Friday, October 31

All about 'The Thing'

ive thought about doing a post about 'the thing' off and on for a while and always thought the better of it. i mean does anyone really want to know? well, apparently some of ya do! Writing up a precis is a good chance for me to conslidate, as i still have my thesis abstract to write. You're it, my guinea pigs, so if its all gobbledygook, let me know. Its pretty hard to spice up mathematical modelling and public health, but i'll give it my best shot and try and explain why its recieved the attention it has. Its also pretty hard to stand back and not be too scientific and dogmatic about how i tell the story. Im so used to systematic and technically correct (scientific) writing!

Umm, background. My field is oral epidemiology; epidemiology is the science of looking at the determinants and distribution of diseases (who gets what and why). By its nature, epidemiology concerns itself not with the biology of disease but the public health context of illness/wellness.

The research question i set out to answer was ' can we develop an index by which the relative urgency of an individuals need for dental care can be determined?'. The reason i was interested in doing this research is that in the public sector, receptionists were making decisions about who got to see a dentist and who didnt and it appearred that in a lot of cases they were giving emergency priority to people who were not really urgent. Also, by tradition, people were given appointments on a first come first served basis, not urgency of need.

This work has been about 10 years in the making and it started with a very long series of questions asked to a large random selection of persons presenting to public dental clinics in two states of australia for both emergency and general dental care. These questions covered just about everything to do with an individuals oral health; hygiene practices, sugar consumption, dental visiting behaviours, medications taken, pain perceptions, sociodemographic characteristics, past dental treatments, etc. We asked pretty much everything about everything. These persons were then tracked through the dental system and all treatment provided to these people was recorded. Two dentists also provided independent opinion about the urgency of each patients dental problem.

Then i used statistics to match up question responses with dentists urgency categories to see if any questions were highly associated with urgency. This analysis resulted in 10 very predictive questions.

You still with me?

These questions were then tested on the computer on a pretend set of patients to see if the same questions would still be useful in predicting urgency and it wasnt just chance that led us to these 10 questions. They were. This is about 4 years of work so far. Research is like that. it takes ages when you deal with human populations. Give me a test tube! Ok!.. the questions work well in predicting urgency when i use a fake set of people. what about real people?

So then i took these 10 questions and had receptionists use them on the phone on real patients. I had dentists again rate the patients urgency. This was the first test of the questions on a new set of real people. After more analysis, the questions still matched up well with dentists ratings. What really 'Wowed' us was that the 10 questions worked better than receptionists at figuring out who needed most urgent care and was more like the dentists rating of urgency. Im getting excited now. It looks like i have found a systematic way to determine urgency for dental treatment.

Soo, then the public dental service gets all excited about my results and decides to let me do a full trial using my predictive model. They give me 4 clinics to run the trial and we actually say 'yes' or 'no' to people using responses to my series of questions. New computer interfaces for the dental clinic databases were made and installed and my special algorithm runs quietly in the background and calculates scores to peoples responses. It then tells receptionists the urgency category of each person calling and how long until an appontment should be made.

I do even more analysis and the questions still identify people with the most urgent need. It gets even better. Gasp, 'how can that possibly be'? i hear you all crying! This new way of determining need also lets the system better manage its bookings and over a year of using my system, these 4 clinics manage to change their service around from being mostly an emergency system;extracting rotten teeth which hurt, and start giving people check ups as well; looking after teeth, providing fillings and helping people keep their teeth healthy.

Before i have finished my dissertation, the system is rolled out in every clinic in the state and now all clinics are able to provide routine check ups for public dental patients, not just emergency dental services. It was a very thorough and scientifically rigourous piece of health services research using 'gold standard' design, process and analysis AND its had a great public health result. Hence its award nomination. Wheeeeee!

Haiku Friday

squealing and laughing
dressed as darkness in the night
ghouls and ghosts beware

Thursday, October 30

I almost didnt do it

Yesterday was the girls dads birthday.
Yesterdy was my ex husbands birthday.
Can you see the conflict?

