a ‘no news’ week

Tags

, , , , ,

We have a saying around our house, ‘no news is good news’. Probably, you have used it too. We say it to reassure ourselves that when things are quiet, it is preferable to the bad news one so often receives. In recent months we’ve had quite a few bits of sad news, involving serious illness or death among family and friends. I tell you that so that you will know that my writing today is not so much written in response to events, but with an appreciation of their absence!

Deep, collective sigh of relief. Thank you.

sunrise-alice-springs

another technology and composition achievement

In between the mundane, everyday events unfolding, I’ve noticed that the photography challenge has filled substantial space in my small amount of spare energy. I didn’t really know what to expect from the exercise. Only 60 days into it, I’ve already been very surprised a couple of times at opportunities and outcomes.

urban-sunrise-alice-springs

urban sunrise from my kitchen window

At the moment of taking a photo, I’m never completely confident that I’ve ‘got it’, though sometimes I am reasonably certain. Later, in the relaxed scrutiny of the shots, I decide…most are not quite there; misplaced focus, perspective could have been better, missed the right light, didn’t frame things very well. So much can, and does, go wrong.

I am an amateur and I have an iPhone as a camera, what can I expect?

But that would not be the most helpful perspective. I have a camera and a brain and the will to seek, so, what can I expect? Certainly not any of the very best photos that happened this week! I ventured out each day inviting the magic to happen, and having faith in my skills that I could handle it. But this week was as if I had an invisible, omnipotent assistant helping me in ways I still cannot fathom.

Early in the week, I had a technical breakthrough with regard to manual focus. I had been struggling for nearly a year with certain lighting situations and upon reviewing my technique, I discovered a tiny, but vital, error.

wildflower-alice-springs

technique breakthrough photo of wildflower

What a great life lesson, eh? When things aren’t working, have another look.

You know the saying ‘luck is preparation meeting opportunity’? Never has this wisdom been more evident to me than this week. Twice, opportunities presented themselves with wildlife shots I’ve been trying to capture for two years. The first, two Port Lincoln Parrots perched in a tree that had all its leaves eaten by grasshoppers. There were two amazing things that happened with this one, firstly, that the parrots who are quite skittish, actually seemed to pause an extra couple of moments before flying off, and secondly, that the grasshoppers had denuded the tree. If the leaves were still on the tree, the parrots would not have been nearly visible enough to be worth a photograph!

parrots-alice-springs

Port Lincoln Parrots in tree denuded by grasshoppers!

The second wildlife photo that was a benchmark for me was one I’ve been trying to get for two summers. Dragonflies frequent our courtyard because of the water. I have tried and tried to photograph them but to no avail. They are even more skittish than the birds. I read that when photographing animals if you move very slowly and then stop in increments they will feel less threatened. And that is how I approached this dragonfly, as he perched on an onion stalk. I am learning the wisdom of quiet, and patience. But also I am seeing the results of an iPhone Photography course I took online last year.

The most important lesson of the course? Practice, practice, practice.

dragonfly-alice-springs

dragon fly in my courtyard

And finally, finishing a spectacular week, came this morning’s sight at sunrise. It lasted only about a minute and had I not gone for my walk, I would have missed it.

rainbow-alice-springs

pieces of rainbow at sunrise, Alice Springs

So there you have it, a ‘no news’ week, filled with tiny moments of grace.

 

My photo of the week may seem very underwhelming to you. But it evokes in me the moment I saw it at 5.15 in the morning. I wandered sleepily to the kitchen and turned on the light, and there, precisely laid on the counter next to the fridge and underneath the cereal cupboard, were the implements my husband would use to prepare his breakfast. The bowl, the spoon, and the knife with which he cuts the strawberries he enjoys on his cereal. The night before, after I had gone to bed, he had emptied the dishwasher, and had thoughtfully placed the items he would need in their place of use the next morning. It is the stuff relationships are made of; the little things sadly missed when someone is no longer there one day. He is not always this precise about things, but he is a very thoughtful, purpose filled person, and this was a tiny snapshot representing that part of him.

domestic-still-life

breakfast setting

(The photo was edited using an app called Waterlogue, that I am learning to use.)

 

seeing death with new eyes

Tags

, , , , , ,

wallaby-skull-desert

(19) skull of a wallaby–circle of life

I see dead things. Please don’t freak out; I’m not going to make you look at anything gruesome… I hope. It’s not that I go looking for them, I just see things on my walks. It seems to me a privilege to live so close to nature that she shares these with me. Fascinating. I remember seeing an early painting by Édouard Manet in a small gallery in Paris. It depicted a dead rabbit, so clearly I’m not the first person to be captivated by this concept. At the time I wondered about his interest in that subject. Now I understand. There is beauty in it. To paint or photograph or draw carcasses, which many artists do to this day, helps us learn. Of course it helps us learn to draw and paint and compose images, but it also teaches us about the life cycle and that death, of course, is a part of it.

hopping-mouse-deceased

Face of deceased hopping mouse.

Our wet spell in early January caused growth in vegetation and fauna that has been both interesting, and highly annoying. Birds have gorged themselves on grasshoppers and insects. Mice have been abundant because the seed and grasses have been abundant, and probably the snakes have adjusted accordingly, though thankfully, I have no visual proof of that!

