Sunday, September 6, 2009

Oh my giddy aunt.

What a stupidly busy few weeks. And it's not really likely to calm down anytime soon, so I really don't know if I should bother getting back into posting when I'm quite liable to disappear again, but I guess I just want to.

I've been so busy with a newspaper internship which was meant to go for the first two weeks of August but which is still going and has now been extended to November. That's full-time and then uni and other work slot in around it, and so far so good, but it doesn't leave large swathes of time for things like gardening and blogging. But I did have a couple of things I wanted to share, so I'll at least keep plugging away at getting those posted.

I feel bad for not commenting on all the posts I've enjoyed reading, but it has at least been nice to still have a constant feed of exciting things other people are doing to read about.

I think maybe this blog needs to change a little as well. I think I was so inspired by reading other people's creative blogs or blogs about their fabulous garden that I forgot that I don't live a particularly creative life, nor is my garden fabulous. (Well, I think it's kind of fabulous but that's because I remember when it was all concrete and weeds and mouldy newspapers and broken glass, but I didn't take any of photos of it back then, so I can't even prove how far it has come.) Anyway, what I'm trying to tell you is that perhaps my first angle was a little flawed, so maybe I need to branch out and find other things to also talk about that are just as satisfying for me and interesting for you.

So forgive the explanatory post, hopefully I'll return soon with something a little more noteworthy.

Wait! Here's something noteworthy:

This is the most important thing I learnt last year. When I learnt it I told lots of my other incredibly busy, driven, perhaps slightly over-achieving friends, and then we all sat back and sighed and felt a little bit better. And sometimes now we still tell it to each other when we're stressing ourselves out with our own actions. So here it is folks.

Detach your sense of self from your achievements.

That's not to say you can't be proud of them and take joy in them, but just don't get so caught up in them that they drown out your other ideas of who you are and what makes you a good person. So with that little gem I'm off to bed. Hopefully I'll see you all soon, and will get back into the swing of posting and commenting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

7 kgs saved!

Just thought I'd quickly mention the One Million Women website/project. It's a project that aims to get one million Australian women to each save one tonne (1,000kgs) of carbon emissions through changes to their lifestyle over the next year. Obviously, the aim is to cut Australia's total carbon emissions by one million tonnes this year and this group decided to take matters into their own hands.

So far nearly 5,000 women have signed up and it probably won't reach one million, but it's still an inspiring idea that I encourage all women to get involved in. (I do think it's crap that it's just targeted at women, but so be it.) I've been signed up for about a week and have already saved 7 kilos of carbon emissions, although that's just the tip of the iceberg as more changes are coming. I was unsure about signing up because not a lot of info is provided upfront about what lifestyle changes you would actually have to make. I already lead a pretty green-conscious life and am a renter so can't change my home much, but I was definitely able to make enough changes to save a tonne and then some.

Of course it's disheartening to think that all it takes is one business person or politician flying Melbourne to Sydney or Canberra regularly to wipe out all my savings, but it's also important to look at an action like this as a political statement. The more people who sign up to something like this or who make lifestyle choices like installing solar power or buying wind power, the less governments can argue that people aren't willing to make sacrifices to help the environment and the more likely they are to take the big picture action that is really needed.

Just a couple of the ways you can save, and how much carbon this would save annually:
Washing clothes on cold cycle and sun/air-drying - 400kg
Installing water-saving shower heads and having 4 minute showers - 875kg
Switching off appliances on standby at the powerpoint - 150kg
Walk or cycle 5km more a week instead of driving solo - 52kg

Sorry if this is a little earnest for some, posts on all the things we've been building in our back yard to follow soon!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Something to keep in mind

Sums it up well doesn't it?
Painted on a garden bench down at Veg Out.
I think I might need this on a plaque in my garden for those moments when I wonder why I bother.

Veg Out and a week that was far from a vegging out week

Wow, what a whirlwind of a week. Last week was the Students of Sustainability conference and it was an incredible experience. So many passionate speakers and interesting ideas (along with a depressing reality-check about climate change and the world's responses to it). I had intended to post daily with something that blew my socks off each day (and there always was something) but unfortunately we spent the week rushing home to interview for new housemates in a desperate rush, which was pretty exhausting and time-consuming. So I think I will try to do a few posts about it, starting with my favourite activity: an excursion to Veg Out community garden down in St Kilda.

