Back to normal?

So, the last 6+ weeks have been all about our trip to India and Malaysia. The planning, doing and the posting of photos and memories. But I’ve been back at work a week now and it’s time to take stock and think about the year ahead.

At a glance it’s like most years: It all starts with summer, Roo’s Birthday, Australia Day, Anniversary, The Tour Down Under and Big Day Out.  That’s just January.  But wait, there’s more.

February brings cousin Giulia from La Bella Italia! The Adelaide Fringe opens (yay), and the Turner exhibition commences at the Art Gallery of SA. Alongside the Fringe is always the Garden of Unearthly Delights. The Fringe and the Garden span into the first half of March.

March brings the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, which features some ‘out there’ stuff this year.  Looking forward to seeing some of the free stuff as well as paid performances. Free includes opening night with Paul Kelly and Neil Finn and on my to see list of paid things is Laurie Anderson with Kronos Quartet!  And the late night club at the Festival, Barrio must be visited this year. Oh, and did I mention Womadelaide?  Clearly Adelaide’s March Madness is in no danger of going away. Refer my past post on this subject.

So maybe the first quarter of the year is not a good example of ‘normal’.  But it’s the best time to be in Adelaide.  I’m sure glad to be home for a spell.

Home is where the kitties are

We have been home from our big road trip for less than a week. It’s strange to be cold after the warm humid weather we experienced for the five weeks away. But nice to wear some different clothes.

Before we went away our washing machine’s start button was giving us trouble and our poor house sitter had to deal with it giving up the ghost! So task number two (after our traditional welcome home lunch in Chinatown) was to call the repair dude…

Our kitties must have been well loved in our absence because it’s just business as usual for them. Sleep, eat, play, sleep, sleep, play, sleep…you get the picture.

20120702-205007.jpg

20120702-205210.jpg

Looks like a monthly update is all I can handle…

There seems to be a lot going on, and little time to blog about it.  I’m thinking that perhaps I am too connected and a bit disjointed in my approach to social networking and blogging.  I have been considering only updating my Tumblr blog MLTuckerAtLarge, which feeds to my Twitter and my Facebook and just leave it at that.  More photos taken on the run, less writing.  But the whole idea of this blog was to write more. Easier said than done.

The day job at the documentation factory and my ongoing love affair with studying Italian seem to be getting in the way. Maybe it’s just that I have been busy with summer (now more or less gone) and blogging will be easier to do over the colder months (from the cozy couch). So, I am not giving up yet. This year will be the test.

But right now, I have Italian homework to do…i compiti.

Mi piace i compiti!

That was the year that was – 2010

How lucky am I that last year, 2010, was one of mostly ‘highs’ for me.  Even some of the lows brought unexpected moments of bitter-sweet melancholy. And that’s a good thing in my book.  The idea that we must always be happy is such a western concept. Times of sober pensiveness are important aspects of a life lived in the real world.

So, the year is over.  Here’s how it stacked up for me:
  • I had the great fortune to spend time with an old friend who was in Adelaide for a few months to see her mother out of this world. We shared cups of tea and meals and more than a few laughs to help her through the dark times.
  • I spent 5 whole weeks with my big sister Annie in Italy where we studied Italian, spent time with our wonderful and generous relatives, consumed fabulous food and drink and made some new friends. Basically, it DID NOT SUCK at all! It has been years since we have had such a carefree time together, probably since our childhood or maybe our early 20s at a stretch.  We may never get the opportunity again given we are at opposite ends of the world, so I am going to savour that  5 weeks for a long time.
  • My husband and fellow adventurer, Roo, joined me for a second 5 weeks in Italy, mainly Naples/Amalfi Coast and 3 glorious, slow-paced weeks around Sicily. We were blessed with great weather and friendly folks at every turn. Sicily rejects the stereotype of a dark, secretive, dangerous place. And it can not be rushed.
  • On the work front I was incredibly challenged with an interactive forms design project and completed some work that a colleague and I can be quite proud of.

Some obvious highs and lows there I guess. But I can tell you that the lows were valid, important experiences that seemed insurmountably difficult at the time, and from which I learned a lot.

And now 2011 is already lining up some interesting times. Here’s hoping that I’m up to it!

Cheers!

My 2010 reading list

I have a friend who set herself a goal of 100 books in one year.  I don’t even try to read that many, and never manage to finish everything that I start. Some are meant to be dipped into and not read cover to cover, like the BKS Iyengar classic, An Illustrated Light on Yoga.  Hence, a few books sit on the night-stand  for quite a while and cross over a year or so.

This year is no different. Add full-time work (where, let’s face it, I read and write all day) some of the blogs that I read regularly and my 10 weeks in Italy into the mix and I can see why I didn’t have enough time for pleasure reading.

Some of the books I read or started, and mostly finished, are shown below. I enjoyed them all for wildly different reasons (made me laugh, made me think, took me far away, made me smile at the sheer beauty of the writing, made me more aware).

