Saturday, December 31, 2011

And jolly good luck for the New Year!

OK. They are a bit moth -eaten, which is rather how my fortunes feel at the moment, but wish you luck anyway! 
Leicht angenagtes Glueck! for my German speakers.

I really, really want to believe in Luck in 2012, so daughter and I went out early this morning to hunt for wild four leaf clovers. I also made a lucky pig. Pigs are lucky in German culture as are chimney sweeps and lady birds. Pigs are considered lucky in China too.  I suppose if you were wandering through a snow -covered wasteland in the dead of winter and found a pig, you would feel pretty lucky too, if you didn't happen to be a vegetarian. It wouldn't be all that lucky for the pig either. Sighting a chimney sweep or a lump of coal is considered lucky in Scotland as well, what with those bracing winters.  I'd probably be happy enough at the sight of a plumber or any sort of tradesperson during the holidays here, not that I have need of one at this moment.

On New Year we like to do a bit of lighthearted fortune telling to help people stay awake until midnight. Although not all customs and traditions are benign just for being repeated from generation to generation, this one seems pretty harmless. Should you want to look up your own and don't have anyone to read yours, here are a few links to  follow. Have fun and don't take it too seriously!

 Or nibble a Fortune Cookie by clicking this link

Or try the Crystal Ball
Here are all your predictions for 2012 and don't forget to check your personal one as well. Just click on your sign on the same page.

 And there is another whole page of them here

Good Luck!

The post Christmas lull

Had a lovely lazy day yesterday, watching Soderbergh's Contagion, while everyone else went to Questacon. This traces the path of a pandemic, a suitably depressing topic for the post Christmas period. It has some big stars, but not a predictable happy ending. I like that. It makes it more realistic. Catch a bit of it here:

Contagion Trailer by teasertrailer

We also watched the seasonally appropriate What would Jesus Buy? with the Reverend Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping, by Morgan Spurlock, creator of Supersize Me and several short episodes of what's wrong with life in America. The one about what it's like to live on the basic wage was particularly moving, although as articulate, college -educated white people wielding a movie camera, the ease with which they landed low wage jobs may not be typical. Still, I don't think that catching a urinary tract infection in an unheated apartment was fake, nor were their extortionate hospital bills.

Freedom in America and other western democracies may have boiled down to freedom to shop if you have the money and even that is under threat. Certainly, exercise of the First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech is severely curtailed under threat of arrest, if practised in the new gleaming temples to Mammon represented by places like the Mall of America.

Sorry I don't know the source, but I thought it deserved a wider audience.

Then there are those such as Financial Times columnist Jurek Martin who believe that Americans have traded in their rights for something else. "The Declaration of Independence states, quite clearly, that all Americans have an inalienable right to life, liberty and connectivity, previously known as the pursuit of happiness" (reported by Reuters).
This was quoted in the context of a Sydney Morning Herald article about German workers at Volkswagen having been given the right to turn off their mobile devices and not to read work -related emails in their free time. It's a small step, but perhaps it's one way to regain some of that elusive "work/ life balance" that everyone talks about, but no one seems able to achieve.
More on that next year. The girls and I are about to hunt four leaved clovers to bring everyone lots of luck in the New Year.
We wish you lots of luck too. 
Happy 2012 Everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The beauty of small treasures....

A long legged giraffe stands tall by the door

 From the outside, this looks like a very ordinary 50's house and the interior spaces are quite small, yet some people have the knack of being able to transform bland spaces into something much more with just a keen eye and a little imagination. Inside, Tardis -like it packs in a lot more than can be seen on the surface and like a time machine it reaches back to the prehistoric past and forward to the science fiction future with a little fantasy and playfulness in between. I photograph the objects trying to capture a little of this, but the photos don't really do it justice. There's the juxtoposition of things. The high tech and the board games, the little groups creatively placed. The odd unsual thing. It reflects the owners' personalties rather well. There' s also a bit of a jungle theme going here.

