Queenslanders: houses identifiable by the large verandahs & the French doors that open onto the verandahs.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Queenslanders: houses identifiable by the large verandahs & the French doors that open onto the verandahs.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Wandering down LaTrobe Terrace we discovered Monty's Chocolates. Oh my! This is serious decadence. Serious chocolate. Do not enter the premises unless you have serious self~control ~ which I don't when it comes to chocolate because Man cannot live on chocolate alone; but woman sure can!
Now what really took my fancy were these glorious glass jars which display the small chocolate goodies beautifully. I thought they were absolutely charming & old worldy & just the ants pants so I asked as nicely as I know how if I could take a picture...& because I can be completely extroverted when I don't know people, will probably never meet them again & even if I do it is extremely unlikely they will remember one twitty woman out of the hundreds they probably run into in the course of a week ~ I asked if she'd mind being introduced to the world via my blog? No? Luvverly!
And then... Oh. My. Goodness. She let us taste test some of the chocolate!!! Rich. Exquisite. To die for chocolate. Scorched hazelnuts. Scorched almonds in dark chocolate & then as a very special treat, she let us try the speciality of the house ~ their hot chocolate. I am running out of superlatives but honestly. Remember that classic line in When Harry Met Sally, "I'll have what she's having."? That was us. Drooling. Ecstasies. A hint of nutmeg. A touch of cinnamon. Subtle. Mmmm. And the best bit? It's not really sweet, just rich & chocolatey. Exactly the sort of chocolate Siano & I like. There's not much left of it in our house.
We didn't have a lot of time but we were charmed by the ambiance of Monty's & next time Siano's in Brissie I'm sure we'll find our way back. We got friendly, excellent service & the store was jam~packed with all sorts of wonderful goodies we wish we'd had time to investigate. If you are in Brisbane & out that way do drop in & try their chocolate. It is even worth a special trip. Really it is. Good chocolate is always worth it.
We brought a take~away home with us & a bag of the scorched hazlenuts.
As anything to do with Brisbane necessitates negotiating a rat's maze of unmarked streets I venture into the city only when I have no other choice. I do not like cities. I dislike cities so much I opt to live on an island but as Siano pointed out Brisbane has pockets I would like very much indeed given the opportunity to investigate them though these areas tend to encompass the sort of environment I can have without the city drawbacks. Being driven round by someone who actually knows what they're doing & has some sort of internal refedex regarding the relationships of suburbs to each other certainly helps. Old helps too. Old & a little tatty around the edges. Old & green. Which is one reason we began out Mt~Cootha way driving into the grounds of Stuartholme College, which sits on top of a hill & backs onto the botanical gardens. It was founded in 1920 by religious of The Sacred Heart with just 5 students & is a rather imposing edifice. Fantastic views from the grounds of Brisbane.
However having got so far we were absolutely ravenous & in desperate need of sustenance so Siano dragged me off to the perfect place to eat: MaryRyan's fine books & coffee. The coffee & eats is out the back. We chose the terraced verandahs which was just extraordinarily pleasant, thumbing through the catalogue discussing books while consuming salad & Italian dressing before heading back inside to sample the books. If I were a coffee table book sort this might have beguiled me. I holidayed quite a bit on the Pittwater as a child as my folks were *boaties* & I remember the old Pittwater, which was isolated & stunningly beautiful & a little quirky. However with limited money one is forced to choose wisely. Very wisely. And coffee table books are not something to waste money on. This & this I will order through the library. Probably not worth my money but at least worth a cursory look. I see Rude People wasn't available to have a look at but probably worth a library order too. I spotted something for Ditz too. Reminded me of the Lemony Snickett books & at some point I think we will round this one up & read it. Yes, I came away with something but I went for an author I know is excellent value for money & whose books have never disappointed: Tracy Chevallier's latest offering Remarkable Creatures. I adored Girl with a Pearl Ear~ring, The Lady & the Unicorn & Virgin Blue. Others I have not found so intrinsically interesting but still very readable & I have my eye on a long, long year of rehearsals with Ditz.And then this sign!!!! I sooo wish I had found this little shop when I was hunting for that little black dress for Ditz. Unfortunately the window was full of lovely things to be worn under the little black dress for optimum effect & not terribly suitable for a family oriented blog.
