Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Christmas Meme

Another one that might go down in the annals of "oh, this might be fun."

A Christmas blog.

I'm not a Christian. Hmmm.... Questions, as always, from Sunday Stealing.

1. Do you send Christmas cards? 

No - though I send the odd seasonal email.

2. How soon do you start shopping?

Depends  - normally early December, but I've been known to pick up things in the months before if something takes my fancy.

3. Who do you shop for?

Store vouchers normally.

4. Do you put up a Christmas tree?

No, never.

5. If so, is it fake or real?

Real ones are great, but they're not that environmentally friendly. Actually, Christmas isn't that environmentally friendly when you think about it.

6. Do you like tinsel?

Horrid stuff, but it makes cat's poo look pretty.

7. Do you use homemade or store bought ornaments?

Moot point - don't have a tree.

8. Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?

No. That would scare the possum out front.

9. Do you put lights on the tree?

Don't have a tree. Waste of electricity.

10. How about popcorn and cranberries?

Why would you do that?

11. Is there a wreath hanging on your door?: 

Hmmm - seeing a theme yet? No.

13. Do you hang up your stocking?

I don't wear stockings, they give you candida - why would you want an itchy crotch at Christmas. Nope. Besides, don't you normally hang stockings in the shower after you've washed them?

14. Does your family read "Twas the night before Christmas?"

No. However I know most of this by rote after learning it as a child.

15. Christmas Movie?

Best Christmas movie ever - Die Hard.

16. Character from any Christmas Movie?

John McLean

17. Christmas Song?

I tend to run out of stores that play Christmas carols too early (like before December) But the powers that be had a magic choir do this one in the atrium at work the other day and it filled the building with lovely music. Still love Martin Crane's version of it too.



18. Christmas Memory: 

I've got some good Christmas memories of Christmas's spent with friends. The one spent with Lachlan was a good one.

19. Give or Receive?

Give

22. Ham or Turkey?

I don't really eat that much pig - and turkey is normally dry. I like the Australian tradition of seafood and salad.

24. White Lights or Colored Lights? 

Does it make a difference?

25. Blinking Lights or Still Lights?

Seriously, these things matter?

26. Were you Naughty or Nice this year?

A bit of both.

27. What do you want for Christmas this year?

A new Federal Government and for the untimely downfall and demise of Rupert Murdoch.

28. When do you open your gifts?

Christmas morning.

29. What's the best gift you've ever gotten?

The trampoline we got when we were kids was pretty good.

30. What's the worst gift you've ever gotten?

Oh, that cushion. A workmate once gave me a bottle green cushion with a picture of kittens and puppies with Christmas hats on it - truly dire. I accepted it graciously as it's the thought that counts - it then was placed under the blanket on the couch.

31. Who gives you the most gifts?

My friends are pretty generous. We give experiences now/

32. Have you ever had a secret Santa?

Only the ones at work and the one we have at Christmas in July - you normally score something good out of that one.

33. Do you like wrapping gifts?

Not really waste of paper.

34. Do you put change in those red buckets?

This must be an American thing - I do try and give to charity over the season.

35. Do you burn a yule log?

It's the middle of summer - having the heater on is the last thing I have in mind. Besides, my flat doesn't have a fire place.

36. Can you name all the reindeer?

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

37. Do you bake cookies?

No, but I made Christmas Apricot Jam this year for all my friends.

38. Have you ever seen your mommy kissing Santa Clause?

Ew

39. Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe?

No, don't even know what Mistletoe looks like - it's not an Australian plant.

41. Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights?

I've got better things to do with my time.

42. Have you ever left Santa cookies?

As a child, we used to leave out Father Christmas a beer, a mince pie and a carrot for the reindeer. Then  When I got told that Father Christmas wasn't real (Thanks Karen Hawkes, the Jehovah's Witness who lived down the road - I was five... thank you for shattering my innocence.) I worked out that Father Christmas had my father's dentures.

43. Have you ever sat on Santa's lap?

Only as a child.

44. Who do you celebrate Christmas with?

This year I'm heading to Tasmania to spend Christmas with Blarney, Barney and Barney's folks - they've adopted me in this year. Should be great - I've never been to Northern Tasmania before.