Every year since the girls have been small and their dad and i have been seperated, i have always, religiously, made sure they had gifts and cards for him on days of celebration; Fathers Day, Christmas and his birthday. This was my expression of love for the the girls so they were never caught in a position of guilt or sorrow about not having something to gift him. I wish i could say he ever returned the sentiment. After seeing the distress that not being able to organise gifts for me caused the girls, my mother took on the role of 'keeper of the heart' so that when it came to such days, she always made sure the girls had something for me, homemade or bought. So when the girls Dad moved away, i had to get a little more organised in order to make sure something went off in the post to arrive in time. My committment to the wellbeing of the kids in this matter went on through property settlement, divorce and multiple court hearings for custody. I never wavered, until this year, until he moved away and himself failed to send written word or a gift in the mail on their birthdays. When Fathers Day approached the kids said they werent interested in sending him something. i didnt insist. i was shocked but i didnt insist. In the past i would have. I let it roll on and they phoned him on Fathers Day, late. His birthday approached, the window of time for sending something passed, the day arrived, i was feeling pretty guilty. The girls said nothing and i nearly let it pass. Let him stew i thought, let him experience for the first time what it feels like. Im not sure if he ever really realised that in the past it was me who orgainised it all. At half eight last night i couldnt stand it anymore and finally went into B1s room and with a tone of feigned shock and realisation in my voice i declared it to be October 29th.
"Dads Birthday?"
She was dialling within five seconds.

Wednesday, October 29

bulk buying

Tuesday is Central Market Day and since B1 has been schooling at home, she has been coming along too. Once a fortnight or so we make the 'trip into town' down the freeway and we get a bit excited; abundance is on its way. Being on leave has made it easier to be able to shop for items in bulk more regularly. Goodies and Grains is my favourite shop and its certainly an advertisement for buying like this. Looking at all the stuff they have in there is certainly inspiring; although lots most of it i would never use, like the fruit and veg washing gel!? sheesh. Im of the one surface cleaning product can do it all ilk. Been there with the baking soda but if i want to get simon or the girls in on the cleaning action, then its citrus spray all the way.

(Im being very brave in posting this pic of me. B1 took it. she's getting braver in her old age, wandering around taking random pics in public. She wouldnt have been caught dead doing anything 'attention drawing' 6 months ago, hmm, me neither).

So far, we buy in bulk the following, organic and australian produced where i can, yahdah yahdah...

:: flour - pasta
:: flour - bread
:: flour - bakers
:: flour - chick pea
:: sugar
:: pasta
:: lentils
:: beans
:: weet bix
:: oats
:: semolina
:: rice - jasmine
:: rice - brown
:: muesli
:: on-the-spot peanut butter
:: dates
:: eco dishwasher powder
:: eco hand dishwashing liquid
:: eco clothes washing powder
:: eco bodywash liquid
:: yeast/spices/tea/chocolate/oil/tamari/miso/tahini

The olive oil selection is very impressive, lots of locally grown and pressing varietals to choose from and some really high quality.

Discounts are given for bringing your own containers and bags and extra discount for spending over $50.00. Its great incentive. I take along plastic or thin cloth bags , empty bottles and empty tubs/jars and empty them when i get home. the kids actually love doing this, tipping the loaded bags in to the bins; its the whole abundance thing im sure. we wash/dust out the bags and store them in the granny trolley,ready for next time.

slowly i have increased what we purchase in bulk and having food grade bins and a good selection of really large jars in the pantry is certainly a great help, well having a pantry full stop really helps and its a luxury. The pantry is built utilising passive solar or biological design. Its walling is in the earth as the lower level of the house is built into the side of the valley. The window is actually just at foot height if youre out the front of the house. So, its really cold in there and makes for a great cellar for storing fruit and vegetables.

When we first introduced the bins the kids loved it, they felt like they had a shop at home and were quite competitive about who's turn it was to get the flour/pasta! it was the catalyst to get us making our own bread. I included that on B1's must do each week; to keep us in bread now that she is learning at home. She actually loves making it, she feel very competent and like she is contributing meaningfully. There's something very symbolic about bread making and i think she just feels it.

Its quite tragic being so locally minded. the most painful to resist are definitely le fromage. the french cheeses are displayed perfectly, itty bitty little things rolled in ash or herb, shaped like cones, small cylinders or just a fantastic big hunk in black cloth. If we lived in France then we could indulge...whenever...we fantasised how we could make this happen as we walked around.

I have discovered a fantastic stall 'Wild Oz' which sells 'green' meats (ewww) - crocodile, wild boar, wild goat, roo and duck.
The wild boar and goat taste fantastic and are growing a local economy by removing an incredibly destructive feral pest from the outback. I cant quite come at crocodile myself, its the whole aversion i have to scaly lizard type creatures...

