Autumn in Alice

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Most people assume we don’t really have seasons here in Central Australia. They would be wrong. It is Autumn here now, and for the last few weeks I have been inspired… giddy… okay, obsessed, with the changes in the light as it skims the mountains, is filtered by cloud, washes the kitchen bench, highlights the garden. My husband chuckles at me photographing food in the morning and late afternoon light in the kitchen. Then he calls me to see the odd shaped clouds or the colour of the sky at sunset.IMG_9154 IMG_9170

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is glorious.IMG_9096 IMG_9155

The nights have cooled and the days no longer require air conditioning in the house. We can come out of hibernation from the heat and intense sun. We often get a bit of rain this time of year, usually to spoil the Easter weekend camping experience! Easter was later this year, however, and the rain came at its usual time, so everyone is happy. When you only receive about 200mm (8 inches) of rain in a year and you get 100mm in one week, it grabs your attention.IMG_9083

Months of red dust rinsed from the leaves, filling up the basin until the dry river bed was replenished, and began to flow. See the Todd flow thrice and you are considered a ‘local’. I have lost count. There is always palpable excitement as locals, and tourists alike, flock to the river to see and photograph it during a few days of flow. And then it is gone again. It retreats underground like a great, mysterious serpent.

The Serpent of water appears

The Serpent of water appears

The Serpent is gone.

The Serpent is gone.

Our causeway dissolved into river and was blocked for a short while, so we had to travel an extra five minutes into town. The ‘hardship’ is worth it! All is dry again now, and all that remains is the proof of what transpired; fresh blades of new grass, green leaves resplendent, and a few dewy, morning remnants of moisture hovering above ground.

And there is the light. Always, there is the light that is so inspiring. Below is a gallery of photos I hope will bring some light to your life.

–Ardys

(if you move your curser over each photo you will see the titles pop up, and if you double click on the photos you can see them full size)

The Smell of the Wild

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Often, I am inspired by other people’s blog posts. As I have said previously, they are my morning newspaper. Aside from getting a little voyeuristic peek into other people’s lives and interests, I am often reminded of stories from my own life. Recently, while reading the ever-funny Peak Perspective blog, I was reminded of something that typifies some of the interesting times in our family.

skunk wi noseThose of you who have never smelled skunk, just haven’t lived. The famous cartoon skunk, Pepé Le Pew, was great fun. Pepé was a romantic ‘french scallywag’ whose odiferous presence sent everyone running, especially the objects of his affection. The real thing sends everyone running as well, except for my parents it seems. The American skunk is  found in the ‘lower 48’ states of the USA, lower Canada and northern Mexico. Though, apparently, there are other similarly smelly creatures and relatives, like the ‘stink badger’, around the world. The smell of the American striped skunk is enough to make paint peel. It is unearthly. And it is almost permanent, taking superior powers of removal to get rid of it. Ask anyone whose dog has gotten a bit close, or whose car has hit one, when they are crossing the road. P. U.

I can only imagine my Mother’s reaction when we were young and my Dad rescued TWO nests of baby skunks. When he mowed the fields with the tractor, he would occasionally, unknowingly, mow over a nest of rabbits. This time it was skunks. He had seen the mother dead and didn’t know what to do with the babies. Coincidentally he happened across another nest on the same day–mother hit by a car.  He heard they could make good pets, and never one to shirk a challenge, he brought them home, eleven or twelve of them, I think. ‘Hi honey, I’m home…’

the wee babies

the wee babies

We fed them with doll’s bottles of formula, and from memory I think Mom even gave them distemper shots. She was a nurse and had consulted the vet, who wanted nothing to do with them! When they were a few weeks older, the vet explained to my parents how to surgically remove their scent glands, because HELL NO he wasn’t going to do it!! My parents being who they were (adventurous) did the surgery under the carport. The scalpel nicked one of the glands in the process and it smelled. Bad.

When they were very young they didn’t smell much, but as they got a week or two older they quickly developed a distinctive odour, even before their scent glands were fully operational. And after they were fully grown, even without scent glands, there was an odour about them when you got up close.

