The good, the bad and the brilliant [1 September 2014]

A (roughly) weekly round-up of what’s got in my head, up my nose and in my heart.

THE GOOD

My friend Prue grows perfect lemons. Yes, they’re perfectly perfect … for juicing, for zesting, for slicing. They’re a lovely deep saffron colour and the skin is thin – you get to the flesh fast. Prue’s perfectly perfect lemons arrive by the bagful. Discovering a new way to make the most of them is not only practical, it’s damned good.

Which brings me to the current “cake in a cup” or “brownie in a mug” craze. Yes, I’ve succumbed to a chocolate-y treat-for-one (once or twice). This single-cup bake-in-the-microwave concept is ideal for empty-nesters looking to satisfy a sweet craving without being left with an almost entire cake to devour over the following couple of days. This week, I discovered a lemon version over here: Lemon Mug Cake at Craft Habit.

A couple of things to note: I used self raising flour (not flower), no baking powder and a third of the sugar. I added a tiny slurp of vanilla paste to cut through the tang. And I didn’t go with the icing (sweet enough without).  I used a 350ml mug and this baby fluffed way up over the top like a chef-special soufflé < next time I’m going to use two smaller mugs and share.  Because this creation is worthy of sharing. Hoping you can achieve the same without Prue’s perfectly perfect lemons. And, yes, if you delve deep into google, you’ll find a gluten-free version.

lemons, lemon mug cake, lemon mud cake, being fifty-something, midlife, boomers

 

THE BAD

My moment of tooth has come. I’ve been avoiding the dentist for far too long, skipping check-ups, ignoring reminders. Now I find myself with a mouthful of toothy troubles – a small chip to a front tooth, a bigger chip to a back tooth and a couple of fangs that are more than “sensitive”.  I’m going to have to face my dental demons.

You’d think dentist visits would get easier with age. Instead, I find myself increasingly fearful (almost to the point of phobia). My feeble excuse is that I haven’t had a good run with dentists. My one and only root canal treatment developed into a painful infection that almost saw me in hospital. A couple of years later I instructed my dentist to extract a past-its-use-by-date tooth rather than do another root canal. I can still see his horrified expression when I suggested I’d rather give birth to a baby than go through toothy treatment again.  So he pulled the painful little bugger out and in some sort of dental karma I developed a painful case of dry socket  just a few days before Christmas.

I know – everyone’s got a hard-luck dentist story and a feeble excuse. Time to brace myself and face up to what needs to be done. Grrrrr!

smurf, dentist, being fifty-something, midlife

 

THE BRILLIANT

I’ve waited half a lifetime to see a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

I’ve read about it, heard about it and even quoted it but haven’t managed to be in the right place at the right time to see it. Until last Saturday, when I sat amongst a matinee crowd (of mostly fifty-somethings, sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings) and belly-laughed my way through the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of this classic at Geelong Performing Arts Centre. With our own grand dame of theatre, Nancy Hayes, playing Lady Bracknell, the cast carried the audience with them through a witty, humour-filled plot of inexplicable twists and turns. It was artfully acted with timing and physicality laser-sharpened for maximum comedic effect. I give this one a brilliant big tick of approval.

the importance of being earnest, oscar wilde, geelong, GPAC, whats on in Geelong, Geelong theatre

 

 

Smurf Photo: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/sanfora/3910850740/”>SanforaQ8</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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To market, to market in Geelong [29 August 2014]

Spring is in the air and the Geelong region looks set for a sun-kissed weekend. Get out there and enjoy it folks. Here’s a little cherry-picked sample of the markets on in and around Geelong.

SATURDAY 30 August

Torquay Farmers Market
Carpark, Surfcoast Shire Offices, cnr Merrijig Dve & Surfcoast Hwy, Torquay, from 8.30am-1pm

Barwon Heads Community Market (Fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, lavender, oils, plants, craft and jewellery)
Barwon Heads Community Hall, from 8am-1pm

farmers market, markets geelong, whats on geelong, fifty-something

SUNDAY 31 August

Take 2 Market (recycled designer and vintage fashion)
at Geelong West Town Hall from 10am-3pm

Bannockburn Baby and Kids Market
Bannockburn Primary School stadium, from 9am-1pm

Take 2 markets geelong, markets geelong. whats on in geelong, fifty-something

ME?