Elephants  and zebras wander over tops of cupboards
And window sills
And over doors

Monkeys swing from cupboard doors

Another elephant finds a place in a tiny corner of the hallway

More elephants and a zebra
A fabric trim above a bookshelf
The study is more National Geographic
Frog and Paperweight

A bit of bedspread
Surprises where you least expect them
A specimen here and there - fossils, shells, books, maps, photographs of family and friends, lend gravitas and give the house a timeless feel with just a touch of humour

Cheers All!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boofy the Vampire Slayer

One of the things I sacrificed while packing was my shampoo and conditioner, partly to keep down the weight and also because airlines are inclined to make you throw away liquids in excess of 100 mls. No problem, I thought. At worst, I could buy some when I got there.
As it turned out, that wasn't necessary. What with seven adults in the house, there were enough beauty products cluttering the bathroom to do the cosmetic industry proud and they nearly all professed to be cruelty free, organic etc. etc. (I would like to dispute the first!).

The trouble was, that by the time I managed to seize my moment in the bathroom, I didn't have my glasses with me and with someone's else's clothes already lined up at the door, I wasn't about to go back and get them. Blindly, I groped for the nearest container. I have no idea what it was. It could have been hand lotion, moisturiser, bathroom cleanser or any of a number of other possibilities. All I can tell you is that (a) It didn't froth much and (b) It was an excellent volumiser, for those of you who may need that kind of thing. Trust me, I don't. I now look  (even more) like Phyllis Diller in a bad hair decade.

Of course there are other divergences from expectations at Christmas. The presents (since I had already told everyone they weren't getting any), all those received exceeded expectations. Of course you have to be careful you don't gush too much or you could be stuck with the same for the rest of your natural life. This happened to a lady who once expressed her delight at receiving a present of a frog. Thereafter she received frog -related merchandise ranging from potmitts to figurines and pictures for decades, without once mentioning that she didn't actually like them. Then there's the joy of being with family and friends.  For months I fantasize about that Brigadoon moment, when all my chickens are under one roof again, even if just for a few days, but it doesn't take very long to appreciate how wonderful it is that they all have independent lives and that perhaps I should soon get one of my own. I also sympathise with the friend who wrote about catering to the wider family at Christmas, only to find that they were all several hours late. By the time they all sat down to dinner, she was feeling somewhat sulky and all she wanted was a stiff drink. Onya, Ros! Have one for me while you are at it. I could go on, but that's not what it's about.It is lovely to see everyone again.

A big thank you my children for putting on a wonderful feast and lots of entertainment and especially to T. for putting  up with all of us. It's bad enough having to put up with your own relatives, let alone someone else's!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


 It was a struggle but well worth it. Finally saw Melancholia. Here's how:
Son uploaded the film to my laptop. The small screen was much better and I was able to pause it and have breaks. I also drank ginger tea which is good in cases of motion sickness too. If  you are in a cinema and have the same problem with cyber sickness, try sitting as far back as you can.
Although the younger members of the family found the film a bit too slow as a disaster movie,  I liked the slow wind up and really appreciated the interesting cast, the strange light, the original script and the  non -Hollywood ending. I have become quite addicted to Lars Von Trier having watched his  series The Killing. It's too bad that so many of his other major films have the same problem. Will struggle on.

On toys, there have been a couple of interesting articles and posts. A friend sent me this link on Facebook to point out that Lego is going pink and trying to attract the other 50% of consumers.

Join the fight   at
Those who advertise to children are starting to feel the pain.
Advertisers Lose Ground in 2011 | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

And here's a clip of a little girl protesting about the excess of pink toys for girls in toy shops, something that got me going when I was there too, though I wasn't nearly as articulate.

Oh yes, and while we are at it, we should probably forget about those helium balloons as well.
On a more serious note, here's a bit about what landgrabs can do for your country too:
And lastly, for you Aussies out there, why we should be concerned about food labelling and landgrabs in our country too, 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A bit of Canberra Street Art

I can not only identify with the caption on these gentlemen, but there is a certain familiarity about the body shape too.

Truly a rennaissance. Someone is reclaiming public space.