Several of the skunks survived and some died, and probably would have in the wild anyway; but the survivors were kept as pets. Someone took a pair of them. We kept one, which met with a tragic accident when it was about a year old… Brother accidentally trounced on Rosie when climbing down from the cherry tree. Your basic back yard accident… step out of a tree onto a skunk. We used to walk it on a leash, up the street in our small town. Oh my, the looks we would get! Rosie’s brother, Skippy, got an unplanned release back into the wild after biting my Aunt on the finger. My parents kept it to make sure it was not rabid and then released it. It seems a cruel thing to do, given it had no scent glands any longer, but perhaps it found protection in a clan of smelly kin. But maybe he didn’t smell badly enough to fit in… there’s an interesting thought.

Skunks can be pets, the same way any wild animal can be a pet; but you have to respect them, they are still wild. They don’t take kindly to teasing and quick movements, or shocks. Nowadays, we know it is never a good idea to try and rear wild animals unless you have skills. Often a permit is required, as well… and always, always an understanding spouse!

–Ardys

What is Real?

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When we try to help others, we often receive a gift even greater than that which we give. Personal insight. Recently, while trying to help another person I recalled this passage from my favourite ‘children’s book’, which, I did not read until I was 22 years old!IMG_9027

 

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse, “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

–The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

It reminded me to love myself, wrinkles, bulges, grey hair and all. The journey it has taken me to get this way has been worth every step.

 

-Ardys

 

In My Kitchen – April 2014

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Look at how this last day of March began before my walk, and before writing this post…

Sunrise, 31 March

Sunrise, 31 March

Builder's dust

Builder’s dust on everything

For the last few weeks the activities at our house have focused around the laundry, not the kitchen. The laundry was the very last area to receive the makeover treatment, in the 15 years (almost to the day) since we moved into this house.  I had dreaded it, and it turns out, with good reason. No, not horrific, but painful enough, with the usual problems of having to ‘undo’ what was haphazardly done 26 years ago when the house was built. And wet-areas are always worse to renovate that other rooms.

Flour-less chocolate cake

Flour-less chocolate cake

The reno is done now, and as of wine-thirty on Friday (28th), we can get back to the fun stuff… eating and blogging! Friday being the last day for the builder/tiler/all-round-great-tradesman and fellow, I made Flour-less Chocolate Cake, for him, and the electrician who has a few updates to do in other rooms.

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Meatballs/spaghetti squash with Bleasdale Shiraz

Meatballs/spaghetti squash with Bleasdale Shiraz

I’ve had a craving for meatballs, so on Saturday while my husband played golf, I went into a meatball trance.  It was worth it. Please try these some time and don’t leave out the sultanas, they are the perfect balance for the chilli flakes and the sauce and you will be glad you didn’t (I hope). My husband is not really one for fruit in meat dishes, even in curries, which sometimes call for them, but he loves these meatballs.  And the sauce…. resist temptation to tinker with it, and remember it is the foil for the meatballs and it doesn’t taste like most normal sauces, in my experience. The meatballs are the star of this meal.

Spaghetti squash with butter, salt, pepper, lightly cooked yellow cherry tomatoes, broccoli and Parmesan

Spaghetti squash with butter, salt, pepper, lightly cooked yellow cherry tomatoes, broccoli and Parmesan

Shred the inside of the boiled spaghetti veg

Shred the inside of the boiled spaghetti veg

I am also having a love affair with spaghetti squash at the moment! Revealing though that may sound… spaghetti squash and I go waaay back. When I was a child in Ohio and my Mom made it, I was pretty unimpressed.  But now, being the gluten free, grain free consumer that I am, it is a little slice of heaven… a vehicle for butter and Parmesan, and a perfect base upon which to add other vegetables or meatballs (above). I have never seen it in Alice Springs previous to this autumn and believe me, at $10-$12 per vegetable, I imagine it is not a big seller.  But I get several meals from one and if you price good chocolate per kilo, it is much more expensive, so I am indulging.

