Saturday, January 29, 2011

why I'm a bad mother

Living with Deb has taught me many things, one of which is how to imitate a killer American accent. Even my kids are impressed when I use it..which led to a conversation about how they too could learn to speak American.

I told them that the main problem is that as Australians we seem to have very lazy pronunciation. We don't sound our letters very well.. so a word like - water - becomes "war-ta". If you want to do a good generic American accent you need to sound out every single letter.

I told my 19 year old son to start off with an easy word, such as blacker - then move on to try such words as harder, wider, faster, longer.. so he could get the "r" sound right..

As he was repeating those words, it struck me that what I had him saying sounded like the script from a very bad 70's porn movie and what's worse, as soon as the thought had entered my head, the words bypassed my mind's safety switch and went straight out of my mouth.

*blush*

Luckily he has a great (or is it warped?) sense of humour and started to laugh - but I think I'm definitely in line for the bad mother of the year award and 2011 has barely even started...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gluten Free Chocolate Cream Pie

I wanted to try and make an American style Chocolate Cream Pie and as it's Australia Day today, making an American style dessert after our BBQ at lunch seemed like just the right fusion of Aussie and Texan.

To start with, I made my usual crumb base from GF biscuits, but to enhance it and give it a more chocolatey touch, I decided to add a tablespoon of cocoa to the crushed crumbs before I added the melted butter. I then made a gloriously rich chocolate custard pie filling and topped the whole thing with my version of Chantilly cream.

As we here all own a full set of sweet teeth, the pie went down a treat. "Chocolate Pie? This is more like Billionaire's Pie," was actually what Deb said between bites.



Here's how I did it.

I got one packet of Freedom's Coconut Crunch Biscuits which I crushed with a pestle in a nice big bowl. I added one tablespoon of cocoa and then poured over 1/4 cup of melted butter.

I mixed the crumbs with the butter until they were well saturated and then pressed them into a 30cm pie tin. I personally use a non-stick pie flan with a push up bottom to make getting the pie out easier, but you could just as easily use a spring-form pan.

I chilled the pie crust in the fridge whilst I made the chocolate custard filling.

To make the filling I mixed 1/2 cup of corn flour (make sure it's CORN flour not "wheaten" corn flour) with 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cocoa in a saucepan. I slowly added 3 cups of low fat milk and a slurp of sweetened condensed milk (I'd say that slurp was about 1/4 cup worth).

Using a whisk, I mixed and mixed until the milk and corn flour mixture was smooth with no lumps. (using real corn flour helps enormously here). Still whisking like mad, I heated the custard mix over a low heat.

In between stirring I broke up a 200g block of Cadbury dark cooking chocolate and buzzed it in a microwave safe container until it was melted. I'd stop to check it every 20 seconds or so and give it a good stir it as I went along.

When the custard started to get nice and warm, I poured in the melted dark chocolate and whisked it altogether. Don't panic if it separates a bit because as the custard warms the chocolate will melt right into it - just keep stirring. When the custard starts to boil, it will thicken up considerably and quickly - keep mixing until the custard boils briefly, then remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl I whisked up 3 egg yolks with a fork and then I poured half of the hot chocolate custard into the eggs, remembering to keep mixing like mad. When it was all combined, I poured the egg mixture back into the rest of the chocolate custard mix that was left in the saucepan and stirred it over a low heat for about a minute, after adding a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of vanilla.

Pour and scrape the chocolate filling over the pie crust and smooth the top. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours until cold and set.



To make the Chantilly cream topping, whip 600ml of thickened cream with 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 1 teaspoon of caster sugar. Top the cold pie with the whipped Chantilly cream and sprinkle with some cocoa or better still - chocolate shavings.

The pie serves at least 10 people with one decadent slice each.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

excuse me, your flag is showing..

Deb and I were driving home the other day when we passed a car that was literally covered with the Australian flag. They had somehow managed to run the flag down from under the rear window, over the boot and down to freely fly over the bumper bar. They'd cut out a nice rectangle sized hole to pop the licence plate through and there was a white Southern Cross decal over the back window. Over each door flew a little Aussie flag, four in all.. making it, without a doubt, the most patriotic car I've seen so far as the Australia Day holiday approaches.

The only trouble is, that that kind of patriotism makes me get a little buzz of something akin to fear in the pit of my stomach.