In this ripened, hot part of summer, one shuts the drapes and blinds in an effort to close out the radiant heat and help the air conditioning cope. Even cloistered inside, the white noise of cicada ‘song’ seeps into my subconscious, and puts me on edge. It seems to underscore the heat and somehow makes the days seem even hotter. Cicadas are dropping from the trees now and their carcasses litter the ground, providing banquets for the gazillion, or so, ants.

golden-drummer-cicada-deceased

Cicada carcass edited using Waterlogue app

(32) deceased galahs as found

(32) deceased galahs as found

But it was a true mystery the morning I walked to the back of the golf course and saw three dead galahs in quite demonstrative positions, as if an angry, but very precise, golfer had swung and surprised all three in a single felled swipe!

Another time, years ago, I captured the image below of a dying Galah. It moved me greatly, as it quietly waited for death. I know it was dying because a short while later when I went to check it, it was over on its side and ‘gone’. So dignified.

Galah-dying

Dying Galah beside the road.

(39) deceased butterfly, edited with Waterlogue app

(39) deceased butterfly, edited with Waterlogue app

All of the images are taken ‘as found’. I do not ‘arrange’ the scene, only alter my perspective through the lens. After taking these unusual photos, I decided to see if I could make some beautiful compositions from them. It seems to me it elevates the creatures’ ordinary passing to dignified images, perhaps even, immortal ones. What I see is that they show a variety of demises, much the same, but different, as our human endings. They are perhaps not as beautiful as Manet’s painting, but something worth seeing, nevertheless.

 

 

Photo of the Week:

(23) simplicity at dawn

(23) simplicity at dawn

My pick of the week of all the photos I’ve taken is one (below) that will look familiar, but is different. I showed you a very similar one last week (left) that I had taken a couple of weeks ago. There is something so peaceful and simple about it. But a few days ago as, again, I walked up the driveway for my morning saunter, I looked up and behold!! Not only a bird in almost the same place, but that sliver of moon on the wane. So, a photo I had thought was so rare I would never probably see it again, has revisited me, but with the added special touch of a silver sliver, smiling down. The next morning, there was neither a moon or a bird. I had truly captured a special moment in time…with my iPhone!!

bird-moon

early bird and sliver moon

 

hello #200

Tags

, , ,

(28)

(28) my favourite tree at sunrise, edited in Distressed FX App

Here we go…. post #200 for ardysez. I started this blog three and a half years ago, as an experiment. I could never have predicted it would lead me where it has.

(37)

(37) face of a Golden Drummer cicada

This is the joy in trying new things.

 

It is partly why I decided to try something a little different this year, 2015.

I have heard that if you make just one small change in your life it can make a huge difference. While there is not a lot wrong with my life, I have certainly struggled with direction and purpose since our daughter flew the nest. My husband is ensconced in his research and is very successfully publishing papers and presenting at conferences. I’m very grateful and happy for him. But my own creative endeavours have languished at times, for lack of motivation and inspiration.

tiny-mushroom

(13) tiny mushroom in blades of grass

On New Year’s Day, an article appeared from the Internet ethers, extolling the value of  a 365 day photo challenge. I’m very anti-new-year-resolutions, and even though this seems like one, it is more a ‘coincidence of date’, than a result of it. I had been pondering for a while some new purpose to which I could apply my interest in photography and creativity. I know, from other challenges that if one does not have the motivations well thought out, it is seldom successful. In those moments of weakness, what will be the reasons that propel me forward?

  • Improve photography composition and narratives
  • Learn new apps for editing and sharing photos
  • Record my year with a photo that represents some aspect of each day
  • Adventure (in my own very modest way–I’m not a skydiver!)

    (41) local wants to borrow the Advocate newspaper

    (41) local wants to borrow the Advocate newspaper

The only ‘rule’ that I adhere to, other than my own guidelines, is the one that says each day I must take a photo. That does not mean I can take ten photos one day, and use them for the next ten days. Every day I must take a new photo. The metadata on the photo will rat me out!! Here are my guidelines:

  • Take a new photo every day
  • The photo should be of reasonable quality (my discretion!)
  • I will post it on Instagram (if you care to follow, my Instagram name: amosthemagicdog)
  • All photos are taken with my iPhone
  • My only reasons for stopping are; if I feel I’m starting to hate taking photos; or if my iPhone breaks–perish the thought of either!

It is no small thing, to take a reasonable quality photo every single day. What if I am sick? What if I have an uninspired day? What if a well-meaning friend tells me all that is wrong with this idea? (which has already happened!)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust

(3)

(3) birds on wires– this was my eventually successful photo from numerous attempts over the passed year, having taken over a hundred different shots.

This is my modest voyage of discovery, documented by taking a photo every day for a year. Some days will be uninspiring, and yes, it will be hard to take a photo on those days, but that is where the growth lies. Yes, on dull days, the photo may reflect the lack of inspiration, but isn’t that one of Life’s lessons too? We must have the low points to see the heights.

dead butterfly on road--before editing

dead butterfly on road–before editing

(39)

(39) dead butterfly after editing in Waterlogue App

Most days I arise and go for a walk. Because I am motivating myself to ‘see with new eyes’ I want to find ever more ways to view the same scenes, whether it is the minutia of a day or the dramatic moments. This may resolve itself in the taking of the photo itself, or in the editing. I have already experienced days where late in the afternoon I had no ‘photo of the day’ yet. When this happens, I am reminded of all Life can show us, especially when we least expect it, but we have willing eyes. Without fail, something special has appeared, begging to be photographed.

