Boggy Hole…

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In Australian vernacular, this is called a ‘bog roll’. 

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bog roll

The photo below is Boggy Hole. No relationship, except that one must occasionally use a bog roll when visiting Boggy Hole, because it is about 2.5 hours out of town, in the middle of everywhere, or nowhere, depending on your perspective.

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Boggy Hole

One can get ‘bogged’, which means ‘stuck’, usually in mud, sand or bull dust.

One can get a ‘boggy bog roll’ if you leave your bog roll somewhere to get wet.

And one can do all of the above at Boggy Hole if you aren’t careful.

Happily, we only did one of these things. Can you guess which one?

Boggy Hole is in the Finke Gorge National Park and it is not easy to get to. It is rated medium to high difficulty for 4 wheel drive vehicles and it is every bit of that. Three vehicles of us, nine persons altogether, decided to have a day out and enjoy our gorgeous landscape before the heat of summer sets in. These photos are not indicative of how rough much of the terrain was, but you can’t take photos inside a vehicle that is bouncing from wheel to wheel and back again.

On the way I was mentally snapping photo after photo, because, of course, when you are traveling with a group you cannot stop everyone so that you can take a photo. More’s the pity. Fortunately for me, we did have a couple of ‘pit stops’ and a flat tyre, as well as a challenging bit of landscape, that slowed us down and gave me a chance to take a few extra photos. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful to me.

Once we arrived at Boggy Hole, we all broke out our various contributions of food and drink and settled in for a few hours of chin wagging…and photo snapping. In the distance we could see some large birds on the water, among them Pelicans, Jabiru (large cranes), a couple of Darters, and some Black Swans. We all wondered how these water birds found their way to this remote place. But that is Nature for you–full of mysteries. Unfortunately they were too far away for me to get meaningful photos, and they scattered as soon as we got within any kind of decent range. There were quite a few dark cygnets swimming along with the larger Black Swan, very cute, of course. Did you know that Black Swans are indigenous to Australia? They are only seen worldwide because they have been sent, as novelties, and then bred afterward.

The walking was taxing, lots of deep sand and many rocks and deep weeds to navigate through. Between that and the tumbling action of the vehicle on the rough terrain, my body feels like the day after a first session of new exercise. But I can assure you, it was well worth the effort. It was one of those perfect weather/companion/scenery days that we will look back on in 20 years and smile…perhaps, while using some bog roll.

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On the way to/from Boggy Hole, a ‘necessary pause’ allowed this photo

the gold and the ring…

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I have just successfully completed the final hurdle in the track and field event that was the transferring of our internet account to the new National Broadband Network.

I think.

To be perfectly honest, it has been a tedious week at times, but at the moment I am standing on the dais accepting my gold medal for installing our NBN modem and net phone and having everything operational. Advance Australia Fair!

About a week ago I got the news that the replacement skylights for the ones smashed during the hail storm had arrived.

Smashed.

We are still waiting for the second lot to arrive. Immediately following that news I managed to lose my reading glasses out of a pocket on my morning walk. I found what was left of them.

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what was left of my glasses

Also smashed.

Apprehensive that there was an unfortunate pattern developing, I was greatly relieved when I was able to get into the optometrist the next day and order new glasses. I’m waiting for those to arrive–hopefully not smashed.

The day after the glasses incident we had an appointment with our tax agent. We have never resented paying taxes because we know if we hadn’t made the money in the first place there would be no tax to pay. Yes, occasionally we’d like to see it better spent, but that’s a separate issue. It took both of us about two hours each to get all the details and receipts together for this appointment and so far we have not heard from the agent that we have forgotten anything. Could there be another gold medal in the offing?

And just when we were feeling like the week was a bit of a slog, here came a FaceTime chat from our daughter and boyfriend in Greece.

💕’We are engaged to be married’💕

Boyfriend surprised her with a ring in the bottom of a wine glass while overlooking the sea, from a cliff top wine bar on Santorini. Could it be any more romantic? We are very happy for them, and for all of us. Daughter and Boyfriend have been together for 4.5 years, having met two weeks after she moved to Adelaide and having moved in together only a few weeks later. When love happens, it seems it is obvious, at least in our family. Hubby and I spent only 6 weeks together before becoming engaged so we kind of know how it can happen. We enjoy the future in-laws and of course our son-in-law-to-be and look forward to the future together.

