A bit of this and that...with added frangipani.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We were hoping for rain.

Yesterday, it was our school fair. I'd been suffering with a cold since Thursday, and I was secretly hoping for rain so that we'd have an excuse to leave as fast as our feet would carry us. We had commitments in the early part of the day: I had to help out with the Lucky Jar Stall for an hour, and afterwards MasterTen would wow us with his bass playing in the string orchestra. But after that, I would be free as a bird. This being our seventh year attending the fair, my heart was just not in it.

The weather did not cooperate, and despite a forecast of 'pissing down with rain for the entire weekend' as relayed by my also-hopeful husband, it was a glorious day and my chances of an early mark faded as the sun thumbed its nose at us. 

So rather than lament about the fine weather, we decided to suck it up and enjoy the festivities.

Turns out the Lucky Jar Stall was one of the good ones to help out with because my job was easy; all I had to do was find the lucky jar that matched the winning ticket. In previous years, I've not been so fortunate. Memories of hording children, irate parents, and queues snaking around the school buildings still plague me. Okay, there weren't exactly hordes, there was only one irate parent, and there were just five people in the queue - but it was still stressful.

After I bade farewell to the new shift of Lucky Jar distributors, I headed over to the stage in the assembly area. I watched intently as my boy plucked the strings of his guitar in time with the orchestra. He was mouthing "one, two, three, one, two, three" as he did so, but I found this adorable. At one point he missed a bit, but quickly recovered and wasn't flustered at all by his little mistake. Motherly pride overwhelmed me. Guess he actually has been practising when I thought he was just 'stringing' me along.

With our commitments done for the day, we were free to wander around. In past years, we've taken the kids to each ride, waited in the queue with them, watched them on the ride and then made sure they found their shoes at the end. Lather, rinse, repeat times umpteen turns on the Giant Slide, Reverse Bungy, the quad bikes and all the rest. Now that the kids are older we can let them explore on their own - as long as they are together or with friends. So, this year, Will and I got to watch the dancing, martial arts, dog obedience demos and we even got to have a beer in the beer tent - just the one. The boys just checked in with us periodically.

Our favourite teacher, who left the school in May to have her beautiful baby girl, attended the fair to show off her bundle of joy. The new mum was radiant, as were my boys at seeing their favourite chess opponent once again. Plans for our school holiday day trip to her new hometown are underway.

Another positive outcome of the day is that because of the forecast rain, we decided not to buy the ride tickets in advance as we had in previous years, and after checking my wallet this morning, it appears to have been a good decision, because I still had money in there - bonus!

So, all through the week, I was dreading the day, but it turned out all right in the end. It's amazing what happens when you just change the way you think about something.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

FYLP - Angus and Julia Stone

I've been listening to a lot of Angus and Julia Stone lately. I've got their album, Memories of an Old Friend in the car, and Julia's haunting voice is soothing to me. Angus and Julia Stone are siblings from Sydney. This folk duo is very talented, as evidenced by their two APRA (Australian Performing Right Association) awards and five ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) awards.

This first song I'm sharing with you today is rather sad, but I like the video and how they tell the story of a relationship has ended due to infidelity. It tugs at the heartstrings as you're pulled into the drama. I was riveted to the screen. Here's I'm Not Yours from their 2010 album Down the Way.


This next song is the hit that was awarded an ARIA for Single of the Year in 2010. It was brought to my attention recently on an episode of a favourite ABC series, Time of Our Lives. I'm loving it so much right now that I have it as a bookmark on my browser toolbar and whenever I feel like it - which is most days - I have another listen.



What do you think of the music of Angus and Julia Stone?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Time to Just Write

A few of the people I know online, who used to blog religiously, have abandoned blogging altogether and have moved on to other interests. It's been quiet here too.

Although I've considered it, I don't want to abandon my blog. It's there for me when I need to vent or when I just want to be creative. Even if I have few readers, the ones who matter to me most are still reading. I've been bogged down in perfectionism, thinking that every blog post needs to be just right, crafted carefully to provide the reader with useful information, to provoke thought or to amuse with witty tales.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to encourage my youngest son to do more drawing. He thinks that he's not good at art, and I told him that it just takes practice. I said that part of the problem is that he's like me and is too critical of his work. He should just do a bit of a drawing on a scrap piece of paper and then throw it away. I told him not to worry about whether it's good or not, because he would just be throwing it away anyway, but he would be practising, and before long, his skills would improve, and it would become easier for him.

I realise that I need to take my own advice. I just need to write a little bit every day, and my writing will improve or at the very least my inspiration to write may come more easily. The same goes for drawing. I enjoy drawing but have always been tormented by the blank page. What to draw - what if I stuff it up and waste a lot of effort - who am I drawing for? The answers to these questions are "whatever you want", "so what?" and "for yourself". So today, I'm writing a few words, and there are no pretty pictures to accompanying them. Sometimes finding/taking a suitable photo, editing it and uploading it is a hindrance to a blog post actually getting published. 

Time to just write.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

FYLP: Drugs and Alcohol - As Close As We Get Nowadays

This first song has crossed my path a couple of times this past fortnight. I reckon it must be a sign to share it here. It's by Jolie Holland and is called Old Fashioned Morphine; it's based on a song called Old Fashioned Religion.

I first heard it last Saturday when we were listening to The Hillbilly Goats play on the Esplanade. Then I heard it again in the soundtrack of a UK TV series that I've been watching on YouTube.

Anyway, I love the slow style of this song. Have a listen.



Now, don't you think it has a similarity to another favourite of mine, Eilen Jewell? Listen to this next song, called High Shelf Booze (Booze, not Blues - the person who uploaded the video got the title wrong).