(7)

(7)

My plan is to write about some of my experiences, and learning along the 365photochallenge way, and perhaps to elaborate weekly on some aspect of the photos or circumstances surrounding them. As I write this post, I am in day 42.

Thank you to all who regularly read my musings. My humble goal is simply, to not bore you! I appreciate all your comments and marvel at the world wide web, the blogosphere and the Universe.

in my kitchen – Feb 2015

Tags

, , , ,

grasshopper-alice-springs

Anyone for fried grasshoppers?

This fig leaf was lunch for the grasshoppers, and they are still hungry!!

This fig leaf was lunch for the grasshoppers, and they are still hungry!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, thank you to everyone who commiserated and encouraged me in my time of loss of Kitchen Mojo last month. I’m happy to say it has nearly returned to normal. That is to say I’m having the usual number of failures rather than the dismal number I was having this time last month! It has been a battlefield here. We had a very wet start to January, followed by an invasion of thousands, and thousands of grasshoppers. They have nearly devoured my favourite herbs, citrus leaves, curry leaves and even my sapling fig trees. I don’t like to use poisons on my edible plants, for obvious reasons, so I have very reluctantly employed the ‘compression method’ my husband taught me.

Ick. But effective.

Well, let’s put it this way, I’m losing the battle more slowly than I was previously.

 

Bay Tree - BEFORE

Bay Tree – BEFORE

IMG_4935

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next, and ongoing, battle was a bad infestation of scale insect on my 10 yr old Bay tree. Because of our heat here I couldn’t just spray with white oil and let it do the job. White oil will kill the plant at temps above 30C. So I had to strip all the leaves from the tree that had scale on them, while leaving the newer growth to help it recover. Then I had to spray the branches and trunk with the white oil, leave it under cover and out of direct sun for two days, then gently spray with soapy water and use a soft brush to wash it off. So far, it has worked. I am checking the leaves every few days and scraping the occasional scale off and tiny new leaves are appearing. When winter comes I will be able to spray it again.

 

soup-beans-cornbread

Ham and bean soup with corn bread

Meanwhile, in the kitchen we’ve enjoyed a few nice meals inspired by the cool temps that came with the rain event. Leftover ham bone from Christmas made a delicious, savoury cannellini bean soup, along with corn bread made in my new cast iron pan. The cast iron pan is another battle I’m slowly losing, but I have not given up.

 

buckwheat-pancakes-fruit

Buckwheat pancakes with fresh blueberries, peaches, apricots, walnuts and Greek yogurt (inspired by our own Bizzy Lizzy here)

The seasonal fruit has been delicious this year, with or without buckwheat pancakes!

peach-australian

Australian grown peach

fig-macro

If there is a more gorgeous fruit than a fig, I’d like to see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lamb-bacon

Lamb Mignon created by Milner Meats, Alice Springs

A wonderful new find from our butcher is ‘lamb mignon’. They use fillet or backstrap pieces and wrap it in bacon (their own) and skewer it for cooking on the barbecue/grill. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

IMG_6184I’ve been experimenting with some salads that are substantial meals in themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

chilli-seeds-cabbage

finely shredded chilli and cabbages and crushed mustard and fennel seeds

chilli-cole-slaw

Chilli Cole Slaw

 

 

 

And, finally, my creation of the month, as declared by my husband, is Chilli Cole Slaw. We have some medium/mild yellow chillies growing and so far the grasshoppers haven’t developed a taste for them, so I have plenty to use. I finely shaved two colours of cabbage, added the finely sliced pieces of chilli, then… wait for it… the magic ingredients… about ½ tsp each, mustard seed and fennel seed, finely ground in my tiny mortar and pestle. For a lighter than normal dressing I used organic, Greek yogurt, thinned with a little apple cider vinegar, whatever sweetener you like, and a bit of salt. The dressing should have a sweet/sour taste which offsets the chilli nicely. I used about 1/3 C for 3 C of shredded cabbage, but adjust it to your own liking.

 

 

Happy February everyone. May there be no grasshopper plague in your lives!  Be sure to call around to Celia’s place at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what’s happening in the kitchens around the world!

a post rain chin-wag

Tags

, , , ,

olive-pink-entrance

Entrance – Olive Pink

I don’t usually blog about nature quite as much as lately, but the post rain event changes are still a bit interesting. The plant consultant at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden tells me what is happening now could be a once in a lifetime event. I suppose that depends how long one’s lifetime is, of course. He also told me he is on chemo for ‘blood cancer’ at the moment, so perhaps he’s speaking for himself. What a treasure he is, traveling far and wide, sometimes thousands of kilometres in a week to view habitats and take samples.