The next day we celebrated with a beautiful walk at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, something we have been meaning to do for years. And then we were back to seeming like we weren’t quite clearing the hurdles again. There was the morning I sat on the toilet and ‘mid-stream’ noticed a very large spider next to me. There was a worrying message from family, flaring of arthritis, and things seemed back to normal.

At times Life feels like preparation for the Olympics. We train and practice and drag ourselves back from defeat and frustration, time after time. And then we have a win. We have a win that makes the rest of it seem worthwhile, or at least tolerable. I’ll accept the gold for the technical win, but the real win, of course, is seeing someone I love accepting the ring.

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our little girl

the euphoria of bread and butter pudding…

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I don’t make many cakes or desserts or slices because we would just eat them. But once or twice in the winter I make bread and butter pudding. In recent years I made it just for Him because I didn’t like the gluten free version and I couldn’t eat the wheat version. But now that I am able to eat my own sourdough spelt bread, I thought it was high time to revisit this favourite of ours.

It is a comfort food that goes waaaay back to the days when people could ill afford the many sweet treats we now lavish upon ourselves, often to detriment. Historians have traced it back to the 11th and 12th centuries in England, then called ‘poor man’s pudding’. My husband would disagree with the idea that good bread and butter pudding is anything but the highest culinary accomplishment, be it for rich or poor man. He goes to his ‘happy place’ when I make this bread and butter pudding. Such is his euphoria, he seems to struggle to find enough ways to express his joy, each complement greater than the last. This time he declared “You could feed this to anyone and they would love it”. Well, of course that’s not true, there are plenty of people who won’t or can’t eat something like this. But if you can, and will, I recommend it.

fresh from the oven in the early evening light

fresh from the oven in the early evening light

Ardys’s Bread and Butter Pudding

8 thick, or 10 thin slices good, but stale, bread (I use my homemade spelt sourdough here)

Approx. 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened to room temp., or spreadable consistency

weight or push the slices down into the liquid

weight or push the slices down into the liquid

Approx. 1/3 C sultanas (raisins)

Approx. 1/2 C apricot jam

2 C whole milk

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla essence (extract)

1/2 C sugar

Butter all slices of bread on both sides. Then spread the apricot jam on one side only of each slice. Butter sides and bottom of a deep casserole (about 2 quart).  Place one layer of bread into bottom, sprinkle with 1/2 the sultanas.  Place another layer of buttered bread on top and repeat the layering.  Add a third layer of buttered/jam bread for the final layer. 

Mix together the milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar, stirring well to combine, then pour over the bread layers.  Let this sit for 45 minutes or longer, during which time you can weight the bread down into the liquid, or press it down with the back of a spoon a few times. Make sure all edges are soaked so they don’t burn when baking.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 185 C, (375 F).  Bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden on top and knife comes out clean when inserted into centre of pudding.  Serve warm topped with more milk, cream or ice cream, or enjoy on its own.

Serves: 6-8

(The recipe can also be found under the heading of Breads/Baked Goods)

the proof of the pudding...

the proof of the pudding…

reflections on tree day…

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IMG_9869Today is Planetark National Tree Day in Australia. As most of you know I love trees and photograph them often. It might even be genetic; my father grew Christmas Trees for a living! Here’s a little reflecting of some passed tree portraits:

Go out and enjoy a tree or two today. xx

pearls of synchronicity…

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You have probably heard the expression ‘pearls of wisdom’, and to some degree that befits this story. However it is even more than that. It is a story about paying attention to our commitments, the feelings of others, and being in the moment.

We had a visit with Mum in March, tho we have just returned a few days ago from our most recent visit. During the March trip we arrived one morning to her apartment and she presented me with a small plastic bag and the remnants of what was once her favourite pearl necklace. Knowing I used to make jewellery and still had the tools, she said to me “I know it isn’t worth much but it means something to me, will you fix this for me?” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to repair it because my jewellery making days are done. I’m kind of like that when I’m done with something. I don’t usually go back to it, though things can wax and wane over the years before I reach that point. But I would do just about anything for my lovely Mother ( just as she has done for me over the years) so I said I would do my best and return it to her.

Mum’s memory is not what it used to be (not sure mine is either, for that matter!). There are days when she remembers things and days when it is a struggle. She told me she had forgotten to remove the necklace before going to bed that night and it had broken in her sleep. She had searched the sheets and carpet for what pearls she could salvage but I could tell from looking at the remains in the bag, some were missing. The cleaner had already come that morning and vacuumed and changed sheets, so any unfound pearls were well and truly gone by now. That would make the task more challenging.