I’m heading in to catch the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest at GPAC.  Chookas!

the importance of being earnest, oscar wilde, geelong, GPAC, whats on in Geelong, Geelong theatre

 

Wherever you are, what’s on for your weekend?

Daring greatly: Creativity for Business Success with Clare Bowditch

Being fifty-something and a small business operator, I’ve been to a few business events in my time. Some might say: a few too many. I find them a bit ho-hum.

Last night, Clare Bowditch put ho-hum in its boring little corner and filled the space with hoopla, imagination and down-to-earthiness at the Small Business Festival Victoria event, Creativity for Business Success at The Pier, Geelong.

clare bowditch, creativity, geelong, business geelong, midlife, fifty-something

I shared the evening with My Girl and my niece E (a true Clare Bowditch fan who also arranged our tickets).

We weren’t sure what our $30 Earlybird tickets included and were giggling-girly delighted to be served bubbles on arrival. The bubbles kept coming along with wine and a two-course dinner. And freebies.

The crowd was unusually female-skewed (for a business event). Not the customary “suits” brigade madly networking at every opportunity. Instead, there were lots of lovely, bubbles-buzzed ladies in their twenties, thirties and forties. Oh, and some other fifty-somethings. The sisterhood was out in force.

Then Clare Bowditch swept in and showed Geelong what real business class is all about.

Thank you Clare Bowditch, for:

  • NO big screen PowerPoint preso
  • NO hyped up selling of your own products/services
  • NO arrogance (not even a smidgen)

Thank you, Clare Bowditch, for:

  • allowing us time to breathe
  • the unexpected
  • subtle networking
  • balancing a microphone in one hand and a glass of red in the other
  • group song (yes, I sang with Clare Bowditch)
  • solo song
  • heart song
  • for laughing and caring
  • for daring greatly
  • for showing us, in the surest of ways, that business can be big hearted.

And for being maven of the selfie.

clare bowditch, creativity, geelong, business geelong, midlife, fifty-something

clare bowditch, creativity, geelong, business geelong, midlife, fifty-something

Living in a “nothing new” world

Since I came out of my “nothing new” closet, lots of lovely folk have asked me how I manage it. The most common question: Don’t you feel deprived?

I tell them that my world is full of “not new” instant gratification. But instead of heading to the mall or the plaza to get a fix, I seek out an op shop or, as I did this morning, treat myself to an hour of garage sales.

Sometimes, the hour turns up nothing but craptastic consumables that I’d never have paid for in the first place. Other times, the gold surfaces and I come home with a pleasing booty of instant gratification like this:

6 x thermic double-walled glasses for $5 the lot. My niece serves me up cappuccino in glasses just like these and I’ve been hankering for my own set for quite some time. High five.

double walled glasses, thrifting, garage sale, yard sale, fifty-something

A set of 1960s anodised aluminium measuring cups for $2. For a mid-century vintage lover (like me) with a penchant for slavishly following the current trend for copper homewares, these are a superb find. Cute as a button.

copper measuring cups, copper homewares, thrifting, garage sale, yard sale, fifty-something

2 x 1960s atlases ($2 each) and 2 x unused journals ($2). Gotta love the colours in these old atlases. I’ll be upcycling these beauties into bunting like this and envelopes like this. And the journals? I journal a lot, yet always manage to pick up enough of these at garage sales to keep me going. It seems not everyone journals. That’s my good fortune.

vintage atlases, thrifting, garage sale, yard sale, fifty-something

These Rip Curl sunglasses for $3. They’re in mint condition, but probably last season’s style. < See that “probably” there? That’s the point … I have no idea whether they’re the latest or the greatest. I just like love them.

rip curl sunglasses, thrifting, garage sale, yard sale, fifty-something

This big old-style key for $10. My top ticket-price item for the morning and a perfect gift for Mr P who is a collector of such things.

old-style key, thrifting, garage sale, yard sale, fifty-something

My treasures made it home with no excess packaging, no credit card payments and no guilt about the environment. That’s doing “nothing new” like a boss.