ferns-rocks-desert

ferns, moss and lichen appear in crevices and live on seepage of water

He and I had a good ole chin-wag when I visited on Monday to research a tiny specimen I had photographed. I think we both would have enjoyed a longer visit but he had a plane to catch and an oncologist to see in Adelaide. God speed.

processionary-caterpillars-swarming

Processionary Caterpillars swarming from nest

lichen symbiotically living with moss on rock seepage

lichen symbiotically living with moss on rock seepage

processionary-caterpillar-nest

Processionary Caterpillar nest (and yes, I do know what it looks like….)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our short conversation his enthusiasm for the land and its inhabitants was infectious. He told me that the nest I had seen the processionary caterpillars swarming from a couple of weeks ago, is used in bush medicine to treat burns. There is only one catch… you must use the outside of the nest, not the inside. The inside would have residue of the hairs from the caterpillars and would cause your burn to itch horribly. Can you imagine the poor sod that discovered that bit of information first hand??

As usual, I’ve digressed a bit. The tiny specimen I photographed and was researching turned out to be a type of lichen. It lies dormant in crevices of rocks until a ‘big wet’ comes. The rocks act as reservoirs, supporting some life for weeks and months after rains have ceased. Evidence of this fact is the sprouting of tiny ferns, moss, and lichens, surviving from the seepage of water. They are rarely seen in our part of the world.

wallaby-skull-desert

skull of a wallaby

tadpoles-desert-rockpool

tadpoles in rock pool at Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Also, he showed me a steady trickle of a stream that had formed in some of the rock crevices, creating a small pool, in which tadpoles were rapidly maturing. What a treat!

That same morning and, at the other end of the spectrum, I came across this skull of a wallaby, half buried in the sand. Who knows if it might have survived had the rain come a few months earlier? But perhaps one of the dingoes I’ve seen around in the last few years would have got it anyway.

Three days after the photos of the tadpoles, I returned to the Botanic Gardens to find the water pool completely dried up! I was so sad, no little froggies to show you. Also, the lichen specimens he had showed me the same day were all gone. We had two very hot days, 42C (108F), and that dries things up pretty quickly. The miracle of it all is that somehow, enough reproduction has happened, very quickly, to ensure species survival.

But what I did see was this gorgeous young kangaroo, having an early morning rest. This is a wild kangaroo that comes in from the rocky outcrops that back onto the botanic garden.

kangaroo-wild-resting

Kangaroo at rest, Olive Pink Botanic Garden

I also came upon a native species I had not seen in flower, or fruit, before. It would be the native version of a passionfruit. It is commonly called ‘caper bush’ but as you can see the insides of the fruit looks very much like the inside of a passionfruit. Apparently it is delicious but the birds and flowers usually beat the humans to it! The flower is very sweetly scented and beautiful and is large, about the size of a 10 yr old child’s fist, I would say. The fruits are about the size of walnuts, but slightly more elongated.

bush-passionfruit-flower

bush passionfruit flower

open-bush-passionfruit

bush passionfruit partially eaten by birds

bush-passionfruit-desert

bush passionfruit newly opened

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wildflower-bud-desert

wildflower bud

bush-tomato-flowers

Bush Tomato flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wild flowers are starting to blossom, however, my walks will be severely curtailed from now on. As the grasses cover the ground it makes it hard to see snakes. And they will be in greater numbers since the things they eat are also in greater numbers! Also, my old nemesis, the prickles, are starting to take shape. We will explore other things, you and I, another chin-wag for another day.

mt-gillen-view

view of Mt Gillen (edited with a filter app on my iPhone)

 

After the rain…

Tags

, , , ,

cycling-Todd-River

cyclist risks the wet

As you may know from my most recent post, Alice Springs was experiencing a rare ‘wet event’ in the form of rain. We have received two thirds of our average annual rainfall in a week, some areas more. The normally dry Todd River has been flowing for days.

A view up river

A view up river

We received about 180mm of rain in 6 days. Some areas north of here have had more, areas near the airport have had less. Our average annual rainfall is about 280mm, or about 11 inches a year. Many years we get considerably less than that. It is not a vast amount of rain unless you are in the desert where plants and animals and houses and drains are not used to it, and it happens to come all at once!!

As the weather has lifted, my iPhone and I have sent out to try and document some of the changes.

Spencer-Burrowing-Frog

Spencer’s Burrowing Frog posing for a portrait

 

 

native-lily-australian

‘Naked ladies’ prolific in their beauty

The Spencers Burrowing Frogs are everywhere… even as road kill… no photo… yech. But nearly every morning we are assisting one little frog out of the spa. This fellow paused to let me take a photo.

“Eat grasshoppers and mosquitoes, please, little froggie!”

 

Insects fill the air. Birds will struggle to fly if they consume all that is available. No doubt mice will appear in droves soon, with so much food abundant. One year we trapped over 50 mice, and then stopped counting.

The air is so thick you could cut it with a knife, and no longer smells as sweetly of eucalyptus, but is tinged with the odours of decomposing leaves and drying mud.

The ‘Naked Lady’ native lilies throw a new flower head or two every time it rains or we have a couple of cloudy days. But after a big rain, they are positively prolific, and gorgeous!

