Friday, December 31, 2010

Turn of the year

It's the last day of the year, when lots of bloggers reminisce on the year.

Yeah, not so much for me. The past cannot be changed and future is yet to be, so no New Year's resolutions either because of the variables likely to pop up and screw around with any future plans.

So. I will simply say that if your out partying tonight, stay safe and enjoy yourselves. Tomorrow begins a new year with unknowable potential. Once the hangover passes, it's a clean slate, with no regrets and plenty of energy to think on what's to come.

Let's hope 2011 is an improvement on 2010.

Now, I'm off to take the teenagers to the local carnival and water-slides; it's hot here and tomorrow it's going to be gruesomely roasting at over 100 degrees Farenheit. It's good to live next to a beach...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tour De Balcony

I tell you, the exercise bike is getting hammered. It's bad enough to over eat at Christmas, but there are still all those left-overs, and the food visitors bring.

But... the knee feels terrific; no more pain and I'll soon have stronger leg muscles to balance my carcass on. The arthritis isn't going anywhere, but it can be managed with more muscle support and an adjustment in walking style.

It's actually nice to have the bike on the balcony, overlooking the road and the beach. I can imagine I'm anywhere, like competing in the Tour de France or Giro D'Italia, and look at the people wandering by while playing the new MP3 player. I'll be back walking on that beach in no time - if it doesn't become too hot, of course. It is Summer here, but you wouldn't know it from all the rain.

Haven't touched a manuscript either, although I have been tempted. I'm trying to make it to the new year before throwing myself back into the work. I even have a new digital voice recorder to read the work into and check for anomalies. Now, all I need is to buy new ink cartridges and I'll be ready to go - regardless of the teenagers visiting for between two and four weeks, and the other little relatives coming to stay at various times during January. That's what we get for living next to a beach.

And if you're still reading, nip over to Pecked by Ducks and say some kind words; Marina recently lost her mother.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Blerk. Is that a word? It must be a word. It has to be a word, coz it describes how I feel at the moment.

Way too much eating and drinking. I made too much for just the two of us for breakfast and lunch and three for dinner.

I love getting into the kitchen at Christmas and everything worked! I know I'm not supposed to use new recipes for the first time on important occasions, but it worked!

Now, I have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow, for what we call 'Bread and Get It'. I put everything out on the table with bread and everyone gets their own dinner. We have peeps turning up tomorrow evening. Simple. Especially since I'm gonna be on the bike working overtime to compensate for the over-eating today. And I can do that while watching the cricket and the NFL - go the Cowboys!

I hope everyone had a most excellent Christmas, with or without the blerk...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to all

Here it is, Christmas Eve.

Today, I have made half a dozen beds for visitors arriving over the next couple of days, washed the kitchen floor, done a couple of loads of washing, dusted, vaccuumed, shopped (twice), baked, made eight mini-trifles - two standard and six Black Cherry chocolate and fondled the presents under the tree. Tonight, I will make a peach upside-down pudding and a smoked trout salad (washed down with a rather nice Merlot).

Tomorrow, the real cooking begins - after I have trashed the aforementioned presents. We'll begin with Vanilla French Raison Toast, then mince pies, followed by prawn cocktails, roast chicken with all the trimmings and the trifles accompanied by a nice Sauvignon Blanc. For dinner, there'll be roast pork with potato and leek bake and green beans followed by the Christmas Pud my brother made for us and custard, and a Cabernet Merlot. After that... well... I'm guessing the exercise bike for an hour or so if I'm not too, ah, tired. And then I shall relax and think it fortunate this day only comes around once a year, while playing with the loot.

Actually, I have no idea if I'm getting any toys this year. I've poked and prodded and fondled and shaken and rattled, but none make any noise - damn it.

So. Happy Christmas everyone. Be calm in the face of the weird relatives, be understanding of the irritating children and be ferocious in protecting your own toys. Remember: all that happens this season is grist to your writing mill.

The Australian version of the 12 Days of Christmas:

Twelve possums playing,
Eleven lizards leaping,
Ten wombats washing,
Nine crocs a-snoozing?
Eight dingos dancing,
Seven emus laying,
Six sharks a-surfing,
Five kangaroos,
Four lyrebirds,
Three wet galahs,
Two snakes on skis,
And a kookaburra in a gum tree.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Tis the season...

