Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread Melbourne

Knowing how hard it is (for me at least) to create reasonably flat, well proportioned gingerbread shapes and stick them together so they don't slither and slide creating something more like a disaster zone than a stable building, I'm super impressed by this creative Gingerbread Village by Epicure in Melbourne this month.

Here's the real Melbourne Town Hall
and the gingerbread facsimile, complete with wreaths and snow. 
It'd be a bit of a shock to wake up and find snow in Melbourne, but you can always dream!
The Arts Centre from the back of Fed Square (Federation Square) looking across the Yarra River.
The gingerbread Arts Centre complete with spire - no seagulls wheeling above it thankfully! The MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) is in the background. The Christmas tree with star that you see at the bottom of the photo is in the next shot. 
without snow, thankfully!
and a close up of the MCG complete with the towering lights, spectators and players. 
A structural masterpiece!
I suspect this is Flinders Street Station, normally seen without the reindeer and Santa!
 Santa and an elf have come to life!  Taking a break to sample some gingerbread.
Playing hide and seek amongst the forest of plastic trees at Fed Square. It would have been a real challenge in gingerbread as it has fantastic angles. Flinders Street Station is the sandy coloured building with the dome in the background.
And for those dreaming of jingling bells, there's always the possibility of enjoying a horse and carriage ride. Just beware of the rhinoceros on a skateboard! (A clever advertising strategy reminding people that trams don't stop quickly or easily.)
Now, back to trying to make something presentable out of my own gingerbread disaster. The roof insists on slithering off...sigh.

I cheated this year, and bought a kit from the supermarket - Never again! Whilst the shapes are neat, it smells all wrong, it's sickly sweet and I suspect the flour is coloured rather than oozing ginger and cinnamon; it doesn't smell like Christmas. Smell is such an important sense, it seems a pity to shortchange it, don't you think? It's a bit like the plastic tree we resorted to a couple of years ago during the drought - ok, but not quite right.

Celebrations and smells. What does Christmas smell like to you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

what have we become?

We’ve pursued wealth and have become greedy with excess.
We’ve sought power and have become brutish and aggressive.

We’ve chosen to play with shifting goal posts on an uneven playing field.
To our advantage
of course.

Sold our country's soul to the highest bidders.
Ignored common sense in our quest for ‘growth at all costs’
And what a cost it is - living on borrowed time,
But the borrowing will need to be repaid … with interest … soon.

We’ve chosen to ignore wisdom and generosity of spirit.
But Christmas is coming, let’s be jolly and pretend all is well -

South Australia. Open cut coal mines.
photos: D. Abbott.

The Australian Government has voted to sell uranium to India - because we sell it to China. Neither country has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (saying they won't use the uranium for aggressive purposes). 

We're mining black and brown coal and shipping it (mainly to China) to help fill their increasing energy needs. Soon, some of this shipping will be through the fragile, stressed Great Barrier Reef, taking coal-seam gas to China. We don't invest enthusiastically in renewable energy to prepare for the time when the earth has nothing left to give. 

We watch with idle curiosity while some of our Island neighbours watch their homelands get consumed by the rising seas. IMHO we seem to be taking one step forward and many backward.

We used to call ourselves "The Lucky Country" - I wonder when our luck will run out.

What do you think?

A drabble is a story told in 100 words. No more, no less.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I wonder if the owner of this nest thought it was strong and secure. The bird has woven in baling twine, very solid fencing wire and different coloured lengths of boating rope. There are twigs with gumnuts adding a rather whimsical tone, and it was well and solidly worked into the fork of the tree.

Unfortunately the tree needed to be lopped. My friend was pleased that the tree surgeon rescued it from the mulcher and it's been added to her artistic displays.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

playing with words

Perplexed pre-schoolers wail piteously
a paucity of playground posts peep from the putrid waters
parents pray the council will not prevaricate any longer
"put the playground on higher ground!"
Persistent precipitation portrays the wisdom of parents.

Pugnacious rocks pummelled the previously pretty plain
uprooted plants, eroded placid platypus haunts.
Pummeling precipitation eroded the once playful riverbed


Playground now in the past
more like a pool.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Belated post for 11/11/11

Thinking of all those affected by bitter, divisive conflicts both past and present in far too many nations of the world. The service men and women as well as their families: husbands and wives, children and loved ones - they cross all cultures, religions and ethnic groups.

This song seems appropriate:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Limbering up for the A-Z April blogging Challenge

Last year for the A-Z Blogging challenge hosted by Arlee Bird (here) I really wanted to do something about climate change. But it was too hard, too complex, and to be honest, too darn depressing. But the idea has been playing on my mind all year, niggling and asking for my attention.