This one sat on the edge of a roadside cliff & must have had spectacular 360 degree views. Bougainvillea all along the fence line which would be amazing in full bloom but just nasty, spikey, thorny & rampant otherwise. Not sure I'm a fan of Bougainvillea.
Paddling up & down the vertical streets to look at a row of workers cottages that probably date to around the 1920's. Workers could have trammed into the city proper at the time. We speculated which factories : the brewery [XXXX], Arnotts [biscuits] or maybe the docks. Most were 2 bedroom dwellings & only single walled as evidenced by the exposed external struts. Siano lived in one of them for a time.Just opposite was a tiny patch of green space with the most enormous multi~trunked ficus & a handy seat.
We sat & surveyed the view of Brisbane CBD. Yeah, I know. The contrast is rather ironic. Eventually we hoyed ourselves back towards the car but not before stopping at Monty's. Monty's, however, deserves a post all to itself.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
This beauty belongs to the green tree frog family~ the orange eyed tree frog, Have a listen & see what I'm complaining about. Scroll down to calls & click on the link. All night long he's been going. Nice from an ecological point of view & I guess I'll get used to it in a night or two.
Monday, December 28, 2009
The boys have gone home. The cousins have left. Siano has arrived. It has been raining steadily for a week & the kids have used every towel in the house. I am down to my last spare set of sheets. Siano was lucky. There were sheets & under a pile of wrapping paper in a bedroom someone's forgotten present turned out to be a brand new towel! It looks like it will be a while before my house returns to some semblance of order though last night we had the first proper meal in 3 days! You know, one I actually had to cook rather than throwing together leftovers.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
We have rain ~ steady, drizzling, mizzling rain; the sort of rain that soaks into the thirsty ground & washes the world bright & clean. I have been checking the rain gauge. Over 3" now & it is such a blessing. It is so needed. My big gums, the saplings that rejuvenated after we built our house & have watched grow into big sturdy trees, have been drought stressed for months & I have lost some of my smaller water dependant shrubs.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Christmas immediately gives way to a birthday & Boxing Day is just a really hard day to work with. Everybody is suffering from too much Christmas cheer, too much too much & leftovers are the order of the day. I tried convincing Dearest he should choose another day in the year, any other day in the year, & celebrate then but he, quite rightly, pointed out that then that would not be his birthday. Me? I'd have changed in the wink of an eye but with Dearest & I it is definitely a case of opposites attract.
So today is Dearest's birthday. Today is the day I stop being his *older woman* again [as I am for two months out of every year]. Today is the day we clean up the rest of the presents left under the tree, eat the dessert we didn't touch yesterday [trifle this year], & bear the endless watching of the cricket with equanimity. At some point we will pause to watch the Sydney to Hobart fleet pass through Sydney Heads, spinnakers flying. It's not every year the fleet can put a spinnaker up before they are well down the coast but one year we were sailing north & arrived as the fleet emerged, a veritable rainbow of spinnakers bobbing through the twin cliffs of Sydney. I'll never forget. My mother has a squeamish stomach at the best of times & the sight of those luridly coloured spinnakers lurching across the waves towards her completely did her in & she was violently sick. Ah, the joys of a life on the briny sea!
The world this morning has narrowed to a white swirl of cloud & the steady drumming of much needed rain. Life moves forward, past the Christmas festivities that have consumed so much of December & already other things are on my agenda. Siano is due any tick of the clock ~ & how we all look forward to her flying visits! The girls & I will spend our annual January visit with my mother though now Lid is a working girl she will drive us up, have her weekend, drive home for her working week, come up the following weekend to pick us up & take us home. I must e~mail Alison about what we are going to do with Ditz this year [snigger] & do something about Ditz's curriculum. We finished the year in a shambles & apart from her math I really don't know what we've finished & what we haven't. Could be interesting.