There’s art … and then there’s art

Being fifty-something, I know that art can be anything I want it to be. Sometimes, it’s adventurous …

 

My Girl and I clamber on to the 11.30am train, she with her Banksy-emblazoned tote brimming with opportunity (spray cans of paint, stencils); me with my tired old cross-the-body bag stuffed full of contingency (umbrella, rainjacket, reading glasses, sunglasses).

We’re heading off on a Sunday “arty” adventure. First stop – the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and its Italian Masterpieces Exhibition. Next – a gallivant through Melbourne’s famous street art destination, Hosier and Rutledge Lanes.

I’m a little twitchy about the spray cans and imagine we might need bailing out of gaol before the day’s done. My Girl is less so. She’s been here before (often) and says it’s rare to be nabbed for simply possessing the spray cans.

We’re meeting my sister RH at the NGV. We’ve allowed enough time to walk from Southern Cross Station. The weather looks promising and we’re on track. That is, until we meet a certain character on the train. He’s the sort of certain character I spent years teaching My Girl not to make eye contact with.

He is (by his own description) a “feral” – not a hippy – and he’s very interested in My Girl’s stencil work, especially her current piece, which reads “A DISCO STOLE MY BABY”. By the time we reach Southern Cross Station, he’s convinced My Girl to spray the stencil onto his shirt. And (somehow) I have agreed to be an accomplice to the deed.

On the platform Mr Feral removes his jacket, swings his dangling dreadlocks to one side and My Girl deftly sprays her slogan across the back of his shirt. I help, holding the stencil edges flat against his body. A quick snap for Instagram and Mr Feral disappears into the busy station crowd.

street art, stencil art, Melbourne art, midlife, boomer, fifty-something

Such is my first experience behind the spray can of street art. Or is that shirt art?

My Girl and I laugh and giggle our way to the NGV. We can’t wait to tell RH about Mr Feral.

At the NGV, we’re all three transported to another time and another world of art. We wander through glorious gallery rooms, their walls groaning with masterpieces by Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries. There’s Titian and Corregio and Tiepolo. The themes are heavily religious and we fall into the beauty and the grandeur of the pieces. There are artists’ studies and pencil drawings to ponder. I learn about “chiaroscuro” – the use of strong contrasts between light and dark. We discuss the composition, the brushwork, the body shapes and the quirky details generously interpreted on the information panels.

italian masterpieces, ngv, melbourne

italian masterpieces, ngv, melbourne

We take a triple selfie at the appointed photo point (because we can).

italian masterpieces, NGV Melbourne, art melbourne, midlife, boomers

Then, we exit through the gift shop (see what I did there, anyone?), past the coloured polar bear exhibition and into the Great Hall. I reminisce about seventies era school excursions to the gallery and how we lay on the floor to get the best view of the Great Hall’s magnificent stained glass ceiling.

RH lies on the floor and I, being less sprightly, take to one of the black leather lounges where I fling my head back for a lingering look. Even more beautiful than it was during the seventies!

italian masterpieces, NGV Melbourne, art melbourne, midlife, boomers

We follow the streaming daylight back to the entrance. I sneak my hand into the cool flow of the NGV’s famous waterwall (a delight not allowed during school excursions in the seventies).

We walk the bridge across the Yarra River and on up Flinders Street. The air fills with the pungency of paint fumes, signalling that we’re nearing Hosier Lane. Like the NGV, the laneway is another world of art. Striking street art blankets every wall, every nook and cranny. These colourful and rebellious masterpieces speak of oppression, politics, pop culture and street smarts. There are showpieces stretching metres high up the brickwork of city buildings and smaller works straddling low bluestone ledges and pavements. The space thrums with sightseers, photo snappers and artists.

