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

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!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

FYLP: In Canada

On Tuesday, it was a special day in these parts. It was Canada Day! Oh and it was also our 14th wedding anniversary. I'm so patriotic that when we were choosing a day to be wed, I pushed for this national holiday. My first choice was April Fool's Day, so I suppose in my husband's eyes second choice wasn't such a bad option, and I got my way.

I was pleased as punch when one of my Canadian friends put me on to this little beauty by retired Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield and his brother, Dave. Chris was the first Canadian to walk in space, and his rendition of Space Oddity from the International Space Station went viral last year, with over 22 million views - you might have seen it. This song makes me proud to be a Canadian...-born Australian...married to a Fijian-born New Zealander...living in Australia. No matter, Canada's the country of my youth, so I can lay claim to it and its polite reputation.



Not bad, eh?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nature Photography: Kookaburra

Went for a walk this morning and was pleased to find this fine feathered friend posing on a floodway sign. He stayed there for the longest time while I snapped away. It's just as well as the first 20 or so shots are quite blurry because of the early morning light and also because of this photographer's ineptitude with her camera. The photos got clearer as I inched closer and closer until the bird figured I had got close enough and flew off.

Kookaburra sitting on a signpost

This reminded me of the children's ditty we learned in elementary school (in Canada). Thanks to these silly lyrics, for the longest time, I thought gum trees held gumdrops and monkeys.

The Kookaburra Song
By Marion Sinclair

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see.
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
That's not a monkey, that's me!

My kids like this alternative verse:

Kookaburra sits on the electric wire,
Jumping up and down, with his pants on fire.
Ouch, Kookaburra, ouch! Kookaburra,
Hot your tail must be!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Birthday Wish - I Want More

Today I woke to a darkened household. This is not unusual as I'm usually the first one up, but this time when I walked into the kitchen, making a beeline for the kettle, three of the people I love most in the world were singing 'Happy Birthday' to me. Their faces were lit from underneath by the four candles atop the triple chocolate cheesecake - apparently 44 candles might have been a fire hazard so they settled on 4. I closed my eyes and made the same wish I make every year...

to have more:

  • I want more birthdays with cake for breakfast, treasure hunts and witty cards. 
  • I want more hugs for no reason and multiple 'I love you's as I tuck them in at night. 
  • I want more signs that he loves me by the things he does for me and for our little family.
  • I want more laughs and silly games with friends and hour-long chats with my sister.
  • I want more daily connections with loved ones both near and far away.
  • I want more days at the beach with the feel of the sand in between my toes and the smell of salt in the air. 
  • I want more music that lifts my mood or sits beside me and lets me wallow in it.
  • I want more tastes on my tongue that make me close my eyes and savour every morsel.
  • I want more new experiences and steps outside my comfort zone.
  • I want more opportunities to capture with my camera the wonders offered by nature.
  • I want more breathtaking views and moments that will linger in my memory for a lifetime.

Innisfail Sunset

They say the key to being happy is to be grateful for what you have. I am very grateful; I just want more of the same, please.

Birthday celebrations are always accompanied by yearly cancer check-ups and that can bring out the sentimentality and the fear. I should really consider scheduling my mammogram earlier in the month, so my birthday wish can be something like "an iPad", instead of "to live another year". Sorry, not funny.

All the fours, 44 - here's hoping for the opportunity to say all the eights, 88 or all the nines 99.
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