Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31. Day 366. Happy New Year

I don't go in for New Year's Eve celebrations too much, mainly because NYE and I have a bad history.
As a much younger woman I would always buy into the hype, get all dolled up and go out and par-tay.
Inevitably this would lead to too much alcohol-induced "fun" and I can remember (well sort of) many a year walking home at dawn, minus the shoes, sobbing about what a complete failure I had been during the past year.
When I finally awoke with a pounding head, cocky cage mouth and most of the gin out of my system I would wonder what on earth all that was about.
These days it is a much more sedate affair and far more enjoyable. There may well be a glass of champagne and a swim. There will be the annual board game tournament with family, sparklers, party poppers and I may even see the clock tick over at midnight. If the moment takes me I will walk up the hill to see the South Bank fireworks. Or not. I will let my hair down, a little just like my niece Cleo did this afternoon. And I know something for sure it will  be much happier and tomorrow I will feel much better for it.

Year in Review

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30. Day 365, Go to jail

Seriously you can not take my family anywhere.
This morning we decided to journey up to the Boggo Road Goal Markets with my aunt Glenda who has been staying with us over Christmas. Such a good idea until we quite carelessly managed to lose Glenda. One minute we were buying tomatoes and she was at the ATM. The next minute she had vanished without a trace. Gone. Lost. And it was quite some time before she was sighted.
It turns out she was whisked away into the jail her crime being that she had admitted that her father, my paternal grandfather, was a warden at the goal.
To Jack Sims (pictured above), the operator of tours at the historic prison,  that makes her gold and he was not letting her escape without taking her details for an oral history project he is working on.
After her particulars were taken (and possibly fingerprints, who knows) she was released without charge and allowed back to buy a German sausage with mustard.
Glenda remembers the gaol well, especially being sent up there on pay day to collect the wages so her mum could go shopping. She would be greeted at the guard house where most of the officers knew her by name. This is the kind of stuff Jack wants to know about.
He is also very keen to get his hands on a bar of soap delicately carved by a prisoner which my late father had. The soap, which has been stored in a tobacco tin for decades, was a present to my grandfather from a prisoner and it has always been considered special by my family.
It is now in Glenda's keeping and may end up in the prison museum if it gets off the ground.
So it seems kind of fitting that she was again getting money and being escorted into the prison.
Next time we might need to lock her up and throw away the key.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 29. Day 364. Juggling

As a mother, I claim to be an expert juggler constantly managing to keep the seemingly infinite number of balls required to run a family, household and job in the air. I would claim that I never drop any and that I make it look effortless but my mother taught me never to lie, especially if you are going to put it in writing.
Of course my type of juggling is not the same as that of Terry Wells, a member of the Fabulous Flying Fish Brothers which is probably just as well as I am hopeless at throwing and a butterfingers when it comes to catching.
Terry was plying his wares at the West End Market today en route to Woodford for the annual folk festival.
He sees the folk festival as a bit of a spiritual home as it was there in about 1993 that he decided he wanted to be a performer. He loves the festival but believes that since leaving Maleny it's all become a bit structured and buskers are no longer permitted - but it's still a spiritual home. This is just as well as right now he doesn't have a home home. Until recently he lived at Noosa but now lives nowhere in particular.
That, he says, is just the way he likes it as it gives him the freedom to go where he likes no strings attached.
Wherever he lays his many hats, that's his home.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 28. Day 363. Love hurts

I am sure I am not the first one who felt the agony of a broken heart the first time over an animal.
I clearly remember crying for days when our golden Labrador Tamson was killed on the road in front of our house. The pain seemed unbearable.
We'd been given the beautiful creature by the parish priest who, bizarrely, had himself been given her by a couple in gratitude for marrying them. There is no love quite like puppy love.
Pets have a special place in a child's heart. For my own son the first pet death was of a pet mouse.
He decided we needed to have a burial and so we all gathered solemnly in the back garden. He then announced that we should each say a few words. And so we did even his grandmother and father who quite frankly never could stand the mice. It was memorable indeed.
Today there is heartbreak in my Mum's home where a pet cat has disappeared.
Not much more than a kitten, the little one journeyed from Sydney with my brother and his family for the Christmas holidays.
It was securely left in a closed up section of the house until someone left the door open and it fled.
Signs have been erected around the area but as I type there still no cat.
Tears all round. Yep, creatures like these wasps I photographed as I walked the streets today will deliver a sting but there is no pain worse than the pain of a broken heart.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 27. Day 362. Buried treasure