And the lads being here think that specialty pancakes two mornings in a row is no bad thing. Really? I guess they think I'm gullible enough to make them. Ok, so I have a weak point for my sons! The trouble is I will eat them too & pancakes with walnuts, maple syrup, cream & ice cream two mornings in a row I really do not need. I was happy to settle for left over cheesecake for breakfast but unfortunately there's not enough to go around! Being a good little mummy I guess I'm off to make pancakes.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The problem with Christmas is we think we know what it's all about. We have heard the story of the babe in the manger since we were born. We gloss over details because we know them so well.
Guilty as charged.
We know that Jesus was born to Mary & we know that Mary belonged to the House of David. Technically unless your mother is Jewish you are not considered a Jew so that looong, long genealogy in Matthew is important. It is important for other reasons too but Mary's lineage is essential.
Joseph, as Jesus earthly father, would have been given an opportunity to bless the reading of the Torah in the synagogue at the next opportunity after his son's birth. Don't you wonder what he prayed?
We know that on the night Jesus was born Shepherds were on the hills watching their flocks. Forget the snow, people. If the shepherds were watching their flocks on the hills the shepherds were still at their summer grazing pasture. A birth date of late September/early October is far more likely.
From both Mary's & Joseph's lineage Jesus could claim Davidic descent; David, who once declaimed, The lord is my Shepherd...The prophets declared For out of you will come a ruler who will Shepherd my people, Israel...Jesus, at once both the sacrificial lamb & the Shepherd is proclaimed first of all to shepherds watching their sheep. And you know something about sheep, who are easily agitated & upset; they take great comfort just from the presence of their Shepherd! I don't have time but the rich symbolism just in this short piece of scripture is multi~layered going all the way back to Genesis.
Then Jesus was the firstborn son. The first born of anything was to be redeemed & set aside for God. Originally they were to serve as temple priests but there was that little hoo~ha with the golden calf in which only the tribe of Levi didn't partake so the priestly role went to Levi but with Jesus you see scripture reverting to the original intent of God. Things return to the way they are meant to be. Jesus is our High Priest.
Jesus, as the son of devout Jews, was circumcised on the 8th day. Circumcision was the outward physical sign of an eternal covenant between God & his people Israel. It would have been at his circumcision that Jesus received his name.
When a child was born a messenger was sent at once to bring the news to the father, saying, "A child is born to you." And we all know the meaning of angel, don't we.
We read of the Heavenly Host suddenly appearing & glorifying God. For me this is one of the most poignant passages in all of scripture. If Mary & Joseph had been at home in Nazareth when this birth took place their home would have been swamped by the rellies & musicians would have arrived in droves to serenade the new babe. Far from home, closeted in a stable with the animals, there was small chance anyone was going to arrive to celebrate this birth. Joseph may not even have had the money to pay for the musicians but even in these little details God did not forget. There were musicians that night, rejoicing in the heavens & the Glory of God shone around for The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Read the scriptures carefully. Christmas means so much more than we think it does.
Monday, December 21, 2009
This is why I love the island. This morning's sunrise flushed the sky & water with faintest pink. Clouds were piled magnificently along the horizon & the water lay so still everything mirror imaged.
At least Ditz is easy to buy for. Expensive but there is always something! The Ibanz was given to her but it only had a soft case & it is such an expensive guitar I felt a hard case was in order. Of course it's not something easily hidden when you have the child with you ~ or to gift wrap so Ditz won't be surprised Christmas morning! She is, however, absolutely thrilled. It's all about the look.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Rain for Christmas! That is an awesome gift. It has been so dry for so long & I am noticing some of my bigger trees are now looking drought stressed.
It is overcast & muggy & the temperature doesn't seem able to decide whether it's going to cook us or freeze us. Lightening keeps flashing about the horizon & thunder rumbles but the stockings are hung & at least some of the presents are wrapped.
