do your work, then step back…


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“Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back
the only path to serenity.”
                              ~Lao Tzu

One of my recent projects has been a labour of love for our daughter. A genealogy scrapbook. As with most tasks, paying attention yields a few lessons along the way.


so much choice…

As you know, I have always been a snapper of photos. My own photos fill albums. Inherited photos fill a file drawer. I now realise the photos I’ve taken for myself are mostly a form of visual diary. This is me, where I went, who accompanied me and, God help me, what hairstyle I was sporting at the time!! Probably interesting to no one but me!


‘under construction’

But the inherited photos were more. They worried me. It became obvious it would be my job to assemble this branch of our families’ histories in some form that would help our daughter understand from whom, and where, she had come. Since we have only one offspring, and both of all our families are in the USA, she will likely be the only surviving disseminator of the family history in Australia.

What a responsibility… for us both.

a humble woman of great spirit and talent

a humble woman of great spirit and talent

We have travelled with her as many times as possible over the years; driving her all over to see her relatives. They cover a fairly wide swath, from Wyoming and Illinois to Ohio, Virginia and Florida. We are a mobile lot! But of course, there were a couple of generations she never met. Fortunately, all of her Grandparents lived long enough for her to know, at least a little. (an earlier post about the Great Grandmother— see photo above—she didn’t know, which includes the words to the poem depicted above)

You can see the dilemma… how to put together the knowledge in my head, the photos in the file, give her a sense of connection, and not overwhelm her.

Gee, that sounds easy.

ages and stages of life

My Mother, ages and stages of life

Here were the parameters on which I settled:

  • there would be ONE, 20 page (10 two sided pages) album. No more.
  • the objective would be to show the primary lineage, and key relationships, not all the distant relatives
  • whenever possible I would insert a photo of her with the person(s)
  • whenever possible I would show her at a similar age of key persons in a previous generation photo
  • dates and names would accompany photos making future identifications possible

    from Italy and back again

    from Italy and back again–3yr old girl in top photo is me, 3yr old in bottom left photo is our daughter, the man depicted in the top photo, left side, and bottom two photos is my Dad, with his parents and children, and also in Italy, where his Dad was from.

Here is what I realised while working on the album:

  • too much information is still too much
  • there are deep emotions attached to a project like this
  • it requires love and lots of time to do this (about 60 hours, I estimate)
  • no matter what I put together, it is only MY view. Others may (will probably) be critical, but the job is open for them to do their OWN version.
  • when the album was finished I felt massively relieved.

    through the ages

    through the ages

She has not seen the album, except online in a photo stream I set up for her. I will hand carry it when we go to Adelaide to see her in a few months. She will love it, but I also know that she has many other photo albums, and another scrapbook and… enough is enough.

The time was right. My work is done; I can now stand back. Serenity reigns.


PS. ‘Do you work, then step back’—then step forward for something else… I prepared this to post while we are away starting end of next week, but our daughter has had an unfortunate health event (piriformis syndrome) that necessitates my going to Adelaide to help with her recovery before traveling. This is a long anticipated family holiday back to the US, so we want to be well enough to enjoy it. It is likely you will not hear much from me for a month, but I will be collecting new things to share with you. Keep well. And yes, the album is traveling with me to Adelaide! xx

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


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radiation tatto on centre line


radiation tattoo on side coordinate

These are my ‘tatts’. My ‘tit-tatts’, I guess you could call them. (I don’t wish to be crude, but I want you to remember the message of this post.) These are the tattoo dots that are etched permanently into the positions the radiographers used when I had radiotherapy treatments after surgery for breast cancer. No, the tattoos didn’t hurt. The radiation didn’t hurt either, at the time. But it made me tired, and I had a nasty heat rash all over the area where I was treated, and there were after effects. The treated breast tissue is changed by the radiation and remains larger. New bras, girlfriends. I needed physical therapy treatments as well as continued self treatment to loosen the muscles of the underarm area which painfully tightened.

I was lucky.

I had treatable cancer and it was caught early. And that is the reason for this post. A routine mammogram was the key factor. A talented radiographer saw in my very dense tissue a ‘spot’. To you and I it would look the same as all the other dense spots of tissue.

But it wasn’t.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take care of yourself and urge your loved ones to do the same. Get routine mammograms and do self-testing. Life is precious. We are precious to someone; and we must be our own advocates.