IMG_8989On Sunday I made baked cheesecake (gluten free base) for a friend whose birthday is today, 31 March. According to him it is his favourite all time dessert. Who am I to argue??

Bodum, coffee grinder

Bodum, coffee grinder

When one is occupied with renovations, there are many tedious hours spent waiting for tradesmen. One day, when I was waiting for the plumber, and entertaining myself, I clicked the ‘buy’ button for this lovely coffee grinder. Oops!  If you want a small, but very robust grinder for home use, this is the one.  Love it.  It has taken my morning cuppa to a new level. Listen, smell that??

(As usual, In My Kitchen posts are part of the monthly hosting by Celia at figjamandlimecordial. Lots of interesting goings-on in kitchens around the world–go have a look!)

Okay, you have waited patiently, so here you are, the good, the bad and the recently renovated laundry photos.  Thanks for reading.

Temporarily repositioned washing machine-outside

Temporarily repositioned washing machine-outside

Laundry 'before'

Laundry ‘before’

Light fitting

New light fitting

Plumbing 'before'

Plumbing ‘before’

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plumbing/hot water heater 'after'

plumbing/hot water heater ‘after’

Laundry 'after'

Laundry ‘after’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O to be Organised

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How does one stay motivated to be organised? I’ve been asking that question for a few years now. I am managing to keep a fairly orderly life, but only just. Years ago I was an organisational tsunami.  But lately I have realised I need to start simplifying my life, especially the things we have stored in cupboards. From time to time, I still have moments of clarity as with my kitchen drawers:

spices...

spices…

plastic storage...

plastic storage…

knives...

knives…

Okay. So I seem a bit OCD.

That all happened three and a half years ago with the kitchen renovation. Since then they have worked perfectly and stayed completely organised and easy, and I can see that I need the rest of the house to work as well as that. It’s easier than wasting time looking for things, or having to move clutter when dusting.  And I’m lazy.  I like easy.

IMG_8922I’ve chosen to start with my print photo collection. It was out of control. The digital photos are somewhat organised, the old print photos accumulated from family and friends over a period of 20 years… that is another story.  They occupy two shoe boxes, multiple envelopes and an RM Williams boot box.  They do not take up a vast amount of space in the grand scheme of things, but they are valuable, and they are useless in their current state. I think micro changes are the most difficult to organise for, and why a person loses track.  You wake up and look at a very cluttered shelf or table top one morning and think ‘God, how did that happen?’

My very smart husband told me a few months ago, if ever you decide to file or organise the photos (I was complaining I couldn’t find a particular photo, I think…) do it by years.  Based on his extensive study, using library resources, he says people usually remember things based on a timeline. Brilliant.

laundry reno... so far

laundry reno… so far

I determined while the laundry renovations were proceeding would be a good time to work on this project.  I have a ‘thing’ about having workmen in the house… I don’t leave them unsupervised for long periods of time.  Even when they are jack-hammering…much as I would love to escape. This house has too many nasty surprises. Renovation work on an owner/builder house –for which you were not the owner/builder– is too full of idiosyncrasies for comfort. (Check back, about a week from now, when the project should be finished)

So I ‘hang’… which is different than ‘hover’.  I appear to be busy while they are appearing to be busy… a skill I perfected when our daughter was a teen, and was temporarily replaced by an alien being, and wanted nothing to do with me.  One keeps one’s ears wide open, even if one’s face is directed elsewhere!

Where did I get the inspiration to get organised? Partly out of necessity, but the following two links helped as well, if you are interested. (http://bemorewithless.com/archives/ and http://www.oprah.com/home/Declutter-Tips-Organizing-Strategies ). While the workers are using their phones, talking about what to do, having morning tea, and, oh yes, working… I am sorting photos and making files. At first I sorted about a third of the photos just to see how it went. What I had, was a surprise.  Most of the photos were taken in certain years and there were a few years with almost no photos. So I decided to label the files in five-year increments.  There may eventually have to have sub-files, as there are a lot of photos for some years.