Yes, a little writer's humour but it made me laugh. My sister mentioned it; a work colleague sent it to her and another staff member came in asking what they were giggling over. L. showed her. The reply? "So, what were you laughing at?" Which was even funnier to them.

Also on the giggle front is Allie Brosh's six-year-old view of the Nativity. All I can say is, 'poor Kenny'. I'm sure many a family has a tale of revamped Nativities.

Yesterday's Lunar Eclipse was as spectacular as expected:

Source: Gary Ramage, The Australian. My photos weren't nearly as amazing - the trees got in the way. Scientists say the colour is due to the dense atmosphere of the Earth; pagans will say it is a Hunter's Moon, or Blood Moon, where violence is sure to follow. A Solstice full moon is a Honey Moon and pagans pass around the honey cakes and wassailing - a ceremony of placing toast in a selected tree, as a representation of the Green Man, to scare away the evil spirits and pouring cider around the roots as a token to ensure a good harvest. 'Wassail' means 'good health' in Middle English, with the hope of a better year to follow.

And so, on to Christmas...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Long-range visitors

This is a White-throated Needletail, otherwise known as a Spine-tailed Swift. It is the largest of the swifts and we had a flock overflying the house this morning.

According to the book, What Bird is That? by Neville W. Cayley, they breed in Siberia, Mongolia and Japan making a migratory journey to the warmer climes of Australia during late spring and summer.

These birds rarely settle on the ground, preferring to eat on the wing and scoop water when they're thirsty. They're also harbingers of a change in weather. When I saw them, the sky was a clear, cold blue; now, a couple of hours later, it is grey and overcast. It's also bitterly cold, like mid-Winter.

I've never seen these birds here, which was why I was so interested in identifying them. They wheeled and whirled overhead, into a very chilly wind. I suspect they usually stick to the warmer inland areas, but the gale force winds have blown them to the coast.

They've come a long, long way for a summer holiday; shame summer has decided it's staying home this year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Which will you be?

A reminder that the Solstice and Christmas isn't about denying yourself (an e-mail from my sister, who might just be going to hell for this one; and since that's where all the fun people are, I might just join her.):

This woman is 51.
She is a TV health guru advocating a holistic approach to nutrition and ill health, promoting exercise, a pescetarian diet high in organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets colonic irrigation and supplements, also making statements that yeast is harmful, that the colour of food is nutritionally significant, and about the utility of lingual and faecal examination.

This woman is 50.

She is a TV cook, who eats nothing but meat, butter and desserts.

So forget join a gym and eat more celery.

This Christmas, it's food and booze all the way.

And the only exercise you need is dancing and shagging.

I'd like to think I'd look more like Nigella Lawson by the time I turn fifty, but I fear I will more resemble the 'health guru' instead! Fortunately, I have plenty of time yet.

Just remember: this Solstice (Summer, like us down here, or Winter up there) and Christmas comes but once a year. Eat, drink and be damn thankful the relatives will only stay for a short time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Plan A moving alone

Yay! I'm done with the Christmas prezzo shopping. The menu is nearly done, too. We have been setting aside a dollar a week into a jar so we can buy the more exotic seasonal stuff without spending any extra. I'll be picking up the tiger prawns on Christmas Eve; I already have the pork for roast (love that crackling) and the chicken. I'm still thinking on desert and the wine and I'll buy the veggies later on in the week.

I'd be dashing around cleaning up, but whenever I do, Canine the Destroyer finds something else to chew - usually in a different room; and yes, I know he should be outside, but I doubt the neighbours would thank me for all the howling and whining and barking and general mayhem he wreaks. I'm hoping the plants will recover from being trashed...

So, the skirmish around the house starts on Tuesday after the Destroyer returns home.

We're going to have full house for a week or so starting Boxing Day, with the teenagers staying for month or so to lounge around on the beach.

I am determined to spend some quality time with my new toys rather than cater to everyone's needs, every minute of the day. So there. I'm just saying. Now, I have to go rescue the seat cushion from the Destroyer...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A pain in the...

I've been having a few problems with the internet connection, so posting might be spotty until the ground dries out - it only happens when we've had buckets of rain; go figure.