45. Where do you celebrate Christmas?

Normally with friends in Melbourne, unless I go away. One of the best Christmases I ever had was in Thailand. On Christmas Day we went riding elephants. That was cool.

46. Have you ever had a white Christmas?

No, but I nearly had one. I spent eight Christmases in England - Christmas is so much better in Winter.

47. What part of Christmas do you look most forward to?

When it's over.

48. Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa?

Only as a child and that was like 40 years ago.

Sorry - as a non Christian, Christmas irritates me a lot.

Ah well.

Bah Humbug.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Light, More Light

So much has been said about what went down in Sydney on Monday, culminating in the deaths of three people in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I don't need to add any more commentary on this, other than to send good thoughts to the hostages and those who died and the scene, wishing them, and their families love, strength and peace.

See, I'm one of the millions of office workers who regularly stops in at a cafe to pick up a coffee, juice or some buttered raisin toast during the morning. I get how this event has permeated society and how the collective grief has encompassed us all. We all think, "It could have been me, my colleague, my friend in that cafe." And true, it could have been any one of us there. Thankfully it wasn't.

Like many other Australians, I'm thankful that our strict gun laws prevent people from owning semi-automatic weapons. I grew up on a farm. I've grown up around guns - I'm not anti-gun, but if you're not a soldier, a policeman, a farmer or a member of a registered gun club, what do you need a gun for? Strengthening the gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre was one of the best things Prime Minister John Howard did (possibly the only thing, but I do give him credit for this one). That this gunman only had a shot gun probably saved many lives. Not that you want nutters to have guns at all - but we can all be a very thankful that this was not a hell of a lot worse than it was - many more could have died. They didn't. As tragic as this whole situation is, they managed to keep the casualties to a minimum. May those involved be able to get on with their lives quickly and peacefully.

I'm pretty cranky at the media at the moment - I'm not sure that the blanket coverage on all four main free-to-air stations was the best way of handling this - however I get why they did it and this time around, they appeared to be a lot more reserved and cautious about what they were broadcasting  - thank goodness. Unlike the Daily Telegraph with it's misrepresenting headlines and dog-whistling at those prone to ignorance and hatred. A complaint is in with the Press Council about this - breaching too many of the Press Council rules. May this lead to the demise of the Murdoch empire - horrid man. Horrid organisation. He's ruined enough lives over the years.

Since all this broke on Monday, and continued into Tuesday there's been a couple of things going through my mind.

One is something that we hear a lot in Freemasonry.

The only thing that can overcome the darkness, is the light. We need light, more light.

By focusing on the darkness, we take away the ability to see the truth, what is before us, what is good. You cannot see what you need to see without shining a light things. Light is the antidote for darkness.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that even when we're faced with such horrific and terrifying actions such as what happened here on Monday, focusing on the good, the kind and the courageous is a far, far more productive than concentrating on the bad. Of course, be aware, grieve, reflect, get angry in appropriate ways, but find the light and move forward.

As has been said so many times in the last few days, Australia, we're better than this. We're bigger than this. From every changed behaviour that's instigated from this man's foul actions, he's won.

I won't let that happen. I'll continue to look people in the eye, nod, smile, say hello in acknowledgement. I'll continue to strive for harmony and peace on this earth. I'll continue to look for the light.

The other words that keep resonating with me are some ones often heard at weddings. Corinthians 13 4-7 and 13. I'm not a Christian, but these are great words.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

In times like these, this is the message that needs to be spread.

Keep calm, keep safe, love your family and friends. And keep looking for the light.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The "Have You Ever" Meme

Better late than never I say: 

1) Have you ever gotten lost in a maze? 



No

2) Have you ever been attacked by a wild animal?  No

3) Have you ever ridden a camel? No

4) Have you ever pet a rat? No

5) Have you ever been a member of a gym? Yes - and I have been for a very long time. Love my gym membership.

6) Have you ever been in a helicopter? Yes

7) Have you ever cheated at a test? No

8) Have you ever ridden a tractor? yes - I can drive a tractor - grew up on a farm

9) Have you ever passed wind/gas in an embarrassing situation? All the time.

10) Have you ever played the bongos? Yes

11) Have you ever handled a snake? No, thank goodness

12) Have you ever assembled furniture by yourself? Yes - I am the Ikea queen.