While my husband was correct about how people normally think of events, he did not account for the fact that at least half the photos have no years or dates on them. Ugh.  I have newly developed love for dates and labels on photos, and new skills for estimating those without dates…based on hairstyles (especially my own), or, the shoulder pad situation. But beyond that, a five year spread in the file means I have five chances to approximate the year correctly.  This will, hopefully, make things easier to find … when I am searching for photos to blog for you.

I will close with this 50 year old, poor quality polaroid photo I have discovered. My two brothers happily running arm in arm. What treasure.L&S running

-Ardys

Let’s play, spot the glasses.

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Let's play, spot the glasses.

Let’s play, spot the glasses.

My friend Joanna is the Goddess of small lost things. I am her understudy. Last Spring when I was doing some gardening I lost my glasses.  I didn’t miss them until I came back inside, so had no idea in which part of the garden I’d lost them. They were not my good glasses, just a pair of magnifying glasses I take travelling with me, in case my good glasses are broken or lost, which they were (broken) on a trip last year. But I like them, and I wanted them back!

My husband walks to his desk at the Uni every day, mostly to work in a bit of exercise to his daily routine, but also to leave the car for me since I’m the one who does most of the shopping and errands.

This morning, about fifteen minutes after he left, he returned.  His glasses were missing from his face! He looked genuinely bewildered and told me the following… ‘The flies and honey bees were particularly bad along the footpath where a bush is in blossom. I raised my hand to shoo them away and hit my glasses and knocked them off my face and into the grass, or somewhere, and I can’t find them.  A lady who was passing by tried to help me and neither of us could find them.’

I quickly ate my last few bites of breakfast and said I would go back with him to look.  His glasses are very expensive, and this particular pair took them three tries to get right, so we had a bit invested in them already!

We drove the car so that I could take him on to Uni for an early appointment, and then bring the car home with me so he could walk home this afternoon (he’s very dedicated). The  grass was recently clipped, and you would have thought, should easily reveal a pair of metal glasses.  But of course, when you wear glasses, it is hard to see without them, though he does have good long distance vision even without them.

Can you spot them?

Can you spot them?

At the risk of jinxing any future good fortunes…within a few seconds I had spotted them. As opposed to my own lost glasses last year, it was a piece of cake. We knew within a few feet, where they had to be.  Before he picked them up I said ‘WAIT, I want a photo to show Joanna!’

Afterward, we drove around near the Uni and I let him out of the car near the path he likes to use as a cut through.  He called out as I was about to drive off and I looked up, to see him laughing and holding a large fork he had just found on the ground.

Feeling done, dear?

Or just forked??

–Ardys

 

photoIn case you couldn’t see them, I’ve cropped the portion of the photo with the glasses… xxx

A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather Than Exist

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This is too good not to share. I wish I had said it. – Ardys

Re-blogged from Brainpickings by 

“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.”

The commencement address is a special kind of modern communication art, and its greatest masterpieces tend to either become a book — take, for instance, David Foster Wallace onthe meaning of lifeNeil Gaiman on the resilience of the creative spiritAnn Patchetton storytelling and belonging, and Joseph Brodsky on winning the game of life — or have originated from a book, such as Debbie Millman on courage and the creative life. One of the greatest commencement speeches of all time, however, has an unusual story that flies in the face of both traditional trajectories.

In 2000, Villanova University invited Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, journalist, and New York Times op-ed columnist Anna Quindlen to deliver the annual commencement address. But once the announcement was made, a group of conservative students staged a protest against Quindlen’s strong liberal views. The commencement was cancelled. “I don’t think you should have to walk through demonstrators to get to your college commencement,” Quindlen lamented. Rather than retreat, however, she emailed the undelivered commencement address to a Villanova graduate student who had expressed disappointment at the situation. Years before the social web as we know it today, the speech spread like wildfire across the internet. A few months later, Quindlen expanded it into the short and lovely book A Short Guide to a Happy Life (public library).