I don't particularly want to spend time reading weighty books and research papers about environmental degradation, pollution, waste, greed, the melting of polar ice and all the things mentioned in the cartoon below. But if I'm going to live according to my core values it's something I need, and choose, to do.
  • one of my vital core values is to connect with and spend time in the natural environment. I'd like future generations to have the opportunity to enjoy it as I do. 
  • another is to be part of a community, to connect with, and be part of something bigger than my own little space in the world. It'd be great to connect with others doing their bit to make a difference.
  • a third core value is to do with education and personal development. I like to extend myself. I enjoy being educated, informing, sharing and trying to explain concepts clearly. 
If I'm going to live comfortably with myself, I need to embrace my values and move in a direction where I act on them, even though it may be difficult. I'll try to ignore the demons of "Nothing's going to change", "I'm setting myself up for disappointment because no-one's interested anyway" and  "Who do you think you are? Getting too big for your boots if you think you can have an effect".

To help me through, I'll apply the principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and mindfulness meditation and make space for the feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, possibly make friends with my demons and breathe deeply into any discomfort.  (Information on ACT here.)

Rather than leaving the preparation to the last minute like last year, I've been thinking ahead, mulling over how to present the whole depressing schemozzle so it’s not a major turn off.
Pilfered from Burrowers, Books and Balderdash here.
But, first, I needed to drag myself out of the chasm of despair and fear that envelops me when I think about climate change and the destruction of our eco-systems. So I took some time off to relax, be inspired, blow away the cobwebs and re-energise. And it was fun!
 This path is high above the surrounding plain. 
The white rocks that litter the path were once at the bottom of an ancient sea.
Mutawintji NSW
 I wonder if this River Red gum had been graftedby a local aboriginal group years ago to create a specific shape? If you look closely at the top of the photo you can see where it has created another loop and the light is glowing through. Hattah Lakes, Vic.
 Trees have grown along fault lines where water has trickled.
To get a sense of scale, I'm the little splodge on the right looking over the amazing landscape.
 Mutawintji NSW.
Click here to join the A-Z blogging challenge in 2012 with Arlee Bird and his great band of helpers. 

Thinking about climate change and environmental damage, in the privacy of our own heads, can make us feel insignificant and scared.  It was only when I made veiled comments to others, including my doctor, that conversations opened up and I realised I'm not alone in with the continual sense of fear and doom.

My doctor commented that he is treating more people for depression than ever before, and suspected that isolation and fear about the future may be part of the cause.
You want us to join you?
It'd be great if you join me over at traverselife where I'll be blogging from A-Z in April.  Click on the  ENGAHC button at the top right for more information about my theme.  Perhaps you could 'follow' if the topic is something you can contribute to, or want to learn more about. I'd like you to share your insights, stories and comments.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Beer Bread

Beer bread - perfect when the local store has run out and the nearest bakery is a couple of hundred kms away.

First you need a recipe, I asked at the local pub - well, why not? and the nice publican insisted on checking out Mr Google, and printed out the recipe for no charge. Great service!
"The Family Hotel" Tibooburra
Ingredients -
3 cups of flour -  the recipe specified white flour, but I used atta flour (a wholemeal flour traditionally used for making Indian flat bread) - it was all I'd packed. (My attempt at making flat bread was a total  disaster.)
3 teaspoons baking powder - This required a trip to the local store which didn't stock it, then off to the roadhouse which thankfully had a container at a reasonable price. I may have added either more or less. I didn't have a teaspoon so shook it into the palm of my hand and guessed, but it was windy and some blew away.
1 teaspoon salt - it tasted good so I must have got that right!
A stubbie of beer & water to make to 400 ml - this meant another stop at the Hotel to do a taste test prior to purchase. Tooheys Old was the decision, but pretty much anything would work, I think chilli beer would add a certain piquancy. A bit of guesswork was needed as I didn't have a measuring cup, and of course there was the obligatory sample for the cook. Add enough to make the mixture squishy.
1/2 cup grated cheese - drat no fresh cheese on hand - I used dehydrated pre-grated parmesan cheese.
 No beer? 
Method - 
Mix. It helps to read the whole recipe before diving in. The cheese should have gone on top.

Bake - 
at 200 degrees C. Tricky with no oven. But flat breads are baked in a frying pan, damper can be cooked in all sorts of ways, including twisted on a stick and cooked over hot coals. So I divided the mixture in two, patted it out a bit, heated some oil in my fry pan, (on the gas hot plate so thoughtfully provided by the NSW National Parks people) flopped the mixture in, put the lid on, took a photo or two of the great scenery and after an indeterminate length of time when the bottom was crispy, flipped it over and cooked the other side.

