For Blogs Sake!-end of NaBloPoMo

It’s the last day of November, the end of NaBloPoMo. To be honest, it was a bit of a slog, and I missed a few days. I could use the excuse I was busy, and I was, but it was a combination of factors, like extreme tiredness, or not really having anything to say!

When faced with a blinking cursor on a screen, or a night spent on the couch catching up with my husband, reader, I chose the husband! It did make up for the numerous nights when I did leave him to his own devices watching TV while I plugged away, writing away.

It is lovely to read the comments and see the likes on my posts, but writing is essentially a solitary business. Sometimes the words don’t flow, or they do, and it can be a jumble trying to sort them out while having to deal with demands of a family for silly things like food and clothes ūüôā .

This weekend I plan to put up the Christmas decorations and tree, attend the last soccer game of the season for Master BG, and recover from NaBloPoMo. And not have the weight of a post to do hanging over me…

Christmas Cake

For as long as I can remember,  Mum has baked a Christmas cake for Christmas. It is dark, and rich and smells potently of alcohol, and is delicious.

The recipe has come from an out of print recipe book Dad bought Mum in 1982 for Mother’s Day. It has pages taped, the binding is held together with more tape, but you can still read on the front cover Dad’s message to Mum. ‘Happy Monther’s Day- what more could a man ask for other than breakfast in bed xxx’.

There has been the occasional year that it hasn’t been baked (usually because they have been visiting relatives overseas), and it just hasn’t been the same at Christmastime.* Actually one year, mum made a healthier version, and while that cake was quite nice, it just wasn’t the same.

It was also my wedding cake; in fact in the recipe book it’s listed as a wedding cake.

So this year, I decided to make my own. Dad took a photo of the page, sent it to my phone, and I was set!

I bought currants, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, glace cherries, all of which were soaked in brandy overnight. Then Miss BG and I creamed butter and brown sugar, added eggs and vanilla, fig jam (it should have been marmalade, but I’m not buying a jar of marmalade for two tablespoons when I don’t eat the stuff), and grated orange and lemon peel. We folded it in to the soaked fruit, along with sifted flour and spices. And stirred and stirred and stirred before popping it into a big tin lined with brown paper and placing it in a slow oven.

The proof will be in the eating…

*Another tradition has been the Christmas stocking which my parents threatened to discontinue for us a couple of  years back. All of us, in our thirties, protested vociferously against this :).

Review- Unnatural Habits

Unnatural Habits is the 19th in the Phryne Fisher series by Melbourne writer Kerry Greenwood. Set in Melbourne in 1929, it is a riveting tale of missing journalists, unfortunate girls, sadistic sisters (of the religious kind) and white slave traders.

The Hon. Phryne Fisher is on the trail of Polly Kettle, a journalist with no sense of self-preservation who has gone missing after investigating a spate of missing girls. Following in her footsteps, Phryne and her companion Dot delve into Melbourne’s demi-monde, the Abbotsford convent and end up on a boat bound for the East.

It is the type of book that has me sitting up until midnight to finish it, Mr BG already tucked up in bed :).

One of the things I love about Kerry Greenwood, is her devotion to historical research. She provides a bibliography at the end of the book, with brief notes. The historical accuracy brings a sense of realism to the books, particularly when describing the conditions of laundries operated by religious orders as a means of employing young women whose only crime was that they were single and pregnant.

Above all it is a rollicking read and another page turner from one of the doyennes of Australian crime fiction.

Bookgrrl’s 7 wonders of the world

This is my last Top 7 for NaBloPoMo. It took longer to complete, owing to a couple of days I didn’t post (oops!). I will still welcome requests for Top 7 lists (they have been popular!) when normal blogging resumes in December.

These are my 7 Wonders of the world. These are wonders I have seen and experienced, so they may not necessarily correspond to big things that people have built or nature has wrought. But they’re still pretty special to me.

1. Michelangelo- St Peter’s, the Pieta, David, the Bruges Madonna. His work truly moved me to tears. Seeing David for the first time at the end of the corridor in the was a wondrous experience.

2. Montmartre in the morning, when there is no one about. Seeing Sacre Coeur in the morning light, with noone about, viewing the Eiffel Tower in the distance from the top of the hill, then buying some pain au chocolat for breakfast to eat in our apartment with freshly brewed coffee was one of the perfect Parisian moments.

view of Eiffel Tower from Montmartre

3. Going to bed at 10.30 at night in Northern Scotland on Lewis, in broad daylight, then waking up temporarily at 2am to find it was getting light. It nearly did my head in, but it was an unforgettable experience.

