Saturday, December 29, 2018

Things I Saw This Morning.

  1. Elderberry blossom.




2. Two cats on the paving outside the door - one pure white, the other pure black. They were sitting like bookends - until they leapt at one another and and fought yowling and screaming across the backyard and over the back fence. Puss apparently didn't even notice. Too busy thinking about breakfast perhaps.

3. The beans I was just about to pull out as they had most of their leaves burnt off in the recent heat wave are shooting and flowering around their bases so they get a reprieve.

4. A stray 'volunteer' rockmelon has come up in the veggie patch. A gift from the compost heap perhaps?

5. The strawberries in the hanging baskets on the veranda which have just sat for months have suddenly produced flowers and fruit and they looked stunning and tasted delicious.

6. The rockmelons have fruit forming! These are from seeds I collected from a 'volunteer' plant several years ago and they are the best of these melons I've ever tasted.

7. The marri tree in our front garden blossom has opened - a little later than usual this year - and it's abuzz with nectar seeking honey bees.

8. We have ripe blueberries.

And that was in just the first hour after I got up. Who knows what else the day may bring.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

So I'm a Feminist

That's something to be proud of because as long as women are paid less than men for the same work, occupy less than half the leadership roles in business, are overwhelmingly more frequently the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault - and in may parts of the world are treated as subordinate inferiors to men with restrictions on where they can go, what they can wear and who they may speak to without their husband's, father's or brother's permission, we all should be feminists. We need to be vigilant and fight for gender equality. That, after all, is what feminism is about, equality between men and women. I'm passionate about ensuring my granddaughters grow up in a better world than I did and that they learn from an early age that a woman can be as strong, intelligent and capable of greatness as a man.

With that in mind, while they both received other Christmas gifts from us, books also figured among their prresents. Some were simply entertaining but I included for each one book that said something more. For Miss Two and a half it was 'Not All Princesses Dress in Pink' by Jane Yolen. It's a delightful journey through all the other things a princess can do apart just wearing pretty dresses. Turns out this is not the first such book she has been given. Her other grandmother had started on this track even earlier with 'The Feminist Baby' by Loryn Brantz. Miss Soon to be Seven's book is 'Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls' by Elena Favilii and Francesca Cavallo. This contains one hundred short illustrated biographies of famous women. They range from women like Elizabeth 1 of England to scientists like Marie Curie and through to present day women like Malala Yousafzai. Both have excellent reviews so I hope they like them.
Do I have an agenda? Of course, I do. I want these girls to grow up knowing that dreams are achievable, that it may not always be easy but others have succeeded and made a difference to the world and they can, too.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Traditions

I've just been wrapping Christmas presents. A few years ago the family decided that we would only share presents for the children and it's a nice way to celebrate things without the added pressures of costs which for some family members was a real issue.So the pile of presents isn't huge but it's colourful and put together with love. We're extra lucky this year because we get to share in two gift exchanges for the littlies. We had one this morning because one small granddaughter will be elsewhere on the day itself and so we got together for a pair of small cousins to spend some time together - oh, and exchange gifts, too, of course. I have to say there were two very happy little girls.

This morning's exchange is a relatively new Christmas tradition brought about by changed circumstances but this is a family that is very big on getting together. We do it at the drop of the proverbial hat for birthdays and other festivals - we are a very multicultural family so there's quite a mix of these - and all those here always meet up for lunch on Christmas Day. Here we follow a long standing tradition of all contributing something for the meal and the dishes themselves are also  largely determined by tradition. For Pisces and me part of our contribution is a huge fresh fruit salad (this is his task and he sits and cuts up while watching and listening to Christmas carols). The Christmas pudding is traditional - and actually stands up well as a summer dessert surprisingly enough - but this is Australia after all and the forecast for Christmas Day is 34°C so a cool fruit salad makes a refreshing option for those of us who are not enraptured by such a heavy dessert. There are the vegetable dishes, also part of a long established tradition. Nowadays Virgo has taken over making Nanna's special pumpkin dish and equally special tomato and onion dish, someone does a green bean casserole, someone else a potato salad and large quantities of roast veggies appear magically on the table. There's turkey and a ham for the meat eaters and some kind of veggie creation for those who are not carnivores. It's all delicious and all part of family traditions inherited from our parents and in turn from their parents.