Dad, brothers, Grandmother, me, Grandfather

This photo was taken the same year my paternal Grandmother had a radical mastectomy. She lived another 30 years and did not die from cancer. I am the 3 year old little girl holding her hand. Believe me, my life would have been the poorer if she had not survived. I had breast cancer at the same age as her. I knew about her cancer because she and my own Mother, who is a nurse and cared for her, talked about it. But there was a lot I didn’t know about it, and have since learned.

As well as the cancer category of this blog, where I talk about my time in treatment, here are a couple of things that you, or someone you love, may find useful or interesting:

The Emperor of all Maladies – A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, Amazon paperback (This book tells the history of cancer and treatment and is very readable and interesting, except for a chapter or two that are a bit ‘scientific’. A word of caution; it is somewhat confronting in its honesty about past treatments and about prognosis of certain cancers. I read it the same year I was treated and had to put it down a time or two, but was very glad to have read it when I finished)

Courage Through A Lens – A breast cancer journey (I wrote about this photographic journey in a past post. It was a remarkable, if confronting, ebook, link on old post here.)

I donate to http://www.abcr.com.au/about/ because 100% of their proceeds go toward research.

I do not dwell on this event, any more than I dwell on other major events/lessons one has in life. However, it is my goal to shed light whenever I can. I learn things and share them.

Live, learn, share.



For those of you unaware, you can read my ‘about’ page; I started this blog while in treatment, to let my family and friends know about my journey since I was 1000 miles away from home for the surgery (Adelaide), and 1000 miles the other way from home for the treatment (Darwin)

In My Kitchen – October 2014


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Outside reflection in red glass splash back

Outside reflection in red glass backsplash 

There are a few new things in my kitchen this month, and some of them are even edible! First of all, I love pale turquoise, duck egg blue, pale blue, whatever you call it. It looks nice with the red backsplash in my kitchen, but I have loved it long before the red came to the kitchen. Recently, Target has added these simple pieces of turquoise crockery to their shelves. Except for a few serving dishes, I am still using the same, plain, white, inexpensive dishes my Mum bought me 38 years ago, when I moved into my first apartment–on the other side of the world! So I have treated myself to a few new pieces, and to be honest, my heart leaps just a little with happiness every time I use one of these! Their simplicity and colour appeals to my aesthetic. And at $3, $5 and $7 a bowl, the bank account is happy too!


Turquoise from Target


other turquoise vessels









collection of mini dishes


In fact, further investigation reveals, turquoise has been a consistent choice for me for years. I have this mini-dish collection that I use all the time for tea bags, chocolates, spices, sauces or storing half lemons cut side down when I am likely to use them again soon. I have decided, in fact, that I will only collect pale blue or turquoise ones to add in future… that will slow down the acquisitions!!





Pendleton vinegars

The edibles that have found their way into my kitchen this month started with this delicious Australian made Champagne Vinegar, made by the same company who makes the equally delicious Merlot vinegar. The names on them are different, presumably for marketing purposes. I bought the Merlot in a winery in South Australia, and the Champagne in the vinegar section at Coles supermarket, but the company tells us they are both their products! I recommend both.


Mayver's Peanut Spreads

Mayver’s Peanut Spreads









I’m a huge fan of Mayver’s Australian made nut and seed butters and these two jars also found their way into my trolley at Coles!! The cacao one is unsweetened and just a little bitter for my taste but add a few drops of Stevia and it is wonderful as a spread or topping. The coconut one is perfect–also is unsweetened. (the 90% Lindt is used in lieu of 100% unsweetened chocolate which is impossible to get here in Alice at the moment)


Savannah Pepper Mill

The standout purchase of the year, though, has to be this pepper mill. It was $46 AUS but compared to custom made wooden mills, that is cheap. The features we most appreciate with this one are: you can see how many peppercorns are remaining; there is a ring around the middle with which you select the coarseness of the grind you prefer; and finally, it has a small plate that automatically slides across the bottom when you finish grinding that keeps pepper from littering whatever surface it rests upon. Brilliant.




My favourite recipe of the month is this simple Zucchini Bake. It is delicious as an accompaniment or as breakfast, and delicious left over as well.



Zucchini Bake

sliced zucchini bake

sliced zucchini bake

Zucchini Bake



Makes 4-8 servings

45 minutes to make and bake

(hint: make the night before if you want to bake it for breakfast)


  • 3 cups sliced zucchini
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (3-4 egg whites)
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1 oz mozzarella
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (or omit all together)
  • ½ tsp fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt & a few cracks of black pepper


  • Heat oven to 425
  • Thinly slice zucchini and layer in an 8” square pan
  • Beat together eggs, egg whites, salt & herbs
  • Spread the cheese in an even layer then pour eggs over everything.
  • Cover loosely with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Uncover and let cook until cheese is browned and bubbly

Have a delicious month!