I so enjoyed seeing what people were growing (all far more successfully than me), but it was also such an interesting story about how the garden had come about and then become an indispensable part of the St Kilda community. Some community gardens I've visited are really just a patch of personal backyard for a large number of people but they aren't a truly community-oriented garden. This garden is open to the public, numerous groups (like the war veterans who live in a hostel closeby) have a plot, and what I found most striking was that it had no high fences within the garden - it all felt open and welcoming.

The garden used to be a bowling green, so it has some quirks like the original lights and bunkers.

It's positioned in the shadow of Luna Park which makes for an odd juxtaposition as the sound of rollercoasters and screaming children is quite loud, but the garden still feels peaceful.

It was great to see flowers, succulents and vegies all planted together.

We spent the day digging up vegies that had been grown to help feed the conference-goers and I had fun chatting to others about their vegie patches or plans for one. One of the best personal things to come out of the week was a reinvigoration of my gardening enthusiasm. My friends suggested I get a t-shirt printed with my most succint explanation of why my enthusiasm had been dropping: 'Aphids ate my mojo'. But hopefully I'll have some new garden projects to show you soon as well as some more environmental posts about the conference.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Down Shakespeare St

Yesterday I wandered down

I made an effort to look up, as I recently learnt, and was duly rewarded

But what was below was even more important

The entrance to

And inside? Well, inside there were plenty of lovely people spinning and chatting and doing other wool-related activities. And I got to choose from this wall

for more wool for the scarves I've been knitting. It's all gloriously lush handwoven wool which is so soft and has such lovely colours.

If you're ever around go check them out:
Handweavers and Spinner Guild of Victoria
12-20 Shakespeare St
Carlton North

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Signs from another time

The other day I was wandering around the area near my house and for the first time I noticed this sign.

Crazy what you see when you stop looking at the footpath! Isn't that name fantastic? It conjures up a whole different era doesn't it?

So I made an effort to look up more around the neighbourhood, and was rewarded with this gem.

I love the irony of a peeling painted sign advertising long-lasting paint. Mind you, I'm sure it's been up there for decades! Also, how wonderful is that red nextdoor to the sign?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Backcountry escape

Last weekend a friend suggested that we go skiing for the week. I explained that I had essays due, deadlines approaching, etc. and that it probably wasn't a great idea. Then I did what I normally do when confronted with such a situation, and decided to work myself ten times as hard in the few days on either side of the trip and do it all. Last Monday involved crazy amounts of rushing around all over town handing in 10,500 words of assessment and hiring skis, but it was definitely worth it. We set out late, arriving in Mansfield after midnight, and then the next day drove up to the mountains for some backcountry skiing.

Mark skiing.

We didn't see a single other person until we returned to Mansfield on Friday. We skied on wonderful snow along tracks used by four wheel drivers in summer. We camped on summits with beautiful views. We talked about the world, the environment, what we plan to do with our lives, moments that have changed us, why we only ever eat alfalfa when we're hiking - you know, all the important stuff.

One of our campsites.

I love the similarity between the lines of the trees and clouds.

My mum's favourite tree - snowgums.

You can just see Mt Buller in the background to the right of the tree.

For some reason my shins got really sore and swollen, so we camped in one spot for two of the nights so I could rest and ice them. This is how I spent the day:

Making cups of tea.

The morning's teabag, ready for re-use.

Reading old favourites.

The perfect week to counteract being locked in a study for weeks finishing essays!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Between the passing showers

I snuck out to take some quick snaps in the demi-second of rain-free weather so that I could show you the evolution of my funny little coconut pot:

Some string, knots, and I've got a funny little hanging coconut pot.
It's quite nifty, they hang off odd little nails along the fence where I can admire them. A word of warning though, they dry out very quickly, so I've only managed succulents in them, everything else has carked it too quickly.