Drugs and alcohol - this is as close as we get to walking on the wild side: living vicariously through music. Once parenthood takes over and converts the majority of our Saturday nights to board games with the kids and being tucked up in bed by 10 pm. Most of the time, I don't mind the switch, and neither does my head/body on a Sunday morning.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nature Photography: Willoughby Wallaby Poo

When I first moved to Australia, I scoffed at my Canadian friends who thought that, in Australia, kangaroos hopped down the urban city streets. There were certainly no kangaroos in inner-city Sydney. To me, that was like saying that all Canadians live in igloos.

Little did I know. When I moved to Cairns, I learned that encounters with marsupials on the suburban streets were a distinct possibility. A few years ago, when I worked nights at the supermarket, I came across one on my very own street, and the other day, we spotted a group of them making their way across the school oval. Guess I'd better brush up on my igloo-making skills.

The boys' soccer training grounds are next to a field where the wallabies graze. The close proximity to these furry creatures means that the young soccer players have to pick their way through wallaby droppings as they practise their dribbling, juggling and turns. 

It's a good thing they're cute.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

A friend of mine makes the most delicious Mushroom Soup using this recipe. Unfortunately though, the kids hate mushrooms, so much so that the texture makes them gag. We do make them try one every time we have mushrooms, in the hopes that they will develop a taste for them, but I'm not cruel enough to serve them all the time. I have lived through years of gagging on Brussels sprouts to know what that's like.

Fortunately, they like lots of other vegetables, and their favourite is broccoli, so I have adapted the recipe to suit us all. They've always loved my rather plain version of broccoli soup (I got it from a Weight Watchers cook book), but the addition of the butter, garlic, leeks, cheese and cream make this soup simply delectable - and of course fattening, but oh well!

Broccoli and Cheese Soup



Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Serves 4.


Ingredients:

  • 60g butter
  • 1 leek, white part only, wash and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 300ml cream
  • 1 cup of grated tasty cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan and sauté the leek until soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Sprinkle the flour into the leek mixture and stir constantly while gradually adding the stock.
  3. Add broccoli florets and bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 8 - 10 minutes until broccoli is tender.
  4. Remove from heat. Blend with a stick blender or process in batches in a food processor or blender. 
  5. Add cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. 
  6. Stir in the cream and season to taste. Return to stove on medium-low, stirring regularly until heated through.
  7. Serve with toasted croutons or crumbled saltine crackers.
Hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Budget Day Out in Cairns for A Buck Twenty

It's school holidays and we don't have soccer for once. I'm kind of over soccer after six years of training 2-3 times per week and the whole of every Saturday spent cheering at the sidelines, so the break is very welcome.

So what do you do when you get a reprieve from soccer parent duties? You fill up your day with something else of course!

Unfortunately, having been socked with a few big bills and a couple of birthdays in the month of June, the budget is a bit tight. No money? No problem! You can still have a good day out without spending much at all.


A Visit to the Cairns Regional Art Gallery



A couple of weeks ago, while sitting in the waiting room at the women's clinic waiting for the okay on my mammogram, I looked around and noticed the many beautiful pieces of art on the walls. It's a private clinic so they put forth the effort to make their clientele comfortable. At that time, I really appreciated the opportunity to cast my eyes on beautiful art; it got my mind off things that were worrying me*. The artwork reminded me that it had been a while since I'd visited the art gallery.

The Cairns Regional Art Gallery offers free entry on the first Saturday of every month. Even if you can't make it on the weekend of the freebie, it's not expensive with adults paying only $5 each and kids under 16 get in for free.

Every time I've ever visited the gallery, I've always come away having found something I enjoyed viewing. Not every artist is for me, but they often have a few different artists' work displayed on each of the three floors of the building.

It was the first Saturday of the month this past weekend, so this time I dragged the whole family down with me to look at the art. The boys took everything in and had fun choosing their favourite pieces and reading the placquards explaining the stories behind the images.

My favourite pieces were hand-coloured lino prints from the Fijian-born Australian artist Anna Eglitis. The images on her website don't do her artwork justice - they look much more colourful viewing them in person. I wasn't allowed to take photos in the gallery so I've taken a shot of the poster outside the gallery to give you an idea of her style.

The Cairns Regional Art Gallery featuring artists Anna Eglitis and Ivy Zappala
Top: Entrance to the Cairns Regional Art Gallery, Bottom: Poster advertising the work of
Anna Eglitis and Ivy Zappala, artists from the Far North of Queensland

Listening to Music on the Esplanade



After getting our visual fill at the gallery, we made our down to the Esplanade to meander through the markets.

At one point we lost Will, only to find that he had been drawn to the sound of the music playing under a marquis tent not so far away from the markets.

Australian Music: The Hillbilly Goats


The band called themselves The Hillbilly Goats, and we stuck around to tap our toes to their lively sound. I can see why Will liked the music, because it was very similar to one of his favourite songs from the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou?


Anyway, the band was so very entertaining and their music was appreciated thoroughly by the audience and also by an enthusiastic fan who accompanied on tambourine. 

An enthusiastic music fan playing along on tambourine


Actually, this colourful character is the dad of one of Will's work colleagues. His zeal for the music was obvious, without a care for what anyone else thought. We could all use a little of his enthusiasm for life.

Something Cold and Sweet



After that musical interlude, it was time to satisfy our appetite for something cold and sweet with 30-cent ice cream cones from McDonalds.

So our Saturday out cost us the price of petrol and $1.20 for some ice cream. Not bad for an enjoyable day with the family!

Do you visit the art gallery or take advantage of free events in your home town? What's your favourite inexpensive activity?

* I'm happy to report that there was nothing to worry about; I've been given the 'all clear of cancer' for another year - phew!
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