As one does with things about which we are unenthusiastic, I delayed repairing the necklace until a couple of weeks before our return visit. I estimated there were about 20 small pearls missing. Perhaps you will call it luck; I call it synchronicity, that the only pearls I had, other than a few freshwater pearls, were small glass ones. They were the perfect size and near perfect colour to complete the necklace. How did that happen?

When I returned the pearls to Mum, she was visibly happy, and immediately started to tell the story of how she came to have them. It was the first thing she bought herself, with her first pay check as a registered nurse, back in the late 1940’s. I had never heard that before and was so glad I had persevered to repair them.

A couple of days later, my niece was visiting us and the conversation led to my recollection as a small child, probably in about 1959 or 1960. I was watching Mum getting ready to go out for the evening; most children are fascinated to watch their parents do ‘grown up things’. I recalled her putting on makeup, which she seldom wore, and then opening a velvet covered, shell-shaped box to retrieve the jewellery inside it. Mum sparked up as I was recounting the memory, and said

“That was the box the pearls came in, and I still have it!”

“What?” I was truly shocked.

“It is in the bedroom in a little compartment on the bed head.”

Sure enough, when I went to look, it was there. It was an epic, full circle moment, an insight to my Mother’s life that may never have happened–if her necklace hadn’t broken, if I had not kept the tools to repair it, if I had not honoured my word to repair it, if she had not kept the box, if my niece had not visited, if Mum hadn’t had that moment of clarity…if, if, if…

Life is much more miraculous and surprising at times, than anything I could ever imagine.

every trip has a story…

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We have been in the USA visiting and, hopefully, helping my Mother and immediate family for the last two and a half weeks. Our intentions were good, but our execution of the plan left a little to be desired. We had booked the trip 10 months ago when Qantas was having a good sale on Business class seats to the USA (two for 1!!). And at that time we had just returned from a trip there and it seemed like two weeks would be long enough. Erroneous thinking on many levels. We are left wondering what led us to this decision, so that we don’t repeat it.

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Our Qantas 737 plane to Sydney, named Retro Roo, painted with old style livery

Mum was good when we got there, but two of the last three days of our visit she was in hospital with an unexpected urinary tract infection. Did you know that this is a very common ailment in the elderly? The doctor who spoke to us was very nice and further informed us how this effects elderly people, and to some extent why. I thought I would share it since you may have someone in your family that is in a similar situation.

The doctor said that elderly patients, in general, have ‘less reserves’ in their system, so when this infection establishes itself it often appears that the affected person is confused and dizzy. He went on to explain why this happens. When a person has a UTI, they feel as if they need to relieve themselves more often than normal, thus dehydrating them slightly. This dehydration effects the blood pressure, so that when they stand, they are dizzy, and often fall. The dehydration also effects the brain function, and people can seem slightly more confused or less sharp than normal. If this is someone who already has some dementia, it can seem somewhat normal, since people have good days and bad days with that as well.

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Members of Mum’s gardening group at the assisted living home.

In Mum’s case she had not really noticed the burning with the urination that is often the telltale symptom, and so she fell twice in three days while getting up in the night. We had spent all day with her both days, and she had not commented on symptoms, or seemed much out of the ordinary. In fact, we did not know about the first fall, until the second one happened. How this can happen in an assisted living place is a very long and involved story that has to do with patient consent and how the issue is reported etc. Regardless, it is just plain frustrating.

The second time Mum fell she was wearing her medical alert necklace, which has a motion detector on it. When it detects a fall, they try to contact the person. If the person is unresponsive, they send paramedics, which they did. Mum was unconscious so they took her to the hospital. They ran many tests and immediately established that she had the UTI and started antibiotics intravenously.

Through what can only be viewed as a snafu of ridiculous proportions (internet not working properly, phone not working, hotel not having us listed as registered guests, despite the fact we had been there for 10 nights already), no one was able to get word to us until we appeared at her apartment the following morning, to find her gone, but the dog there alone. The assisted living place was able to update us and that is when I learned of her fall three nights previously. None of the rest of the family even knew about that one, since she was not wearing the medical alert necklace that night (they are uncomfortable for sleeping and Mum had removed it)

Mum was very confused that day and the following day. It wasn’t helped by the fact that hospitals are lousy places to get any rest! We took her home on the second day, and after a night of sleep, and two days of antibiotics in her system, she was like a new person on the last day we saw her. We spent most of the day with her and then left for the airport to fly home to Australia.

