Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Time to move

Here's a little update.

If this post is showing in your RSS feed, or you have come to this page by accident, please head over to The Procrastinatrix (http://theprocrastinatrix.com) and update your feed/bookmark.

Thanks to Karen for doing the heavy lifting of moving the blog over to Expression Engine!

Monday, 6 October 2008

a leetle strudel


I made up a strudel tonight for dessert, and it was extremely easy and delicious, so I thought I'd share it here. And as you can see, I don't use precise measurements - basically, add whatever you think would make it yummy.

Bec's apple and cherry strudel
5 sheets filo pastry
2 Granny Smith apples
handful dried cherries (I got them from Norton St Grocers - yum)
cinnamon / mixed spice
tablespoon or so of butter
a few spoonfuls of almond meal
a few spoonfuls of brown sugar
a couple more tablespoons of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Peel, core and chop the apples into rough chunks. Put them in a smallish saucepan with the cherries, spices, brown sugar and butter. Cover and cook over a medium heat until apples are soft.

Lay out a sheet of filo and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle on some almond meal. Lay another sheet of filo on top and repeat until you've used all the pastry. Put the apple filling in the middle of the pastry. Fold the bottom and top of the pastry in towards the middle, brush with butter, fold the sides of the pastry over, brush with butter (so it should be a neat little parcel). Sprinkle the top with almond meal and a little more brown sugar. Bake in oven until golden brown (about 20 mins).

Serve drizzled with cream. Or ice cream. Or just eat it. Any which way, it is very delicious.

long weekend

It's been mostly a good long weekend, though I feel as though I've sleepwalked through most of it. Got up at 5.30am on Saturday to take John to the airport, then after breakfast (and a little WoW) I crashed til mid-afternoon.

That evening was Lucy's 33rd birthday party. A bunch of us turned up to the house that the Barrys are housesitting in Botany for burgers, white russians and sarsparilla in honour of Lu's favourite movie, The Big Lebowski. Mark set up the data projector and I brought speakers and we all had a great time watching the movie. I hadn't seen it since it first came out 10 years ago - it's no less hilarious than it was then.

I couldn't sleep that night. Sunday was also daylight savings, so we lost an hour. So by the time I got up and headed into the city for a City Writing Day at Customs House, I was kind of out of it. But it was good to have dedicated writing time with Karen and Guan, and even though I didn't write heaps I liked what I did write. We had lunch at Wagamama, wandered back to Pitt street, looked in Borders and K and I headed home. I realised we had lost track of time and I didn't have a chance to nap before music rehearsal at church.

That night was Sammi's baptism. She has been a Christian for 10 years, but decided that she wanted to make this public declaration of what Jesus has done in her life and what she believes. She read out her very moving testimony (which had me and George in tears), and I wanted to leap up and cheer as Kurt poured water over her head and baptised her. It was just such a beautiful, brave and hopeful act, and I hope so much that Sammi's friends and family were moved to think more about why she was doing it, and to find out more for themselves. I'm glad that I've gotten to know her better in the short time that I've been at Wild St; she is a great Christian sister (congrats Sammi!).

Today I slept til 11.30, which was bliss. I played WoW for a while, while I did my laundry and wondered whether I should be doing anything else. It was a weird day, weather-wise, grey and rainy, then brilliantly sunny, then rainy again and then windy. I think that may have had something to do with my restless and slightly sad mood. Mum and I had a late lunch at Bondi Junction, I bought some craft stuff, then came home, and made dinner and strudel for dessert (see next post). I feel much more peaceful now than I did earlier today - but the weekend's over now!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

blobbing

Have had a lovely couple of evenings with friends. Had Guan and Mary over for dinner on Thursday and an unplanned chicken roast. So good to see M again after weeks and weeks. So good that Guan ate the drumsticks. :) And I love that my friends can hang out and chat to my mum as easily as I can.

Tonight I had Bek's partner John staying over, as he's heading from Coffs Harbour where he's been holidaying, back home to Belfast in the morning. The last time I saw John was in April in Belfast when I stayed with him and Bek, and we all went to that glorious Bjork concert.

So after I picked him up from the airport, we had a catch up and both put on our Bjork t-shirts. He had brought his Wii with him from Ireland (got to go equipped you see), and had been given a Wii Fit as a present while he was over here, so of course we had to play it. It turns out my Wii Fit age is 31 (1 year less than my actual age! Woo!). Then we had to undo the 10 minutes of exercise we did by eating pizza for dinner. We watched Juno and half of Lars and the Real Girl before we were falling asleep.

We have to leave at 6am to take him to the airport. And while I should be sleeping, of course I'm wide awake! Bah. But it's been great to catch up with friends, to just hang out and relax and feel completely unpressured.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

what I want

I just want to feel better. I want to wake up with energy. I want to look forward to tomorrow. I want to have an idea and then have the motivation to follow through on it. I want to enjoy other people. I want to feel like I'm making a valuable contribution. I want to feel light.

I hope I will one day. Again.

the marketplace

Terry Pratchett's new book Nation is out! I'm excited about this, as I've been longing for a new Pratchett, and although I do love his Discworld books it'll be interesting to read something of his that isn't set there.

I went onto Dymocks online to see how much it would cost. Normal price $49.95, discounted to $37.95. Guh. Why are books so expensive here?

So I went to the Book Depository to see how their prices compared. Retail GBP16.99, discounted to GBP12.05 with free shipping worldwide. That's about $10 cheaper than Dymocks.

And finally I checked Better World Books because I've used them before and was happy with their service. Retail US$16.99, reduced to US$14.48, and I had a Facebook 10% discount voucher. So with shipping (carbon-neutral apparently), it came to US$17.05, which is $16 less than buying it at Dymocks, and makes a contribution towards funding literacy charities.

Naturally I went with Better World Books. I do want to shop local as much as I can, but sometimes, when it's the exact same product, if it's much cheaper and there are other benefits to buying from a particular shop that isn't in Australia, my money goes overseas.

And now I'm looking forward to my new book.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

not an entrepreneur

Okay before I start, I acknowledge the irony inherent in complaining about the internet on the internet. But I'm not going to stand outside my house with a megaphone telling everyone about it, because, well, I'd probably get beaten up by my neighbours.

I'm not sure whether I've just had information overload, or whether it's a symptom of depression, or what, but I'm finding my addiction to the internet troublesome at the moment. There is so much information out there, so much you can do, so many people doing so many things (with varying degrees of quality), so many ways of finding out information about people, and so many ways for people to find out information about you...sometimes it gets a bit too much. A step back and a deep breath is advisable.

For the most part, I control the information I put out there. I write this blog, and I choose what I will and won't write about (and if you're a regular reader you know I write about just about anything, so that doesn't bother me so much). I post photos to my Flickr page. I post random snippets of my day to Twitter. I poke people on Facebook. I've signed up with all sorts of sites that collect my information, from the books in my library to the songs I'm listening to right now. I love the confluence and the immediacy of information, but then occasionally it gets overwhelming.

I think the tipping point was setting up an Etsy store. Etsy's a great website full of handmade stuff, and there are some beautiful things featured for sale. It seemed like the perfect marriage between my love of the internet and my love of making things. I had a little scheme for selling the bits and pieces of craft that I make, and maybe even helping Karen sell some of her superb knitting. I set it all up, took photos, wrote some copy and excitedly put a couple of Karen's hats and a shawl up for sale last night. So rather than just putting bits of trivia out there, I was putting something tangible and saleable online and hoping that people would find it appealing.