Ditz & I are off to the mainland today to finish up the shopping. Ditz hates Christmas shopping nearly as much as I do but with extras to feed we need to stock up on one or two goodies: cherries; a tray of mangoes; watermelon; pistachios. Can't forget the pistachios. And I have nothing at all for Liddy yet. I knew what I wanted but when I went to get it there wasn't any to be had & the old mind just went completely blank. Ditz's gift is dertermined by whether or not I can cash in my Singaporean dollars. Gotta love the trip that never happened!
How many sleeps are left? Somehow I don't think there are enough.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Summer ~ & Iss really gets into sneaking round the place after stray passerbys with exposed ankles! Yep, he's a nipper. And he likes to roll around in the dusty paths with the fallen leaves & the bark & lots of scuttling little lizards.
Britwife: This church has been bricked in underneath but you can see along the side, especially if the image enlarges when you click on it, that it is actually supported on stilts & the underneath allows for *air flow*.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
You know I keep a homeschool blog but I don't keep it up much. Homeschooling a highschooler is not as much fun as homeschooling a younger child. Just as interesting, for sure! but very different. And I'm always feeling so inadequate these days. The whole math/science thing. The whole, " Do I haaave to?" thing. The eye~rolling. The heavy sighing. It's like trying to precipitate the ocean upwards. Love the child to bits but we're constantly doing the kentucky~ducky, pulling hen's teeth, dancing with the Taming of the Shrew. And that's before all the running around scrambles my brain until I don't know whether I'm Arthur or Martha, coming or going, up or down.
On top of all that Queensland is a bit funny about homeschoolers. I'm not often jealous of anyone unfortunate enough to live down south but I envy the freedoms they have with their homeschooling. Oh, it's legal ~ & we get choices. You are supposed to register & the government likes to keep you in it's sights just in case, you know, you want to be really outlandish but anyone who wants to do that simply doesn't register. The rest of us either write up & submit our program to the powers that be like good little automatons, register with the state Distance programme or register with one of the alternative Distance schools. We've tried the 2nd & have gone with the third. Our supervisor comes & visits us once or twice a year & we think she's the ants pants. Really. She's absolutely lovely & given the shenanigans Ditz goes on with she's got the patience of Job. She even likes Ditz. She really does. ~ though perhaps it's stretching things a bit to say she likes doing math with Ditz. No~one likes doing math with Ditz. It's painful.
Every term ~ & there are 4 of them in a year ~ I round up 3 examples of Ditz's work in each subject, shove it all in an envelope & post it off to be assessed & make the government a happy little government. It's a small price to pay to homeschool is how I look at it. I choose our curriculum. I decide what goes in. I ditch what doesn't work. I cut & paste & twist & tweak & then I just tell the school that's what I've done & they nod sagely as though I've actually made sense. Sometimes I even do. Twice a year they send out a report card ~ which always gives me a bit of a giggle. Seriously. I teach the child. I hardly need a report card to tell me if there's anything stuck to her grey matter at all.
Fourth term & because we were going to Singapore & I was running round like a headless chook I never actually got around to submitting anything. Ouch. Tell me about it. It's all sitting here in an envelope but it never made the mail. Anyway, it doesn't seem to have mattered. The report card arrived on cue anyway. Now, dear readers, you read here regularly & you know as well as I do we were out more often than we were in last term. We were scrabbling to keep our academics up. It was a losing battle. We were tired & ratty & sheer exhausted & frankly Ditz must be mad to want a career that creates such bedlam all around her. Even Dearest was a tad concerned. I was way past concerned. I thought we'd really blown it & we really had managed only the bare minimum.