13) Have you ever been scuba diving? No - afraid of open water

14) Have you ever had a disastrous interview? Plenty of them - it means that you're not really right for the job.

15) Have you ever sold your services? I am a consulting writer/instructional designer - I sell my services all the time.

16) Have you ever raised money for charity? Yes, and i try to do this a few times a year.

17) Have you ever won a giant sized cuddly toy from a fair? No

18) Have you ever milked a cow? Yes - again, grew up on a farm

19) Have you ever used the phrase "back in my time" to someone younger than you? I seem to be using that more and more.

20) Have you ever invented a fairly unique meal or drink?  I remember mixing Baileys with beer at uni - that was pretty disastrous.....



Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Are You? Meme

It's Xmas jam making day, so there is my grandmother's recipe Dried Apricot Jam on the stove boiling away on the stove. I'm having a cheapo Xmas this year, so jam is being given away as presents. I think this is a wonderful idea as everybody I know has everything they need, home made jam is a good thing to give. Most people like apricot jam.

So it's a stir of the pot then a question. Breaks things up a bit and the jam doesn't catch on the bottom of the pot. Love making jam. Just wish my grandfather was here to stir the pot with me.

1) Are you psychic in any way?

I read tarot professionally and have done for many years - does this count? I'd say I'm moderately psychic - I occasionally see things and I'll often sense things, but I have no control over things.

2) Are you a good dancer?

No. I look like a fridge freezer when I dance.

3) Are you a good singer?

I can carry a tune, but don't make me sing in public.

4) Are you a good cook?

Certainly, there are things I cook which people ask for  - such as my lemon polenta cake, chicken and roast pumpkin stir fry, birthday cakes... I'm a pretty good cook.

5) Are you a good artist?

Not in a traditional sense, but I love creating things.

6) Are you a good listener?

I like to think so.

7) Are you a good public speaker?

Yes. Public speaking doesn't freak me out in the slightest.

8) Are you a good babysitter?

Depending on my mood. Kids generally like me. I generally like kids.

9) Are you a good mechanic?

No. Change a tyre, fill up the petrol and stand and look at the engine. That's the end of it for me.

10) Are you a good diplomat?

Another depends on the time and place. I can have my moments. I a bit too tactless to be a true diplomat.

11) Are you a good employee?

Turn up on time. Do what's asked of me. What more do you want. Yes, I'm a good employee.

12) Are you a good dresser?

No. But I dress to my shape and I'm colour coordinated because I wear black most of the time.

13) Are you a good swimmer?

Pretty good. I'm a medium lane swimmer when I hit the pool.

14) Are you a good skier?

Haven't been skiing for about 30 years so I'd say that this is a no.

15) Are you a good gift giver?

Sometimes. Depend who it is. My best friend got a garden gnome from me one year - she spent the next ten trying to run the thing over. When I give gifts I try to personalise them or make an effort.

16) Are you a good musician?

No. I play the flute badly and can read music. Better than some, but nowhere as good as others.

17) Are you a good comedian?

Occasionally. How do you titillate an ocelot?
You oscillate it's tit a lot.
Boom boom.

18) Are you a good cleaner?

No. Again, my house is sort of clean. That's good enough.

19) Are you a good actor?

Not really. I did a bit of acting in a former life, but I'd never make a stage or screen actor.

20) Are you a good writer?

Yes. That's part of the reason I'm doing a Masters in writing at the moment.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lollybagging

It's that time again.

Book group Christmas party on Tuesday night means that I have the weekend to bag up the lollies (sweets / candy) that we use for the count.

Our book group is a very democratic in the way we choose our books. All of the group bring along two books for the choosing. Criteria for these books are 1. Of literature or good popular fiction standard, 2. Under 500 pages (though there is a bit of leeway on this.) 3. No non-fiction, autobiography and biography. 4. Easily obtainable either in a library, online or in e-book form.

At the meeting on Tuesday everybody will champion their two books, after which all are handed a rubber glove and a bag of 25 lollies with which they will cast their votes. You can't vote for your own books, but as many lollies as you want on the books. The top eleven books are selected for the year. I love what's been put up this year - I can say after Tuesday what they are, but for now, I have my own dilemma.