Please check out the other IMK posts at figjamandlimecordial.com  Thank you to Celia for hosting this monthly tour through kitchens around the world! Pop on over there and see what other interesting things are happening.


We’re the People – Sydney jogger


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Lunch time jogger Sydney Harbour

This morning, early, I heard the weatherman say Sydney would be having the warmest two September days in succession for 150 years! I harkened back to a winter day in July, when we stopped in Sydney on our way back from overseas. We found an inviting bench near Circular Quay and did some people watching at lunch time. There were dozens and dozens of joggers, this being one. All the times we have been here in the middle of the day, it has been like this. I wonder what someone transported from 60 years ago, into this situation, would think?? Some of the joggers might be tourists, but I wonder if people who have long commutes find it easier to fit their exercise in at lunch time than before or after their work day? I admire their commitment, regardless.

My morning walks are done as a moving meditation and contemplation time, as well as to keep my lower back in check. Usually, they are a time to soak in the serene arid land beauty and listen to a bit of music. Lately, they have become occasions for photography too. But this morning, two rogue Spurwing Plovers chased me! I stared them down and clapped loudly, which sent them in another direction, eventually. But they had a few jolly good dives at me first! Goodness knows what the neighbours thought!!

Plovers aside, those of us who walk or jog as a diversion lead privileged lives indeed.

Have a great week.


 (This is part of a series of photos based                                                                     on an original post titled ‘We’re the People‘)

a hungry woman chases Spring


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Spring fills me with a little bit of crazy. Something inside me feels just a tiny bit drunk with magic. It is, perhaps, a little more subtle here, in arid land, than in other climates, but there is no doubt when it arrives.


herb garden: chilies, mint, parsley, basil, oregano, dill, thyme, onion, chives (rosemary, curry tree and lemon thyme are elsewhere)


Onions against mosaic wall

My winter-worn herb garden has been transformed into culinary promise. (The bloody fairies went ‘walkabout’ when I needed them… but all is forgiven now.)


bees on onion flower

A month ago, the rosemary bloomed profusely, sending out the invitation ‘Come one, come all, there’s a party in this garden!’ The citrus trees soon joined the festivities and have set small fruit. This week, onion flowers are the perfect source for drinking nectar.

Non-native wildlife, behaving suspiciously

Non-native wildlife, behaving suspiciously

No doubt the neighbours have seen me around, creeping… oddly, capturing images in early morning light… off with the fairies, perhaps?


tiny green visitor, shot with macro lens on iPhone camera


translucent wings of moth shot with macro lens

A few tiny, winged creatures find their way inside. I lean and stretch and contort as I capture their delicate profiles.


evening light illuminates kitchen

Rays of light also find their way inside, as well as illuminate the outside from new angles.


laden Wattle tree against blue sky

Native Wattle trees are heavy with musky scent and ball fringe– ready for Mardi Gras!IMG_2890

Fragments of childhood visit briefly; “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree….”  (Joyce Kilmer 1886-1918)





“Ring-a-ring-a rosie, pocket full of posies…”


Desert Rose, floral emblem of the Northern Territory, Australia


Eucalyptus blossoms


Fig cuttings ‘nursery’

figs in larger pots with irrigation

figs in larger pots with irrigation


Fiona fig, redolent with promise–yet again!






The fig babies have gone from the nursery to more spacious surroundings, so they can survive the harsh summer heat. Old friends have donned new green frocks, pretending they will play along! Be careful Fiona, there are four adolescents vying to take your place! (see 2013 Spring in Arid Country)


Gazanias (for nibbling) in kangaroo thoroughfare (with compost bins!)

IMG_2892Especially for the resident kangaroos, there is the ‘gazania run’… located in their regularly used thoroughfare, punctuated with a peace offering of water at the end. (It seems to stop the little darlings tearing at the other plants as they try to get to the water at irrigation points.)


secret watercress

I have a secret little patch of… watercress… plenty of moisture in a sheltered pot, shaded by the yucca plant. Shhhh…

light on curry leaf tree and yuccas

light on curry leaf tree and yuccas

New season light has incited my rebellion for the mundane…  breakfast cooked to inedible this morning, and where was the cook?? Running back and forth to see if golden highlights had reached this plant or that corner of the garden. What is food when you are crazed with Spring?

your friend, the Light Chaser.