Award Finalist

My Prof just called. Whoohoo. Its official. My PhD research has made it to the final of the Premiers Awards for innovation and excellence in Health Services. Award night is on the 22 November. Fancy pants required. Next stop...Canberra!

Tuesday, October 28

rocket and walnut pesto

its the obvious thing to do with too much of both. The rocket is a virtual flowering hedge in the garden and last years walnuts really need finishing (only 6 kgs to go!) before the new season starts cropping and the bloody rats start having picnics again! i dont mind sharing, but i really hate how rats and birds and possums...oh the list goes on...just take a bite and then move on to destroy the next one, and the next one...

rocket - huge bunch, lightly blanched and water thoroughly removed
walnuts about 1/2 cup (shelled -not obvious to those who toss in whole eggs!)
6 cloves garlic
other herbs to round out the rocket (i used basil and parsley as i had both)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmasen cheese
2 inch piece of red chilli, including seeds

whizz or mortar and pestle all ingredients except the oil until ingredients have broken down, then add oil bit by bit until the pesto reaches a consistency you like. this made about 1 cup of pesto.

The thing i love about food blogging is the complete seasonality of the recipes if you 'do' blogs in your growing zone. Its a wonderful resource.
Id love any suggestions of favourite walnut recipes or great ideas to help use the rest.

Monday, October 27

weekend loca

we had a busy weekend. A trip to a local school Strawberry Fair , the local monthly market , lots of friends visiting, swimming at my mums and gardening gardening gardening. I love visiting local fairs and markets. Besides the wonderful sense of community they provide, its a great chance to buy local produce and financially support the local economy. The Strawberry Fair, surprisingly named as i didnt actually see many strawberry goods, provided some bargain shopping
and i scored a great stash of second hand tops for the boy for ten dollars and sampled my lovely Spanish friend Anas' mega paella.

The monthly stirling market always makes for a nice hour or two,

as we can wander there on foot, and it provided some pantry fodder; local olive oil, brined kalamata olives, dried local organic fruits, some (more) pottery bowls (im so addicted to these that the potter and i are now on a first name basis ), and a tres sweet woollen fairy to take as a Christmas gift for my tres sweet SIL in California. It also provided the opportunity for some random fellow blogger run-ins. It was wonderful to see a new kitchen garden stall selling punnets of a wide variety of heirloom vegetables as it called to my past dreams.
a friend and i had a late teenage entrpreneurial flop with a gardening business, with the outrageously pompous name of Hortensis . We planted up and maintained kitchen gardens with heirloom crops for paying customers. I just like to think we were ahead of our time.

Im still processing the visits from friends. One couple are a mixed culture marriage; she's newly arrived from China and he is Greek Australian. They have problems and she wasnt afraid to show it. It was very confronting and it threw me to witness such hostility, disrespect and raw anger. I know she will want to talk to me about what is going on in her relationship and i will have to think carefully about the best way to respond. Its such a full on situation involving internet dreams on both sides. Old friends of Simons brought wine and cheese on Satuday night. I love them dearly; they are inspiring, loving , funny, clever and a dedicated 'still in love after 25 years' couple. I found however i am still dealing with my 'married to your deceased friends husband' and 'living in her house' issues. I have moments of self consciousness and flashes of 'is this weird for you' and im thrown back into insecurities. I thought i had dealt with most of these feelings but obviously i still need to do some more reflection and acceptance. Its a strange gig being married to a widow sometimes. Its gotten much easier but we had some very interesting moments earlier on; Its been quite a journey for us both. My favourite was when simon kindly offered to show me the funeral video to help me with my issues. Big night that one! He still cant quite believe he offerred.

Sunday, October 26

Organic clothing

Years ago when organic clothing first began to get marketed and i had my brain in neutral, i remember doing the internal eyeball roll and thinking along the lines of 'bloody hell, thats a bit precious, you dont eat your clothing, tch, i mean really, why bother?'

onya kel

Spot the Difference

a 'non-violent action' apron in action.
(banana waffles in action too)

Friday, October 24

Haiku Friday

day turns into night
the clock counts down the hours
my haiku is here


The Growing Challenge - Post [ummm] #9?