What am I going to put up?

Here's the bother. I had a couple of books in mind, but they've been put up already by people in the group. So I've raided my kindle and the bookshelves and I've got to get down the job of picking two.

Argh.

So here is my long list, with pros and cons.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Pros: Well under 500 pages. Acclaimed.
Cons: It's the story of a female sociopathic paedophile who preys on teenage boys

See, I think this could really bring up some great conversation around the table. However I wonder how it might be received by some of the more delicately constitutioned members of the group. I've only heard good things about this book and think that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to putting it up.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Pros: Well under 500 pages, winner of last year's Miles Franklin Award, Australian content
Cons: Might be over-hyped

I've heard a lot about this book - and finally picked it up at the airport on the way home from Sydney the other day. It's the story of an outsider and the book allegedly reveals an existence of beauty, horrors, hope and redemption. Unsettling and fresh. This is another strong maybe book. But after a head of somewhat harrowing books this year (ie. Gillian Mear's "Foals Bread" and Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" maybe something lighter is a good idea.

A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine by Marina Lewicka

Pros: Under 500 pages, Funny
Cons: Strange title. About parents - and we all have our parent issues

This book is a few years old and tells the tale of a daughters and fathers. Dad, it appears, is going a bit dotty and remarries - a glamorous woman from the Ukraine - his place of origin. As the sisters try to to usurp the gold digger some not so great family history comes out. I think this is a pretty benign choice that should get the conversation flowing, especially as most of us in the group have aging parents.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Pro: Under 500 pages, we've never done any Sebastian Faulks, well regarded
Con: War story

Birdsong is seminal - probably the most beautiful book ever written about trench warfare. It's up there as one of the best books I've ever read and Sebastian Faulks is one of my favourite authors. However, I'm known as "war girl" in the group as I've often put up books about war. So after putting up the "The Book Thief", "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" and a couple of other books in the same vein, I wonder if they're sick of me putting these sorts of books up for the group.

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Pros: Under 500 Pages. Award winner. Australian Author
Cons: War story. It's been put up before and didn't make the cut.

We've had a couple of books that should have made the cut, but didn't. Ian McEwan's "Atonement" being one. This is the other. A story of Jewish refugees in London in 1939, it tells the tale of two sisters living their lives under a greater threat. Anna Funder is an amazing writer, but I'm wondering if it would get a second telling - though in saying that, we have four new members in the group now who wouldn't have voted for it when it didn't make it (and it only missed out by one lolly - just like Atonement - yet another war story)

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Pros: An author we respect, looks interesting
Cons: Over 500 pages

Michel Faber wrote one of my favourite books - "The Crimson Petal and the White". We also did "Under the Skin" earlier this year - strange book that it was. He's a fantastic writer - but the book is over 500 pages - not by much, but I think that this will preclude it. This might be my Christmas reading.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Pros: My mother thinks it's brilliant, great reviews
Cons: Just over 500 pages. War story

It may seem strange to want to put up a book my Mum likes but she's has good taste in books. I send a lot of books her way and she tells me of things she likes. She's raved about this one. However, it tells the story of a blind girl in France and a young boy in Germany in World War II - do you see a theme happening here? Good reads rates it up there as one of the books of the year.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Pros: Under 500 pages, great author
Cons: A bit strange

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors. The queen of dystopia, she's incredible. I love her imagination and her presence of mind. We did "The Handmaid's Tale" a few years ago and the group loved it. I listened to "The Year of the Flood" the sequel to the book on a road trip to Adelaide a few years ago and that was brilliant. Margaret Atwood is a living treasure.

So can you see my dilemma? There are a number of other books I've considered putting on the short list and I have to make my decision by the end of tomorrow. We're nearly there - but gee, this is a hard one.



Any advice on what the two should be would be welcome.

Have a great one.

Pand

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Shop Around the Corner Meme

Well, study is now over, interim marks are in and it appears I've got through my first semester back at university. Final results aren't in until the end of the month, but it's looking positive. Tomorrow is December. Very cool.

So no I'm at  a loss - what do I do for the next three months? Write a novel. Knit a jumper? I don't know.

Anyway, here's this week's meme. It's too hot to think at the moment. Questions, as per normal, are from Sunday Stealing.