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Sometimes trips are good just to break you out of your normal routine

On the long haul flight coming home, heavy fog was predicted for Sydney, so our flight was diverted to Fiji for refuelling in case we had to fly around a bit before landing, or fly to a farther airport. So, 17 hours in the same seat on an airplane was a new record for us, and not one I care to challenge. The fog did not eventuate in Sydney, but farther up the coast.

Yesterday after we arrived home and went to the grocery, unpacked bags and made some dinner, I remarked “I’m sure I have some idea how Mum must feel when she is confused. My brain has the acuity of chocolate pudding.”

Mum is good and we are exchanging emails already. I am deliriously happy, having awakened in my own bed and now enjoying a really good cup of coffee. The brain is less pudding-y and more protoplasm-y this morning.

a frosty few words…

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IMG_9406As you may recall I wrote about the hail storm we had a couple of weeks ago. I have been busy with insurance claims and organising repairs but all in all things are going well. This week we had another ‘ice event’ that was just too much fun to photograph, to be missed. The frost did some damage but not quite as bad as the black frost we had last winter. However, it must be said, between what the grasshoppers ravaged and the hail shredded, the frost has furthered the case for bulldozing everything and starting over. Our corner of town is looking very sorry for itself at the moment.

Still. There is beauty to be found.

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That moment between ice and droplets

The morning the frost was heaviest, the temp was 2C (35.6F). That was the morning I took most of these photos and when most of my toes were lost to all feeling. They have regained it, thankfully. One of the few difficulties taking photos with the iPhone is the ‘touch screen’. It doesn’t like cold digits nor ones appropriately garbed in gloves. However we persisted, with the occasional ‘sotto voce’ epithet disappearing as ice crystals into the atmosphere.

Here you are, epithet free, my version of frost in the arid lands of Alice.

the five year mark…

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(This is the post I wrote last Friday before the ice storm. We had been home two days when the storm came and so I thought this post could wait for more current events!)

Many of you were not following when I started my blog nearly five years ago.(a very early post you might enjoy here) I started it while having radiation treatment in Darwin, 1000 miles from home. It was a soul searching, solitary, and challenging, but also very rewarding 7 weeks.

Alone in the light.

Alone in the light.

I have just returned from my five year consultation with the surgeon, and the tests that confirmed, all is well. The surgeon told me in October, five years from when I started the aromatase inhibitor medication I will be able to discontinue it. Further, she told me that the mammogram imaging has improved so much that I will be able to discontinue the difficult breast MRI test, unless the high resolution mammogram shows something unusual. (Mammogram remains an extraordinarily painful compression of one’s sensitive body parts, however!) Five years is a significant benchmark and I was greatly relieved, feeling very very fortunate.

The lady in the corner quietly crying into her tissues reminded me how far I had come.

For many years walking and enjoying nature has been a calming habit for me. It keeps me centred and feeling normal, even when things are abnormal. The recent week we spent in Adelaide began with a breast MRI the first day, and ended on the last day with the mammogram and surgeon consultation. In between were five days. I hesitate to say it was an uncertain time, because nothing in life is certain. But no doubt our awareness of uncertainty is sometimes heightened. One morning I told my husband I need to go find some light to photograph. The Adelaide Botanic Garden is not far from our hotel and I thought that would be the place. He wanted to join me, which was fine. He understands my frequent stops and contortionist positions to capture images I’m chasing. Here was my therapy for that day.

For all of society’s increasing interest in taking photos, there are still life moments that escape being photographed. The moment of certainty (however temporary) in the surgeon’s room, was not a Kodak moment. But this set of photos above, taken during that week, will be in my mind for a very long time.

This final photo is no prize winner, but it was a shared meal with our daughter and my husband, a good bottle of wine at our favourite Chinese restaurant with my husband’s grateful words;

‘Here’s to good boob health!’ Always a good toast!

'Here's to good boob health'

‘Here’s to good boob health’

hail hath some fury…

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This was not the blog post I intended to publish today. It will wait for a few days. I thought you might like to see what is going on in this little corner of the world. In the background are the sounds of sweeping, chain saws, leaf blowing, power sprayers and pumps. The sounds of humans cleaning up.

Yesterday started out blissfully domestic for me. Having only returned two days prior from a week away I was baking bread and ironing all the washing I’d done since our return. I’m always happy to have a day at home when I don’t have to go anywhere. Also, we had rain the night before, and I’d taken a few photos of the sun sparkling on the moisture laden plants in the garden.