its all about the 'em...lots of 'em. weed really is a relative term and they are the subject of my Growing Challenge post (hosted by Melinda at 1GreenGeneration) for this week. The weather has been perfect for growing and the weeds are no exception. My onion weed post of yesterday is just one clue to whats been on my gardening mind. i went looking for my peas yesterday and couldnt see them and had to dig around quite a bit to unearth the poor things. They have been crowded out a bit by...

weed #1. Forget me not. i cant believe in the past i have actually purchased this pretty little plant from the nursery. They are sprouting everywhere in the garden, but particularly in the vege patch. they look lovely but really add up!

weed #2. Seaside daisy. popping up as a companion to the forget-me-nots, rampant and smothers everything in its wake. ive only just saved my sprouting chives.

weed #3. Oregano. anyone need some fresh or dried? we have buckets of the stuff and i cant be bothered with it anymore. so i just rip it out where i find it, knowing that somewhere one or two will have been missed and i always leave a big clump in the herb garden. Its not a problem like the other weeds but its just bloody everywhere.

weed #4. not sure what its called. it sticks and its 'softly prickly' and feels just awful to touch. its my least favourite weed, if you know what i mean!

So i have weeded the lower vege patche and have tossed all 'weeds' into a big bucket of water with some blood and bone to rot down to a nice fertiliser. The liquid seaweed fertiliser that i had put on the garden over the last few weeks has obviously been absorbed by not only the seedlings but these as well and by recycling them as weed juice, i will be gtting about a 70% return on the original liquid investment!

Reading various gardening blogs in the last few days i have come across quite a few root vegetable posts and the woes of not thinning them out well enough. Oh, who would have thought id be into root vegetable posts? LOL But reading them has convinced me to go out and be completely brutal. every time i sow carrots or have planted out beetroot ( i know, Duh! Its pretty dumb to buy root vegetable seedlings since they hate being disturbed! ) i sort of go...'nahh, not me, mine will all grow nicely even if they are a bit crowded...and everytime i end up with the same thing; underdeveloped root veges.

So, i bit the bullet and went out and pinched out the one half of the pair of all those beetroot seedlings (chioggia and bulls blood) that were too close together despite an earlier thinning. Its the stress of plucking out a very healthy looking potential meal, it seems just so wrong to pull them when they're doing so well! We will have beetroot greens as a side salad for dinner tonight.

Thursday, October 23

onion weed pasta sauce

As a suburban block, our property is a relatively large area of land and that equates to lots of weeding. the land straddles a creek. on one side is the house, the vege patches, garden living areas and european trees and plants. on the other side is 'the reserve', home to a plantation of blackwoods, smaller native trees and bushes and potentially, lots of onion weed. (click here for a great picture of onion weed). onion weed requires perpetual monitoring early each spring so 'the problem' does not get out of hand. My husband usually spends a good 3 days at this time of the year doing an onion weed cull. when we were first dating, he cooked me a dinner with the fruits of his days work; Pasta with Onion Weed Sauce. as the culinary nazi in the family, i figured there was a reason that onion weed was not more utilised in a culinary fashion. Its main downfall... pretty much a lack of flavour. However, despite my laughter, he happily cooked up this sauce. So if youre game, here's the recipe.

1 days worth of onion weed 'pull', cleaned and stem removed from the 'pearl'
enough bechamel sauce for each serve of pasta ( i think my dislike started about here)
salt n pepper
butter for saute

Saute onion weed pearls ( sounds nice huh?) in butter until they soften. Make bechamel. Add pearls to sauce. Stir and pour over pasta. Season.
Thats it.

If i were doing it again, i think i would add some chilli, parsley, anything to give it some oomph as the pearls are sooo delicate in flavour.
I have to admit i loved him totally for it.

*addendum* Attention all Raymonds friends. Please leave a comment and let me know why my blog hit from his MySpace profile for this post has gone through the roof! was it the 'weed'?

an incredible image

i came across this picture on flickr a while back. Its by someone with the flickr name of Ayres no Graces and it was apparently captured during a firework display in daylight?? I find it quite incredible and it stirs an emotion i cant quite place; the honest beauty, unaffected awe, quiet drama, and muted colour and in particular the confidence of the relationships captured is so fleeting but so there. its a once in a life time picture. Thought i'd share it. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22