I have a new exercise bike; not new new, but new to me... actually, it's quite old. But. If it helps my poor, misaligned knees, I'm all for it - see what happens when you spend your younger years playing sport? The hockey field, the soccer pitch, it wears on the joints.

I haven't ridden a bike in years, but I'm enjoying riding away while watching the teev. And I'm sure the old buttski will get used to the seat... soon; please, make it soon!!!. Also that the jelly-leg syndrome once I'm done, will pass...

Yes, well, I'm sure it's all good for me.

So Writer's Digest have an article on 17 writing secrets. Every one of them resonates for good reasons. Of course, this close to Christmas, the Solstice and the New Year, writing isn't really on the list of things to do, but bookmark it anyway. New Year = New Goals.

Now is the time to think carefully on what those goals are going to be. And you have time to change them. I'm still thinking, but a plan is forming.

Work beckons; the last newsletter of the year for the moozeum and I think a retrospective is due.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Short and sweet

Prezzo run done and I now only have two more gifts to get - go on, hate me.

I'm also dog sitting for a week or so and Canine, the Destroyer, is so far behaving nicely; he's collapsed on the carpet, 'zausted after the trip down and a walk. Hopefully, he'll settle down and not trash the veggie patch. I'm sure he'll find a way around the barriers I've put up.

Now, I'm off to finish wrapping, then putting my feet up.

Oh, and welcome to Australia, Oprah; have a time!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Window to the past

I admit it. I've been watching the Sharpe Series again. I wasn't going to, honest, but I saw a piece on Napoleon, with an actor reading from Captain Mercer, an artillery officer who wrote of his time during the conflict, and I had to revisit a more stark period in history.

The Regency era is noted for heroism and romanticism, with language that beautifully brushes over the brutality of war. The politics, the militarism, society, is all so different from what we have today. When aristocratic men bought their commissions, where noble sacrifice was the ultimate honour and ordinary soldiers were the 'scum of the earth', flogged or executed for misdemeanors and still fought for the King's shilling.

Life for ordinary folk was hard and brutal, poverty rife, and yet many men saw the army as a better option - if they survived the battle, then the loot was theirs to spend as they wished.

Even at the aristocratic level, women's rights were what their husbands gave to them - unless they were independently wealthy - and gossip was considered sport.

It's a fascinating part of history, of astonishing bravery. Standing in line, one-shot rifles facing an enemy in a similar formation, waiting for that bullet, the soldiers must have prayed very hard indeed for luck. It seems madness to march 'in good order' towards the enemy like that, into the teeth of cannon and hot lead. To be briefly mourned by colleagues and then buried quickly, without the accolades and respect soldiers of today receive was simply... the way it was.

The Industrial Revolution was yet two decades away (although some would argue it began in the late 1700s), classes were distinct between the aristocracy and the rest, politics was all about favours and royal connections more than what the politicians could do for the poor and the working class; and yet moves were afoot to change the face the industry even as class warfare was waged in Europe.

I suppose every 'Age' in history has its attractions for various reasons - at least, for me it does - but the modern era is more global and more difficult to distil because of the vast wealth of information combining to affect us all. Pre-20th century, individual nations' history is more easily understood because of the tyranny of distance and isolationism; post-20th century we are all interwoven politically, socially, economically, militarily - a global village where nations consult and act for a variety of reasons and makes the study of history that much more difficult.

History isn't simple any more, but for Richard Sharpe and those who, in reality, fought the Napoleonic Wars, his life is encapsulated by 'I do my duty, sir'. Concise and to the point. Not such a bad idea, even today.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Of droughts and flooding rains

It's so humid here, it feels like Queensland - and it's not. Thunderstorms, buckets of rain and, sadly, the cancellation of the Santa Ride.

While the northern hemisphere freezes, we have humidity and rain and flooding rivers; makes a nice change from heat and flies and drought.

I love a sunburned country; (one of the highest melanoma countries in the world)
A land of sweeping plains, (in the outback, you can see the curve of the horizon)
Of ragged mountain ranges, (which aren't so ragged really, being worn down)
Of droughts and flooding rains. (one or t'other, rarely in between)
I love her far horizons, (13,000kms of coastline)
I love her jewel-sea, (with the sharks, the crocs, the blue-bottles, jellyfish...)
Her beauty and her terror - (funnelweb spiders, taipan snakes, cassowaries, death adders, redbacks, stonefish...)
The wide brown land for me! (that's either the dirt of drought, or the muddy water of rivers in flood).