One morning, these tiny, fragile little mushrooms appeared in the herb garden. They had perished before day’s end. I know these may not be unusual for you to see, but they are a little out of the ordinary for us, and surely would not have sprouted but for the continuing damp conditions. As I looked around the following day, I saw two more types of mushrooms.

mushrooms-not-edible

fragile mushrooms, lasting only a few hours

mushroom-not-edible

magic mushroom

tiny-mushroom

tiny mushroom in blades of grass

nest-processionary-caterpillars

Processionary Caterpillars coming from nest

There were a few slack periods of rain when you could almost think the weather was lifting. I happened upon this nest of the ‘furriness’, and at first could not figure out what I was seeing. First glance told me it was a lot of mould growing on an apple. And then I realised it was moving! Dozens and dozens of caterpillars were writhing and squirming to figure out whom to follow, and to where. Such is the perfection of nature, they quickly figured out that only a few feet away was one of their favourite snacks, a wattle bush.

processionary-caterpillars

processionary caterpillars on their way to wattle bush

During that slackened wet period, one wonders if Mother Nature didn’t have a quiet word to the ‘Processionary Caterpillars’. “Get out now, while you can!”

And they did!

Off they went. Top to tail.

And lucky me, I got to see it. And photograph it… and lucky you, even shoot a short video! I marvel at my technical skills sometimes! Lol. (…like the two legged dog who walks, it’s not that it is done well, it’s that it happens at all!!)

rock-outcrop-alice-springs

Tiny ferns grow in cracks of rocks, and buffalo grass decorates remains of ‘Yeperenye’

A little bit of lore, while we are at it… The ‘Processionary Caterpillar’ is also known to the Indigenous Arrernte People here, as the ‘Yeperenye’. Their Dreamtime stories tell of the Yeperenye caterpillar and two others, arriving separately and battling the ‘green stink bug’. When the stink bug started to win the battle, the caterpillars ran, and the mountain ranges known as the MacDonnell Ranges represent their deceased remains.

moisture-covered-stem

moisture covered stem

desert-plant-leaves

desert plant capturing droplets

The land is turning green before our eyes, no longer the Red Centre for a few short weeks, more like the ‘Emerald Oasis’ or as my blog friend called it ‘Glen Alice’. The river is already going to sleep again. Everywhere there are signs where once were swirling waters. Everywhere things are growing. With ample water and now the sunshine, you may hear them from where you are!

sunrise-asgc-alice-springs

Our famous sun is returning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the rain comes to Alice…

Tags

, , , , ,

rain-alice-springs

Down came the rain, obliterating the mountains

When you live in the desert and it rains, you take notice. And when it rains a lot, I photograph it! We’ve had a very wet, and cool, start to 2015, not that most of us mind. Though there are a few poor souls who are stranded out bush due to road closures. And, sadly, there is a 23 year old young man who was trying to ‘tube’ down the Todd River with a mate, and has gone missing. Messing with the forces of nature is a dangerous business.

Todd beginning to flow passed Tuncks Road crossing. 8am Thursday

Todd beginning to flow passed Tuncks Road crossing. 8am Thursday

One of the routes I take on my morning walk, is along the normally dry Todd River bed. Yesterday morning, the river was flowing heavily enough that it had crossed the Tuncks Road crossing and was heading out toward the Gap. I walked out into the middle of the river bed, which was still dry, to take a photo, as well as look back at the causeway.

“See the Todd flow three times and you’re a local,” it is said. We have been ‘locals’ since the second year we arrived, 21 years ago. But it is an ever curious sight, like a sleeping water serpent, awakening, sometimes fast and angry, other times, lazily going back to sleep again. One can see why the Indigenous people attach meaning to these events.

tuncks-causeway

Tuncks Rd causeway, 8am Thursday

At 6.15 that same evening, the causeway was closed and this was the scene. Can you see the white marker behind the white car in the above photo, then again amidst rushing brown water in the photo below?

tuncks-road-torrent

Torrent at Tuncks Road

A few minutes later, we crossed Taffy Pick crossing. An hour later it was closed due to the rising water.

taffy-pick-toward-gap

From Taffy Pick causeway toward the Gap

About 10 hours later, Taffy Pick was opened again. At Tuncks Road, the nearest causeway to our house, I shot a photo this morning, to put next to the one I took last evening from the same place.

todd-river-flow

Todd in flow near Tuncks Rd. 6.15pm Thursday

todd-river-after-flow

Where is all that water? 8am Friday morning

We are predicted to receive two more days of heavy rain, as the monsoon from Western Australia bears down on us. Once the ground is saturated, as it now is, additional rain will cause the river to rise suddenly again. It is capable of flooding. We have seen it, though thankfully, our house is out of the flood zones.

A blogging friend asked me if we get lovely plants, flowers or animals to the area after such rains. At first I answered ‘No. Not really’. But I pondered further on her question. The Red Centre (as we are called) turns green, and that is a novelty, and especially beautiful against the red ochre dirt and rock. But most of the green means additional food for creatures… like mice. And mice are additional food for snakes… and you can put the pieces together. Then there are the gazillion additional flies and mosquitoes and at the moment we have a plague of mini grasshoppers that are denuding everything possible, except, of course, those flowers that give my husband hay fever!

spencers-burrowing-frog

Spencers Burrowing Frog

However, there is one cute little species that appears after big rains, and that is Spencers Burrowing Frog. As you can imagine, we have few frogs here in the desert. When they do make an appearance they also make their presence known at night, calling each other in the dark ‘I’m here’… ‘I’m over here’… ‘C’mon over and let’s get jiggy with it’.