Vanilla honey and Chai yoghurt recipe

great minds are thinkin alike but im bummed coz i was gonna post this yesterday but i had other things on my mind and Crunchy posted her chai yoghurt recipe that same day. I think i like mine better, if i do say so myself and competition is good, right? Im not a fan of the fully flavoured yoghurts of any description. i like my flavour resting at the bottom so i can dig up as much or as little of the tasty stuff as i like to suit my taste bud feelings for that moment. I make my own yoghurt twice weekly and have done so for about...umm, bloody hell, 17 years and i grew up in a house where we (well, the responsible adults) made everything, including homemade yoghut. Back then i was definitely the only person i knew of on the lower north shore of sydney who had a crunchy family! My brother and I were the weird freaky ones with the kaftan wearing, kingwsood driving, plaited haired mother. These kambrook yoghurt makers have been around a loong time; i have the pink lidded one, i think my mum still has the yellow based original! my dad/great uncle(long story, maybe a later post) was very into healthful living and used to buy me things like yoghurt makers and how-to books, so i think it was a birthday gift when i turned 21 (i know, progressive as an adult, a bit tragic then).

Anyways, heres my recipes.

Spiced Chai Syrup Makes about 1 1/2 cups syrup

2 cups light brown sugar
1 ¼ cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
8 teaspoons loose black tea or 4 black tea bags
12 cardamon pods
1 inch fresh ginger
tiny sliver of fresh vanilla pod
6 cloves
10 peppercorns
2 whole nutmeg pods
1 star anise

Make Chai Syrup:
i like to bruise all spices in a mortar and pestle and then wrap in muslin and use as infusion bag in the pan as its easy to remove all spices when complete. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until syrup has reduced to a thickish, well syrupy, consistency. Let cool completely, if you havent contained all spices in a cloth, then strain out the solids. Pour into bottle and keep this mix in the refridgerator, i find it lasts about a month or two if it doesnt get used up before then. If you wanted to keep it longer you could add a preserving ingredient of some sort to take it further than the sugar can, but thats out of my scope. But i havent noticed anything going on in the mix that looks scary yet. This syrup as well as being a flavouring for the yoghurt is also an 'instant' chai syrup; just add hot milk. I can never be bothered waiting for a pan of chai to steep and simmer on the stove. when i get a chai craving, i kinda want it straight away.

Vanilla honey
makes enough for about 700ml of yoghurt

3 tabs local honey or as much as you like really, depending on how much you want.
6 tabs water
scraped seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and cook 5 minutes until it hits a consistency you like.

Pour as much of the chai syrup/honey vanilla mix as you like into the bottom of your yoghurt making container and continue to make your plain yoghurt in the usual way. Alternatively you can add it to the top of your yoghurt mix before 'cooking'.

I use;
2 cups biodynamic milk
8 heaped tablespoons organic skim milk powder
1 tablespoon plain yoghurt (normally just the last remnants from my last batch so sometimes less, sometimes more)

sometimes i also reduce the amount of full fat milk to about 1 cup, add 1 cup of filtered water and add an extra 3 or so tablespoons of skim milk powder.

Heat milk in a seperate container (not too hot or you will destroy the yoghurt bacteria when the yoghurt is added, warm milk is what you are after) and then whisk in the skim milk powder. Add the tablespoon or so of the yoghurt. Stir. Pour milk mix carefully onto syrup which is in the container... As i have a yoghurt machine, i put this on for about 8 hours. If you do yours in the thermos/other method, adjust your 'cooking' times accordingly!

I usually make 1 flavoured and 1 plain pot each week. I use the plain yoghurt for so many things. Instead of sour cream for guacamole when we have burritos, as a side raita for an indian curry, a topping for flat breads, with muesli for breakfast or with fruits for desert, as a substitute for buttermilk or cream in cake/bread things. Its incredibly versatile and i find when i dont have any on hand, if i have been behind on making more, then im sometimes really quite bloody annoyed. i have found over the years that if i have it to hand, i use it more than if i had to buy it all the time.

Tuesday, October 21

takin it SLOW

last week i got news that a friend and colleague in the States had been given 4 months to live. Fuck Fuck Fuck. J had been diagnosed with brain cancer last year and had undergone the nasty therapies, a round of neuro-surgery and returned back to her rather high stress professorial position and continued her role as mummy to two small boys aged 6 and 4 and partner to K. It has spread further in her brain and now her spine. they have made the decision to stop chemo and live life as best as they can until the cancer takes her. Shes too sick to fly back and both her parents are too sick to fly there. Its a terrible situation. The pain of saying goodbye to your children and living with the knowledge that you wont be around for them and to comfort them in their loss is breaking my heart.