You don't have to be Michelangelo

Moving Pictures

Had the oddest experience last night. I had so been looking forward to watching Lars Von Triers Melancholia and here we all were sitting around the big screen at my son's place and starting to watch when about twenty minutes in, just as the plot began to thicken, I began to feel violently ill - cold sweat, nausea etc.  I ran to the toilet and almost threw up while everyone puzzled about what might have brought it on. Was it the chocolate cheesecake? The turkey? The bit of left over pizza I ate at lunch?
No one else felt ill.
Feeling a bit better, I sat down again, ready to continue. As soon as my son pressed the play button, I was off again. It was like Kryptonite. Eventually my youngest son remembered something he'd seen on Mythbusters and looked it up on his iphone. Surprise, surprise, I am by no means alone in this. This movie was awarded a 4 Star rating in terms of how many people it affected this way and there are plenty of others. In fact, about two Christmases ago, my children took me to see Avatar in an IMAX theatre and there too, I spent most of the movie outside in the foyer, praying that it would soon be over and that I wouldn't die in the meantime. At the time I also thought it was a one off, more to do with the overindulgence of the season, than what was on the screen, but long ago when I took my sister to The Blair Witch Project, the same thing happened and I not only had to make use of the popcorn bucket for purposes for which it was never intended, but I never found out how that movie ended either. I am glad that at least no one had to shell out big money for me to not see this one.

The Movie Hurl website gives advance warnings of which movies will cause cybersickness in susceptible people. There are apparently enough of us  and so many movies using handheld camera techniques, that Canadian theatres now post warnings so that you don't waste your money. Yep, Melancholia  is right up there with four stars, but Avatar apparently only rates two which I strongly dispute. I shall definitely have to avoid Fishtank, Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves which all have four stars. There are pages and pages of  others. As I look down the list I feel a twinge of saddness, that another source of pleasure in my life is slipping away. I think we need a support group to pressure directors to stop being clever and just make normal movies again, that all of us can watch without feeling nauseous. 

For a detailed explanation see or watch the following YouTube clip. Apparently the motion sensor in the brain passes very close  to the point where the vomiting reflex is located and about 70% of astronauts are affected by same.

For an interesting discussion of the effect of ever more popular 3D movies on children see the excellent article

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Alright, Merry Christmas then!


One of the best gifts perhaps was the look of utter astonishment on the girls' faces when they came upon nibbled carrots and scattered peastraw mulch and the fairy dust where Santa's sleigh had stopped.
We didn't actually see Santa, but we could see where he had been.

And especially where the reindeer had been
We also had some very funny moments during the carrying out of forfeits. Four members of our team had to select a Christmas related product to sell to one of the neighbours - they chose the reindeer droppings, beautifully boxed, and proceeded to go door to door until they had made a sale. Youngest son doing a lap of the street in a wrapping paper toga and a tinsel lei was also much appreciated by the neighbours as was a spirited rendition of  Jingle Bell Rock. Good to know that the neighbours are a friendly and tolerant bunch. You never know when you might need to borrow a cup of sugar. That's if we ever dare to see them again without a prevailing friendly Christmas Spirit in the air.

 But I am going to add the lovely Tim Minchin Christmas song anyway.

                             Have a Wonderful Time!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reasons Greetings


I pinched this from Alex Day's webpost and he hasn't replied to my request for permission. Will take it off on request. I think it sums up my own thoughts as well as those of the other member of the LAX (Let's Abolish Christmas) Club, though I would like to keep all the fun things, just not the consumerism, the obligations, the tinsel and the tack.

I want my Atheist Pudding

by Alex Day on Saturday, 17 December 2011 at 23:03

As Christians get ready to celebrate an event they stole from the Pagans with an open display of their chosen lifestyle, I have started to consider the start of an International Atheist Day.

  • We could have banners in shop windows and street signs wishing us all a Happy Atheist Day.
  • Atheists could send cards to Non-Athiests.
  • We could buy them presents and expect them to do the same for us, even though we know they don't want to celebrate the occasion with us.
  • Families could get together and celebrate Atheist Day with lots of food, alcohol and domestic violence.
  • Thousands could come out and watch Atheist parades.
  • Atheist plays could take place in schools and public spaces.
  • People could walk the streets, roaming door to door, singing Atheist songs.
  • We could even organise concerts.
  • Television & Radio stations can fill the airwaves with Atheist movies, shows and songs.
  • The Queen, Governor General, Prime Minister & Premier could give us an Atheist Day address.
  • Our local politicians would place advertisements in the local papers embracing the day and wishing us all the best for it.
  • It could be declared a Public Holiday.