Yummy! Now I want to try it with raisins and spices.
The hot plates and BBQ are under the green shelter to the right.
View over Tibooburra area and Sturt Nat Pk from Sunset Hill.
If anyone has a recipe for something similar, but with raisins and spices could you share please? I need to get some more variety happening.

Another recipe! Beer Bread

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Silver screen @ Silverton

I guess I could acknowledge that I'm no movie buff, but even I've heard of the Mad Max movies. In the vague sort of way non movie goers have, I knew it'd been filmed somewhere in Australia, but hadn't realised I was in the very town we were camping near till someone asked how much time I'd spent at the Mad Max Museum and the Silverton Hotel.
Hmm, perhaps I missed out on something?
The Silverton Hotel.
Its name changes regularly to fit the theme of the movie.
As for the Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I had seen and enjoyed it. Oh, so that was filmed here too - and how many other movies? Twenty-four! How many have I seen? mumblemumblemumble, shuffleshuffle, change of subject...
What I referred to as The Priscilla Road. I resisted the
temptation of sitting on the roof of the car, swathed in chiffon.
Possibly I'd seen some of the vast array of advertisements filmed in Silverton? Perhaps something eyecatching from Panasonic, Landrover, Telstra, Coca Cola, West End Beer, Dove Soap, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Pajero, Smiths Chips, Pepsi, Gatorade or Mastercard? um, er, no, ah well there you have it, I don't watch TV much either.
Googlemaps gives an idea of the size of Silverton in its heyday. There you'll see streets and house lots clearly marked as if they exist even today. Now it's a shadow of its former self, except I assume during filming.

At its peak there were 3000 people enjoying the spoils of the minerals found here, but as these declined, and people moved to the now bustling town of Broken Hill a short drive away, with its richer mineral deposits, the population fell to its current level of less than 50.

There are places of interest for the tourist in Silverton, an attractive cafe, artists clearly inspired by the dramatic landscape selling their work, museums, a coin cutter and not a lot else.
The cafe features old walls and garden -
the indoors part of the cafe is out of the pic to the right.
Andy Jenkins, the coin cutter is the only person registered to deface Australian coins. He makes great jewellery! Any of the pieces would make a distinctively Aussie gift or memento.  Link here with good shots of his welcoming studio and an aerial photo of Silverton - his web site is well worth looking at to get a sense of the area.  (No, I'm not on commission! We spent an entertaining 1/2 hour at Andy's workshop - he clearly loves his work and spins a good yarn.  His pendants, buttons and charms are refreshingly different from the mass produced, cloned jewellery you see all too frequently.)

As a destination Silverton is great and I'm glad we stayed there rather than at the more urban Broken Hill.
We picnicked at the most remote picnic bench I've ever sat at.
Thanks to the people who carted it  up the hill!
Hmm, but if you want to live the high life, it may not be your thing.
Vast, desolate, beguiling. We missed the lightning storms over the Mundi Mundi Plain
 - which was possibly for the best, as we would have been the tallest things around for ... forever.
A close up of the sign in the pic above.
I wanted to ask who would trespass, and why -
which I hope doesn't sound cityfied and arrogant, but I am genuinely curious.
The Mundi Mundi Plane stretches 400 km to the west to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Mundi Mundi means no water - uh huh, that seems pretty accurate. Video here.
See all those little blue lines that normally denote rivers and wetness?
It's a trick. They're mostly dry except after the odd flood.
Wheehooo - a pretty standard riverbed!
Note the blocks of concrete - they used to be the road.
It was washed out in the recent severe floods.
The Barrier Ranges viewed from the campsite.
Delicate sunset over the Mundi Mundi Plain

More information on Silverton is here, including accommodation, tours, history and places of interest.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The joys of camping - creepy crawlies

I’m not a particularly froggy, reptile kind of person, but I love camping even though I know I'll have to share my space with creatures I'm not particularly fond of. 
Making the most of the late afternoon sun and a rare internet connection.
Sturt National Park. Outback NSW.

I enjoy hearing frogs at night croaking reassuringly in dams and waterways - it’s one way to know the area is healthy and that things are well. Snakes, not so much, particularly when camping and they seem keen to share the area, especially at night when you need to answer the call of nature. They could well be lurking in an all too familiar way nearby, fangs fully charged and ready to puncture an innocent limb.
Possibly a mulga snake, aka 'hiding under the picnic table snake'
about 1.5 metres long - I wasn't going to get closer to measure - could have been longer.