While officially it was a work day today, this is a city that is still very much in holiday mode (and will remain that way until school goes back at the end of January if the truth be told).
There was some activity at South Bank as the workmen took the Christmas decorations down, an operation that seemed a little sad and perhaps a bit premature. But for the most part it was all about relaxing.
The cafes were busy and the beach packed.
Despite the overcast conditions it was hot and the water was the most popular way of cooling off but this bloke decided that a cap and a coating of sand was as good a way as any to keep out of the sun.
The kids were happy to oblige piling it on proving once again that we keep taking whatever our kids throw at us, often without even raising an eyebrow.
One suspects that given the unique staying power of sand in the bits there will be something there to remind him of his day at South Bank for some time to come.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26. Day 361. Boxing Day

Boxing Day. The international day of hanging around, doing not very much and scratching together what you can in the way of food.
It is also the day of watching the cricket, shopping for batteries and if you have any energy or money left after Christmas fighting for bargains at the sales.
In my house we very much adopted the do as little as possible approach. Spending all morning doing nothing was so exhausting that I had to lie down and nap in the afternoon. That's why God made Boxing Day, to recharge the batteries after Christmas.
By mid afternoon, I'd mustered enough energy to go for a walk where I spotted this blue-faced honeyeater doing much the same as those I'd left at home - hanging around, foraging for food but otherwise up to very little. He'd probably turn on the cricket if he could.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25. Day 360. Merry Christmas

Some things really improve with age.
I am the first to admit that not everything is glorious about being the parent of a teenager but on Christmas morning it is definately better to have a 14-year-old than a four year old.
My darling came ambling into the bedroom just before 8am.
In previous years it has been earlier, much much earlier,
Bleary eyed and barely focused we've watched as the youngster opened the Santa sack to see what is inside.
Some years, if we were lucky, we might get back to sleep. Many other years we were trying to assemble or desperately searching for batteries.
This year, there were no batteries and no assmbling a sleep in AND an afternoon sleep. And there are presents, the turkey and the pool. After a long hot day jumping in was a treat for all.
Taking the plunge were Jessica, Scarlett, Connor and Cleo.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24. Day 359. Taking the plunge

There are two types of people. Those who take the plunge and those who don't.
When it comes to getting into the pool, I am not a dive right in type.
I inch in, one toe at a time. Acclimatise. Another toe slightly deeper. Repeat.
The business of immersing my body can be slow and laborious but totally worth it.
The children laugh at me. A lot. Loudly. If they feel like taking their lives in their own hands they may splash. This will result in me retreating and the process will have to start over.
Kids, I find, are all dive right in types. It doesn't even seem to matter what the temperature is like in or out of the water. In they go.
This is Miss Cleo demonstrating the fine art of walking on water.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23. Day 358, Roundabout Christmas

Roundabouts. Seriously, they are not that hard. And yet people seem to find negotiating roundabouts - and in particular the correct way of indicating when on or approaching roundabouts - extraordinarily difficult. Someone in our area has obviously decided to give Santa a bit of hand. In a very festive manner, the directional signs on the roundabout near my place have been festooned with tinsel. I rather like to think that some little person is trying to make sure that the bloke in red doesn't miss his or her place what with so many different houses to visit in such a short time. Fair enough too. If you've been good all year you want to make sure you get what's coming to you. If you've been bad may be you want to make a late run to get in the good books. Either way it is very pretty. And speaking of very pretty, the other two photos are there just for that. I like them. It's Christmas so why not?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22. Day 357. And they all came tumbling down

I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.
Theatre boy's production wraps up tonight and if history is anything to go by tomorrow he will not be a happy chappy.
Performing gives him a natural high but what goes up must come down.
After weeks of intensive rehearsals you'd think that there would be an element of relief at having nothing to do but it never works that way.
Distraction, diversion, sunshine and exercise are the best tactics.
So it may well be that we head back to South Bank tomorrow.
Charles and I spent a rare date day enjoying a leisurely lunch and walk through the markets today.
The pre Christmas activities are in full swing and one of my favourites was the giant games.
Jenga has always been popular in our house but playing with giant blocks in public adds a whole new dimension.
We watched as this family built up the tower to more than 30 levels before Mum Jenny finally had the dubious honour of being the one to bring the lot tumbling down.
What a laugh.
Hopefully we will manage the same tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21. Day 356. Too busy to scratch yourself