I woke up this morning to a disgruntled note from the designer of one of the hats, telling me we'd breached copyright by posting her design (I don't know - was she waiting there, refreshing her browser every five minutes to see whether anyone was selling her designs?). I immediately apologised and took the items down. Karen did a bit of research and now we're much better informed, but can't sell the knitting (it all seems a bit ridiculous to me, but if that's the way it is you have to respect it - read Karen's post for the full details).

It just left me feeling so flat and disillusioned (although the designer probably felt that way too and thought we were ripping her off), and it's made me doubt whether I ought to be stepping into this pond of internet selling at all. To add to it, I was trawling through Etsy and then started down that whole spiral of 'why bother adding anything to the already crowded marketplace', which then led to 'why bother doing anything?' (Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!) It's hard to go out on a limb; to get knocked down before you've even started makes you feel like giving up - and I haven't even gone through the torture of putting my own craft things up for sale!

I don't think I'll give up. I'll just try something different. But maybe not for a while.

fog

I hate it when everything seems too difficult. This often happens after a burst of creativity or activity, and seems worse somehow because I had a glimmer of my old self, a little peek into a stable emotional life, so that when I start feeling grey again it seems even greyer than before.

I never know what to do when I feel like this, and I keep trying different things. I've tried pushing on through. I've tried having a nap. I've tried going for a walk in the sun. Sometimes the greyness just won't be budged.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

I don't know what's been happening with my blog lately. My apologies that it's been down. I think I may have inadvertently created some sort of wormhole and the blog was eating itself. Hopefully that shouldn't be happening anymore...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

black dog socks


This is one of my favourite illustrations from Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone's book Living with a Black Dog.

interruption

I don't know what's going on with my domain name, but the blog's been down all morning. My apologies.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

comfort reading

I was in need of extreme comfort reading last night, so I turned back to one of my favourite childhood books: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My copy is dog-eared and the pages yellowed, but it still has my name written in my mother's handwriting on the front page. The front cover, sadly, has fallen off.

I didn't want to stop reading it last night. I do love it so. I love the character of Sara, her combination of seriousness and whimsy, her kindness and her generosity to those who are overlooked by the self-important people; I love the descriptions of her little garrett room when it's transformed into a beautiful room by the lascar; I love Hodgson Burnett's scorn and her scathing character assessment of the more unpleasant members of society, like Miss Minchin and Lavinia. I guess when I was a child I identified with Sara being a third culture kid, growing up in an 'exotic' country and being sent back to Anglo society and being expected to conform and fit into it, but finding it all a bit strange. When I get home I'll try and find some favourite bits to post.

What are your favourite comfort reads and why?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Spark

It's so frustrating when you have creative impulses but you're not in the position to act upon them. Like, fragments of song lyrics suddenly jumping into my mind, or the desire to write all day, or a sudden urge to draw. I'm at work, and so must work, and know that by the time I get home the energy and enthusiasm for getting stuck into something creative will have waned. I try to jot things down so I don't forget them, but still...

Does this happen to you? How do you deal with it?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

refreshment


Had a wonderful day yesterday, driving down to Bundanoon with mum to see the Tonkses. So good to catch up with them! We ate delicious food and drank delicious wine of course, then we went for a walk/bike ride in the National Park (Bethany and I took turns riding her bike down the dirt road with Nathaniel). We just sort of wandered, and it was beautiful and quiet and just felt so refreshing.

As we're walking along this dirt road, in the middle of the bush/forest, a car pulls up beside us and a voice calls out, "Bec!" And there, grinning and waving at me, are Ben and Karen! How funny. It wasn't completely serendipitous, as we knew that we were both going to be somewhere in the Southern Highlands on the weekend, but it seemed so amusing and strangely surreal.

The rest of the day and evening passed with me lying on the couch, playing with the guinea pig Nathaniel's minding, eating more wonderful food, watching a video of Leonard Cohen singing a song with U2 as his backing band, and and showing Jeremy and Bethany some Bill Bailey on youtube. Mum said, "You look more relaxed than you have for a long time!" - and I felt it, too.

Then Jeremy checked under our car for wombats, and after getting the all clear, it was time to head home. I shall be going back; hopefully soon.

Friday, 19 September 2008

do not worry

My lovely friend J sent me a message this week, containing an article about stress. I'm not sure what the original source was, but I liked this:
There are many ways to reduce stress. One is knowing that worry is like winking at someone across a pitch-dark room – you’re the only one who knows you’re doing it, and it doesn’t get you anywhere.
Also makes me think of Jesus' words in Matthew:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

I think all of us need to remember that more often!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Tinselworm

Although I was unwell today, Em and I had tickets to see Bill Bailey at the State Theatre that I'd bought ages ago. I was glad that by the evening I was feeling up to going! We ate dinner at Wagamama, had a good chat and laughed ourselves silly. If you ever have the chance to catch Bailey live, don't pass it up. He's manic, musical, highly intelligent and really, really funny.

My favourite bit was his critique of Australian news theme songs. On the channel 9 news theme: "That theme song is only appropriate if Godzilla is attacking the studio!" Think about it next time you hear it - he's right. He also did an interpretive dance to the ABC news theme and almost broke a leg tripping over his keyboards and theremin in the process.

blue green

At her stress talk, Helen Rienits talked about colours being important tools to relieve stress. Blue and green are soothing colours, so if you're highly stressed it's a good idea to surround yourself with those colours rather than, say, red or yellow, which are stimulating colours. That's why it feels so good to go and look at the ocean, or to be surrounded by rolling green hills. As an aside for the Christians, she said, "so isn't it great that God made the world predominantly blue and green?"

I'm at home, sick, lying on the couch in my pyjamas staring at a perfect, cloudless blue sky. It is very soothing indeed.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

merch


Today's little happiness comes from drinking pipingly hot black coffee from a travel mug that I designed (which arrived today). Yay!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

auditory

I hate the voice. The voice that tells me things. The voice that tells me that I am useless, ungainly, unlovable. The voice that tells me I can't do anything. The voice that tells me I'm letting people down. The voice that asks what the point is. The voice that keeps harping on, a ceaseless drone underpinning everything.

Why can't I listen to the good, bright voices? Why are they so much harder to hear? The voices that tell me I'm loved and valuable, that this patch will pass, that the only one I have to please is God? The voices that tell me of all the wonderful things I have, the people I have, the joys that can be found every day?

I need to learn to listen.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

managing stress

I went to a Wild St event last Friday, one of the Delightful Nights that they run once a quarter. This one was a little different than usual; rather than being an event with an activity and an evangelistic talk, we had supper together and heard a talk on managing stress from GP Dr Helen Rienits. I was pretty wiped out but had a really good time sitting with my mum and my godmother Freda, and chatting to Sammi while we ate cupcakes and Lindt balls. Lots of things Helen said resonated with many of us, and we all exchanged glances every so often when she would describe symptoms and situations that were so like our own.

One thing that I've been thinking about a lot is the sustained, cumulative effect of stress and living in a permanent state of stress overload. Your stressors can be made up of many things, little and big. Most of us tend to think of stressors as only being big things like problems at work, major illnesses, car accidents, things like that. But you can easily reach the point of stress overload with a lot of little things that add up - even something like constant, loud ambient noise can push you over the edge (like building noise, or traffic noise). Obviously it's unhealthy to live at this level of stress all the time; your body is depleting its stores of endorphins and running on adrenalin and cortisol, and this wears down the immune system and leads to all sorts of other major health issues.