The good thing about report cards is the detached evaluation. It gives me some idea of whether Ditz is above, below or on par with her peers. Screwy as our last term & a bit were our supervisor is more than happy with the standard of Ditz's work. She hasn't got anything below a B+, some As & a lot of A+s! Yes, even in science. And the child who once upon a time used to refuse to write. At all. Anything. For any purpose. got this on her research paper: The research paper on *Gypsies* recorded for SOSE shows that she has the ability to produce formal essays of a very high standard. Just that one comment made my day. The battles we used to have over her writing! Real Ditz moments. The tears. The tantrums. The refusals. The coaxing. The threats. The yelling & screaming. That was back in the days when Ditz liked math & it was English she hated.
Gentle readers...Ditz has come a long, long way from those early ADD days when just getting her to sit still enough long enough for me to issue a single instruction was a challenge. Brains to burn. Perspective. We are facing different challenges now. Ditz is still Ditz & her main interests are never going to be academic but for a child who constantly says no~one needs to be educated past 5th grade she has shown herself more than capable.
I have 6 weeks to gird my loins for next year's fray. I kid myself not. Dealing with Ditz is never going to be a slow coast on easy street but it is possible. One day, one week, month by month, year by year, at a time. Every so often I think she's showing signs of maturity...As her supervisor's final comment says: It is always very satisfying to see a student like Ditz, whose main interests are in the arts, achieve a set of impressive scores.
I had visions of simplifying Christmas this year...helped inordinately by Singapore,Ditz'spox & the fact the boys are coming over late ~ & won't stay long. I wasn't even going to put up a tree.
"But where", wailed Liddy, "shall I put my presents?!" And put up the tree so she had somewhere to deposit all the things she doesn't want cluttering up her room.
Tradition has a strong grip on the heart & the imagination. Habits are hard to break. God has moved me so far to the left of centre I would be happy to let this season pass unmarked ~ & unmourned ~ but that journey is mine alone. The girls, who have shared so much of it with me this year, are still rooted in the Christian traditions of their childhood: tree, nativity, presents, Christmas pancakes, festival food. There is nothing wrong with any of these things.Except....I worked for a number of years as the house mother of a refuge for homeless youth & Christmas is the saddest time of the year. I'd have a houseful of kids 12~16 with nowhere to go & no expectation of receiving anything at all. Used to break my heart. One year we were a little more solvent than usual & I bought a dozen cheap K~mart mugs with a bag of lollies inside ~ one for each kid. You'd think I'd given them the moon.
That was the kids but there was a shelter for homeless men ~ always full ~ & the shelter for battered women [always full for Christmas] ~ & the one for the Aboriginal kids. So much sadness & it all comes to a head at Christmas. Christmas comes with ghosts. I always wonder where those kids are & how their lives turned out come Christmas. Did they turn their lives around? Did things get better? Did they recover from the drugs & the abortions & the sex? Did they make a better life for their kids & love them more? Or did they repeat the cycle of poverty & lovelessness? Did we make a difference at all? And one particular girl ~ not the brightest spark in the fire ~ a baby with the sweetest little baby but whose baby was horribly murdered by a boarder staying at their house. I never think of her without a pang.
The first year we shut the house at 10am as we were told to do because we had no funding to stay open for the day & turned our houseful of kids out onto the empty Christmas streets. We never did it again, arranging our Christmas at the house so we could stay open all day without pay...& every year there were more kids. Every year there are more kids. Kids with nowhere to go Christmas morning. Kids nobody wants. Kids with no expectations of receiving anything at all from anyone. I'm not even game to look up the stats on this one but hey, despite the recession we had to have Australians are spending more than they ever have in the shops. The retailers are looking a fat bonus in the eye. The bins out the back are full of food that won't keep over the Christmas break.
Is it any wonder I look at Christmas with a slightly jaundiced eye?
Monday, December 14, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Granted it is still overcaste. We had thunderstorms rattling round the horizon last night. Lots of thunder & lightening, no rain. It is warm & muggy. Iss is sprawled on his back to let the breeze ruffle his tummy. We are dripping perspiration & the poinciana is bleeding red petals onto the brick path.