4. I did my Masters in Information Architecture, with a baby, a preschooler and a husband. I squeezed it in between gym visits, working part-time, and doing family stuff. I wonder how how in heaven’s name I managed to do it, as well as start blogging, but there you go!

5. I have two very interesting little people, whose inventiveness in telling stories amazes me, whose ability to generate a mess astounds me, and no matter how many times I yell at them, still love me.

6. Being with Mr BG for the last 16 years, who still surprises me with little things like washing dishes and cleaning the stovetop. Despite his belief that farts are funny, he is a wonderful person.

7. You are reading this, and I am thankful for the wonders of the Internet, and the ease of WordPress making it easy to write. Thank you.

7 Songs that…

If someone put Marvin Gaye or Barry White on the iPod/CD player, there would be two thoughts going through my head

1.I think I know what’s going on, you’re trying to get me in the mood, seduce me, make me swoon¬† and fall into your arms aren’t you?

2. Really? Marvin Gaye and Barry White? Do you know anything about me?

So here is my Top 7 songs that I like to listen to before, during and after sex. Most of them I discovered in my heady single days in my early 20s, when I was a uni student and a sales assistant in the Record Department at Myer.

1. Van Morrison (Them)- I put a spell on you

This was on one of the first CDs I got when I got my stereo for my 21st birthday (which incidentally lasted until my daughter decided to hide beads in the CD drawer last year). It’s a fantastic song and this rendition is perfect for a slow dance.

2. Rolling Stones Under my thumb

I remember hearing Satisfaction when I was 6 and getting a funny feeling in my tummy. This song makes me want to move my hips and shake my groove thang!

3. Adele-Lovesong

I love Adele’s version of this song, probably even more than that of The Cure- terrible I know. She gives it a torch song quality which is gorgeous to hear.

4. Air-Playground Love

Mr BG bought ‘Moon Safari’ when we first started going out, and I think I’ve always associated Air with those feelings of new love and wanting to be with Mr BG day and night. Plus it’s from The Virgin Suicides, a great movie.

5. The Go-Betweens, Streets of your town

A feel-good summery song, where I feel the sun on my face, a light breeze on my shoulders, and grass tickling my feet. The Go-Betweens are one of Mr BG’s favourite bands too!

6. Dave Graney, Night of the Wolverine

A darker song, lovely guitar, reminds me of stolen kisses in the dark.

7. Wicked Game Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak’s voice makes me melt, like the first kiss you get from the boy you’ve liked for a long time, but never had the guts to say anything. It makes you feel like you’re floating on air :).

7 Things I will never do again

Today I did my last kinder duty with my daughter. For three hours I talked to 4 and 5 year olds, helped them with puzzles, hung their paintings to dry, watched them play and talked to the kinder teachers. It got me thinking that as one phase of my life ends, another one begins, with both children being at school next year. But there have been other phases of my life, and other things that I have done and will never do again, either by life changes, or simply because I don’t want to.

1. I will never eat brussels sprouts again. I’m a grownup, I don’t have to eat this much-maligned vegetable. I had to eat them when I was younger, gagging on them at dinner-time, because my parents insisted. If the kids want to eat them at Christmas time at my parent’s place, I am more than happy to oblige them and pop one on their plate, but so far they have refused.

2. I will never record a song off the radio onto a tape. I don’t have any spare blank tapes, nor a radio tape player, as I have youTube, iTunes and an iPod which allows me to access music on demand, rather than being prey to the whims of radio programmers. We still have tapes at home and I think I still have a mixed tape on which Mr BG recorded some music for me when we started going out. The VCR is also gathering dust, as we haven’t upgraded to a DVR and we can’t record from the digital signal. Instead we wait for DVDs or I watch iView for the occasional show I may have missed.

3. I will never have kids again- save for an immaculate conception, that is. That means no enforced absence from alcohol for years, no breastfeeding around the clock,  no prams in the boot of the car, and no teething issues. The interrupted sleep is still a factor in my life though :).

4. I never have to listen to The Wiggles again, as the kids have long outgrown them. It was a phase in their lives, and we have the DVDs to prove it! I pretty much lost faith in them when it was decided Greg would come back and replace Sam after 5 years. The way in which it was poorly managed and the persistence that children wouldn’t think twice about a new/old Yellow Wiggle made me glad it was something my kids missed. However, what I do have to put up with no is One Direction and Gangnam Style…

5. I will never see my granda again, nor will I see my parents in law. My mother in law met Master BG when he was a baby, but never got a chance to meet Miss BG. We have a crocheted rug which is a favourite picnic rug for her dollies, that she knows comes from her nanna Margaret.