I think about all the things that have happened to me over the last few years, and more recently, and I shouldn't be surprised that I struggle with stress! It manifests itself in my depression and in a kind of paralysis; it's like I just grind to a halt and feel like I'm unable to do anything. My counsellor and I talked about how I had essentially been living in survival mode for years after certain traumas and sadnesses, and you can get used to living like that, but you physically and emotionally cannot sustain it. So I'm at breaking point a lot quicker than most people simply because I'm always living close to it.

Yet even though I know this consciously, and I try to take steps to reduce my stressors, I can find it subconsciously quite hard to cut myself some slack. I'm the sort of person that takes guilt on even when there's none to be had. I pre-empt imagined negative responses to things I have or haven't done, I worry about letting people down, etc, etc. There is a fairly constant stream of negative self-talk that, when pointed out to me, is ludicrous, but is insidious when it's allowed to prattle on, unchecked. This all, of course, just makes managing stress harder.

Helen suggested identifying your stressors and trying to deal with the smaller ones if you can; you may not be able to fix the major stressor, but if you get rid of some of the little ones, you'll be more able to deal with the big one/s. She had lots of other suggestions to help us manage stress, such as doing something creative regularly, getting exercise, gardening, eating healthily, getting 7-8 hours sleep a night. She also suggested some quick fixes in stress overload times, and I liked that one was "laugh, cry or sing as loud and as hard as possible", as all three of those actions release endorphins that help you to calm down. I knew there was a reason that singing at the top of my lungs while driving feels so good!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

a brief memeapology

Okay, okay, I know that the meme is the blogging equivalent of the chain letter, and I apologise for tagging those who dislike them intensely. I just love random information, that's all. :D

Actually, maybe it would be more interesting if I had added some rules of my own, for example:

7. you must respond to this meme by midnight in three days or else a plague of garden gnomes will be visited upon you.

Actually, that would be quite freaky.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

spring from our garden


In case it's also rainy and cold where you are, thought I'd share with you the spring flowers from our garden. Hooray for growing things! That's a very heavy daffodil (it's dirty because it was slumped onto the ground from the weight of last night's rain), a different coloured daffodil and a little pink sweet pea poking out.

Enjoy!

Friday, 5 September 2008

what a week

I went to work this morning and lasted an hour before the headache hit and I had to come home and lie down. I guess if you're going to be sick at home, a cold rainy day is a good one to choose!

I watched a disc of West Wing season 1 and slept under my blanket with my hot water bottle. It's been a pretty huge week and a bit. I think I'm going to give up on trying to write anything extensive about Driscoll and all the things I went to hear him at, but I'll do a summary.

Engage
Guan, Mary and I drove up to the mountains in the late afternoon last Friday. We were the first to arrive at our accommodation, The Blue House, where we got set up and ate shepherd's pie for dinner. Mary elected to stay home and have an early night, and Guan and I went to the convention centre and met up with the others.


Mark Driscoll gave four talks over the weekend, and his bombast and difficult challenges were well-tempered by Don Carson's reasonably straightforward exegetical preaching. They were a good combination - I think too much of one or the other would have been a problem.

I really enjoyed seeing Driscoll give a talk; I've listened to a few podcasts and read some of his writing, but he definitely has a 'watchable quality' (as Annabeth on the West Wing would say). But that's not to say he's all style and no substance. He packs a lot into his talks, and goes off on a lot of 'riffs', and doesn't fail to tie his theology in with living life. In fact, he dispensed with his third talk altogether to answer questions from the crowd, as he had observed that in Sydney there is a lot of good solid theological teaching but people had a hunger for practical application of what they were learning. As the questions were SMSed in, people were free to ask anything they wanted without fear of embarrassment, so there were predictably mostly questions on relationships, sex, family and things like that.

It was the end of this question time that he answered a question about why men should leave home younger than they generally do (ie, mid to late twenties). That's been one of his big themes while he's been speaking in Australia, challenging young men with the 'adultescence' mindset to grow up (sorry, I hate that term, but it fits). His thinking is that no woman is going to want to marry a man whose mom still tucks him into bed with his Star Wars sheets and footy pyjamas (when he speaks in the States, it's Star Wars pyjamas, but I guess he was tailoring the message to the audience), so guys should grow up, get a job, leave home, show they can provide for a family, get married, etc, etc.

He also talked about the responsibility fathers have towards their daughters to protect them, nurture them, encourage them to make good decisions and teach them discernment about men. He said some very good stuff here, but then it just started hammering into me that this was something sorely lacking in my relationship with my own father and how I had made some colossal mistakes and trusted some very dodgy people because I hadn't had a good model in regards to men as I grew up (not saying dad doesn't love me, or that I'm not also culpable in the decision making/wilfulness of the whole thing, but I didn't start off with a very solid foundation). It made me immensely sad, and by the time we got back to the house for lunch, I kind of lost it, cried all over my lovely friends, had to go and lie down and sleep it off for the rest of the afternoon.


But it was nice hanging out with the Beilharzes, the Un families and Elsie. By the end of the weekend, the big talks, the 2000 people and not sleeping very well, I was glad to be home and back in my own bed.

Ministry Intensive
As a National Office team, we went to this together and saw many other AFES staffworkers there. Again, it was the Driscoll and Carson double-act, with Kent and Barbara Hughes as well. Carson repeated one of his talks from Engage, which was a bit of a shame as I'm guessing a good number of people there had been at Engage (and apparently he wasn't supposed to give the same talk twice!).

In his second talk Driscoll was hard hitting and confrontational about what, as an outsider, he saw were the reasons that evangelism was being hampered in Sydney (Gordo gives a pretty thorough rundown if you're interested). I thought it was a brilliant talk, and really something only an outside observer could deliver.

I got cranky after lunch when we were separated into men and women and told which talk to go to, so I skipped Barbara Hughes' talk on Evangelism in the Home. Was too tired to go to Carson's big talk in the evening, and hadn't really perked up much by the next morning. I didn't really get much out of Kent Hughes' talk on Pastoring from the Pulpit but then I guess it wasn't really aimed at me.


Was supposed to go to the New College Lecture series on God and the Artist, but I was so completely drained by Tuesday night I didn't go. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, on Wednesday I resigned from work and hadn't recovered any more energy so didn't go to that night's lecture. And on Thursday I was unexpectedly given a ticket to Bek Caines's PhD graduation ceremony, so I went to that and missed the lectures entirely!


So it's probably no wonder that today I'm out for the count.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

random facts

The Random Facts meme has been doing the rounds and I got tagged twice (by Ali and Simone). So the rules are:
  1. Link to the person who ‘tagged’ you
  2. Post the rules on your blog
  3. List 6 random facts about yourself
  4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
  5. Let each person know they have been tagged by commenting on their blog
  6. Let the tagger know the entry is posted on your blog
There don't seem to be any specifics about what sort of information to divulge. Okey doke.
  1. I'm left handed, and I have a birthmark on the inside of my left arm. As a child I would remember which side was left by checking for my birthmark. I quite like being left because it's different to most other people; I feel an instant camaraderie with other left handers.