 Anna Quindlen (artwork based on a photograph by Grant M. Haller)

Quindlen begins:

I’ve never earned a doctorate, or even a master’s degree. I’m not an ethicist, or a philosopher, or an expert in any particular field… I can’t talk about the economy, or the universe, or academe, as academicians like to call where they work when they’re feeling kind of grand. I’m a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is really all I know.

And know it she does:

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That’s what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first. Don’t ever forget what a friend once wrote to Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator had decided not to run for reelection because he’d been diagnosed with cancer: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

Don’t ever forget the words on a postcard that my father sent me last year: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

Quindlen considers the question of the self and what makes us who we are, what makes us worthy of being. And while the great Annie Dillard may have cautioned to not “ever use the word ‘soul,’ if possible,” it seems impossible to address the question of what makes a meaningful life without addressing the human soul, which Quindlen does beautifully:

There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from ‘Open House for Butterflies’ by Ruth Krauss. Click image for more.Even those trying to find their purpose, even those engaged in fulfilling work, and even those of us lucky enough to have no separation between “life” and “work,” can get consumed by our modern cult of productivity. Quindlen’s words come as a vital reminder of what matters, what counts, what the true aliveness of life is:

You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.

Here, Annie Dillard, who so memorably expounded the power of presence over productivity in the making of a rich life, would have agreed. For Quindlen, however, an even richer life than that of simply being present is one of being present with a palpable generosity of spirit towards the world:

Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take the money you would have spent on beers in a bar and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Tutor a seventh-grader.

All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from ‘I’ll Be You and You Be Me’ by Ruth Krauss. Click image for more.Quindlen, who had a jarring confrontation with the mortality paradox early in life — at nineteen, she lost her mother to ovarian cancer and spent her sophomore year of college administering morphine while her peers partied — considers the Alan Wattsian idea that putting at rest our resistance to the inevitability of death liberates us to be more alive. (Sarah Lewis put this beautifully when she observed, “When we surrender to the fact of death, not the idea of it, we gain license to live more fully, to see life differently.”) Quindlen reflects on the tragedy that split her life into a “before” and an “after”:

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking.

[…]

“Before” and “after” for me was not just before my mother’s illness and after her death. It was the dividing line between seeing the world in black and white, and in Technicolor. The lights came on, for the darkest possible reason.

And I went back to school and I looked around at all the kids I knew who found it kind of a drag and who weren’t sure if they could really hack it and who thought life was a bummer. And I knew that I had undergone a sea change. Because I was never again going to be able to see life as anything except a great gift.

Watercolor by Alessandro Sanna from ‘The River.’ Click image for more.

“We have entered a new age of fulfillment, in which the great dream is to trade up from money to meaning,” philosopher Roman Krznaric wrote in his fantastic manifesto for finding meaningful work, but Quindlen reminds us that the luxury of seeking fulfillment rather than mere survival came at a price — and yet how easily we take it for granted:

It’s ironic that we forget so often how wonderful life really is. We have more time than ever before to remember it. The men and women of generations past had to work long, long hours to support lots and lots of children in tiny, tiny houses. The women worked in factories and sweatshops and then at home, too, with two bosses, the one who paid them, and the one they were married to, who didn’t. . . . Our jobs take too much out of us and don’t pay enough.

She continues:

Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.

[…]

This is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.

Photograph by Myron Davis for ‘The Meaning of Life.’ Click image for more.

How, then, are we to fully inhabit the miracle of our existence, that cosmic accident by the grace of which we ended up alive, here, now? Quindlen offers a gateway to presence:

Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life is the kind of read that stays with you for a long time, the sort you revisit again and again when the ground beneath your feet shakes and you reach for a reminder of the solid center. Complement it with more fantastic commencement addresses by Bill WattersonJoss Whedon,Oprah WinfreyEllen DeGeneresJacqueline NovogratzAaron SorkinBarack ObamaRay BradburyJ. K. RowlingSteve JobsRobert KrulwichMeryl Streep, and Jeff Bezos

If wishes were horses…

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-25 years ago

26 years ago – looking into the future?