Can anyone explain why we do it to ourselves?
It is, according to the songs, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Yet with all the ta-la-la-la-ing going on it is so easy to wear yourself out.
All that shopping, eating, drinking, partying etc can leave yourself too exhausted to really enjoy yourself.
Time out, I say.
With so much going on and the oppressive heat I found myself skipping my morning walk this week.
This should have given me more time and more energy. Of course the opposite was true.
Cutting out exercise and "me"  time is the problem of the season not the solution.
So the routine is back and with it the walk and the bird photos, this time taken from the mangroves on the north bank of the Brisbane river.
This bloke was in no hurry perched happily in the mangroves finding plenty of time to scratch itself.
I feel better for taking the time to watch.
Now who has a rum ball?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20. Day 355. Unwrapped

Patience is a virtue and I am not that virtuous.
I don't like to wait. So even though I know my new Canon 450D should be wrapped and under the tree it was around my neck going for a walk this morning.
And it is a beautiful thing.
I walked for two and a half hours snapping as I went. Totally excited. After 355 days of taking photos every day the novelty was starting to wear off but not today.  I'm back.
I come from a family not that is not that good at waiting to unwrap what's under the tree.
My younger sister Lisa was the worst. She would sit under the tree for hours squeezing and prodding. The weird thing is that she would shake, rattle and roll not only the presents to her but the ones from her even though she knew exactly what was inside.
These days to add to the excitement and to prevent sneak peeks, the presents don't go under the tree.
We have to work for them following a trail of cryptic clues to find the prize.
I reckon I will be made to work especially hard to earn my camera. I reckon it will be totally worth it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19. Day 354. Let it snow

It's a weird thing. Even as plants and people wilt in the stifling summer sun we follow Christmas traditions created and far more appropriate in a northern winter.
Christmas windows glisten in snow watched by people glistening in sweat. Ovens are cranked up in homes that already feel like furnaces. Poor Rudolph's red nose is probably sunburned.
Don't get me wrong. There will be no prawns and salad here. I, like the turkey, will be stuffed for the traditional Christmas dinner.
But dream as we might, a white Christmas just isn't going to happen here except ....
It was snowing today. Brisbane has a new Christmas tradition, a family Christmas show that will open at the Edmund Rice Performing Arts Centre tomorrow.
The wonderful thing about How to Make Snow is that while it is about a white Christmas, it is very much a true, modern Australian Christmas story.
It promises to be a beautiful thing starring Mirusia Louwerse, Luke Kennedy and Bryan Probets as well as a cast of young actors including my own theatre boy.
Australia needs its own Christmas stories and I firmly this will be one.
So if you are dreaming of a white Christmas....  How to Make Snow

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18. Day 353. In too deep

In these days of social media many people (and yes I know I am one) can barely blow their nose without telling the world about it on one social networking site or other.
And with camera phones in every pocket it is almost as if it didn't happen unless there is a photo of it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Despite this and despite the fact that I have taken more than 60,000 photos this year there are really not that many photos of me out there (and that's definitely a deliberate choice). I am the one in the family who takes the photos and thus I appear in very few.
Selfies may be a current obsession but it is one trend I generally avoid.
Today I chose to make an exception because it was too darn hot to venture much beyond the swimming pool.
So this is what you get, me proving:
1) I can talk under water
2) It is a good thing there aren't that many photos of me out there
3) Selfies suck
So there you have it. Status update: Susan blew her nose. Under water. She's cooler than you are if you are anywhere away from water or airconditioning in Brisbane today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17. Day 352. Stuffed and roasted

I had something of a sympathy for turkeys today mainly because I felt stuffed and roasted. Just add some gravy and cranberry sauce and I'd be right for serving.
According to the thermometer it wasn't especially hot today although 32 degrees is on the warm side in anyone's language. But it felt much, much hotter thanks to killer humidity. By the time I returned from my walk I was basted in my own juices, a somewhat less than attractive situation.
The wilted self was finding inspiration hard to come by and I'd almost reached my front gate when this gobbler presented itself and seemed to sum up both the day and the season perfectly. I swear that's a look of turkey terror on its face (although it is perfectly possible it was just down wind on me which would also explain the flight response).
The weird thing is that Christmas Day may well be a day just like today and yet we will be firing up the oven and roasting as we do every year. We are not a family that would consider cold meats or seafood even for a second. No matter how foul the weather there will be fowl on the table. We can all be roasted together.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16. Day 351. Christmas cheer