What do you do with information and events like these to make someones loss and grief meaningful? After some reflection i decided to give myself a break, stop worrying about finishing my PhD and take the time that i have been lucky enough to have, to enjoy my new boy and our new family without thinking about work. I need to fully embrace living a family life while i have the opportunity. academic life is tough this way. many women do what i do and attempt to use their maternity leave as an opportunity to finish their degrees and or a few peer reviewed papers so as not to 'waste time'. never fully letting go and 'taking leave'. There is an idea that if you show yourself to be interested in mothering then by default, you are not as committed to academic pursuit. The flow on implication is that you will be overlooked for promotion, not taken as seriously etc. What ends up invariably happenning is that you just work extra hard when on leave, try and do 2 jobs on one timeline and end up going back to work, relishing 'the break'.

Additionally, my prof has been having an affair with a colleague, lost his marriage and cant handle the heat and has decided to quit and take up a post overseas (with said colleague) this December and will no longer be around to supervise the completion of my thesis. i dont want to bust a gut finsihing up when work will be in chaos when i get back and no one there to really 'care' if i've finshed up yet or not.
So im going to attempt to practice what i preach to others; work/life balance, life meaning, SLOW living etc, and take it SLOW in honour of my friend who no longer has the choice.

Monday, October 20

A new crunchy challenge?

This weekend saw taurus rising get a whole lotta hits. Im always interested to see when cyber peeps go searching on google and end up here, what they were looking for (too much free time i know).I got tonnes of wood fired pizza oven searches, particularly build + wood + fired + pizza + oven + dummies. i can do something on that! I think some home make over show in NZ must have had a feature on outdoor pizza ovens.

menstrual + pads + voyeur sent sickos my way! Some people are truly strange. maybe they dont know about the visible backlink....I didnt want to ponder too long on that one. not sure where the peak interest in that came from.

Here's my favourite...water + tank + challenge got a flurry of interest. At first i thought this was a new Crunchy Chicken challenge, but the volume of searches sent me back linking and i figured it must have been the 'sexy blonde brazilian' you tube footage of a 'sexy blond brazilain' submerged in a tank of water in her white floaty skirt, g-string (no brazilian in sight... snicker) of whom everyone was scrambling to get an eyefull. the tv show it aired on showed no apparent outcome of such a challenge, just an opportunity to show a 'wet and sexy blond brazillian'. I was amazed that she even had on a pair of matching white porn star heels in that tank of water. Talk about overdressed.

Sunday, October 19

whatever you do, dont panic!

The girls are with their dad this weekend. he's flown down for 3 nights and they're all bunkered down in a hotel in town but B2 came back for the day yesterday to babysit an 8 month old for friends. They're mad kiwis; shes had hypothermia three times from engaging in extreme sports, been airlifted off Mt Cook and her partner almost died from renal failure from running a 52 km trail run in 38 degreee temps. That was last year. This year they decided to walk it, only taking 12hours; he hydrated well and she wasn't 30 weeks pregnant. Nuts. So they paid B1 $100 bucks for a 12 hour day. not bad for a 13 yo in my book. she loves babies and the day went really well; we took the 2 beans for walks and she fed, changed and put 'her' bean to bed. then she came out to join me in the garden while they were both inside sleeping AND SHE SHUT THE DOOR. a pizza oven brick came in handy. We now have a spare key somewhere.

Saturday, October 18

my first meme

Kerrie from Life @ Number 14 has tagged me for a meme. Thanks (i think!)
7 random or weird facts about moi, hmm, here goes...

1.When i was 14 i was an exchange student and went to live in Bangkok with a royal Thai family.

2.i can flip my eyelids inside out. A good party trick when you're 8, not so useful when youre 38. favourite sandwich is an onion bagel with shredded lettuce, rare roast beef and loads of horseradish cream.

4. my most unusual job was working for QLD Health as a non-english speaking health and legal peer educator in the QLD sex industry and sitting in a townsville brothel at 2am listening to police calls on the CB radio and advising sex workers on police locations (hiding in a cupboard whilst delivering condoms to a worker when her client turned up was also memorable)

5. an ex boyfriend once stole 10K from me (i still randomly call him and leave nasty messages!) now i understand all those 'Today Tonight' style current affair revenge stories!