Another great ideas for quirky pots are Claerwen's op-shopped wooden bowls over at Home Girl, I definitely want to give that project a shot!

My housemate recently gave me this book:

The Thrifty Gardener, by Alys Fowler

It has some fantastic ideas that are right up my alley, even if I have doubts about whether I'll manage to find such glamourous boxes to recycle.

Lovely photography as well, sorry the re-photographed photos aren't quite as impressive!

Alys also had a blog over at the BBC Gardeners' World, she's wrapped it up now, but to be honest, I think the book's better! There's a few other projects in it that I want to try, if I do I'll put some shots of them up.

And finally, I just thought I'd include a shot of what I'm looking at this week.

I read somewhere that having fresh flowers nearby had been proved to help creativity, and I thought my essays would benefit from some creativity. Instead, I think my procrastination methods may have got a little more creative! Not sure about the actual essays though. Hmmm.

Friday, June 5, 2009

You think you know someone, but then

Take my nice succulent here:

Nice, squat little succulent.
And then one day it suddenly hits something like adolescence.
It gets all leggy.

And starts brandishing brightly coloured make-up around.

Next thing I know I'll be driving it home from parties in a car that smells like a brewery while it tries to enunciate each word very clearly as proof that it's not under the influence.

Elsewhere in the garden, suddenly the Spoon Lilies decided to flower this year, and now have bright red fruit too. (Their leaves are the ones in the header - they're one of the only things that reliably grows in our garden other than weeds. Seems a strange choice on their behalf given that they're native to warm, tropical areas, which is so far from Melbourne right now!)

And my vegie patch is putting in a valiant effort at growth.

Poor plants barely stand a chance against the aphid infestation, crap soil which the plane tree in front of our house constantly sends fibrous roots up into, and wan sunlight.

A passerby said to me the other day 'I always admire your garden, it's so fantastic what you're doing'
'Are you kidding me?' I asked, 'It's totally infested with caterpillars and aphids!'
'But at least you're trying' she answered.
And even if it's not as produce-filled as all the gardens of so many other bloggers, at least I know many more people in my local community now because they stop for a chat while I'm out the front gardening and ask about my vegie patch, and talk about their vegie patch, or the vegie patch they're thinking of starting. (One guy told me that they'd converted an unused laneway into a vegie garden, but I've looked high and low for it, almost to the point of trespass, and I can't find it.) So if nothing else, maybe it's inspiration for others to consider planting vegies in their front garden. I think they probably look at mine and think 'No matter how bad mine is, it's at least going to be better than that!'

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welkam to the Solomon Islands

Sorry folks, I didn't mean to drop off for a week, but was out contact with the world for a week, thanks to a last-minute opportunity to go to the Solomon Islands on a media famil thanks to the Solomon Islands Visitors' Bureau. I have just had such an amazing, relaxing, exciting week checking out Honiara and some of the small islands nearby.
The islands felt so welcoming, it was a real novelty to travel somewhere and feel so safe and unhassled. Which is a little ironic, considering they had a coup a few years ago and Australian RAMSI peacekeeping forces are still in the area, although that's probably partly to thank for the mood, but mostly it was just that the locals were friendly and everyone would say hello to you as you walked through the town or around a small village.
It reminded me a little of Ecuador, one of my favourite countries to travel in, as they both share that friendliness, but also because there was so much to see and you don't have to cover great distances to see something entirely different. They also have both managed to avoid being overrun with tourists, instead it feels much more like the locals are still in control and gaining some benefits from tourism without having it change their way of life. Like any country it has its problems, mainly race tensions, but it was an incredible place to visit. I've never been to any Pacific islands before, so it was also a novel to travel such a short distance but be somewhere so different from home.

The bustling market in Honiara. Everything is laid out very neatly because of council rules, but it's quite stunning visually to see such artistically arranged bright fruits, cloths, seafood and more. (Apologies for a not great quality photo, I don't have as many of people as I'd like, so I need to hold the decent ones I have back for the story in the mag.)

A lei to welcome us to Maravagi Resort, about two hours boat ride from the capital, Honiara.