I am old.
There was a time when a seriously good night out was one you couldn't remember the next day.
Not any more. Don't get me wrong. I love nothing more than a drink out with friends but I don't want to pay for it financially and physically for an age after.
Last night was a great night out with friends and this morning my mouth felt a little like the bottom of a cocky cage and doubtless smelled a bit like camel's breath but the pain was fleeting.
Up and at 'em
Tonight was also a great night strolling down the hill to South Bank where the Christmas celebrations included films projected above the pool. The crowds were doing handstands with excitement waiting for those without a drink in sight.
Across the bridge in the city crowds also gathered for the Christmas parade and pantomime. Another stunning display of colour and goodwill.
Best of all were the animals - you can't do a proper Christmas parade without three wise men on camels, Mary on a donkey and a little drummer boy.
All were there and much, much more.
It was a delight.
The kids were in raptures (especially when the animals did a poo) but even officially old folk like me couldn't help but smile.
A terrific Aussie Christmas- I'll drink to that.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15. Day 350. Wherever woman goes Mangoes

Every year for as long as I can remember a box of mangoes would arrive on our doorstep in the week before Christmas. The gift of Bowen goodness comes courtesy of one of my husband's grateful clients and he is always suitably excited. Frankly I couldn't have cared less.
In my own mind I didn't like mangoes. I had bad childhood memories of stringy fruit caught in my teeth and sticky juice running down my chin. This was not something that held any fondness at all - just the opposite.
People told me I was crazy. I gave them a mango and told them they were welcome to their own opinion and a piece of fruit.
And then one day I tried one. It's a rare thing but I will admit I was wrong. Mangoes have a reputation of being delicious because they are.
I have made similar discoveries about olives and beetroot (only the fresh stuff not the canned stuff which is still revolting) but mangoes are a standout change of heart.
Even so, a box of mangoes that all ripen at the same time is really more than the two mango eaters in the home can devour so I often give a few away to neighbours.
This year one of the "neighbours" helped him or herself to the first fruit from the box that arrived yesterday.
My husband left the box out on the back deck to allow the fruit to ripen. The possums clearly didn't care to wait.
I have no evidence it was possums except that I have seen them on the deck often before and the idea of rats or other rodents is something I would rather not consider.
I guess we will need to find another spot for the ripening.
For the wildlife at least this is forbidden fruit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14. Day 349. School's out for summer

When my son was in primary school we had a term for a noise that was intolerably loud - it would be described as louder than the noise made after the final assembly on the last day of school.
Six hundred hot, sweaty and over exited kids screaming in unison is even more ear piercing than me on a roller coaster.
Today school is out for summer and, for my niece Cleo, it is the last day at her present school before moving on to middle school next year.
In honour of the occasion six of her friends came over for an after school party and sleep over. Jumping for joy were Cleo, Amy, Sasha, Lucy, Erin, Nicole and Bailey
There was a treasure hunt in the back garden and a balloon pop game not to mention fairy bread and party pies and sausage rolls.
I popped in for a visit in the afternoon and if the volume then was anything to go by I have to say I am very pleased I was heading home and sleep in my own quiet bed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13. Day 348. Out of the mouth of babes

This morning my little darling was trying to spin me a story. Some complete dribble was coming out of his mouth and we both knew it and laughed.
Eventually I said: "I'm on to you. Don't you think that after 14 years and 11 months I'm aware of your tricks."
He said: "It's true - but I learned from the best."
Yep, every now and then I find myself hearing this echo and my own words are coming back to haunt me.
But there's one critical difference and that's the volume.
My little duckling was born without a volume switch. I've looked and looked and as far as I can tell you can not turn him down.
It is possible there is also no off switch. There's a snooze button but no off switch as far as I can tell.
If he's breathing, he's talking.
This dusky moorhen chick at South Bank this morning seemed to have something of the affliction. It was making its presence known loud and proud. And like my little love, there was dribble coming out of its mouth being fed by its mum.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 12. Day 347. That magical touch

It is a little known fact but I used to be a magician's assistant.
The Sensational Susan (as I liked to call myself despite the fact that the name never took off) was the Mother of all Assistants to The Amazing Oliver.
This all came about because when Mr O was in Year 2 we hired a magician for his 7th birthday. The young man was inspired and took up magic in a big way eventually performing with a dove, mice, guinea pigs and even a gold fish in his act.
It is one of my great regrets that he gave up before I got to be cut in half.
It is one of Amazing Oliver's great regrets that he gave up before he learned how to make his mother disappear. What child wouldn't want that occasionally especially at homework time?
So it is that I love magicians so today when I was in the Queen Street Mall I couldn't help but stop to watch Jason Maher entertain the crowds.
The looks on the kids' faces held that same type of wonder I remember from that seven-year-old's birthday.
Right now it's a magical time of year but for me there's something special about magic at any day of the week. Abracadabra.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 6. Day 346. Overgrown