Two months ago, some of our dams were at crisis levels, as in less than ten percent full; now those dams are overflowing.

Here on the coast, we're getting a caning too. But at least we haven't flooded... yet.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Baking fail

With a freezer full of bananas, I made some cakes -; they're back in the freezer now, three of them. I also made mince scrolls and mince pies; not so great.

This morning, for the first time in weeks, the sun is shining, the lorikeets are gossiping and the kookaburras are giggling and chuckling. I thought I'd make some banana muffins for breakfast.

Epic... fail. They didn't rise, they stuck to the paper thingies and they turned into nuggety, ah, nuggets. Tasted okay, but not what I expected or had ambitions for. I'll have to hunt around for another recipe. I'm a better cook than baker, but I think the more I practice, the better I'll become - I hope. Pastry is the bane of my existence, so hallelujah for pre-packaged stuff.

I'm wondering what else I can fail at in the kitchen? Time to dip into more cook books. At least, if these less than perfect results happen now, I can be reasonably assured Christmas won't be too much of a disaster...

Monday, December 06, 2010


The Nano stats are in and results are up across the board from last year. Just a sample: Of the 200,530 people who signed up, 37,479 finished as winners; that's 18.6 percent.

Nano remains as popular as ever, regardless of the the criticisms.

I'm still a little weirded out that it's December, that I need to get on with some prezzo shopping and some baking (I've found some new recipes to try out on my sister, heh, heh). I've directed my attention to the kitchen and the garden to renew creativity. I have so many chores to do that I neglected during November and being away from writing is as good as a holiday.

I cleaned out the fridge and freezer and found I had way too many bananas in the freezer. They'll go back, but converted into banana cake and banana muffins.

The veggie patch needs a ferocious weeding, but with all the rain (in eight days, we've had two were it hasn't rained), I'm finding other stuff to do inside. The tomatoes and zucchinis are pretty fab and I think the garlic and onions are almost ready. Potatoes are in there and I have some slow-growing, out-of-season, why-are-you-still-growing, brussell sprouts. Maybe they'll be ready by Autumn...

I still have a towering tbr pile, too. I need to whittle it down, and gee, I think I'll go do that while the bananas are thawing.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Internet is fritzing, and has been for the last ten days. All the rain we've had sinks into the ground and affects the lines - happens every time we get a lot of the wet stuff. In fact, it's so humid we have a misty morning. Noice.

Not so good for my patience and I usually just say 'to hell with it, I'll blog tomorrow'. And that, probably, has something to do with having a Nano hangover.

The creative well has run dry, also on the fritz - for the moment - not a short story or novel idea in my head. I can't even remember three-quarters of the stuff I wrote for Nano; but I no complain. It's there, written down and backed up, waiting for January.

In the meantime, I'm working my way through the TBR pile and out prezzo shopping. And this afternoon, I'm taking the aged parent to HP. Should be good.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Reward time

I had a nice sleep in after all the early mornings and late nights for Nano. Gentle rain on a tin roof kind of stuff. Fourth day in a row we've had rain, so November went out as it came in, with lots of wet stuff falling from grey skies.

Today, I am taking it easy - well, apart from work - and indulging myself with... Indulgence In Death by J.D. Robb. It's the first on my TBR pile.

I also have chores to do, but they can wait until tomorrow. Although, I think I need to get out into the garden for some judicious weeding; all this rain has made them run rampant. The first zucchini has been plucked and eaten and it was delish, and there are more - somewhere under the broad, spiky leaves. I think there are tomatoes, too...

At the end of Nano, I'm happy with the first and second books of Nano, but the mooze pulled a muscle during the third, somewhere in the middle, but recovered enough for the end. It's not the best stuff I've ever written, but I suspect when I come to do revision, there'll be lots of dumping and 'what was I thinking?', and 'oh, that's crap'. Not a lot of gems in the third book, and it started off so well.

But that's Nano. It's about writing the bare bones of a book, laying the groundwork of the story for examination and expansion later. But you know that - if you've done Nano or written a book outside of November.

The best thing about finishing are the rewards, and I'm now going to indulge...