These are just a few ideas, I'm sure others could come up with more to make it a truly wondeful international event, after all us Atheists are everywhere.

The only problem I see is the politically correct Christians, Jews & Muslims etc, whinging and whining, hindering our activities and trying hard not to allow us the opportunity to celebrate because they are offended.

Meanwhile, I haven't done too badly this birthday. My family knows it's a touchy subject, but I couldn't resist putting this in either:

Cheers All!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas

Looks like Santa might have traded in the sleigh
There are stockings hanging in the front window. I have a cold. There are Santas in the arcade and the queue in the ABC shop was so long, I gave up waiting. At home, the place looks like a bomb has hit. There is wrapping paper all over the floor and stuff I am trying to cram into my check -in luggage. Some sacrifices will have to be made. The computer? The books? Definitely not the pressies. I am a grandma after all. A few signs of life  down the road. Another addition to the Do People look like their Dogs?

Someone else has fairies at the bottom of their garden, too

And a missing turtle (same house). Hope you find your turtle!
Another sign of the times, different house
The banks here are in for a bit of opprobrium for not passing on the recent interest cuts. I haven't joined the party, because mine has treated me fairly well lately. I am not sure what they have done in the USA recently apart from foreclosing on mortgages and paying themselves bonuses out of public bailout (taxpayer's) money, but  Adbusters are giving them a bit of Christmas cheer which they would probably  rather not have.
Occupy North Pole | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

Monday, December 19, 2011

Summer Monsoon

The thunder rolls. The rain buckets down. We are having a summer monsoon. Serves me right for hanging the washing out. Sorry to keep going on about the weather. It just continues to be a complete surprise.  The tree ferns are doing exceptionally well.They have reached the top of my kitchen window. Soon it will look like a jungle.

I was looking for an image from that doco that shows cities gradually being overgrown by vegetation. Couldn't find it it, but these films both look pretty good. Hope they are still on after Christmas.

Interesting screen shot here too – says please embed!
I also like the ad, though you may have something different on your screen. They presumably change according to what Google thinks your interests are. I wonder how they ever got that idea?

10000 Chinese Lay await love, Seek one & Join Now!

Hope I don’t give myself a communicable virus ripping that!
Nor do I have any right to chuckle over this when I don't speak a word of Mandarin. However, if I was marketing to an international audience I would probably not just look a word up in the dictionary. I would perhaps go down to the nearest Macca's and run it by an English Speaker.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A question of balance

I just clicked on that Coles Competition again and lo and behold, I now have two icons for Coles on my facebook page. I couldn’t delete them, so I have added two for The Ethical Consumers Group, in the interests of balance and to show that as usual, I am in two minds. I just have to go along with with Lisa Alther (Kinflicks, 1975) who said,
"I happen to feel that the degree of a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting attitudes she can bring to bear on the same topic."
I do have to get my organic, green, free -range, recycled toilet paper from somewhere as I am not yet into crafting my own and I still buy coffee and canned goods there too. If we had an Aldi, I would shop there as they source 80% of their products from Australian companies. I do however, like it that Coles does home delivery. That means that about 130 people a day are NOT driving their cars across town to pick up their shopping and it saves time standing around at checkouts and buying additional things you would never have thought of, if you hadn’t gone into the store. My other goods are purchased either at the market or from local shops, even if it costs a bit more. I want them to be there so I don’t have to drive miles just to pick up a litre of milk because there’s a $50 minimum order for deliveries.

 If you want the drum on supermarkets in Australia read this: or watch  one of several excellent videos on the subject on YouTube

Meanwhile, I am trying not to buy anything perishable at the moment as I am going away in a few days.  Still haven’t bought muesli, so today’s culinary experiment is Hazelnut Pancakes.