  2. I can't stand cauliflower, no matter how much cheese is on it. I'm also not too fond of celery, cucumber or raw capsicum which has led some to believe I have issues with vegetables beginning with the letter 'c', but this is untrue. I'm quite partial to carrots.

  3. For my 21st birthday I had a masquerade ball in the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour, basically because I love dressing up and wanted an excuse to wear a gown with a corset and hoop skirt. Thankfully most of my friends at the time were theatre people who also loved an excuse to dress up and everyone got into the spirit of it.

  4. I love playing World of Warcraft with my friends on the other side of the world. My highest level character is a human rogue.

  5. I was baptised at the age of 12 at the International Baptist Church in Singapore. I wore a white robe and was fully immersed in a glass-fronted font that was at the front of the church. When the pastor dunked me, the robe ballooned up around me, and I was grateful that I was wearing jeans.

  6. I love to sing. I love love love it, and I love to sing with a strong singer who doesn't get flustered when I do harmonies. But I feel intimidated by things like auditions and professional choristers with impeccable sight reading abilities and so I have never done much with it. Though that is slowly changing.
Now. Who to tag? Karen, Guan, the Baddelim, Mark, Kathleen, Dave.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

brain drain

It's been a big, exhausting and interesting week. Engage was fantastic but I hit a few emotional speedbumps along the way and got peopled-out pretty quickly. The Ministry Intensive was also fantastic but...intense. And today I resigned from AFES (I'll be here til Christmastime). So all up it's been huge, physically, emotionally, pretty much in every way you could imagine.

I'll post some musings about the talks, etc, soon, but just thought I'd keep y'all up to date.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Burn your plastic Jesus

So Wednesday night was Burn Your Plastic Jesus at the Entertainment Centre with Mark Driscoll from Seattle's Mars Hill Church. This won't mean much to the non-Christians among you, but take it from me, Driscoll is the hot ticket amongst the uni-age set in terms of speakers you have to go and hear preach. He's been in Australia for almost a month holidaying with his family, who have now returned home to the US to leave Driscoll to work. And he works hard! Seems he's speaking just about every day/night at various places in Sydney, the Central Coast and Brisbane until he goes home next week.

Anyway, back to Wednesday. I hadn't planned to go to this event because I'm going to the Engage conference this weekend and a Ministry Intensive next week that both Driscoll and Don Carson are speaking at, and I didn't know that I needed another dose. But Mark and Lu had a spare ticket and I thought 'why not?'

I'm glad I went!

As Mark and I bussed into town, went to King's Comics and wandered down to Dixon St to meet the other Wild St Church people for dinner, we played Spot the Church Group. They just stand out so much from everyone else! We couldn't really work out why, but you just knew which ones were Christians. By the time we left the food court and the place had filled up, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a non-Christian (and the food court staff seemed a little bemused by it). But it's not surprising, as there were reportedly 10,000 people converging on the Entertainment Centre for this event. I enjoyed the chance to hang out with church people (especially the nutty youth groupers), and at dinner I had a whole plate of dumplings to myself, which was great.
As for the event itself, the staging was slick as a rock concert with the difference being that the house lights stayed up the whole time. The Engage band was full of familiar faces, and they did a great job - there is nothing quite like singing to God with 10,000 people! Though I was surprised at the amount of singing we did; I'm sure the non-Christians in the audience wouldn't have been too comfortable about it, and perhaps this could have been offset by someone from the front saying something like "One of the things we do when we gather together is sing praise to God - we'd love you to join in, but if you don't feel comfortable you don't have to". Anyway that's a minor gripe - from my point of view, the music was excellent. Nathan Tasker played a couple of songs with his band, but I didn't think that added a great deal to the night.
There was the obligatory screening of videoed vox pops, people saying what they thought of Jesus - if they thought of him at all. I was especially saddened by the young mother who was quite defensive about it and said basically her world was her children and family and she'd never thought about Jesus before so why should she bother now? He didn't have anything to do with her.

Then Mark Driscoll came out and spoke for about an hour and a half. As a speaker, he is a friendly, funny man with a relaxed style and an easy-to-listen-to voice. He dissects and critiques culture especially well, and he is not at all ashamed or timid about what he believes. He spent the first chunk of his talk tearing down seven versions of Jesus he thinks people hold up that have nothing much to do with the actual Jesus (though he never referred to the passage from Revelation 19 that had been read beforehand, which I thought was a little odd). In the process he challenged and rebuked us, but also made us laugh a lot. The pitch was a little hard to work out initially, but he had something to say to the committed Christians, the fringe Christians and the non-Christians, and I thought he covered his bases well. He then took questions (via SMS!), and answered them gently but forthrightly. Then in the last section he talked about the real Jesus that we see in the Bible and why we should have relationship with him. If you're interested, you can download the talk for $2 at KCC - it's funny, engaging, challenging and well worth a listen. You can watch the clip below from Sydney Anglicans for a taste:

At the end of the night, he invited people to stand if they had decided to become Christians, or if they wanted prayer for something, and he asked the Christians sitting around them to pray. I had expected something like this to happen, as it's a fairly common end to a big event like this (they used to do 'altar calls' where they'd get people to go up the front, which is even more confronting), but it did take a while for people to start moving. It would have taken a lot of courage for people to stand up in full view of the entire Entertainment Centre, but gradually, as he spoke and kept encouraging people to stand, people started getting up. I don't know how many there were altogether, it wasn't a huge number, but there were a fair few. And then as the musos played quietly, we were asked to pray. I found it incredibly moving, looking around the room at this sea of people sitting, and here and there clumps of people standing together, praying. Gaz said it reminded him of white blood cells grouping together. I was so struck by the face of this one girl standing near us, her eyes closed, tears on her face, and a look of utter conviction.

It's a hard thing if you've made such a life-changing decision to go from a context like that back into the hard, gritty world. I really hope and pray that those people who decided to become Christians on Wednesday keep exploring God's word, that they are supported and loved by the friends who took them along to the event, and that God would continue to grow them in the knowledge and love of him.

And now I have to finish packing to go off to the mountains for Engage. Should be a great weekend!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

words

So as I said, the latest Salt Magazine is out. We've gotten heaps of really positive feedback about it, which is always encouraging!

One thing that I find curious, though, is how people deliver criticisms. We had one letter from a supporter who largely praised the magazine, had a couple of quibbles about certain points in some of the articles, but was particularly annoyed by the "stupid use of colour" on one of the pages where the text was over the top of a grey background. I do take her point, if you are in your 80s (as she is) and your eyesight isn't perfect it might not be that easy to read. But:

a) it's not designed for 80 year olds, it's designed for uni students who presumably don't have as much difficulty reading over that kind of design (and personally, in the article she referred to, I had no trouble reading it);
b) how is it helpful to use the word 'stupid'?

I've read (and been on the receiving end) of some really nasty criticism/feedback in the secular world, and of course by comparison this is exceedingly mild. I know that people are generally fairly careless in their giving of feedback, especially when it's done via letter or email or on a forum where they don't actually have to speak to the person face to face. But something in me is disappointed that this Christian, who wasn't backward in telling us what she thought about theological points we had raised, wasn't a little more gracious in her word choice. Not to say that she shouldn't have written the letter, but maybe she should have considered whether the person who made that "stupid use of colour" was actually going to read the letter herself.