I am a summer girl.
I don't do winter. I don't do cold. I want to crawl into my little cave or under the doona and hide there.
But even I have to admit that the colder months have their advantages.
Quite simply, the more clothes you wear the less you have to worry about what we shall call maintenance.
A big jacket and a pair of jeans can hide all manner of sins. Things can get overgrown, untidy and a bit fuzzy around the edges and the world need never know.
Problem is, as every home owner knows, if you let the home maintenance schedule slip it takes a lot more work to bring everything back. See this house at West End I photographed this morning? That's what I'm talking about.
So summer is well and truly with us an 'tis the season to spend a fortune on waxing, polishing, spraying and buffing and I am not speaking about the car here.
But if you are going to throw open the windows to let in the breeze you want to make sure everything looks its best, right?
There are some things we don't want the neighbours to see.

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10. Day 345. Going a bit nuts

At this time of year it is easy to get a bit over-awed. Who wouldn't start to feel a bit prickly and ever so slightly nutty with the combination of heat and the pre-Christmas frenzy? In my house you can also add a very intense schedule of ferrying to rehearsals and shows and an over-dose of annual specialists appointments for medical review for one family member of other. Ugg. It's enough to make a person want to go bush... and so this morning I did.
Eve though I live within walking distance of the CBD and the theatre precinct I also have a very nice area of remnant bush just on the doorstep.
Normally I feel the pull of the city lights, South Bank or West End for the morning walk but today I trekked down the steep bush path to the riverbank. Very nice it was too although I probably won't make a habit off it.
For me real escape means a beach even if it's just the man-made one at South Bank. At heart I'm a West End girl.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9. Day 344. Scaredy Claus

My mother who knows these things says that she does not have a single photograph of one of her grandchildren aged two with Santa.
It seems that this is the age when Stranger Danger and fear of strange men with beards kicks in.
Certainly as I  roamed the shops in the city today I saw quite a number of children of about that age putting up what could best be called firm resistance to going anywhere near the fat man in red. Sitting on his knee was simply out of the question.
Let's face it the idea of a bloke you don't know coming into your bedroom as you sleep is not something many of us would want if we stopped to think about it for too long.
One of my darling nieces would go so far as to refuse to sleep on Christmas Eve unless she had a written guarantee from her parents that presents would be left in the living area in the house and not under any circumstances in the bedroom. Fair enough too.
But in the city today few where thinking that far ahead. It was shop until you drop time.
This photo was taken in one of the malls where I went to check out cameras. As well as the Christmas baubles you can see both me (fully clothed) and a model in her undies. At least it's not the other way around. That would be one way to keep the big man away on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8. Day 343. Join the dots

Remember colour by numbers and how much fun it was?
I was such a goody-two-shoes that it never occurred to me to do anything but obey the instructions. If number seven was supposed to be red, number 7 would be red and it would be very neat and between the lines.
On occasions a ruler was used to join the dots in dot to dot just to make sure it was as accurate as possible.
It is a shame I don't apply the same need for details to other aspects of my life such as assembling things from that big Swedish furniture mega store but that's another issue.
Anyway, my artistic talents never really developed much beyond the colour by numbers stage so I was rather pleased to hear Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping explain to the crowd at the Queensland Art Gallery how his giant snake installation was moved from his homeland to its pride of place as part of the APT7 exhibition which opened today.
The 160 aluminium and steel pieces- many of which look strikingly similar but are not  - were all numbered so putting them together was no more difficult than assembling Lego (and doubtless a great deal easier than assembling Ikea furniture especially if you refuse to read the instructions).
The exhibition is free and fascinating and the gallery is air conditioned so what are you waiting for? Take a number.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December 7. Day 342. The Cockatoo

If you are as old as I am you will remember Austin Tayshus who brought the world the comedy track Australiana.
It was filled with some of the worst puns imaginable like the bit where a young lady was directed to go out the back to have a pee with the blokes because "she's probably seen a cock or too".
Yep, it's  lame but I have to admit even though it is almost 30 years since it was released it still jumps to mind when I see a flock of cockatoos as I did this afternoon at the University of Queensland.
Yes, this is me confessing to having seen more than one cock or two.
That's the Australian sense of humour for you.
And for all the official outrage at the Australian radio station prank call to  Dutchess Kate's  London hospital, I'm pretty sure most people secretly admire the gall of it (while feeling more that a bit sorry for the nurse who took the call).
Come on, you've got to laugh. You're a galah if you don't.
*While the outcome of the prank call was tragic I don't believe it was foreseeable. Thoughts are, of course, with the family but some of the critics would do well to also consider the impact of their outrage on the young radio hosts.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 6. Day 341. The Renovators