The beach hut we stayed in for a couple of nights at Maravagi. You could snorkel just a couple of metres off shore and be swimming with rainbow, angel, and other tropical fish over coral.

The view back to our little hut and beach.

Stunning bright foliage. The islands were so lush and green - it's always such a treat to see such a verdant place after years of drought in Australia.

And what would a trip to a tropical island be without sipping from a coconut on the beach.

All up, I felt so lucky to have this opportunity, even if now I'm coming down with a thump to the real world of the end of semester essays being due!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The pain of rainy days

When I first saw the rainy days theme over on Meet me at Mike's, my thoughts immediately turned to the kind of descriptive writing about my surrounds that I so love creating. But I thought about the theme a little more, and thought that maybe I would instead tell you about why I find rainy days somewhat bittersweet.

For a couple of years rainy days meant dropping everything. Checking the Bureau of Meteorology website to gauge every river in the state, watching the rain maps become peppered with turquoise dots, then royal blue dots, then green, as the rain continued to fall. Phones would be buzzing, emails would be flying, and then the culmination would be a station wagon packed full of people and gear with four whitewater kayaks strapped firmly to the roof racks, heading out to whichever river seemed the best pick. Driving for hours, either into the dark of night or early in the morning watching dawn break over a nearly-empty freeway.

As we neared the river we'd peer over every bridge in anticipation, trying to work out if the river really had risen enough. We'd pull up to a clearing, usually with no marking but one that had been handed down by word of mouth or internet forums. Pile out of the car, check the river level, work out a car shuttle to have a car waiting for us at the end of the day, and start pulling on layers of thermals, tight homemade fleece vests, wetsuit booties, and waterproof pants and tops with tight latex gaskets that don't allow water in at your ankles, neck or wrists. As we put on our helmets, spray decks and life jackets we'd make sure everyone used the same river signals and was feeling okay about the river we were about to paddle.

Depending on how hard the river was, your heart might start beating a little faster as you dragged your boat down to the river. If there was only a small eddy of smooth water before entering the flow of the river, you'd ease yourself into your boat carefully before pulling out to make way for the next person. Even in your first few paddle strokes you would feel the power of the river flowing beneath you. But you would also feel the comfort of your boat responding to the moves you had done so many times. A slight lift of the knee, twist of the stomach, a touch of your paddle on the water. The feeling not of being in control, but of being in sync with the river.

Of course the rest of the day had plenty of stories, but I think it's that first feeling of working with the river that I think of when it rains. And now? Now the thought just makes me sad. In a state like Victoria with such enduring drought, now when it rains for days you're lucky if one river comes up. And because it's so rare, you're no longer confident you can tackle that harder river, so you don't go. And because you're out of the habit, you don't drop everything to seek out the river, now when you've made plans with people you keep them rather than apologising with 'Sorry, but an amazing river came up'.

But I find it so sad to have lost it. To have lost that pure feeling of joy coursing through my body as I pulled exactly the move the river demanded of me. To not float through gum tree lined stretches with just a few close friends. To no longer be able to identify myself as an adventurer, an outdoors person. So for me, rainy days can be a pleasant, cosy day in Melbourne, but they can also be such a strong reminder of a person I was, a person I liked being, a person I quite possibly will never get the chance to be again for whom I'm still grieving.

These are some photos from a kayaking trip to New Zealand, not long before my kayaking habit died away a bit. (I couldn't seem to find any on my computer that captured the feeling of rainy Victorian kayaking.)

Part way through an hour-long walk to the start of the Lower Toaroha River

Putting in a move on the Lower Hokitika

Heading off the Maruia Falls


So it feels like awhile since I last posted. I keep writing posts in my head but then not getting them down quickly enough, and then they just seem to stagnate and by the time I come to write them they've lost their gleam, and it doesn't feel worth it. I wonder if others struggle with this when blogging. And I'm constantly realising that I should have taken a photo because without it there's no post. But I still enjoy the writing in my head, and hopefully I'll just get better at pulling it all together. So next I think I'll write one of the posts I've been mulling over for quite some time, and hopefully I didn't lose the shine by waiting.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Open Studio

Apologies to non-Melburnians for the second Melbourne post this week, but I had to share this place with you.