Whenever I see our flag plastered over a car or a house, or indeed a person's body I get kind of wary about the sort of person I'm interacting with.  Do they fly the flag out of the love of our diversity as a country, or a deep fear of that very same thing? I often wonder about the whole "Australia - Love it or leave it!" sentiment. That worries me too. I think one of the things that makes a better country is the right to be able to criticise it and even to dislike certain facets of it. That ensures you don't blindly exist in a cultural vacuum and can see where things need to be improved or changed.

I guess I'm leery because I'm not quite sure when the flag fliers' national pride crosses the line and becomes something for me to personally fear.  Do they recognise my right to be who and what I am, or will they angrily pigeonhole everything that they don't agree with as being un-Australian? As an out lesbian, does my gayness offend them to the brink of violence? Would they sit and they scoff at my vegetarian tofu skewers sizzling on their BBQ? Would they run my Buddhist arse down with that flag bedecked car if they had the chance? Does that Southern Cross tattooed on their shoulder speak of a universal cosmic kind of tolerance, or a fear that the country's going to be overtaken by dykes and fags and Greens supporters?

This Australia Day as we fire up our own BBQ under the rainbow pride flag bought as a souvenir from Mardi Gras, I find I want more than to be just tolerated as a minority around here; I want us to be accepted totally for the unique and diverse slice of Australian life that we are.

So in our neighbourhood, the rainbow flag will proudly be flying - even if it's against the wind.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our pond Lotus



"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
      ~Oscar Wilde.


The first lotus bloom of Summer has opened and it's just so gorgeous that I had to take a picture and post it. It's sights like this that make me forget the troubles I've had lately and I can see that out of the mud, with seemingly no effort at all, something beautiful has bloomed - I might take that for an allegory on life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

one of my little foibles..



Oh gosh I love airplanes.. I get excited by the takeoff rumble of the triple tailed four engined Lockheed Super Constellation -
**"Connie" was found in Arizona and was rescued by HARS engineers and lovingly restored to her "Queen of the skies" glory over four years and is now hangered at our local regional airport.** 

I'm dazzled by the sleek silver of a Lockheed Electra (Amelia Earhart owned an E10)




and the curve of a beautiful gull winged F4U Corsair.

and oh god, the roar of a PBY Catalina (also a local and restored by HARS)



I'm hooked and so totally retro, it hurts.








Monday, January 17, 2011

gardening and other forms of therapy..

I've had some hostility thrown at me lately, but in keeping with Gautama Buddha's example, I realised that the person throwing the not-so-nice attitude at me has their own personality problems to work out and they were perpetuating their own suffering by tying their worth to the situation.

How I reacted to what was thrown at me was entirely my own karma.. so I chose to disengage, be silent and let the facts speak for themselves.


When I have problems and issues that need sorting, I get out in the garden. I'm lucky I live in a place where you can garden all year; no snow here.. no frost either.. I let my agro out on the weeds I as pulled them and I got my hands in the soil and did some planting, which is the best recipe for grounding yourself that I know of - bringing new life into the garden and letting go of what has gone to seed.

Friendships can be like that too. Starting as seeds, growing with care and blossoming with mutual respect and appreciation. A good friend can bring out your beauty, a bad one will cause you to wither inside.

..So I let go of what has gone to seed. I wish this person no ill and I hope that they finally "get" why they're in the position they are in.


This is a picture of the lotus in our fish pond, last year there was only one blossom, this year there will be two.


Buddha sits serenely on the deck; a good example for me to follow. Siddhārtha Gautama once said, "I don't accept your ugly words, your dirty words - If I don't accept them, what can you do? All this garbage you have come with? You will have to take it back to your wives, to your children, to your neighbours. You will have to distribute it because I refuse to take it. You cannot make me angry unless I accept your humiliation, your insult." He went on further, "Ten years ago I was not conscious; if someone had insulted me he would have lost his life. I had no idea that insulting me was his problem and that I have nothing to do with it. I can simply listen and then go on my way."


My nan's prized cycad is doing well in its new location. It must be upwards of 70 years old and still going strong. I call it my dinosaur plant!

















Saturday, January 15, 2011

I got the reading in me



I got a KINDLE!

Sorry, yes I shouted that.

I have to admit I was all anti e-readers not that long ago. You might have called me a book snob. I'd be the one sitting scoffing at those people with their slim little readers. I proudly carried my books around with me in a small sack wherever I went; I was addicted to the rustle of a turned page, the smell of ink, the smooth caress of the dust jacket. I said loud and often - you'd have to buy A LOT of books to make that e-reader worthwhile

and then my beloved bought me a Kindle for Christmas...

Oh wow. Let me say I'm impressed. Yes it's different and nope it's definitely not the same, but by goodness it's wonderful! Debra even bought me a cute little red leather case to keep it in.