Their instinct draws them to water and, unfortunately, our spa is a natural target. But the chlorine in it will kill them pretty quickly. I rescued this little fellow this morning but am not sure he will survive the chlorine exposure. Not that he is likely to survive very long anyway. Their main objective is to mate and promulgate the species, and that will be done in a few weeks, after which all will go quiet again.

frog-in-spa

Spencers Burrowing Frog in our spa

Spencers Burrowing Frogs have the ability to absorb large amounts of water (and presumably chlorine—eek!) and store it between their muscles. Burrowing Frogs vary in colour and markings and have digging ‘implements’ on the side of their back feet. In dry times they dig down backwards into the sand in search of a moist spot where they can sleep until heavy rain awakens them from their slumber. A short burst of activity then follows (he-he, we can guess what kind of activity!). Up to the surface they climb, feed and reproduce, before the water disappears.

IMG_5088_2The other lovely thing we get is a native lily that we call ‘Naked Ladies’. They pop up whenever we’ve had a few days of cloud, or rain. Their crocus-like heads last as fleetingly as the rain.

tucks-crossing-closed

Closed Tuncks Rd Causeway

There is nothing more humbling than living in a place where you witness the power of nature and its cycles so closely. It is a local phenomenon for many people to turn out and watch and photograph the river, for it is such a fleeting miracle of nature. When it disappears underground again, we have the added comfort of knowing our water supply is being replenished.

As my husband succinctly put it. “We’ve had enough rain now… but there will be more. It is the way it always happens in Australia.”

 

 

 

IMK January 2015

Tags

, , ,

Our humid weather

Our humid weather

Except for the four days our daughter visited, my kitchen was not a festive place in December. Our weather was very hot… and unusually humid.

 

Martin Place, 18 Dec

Martin Place, 18 Dec

We were away in Sydney exactly during the siege, exactly in, and near, Martin Place. It has left me reeling a bit.

 

 

My Kitchen Mojo is still a no-go.

 

Tasmanian Clotted Cream

Tasmanian Clotted Cream

I have never before, in my 31 years living in the Northern Territory, seen ‘clotted cream’ in the grocery. Am sure the out of date milk in the fridge in Darwin heat may have looked the part a time or two… but to see it for purposeful procurement, was a first!

cast-iron-pan

SolidTeknics cast iron pan, made in Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This gorgeous SOLIDTEKNIKS cast iron pan made its way into my kitchen via our lovely daughter. Of course it was the one and only thing on my Christmas list, which either says a lot about my lack of needs, or speaks highly for the pan, so we’ll go with the latter. The learning curve with the pan is a bit steep. I’m screwing up a lot. Eggs hate it. Yes, I have consulted a learned friend as well as two websites on the matter, and I’m closing in on the secret, but I’m not there yet. All suggestions welcome! I found out about this beautiful cookware via one of our IMK group, accomplished cook and kitchen guru, Bizzy Lizzy.

Allison making pork belly

Allison making pork belly

Delicious Fennel Pork Belly

Delicious Fennel Pork Belly

Our daughter had my kitchen humming during her visit. It was 41 C (106 F) the day she and I had planned to bake fruit cakes and roast pork belly with roasted veggies.

Of course.

My overheated brain forgot to remind me to photograph the fruit cakes, but it was such a pleasure to watch Allison so confidently making her favourite Jamie Oliver pork belly recipe I certainly didn’t miss a chance to photograph that. It was delicious!

Alpine Coconut yogurt from Coles

Alpine Coconut yogurt from Coles

I also discovered this new coconut yogurt in the grocery store, expensive, but delicious, and still cheaper by about 25% than the health food store version, though it does have a very small amount of sugar in it!

 

 

This is my short IMK post for this month… we live in hope that the food gods will smile on me in 2015. There are a few tentative glimmers here and there. New Year’s Day breakfast was a success, but you’ll have to wait until next month for that photo. It may be the only one I have!!

My very best wishes to you all! Be sure to call around to Celia’s place at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what’s happening in the kitchens around the world!

 

 

what I read in 2014

Tags

, , ,

When visiting with a friend recently, I realised during our conversation I was mentioning quite a few books I had read. It started me thinking about how much what I read effects my life, so I’ve done a quick flick back through this year of reading. I’m not a fast reader, and alas, neither do I have high retention, but I enjoy reading and persevere, regardless.

The advent of e-readers has been a boon to my reading. Books are now cheaper, and for me, living where I do, more readily accessible. Also, there is not the problem of what to do with the physical book after I’ve read it. Do I keep it, or do I move it along?? That is not to say that holding the e-reader and turning virtual pages has quite the satisfaction of a real book, but to me, it is a trade-off I’m willing to make with most books (not all). I have noticed that the iPad mini (gift to myself) is much easier (than the old iPad) to hold, and enhances my reading process.

But I digress.