Today is the 25th Anniversary of the Web.  How time flies. I have had a personal computer (Mac) for 27 years. Of course I didn’t start using the worldwide web until the 90’s, when everyone else did. I was using the computer for design and word processing.  I learn something new nearly every day, but instead of catching up, I seem to fall behind as the technology advances. I learn as I go, just not fast enough.  The panacea of personal computers? Things have kind of gotten out of hand.

Last evening I added an unusual item to my ‘Wish List’ on Amazon.  It is a ‘spiralizer’. This morning I see it is an Amazon ad on my personal Facebook page. And not just any spirilizer (there are many) but the exact one I had chosen. A coincidence? I think not. I’ve heard about the increased power and perception of information gathering programs online, in particular the one associated with Amazon…the possibility of drone delivery of items before we have even ordered them!! The mind boggles. I recently said to my husband I’m glad we lived before computers because we have a little perspective on the whole thing. At the moment I find it interesting because I know a little about what is going on. If only I understood what I know.

A couple of sites from which I buy books are using software based on my past purchases, as they try to figure out which books to market to me.  I could just ‘unsubscribe’ from their emails, but it amuses me. My tastes are eclectic enough that they haven’t pegged me quite yet, and it is interesting to see the correlation between what I order and what marketing emails flow on from that.  The flaw in their diabolical plan is, I order books for other people as well as myself, but of course they have no way of knowing that… or do they??? So, with my recent purchase of the book titled ‘Markets or Governments-2nd Edition: Choosing between imperfect alternatives’ I notice they have not come up with a further selection based on that title. Give them time. I ordered it for my husband. His reading tastes are about as opposite from mine as it gets. They probably do account for that, somewhere in the algorithms of the extrapolation of the cowabungus… oh, how would I know???

I worked in marketing/promotion/advertising for over 10 years, in my previous life, which has now been a long time ago… before personal computers, and long before the Web. We used focus groups, surveys, direct marketing and all kinds of things to try and target our market. According to Wikipedia modern advertising started in the 1920’s with the advent of the tobacco industry. Those who don’t want to be a target could stop all internet and electronic usage, and close their eyes when they walk down the street…hmm, maybe not that last one. Short of that, most of us will just have to tighten up our privacy settings and learn to be discerning consumers. Everyone wants a little piece of us, or more accurately, our money and purchase power. Don’t click.  Say no.  Hang up the phone, or deal with the consequences.

I feel sorry for those who are naïve and fall prey to the less scrupulous among us but that has been going on all of my life, and I’m pretty sure long before that. Consumers have been targets, well, forever. What about Eve convincing Adam to eat that apple? If that wasn’t target marketing I don’t know what is.  What business hasn’t received a dishonoured cheque (when cheques were still used, of course)? What person hasn’t been disappointed by a product or service that fell far short of the promised expectations?

Browsers get more powerful and enable us to find information as never before in human history.  I can type a foreign language into Google and get a translation within seconds.  I can find out how to repair my toilet, or what the heck a ‘spiralizer’ is!  I can even find out how to improve my privacy online.  Power has been, and always will be, a double edged sword, so be careful what you wish for… I looked, you can’t order a horse from Amazon but you can order a horse-y game…. I wonder what kind of ad would appear on my Facebook page then?

Yours, in privacy… Ardys (surname withheld for security reasons)

Always look up

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My general philosophy is not to blog if I have nothing to say. However… my fingers seem to be itching to tell you something and I’m curious to see what it is, so here we go…

The real pleasure-seeking is the combination of luxury and austerity in such a way that the luxury can really be felt.

- G.K. Chesterton

I have referred before to the idea that there are peaks and valleys in life.  We cannot live in either location forever.  That would be the Plains… with no relief, of either kind. Usually my days weave up and down, even the hours are sometimes just that way. But once in a while there comes a quiet, low rumbling of a week or month or six, and I can find myself wondering ‘what is going on?’.

ideas bubbling to the surface

Inside there are changes afoot, musings stirring, ideas bubbling, and glinting, in the light as they come to the surface, but still with no clear resolution. The austerity of these hours and days of rumination is occasionally broken, thank goodness.