The e-ink is smooth and easy to read.. the whole screen setup looks just like, dare I say it, a printed page. There's these little buttons on both sides of the Kindle that lets you 'flip' your page over and a keyboard down the bottom for browsing the internets and doing searches and such. It also connects to facebook and twitter so you can send quotes and favourite chapter passages to those social networks.. Ahh wow, yet another way to bore my friends!

I have a few quibbles such as the thing is set up for the right handers amongst us, but then so is just about every appliance out there *sigh* The Kindle also has teeny weeny buttons that would be hard to use if your fingers are large or if you have a touch of arthritis (as I do)

But the pros very much out-weight the cons. Mine is the Kindle 3 with 3G and wifi.  Inside it has it's own SIM card with whispernet. Basically Amazon is coughing up for the cost of the network so the downloads don't cost you a cent. All you pay for is the e-books. The Kindle downloads books anywhere in the blink of an eye, which can be a bad thing if you're like me and tend to buy things on impulse. I'm going to have to watch the book budget tightly. The e-books are cheaper, but I'm buying more of them, so that tends to cancel that bonus out

But oh goodness to feel the wonder inspired by the potential of having over 3,500 books at your fingertips...

The kindle can also play your MP3s whilst you read too. There is a store for newspapers and magazines (sadly none of them local) and you can download samples of any book you like the look of for free.

pretty whizz bang, huh?

The one thing I am really happy about is the fact that since I've been reading on my Kindle my thumb isn't playing up. I have pretty bad arthritis in the base of my right thumb and holding a book open used to give me some intense aching pain after about 10 minutes or so; with the Kindle I've not had that trouble at all. I think because it's so light and thin and it's just naturally held at a different angle.

It's absolutely the best present I've been given in ages.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"tea's up!"



When I was small I was fascinated by my nan's tea ceremony. It wasn't strict and formal like the Japanese kind - it was far more familiar and comforting to watch her brew her cuppa.

First she'd boil water in the kettle and get her old dented metal teapot with the hinged lid out. Then she'd pour a little boiling water into the pot to "warm" it, swirling it around and then pouring it out. Into the pot would go the tea leaves that were stored like a treasured resource in an air-tight avocado green canister (this was the 70's, after all). There was a formula to the tea leaves too; one heaped teaspoon for each person who was going to partake and then one extra - for the pot.

In would go the boiling water and on would go the tea cosy which kept the pot warm whilst the tea was brewing away inside. My nan used to crochet her own tea cosies with left over knitting wool. I thought they looked just like Joseph's amazing technicolour dream coat; only in miniature and with a decorative pom pom on the top!

Knitting or crochetting a tea cosy is quite the art form. You have to remember to leave a slit on either side of it to allow the pot's spout and handle to poke through, whilst the rest of it covers the pot and keeps the tea hot while its steeping.

The brew would sit and steep for at least five minutes and then out of the top drawer would come the strainer to sit beside the teapot on the tea tray, while nan got the teacups out. She'd die all over again if she saw me using a coffee cup to drink tea out of, as I occasionally do today and I understand why. A teacup holds the perfectly proportioned amount of tea and milk, a coffee cup always knocks those proportions way out and your tea ends up watery and sad. There's nothing like a proper teacup if you want a real cup of tea.

Nan's tea tray was always stocked with sugar in a china sugar bowl, complete with its own spoon and a small milk jug that Nan would freshly fill for every tea break. The tray always sat on the kitchen bench and was covered with a tea towel to stop the flies getting into the sugar.

Once everything was ready she'd pick up the tray and take it to the table. Arnott's Milk Arrowroot biscuits would be put on a plate and a small amount of milk would be dashed into each cup. She'd then hook the strainer over the teacup and pour out the the blessed brew. Her friends would kick their shoes off under the table and relax - it was only after that the most important part of the tea ceremony would begin - the conversation; which was the whole reason for taking a tea break in the first place. Local gossip, neighbour's news, scandal and rumour, world events and politics - they were all dissected and commented on in between noisy slurps of tea.

To this day, I've still never tasted tea that good - or heard gossip that juicy.

Afterwards, my cousin, my sister and I would fight over who would get to, "water the lemon tree" which meant taking the tea leaf dregs, still in the pot out to the garden; filling the pot with water from the tap and pouring the whole lot over the lemon tree's roots. Nan assured us the used tea leaves helped the tree grow and sure enough it seemed that way to us. Because of the tea leaf dreg fertiliser we poured so carefully over those roots of that tree every single day of our Summer holiday, huge yellow lemons would spring forth.