I'm not really upset about it, especially as she said some other lovely things about the magazine. I just thought it was a chance to raise (yet again), how important words are, and how careful we need to be with them.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Comic Book Tattoo

This morning Jess sent me an IM message from upstairs: "A package for Bec!" I knew what it was before I even read the Better World Books tag. It was so large (about 30 x 30 cm) it had to be shipped in a box, which I tore open excitedly. Inside lay one of the most beautiful books I now own.


I can't wait to actually sit down and read it. It's sitting here on my desk and I have to keep resisting the urge to get lost in its glossy pages. Think it's time to put on some Tori.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

bargain

Also, I bought a simple navy polar fleece jacket at Coles, of all places, for $6.00! I don't normally buy my clothes at the supermarket, but this is seriously snuggly, warm and it even looks reasonably good.

Mooncakes

I'm a little early to get mooncakes for the Autumn Moon Festival (apparently falling on 14 September this year) but I'm happy I didn't miss them entirely like I usually do. My family never celebrated this festival, which is why I always forget when mooncakes are 'in season'.
I remember dad giving me a mooncake when I was in my early teens and being stunned by these wonderful morsels, and loving the whimsical name. Mooncakes are sweet and slightly salty at the same time, velvety smooth and meltingly delicious. They're about the size of a fist, but you only eat a little bit at a time (about a quarter), as they are incredibly rich - and not cheap! They can be made with all sorts of fillings, but most common are lotus seed paste or red bean paste. Sometimes they have whole egg yolks in the middle to symbolise the full moon.
You're supposed to have them at celebrations with family and friends (much like celebrating Chinese New Year), but I don't see why you shouldn't have them just because. A lot of Chinese traditions have a vague memory or sense of recognition for me, but I don't really know what they're really all about. Hooray for the internet...
The story I like most about this festival is the legend about the Chinese people organising an uprising against the Mongols in the 14th century by hiding messages inside their mooncakes. Subversive desserts!
I went into the Asian grocery at Maroubra Junction today and saw a table full of red tins and boxes that just triggered a childish delight in me. Some were as expensive as $11 a cake, but I went for a cheaper brand. Even so, as you can see, the packaging is lavish and pretty (and just a bit kitschy!). I just had a taste of one filled with red bean and an egg yolk, and it didn't disappoint.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

balance

I don't know how to ration my energy. When I have a good day like today and I feel reasonably well, I am so excited about feeling good that I end up doing too much and conking out again.

a break

I've been getting those warning signs - the fraying temper, the easily bursting into tears, the sore back and head - so today I decided to Be Kind To Myself (and everyone else) and had the day off.

I tested out my new Laidback Laptop stand, which arrived this morning and is great (although I'm still trying to find the best angle for typing). Then I wandered down to return a library book and bought a couple of books for $1 each at the library sale. Then on to a challenging but fantastic yoga class at the gym.

I decided to go to Edith and Rose in South Coogee for lunch. I'd been here a couple of weeks ago with a few people from church, and it's a delightful little place, inconspicuous and simple, with delicious cakes and pies and coffee. There were only a couple of people there, so I thought I'd just sit in a corner and write. But as I placed my order I heard a voice call my name, and sitting at the window was M from church! So we sat and chatted for a bit while she finished her tea, then she left for another engagement and I had a little time to write.

I also had a little time to eat the most delicious chocolate ganache tart with a raspberry base:

(The other thing I like about this shop is that the retro chairs remind me of Neenish tarts, my favourite of all tarts.)

Then I went to the plant nursery and bought some violas, petunias and poppies to put in the garden so it will be all colourful and cheerful in spring.

A very good day in the middle of the week! I'm so glad I was able to take it off; I think it's just what I needed.

Monday, 18 August 2008

comfort

After a nightmare of a day, where I cried twice at work and came home with a very sore back and head, I:
  • had a hot bath
  • cooked a chicken pie
  • put on my snuggly warm hoodie
  • delighted in the sudden downpour, brilliant lightning and rumbles of thunder
  • am about to eat a bowl of ice cream
Simple pleasures make things so much better.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

weekend

It's been a busy, up-and-down kind of week. One where I struggled with fluctuating emotion and energy levels but thankfully got through to the end and a really refreshing weekend. Some highlights of the week:
  • Salt came back from the printer's this week, and we did a major mailout to over 4000 supporters. I was going to take a photo of all the boxes of envelopes, but really it isn't anything that needs to be immortalised. If you're an AFES supporter you should receive a copy of Salt and a 2009 wallplanner soon (designed by me!). If you're not a supporter and want a copy of either, let me know and I'll hook you up.
  • I managed to get up at 6am on Wednesday for the second week in a row to go to pilates. Although it is counter-intuitive to my night-owl ways, I actually find it easier to make time for exercise in the morning than the afternoon. And it gives me a good energy/endorphin boost for the rest of the day. This coming week I'm going to try adding another class (pump, which I've never done before and is apparently all about weights) in the effort to trick myself into developing an exercise routine.
  • On Thursday Karen and I went to Carriageworks to see the Sydney Dance Company. It's a fantastic space - I think in an earlier incarnation it was where I saw an excellent ATYP production of Henry V complete with live horses and mud filled battlefield - and set me to dreaming of hosting a steampunk ball there. If only I knew more than two other people who thought steampunk was cool, it might actually be a possibility...

    Anyway, K had managed to get $20 tickets to 360°. I knew nothing about it, and after seeing it I think I'd still have trouble describing it to you. It was dark, fluid, a little disturbing at times and made great use of two gigantic mirrored panels running at angles across the stage. It was fascinating, sure, and the dancers are incredibly talented. But I spent most of it fighting the urge to scream at two of the female dancers "EAT SOMETHING!" Talented, but way too thin. So that kind of distracted me too much throughout.

    I actually much preferred the 20 minute show that played in the lobby beforehand, called Love Instalment. It's part of what the SDC is calling its 'overture series', giving up and coming choreographers a chance to display their talents. There were five boxing rings set up throughout the foyer, each with a couple of dancers inside. They all danced independent sequences simultaneously to the sparse but driving musical accompaniment of violinist Nick Wales and drummer Bree van Reykand, and then occasionally the choreography would come together and all five stages would be working together to create a whole. I also liked standing on the ground and looking up at the performance, and thought the whole thing worked really well.

    It was also just great to hang out with K, eat a delicious dinner at Urban Bites and to do something out of the ordinary.

  • Yesterday mum gave me back the study. I've been experimenting with different spaces through the house to work in but haven't been comfortable in any of them. Mum said I could use the study and she was happy to have her computer in her room. So I spent yesterday moving things around, tidying up and making a comfortable space. I love doing that, it makes me feel like I have a bit of control when things are hard to cope with in other spheres of my life.

  • Today has been one of those wonderful gifts of a Sunday, quiet and sunny, with time to do my washing and sit in the sun and play the piano. And now I'm off to a music meeting at church where we're going to talk about why we do music ministry, and we'll also play through some new songs.
Hope you're enjoying your Sunday too!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

determined contentment


Scout doesn't really understand how the sun works. She knows that a sunbeam is warm and good to lie in, but she doesn't understand why it isn't where she wants it all the time. She will reach up and claw at it on the wall, as if she could bring it down to her level. Or she will sit and stare determinedly at the sunbeam until it moves across the room to where she normally sleeps, and then curl up in it, satisfied with her good hour's work.