I am ever so slightly addicted to home building and renovation shows.
I love how with just a little effort and a big fat wad of cash the architects, builders and interior designers get to turn something that looks like it should be demolished into something that looks like it should be in a glossy magazine (what none of these houses EVER looks like is that anyone actually lives there but that's another story).
But no matter how much I love these show I know there is no way I would ever undertake such a project. There are several reasons.
1) I have watched enough of these shows to know that no project ever comes in within a bull's roar of the projected cost
2) We own only three tools and I am not sure we know how to use any of them
3) I'd rather not get a divorce and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a major building project would end in the divorce courts.
It would go like this. I would show my husband a colour scheme and offer a suggestion. He would say (sensibly) "Whatever you think". I would make a selection and later when it was all locked in he'd say "I thought you would have gone with the orange". Repeat. Often.
This would drive me nuts. I want him to have an opinion (provided it is the same as mine) and I need to hear it when it counts.
Plus building projects are inherently stressful and when stressed somewhat toxic things have been known to come out of my mouth.
Still I watch other people's  building projects with the same fascination as I do the TV versions.
So my eye was taken by the "renovator's delight" which I spied on my morning walk today.
This house will be fabulous with a little tender loving care (and one of those wads of cash).
I'm not sure what's happening there but whatever it is must be as toxic as my stress response if the attire of the tradesmen on site this morning is anything to go by.
Either that or an alien invasion happened and no-one told me. Jusy let me check my Twitter feed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5. Day 340. My Cup Runneth Over

Anton Chekhov said a good upbringing means you won't spill sauce on the tablecloth but that you won't notice it when someone else does.
Sounds about right. Unfortunately if it is true, my upbringing was very bad indeed.
It is possible that I might MIGHT be able to stop myself from laughing should someone else knock over the sauce. It probably would depend on who and where and possibly whether my own cup was full or empty at the time.
But when it comes to not spilling myself, well that's a whole different ball game. I couldn't spill more if I was a political party with disastrous opinion polls.
This is probably why I really like this photo I took  this morning at the Aquativity water play park at South Bank.
If just one cup out of a whole bunch were to fall over and spill its contents, it would be the one closest to me. It's a special talent I have, a talent that makes the manufacturers of washing detergent happy and ensures that white clothing and I have an unhappy relationship.
But seriously on days like this, most of us would be happy if the cup did in fact run over.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December 4. Day 339. Sandy Claus

Days like today where the mercury is going to be up around the 40 degrees mark, any Queenslander with the opportunity and the brains seeks out the beach.
We love a bit of sand. We love lying on the sand, we love burying ourselves (or our nearest and dearest) in sand and we love building a sand castle. And of course we love diving and washing it all off.
By 9am this morning the crowds were already gathering at the city beach at South Bank and the action on the sand was hotting up (figuratively and literally).
Just metres away behind a barricade near the Surf Club there was mega sand castle building going on.
A team of sand artists was hard at work building one of the most amazing sand creations I have ever seen. It doesn't get much more Aussie Christmas than this.
I only hope that when they were done for the day they got to join the amateur sand artists for a dip.

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3. Day 338. The getting of wisdom

Nearly three decades after the fact, I still have unpleasant memories about the removal of my wisdom teeth.
Now I like jelly, custard and ice cream as much as the next person but if that's all you can eat, the attraction wanes after a few days.
And I won't even mention the complete lack of attraction of swelling, pain and in my case snot dripping from the new hole between my sinuses and my mouth.
So it was that I was happy to provide a spot of "babysitting" for my 16-year-old niece Scarlett who had her wisdom teeth removed on Friday.
Either she is nowhere near as big a sook as I was or wisdom teeth removal techniques have improved (or both) but she's doing very well.
There are ice packs and drugs but as you can see she's kept her sense of humour.
So if she doesn't need the jelly ....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2. Day 337. Oh Christmas tree