I guess armed with a dented teapot, Nan taught us recycling and a love of nuturing all at the same time - well, that plus the lesson that little pitchers have very big ears.. something I remembered when I had my own children and went to get the teapot out to have an excuse to gossip.

I miss my Nan and her tea ceremony.. I never realised back then how precious those moments would be, or I would've savoured every single one. Nan's been gone many years now, but she's left a keen legacy behind. I know how to brew an exceedingly good cup of tea from scratch and it's only my tea cosy crochetting skills that ever let me down.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"it's complicated"

I wish that real life came with one of those relationship selector things that I see on facebook and myspace. You know the one where you can select your current significant relationship status? Single, married, looking? Just select one word and everyone knows how the land lies. Only it's not my partner I'd use it for.  It would be for my relationship with my parents, and most of the time it would be set to - "it's complicated."

You see they are a weird two. Weirder even than me. At times I have seriously doubted my parentage - I remember being a child and hearing about storks delivering babies and pumpkin patches where grown-ups just picked up babies from under leaves and I often wondered why my parents picked me and if they knew they'd make a huge mistake as soon as they unwrapped the blanket. Surely I was somebody else's?    Why didn't they just put me back?

It was mum's birthday yesterday. It was impossible to buy her anything. She's so fussy and has "allergies" which include just about all food (this is code for she has an eating disorder), anything with perfume in it, anything that you can put in a bath (in fact anything that touches her skin at all). I did think about gifting her a relaxation day at the local spa but ruled that out straight away (see "allergies"). There is NOTHING you can buy her.  In the end we gave her a Myers gift card, in the hopes that she might be able to find something, anything for herself. I scoured the birthday card section for what I call a no-nonsense type card. One that just says "To Mum, Happy Birthday," and just states the facts. That is my one tell it as it is protest.

Last week my dad had heart issues that put him in hospital, and could have killed him. My mother refuses to drive their car, not because she can't, she's had her license a long time - but because she won't. She didn't visit him after his life-saving surgery because she was "too tired" after catching the bus in to visit him at lunch time. She asked me to give him her best and assured me the nurse would ring her if he died.

Umm, ok.

Debra was sort of puzzled by mum's rejection of our offer to drive her in there and back (about a 40 minute round trip, no sweat) to see him after he came back down from the surgical ward after having his pacemaker put in. Apparently, "I'm too tired" didn't quite cut the mustard with Debra and she was shocked. For me it was a case of, 'that's how they've always been.'

I guess 'not actively caring' is their default setting and I'm just used to it.

My father's brush with death contrition lasted all of one night before he was back to his grumpy self and complaining about everything - from the hospital food to the other patients. I mean dad, they're in Cardiac Intensive Care - maybe they're actually dying of heart failure and not just trying to spoil your good night's sleep by coughing too much.

I guess using an "it's complicated" parental status would actually be code for, "you drive me up the wall and I want to throttle some sense into you both."

I really don't see how two people who live their lives in a world the size of a postage stamp think they can give sage advice to me, but they do it all the time. And if I disagree, then I'm at fault. It's as black and white as that. They don't respect the fact that I live outside their tidy hedge trimmed world, indeed I think it threatens them enormously. They can't understand how they raised me to be a lesbian, but after seeing their marriage I'm surprised they ever thought I'd be heterosexual!

Parenting to me, is supposed to be about giving the gift of life to another unique human being. Parental love should be given often and freely and without obligation. When you pile on obligation you starve love. It's that simple.

My advice to them? Life is short; far too short to spend it complaining about how hot/cold it is and how nobody else knows how to drive and "when I was younger people had more respect." For god's sake you're only 65! that's NOT old. Repeat after me THAT IS NOT OLD.

I guess they missed the whole hippie counter-culture thing whilst they had their head down in a bucket of soapy water while they were washing their car and trimming their hedge.

Primal Scream - Loaded


"The band were first introduced to the acid house scene by McGee in 1988. They were at first skeptical; Gillespie said: "I always remember being quite fascinated by it but not quite getting it." The band did, however, quickly develop a taste for it and began attending raves..."


I love to put on the headphones (earphones just don't do it for me) and listen to "Loaded" from the album Screamadelica..



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dorky? I think so...

video

What do you do when you find out that photo booth has added a movie option? You let everyone know just how dorky you are! Sorry 'bout the volume issues..  video


Oh no, another one!

Somebody stop us! 
I promise there won't be any more.

video


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rumi




Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you've broken your vow
a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come.