This frog, possibly the Desert Tree Frog, and barely as big as my thumb, appeared stealthily on a picnic table at Sturt National Park near Tibooburra (outback NSW).  It was almost dark with the full moon rising, when I became aware of his intense gaze. He sat and watched me curiously, lazily stretching and peering at the keyboard with apparent interest. He had the cutest little fingers and toes and seemed to be getting ready to show a closer interest in the keyboard when I reached for my camera. The blighter! He rapidly sidled over to the gas stove, and squeezed himself into a tight bundle trying to burrow between the metal stove and the wooden table, delicate little arms and legs tucked in coyly.
Possibly the Desert Tree Frog. Aka 'cute little golden frog'
This next fellow appeared on the mesh screen of the tent completely without warning. Whether he’d climbed up or leaped I don’t know, but once he saw me he stretched his arms and legs – boy were they long – and ninja jumped a 90 degree angle from one face of the tent to another. He was determined to persevere and win over the slippery mesh. Again as soon as I whipped the camera out he quickly shuffled off keeping his arms and legs close.

Totally forgetting about him, I wrestled myself into my sleeping bag. Torch out, zippered in and snuggling down…when…flop! Waaarrrggghhhhhhhhhhh. I sat up, frantically trying to find arms, torch, and alien invader. The wretch had found a miniscule gap in the tent zip and obviously decided that the inside of the tent was more enticing than the outside, snuck through, and leaped agilely and delicately onto me. I’m reasonably tolerant usually, (well, some might disagree I suppose) but I don’t intend to share my sleeping space with a 4 footed, web toed, gorilla armed frog. No matter if he’s rare, endangered or cute, it’s simply not a happening thing. Removal was the only realistic possibility. Before I'd unzipped my bag, hubby unceremoniously evicted him.

The 'way too friendly Ninja frog' - home near Wentworth NSW.
Goannas are another thing entirely, one look at those massive claws and I'm happy for them to stalk off in the other direction. This one was over a metre long.
The 'I'm not talking to you goanna'
The following guy was keen not to be photographed. As I shuffled around the tree constantly peering upward with camera to eye, hoping to avoid snakes, spiky grasses and mega bindi prickles, he kept pace with me placing the branch between us. By sheer sneakiness I got this photo.
The 'blending into the tree lizard'
Some lizards are ever so delicate and shy. I suppose this one had discovered that the white covered rock was warmer than the surrounding ones. It's about 10cm long.
The cute 'keep out of my sun lizard' 
Oh. my. goodness. The bearded dragon. Mating season. GET OFF MY ROAD YOU STUPID BLOODY INTRUDER 4WD OR I'LL HAVE YOUR WHEELS OFF. Squillions of them, on roads, atop rocks or spiky bushes, all being ruggedly territorial and defiant. They didn't give ground happily or readily as evidenced by the squashed bodies along the roads. Not many cars pass each day (maybe 6 on a busy day) so I suppose they... nah, they're just bloody minded.
This is my territory and you'd better remember it.
aka 'bloody minded bearded dragon'
The slower moving Shingleback. Kind of nice in a stumpy tailed way. Reminds me of the lizards kids used to keep as pets. Do kids still keep lizards?
The 'please don't run over me' Shingle Back lizard

Where do you enjoy unwinding? What is it about that place that works for you?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day photos of a perfect night in Yangshuo

Stars float in the dark velvety sky, music from a wooden reed flute hovers, rich and light; the notes float as I do too, in the pool. This is an idyllic, simple pleasure, no demands, just floating in time and space - timeless perfection.

Children giggle and splash in the nearby river, no distinct voices or words, just sheer, unadulterated joy in the perfect moment.

This place, not tied to any particular era is uniquely Chinese. Majestic karst mountains are silhouetted softly against the moonlit sky, deep valleys are a darker shade of blue-grey, the reed flute music is transient yet timeless - ancient, haunting, beautiful.

I could float in the warm water forever; it’s a perfect temperature and laps gently on my chin as I tickle the mirrored surface with my fingertips. The lazy breeze plays about my damp hair and face, warm and refreshing after the heat and gritty humidity of the day.

Lilting and trilling notes enfold me, transport me to times long gone, to my childhood fairy stories of an idealised China - of elegance, rich silks, harmony and balance.

Iridescent blue dragonflies appear briefly in the fingers of light to hover and dip, before being absorbed in the surrounding dark. Bright butterflies, (a night-time variety?) fleeting gems of colour, seem also to be drawn to the music.
Day variety of dragonfly.
Ghost gums, lithe limbed and sinewy stretch toward the moon and contrast strangely with the tall lush bamboo, which appears top heavy and arches gracefully towards the pool.
Ghost gums vie for height with drooping stands of bamboo.
I feel so fortunate to have experienced this perfectly balanced evening, but eventually pruned fingers and toes put a stop to my reverie.

What moments bring you joy? Do you remember to revisit them often?