I love my Christmas tree. I love its extravagance. I love the way that it lights up the room. I love its presence (and the presents) but most of all I love that Rupert Murdoch paid for it.
The tree was bought with the proceeds of a story I wrote about my father's struggle and death at the hands of Alzheimer's Disease. He was only 62.
Very little is known about early onset Alzheimer's and I decided that I had the skills to tell the story no matter how painful it was. I also decided that the cheque that followed needed to go to something special.
I wanted to buy something that would be with my family for a long time. I wanted something joyous but I would not normally be able to justify buying. But most of all I wanted something that would always remind me of the happy times with my Dad.
For some families Christmas seems to be a battle ground and a magnet for the worst possible behaviour. Our Christmas were never like that. Our Christmases are never like that and the tree is a symbol of that.
The rule is that the tree goes up on December 1 and comes down on January 1 (that's a little bit more flexible depending on how big New Year's Eve is).
So it was that the tree went up last night and today the kids across the road came and had a look. Checking it out are Eliana, Mitchell and Kirralee who were heading off home to put up their own tree.
So, once again, Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1. Day 336. The Christmas photo

You know the movie, The Nightmare before Christmas?
We have our own version of that. It's called the annual Christmas photo. This dubious tradition dates back to when I was a child and my mother would dress us all up in our Sunday best and then attempt to get all of us smiling or at least looking like no-one was about to kill or be killed.
It was indeed a nightmare and yet I carried on the tradition. I figured it would be easier as I have one child not four and I do not have to send the slides - yes slides - away to be processed and then the cards printed.
But it remains an annual Christmas torture perhaps because of my slight (?!) obsessive compulsive nature and the desire to get it just right.
In the early years there were as many as 12 rolls of film sent off to the chemist to be printed. The positive reinforcement (read bribe) for cooperation from the model growing with each reshoot.
This year I decided for a pool shot because nothing says an Australian Christmas quite like diving in and who doesn't love taking the leap fully clothed?
Given that my vision included dry clothes there could be a maximum of one go at it a day. This could have been a very risky strategy but here it is - the 2012 Christmas photo captured on Day 3.
The model is still talking to me and only one trip to the video shop as bribery was involved plus he got to cool off on a hot day.
Result. Yes?

November in review

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30. Day 335. Poison

Some people are poisonous.
I think it would take a wicked person to deliberately kill a beautiful old tree and yet that's exactly what has happened to this Moreton Bay Fig Tree in West End.
A sign on the tree says the vandalism of the Brisbane City Council tree is being investigated and  that interfering with protected vegetation is a serious offence.
One can only hope that the person or persons responsible get what's coming to them.
In the meantime, tree doctors have been in and covered the external roots with bright orange protective tubing. It is unclear (at least to me) if these are to protect the tree from further damage or to protect people walking along the busy footpath from injury from damaged roots.
In any case, people are finding their way of showing their love for the tree.
A week or so ago the words "Kiss me please" appeared on one of the tubes and today I noticed two crocheted hearts had now been hung on the tree.
Let's hope that's enough to save the tree and that karma, if not the law, catches up with whoever is responsible.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29. Day 334. You light up my life

Australians are often critical of our slavish devotion to American culture and our sponge-like willingness to soak up everything that happens in the great US of A.
It has to be said that there are times that some things that happen in America are best left in America and taking them on is to the detriment of our own culture.
At times ... but not always.
When I was growing up in Brisbane no-one decorated their houses with lights other than perhaps a string of fairy lights in the window.
I would look at Christmas movies out of the States with their extravagantly decorated homes with a mix of admiration and amazement.
And then it started happening here and now our displays of illuminated Christmas spirit are up there with the best I've seen overseas.
Every year we pack the car and take a night time road tour to check out the best of them and tonight I visited my first for the year the Ashgrove home of my friends Shane, Elizabeth, William and Charlie Oliver.
Spectacular isn't it?
I love their low voltage flashing animated displays so much I am almost tempted to deck out our house - almost. And then I remember that last year it took me three hours just to untangle the strands of lights needed for our tree and the attraction fades just a bit. The light bulb in my head goes out completely when I recall that I have to call in a handyman to change the downlights.
Sorry neighbours but you will never get more than a string of fairy lights in the window from me. If it helps I'll share a map of my best lighting display finds.
Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28. Day 333. Hang on!