Here’s the list from this year, though I’m not sure they sound very interesting. I’m mostly a reader of non-fiction. I’ve listed the books in the order I read them, starting in January up until now. This is not necessarily the order in which I enjoyed them!

Almond Cake from Elana Amsterdam book

Almond Cake from Elana Amsterdam book

The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. As some of you know I can’t eat wheat or any grains very well, so this was a help for some all-important comfort food. I also subscribe to her blog.

Protein, veggies, and whole food fats is the way to go!

Protein, veggies, and whole food fats is the way to go!

The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor. It helped me understand the science of how our body uses food, and it reinterprets old research, as well as reveals new research with regard to healthy foods and eating styles. I do not advocate slavish dedication to ‘diets’, I just found this book gave me a new understanding of how my body uses food. I have been using most of its guidelines for nearly a year now, since January, and can honestly say I have not felt as well for many years.

 

 

In the same spirit of inquiry I read:

Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Bleue, BSc, N.D. – pretty informative but not light reading, found it after hearing Kate in a radio interview, not recommended except for those health geeks among us, or those with calcium absorption issues.

The Wahls Protocol by Terry Wahls, M.D. This is a book about Paleo principals and functional medicine and how she cured her own MS. I also found this through a radio interview. Kind of interesting, probably more so if you have been diagnosed with MS, which, thankfully, I have not.

Magnesium Trace Mineral (am sure this was some 6th grader’s science project—awful book)

Magnificent Magnesium by Dennis Goodman MD. It sounds awful and corny, but was actually pretty informative, proving once again you cannot judge a book by its cover. Magnesium is a really wonderful mineral for our bodies. Since starting to take supplements in May of this year, I’ve seen improvement, if not elimination, of leg cramps and heart palpitations. It has also been good as Mother Nature’s little helper to ‘move things along’, if you know what I mean. Dr Goodman is a heart specialist, and much of the first part of the book focuses on the function of the cardiopulmonary system, but it does go on to include the multitude of benefits the right amounts of magnesium can bring to our bodies. The ‘right’ amount is key here, and, much to my surprise, was more than I am able to consume in my day to day diet. Any mineral that is contained in chocolate can’t be all bad.

Stitches by Anne Lamott. Loved this book and highly recommend it, short and entertaining as well as thought provoking.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The one piece of fiction that sneaked into my list this year! You would have to be sleeping under a rock to have not heard of this one. Loved the book, thought the movie was average.

Your Personal Paleo Diet, by Chris Kresser. I read this to educate myself on this new trend in eating. Some very useful information, much of which was in The Calorie Myth, but enough of a different interpretation of the information to make it worthwhile. He also has a very good website and I like his relaxed approach to the Paleo lifestyle. A key thing I learned was to soak pulses before cooking and eating them. Has saved my digestion no end of distress!

Next came my melancholic phase of dealing with my Dad’s passing 18 months previously…

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. I’d read a review of this book and thought it might be interesting. It is written in a very unusual format, that of a comic strip. The content somewhat reflected my own experience, and was a bit of confirmation, but I found the format somewhat distracting, and I’m not sure I can recommend it.

Dad and Me, circa 1997

Dad and Me, circa 1997

The Long Goodbye, a memoir by Meghan O’Rourke. This was my breakthrough book in the mourning of my Father. She writes of the loss of her Mother with such raw intimacy I found it extremely helpful. I cried more than once while reading it, but it was very productive for me.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. This should be on everyone’s ‘must read’ list. And the reason we should all read it is so we can have the discussions about dying and illness and infirmity before it happens to us or someone we love. The first part of the book does not paint a pretty picture, I nearly put it down, following so close on the heals of starting to recover from Dad’s passing. But then it got interesting. He describes many case studies and scenarios both from a medical point of view, and from that of a son with aging parents. Very worthwhile, if not easy to get through, at times.

And now I’m back to regaining some balance in life…

Eat to Cheat Ageing by Ngaire Hobbins. Excellent, practical book for over 60’s, but also for younger people who plan to get old! Hobbins is an Australian dietician and writes from her experience of working with older adults and their difficulties with maintaining healthy weight and eating patterns. You may be surprised at how important it is to maintain your muscle mass, and even a few extra pounds, in later life. This should also be required reading for us all.

Thrive by Arianna Huffington. I’m actually cheating just a little bit here, I still have just a few pages left in this book, but I’ve read most of it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I started it because I wanted to know if I should recommend it to our daughter when she had a bad patch a couple of months ago. Her life seemed a bit unbalanced and took a physical toll on her. What I found was a book that I could relate to! You may know Arianna Huffington as the editor/founder of the Huffington Post. I thought she would write something for the high powered, achievement-oriented, career woman. However, she writes with great dexterity about how to live well in all areas of our lives. I especially love the quotations she uses often throughout the book. I am not familiar with her other books but I think I may go have a look… as soon as I finish the next two books awaiting me on my iPad!

Liquidz cafe, 'famous' bananas, appear on their Facebook page!

Liquidz cafe, ‘famous’ bananas, appear on their Facebook page!

Happy 2015 to you all.

xx Ardys

 

 

 

 

 

four days in Sydney

Tags

, , , , ,

You will be wondering why I am sharing this post with you now, so I will tell you straight up front. It is precisely now that we need our perspective about Life and what is important.