6. I will never see another¬† new episode of Deadwood, The Wire, Lost, Buffy. Now you know why I don’t bother getting a DVR- none of the shows on telly are what I want to watch!

7. I will never not feel guilty¬† about something- I’m not spending enough time with my kids, Mr BG, not exercising enough, not eating the right foods, eating too much, not being a good worker, good daughter, good sister, not doing the housework. Actually I lie- I never feel guilty about not doing the housework…

7 Things that scare the bejesus out of me

1. Losing my kids.

We were in a shopping centre in Belfast two years ago, looking for another suitcase to pack all the accumulated presents back to Australia. It took only a second of our concentration focused on which size case to buy for them to disappear. Little hands slipped from ours unnoticed and when we turned around they were nowhere to be seen. The couple of minutes searching frantically seemed like an eternity, and I felt like throwing up, screaming hysterically and a terrible weight in the pit of my stomach, all at once. Just when we thought we were  going to have to see the security guards to check the CCTV footage we spotted Master BG checking out the Halloween costumes, and Miss BG calmly stripping a mannequin of its accessories.

2. Ghosties-

I’ve never seen a ghost, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them. The anticipation, the adrenalin surge when I’m in a ‘haunted place and this belief all combines to make me jumpy, on edge, and dare I say, slightly thrilled. Being scared of ghosts however has not precluded me from going on a range of ghost tours…My first was a night time tour of Port Arthur the scariest thing was walking back through the ruins with Mr BG after having heard some hell raising tales. We have also been to the Convent Gallery in Daylesford, which was part tour and part ghost hunting… the highlight of the evening was sharing drinks with some of the participants and staff at the Convent Gallery who had a few stories to tell. Ballarat has its own tour that takes in some of the more haunted buildings in Ballarat. I did shiver quite a bit, but it may have been more to do with the sub zero temperatures in December than any real spirits. Overseas, we visited Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh in 2001 and felt chilled to the bone. I was thankful when it finished and was able to escape into the sun. I did want to do a ghost walking tour in York but didn’t want to do it by myself. I need someone’s hand to grip.
2. Horror movies

The Blair Witch Project, Exorcist, Scream, Poltergeist- they have all scared my socks off…

3. Apocalyptic- themed movies/books

This is slightly different from horror movies in that they’re about the end of the world. I saw and read ‘On the beach’ and had nightmares afterwards. This is a type of genre I avoid, as it’s a fear I hate, rather than love.
4. Earwigs and ‘creepy crawlies’

This basically comes from having one crawl onto my dress and onto my skin when I was four years old. I was terrified it would bite me and shrieked the house down. To this day I loathe those little buggers. Oh and that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where they come across this room of bugs and a centipede crawls into Willie’s hair? I can’t watch that without covering my eyes.

6. Death/Loss of my parents

No, they haven’t died, but every time they have a health scare, the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach is never a good feeling. It’s that yawning chasm of nothingness that would be left behind, or that overwhelming sense of grief that is something I don’t want to experience.

7. Swans

Silly, I know, but those graceful creatures on the Lake become vicious creatures when they’re out of the water. I’ve been stalked by a couple of swans because I have simply gotten too close to their cygnets. Worse thing is, they still remember me when I walk around the Lake.

Some of my fears are predictable, and some of them are just plain weird. What are your fears?

Top 7 Emotional Moments on TV, or when I cry like a baby

I can sometimes be a bit of a wuss when it comes to watching movies and TV shows. You’re sitting there, drawn into the minutiae of a character’s life week after week. You feel you know them, you’ve invested time in getting to know them- then suddenly, they’re not there. I’ve shed a few tears over the years at the demise of a show or a character, with these being the moments I remember beng extrmemly emotional. Not all are sad, though they do make up the majority.

1. When Molly died

A Country Practice was one of the first shows we watched together as a family. One of the more popular characters was Molly Jones, a kooky farmer who was married to Brendan, a male nurse who worked at the local hospital and mother to Chloe. As one of the more loved characters on the show it was sad to hear of her leaving, with Molly getting cancer and dying. Rather than see the character die though, her death was written from her perspective. We see her outside, on a couch, watching Brendan and Chloe play together. Then we see Brendan drop what he’s doing and run towards us. The screen goes black and the last thing we hear is Brendan yelling in an anguished tone ‘Molly!’.

The strange thing about this is when I think about it, I still tear up. Even writing this, I have a tissue handy.