-Rumi

Monday, January 3, 2011

when the dark wood fell before me...

Being a parent is one of those things that can bring you great joy one minute and gut you the next. In between there's a great sense of having made these wonderful individual humans with their own thoughts and opinions.. Trouble is your kids get to a certain age where they start to think that they know everything.. and they have plenty of time to tell you all about it.

I spend some of my time moderating on a support group. Women post with all sorts of problems and I take a while, sit back and have a good long think about what they are saying and how they feel about it. I then focus on what I see is a good way to face things, fix things or go about dealing with what's broken in a way that helps a person remain safe and sane. I will then reply with my opinion. The trouble is that, as with most people who can sit and listen and give advice to others, when it comes to my own situations, I usually end up in a huge mess.

You see what I trust in myself when I advise others, namely my ability to see all sides and remain calm and focussed is something that's sorely lacking when my own personal life takes on Dantesque proportions. I have no trouble playing Beatrice to others - I will guide them through any overgrown dark time of the soul - but I have major problems with my own personal purgatories - and at those times my internal guide seems to disappear.

Four years ago when he was 16 my eldest son almost died. It's a complicated thing to go into but suffice it to say that I now have a great respect for microbes as Golden Staph endocarditis almost killed him. Nearly eight weeks of hospitalisation followed and he hovered between life and death for most of it. Those dark days seemed endless, and I would have swapped places with him and lay there in that twilight world of his in a second. I bargained with any god that I felt would listen and when that didn't work, I begged.

I remember....

How I shut myself in the hospital toilets and howled and cried and sobbed. I watched as sepsis broke his body down, organ by organ and all I could do was rub his feet as the skin sloughed off them and his capillaries broke even under the gentlest touch.

I remember...

How I prayed that the last line Vancomycin antibiotic drip in his chest would work - that minute - that day- that week - that month ---- my timeline became more desperate and flexible as things went more and more wrong.

I remember....

My baby lay dying and there was nothing I could do. I have never felt so useless in my entire life.

Finally, by the miracle of science and dedicated doctors, he survived. He doesn't remember much about the major crisis he went through, but I do. I remember it all. I remember the disinfectant smell of the room he was in, the sound of the drip alarms, the creak of my chair by his bed as I tried unsuccessfully to sleep in it. His semi-conscious groans of pain and my own ones of complete sorrow.

I remember....

The frenzy of willing him to live. The deep well that becomes the life you lead when someone you love becomes terribly ill. The small things that give you a fragile sense of hope and the monstrous fears that grow in the dark shadows of a hospital room at night. The frantic, hopeless wish that I could fix things.

I will always remember.

This same son is the one that gives me so much trouble now and says and does the things that break my heart. How I wish there was a map, a compass, a guide, a wisdom to help me deal with it all - but one thing I learned when those dark nights seemed so endless back then was that the only answers you find are the ones in your own heart. Good, bad or just plain wrong - you just do the best you can.

But by god, I wish I could make him see that broken mother sitting by his side, her head in her hands - offering to deal with the devil himself to take on his illness, pain and fear..

I would've died for him. That is how much I love him. I know for a fact that is as much as you can love another human being because I've been there. I've seen Dante's purgatory.

I hope one day he remembers that too.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Om

Om is not just a sound or vibration. It is not just a symbol. It is the entire cosmos, whatever we can see, touch, hear and feel. Moreover, it is all that is within our perception and all that is beyond our perception. It is the core of our very existence. If you think of Om only as a sound, a technique or a symbol of the Divine, you will miss it altogether. ..... Om is the mysterious cosmic energy that is the substratum of all the things and all the beings of the entire universe. It is an eternal song of the Divine. It is continuously resounding in silence on the background of everything that exists.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

new year

The first day of a new year sets us up with all sorts of promise. Here so far, there's been discussions on UFO's, the paranormal, cryptozoology and pizza. That's pretty much a normal day for us.

It's also the first hot day of Summer. I know this because the washing I hung out was completely dry in 20 minutes!

I'm also going to try and snazz up this blog. Why? Because at first I liked the whole 'sun through the tree' thing on the template, but now it's reminding me more and more of how I used to burn holes in things with my nan's magnifying glass as a child. The concentrated beam of light is sizzling my eyeballs and giving me a design headache.

Hopefully the wonderful Mr Summers will come to my rescue - once I can think of what to change the background to. I have some ideas - well ok one sort of idea, but I'm definitely no stylish blog designer.. and it shows.

ahh well I guess the years roll on but some things never change :D