Rutledge Lane Melbourne, street art melbourne, midlife, boomer, fifty-something

My Girl extracts her just-cut stencil and a spray can from her Banksy tote and gets to work. She creates half a dozen or so “A DISCO STOLE MY BABY” stencils on the lower walls, working her way along the laneways.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne street art, stencil art, midlife, boomer, fifty-something

hosier lane mlebourne, streeart, stencil art, fifty-soemthing, midlife, boomer

a disco stole my baby, street art melbourne, hosier lane, stencil art, midlife, boomer, fifty-something

I watch the process, furtively glancing over my shoulder to keep an eye out for … I’m not sure what. It feels dangerous. And rebellious. I expect we’re about to be raided by truncheon-bearing police or security guards. But it doesn’t happen. This is an artists’ community space where the landowners agree to the street art and the profile it offers the precinct. Still, it feels naughty.

We head deeper into the CBD and de-brief at a dumpling bar on the edge of Chinatown. More vegetarian dumplings and traditional tea than the three of us can get through, and all for $22.

It’s been a fabulous day where opportunity far outshadowed contingency.

My Girl and I hug RH goodbye at her tram stop and wander down Bourke Street to catch our train back to Geelong. Her Banksy tote is the only hint of where we’ve been.

We buy warm, milky bubble teas from the front kiosk then disappear into the busy station crowd.

Wild and woolly … Surf Coast Walk #3

After three days at the inaugural Word for Word Non-fiction Festival at Geelong, I needed a stretch, both physically and mentally. While transfixed by authors and writers and artists dissecting their craft and their work, I’d been sitting on my bum with the only movement being hurried note-taking, occasional gasping and enthusiastic applauding. My head was brimming with ideas in need of sorting. So down to the sea we went, late on a wild and woolly afternoon, to complete another section of the Surf Coast Walk. Perhaps you’ve read about our other Surf Coast Walk adventures here or here.

This section is 6.6km (return), from Point Danger to Bird Rock and back again.

surf caost walk, torquay, point danger, bird rock, jan juc, midlife, boomers

The guide map says: “Explore surfing evolution and surf culture origins on this walk or cycle past Torquay and Jan Juc surf beaches; the “classroom” for the next generation of surfers. Peer out from Rocky Point over the many surf breaks, sheltered bays and wild headlands that gave the Surf Coast its name. Grade 2: Mostly flat / some steps/ well-formed track / some stand.”

I love the coast when it’s windy and wintery. We rug ourselves up in rainjackets (just in case) and scarves and take in the stunning ocean vistas from high on Point Danger before we head off on our trek. The concrete path takes us down and behind the Torquay back beach, past theTorquay Surf Life Saving Club and across Spring Creek. We follow the trail up to Rocky Point (for more sea-gazing).

surf coast walk, torquay beach, point danger, midlife, boomers, fifty-something

From here, you can choose to stay on the clifftops or drop down onto the beach. We opt to wander along the beach, which is quieter than usual.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

Not so many dog walkers out today, but still plenty of anglers and surfers.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

This coastline is famous for its ochre coloured cliffs and we have a great vantage point to appreciate their scale and beauty. We clamber up the wooden steps back to the cliff tops and take the gravel trail leading through the scrub between the shoreline and the first row of houses, mostly built multi-level to capture the views. We capture our own views from the Bird Rock Lookout, resting a while to absorb it all and catch our breath before heading back.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

This time, we stick high above the beach, where the trail runs through thicker scrubby woodland alongside the Torquay Golf Club and against a backdrop of the magnificent new RACV resort. Always, the not-so-distant sounds of the crashing ocean fill the air. The path here is gravelly and less formed, with a couple of stretches that look purpose-built for mountain biking.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

A long curvy boardwalk carries us back over Spring Creek.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