Friday night was a friend's 30th birthday party, which was held at her friends' bar Open Studio in Northcote. Such an amazing night! The theme was along the lines of Orientalism and Egypt at the Berlin Cabaret, and there was a positively Bacchanalian atmosphere. Dim lights, exotic costumes with a bohemian edge, Serbian plum brandy to welcome you, trays of champagne and a live band which included cello, accordion, double bass, trombone, trumpet and violin all in one joyous cacophony. Numerous languages could be heard between songs, which ranged from wild gypsy-like music to cabaret classics. The mood was exultant and leaving was like stumbling out of another world back onto the streets of Northcote. You could imagine returning the following week and finding only a deserted shell, and having imagined the whole affair.

Check out someone else's review here. I was lucky to experience it in such an intimate way, with all of those who created the place and love it, but I'm assured that our night wasn't anything particularly out of the ordinary for this bar.
Also, the myspace profile for the band Vardos, which formed part of the large band playing can be found here. I don't know who else was playing, but I think they were all regulars.

(And apologies for the poor photo taken with a phone, I never remember to take a camera when I'm out on the town. I'll have to try and remember next time.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Straight Lines

When you visit other cities you invariably compare them to your own, and I always find this even more the case when I'm in Sydney. Perhaps this is due to the famed Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, or more likely because Tom was nice enough to leave his family and friends behind and move to Melbourne not long after we met, so I've always sort of felt that some time living up there is on the cards. (Plus there are so many magazines based in Sydney, which is another draw-card for me.)

I know that for some of the things I love about Melbourne I could learn to love the opposite in Sydney, but right now, here's one of the things I love about Melbourne.

Straight lines. I understand that behind a curve in the road lies mystery and surprise, but I love that you look all the way down Swanston Street and see the Shrine of Remembrance, and pictured below is another favourite.

The view down Brunswick Street towards a church in East Melbourne.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

That's right, just back away slowly

Having arrived in Sydney at 3:30am on Friday morning after driving through the night, an 11am family get together was probably a big ask. It involved meeting all of Tom's aunts and uncles and cousins and anyone else vaguely related to him (or so it felt) and given that I really only function on a minimum of eight hours sleep (I know, it's pretty decadent) my performance that morning was probably always going to be sub-optimal.

Add to this the fact that one of my jobs involves writing for a mothers magazine. This alone is enough to make people a little nervous, because I'm not to their knowledge a mother. (Nor to my knowledge for that matter, and I would probably know.) They ask me polite questions about what I write about, and when inevitably the word birth is mentioned (or sometimes I'll just say 'vaginas' if I want to shut down the conversation super-quickly) they usually offer up some attempt at conversation about the topic, such as 'I read an article about how dangerous home-birth is, I heard women are dying because of their foolish attempts at this' (or words to that effect). I'm not really a strong advocate for a particular way of birthing because although I have my own views I feel it's something that's pretty personal, but it is something I now know quite a lot about. So I inform them of the differences between home-birthing with a medical professional and free-birthing without one, and that it's usually free-birthing that's dangerous and the media should make this distinction. We then have some chit-chat where I say I think the state of birthing in Australia kind of sucks, I give examples of why, they back slowly away making nervous pointing gestures to outdoors and saying things like 'I'll just...' 'I might go and..' 'Aaah...' etc.

After scaring Tom's uncle away like this I retired to a chair in the sun and only spoke to other people sitting in chairs in the sun. This generally involved the elderly and hungover. This suited me just fine.

Tasks for the holiday: impress the family? Tick.

Friday, April 17, 2009

While I was gone...