We’re the People – Alice Springs – Beach Volleyball


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Pick a Saturday morning in Alice Springs, or any town in Australia, and you will find a ‘sausage sizzle’ going on somewhere! As far as I know this is a tradition unique to Australia. When I grew up in the USA in the 60’s our fund raising activities of choice were the ‘car wash’ or a ‘bake sale’. Bake sales are popular here too, but the sausage sizzle is king. I can’t eat anything they serve at one of these, but I loved that this group was so happy to be spending their Saturday morning outside of K-Mart, raising money for something I didn’t even know was going on here in Alice– Indoor Beach Volleyball! Not only is it going on, this is their 10th year!!!

I do lead a sheltered life.

I donated to their funds and wouldn’t accept any food but I asked them for a photo and said I’d promote their activity. They loved the idea. The game they play is apparently a mix of beach volleyball and indoor hard court volleyball. Their season commenced on 25th August and runs through until 5th December and is played at 11 Kennett Court, when they are at home. They travel interstate for games as well.

I say, thumbs up for the Desert Sands group, doing something wholesome, but tongs up for the Aussie sausage sizzle, and all the funds it has raised over the years!


Desert Sands Indoor Beach Volleyball Team

 (This is part of a series of photos based                                                                     on an original post titled ‘We’re the People‘)

all that’s sugar is not sweetness


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During my early morning walks I pass many eucalyptus trees. But I noticed one in particular had ‘sugar’ on the leaves. When our daughter was little, she told me the kids used to pick the sugar off the leaves and eat it, as it is sweet. Wondering what the ‘sugar’ would look like under the intensive view of my tiny macro lens for my iPhone camera, I plucked a couple of leaves and brought them home with me.


‘eucalyptus sugar’ under macro lens

At first it was exciting… then…eew.

I saw much more than I bargained for. And as I saw, I Googled. And as I Googled, I learned. So I thought I would share it with you.


young psyllid building ‘lerp’ dome

Apparently the little ‘sugar domes’ are a product of something called a ‘lerp psyllid’. No, you don’t want to know. But why should I suffer alone with this knowledge?? ‘Lerp’ is an Aboriginal word referring to the little dome of ‘sugar’ that covers the insect in its early stage, much as a cocoon covers a caterpillar.

The psyllid is also called ‘Jumping Plant Lice’. Double eew.

eucalyptus honeydew

eucalyptus honeydew

The sugary dome is created when the psyllid sucks the liquids from the leaf, passing it through its system (you know what that means…) and is excreted (see, there’s the word) as a sticky substance out its back end. This is called ‘honeydew’. Where we grew up in ‘small-town’ USA, the septic tank cleaners used to be called ‘honey dippers’. Can we say ‘irony’?


adult psyllid–with wings

I was fortunate (?) enough to pluck one leaf that had both a young psyllid creating its dome, and an adult with wings nearby… no doubt telling it what it was doing wrong.


side view of ‘lerp’

It will be a while before I am brave enough to put something from nature beneath the scrutiny of my macro lens again. Some things may just be better unexamined.

–yours in ignorant bliss, Ardys.


We’re the People – Granada, Spain


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Penance Procession, Granada

This may seem a strange photo to show when talking about ‘people’ as it almost seems devoid of them. However, if you look closely you will see dozens of feet showing at the bottom of the skirt of the “Pasos”, or float, carrying the statue. One of these floats is carried by each brotherhood in the city. It was Holy Week, the week preceding Easter, four years ago. I wish I could tell you how clever we were to plan to be there at that moment to see this stunning week of processions, but the truth is, it was an absolute fluke. The first evening we arrived at our hotel, we took a little walk before dinner and noticed something appeared to be about to happen in the pedestrian area of the city. In a short while hundreds had gathered and then in the distance we heard the somber music.

We have since learned that the people carrying the Pasos, practice for months ahead of the event. The weight is considerable and it takes great skill and strength to work in unison to move the heavy float from church to Cathedral. At some points the doorways are too low, so the penitents must kneel on pads and move forward to get the statue through.

The first sight we saw, preceding the Pasos, was that of the other penitents, wearing traditional cloaks and hoods. Having grown up in the years of the Ku Klux Klan and their much feared white hoods of similar design, it was a confronting sight. When I look at these photos I am reminded how educational and transformative travel can be.


Traditional robes and hoods

and regardless of the robes, how much children are the same, everywhere!!


children in procession

(This is part of a series of photos based                                                                      on an original post titled ‘We’re the People‘)

Have a great week.