Above the Torquay Back Beach we stand and watch seagulls hovering in the updrafts and recall how different the scene is in mid-summer when the grassy slopes are populated with beach-goers and holiday-makers, and the carparks are chocka-block full.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

Back at Point Danger we’re rewarded with kite surfers enjoying the perfectly wild and woolly conditions.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

We deem this section of the walk to be very do-able. The scenery changes often, there are plenty of public toilets, and Torquay and Jan Juc’s renowned shops and cafes are within easy reach. There are BBQ spots and picnic-friendly parks. And then there are the sublime beaches, for ambling or swimming or surfing or fishing. Or, on a wild and woolly day, for simply gazing from the many lookouts.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson

“1829, Tasmania. A group of men—convicts, a farmer, two free black traders, and Black Bill, an aboriginal man brought up from childhood as a white man—are led by Jon Batman, a notorious historical figure, on a ‘roving party.’ Their purpose is massacre. With promises of freedom, land grants and money, each is willing to risk his life for the prize. Passing over many miles of tortured country, the roving party searches for Aborigines, taking few prisoners and killing freely, Batman never abandoning the visceral intensity of his hunt. And all the while, Black Bill pursues his personal quarry, the much-feared warrior, Manalargena. A surprisingly beautiful evocation of horror and brutality, The Roving Party is a meditation on the intricacies of human nature at its most raw.” (From http://www.goodreads.com)

Th eroving party, rohan wilson, book club, book review, tasmania, midlife, boomer

My Book Club found itself back in Tasmania, this last month, with The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson. This time it was a different Tasmania – a brutal and savage place with a confronting story told with surprising beauty.

Rohan Wilson’s poetic prose is as raw as the landscape it describes. Somehow, this spare and pared back language, with its visceral verbs and minimal adjectives, captures the harsh splendour of the Tassie wilderness. Who knew there were so many fascinating ways to describe the bush?

At first, I stumbled on words and checked for definitions (often). Some were archaic and little used. I wondered how the author had discovered them.

At first, I was unsettled by the lack of formal punctuation and formatting. There were no quotation marks used to define dialogue and no chapter numbers or names.

At first, I was puzzled by the occasional use of indigenous language in the dialogue. I had no easy way of translating it.

Then I stopped stumbling and stopping. I settled in to the flow (instead of resisting it), let the rhythm tell me the story. Like quality poetry, the meanings are more instilled in the surrounding envelope of words and feelings than they are in any single word, or set of quotation marks. It’s all there, if the reader just relaxes into the cadence. And so I did.

The characters are drawn in vivid, contrary detail and it is many chapters before I let myself feel any empathy for them. These men are barbaric and unlikable. Yet, they interact according to a bizarre code of conduct. They’re survivors, skilled bushman … and killers.

The action is played out, sometimes at a plodding pace, against the backdrop of wilderness and the mystery of the hunted, the aboriginals. We’re challenged to understand how Black Bill can hunt his own people, how he can survive in the “no man’s land” between his people and the newcomers. I looked for the answer everywhere – in his relationships with Batman, with his wife and with Manalargena, the fearful tribal warrior. The storyline seems simple, but the motives and intentions of the characters are as complex as any epic narrative.

And therein is the true beauty of The Roving Party … amongst the poetic language, the seemingly barbaric characters and the splendidly drawn Tassie wilderness, there are intricate themes of humanity and inhumanity to explore and ponder. I’m left wondering well past the final page.

There are more questions than answers in this amazingly atmospheric read.

UPDATE (13 August 2014): Last night, there was a mixed reaction to The Roving Party from the lovely ladies of my Book Club. The beauty of the language was not enough to carry everyone past the darkness and brutality of the book. Not all of us finished the book. That didn’t stop us having a spirited discussion (the best kind!) about whether the level of description outweighed the storyline. And what was the storyline? We wondered how the characters were motivated, whether they were believable. We wanted to know more about the aboriginal perspective. Again, I am reminded how each of us relates so variously to a book and that sharing the richness of our opinions and responses is the real delight.