This year is particularly special because many far flung family members are going to be there with us, several bringing their new partners and the littlest one at two and a half is starting to really get into the spirit of giving - and receiving. There is inevitably some sadness. Over recent years the older generation has been slowly disappearing and while they're much missed they remain alive in our memories as we keep up the traditions they started.

So as you can see we are going to have a lovely day - full of love, laughter and joy. I wish you all the same.



Monday, December 17, 2018

My Special Diet is NOT Me Just Being Finicky

Yesterday I went to the Christmas break up of a social group Pisces and I belong to. We've been meeting as a group once a month every month since we were newly weds so we know each other pretty well. Christmas parties are catered for by everyone bringing a dish with the menu co-ordinated by the hosting family. This works well and the array of goodies is pretty spectacular.

So far so good because this way of catering means that those of us who have special dietary needs can make sure we can find at least one dish (the one we bring) we can eat. I'm one of those people because I cannot eat sugar but there are several others in the group who also find it problematic so there are usually a few other dishes to choose from. My sugar intolerance is severe. Even a tiny amount can lead to severe abdominal cramps, nausea and other debilitating symptoms including having to make frequent rushes to the toilet. This is not fun as you can imagine particularly when I'm not at home so I'm very careful about what I eat when out and always ask the maker of a dish exactly what is in it.

So yesterday I'm sitting talking to a couple of my friends and because one of the women in the group has recently been diagnosed with diabetes the conversation turns to special dietary needs and in passing I mention how I have to stick to a sugar free diet and why. I'm asked how I manage it and explain the intricacies of living sugar free which is not easy in our society. Ten minutes later we start the meal and I wander around the table asking what is in the food whenever I'm in doubt. There's an interesting looking brown rice salad there so I ask what's in it of the maker, one of the women I had the previous conversation with only minutes before. She says: rice, pineapple, walnuts and a vinaigrette dressing. That's fine so I take a small serve and eat it. Big mistake. By the last mouthful the cramps have started. 'Oh,' she says, 'it does have a little bit of sugar. Sorry.'

So we have to make a rush for home, which is fortunately not too far away, before things really get unpleasant - one toilet, twenty people - nah, can't take that chance - and that's the end of our evening.

I get it. People can be picky about what they eat - there's a lot of evidence that many people living gluten free don't actually have gluten intolerance for instance - but there are a lot of us who do have genuine intolerances or who even have life threatening food allergies and we can be made really ill if we eat foods to which we're intolerant or allergic. My particular intolerance is rare but it's real as are the intolerances of people with coeliac disease or Crohn's disease while my neighbour has such a severe peanut allergy it means a frantic rush to hospital by ambulance if she ingests even a minute amount. So if someone asks you what's in a food don't assume it's because they're being difficult and do make sure you tell them everything because you may otherwise be condemning them to unnecessary pain or worse.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Summer Veggies


Just a picture of part of my veggie patch - about half of it in actual fact. I tend to grow things we use a lot of, vegetables that are hard to come by in the shops and things that are better freshly picked. In the photo there are four different kinds of beans growing up the fence, a variety of different beetroots, kale, eggplant, capsicums, chard, cucumbers on the trellis, sweet corn, spring onions, shallots and various herbs - several kinds of parsley and basil and coriander. In other parts of the garden there are tomatoes, more sweet corn, pumpkins, lettuce, pak choi and zucchinis and more herbs.

Ugly as it is the shade cloth is an essential these days.for many plants. When I started gardening many years ago we'd never even thought or heard of using covers in a vegetable garden. Now any leafy greens wouldn't survive the summer without it and nor would fruit like capsicums. Even the tomatoes get severely scorched if they are not protected. Our summers tend to be drier and hotter, too, and the shade cloth and mulching help to cut back on water loss and so make the water bill less frightening.