I think, sometimes, that's how I view contentment. I get frustrated and try and Make It Happen by doing things or forcing things or buying things or whatever. But if I believe (and I do) that true contentment comes from God, then it isn't something to be forced or bought. It kind of creeps up and infuses you when you aren't expecting it. The only thing you can do to bring it on (and it's actually kind of an absence of doing really) is be still and know that God is God. He does the rest.

I wish I could remember that when things are darkest.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

people living with people living with black dogs

Today I got Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone's excellent book, Living with a black dog. I mentioned Matthew's earlier book, I had a black dog a couple of years ago, but this newer book is brilliant because it specifically addresses the carers of people with depression. I guess this could extend to people working with / ministering to depressed people.

It's in a similar style to the first book, a picture book style with very simple text. It has some wonderful insights and advice - and humour too! I reckon it should be mandatory reading for everyone. More info at Matthew's site.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

darkness

Went to see the Dark Knight with Guan and Mary this morning at Eastgardens. A very good movie, but not one I could say I enjoyed. For sheer entertainment value, I'd probably rate Iron Man over it - probably because there are more moments of levity, and in their respective roles Robert Downey Jnr is more fun than Christian Bale. But the Dark Knight had a much more terrifying villain in the form of Heath Ledger's Joker, and a much more absorbing subplot in the form of Harvey Dent's downfall. You can read a more detailed comparison of the two movies here, though note that the reviewer was intent on drinking a bottle of wine during each screening, so his assessment might not be the clearest.

There was a bunch of teenagers in the audience - I guess they must have been 14-15, though they looked about 10 to my ageing eyes. I know that I had a much greater capacity for gore and violence when I was that age, but the fact that they giggled and mocked during some pretty awful scenes made me think they probably weren't old enough to handle a movie like that.

I think that rather than becoming desensitised to graphic stuff in movies, as time goes on I am even more affected by it. I remember absolutely loving Interview with the Vampire when I was a teenager, and watching it again a couple of years ago and thinking "Whoa. I don't remember it being quite this gory." I mean, it's a movie about vampires for goodness' sake. Or Silence of the Lambs, which I found fascinating when it first came out, but which terrifies me now. It's a movie about a serial killer, it's supposed to be terrifying. It's much like mum rewatching Dirty Dancing and saying "I don't remember them sleeping together!", even though that's basically what the movie was about.

Perhaps as I get older, get a better understanding of the brokenness of our world, and see the awful things people do to one another reported on the evening news, fictionalised terror no longer serves as entertainment. As a teenager, it's all just a joke, it's not real, you get a bit of a thrill and a buzz out of being scared and then you shake it off and walk out into the sunshine. But when you start to understand something of man's inhumanity to man, it ceases to become something you can just shake off that easily.

I don't think I'd want to live in Gotham, even if Batman was the perfect saviour.

Friday, 8 August 2008

falling down the tumblr

Oh - if you're not reading this blog in an RSS reader, you might notice a new box on the right hand side marked falling down. This is a new tumblelog that Guan and I have started as somewhere to stick all those quotes, interesting links and totally random things we stumble across as we trawl the internets, that might not warrant an actual post on either of our main blogs. For those interested in procrastination (Ms Gill, I'm looking at you), it might prove handy!

daytime TV

I'm at home today, not too well. Turned on the TV and have become transfixed by the stupidity of the tech segment on 9am with David and Kim on Channel 10. The two hosts present a gormless, 'I have no idea about anything' front - "I want to talk about VOIP...what is it?" "Google Maps Street View...why...what is it? Why would I want to use it?" It's a disingenuous way of conducting an interview to make it sound like a casual chat, but it's just irritating. The thing that bothers me is there are people out there who would tune into this show every day, who would be going "If David and Kim are talking about it, I must investigate this VOIP thing...phone calls on the internet! Gosh!"

I'm sorry, I'm sick, so I can't disguise my snobbery.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Faithful Writer

It seems odd that a writer would have trouble writing about a writers' conference, but I don't think I've actually managed to digest/process the Faithful Writer yet. Maybe I never will. That's part of the problem when you're on an organising committee of any sort, even if most of the running around is being done by someone like Karen The Dynamo. You are just aware of tiny things that have the potential to become problems, you don't get a chance to just soak up the atmosphere or just hang around with the other delegates.

I arrived at 8.15am, as Karen and I had arranged, with the booklets I'd designed. I was barely through the door when I was already being hassled (the hassler was obviously just worried because people had turned up early, but since the registration desk didn't open until 8.30 I don't know why he was so frantic). I had to tell people to just leave me alone for one minute, allow me to put my bag down and work out what I was doing. Guan had kindly bought me a coffee, and once I was organised, we registered about 120 people and welcomed them to the conference.

Trevor interviewed the keynote speaker, Mark Tredinnick, and then did a short devotion. Mark then gave a fairly rambly talk about writing as an act of faith. He talked about how you needed to do the important work of 'mending the nets in the hope that a fish may rise', continuing to work away at your writing even when it seems mundane, so that you're ready when the moments of inspiration hit. I can relate to that.

He encouraged us to aim for the Hemingway school of thought and try to say things in a way they had never been said before. He said "a way of finding your voice is in refusing the clichés that are most precious to you." And the final thing I wrote down was "write the poem, the sentence, the essay, the story, the book that only you can write - the one told in your own original voice."

Good advice.

After a donutty morning tea, Guan and I wandered to a local cafe so he could work on the writing exercise that had been set. I didn't even attempt it; my brain was so scattered and my thoughts so unfocused I don't think I could have managed much. But towards the end of the hour I scribbled a few things down about the whole writing shebang:
Words are ordinary things that fall from our lips every day, but they can also be extraordinary and dangerous when put together a certain way. When they are put together well. But as Mark said this morning, that can take discipline and practice.

Kate Grenville works by a couple of principles. One is 'never have a blank page'. Another is 'you can come back and fix it later'. It was very freeing to realise that, to be released from the idea that something had to be perfect the first time around, or that you had to keep nutting out a phrase before you could move onto the next. Sometimes you just have to step over that roadblock and move on. You can come back and clean it up later.
Just before lunch everyone handed in their writing exercises for us to look through. Karen, Trevor, Tony, Mark and I read them all and pulled out ones we thought would be good for workshopping after lunch. It's kind of hard to do that; just as hard as it would have been for the writers to feel confident submitting something for public scrutiny after only an hour, it was hard to read them all and feel like we'd done them justice. But we weren't looking for the best or worst, just ones that had something interesting to talk about in the workshop.

Karen and I grabbed a quick lunch. After letting Mark read through the pieces more thoroughly, culling them down to a final six, we typed up the pieces so they could be projected onto the screen for all to see. Mark led the workshop and was tough but fair and reasonably gracious. I think everyone learned a lot through the process, about avoiding cliche, about when and how to use certain types of punctuation, about what makes a piece flow better, about how to structure something.

Then it was time for the seminars. Karen and I ran a seminar on Writers and Editors, which oddly enough had the highest number of attendees of all the seminars. We did a kind of tag-team effort, with interview, role play, brainstorming and general discussion all thrown into the mix. I had a minor disagreement with one of the delegates who kept saying, "I've had two books published and my experience with editors has been nothing like that". I never quite know how to respond to things like that without getting prickly and defensive. But apparently I handled it well, and we were on friendly terms by the end. George was very encouraging and said we had done a good job at running training (drawing lots of inspiration from her seminar at Word by Word a while back).