2. End of Lost- Jack’s death

I stuck with this show for years, even the difficult 5th season when Channel 7 yanked it around all over the place. I wanted to know the mystery of the island, the plight of the Others, the Dharma Initiative and who was this dude Jacob. It wasn’t so much the end of the series which got me so much as Jack’s final scene. Dying, he finds himself in the same thicket in which he awoke after having been thrown from the plane when it crashed on the island all those years ago. Looking up he sees the plane in the air- his friends and loved ones are safe. Finally at peace he smiles and closes his eyes with the last frames a close up of his eye, reminiscent of the first frames of the first episode. It’s as if the circle has been completed, a broken man made whole and finally at peace.


3. When David Tennant left Doctor Who

I had always been an avowed Tom Baker fan, but my allegiances did change with David Tennant. His French phrases, his ability to fix any situation with a banana or a cheeky grin left me helpless to his charms. His onscreen comic chemistry with Donna Noble had me in stitches. The final scenes where the Doctor says goodbye to his companions are quite poignant, but it’s his last moments where he says ‘I don’t want to go’ that really had me blubbing into my tissues, much to my kids’ surprise. It was also the first time they saw Mum cry at a TV show, and I don’t think it will be the last.

4. Last episode of Star Trek The Next Generation

I am truly showing my nerdy colours with this allotment of TV shows! My younger brother Andrew was the Trekkie in the house and I ended up watching the show as I had to tape it for him (he was still at school and it was on too late). Captain Picard was quite the hottie- I think it was more the accent than anything else. The final scene sees Picard finally join the senior crew’s poker game with him dealing 5-card stud…nothing wild and the sky’s the limit.

It was a bittersweet ending as it was so successful and it ended on a high- subsequent movies weren’t as successful in their characterisation and ensemble chemistry as the TV series.

5. Last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

My nerdy credentials are now firmly established :). With a couple of major characters having met their demise, it was tough going- I did have a soft spot for Spike (it may have been the accent) and seeing Sunnydale collapse  into the Hellmouth was very much like the point of no return. And the resulting spin-offs never really did it for me either *sigh*

6. The final episode of Big Brother 2001

Not so much blubbering, but a real sense of loss. I was so hooked on the antics of the first Big Brother, and I wasn’t the only one. I was in Horsham visiting libraries with the lovely Nat. We ended up getting fish and chips for dinner and watching Ben win in Nat’s hotel room. It was a truly bonding experience and we’ve been friends ever since. I certainly felt bereft going home and knowing there would be no Big Brother at 7 o’clock. I ended up watching the ABC news and did so…until the next season of Big Brother :).

7. Whenever Hamish Blake was on Spicks and Specks

Emotional? I nearly wet my pants, with my mascara running down my face with the tears. I don’t know what it is about the guy, he was just FUNNY. He does have nice eyes too, which could help :).

My Top Seven

The challenge of writing a blog post a day for a month is finding enough topics to write about. There are millions of topics and areas that I could write about, but I realise I have to like what I write…

Lists are always good, they’re succinct, finite and quantifiable and appeal to my inner mathematician. I also like writing according to a series, I did one on the 80’s and my experiences with them, a week writing about fashion, and I regularly write about books (mainly to maintain the stereotype of being a bookish librarian, but hey, I’m all about conforming), with the Australian Women Writer’s challenge being my main focus this year.

So this week I am writing a series of lists. As I’m doing it over 7 days, it will be a list of seven things on any topic under the sun. I have a few ideas of my own, but if there is a list you would like me to compile, let me know! Email me, post a comment on the blog or stop me in the street and let me know. That has happened exactly once and let me say it was awesome!

Ballarat Show 2012

Rather than visit the Ballarat Show on the designated Show Day, which was cold and wet (ah Ballarat, you certainly know when to hail don’t you?), we went on Sunday. The weather was warmer, the crowds were fewer, and there were a few more animals, such as cats, bad-tempered ponies and polo ponies playing polocrosse.

We had our first ride on the dodgems, with both kids becoming quite dizzy after the constant bumping from excited teenage girls that had NO idea how to drive.

The usual haunts were visited, such as the animal nursery

and for me the Craft pavilion, where I scoped out the crocheted blankets, tea cosies and the award-winning cakes.

Of course there were other attractions, such as the spectacular demonstrations

And playing on the gigantic inflatable slides

Finally there was the inevitable stop at the showbags whereupon the kids got one showbag each. There was much deliberation with both, with Miss BG wondering which pink one to choose (ponies? fairies? dollies?) and Master BG wondering which weapon-based show bag was the best. And then we headed home, managing to avoid the fairy floss and saveloys on sticks for another year :).