And I worked on the aforementioned blog post, so a nice bit of creativity mixed with domesticity.

the approaching doom

the approaching doom

Despite the predictions, around 2pm I noted that we had not had any rain as yet, and there appeared none on the horizon. By 3.30 my husband rang from his desk at the Uni saying, have a look at the sky toward Mt. Gillen, it’s very dramatic. I said, yes, I’ve just taken a photo of it. Everything had changed and was looking ominous, but no severe storm warnings that I was aware of. By 4pm all hell broke loose. The hail and wind was upon us before I knew what had happened. I had been at the stove, cooking soup for dinner when I realised I shouldn’t be there, near the window. I ran for the hallway, the strongest point in the house. From there I could see the ferocity of the wind and I could hear the hail smashing the skylights in both bathrooms at either ends of the hallway. I was deeply hoping it didn’t smash the windows. We have a lot of double glazed glass. The 90kph winds were driving icy projectiles at a nearly horizontal angle so that they bounced off the glass and piled at the base of the windows or walls, or were carried away in the river of water flowing down our breezeway.

remains of the large tree

remains of the large tree

There was a large tree at the northwest corner of our property, but it was on the neighbour’s land. Twice before, both times when I was in the house during a storm, huge limbs had broken out of the tree and fallen on our patio and damaged it, one nearly missing the corner of the house. Our neighbour didn’t seem to want to do much about the tree so it regrew. But now virtually the entire tree was laying horizontally across his pool, breaking the fence and damaging tiles and the cover. Certainly that tree will not be bothering us any longer, nor will we get the much appreciated shade from it.

water mixed with ice, the mountain no longer visible

water mixed with ice, the mountain no longer visible

Finally, my husband was able to get home from the Uni, through flooded roads that were unrecognisable due to water coverage. He told me one house up the street from ours had water flowing through it! By the time he arrived I had set up buckets and mopped up places where the wind had driven the water through any likely crevices. A rammed earth house is not known for it’s tight fitting joins, but we’d never in 15 years had anything quite like this.

leaf litter blown against the glass with the ice beginning to melt below and sun peeking out

leaf litter blown against the glass with the ice beginning to melt below and sun peeking out

sky through the sky light

sky through the sky light

The rain and hail came in waves, with a bit of sun peeking through, just to relax us into a false sense of security. Sure enough, both bathroom skylights resembled swiss cheese and there were small hail stones and debris on the floors. But really, if the rain was going to come through, they were the two best places for it to happen because there were drains in the floors, and the tiles had a wet proofing membrane painted on underneath them, so they are likely to dry out ok. Not so sure about the joinery in one of the bathrooms as it seems to have absorbed quite a bit of moisture.

After we had cleaned most of what we could, and called emergency services, I got back to making the soup. Once again, I was at the kitchen sink, topping and tailing green beans. I glanced over my shoulder, toward the mountain. In a break from the precipitation the sun shone through. As the warm rays hit the piles of hail and ice, fog rose and an etherial light settled over the whole area. Neighbourhood children came running out from everywhere to play in it. It was as if Mother Nature was trying to make up for the havoc she had just wreaked.

ice turning to fog

ice turning to fog

Emergency services came about 9.30pm last night to assess the damage, but they said the crews were all so busy it would be a while to get to us. I’m sure there are many people worse off than us so we will wait our turn. They told us there was another storm cell coming. They were right. More hail and more pieces of skylight joined them on the floors, but nothing as bad as the first wave.

The plants in the garden that had recovered surprisingly well from the grasshopper plague are now laying in shreds again. My newly planted herb garden has had the shock of its young life.

But all in all, we are lucky, and we know it. We await the next surprise Life has in store for us.

the gift…

One evening I was at the kitchen sink, cutting up veggies for dinner. The window in this part of the kitchen faces mostly southeast. Aware of the golden light shafts coming into the kitchen from behind me, I turned, looking over my shoulder to the northwest which is the position of the setting sun this time of year. After a very cloudy couple of days, it was especially glorious. But my eyes found a few whiskers of grass, rimmed with golden light and I dried my hands and ran for the iPhone. The grass was probably 12 metres outside of the door. When I returned, I showed my bemused husband what I was photographing. He said “How did you see that from across the kitchen with your back turned?” I replied, jokingly, “It’s my gift.” And later I realised, it really is one of my gifts. That is why I am a Light Chaser. I have to be, to share my gift.

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