I don't think I had afternoon tea. I seem to recall chatting to Dave and telling him I needed a holiday, but I'm not sure if that was at afternoon tea or lunch. Then we tried to call everyone together for the readings, though we were running a bit late by this stage. Greg read an excellent piece about getting his car (or himself?) serviced at a prestige garage, and some entertaining poems he had written for his children. I read the pineapple tarts section from Undragon Stories - and a brief listen to the audio tells me that I still need to work on slowing down my delivery. And to close, Mark read a selection of his poetry.

After the conference I sat, guarding the bookstall cashbox, while the packing up went on. I was impressed that Karen was still able to rush around, but she just kept going until everything was done. People came up to me and told me how much they loved the story, which still amazes me because I am so familiar with it I can't see any of its merits anymore. But several people said they really really wanted to taste a pineapple tart, and others commented that they felt they were right there in that humid kitchen. One lovely woman said after last year's conference she had scanned the Sydney Writers' Festival programme for my name, and hopes to see it there next year.

Maybe one day!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

with a buzz in our ears

Yesterday was the Faithful Writer conference (which I'll write about later). I helped out with regos, gave a seminar with Karen and read some of my fiction to an appreciative crowd. But it was an exhausting nine and a half hours! Guan and I decided to chill out for a couple of hours before heading in to the Hordern to see Sigur Rós with Duncan.

M had made a delicious vegetable curry and welcomed me with a glass of wine. I lay on the couch trying to do my best impression of someone who cares about sport while Guan and M watched the Bledisloe Cup (I didn't do a very good job). We ate, drank some coffee, then Duncan joined us and we headed off.

The bus was full of carousers heading into the city. It was noisy and bright and I felt like I just wanted to curl up on the seat and go to sleep. But by the time we got into the Hordern and found our seats, I had revived somewhat (we had made the judgement call early on that after being at a conference all day we probably wouldn't be up to standing in a crowd for three hours...I'm glad we opted for the seats!). We caught the end of a set by Pivot, which I enjoyed mainly for the incredibly meaty drum sound and the excitement of just being there.

The music between acts was sort of floaty and ethereal, which was fine in some ways and in keeping with the music we were going to hear, but unfortunately for three very tired people it just made us feel a bit sleepy. "I wish we had some gummi bears," I said, and Guan dutifully produced half a bag of gummy dinosaurs. Perfect wish fulfilment!

The lights dimmed and the crowd roared as the four members of Sigur Rós walked onstage, dressed variously in frock coats, tails, and what looked like a boiler suit. I had had the strains of Svefn-g-englar running through my head all afternoon, so I grinned when the band came out and started with that song. I don't know the whole of their back catalogue - actually, I only really know Ágætis Byrjun and their latest, Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust - so much of the set wasn't hugely familiar to me, but that didn't seem to matter in terms of enjoying the music.

They painted amazing soundscapes with rollicking drums, cello-bowed guitar, drumstick-beaten bass, glockenspiel, vibraphone, piano, brass...a constant swirl and propulsion of sound with Jónsi Birgisson’s otherworldly voice floating and screeching and hovering over the top of it all.

"We'll need your help for this one," he said in his thick Icelandic accent towards the end of the show. "Can you clap along with us?" Then they launched into Gobbledigook, from their new album. The song has a childlike quality to it, with fast clapping and a 'la-la-la-la' refrain, but the most incredble energy in the relentless drumming. It has an almost yearning, impossible-joy feeling to it. The entire room seemed to be riding a wave of delight, as the lighting, which had been in sombre blues and greenish yellows up until that point, exploded into colour, and the brass players let off confetti cannons from either side of the stage. The crowd squealed like children. It reminded me so much of what happened at Bjork's concert that I wonder if it's something in their cultural makeup, this propensity for creating simple pleasures, for the joy of pure sound and shimmering light and fluttering bits of glittery paper falling through the air.

Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust translates as 'with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly'. At times, despite my tiredness, I wished it would just keep going and going. I wasn't the only one, judging by the way the 6000-strong audience screamed and stamped on the floor for more. The band did two encores, and ended with an almost humble bow, as at the end of a theatre show.

PS. Also, if you've ever wanted to know how to pronounce Icelandic words check this out.
PPS. If you want to be superior and pronounce the band's name correctly, it's "si-ur rose (the i is like the i in "hit". "rose" is said very quickly)". Roll those Rs!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

vertical bag jump

video

A higher degree of difficulty than plain old horizontal bag-stalking, the vertical bag jump is inspired, of course, by Aoise's beloved puss Hamlet. Hammy was the absolute king of this manoeuvre, made even more challenging by jumping into A4 envelopes. Scout may be the boss of the paper bag, but she has a way to go before she can reach Hamlet's level of skill.

Hamlet's crazy ... crazy in love!

This is so fantastic.

[via Anthea on the Facebook news feed]

Public Service Announcement

We have council garbage and recycling bins at our office. No longer do we have to take rubbish home or illegally deposit the office garbage in the street bins. Yes, we have moved to unheard-of levels of sanitation here in Kingsford.

Through all the sarcasm, I am actually grateful for this. Amazing how such small things make such a big difference.

I'm chugging along with Salt - I'm in the final design stretches now, and hopefully it should be ready to go to print by the end of the week. Which is tomorrow. Er. Hmm.

Tomorrow I also have a review with my boss, and a taskforce meeting for SPRTE. Then counselling. Might be seeing the Dark Knight in the evening with Dave if I haven't completely melted down by then. On Saturday, I'm speaking and presenting a seminar at the Faithful Writer conference. And in the evening going to see Sigur Ros at the Hordern with Guan and Duncan.

I'm glad I have nothing to do tonight - methinks an early bedtime is in order.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Light


There is something very pleasing about candlelight, especially Northern Light candlelight. We went to the Remo VSC warehouse shopping night last Thursday and bought a bag of the tiny Muse beeswax tealights. They're much smaller than a normal tealight, and so I thought I'd try my hand at making some holders for them out of FIMO. The millefiori one looks very pretty lit up, but it's a bit chunky and blobby when you look at it close up. So I have to work on that with the next one I make. But for the moment, I'll just enjoy the candlelight...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

winter hoorays

Hooray for being indoors, in pyjamas and wrapped in a thick blue dressing gown, while the rain steadily pours down outside. Hooray for a big, warm bed to lie in and listen to the water smattering on the window panes, splashing off the roof tiles and pooling in puddles on the driveway outside. Hooray for being well-fed, for studying the Bible and for friends. Hooray that God forgives me my bad temper and my tears and loves me just as I am.

Monday, 21 July 2008

elsewhere

I have been missing France lately. I really enjoyed it when I was there in April - possibly because I was striking out on my own, I had arranged it all myself, I was being entirely independent and seeing what I wanted to see, and experiencing the joy of new things. I got to catch up with beloved friends. I wandered around and enjoyed exploring. I ate well. I stayed in lovely places. I revelled in the beauty, in the otherness of the surrounds. I delighted in the sound of that beautiful language.

Sometimes I wish I was there still, but I have to keep remembering that if I lived there, eventually I would catch up to myself. I'd still have to work through the issues that I'm working through, and life wouldn't be like it was on holidays because, well, it wouldn't be holidays anymore.

At the same time, I've been feeling so grateful for our house and the level of comfort mum and I enjoy, living here. It's so strange feeling at home somewhere, but feeling restless, like maybe you belong somewhere else at the same time. I think that's part of the Christian thing as well, that we live on this Earth for a time, but we really do belong somewhere else. This isn't our home. Maybe that's why it feels so hard to be here sometimes.