I went on another long drive. Not as bad a long drive as the one I wrote about below, but a drive from Melbourne to Sydney via Mt Buller for a spot of mountain biking.
In Sydney there was plenty of hanging out with Tom's relatives and friends (he's from there), lots of reading, sometimes in lovely spots like Balmoral beach, below (by the way, like the foot I'm growing out of my nose?)

some posing with landmarks

the odd bit of walking (Blue Mountains, below)

and a train ride up to Newcastle.
Then, thank goodness, no more driving or training, a flight home.
Home sweet home, where you could be forgiven for thinking I had chosen a handmade rug in the sophisticated shade of 'dirty clothes', where aphids and caterpillars took advantage of my absence to ravage the cabbages, something else damaged the flowers in the backyard, and where I now have to actually look at a calendar and realise there are some deadlines creeping closer than might be comfortable.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Long Drive

I decided to play along with the Meet Me At Mike's Words and Pictures after reading a very evocative entry on Megan's blog. This week's theme is A Long Drive. My mind immediately turned to some of the horrendously long bus rides I've taken as a traveller; this was one of them that happened last year. (It should be noted, the country wasn't as bad as this welcoming drive might have indicated.)

It was already four in the afternoon, and we had no idea where we were going to sleep that night. We'd been in a different town every night for the past week, and had just got off yet another all-day stint on a bus. The border crossing had been horrible as we were heckled, jostled and scammed at every turn. Taxi drivers, people trying to guide us through the process, market stall holders, small children, they all crowded in at us, each trying to negotiate something. As we started to waver, and considered accepting the taxi driver's ridiculously high price, a security guard at the bank caught my eye and gave a barely noticeable shake of his head. It was the jolt I needed, and we fought our way through the crowd until we got to the police station to ask directions.

The taxi driver we finally settled on whisked us off to the official border entry point further along the road, and then took us to the next town, from where we could catch the bus to Lima. He bargained with us the entire time, and even as we paid him more than we'd agreed on, he fixed us with puppydog eyes. As soon as he'd left we bought food, pointing to each item without knowing the price. Tom tried to bargain, naming a price that seemed cheap to us. The storeholder looked at us oddly, and named a sum that was half of what we had offered. We immediately realised how much we'd given our taxi driver in real terms.

We had made it just in time to catch the last overnight bus, and half an hour later we were cooped back up and on the move again. Dusk fell, and the barren landscape became just potholes and small towns that rushed by in the headlights. As a Spanish film started on the television screens the stewardess came around with a small meal. The night wore on, and I'd pulled an eye mask on to try and sleep.

Half an hour later I still couldn't sleep. 'Tom, I don't think I feel very well' I whispered, prodding my half-asleep boyfriend and getting a grunt in return. I writhed in my chair, struggling to overcome rising nausea that worsened with every bump in the road. When I felt the bus slow I leapt from my seat and dashed down the stairs to the door, pushing past the stewardess and policeman checking the bus's papers and only just missing his shoes as I vomited into the dust. They looked down at me as I vomited again, before turning away to finish their paper check. 'Time to go!' the stewardess said chirply as I leaned my head on my knees, crouching barefoot on the roadside.

Soon after dawn broke it became obvious that this was going to be a proper bout of food poisoning. I headed down to the toilet, only to discover a sign reading 'Solo urinario'. I asked the stewardess if I could go to the toilet in the next town. Despite much overuse on my part of the word 'emergencia', we passed through one small town, then another, then another as I grew more and more uncomfortable. Finally I couldn't wait anymore, and used the bus toilet. Half an hour later the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere. Cries of 'Where's the gringa?' rose up from downstairs. I headed down to see what was going on. 'Okay, here you go' the stewardess said, gesturing to the open door. Outside there was nothing. We were in a desert with not a single shrub to squat behind in sight. 'Where's the toilet?' I asked the driver. 'This is Peru!' he replied, 'The whole country's a toilet!'

By the time we reached Lima that evening I became glad of the design of bus bathrooms: I was able to vomit into the sink without leaving the toilet. The bus had only stopped three times in 24 hours - the two paper checks and five minutes at a service station. We finally reached a hostel in Lima and I crawled into bed feeling weak and exhausted. Half an hour later I pulled back the sheets, only to find myself covered in bedbug bites. Welcome to Peru.