First I made them with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey and homemade yoghurt (I have found that my hotwater cylinder cupboard is an excellent place for making yoghurt and Kefir (buttermilk) which I really got addicted to in Russia) but then I rediscovered some of those vials of drinking choc. that come with the cappuccino sachets I use in the van and I must say, they are quite delicious with chocolate too.

The ones that are left I will have with chives and sour cream when I get some. These pancakes freeze quite well if you put layers of baking paper between them.

Sunday morning breakfast

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Who needs Masterchefs?

Oh dear, I can smell another original culinary creation in the making. I have been trying to install the new flashplayer, wrapping Christmas presents and answering mail. I forgot all about my breakfast bubbling away on the stove. It was bad enough that I had run out of muesli, so I was making Russian millet with stewed apple. Well the apple is now caramelised, but I suppose that could fly with suitable prose. I doesn’t even taste too bad, but the house reeks of it. 

Last week I accidentally poured uncooked rice on my chopped apple instead of muesli. The containers are identical. Shoved that lot in the microwave with a bit of water, some sultanas and a dash of cinnamon and another culinary masterpiece was born.  I used to be quite good at multi tasking, but am so distracted at this time of year. Now where was I?

There's an interesting post on adbusters too:


In the trenches

Catalogue outside the Dick Smith Store
 Now there's the true spirit of Christmas, but I wonder whether we are sending our kids the right message?
Competetive shopping anyone?

Finally made it to Toyworld today but came back empty -handed. Apart from plush toys of which the littlest fairy has shiploads, there wasn’t much of a selection for the Under 1’s. I doubt that she will feel too put out. It was pretty scary though. A toy stroller there cost more than a real one and yesterday while I was looking in the educational toyshop, there was an iron and a microwave that cost more than the ones I use.

This is a TOY stroller for Heaven's sake!

Young fashion seems to be one of the few places doing a roaring trade

Most of the big stores were surprisingly quiet. Only one person was on the checkout in Target and only three people were in the queue, not at all like the riot scenes on Black Friday (after Thanksgiving) when all the sales start in the US. I understand there weren’t any casualties this year, only a couple of fights, but in 2008 a Walmart employee was killed in the rush, people were trampled and two were shot dead at Toys R Us. This year shoppers apparently brought pepper spray to keep rivals away from bargains.

Perhaps all stores should have government health warnings. SHOPPING COULD BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH. Certainly by the time things get this crazy we need strong remedial action along the lines of Reverend Billy and the Church of Life after Shopping. See a clip of his film  What would Jesus Buy? produced by Morgan Spurlock, who also made "Super Size Me"

Yesterday a friend took me to K- Mart, our local equivalent of Walmart, hoping to pick up a few slave labour items. I was expecting the worst, but things were surprisingly civilised. At the door we were met by two elves handing out delicious chunks of strawberry and mango which were very refreshing and the kids were taking to them with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for free lollies. We were also given chocolates by another elf inside - not just cheap house brand ones either. It was a nice touch. Best of all though, the aisles were practically empty, the staff was not yet frazzled and we only had to shove a few people out of the way to get to the toys. Even this was accomplished with much smiling and "No, you go firsts," as we had trolley encounters in these much narrower aisles.

In the mall, teenagers were blowing bubbles, a fiery violin quartet was playing rousing marches and a charity had set up a wrapping service. Several shops had kids' corners and a lonely band of carol singers were singing in the Cat and Fiddle Arcade. I'm not sure if I heard them right, but I think they may have been singing some alternative versions of traditional songs, unless someone knows a song about lying down in the road and being run over, which I am sure wasn' t in the original version. Bet they were just trying to see whether anyone was listening. People did look a little harried as they rushed past purposefully, but the mood was subdued and there was definitely a bit of Christmas Spirit around.
If you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet, Buzz for whom I am doing surveys to benefit An Ocean of Books has some inexpensive ideas and there are also a few in the brilliantly headlined article Dreaming of a Tight Christmas by Larissa Ham in Saturday's Age. Some of the best ideas come from readers and there are also some thoughtful comments.

One of the nice moments