But in the meantime, I have to keep thanking God for little joys. And maybe I'll go and watch Amelie again...

Saturday, 19 July 2008

sing along!

This is one of the best FAQs ever and demonstrates why I giggle in girlish glee whenever Joss Whedon has a new project out. The last installment of Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog goes up sometime today, and it will be available for viewing free until Sunday night. So check it out! It's great.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Red Tree

As you know from my previous rant about WYD, I was a little worried about getting in and out of the city on Tuesday night. I was also worried as I wasn't especially well that day (had been home sick from work), but I was determined to get into the city to meet Karen for dinner and to hear the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

The trip into town was uneventful. A group of American girls got on at UNSW, though they weren't pilgrims - they were dressed up for some concert or other, and had so much makeup on I was tempted to run a finger down one of their faces to see if it would leave a channel.

The city was buzzing with people leaving work, pilgrims swarming around Hyde Park, and others just wandering aimlessly in bunches down the streets. I was early so I took the chance to stick my head in the Apple Store, absolutely packed at 6pm. I was impressed by the glass stairs, but I don't know that there would be any reason to go back there (unless they were running an interesting workshop or something).

I wandered down to the GPO and saw Karen perched on a stool, scribbling away in her notebook. I gave her a hug, and we ordered dinner from the GPO Wood Fire Pizza. I read her notes for a difficult article she's writing, and we chatted over prosciutto and funghi pizza (the word 'funghi' inexplicably had us in giggles).

After we ate our fill, we strolled across Martin Place to the City Recital Hall. Every time I go there I am struck by the beauty of the building, and the delightful way it's nestled into a laneway, almost unseen from the street. We climbed up to the top tier of seats and were almost right in the middle for the performance.

A large, portrait-oriented screen hung down above the orchestra. As the ACO began Shostakovich's String Quartet no 15, the sepia-toned images from Shaun Tan's The Arrival were projected onto the screen. The angular darkness of the music blended well with the haunting illustrations, though occasionally the projections were a little too swift and I wished I could have gotten more absorbed in the pictures. And I have to say, sometimes I find Shostakovich's style a little too obscure and jagged, and long for something a little more lyrical that I can get lost in.

Well I got that in the second half of the program, a new work by Michael Yezerski, Richard Tognetti and Lyn Williams called The Red Tree. It was inspired by Shaun Tan's wonderful book of the same name, which explores a complex, sad and wondrous emotional landscape through incredible imagery. An unnamed red-haired girl moves through her day, struggling with feelings of isolation and depression, searching for understanding and solace. It's a theme that I can relate to, of course.

The seven movement work was large and grand and sweeping, yet intimate and personal and piercing. The Gondwana Voices children's choir was an integral part of the peformance, and they were fantastic, singing in a mixture of English, Finnish and Hebrew. So tightly co-ordinated and perfectly pitched, and the occasional soloists had the purest, bell-like voices. I think my favourite movement was The World is a Deaf Machine, with the percussion of the choir's hands and feet punctuating the driving melodies of the orchestra. The work ended with the last few positive, hopeful images from Tan's book, and left Karen and I with contented smiles.

Karen and I parted at Pitt Street and I caught the bus home. It was mostly empty and smelled of vomit, but, I thought, at least most of the people seemed to have left the city. Well. Except for the one bunch of French pilgrims who got on at Liverpool Street and romped onto the bus in a blur of orange, waving their flags and shouting "Bonjour! Bonjour!" at the four of us already on the bus. We looked at them blankly, willing them to just. get. on. the. bus. They sat up the back and chattered loudly in French, getting more and more raucous the further away from the city we got. I put on my headphones to try and recapture some of the calm I had felt at the end of the concert.

It was a relief to get home, hug my mum, and get into bed. I spent some time poring over the book of The Red Tree before finally drifting off to sleep. Thanks for a lovely night, K!

bulldozers

Okay this is just ridiculous.

World Youth Day organisers, with help from police, have been clearing plants from the park, at Parkham Street in Surry Hills this morning, in order to build a two-metre wide ramp over the park for pilgrims to walk across on their way to Randwick racecourse.

But residents have resisted the move, saying it is over the top and will damage the treasured five- by 10-metre park.

George Pell said earlier this week that Sydney had been "invaded by joy" - I'm not sure about the joy part, but the invasion feels about right.

Monday, 14 July 2008

WYD rant

I just have one question. How much money did the Catholic Church give to the NSW Government and the City of Sydney to get permission to take over Sydney?

There are many things that bother me about World Youth Day ('day'? Ha!), including:
  • There are around 300 road closures at various times over the six days, including chunks of George Street in the city and Anzac Parade in the Eastern Suburbs (which are two major public transport routes). The events and road closures are also blocking access to two major Sydney hospitals (Sydney Hospital and Prince of Wales);

  • The CBD and Darling Harbour are majorly disrupted for the pre-WYD events, with the procession of the cross and icon from the Harbour to Central today, and a mass for 150,000 at Darling Harbour tomorrow night (this, of course, happens to be when I'll be in the city for a concert at the City Recital Hall, and researching how I am going to get home is what started this rant off in the first place);

  • Randwick Racecourse and the area within a 2km radius are almost a complete no-go area for the whole of this weekend (my mother's church in Kensington (just near the racecourse) isn't able to have a service in their church this Sunday because the parishioners won't be able to park anywhere near the church);

  • The whole Pope-worship thing really bothers me ("'...He's like Jesus Christ on Earth,' said Liba Vazquez, 17. It was worth waiting two hours in the cold for a glimpse of the Pope, she said." (SMH) No. He is not like Jesus Christ.). And they're projecting images of Benedict on the Harbour Bridge, which is just creepy all round;

  • And the thing that bugs me most? That people think that this has anything to do with Christianity. Trust me, it doesn't (I've been told by a reliable source that I'm starting to sound like a Reformer - it's like history come to life in a really annoying way!).
I might actually say something helpful in the next few days about all this, but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

more things I made

I got inspired by the FIMO website to make this tealight lantern for M's birthday present.





And also, at the last minute, I gave her the owl too. Because, really, who likes owls more than M? That's right - no one.

Birthday meals

I think the best parts of birthdays are the meals with wonderful friends. Well, and the presents. But the meals are always the standouts. It's probably a throwback from childhood when you have the birthday party with all your friends, and the food you like, and a cake. Sometimes we have parties as adults, but there are always lovely birthday meals, no matter what.

In the last few days it's been a birthday for two lovely friends, Karen and Mary.

Karen's birthday was on Friday, so Ben, Guan, Elsie and I took her to the Chinese Dumpling and Noodle House on Anzac Parade for...Chinese dumplings and noodles, oddly enough. Ooh, and honey chicken (if you have given up on honey chicken as something flabby and over-sweet from those all-you-can-eat takeout places, give this honey chicken a try - it's absolutely divine). I love eating there with these people! And I think K enjoyed her birthday lunch.




Today was M's birthday. She loves breakfast and brunch, and I wanted to take my friends to Pyrama, so it was the perfect opportunity. Although grey and cloudy and a little on the chilly side compared to last time we went, Linda fixed us up with a heater and we were right on the edge of the outside area, overlooking the light rail.

The food was yum, and needless to say, enjoyed by all (yes, even G, despite his 'grumpy' face).