What kind of job did your mom have when you were growing up? 

Mum was a theatre sister and general nursing sister at the local hospital.

 Have you ever known anyone that’s been on tv, including you? 

I was on "Win Roy and HG's Money" a very defunct quiz show in 2001. I won $700 and beat a "Sale of the Century" Champion. I have a couple of uni friends who are on television regularly. One's an economist, the other is an expert in the internet security field. Both are wheeled out regularly.

 What was the most interesting animal you have seen in the wild? 

An antichinus. It's a small marsupial and they live out near my mum's face. I faced off with a fox in the woods in England one day too - Foxes are gorgeous in the English countryside.

 What holiday do you enjoy the most? 

The last one I took to America and Europe was brilliant. Seven countries in 35 days. Loved it.

 What was the first video game you ever played?

I remember playing Pong when I was about eight years old.



 What is the one thing you own, that if it got lost, you would be bummed? 

My phone., I'd be lost without my phone?

 Do you have a favorite breakfast item? 

Poached eggs on toast with lots of tomato sauce and smoked salmon.

 What do you find yourself buying all the time? 

Other than groceries - I do have a weekly ice cream cone. Keeps me happy.

 When was the last time you got a real letter in the mail? 

I seriously can't remember - it must be a couple of years ago.I got a few birthday cards on my birthday - do they count?

 Do you have a most prized piece of jewelry? 

My three strand Pandora bracelet.

 Do you own any board games? 

No

 What chore seems the most daunting right now? 

Just cleaning my flat is daunting enough - dusting is the worst of it. I hate dusting.

 Were you born in the state you live in? 

No. I was born in South Australia - I live in Victoria.

 Have you ever lived in a house that has been broken into? 

Yes. Thankfully nothing too much was taken and nobody was hurt.

 What is your favorite cheese? 

I love cheese but I'm not allowed to eat it. Brie - love Brie. And blue cheese... ah, cheese...

 Who do you know that watches the most sports? 

Most of the men I know what a heap of sport, but this one goes to Barney, partner of Blarney. He'll watch anything with a ball and men running around a pitch. Weird that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oh this should be fun:

As always, the questions come from Sunday Stealing.

I might have to do a proper blog post after this one...

1. Are you celebrating Thanksgiving at home or elsewhere this year? With whom will you spend Thanksgiving Day? 

Um, I'm Australian. We don't have thanksgiving.

 2. What do you have for breakfast on Thanksgiving? 

Though vaguely aware of the concept, I'm not sure when thanksgiving is - other than it's on a Thursday(?) at the end of November which seems really inconvenient. So I will have my normal protein shake because it's a Thursday and that's what I have on weekday mornings.

 3. Do you go to a Thanksgiving parade or watch one on TV? 

What, they have parades for Thanksgiving. On a Thursday. Seems a bit decadent.

 4. Do you serve appetizers, lunch, or snacks during the day? 

Why would you? It's just a normal Thursday.

 5. What do you wear on Thanksgiving? 

It's a normal work day, so work clothes. No need to dress up - it's just a normal working week day in Australia.

 6. What's your Thanksgiving table like -- do you use special plates/silver/glasses, etc? Do you have a centerpiece? A color scheme? Candles? 

Sorry, no idea what you're talking about. This sounds like the things we do for Christmas.

 7. Do you serve buffet-style or family-style? What do you have to drink? 

It's just another Thursday. I'll be going to the gym to see my trainer. That's what I do on Thursday evenings. No special meal.

 8. Once you're at the table, do you say grace or a toast or does everyone go around and say what they're thankful for? 

I'll just be thankful if I make it to the gym on time.

 9. Do you have dessert right after the main meal or later on? 

Sometimes I have a small tub (single serve) of ice cream after the gym. Because it's just a Thursday.

 10. What do you do with your leftovers?

I still think you're talking about Christmas.Sounds like Christmas. Food. Family arguments. Leftovers. Yep, Christmas. Like Halloween, Thanksgiving has no place in Australian society. However, unlike Halloween, Thanksgiving isn't a something that's slowly encroaching on society.

I think I'd prefer to have Thanksgiving encroach on our society instead. Halloween - to me, appears to be a pointless affair that leads to diabetes and excess rubbish.