The cicadas are chirring wildly in the trees & today is officially the first day of the school holidays. The kids are swarming through the streets in their swimmers with towls drapped across their shoulders heading for the pool & the jetty. Well, Ditz isn't. Ditz is confined to the hot old house to grow spottier & spottier eating jelly & custard & chicken soup that will just slide down her throat.
Yes, it is true; Ditz has the pox. I think she is too sick to care about Singapore. She has spots in her mouth, her ears, on her tonsils, on the soles of her feet & her lips. She is swollen & blistered & itching like billy~ho.
I am counting our blessings:
One: we missed dress rehearsal so are unlikely to have infected anyone else in the choir.
Two: This happened before we flew out. Can you imagine if Ditz had become spotty in Singapore?!!!!
Three: Insurance will reimburse us for most of our expenses so we can put the money aside for next time. Next time may be Europe ~ much better! ☺ Siano; we need to talk.
I am trying to get over the fact I am now left to try & do all my neglected Christmas shopping [because I was going to get everyone something from Singapore, wasn't I] in the 2 weeks left to me while I have a very sick little girl on my hands who cannot leave the house.
We want pictures. Ditz is covered in so much calamine lotion she looks like a geisha but there is no way Ditz is letting anyone with a camera near her!!!!
Still, I'm pretty sure Ditz is now immune for life. Theo did the pox 3 times. Every time I cleared one of the other 3 up Theo got it again. Unbelievable! I was going nutty dealing with spotty kids. We were dealing with chicken pox for two months. Some mothers do have 'em.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
If I live long enough my household may eventually learn to do things in an orderly & restrained manner without the melodramatic theatrics. We are just dealing with drama, drama, drama. Despite a meeting an ongoing issue still has no resolution but hey, we had a meeting with lots of angst & grown adults throwing the sort of hissy fits better suited to an overtired 2 year old. And I do sooo well with confrontation...
The boys arrived. They took the car. They ate the food. They left their washing & they departed.
Ditz went from little cold to raging temperature & now Ditz has spots!!! I assumed the worst & have been watching her spots with growing alarm. Measles? Chicken pox? Thankfully, so far, please God, her spots are not behaving like measles or chicken pox. Nervous reaction? Who knows.
The cat has ticks. I have been chasing him round the house armed with the vaseline & tweezers. Iss is not impressed but Iss sleeps with me & he is not bringing his parasitic friends into my bed with him.
So how's your week shaping up?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
We are nearly there. The bag is out ~ just one. I believe in travelling lightly. The clear toiletry bag holds little vials of moisturiser, shampoo & conditioner. The shoes are in plastic bags. There are neat piles of socks & undies, shirts & pants & a little flutter in the tummy. This time next week...
So here are some more fun facts about Singapore. I'm allowed. This is my blog & I'm just a wee bit nervous ~ which is understandable if you have ever travelled with Ditz anywhere. So meet vanda Miss Joaquim, discovered by Agnes Joaquim in 1893 & adopted as Singapore's national flower. What an absolutely stunning orchid!
Singapore consists of one main island & 63!!! other tiny islands. It is one of the 20 smallest countries in the world. As an islander myself I have some basis for comparison. Singapore is to America as my island is to Australia.
The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve contains more species of trees than the entire North American continent! And Singapore is one of only 2 cities in the world with a tropical rainforest. The other is Rio de Janerio.
Jeanne, at A Peaceful Day, has suggested a must do is a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Long Bar ~ & I might just do that. A Singapore Sling consists of gin, cointreau, cherry brandy, Dom Benedictine, pineapple juice, Grenadine, Angostura, bitters & limes. It was first served in 1915. I might need one before we're done!
Then there is the Rafflesia ~ the world's largest, the world's stinkiest, parasitic flower, discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles' team in Indonesia but common throughout South east Asia. This is one weird plant. Apart from a stink reminiscent of rotting meat the raffelsia is peculiar in that it defies traditional understanding of plant life forms by not producing chlorophyll & therefore not able to photosynthesise. The flowers are huge ~ up to 3' in diameter. When you smell this bad I guess you have to have something going for you.