violinist music

My violin journey began as a child when I was learning Suzuki violin from Yvonne Gannoni, who I recently found out had studied at the Royal Academy of Music and had stellar talent. In the 1970’s, she was teaching Suzuki violin from her home in Pymble on Sydney’s North Shore and also at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains. What I remember most about her, however, is her bright blue eye shadow and colourful kaftans. At least, I think they were kaftans, and they sort of fit in with the era. She was a larger than life, flamboyant figure who held her annual concerts at nothing less than the Sydney Opera House, where groups of students would perform the Suzuki repertoire. It was in hindsight, absolutely fabulous.

It was my brother who was truly learning violin from Miss Gannoni, while I was learning the piano from my beloved Mrs Gaut. However, I had to wait for my brother’s lessons to finish and somewhere along the way, I decided to take up the violin. Unfortunately, my efforts at the violin were very short-lived as I couldn’t get either my head or my fingers around how to hold the bow. I think I stuck at it for a year and that was that. Unfortunately, in that very short time, I never made it to the Opera House.

family playing violin

The family playing violin from Suzuki Book 1 in 2012.

That could well have been the end of my love affair with the violin. However, when I was around 25 and working in the city, I was walking through Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building and heard a busker playing Meditation By Massinet. Ever reflective and tinged with melancholy, this piece of music was absolutely magnificent and seemed to be playing my soul song at the time. I even bought his CD, which was very unusual for me.

violin birthday cake

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

Fast-forwarding to 2012, our daughter begged us to learn the violin. I wasn’t altogether sold on this, because the general consensus was that the piano would be a better first instrument. Moreover, with my mother being a piano teacher, accompanist and former student of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and my grandmother being a concert pianist, the piano was a natural destination. However, the piano never really spoke to me in the same way it moved my moher and grandmother and my cousin is a cellist. So,  contrary to my upbringing, there were other instruments and you didn’t HAVE to learn the piano. You could diversify.

Amelia Violin

That’s how we found ourselves one afternoon in term one 2012 with my daughter kitted out with her eighth size violin. At least, I’m pretty sure it was an eighth. The teacher offered for me to sit in. I didn’t know this at the time and her teacher wasn’t Suzuki trained, however, part of Suzuki’s approach is for the mother to play and for the child to play alongside the mother and learn music in the same way they almost seem to absorb language. Anyway, when we came home, it soon became clear that my help was required and that year of Suzuki training I’d had under the Great Yvonne Gannoni was being summoned back from the very deepest depths of memory. We pulled Geoff’s grandfather’s violin out of storage and that was to be my instrument until the Ebay violin arrived from China and I later moved onto the Stentor I still play today.

As it turned out, our daughter’s relationship with he violin at age 6 was short-lived. After a very passionate start, we went way and when she came home, her violin was screeching like a dying cockatoo, which not only assaulted her ear drums, but also her pride. The end didn’t come quietly or through neglect, but rather stormy angst and heartfelt tears. I continued on with her lessons until the end of term and kept going.

At the end of the year, the music school held their annual concert at a rather impressive local music venue, Lizottes, which was owned by Australian rock legend Diesel and his brother and all sorts of famous local and international acts had performed there…along with little old me in our violin ensemble. As we hung out together in the “red room” downstairs, we had a taste of the big time and boy it felt good, even better once we hit the stage. It was exhilarating. I even won an award.

Perhaps, it was the thrill of this success, which gave this novice and not very proficient violinist the pluck to pose with her violin outside Byron Bay Lighthouse. Indeed, this was actually more the photographer in me than the “budding” musician. Aside from the Sydney Opera House, what better backdrop could you ask for? I was just hoping against all hope, that nobody asked me to play. Boy, that would’ve had been scuttling off for cover, which of course they did. OMG!!! What was I thinking?

Anyway, I still haven’t made it to the Sydney Opera House. As the years go by, and my hopes rapidly fade of ever pulling off that much needed 10,000 hours of practice before I’m beyond a Zimmer frame, I’m now needing to find a fresh sense of purpose for my violin. Indeed, I need to find a tribe, which is not so easy where we live, especially when I’m not getting a lot of practice in.  My lessons are currently on hold due to the coronavirus, and I’m reconsidering everything. I need to find a way forward, which is seriously heading off along the road less travelled. It would be so much easier if I played the guitar. However, I’m a violinist. It’s a different sound, which comes from a different place, and I don’t want to lose that precious part of me. Somehow, I need to hold on.

Rowena on stage

Performing at an in-house concert last year.

Have you ever learned the violin? Or, perhaps you have a favourite piece of violin music? Or, you play something else? Or, you might even hate the violin and it’s dreadful screechings and squarkings. You don’t need to tell me just how vile a violin can sound, particularly in the early days. I know!!!

Best wishes,

Rowena