On this occasion an ordinary trip to the grocery called me back to earth.

I returned to my car to load the groceries into it, and I looked up… always look up, whenever you get the chance.

There on the car behind mine… a reminder…

Wha????

Life is not so serious, it is a marvel and a mystery, and awfully funny, even on the ordinary days.

-Ardys

In My Kitchen – March 2014

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The passed month in my kitchen has been interesting… in a good way.  Our weather cooled and dried out to glorious, for about two weeks, and so my energy for cooking returned with gusto.

IMG_8279My husband is a dab hand at the barbecue, so that leaves me to do things in the kitchen. It is a sharing of meal preparation that we did when first married but due to him travelling we had to abandon for many years.  Now we have returned to it and are both enjoying ourselves.  Steaks and corn on the grill are a favourite.  I usually try to buy an extra ear of corn, or two, so that I can cut it off the cob after it’s grilled and make this delicious salad.  I saw it in a magazine at the hairdresser and never got an exact copy of it, but generally it goes something like this:

  • IMG_8277 IMG_8297 Mixed lettuce leaves and baby spinach leaves with the following:
  •  cherry tomatoes
  •  cucumber
  •  red capsicum (bell pepper)
  •  feta cheese
  •  fresh sliced chilli
  •  corn, cooked and cut from the cob
  •  toasted pine nuts (optional, my husband doesn’t care for them, but I love them)
  •  olive oil, salt, and squeeze of fresh lemon juice OR balsamic vinegar

IMG_8559I made grain-free granola (which I’m pretty sure is a contradiction in terms…) cereal. (I am gluten intolerant, as well as a few other things)  It is all nuts and seeds and pretty full on and so I seldom eat it as a cereal but as a topping on yogurt or Quark/cottage cheese, with some berries, or something like that.

I revisited some old favourites, cauliflower cheese with the leftover free range ham we had in the freezer from Christmas, taco salad, layered veggie casserole and created a new version of stuffed mushrooms.  I didn’t use any packet mixes for anything in these, but they are all simple to make. I am trying to focus our diet on very healthy vegetables, protein and whole food fats.  Don loved the stuffed mushrooms. The links above are for the recipes, if you are interested.IMG_8678

IMG_8302We consume a lot of vegetables, and if you haven’t seen or tried them, I highly recommend these green vegetable bags for helping keep your vegetables fresh a bit longer.  They save me having to go to the grocery quite as often. Here in Alice I get them from Coles grocery, but you may have to hunt around to find another supplier in your local area.

I will leave you with the highlight of our month…not from my kitchen, but from the kitchen of good friends (with permission)… dinner at Casa-Lena.  Casa-Lena is named for her mother who passed away a year ago this month.  Theirs is a Mexican Hacienda style home they have lovingly built at the edge of town… in the bush, and the quiet. At night all you hear is the occasional dog barking in the distance. The stars are so brilliant you want to lie on your back and watch them appear. First Venus, then Orion’s belt, then the Southern Cross and finally the entire arm of the Milky Way unfurls above.  It is a light show, unparalleled, on a clear summer night.

Poolside Cabana

Poolside Cabana

From Cabana to surrounding hills

From Cabana to surrounding hills

Evening sun on pots and bougainvillea

Evening sun on pots and bougainvillea

The meal was amazing, grilled scallops and prosciutto, barbecued pork belly, roasted carrots and pumpkin (butternut squash) with rocket, pear and toasted walnut salad.  Died and gone to heaven, am living among the stars.

Pork belly, carrots and pumpkin (squash)

Pork belly, carrots and pumpkin (squash)

Our friends in candlelight

Our friends in candlelight

Happy days and starry nights to you.

(Many thanks to Celia at figjamandlimecordial.com for hosting the IMK series.  Why not pop on over there to read some other interesting accounts of what is going on in people’s kitchens from around the world?)

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