I've put my credit card in a safe place. A very safe place. The type of place that's so safe that even I can't find it.
This is not a new tactic to curb Christmas spending but yet another example of dopey behaviour on my part.
Still that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that five separate direct debits come from that account and that's five businesses that have to be notified of the new card number.
Being put on hold five times by companies who insist my call is important to them is my idea of hell.
The flames leap higher when I am eventually answered by an overseas call centre where finding a common language in which to communicate appears too much to ask. Inevitably in such situations I find myself talking slower and/or louder and/or using hand gestures in equally futile attempts to be understood.
To try and avoid the hours of hanging on blood rushing to my head like this piece of art outside the State Library, I attempted a new approach. I would drop into their stores in person.
Stop one the phone company where apparently they can't take payment details in store. They gave me the phone with the overseas call centre on the other end of the line ... Epic fail.
Stop two the health insurance company where I was advised there would be a long wait and really I should go home and update my details on the computer.
Clearly the idea of customer service centres has nothing to do with serving customers. Silly me.
Will try again tomorrow, tackling the issue feet first.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27. Day 332. What a star

Believe it or not I once nearly divorced my husband over Christmas Crackers.
Now people might understand the desire to take extreme action over the completely lame jokes or bizarre trinkets in the table decorations but even so divorce may seem a trifle over the top.
But it goes like this. I love Christmas and one year my husband announced that there would be no bon-bons on the table. No negotiations.
Over my dead body, I thought. Words such as Grinch and Scrooge may have been uttered. Bah humbug to that. He could take his turkey and stuff it. And so on. And so on.
It turned out, I meant those little tubes of joy that you pull to get a paper hat and the aforementioned goodies. He meant lollies and he was annoyed that in previous years people had filled up on sweets and not left room for the turkey. Something was lost in translation. Divorce papers withdrawn.
Still, I would totally take on anyone prepared to mess with Christmas. It brings out a big dose of child-like joy in me and one of the best bits is the ceremony of putting up the tree.
Under my strict rules, our tree will not go up until December 1 but because they have a large project I forgive the workmen in King George Square making a start on Brisbane's giant tree today.
I loved their attention to detail, giving the project the attention befitting such an important symbol of Christmas in our city.
A stellar performance even.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26. Day 331. Watch your mouth

Back in my youth, the opportunities for take away food were far more limited than what we "enjoy" today.
Friday night generally equalled fish and chips. Other than that there were only really two options:
1) The finger lickin' good chicken created with 11 different herbs and spices. Back then we were so unsophisticated we actually referred to it by its full name not realising that just initials are far trendier.
2) Chinese food. The chicken chow mein was a particular favourite although any similarity between this dish and anything ever served in China was strictly coincidental.
Take away was a rare treat and nothing was going to stop me from having my share on those occasions it was offered. As such, I continued to deny any link between the Chinese food and the inevitable asthma attack that would follow.
"No mum, the MSG is not making me wheeze. It's pollen, stress, dust, exercise, my siblings, anything but the Chinese food."
Of course I am older and wiser now (as are the makers of Chinese food which is pretty much an MSG-free zone). So I would not knowingly eat things that would make me feel bad. I watch what I put in my mouth..... Nope, like the crows on top of this industrial bin at West End this morning I am at times a bit of a garbage guts.
Truth is I was feeling disgusting. After repeated doses of antibiotics had upset my inner workings, my wise dietitian suggested a temporary diet eliminating such things as wheat, legumes and mushrooms to restore balance.
I did so and was feeling great - until yesterday.
At my lovely niece Cleo's birthday breakfast about 17 different diet crimes were committed and today I am paying for each slice of bread, each pancake, each mushroom, each baked bean and doubtless the sausages as well.
There were plenty of things on offer I could have safely eaten but ....
If you are what you eat I seriously hate to think what that makes me. In future I will watch my mouth

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25. Day 330. The Claus are out

Sunday is meant to be the day of rest but that certainly wasn't the case this morning. Well before 7am, the Claus were out. Thousands of Santas lining up at South Bank for the annual Variety Club Santa Fun Run.
I guess at this time of year the bloke in red has to work pretty much around the clock and he can use all the helpers he can get.
The fun run raises funds for children's charities and today the people of Brisbane responded. There were Santas being carried on Dad's shoulders, Santas in prams, Santas in wheelchairs and even a blind Santa with her guide dog. My prize for the cutest Santa went to two-year-old Josie.
It was a great display of the real Christmas spirit not to mention a chance to dress up and have a bit of fun (if your idea of fun is running five kilometres in a Santa suit in a Brisbane summer).
I've said it before that charities now need to find new ways to make a connection to get people to open their wallets and this one has really hit the mark.
These Santas already delivered a gift to children who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs to live, laugh and learn. Ho, Ho, Ho.