In My Kitchen – September 2014


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I’m an experimenter; a tweaker. I find it difficult to follow a recipe exactly, unless it is for baked goods, which often don’t lend themselves to much tinkering. But my tweaks in early August were a pleasure free zone. I won’t waste your time.


Beef Cheeks Ragu over eggplant shards


Beef cheeks in slow cooker with stock


Shredding the meat

By the third week, however, I was number 1 with a bullet (read: top of the charts and ascending!). I decided to experiment by cooking beef cheeks. I’ve tasted them a couple of times and thought they were slightly stronger tasting than a normal roast. I decided the flavours would work well in pasta sauce. I slow cooked the cheeks first, and shredded them, then added to a very simple passata sauce. My husband had pasta, I had the sauce over eggplant that I had roasted in shards in the oven. Heaven on a shard! Two thumbs up from my husband. Four grass fed beef cheeks ($13.52) made enough sauce to feed 6.

IMG_2049The weather has a hint of spring in it here so I’m starting to get urges toward salad-y things. I thought I’d ‘lean into’ them a bit with a recipe I saw for Brussels Sprouts and Potato salad. Very nice ‘transitional salad.’


Cucumber and Corn salad with coconut bacon

Coconut Bacon‘ should just about offend everyone equally, I’m guessing. I’m not a vegetarian (see beef cheek paragraph above) but I used to be, for two years, and I still get curious to try things intended for vegetarians. Good food is good food. My curiosity was whether the crispy texture and savoury flavour would be nice in salads this summer. It is. Then I tried Cucumber, Corn and Coconut salad from a favourite blog I’ve been following for a while http://www.remedialeating.com/2014/08/in-the-weeds.html  Except I tweaked. My version was to use a bit of dill and some chives instead of the herbs called for in the recipe, and because I couldn’t find dry roasted peanuts anywhere in Alice, I used straight toasted peanuts, and the Maple Coconut Bacon to add the savoury element. It did work perfectly. Two thumbs up from hubby again. That’s twice in space of a week, if anyone is keeping track!


basket of lemons

We have been picking lemons by the box and basketful! It’s such a shame to not be able to use more of them, but we give them away, so nothing is wasted. I have frozen some zest and juice in ice cube trays (zest and juice of 1 lemon per cube) for use later in the year. I wish you all were here so I could give some to you!

Also I have been soaking legumes and nuts before eating them, in order for the phytase to develop which lowers the phytates, which effects nutrient absorbtion. Because I drink almond milk much of the time, instead of dairy, I consume quite a few almonds. I soak them before whizzing them, the resulting milk tastes noticeably better, and hopefully, I’m getting more nutrients from them. I can now eat chick peas again, simply by soaking them for 24 hours before eating! Who knew? According to a Paleo site, ancient people used to soak most grains and legumes before eating them, but we got out of that practice somewhere along the way.


Grilled salmon, eggplant strips and cucumber/corn salad

Finally, Don cooked most of dinner on the grill the other night and it was amazing! He cooked the salmon filets simply, with olive oil and salt, and the eggplant strips I had simply drizzled with olive oil as well. You can also roast the eggplant in the oven, but it’s the dressing for the eggplant that made it special. As per usual, I did have to make a change in the recipe, omitting the garlic, but it was still a new favourite.

Will send him to your place for weddings, parties, whatever…

Have a delicious month!


Please check out the other IMK posts at figjamandlimecordial.com  Thank you to Celia for hosting this monthly tour through kitchens around the world! Pop on over there and see what other interesting things are happening.


We’re the People – Alice Springs


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Grocery store fairy

We are the people. Even the little people. Especially the little people. I have been dwelling in a parallel universe this week–the Past. It is for good reason I have gone so far afield from my usual space. I have been assembling an album for our daughter, of photos, poems, mementos from as far back as four generations before her. A nearly overwhelming task.

In between assembling pages I have done the usual domestic chores of washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping. One of the highlights of my week was this tiny person skipping up the isle at the grocery store… in her fairy costume. Not wanting to seem like a stalker, I held some distance between us as the little fairy gazed at some strategically placed items on the shelves, would you believe it— at just her height!! (Thank you Walt Disney.)

She reminded me of the fairy and princess costumes our own daughter wore out in public at that age; the age before we stop believing we might actually be a fairy. I love that it is still winter here, and, to keep warm, she had the appropriate leggings and tights on underneath the fairy dress. Her mother’s influence no doubt, because fairies do not feel the cold. I love that with all the troubles going on in the world, somewhere a little fairy has gotten her wings and is learning to fly.

Have a great weekend.



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