Those who have doubts about climate change are, I suspect, not gardeners because for those of us who've worked in the garden for many years the conclusion is as obvious as it is inescapable and the science confirms that it is happening. Whether it's all man made or partly cyclical the science shows we are at a tipping point. There's no doubt that human activities are contributing to what is happening and we need to act now to deal with mankind's part in what is happening. Who cares whether we're entirely responsible. We can improve things by acting to reverse or at least slow our contribution to climate change  While we quibble about details we're losing the opportunity to make this a better world for future generations.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

New Eyes and NaNoWriMo

Well almost. I have had cataracts removed from both my eyes and brand new whizz bang plastic intraocular lens inserted. It's early days yet and the initial results of the first one were less than stellar but now things are settling down a bit and I'm hoping to be able to see more than a blur soon. So far my vision is not as good as I would like but that was always a possibility and as I said it's early days. I'm assured that new glasses - which I can't get tested for for another six weeks - should deal with this so all in all I'm pretty happy as far as that's going.

What I'm not so happy about is the time lag between the operations and getting the new glasses which will in total from the first operation will add up to around sixteen weeks. That's quite a long time because blurry vision is very disabling and my independence has been very much compromised. Right now I am only able to type this because I can increase the font size to scary levels and that lets me read. It's still blurry but the magnification enables me to pick out what I've type - and since the computer obligingly underlines spelling errors in red I can take up my trusty magnifying glass (I have five of them scattered around the house and another in my handbag) and correct them. It does make for a rather lengthy process, though, and as my eyes tire the blur increases until everything is illegible so this post will be fairly short.

In spite of this I did manage to do some writing during NaNoWriMo. I've taken part in this several times now and I find it a good way to push me along in whatever I have going at the time. I've never aimed at actually writing a novel - mainly because speculative fiction novels are usually somewhere around 120,000 words in length and I'd find it impossible to achieve that in thirty days. Instead I aim at about 50,000-60,000 first draft words. This year that was obviously not going to happen so when a friend challenged me to simply try for however many words as I could manage in a day every day I accepted.

And - drum roll, please - my total was 15,691. That may not sound much but believe me it was very hard work to get that far. Even better than my word total is the way it has set my mind buzzing. The work in progress, which had stalled due to my health problems, is advancing again and that makes me one very happy writer.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: 100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell

I haven't been reviewing lately but someone recommended this book to me and even before I started it the title grabbed me. Inspired by Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton 'such a nasty woman' during the 2016 Presidential campaign Hannah Jewell set out to talk about important women historical figures. Many of them have been all but forgotten as history is more often than not patriarchal not to mention misogynistic. These are women from all over the world and from every time in known history who walked their own paths ignoring custom and even laws to live the lives they chose. They range from empresses and queens through to social rights activists, poets, authors, entertainers and trans women. Many of them lived in times when to go against the status quo was dangerous, even life threatening but they persisted. As products of their times some took on men at their own game and by their rules. This meant they weren't afraid to get their hands dirty and they did. Among them are absolute rulers, generals and pirates. Others, like the anti slavery activists, suffragettes and campaigners for land rights racial equality took the route of resistance. Whoever they may have been and whatever route they took all have in common that they ignored social norms of their times and got down to living life as they chose. Some suffered deeply for those choices and others are now lauded for their activities.
Although I had heard of many there were equally many others I had never heard of and it was a revelation to read about so many amazing women.

But don't think this is a stuffy history book. It definitely is not and doesn't pretend to be. Jewell's writing style is light and entertaining, sprinkled with her own views on subjects like colonialism, racism and misogyny. Her snarky commentary had me laughing out loud at times but be warned it does get sweary so if that bothers you perhaps this is not for you. For the rest of us go for it. It's educational and entertaining and I recommend it highly.

Hannah Jewell is currently the Pop Culture Host on the video team at The Washington Post and was formerly senior staff writer at Buzzfeed UK. Her website is here