Dear Nasturtium,

Sorry for pulling you out the other day. I looked at you for awhile before deciding you might be a weed, because I couldn't remember planting anything where you came up. I grabbed you with my thumb and forefinger and as I broke your stem I realised what you were, just a moment too late. I'm not very good at taking the blame for things, so I would like to point out that you took a really long time to come up. (The fact that three other nasturtiums came up just days after you did does kind of excuse you though.) Anyway, thanks for coming back and giving me another shot.


P.S. Sorry about the birds. I don't know why they're so hellbent on digging up your little patch of garden. I think there might be some bugs they like there. Or maybe they just copied my wanton destruction - if that's the case, sorry for fostering a culture of nasturtium destruction, will try hard to correct it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not a domestic goddess, just a girl with a plan and a garden

Mia Freedman is a columnist I often end up reading because she sometimes comments on issues that interest me, but for some reason I find her incredibly grating. Yesterday's column in the Age was all about young women whose 'ultimate goal is to take up life long positions in the home raising children'. 'Who knew there were so many 23-year-olds out there baking, crocheting, gardening, marrying, procreating, making their own pasta and having Tupperware parties?' Freedman asks. I'm not quite sure how we leapt from women in their twenties knowing they wanted children at some point to this summary, but as a 22-year-old who happily bakes and gardens, who knows she wants children at some later date and who seriously considers being a stay at home parent I resent her derision.

I hate that somehow acknowledging that I want a career and then children is seen as lessening my commitment to my career until that point (and after that point), and the fact that I enjoy some elements of domesticity is seen as tantamount to disempowering myself. The sneer of Freedman's 'These women consider themselves empowered underneath their pink gingham aprons' is so palpable, even if she is attempting to give the article some sense of balance at that point.

I think it's a good thing that I know I want a career and then quite probably children as it drives me to make the most of the decade I consider to be for me alone. I understand that if I choose to have children my needs will often no longer come first, and I want to give everything my best shot before that point so that I don't have regrets or resentment about my career being cut short. I'm not going to box myself into saying that I will definitely have children or that if I do I will give up full-time work, I just see it as an insurance plan in case I do want to. I know I'm not alone in this; I have other incredibly driven friends who know what they want from life and see planning ahead as the best way to take advantage of all the facets of life they want to experience. Don't worry, I understand that things don't necessarily go to plan, but I get so sick of people judging women who acknowledge the realities of what they want from life.

And don't even get me started on her claim that Kate Middleton may epitomise this trend. Somehow an upper class woman without a job and with none of the domestic trappings Freedman's so critical of is meant to reflect women who want a career and children but also enjoy gardening? (I also think that if there's a trend for domesticity, it's not necessarily confined to women - plenty of my male friends are also right into all those terrible disempowering activities like making pasta, baking and gardening.)

I actually wrote this post yesterday but decided to wait a day and see if I still felt incensed about the issue. Yep, I do. But interestingly, by waiting I was able to see more comments on Mia's blog about the issue. One of the comments I most liked came from someone called Alice. 'I wonder if she has a blog?' I thought, so clicked on the link - turns out I already follow it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Plum Concrete

I remember loving Margaret Mahy's Jam: A True Story, a picture book all about a family who make masses of plum jam - so much that they use it for everything, including reattaching tiles in the bathroom.

If they had wanted a recipe specifically for concreting with plums, I probably could have helped. Last night I attempted to make jam but managed to over-reduce the mixture to a point where it's more like solid plum/sugar mix. Not quite sure what to do about that just yet. I even took pictures in anticipation of a blog post, and in my head had already held a tea party where people complimented the jam and I was able to tell them I'd made it myself. Pride certainly comes before a fall.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Bright Spot in My Week

My garden seems to be so colourful at the moment. These are just some of the bright spots. In fact, there are so many bright spots that I may have to break the party up. Let's start with warm reds and oranges.

Ornamental Pomegranate:


Another geranium (we have a lot of them because they're so easy to cultivate from cuttings, so they're both cheap and cheery, both of which are important for our garden):

Zucchini flower - I love the way these curl as they leave the stage, a bit like a bow or curtsy:

P.S. Jealous of the fabulous backdrop to my garden? If you're lucky you too may one day have the pleasure of a grey metal fence and almost fence to fence concrete. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.