The night-stand reading list in 2010

Some I re-read, like The Phantom Tollbooth. Two are unfinished, The Songlines and The Sea. I put them aside when heading overseas and concentrated on my Lonely Planet Italy Guide and my notebooks for my classes while studying Italian. I took the dog-eared Anatomy of Restlessness (compilation of Bruce Chatwin stories, reviews and articles) with me for flights. But I don’t really read much on holidays when I go away. Home holidays are better for that.

There is a new list on the night-stand now. My list for the remaining days of this year and for 2011.  I’ll report back next year on how well I go (and try to not get too distracted by other books throughout the year). Happy reading friends

To finish or read in 2011

The pleasures of home

Today is my last day off before going back to work. I have been off since the 3rd of September, with most of my time off spent in Italy.

Travelling is great, there is no doubt about that in my mind. Here’s a favourite quote of mine:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Mark Twain – Innocents Abroad

Just as I love travelling, I also love coming home and want to celebrate some of the pleasures.

Lunch in Chinatown
Chilling out in the garden
Seeing the Jacaranda trees in bloom
Our buddies Speedy and Jose Gonzalez

And there are more which I will write about in the future. So welcome home us!

Desperately seeking downtime

Another day of work (Wednesday) then we are off to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for 5 nights.  A quick break to make a long overdue visit with Roo’s mum and a chance to not have home chores to occupy us.  It’s all work lately and my body threw a fit last week.  A bit of R&R is in order.

I’ve booked an apartment with kitchenette near the beach.  The place is built around a lagoon-style pool and there is a cafe by the water.  I predict walks at the beach, meals in Mooloolaba (Hot Pippis was good last time) and a day in Noosa.  Some markets, some hanging out with Hilda and some reading by the pool.  Maybe visit Mel’s folks. Not much else.  Desperate for downtime.

Making the most of a sick day

Well, as my previous post mentioned, I was having my third sick day EVER on Wednesday.  It is now Friday and I am still home, but starting to feel a little more human.  Glands still swollen (diagnosis of Pharyngitis) but much reduced by late morning today. Still feverish but not like the last few days.  The antibiotics must be kicking in after taking them for 48 hours.

I had a hankering for some comfort food today.  If I have my food mojo back I must be getting better…last few days I have eaten whatever I could find in the house. Apples (sliced and with a smear of peanut butter), handfuls of almonds and dried cranberries, crackers with tomato slices just salted and peppered, a bag of crisps (potato chips) I found in the back of the pantry (didn’t all that salt and those sharp edges give the swollen glands a good rub). Plus water, water and more water.  Even that hurt going down.

So what source does a 50-something year old gal, transplanted into Australia from the USA in 1981, turn to for comfort food recipes? And what would her comfort food of choice be?  Can’t guess? Right, I’ll tell you.  My comfort food of choice is corn bread and I use a slightly altered recipe from my 1972-vintage New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt. I bought it at a bookstore in Tempe AZ called Changing Hands in 5th Street originally, then later in Mill Avenue around the corner. Most of my non-university related reading materials came from Changing Hands endless selection of second-hand books back then.

Here's a photo of my 1972 copy bought in 1976 from Changing Hands Bookstore

The corn bread turned out nice and light, which I had concerns over because some of my polenta was a bit coarse. I added a little more liquid than the recipe called for and let the mixture sit a while to let the baking powder activate a little. Also, I used a round spring-form pan (which renders my mathematician dad’s joke meaningless ‘Pi are round, Cornbread are square’).

Below are some more pictures showing all the bits and pieces then the final product.

The fixins for my corn bread
The corn bread was still steaming hot..
so I got the butter and let it sink in

I have now eaten a quarter of the little thing.

There is nothing like
the culinary bliss point
after no taste for days

Musings on ageing and death

Sadly, it is a sign of our age.  Two friends in a month have lost mothers. Those of us in our 40s and 50s are afflicted most by this passing of our parents from natural, age-related causes. If we live long enough, we will probably get some life-threatening disease.

I wonder sometimes how long we should live.  My grandmother made it to 103 and died at home.  But the last two years were certainly no treat for her.  She was mentally all there and physically had no disease.  But her legs gave out on her at 101.  Those great legs did a lot of miles over the years. I can’t imagine the frustration at not being able to do for herself any more.

Nan was a widow for 38 years and although she was a heap of fun to be with, she did not seem to mind her solitary life. She never thought of herself as old.  She would not join a Seniors group because she thought they did ‘old people’ activities. In her 70s she enlisted my mother’s help to find a pant-suit so she could lose the skirt and get out on the sled on the back hill with the kids in the winter snow.  I remember her saying “you kids look like you’re having such a grand time and I want to get out there with you”.

Coincidentally a friend emailed me yesterday to say her mother-in-law had died. She reminisced on how she went to Drexel Hill for the first time with me to visit Nan and how she ended up spending so much time there over the years with her beloved in-laws. At the time we did not know it, but her mother-in-law was a neighbour and fellow parishioner of my Nan.

My husband scans anything that will stay still long enough and we just happened to be scanning pics from the era of that first visit to Nan’s in the early 80s.  So here it is.

May we all live long and have legs as good as Nan’s.