What IS important you ask?

Ask your soul, I answer.

yacht-silver-cloud

Silver Cloud in Sydney Harbour: yachtsilvercloud.com

A week ago, we were in Sydney. Our reason for going was to meet with some old friends from the USA who were here visiting, on their yacht. We were invited to spend a couple of nights on the yacht as well. We decided to add a couple of extra days in Sydney for last minute shopping, and to take in some of the Holiday sights.

IMG_4384We flew in on Sunday, late afternoon, and less than 24 hours later, you know what happened. Little known to us, as we walked through Martin Place at 9.30 on Monday morning, 15 December, there was a terrible thing happening, or about to happen, within minutes. We were very near the Lindt Café when a lone gunman took the unsuspecting staff and patrons as hostages.

strand-arcade-christmas

Strand Arcade at Christmas

We headed for George Street, none the wiser as yet, and as we arrived and were about to cross, three police cars were screaming into the intersection, and turned into the street from where we had come. We commented that it was unusual and that it must be serious. Shortly, another unmarked car, light on and siren piercing, raced passed us and in the same direction.

We were shopping for last minute Christmas gifts and had just started, so we continued on our errand. About an hour and a half later, we stopped in Myer Food Court for a drink and toilet break. We saw people staring at the TV screens and so we looked too. That was when the word ‘siege’ took root in our minds.

As we began to piece the times and events together, we realised we had been walking through Martin Place, 50 metres (150 feet) from the Lindt Café when the siege was taking place. It made us shudder to think about… there, but for circumstances, go us. If I had wanted my coffee, or chocolate, from that shop instead of a different place, we could have been among the hostages.

sydney-empty-streets

Empty Sydney Streets

As we finished our shopping errands over the next 40 minutes or so, one by one, businesses shut. The streets gradually cleared, people found the way home or at least out of the city. It was the most orderly shutting down of a city you can imagine, at least from our perspective.

We had booked lunch at The Spice Temple, a restaurant we’d wanted to try. It was not far from the siege exclusion zone and we wondered if they would even be open, as nearly everything was shut by one o’clock. The restaurant was open and having nothing else to do we decided to have our lunch. The waiter told us they’d had about one hundred of the expected 150 patrons cancel for that day. So he was able to be very attentive and we had a delicious meal, though disbelief and undertones of sadness were never far from our thoughts.

As we emerged from the darkness of the restaurant, Sydney was almost like a ghost town.

From our nearby hotel and for the remainder of the afternoon, we watched the TV news about the siege. Real information still very sketchy, speculation was rife. And then three hostages escaped… An hour or so later, two more. Hope.

We walked along the waterfront in the evening. Seeing the lonely Opera House, which had earlier in the day been evacuated, was most unusual. It is usually packed with people around it. We got the idea to book a tour for the next day.

sydney-opera-house

Sydney Opera House tour, a couple taking a ‘selfie’

On Tuesday morning our hope was dashed. We awoke to the news of the ending of the siege and the taking of lives. Unfortunately, a number of such occasions over the years, have had us starting a day in the fog of disbelief. Life goes on, but we pause to reflect on our blessings, and to think of those whose lives the tragedy has involved directly.

sydney-sunset

Sunset aboard Silver Cloud

The tour of the Opera House was special. It was lovely, because it is, of course, a beautiful place, but also because the guide worked so hard to take our minds off the sadness. He was brilliant.

florist-martin-place

Empty florist canisters in Martin Place, Tue, 16 Dec.

martin-place-flowers

Flower tributes Martin Place, Tue, 16 Dec

After the tour we walked near the exclusion zone to our next stop. The city was still a bit stunned and people moved about as if they weren’t even sure they should be there. Gradually, as the streets reopened, workers returned to their offices, and the crowds built.

Especially in Martin Place.

 

Florists ran out of flowers.

sydney-silver-cloud

View from deck of Silver Cloud toward city and bridge

We boarded the yacht Sliver Cloud for our dreamy visit–escaping the sad events, as many could not. After two nights we returned to the city to see the piles of flowers built up as Sydney grieved for its loss.

From Sliver Cloud helipad across to the Opera House

From Sliver Cloud helipad across to the Opera House

free-hugs-martin-place

Free hugs and conversation #embraceinmartinplace

The memorial of flowers grew and grew. Mourners filed past to pay their respects. The smell of flowers was nearly overpowering as we approached the area. A group of people gathered, with the hash tag #embraceinmartinplace. They had signs offering free hugs, or conversation, if someone needed to talk. I exchanged hugs with a lovely young woman whose parting words to me were ‘we are all one love’.

martin-place-tribute

Flowers in Martin Place on Thursday, 18 Dec.

We are crazed at this time of year, with shopping, cooking, partying. But Life has stopped still for those in Pakistan, New York, and Australia, where lives have been lost. It goes on for the rest of us, but hopefully we are awakened to what is really important, and it does not include decorations or gifts. It includes each other, and especially it includes the one love to which we are all connected.

tributes-martin-place

Floral and other tributes, Martin Place

What is important? Peace. Love. Us.

xx Ardys

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 462 other followers