6. i once went to a mexican dinner party dressed as Frida Kahlo (it wasnt fancy dress)

7. Im 1 12th aboriginal australian

rules are i have to tag 7 others. not sure if you all do the meme thing, but im giving it a go. You've been chosen coz im nosy and think you might have some great weird facts to share. i love reading this stuff!

Midwife Mutiny
The True Face of Birth
Beating the Boom
Team Effort
Towards Sustainability
Indian Earth
Jelly Baby Blog

the Princess Bride

you know how it goes... you read a comment on someones blog, you like it so you click the author link attached to the comment and get whisked off to their blogger profile and you have a read. now ive noticed something common to a fair proportion all the profiles linked to comments that ive chosen to click on. I like to have a squiz and check out who 'you' are. When im on blogger profile page I read all the listed favourite music, literature and hobbies and here i find my point of interest. invariably, there listed in favourite movies i frequently find The Princess Bride. now correct me if im wrong, but isnt that like a teen anne hathaway in a cinderella style faiytale? if im on the money and you are one of said persons, can you help me out here. Have i missed something in watching what i thought was just a naf teen romance? is there some hidden meaning, illuminating life metaphor or parable that i have overlooked. please explain.

Friday, October 17

there's a dragon at the bottom of our garden

my husband is into dragons. REALLY into dragons, not the kind of scary dragons you find in smoking paraphanelia shops alongside the skulls and naked babe ashtrays, but magical and mystical ones. we have a dragon of one sort or another in every room in the house. this intrigues kids when they visit the house and armed with the task of finding them, they can spends hours searching. the garden has its dragon too. it's finally sprouted all its leaves so it has a body now and its not just a skeleton. it always proves the last dragon to be found. In autumn the oak tree to the right glows and provides the fire from its mouth. I must say, the head is looking in need of a prune, its looking a bit like a kangaroo!

Haiku Friday

warm, scented morning
screaming tree tops, feathers fall
colour cuts the sky

Thursday, October 16

lunch at loca vore

my very pregnant friend, her partner, my old buddy and my birth doula extraordinaire Bruce, B1, boybean, simon and yours truly went out for lunch today to celebrate the revitalisation of old friendships. as we live in 'the Hills' (a sightseeing destination in this wee town of ours) it was decided that everyone would trundle 'up the hill' to our place and we would all have lunch somewhere in our village. we decided to imbibe in the gastronomique delights on offer at the 'loca vore'. loca vore means to 'eat local' and amusingly was the 2007 Oxford word of the year. as this state of ours, South Australia, has a bit of a reputation as a foodie and wine lovers delight, its no wonder that the owners of the 'loca vore' have no trouble sourcing high quality local produce. the loca vore, as its name implies, offers a menu made from local ingredients only. This is what they have to say about their business...
In keeping with the principles of the 100-Mile Diet, The Locavore is dedicated to sourcing food and wines from places as close to us as possible (160 kilometres, in fact).

This is then balanced with the following approach: if not local; eat family-farmed; if not family-farmed, eat organic; if not organic, eat fair trade.

The idea is to run our business as sustainably as we can and look after the earth that looks after us... this way, we can continue to enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer.

The waiter kindly informed us all that the average 'big name supermarket' shopping trolley accounts for more than 70,000 miles, thats a lot of carbon miles for your weekly shopping! (when did aussies start using miles??) so with a guilt free conscience (at least on the 'carbon miles for food' front and supporting local business) we ordered. The menu was impressive: they do tapas style offerings as well as regular entree and mains. Between us we chose loca vore made pan fried gnocci with a rocket pesto and goat cheese, pan seared tuna with a dukka crust on a mash of potato and dill and fried capers (god i LOVE fried capers, so you can assume that the tuna was mine) rabbit pie on a pea puree, cauliflower and blue cheese soup with bruscetta (pic courtesy of my camera phone) The Semillion was from the adelaide hills and B1 had a Bickfords Kola. desert was a lemon myrtle sorbet, rhubarb crumble, vanilla bean ice cream and pear frangipaine with soft caramel vanilla creme. So with the old hip pocket having taken a hit, we stumbled the 300m home for coffee. Its great to see that after a year in operation, an idea as this one is going strong and they have just opened upstairs of their premises to late night 'silver service' dining, showing the growing local support for such a concept. hurrah the day when we all loca vore when we eat and it becomes a more mainstream, not-so-high-end concept.

you know its spring when...

the ducks that live in the garden bring out their hatchlings for some exercise and a practice at sifting through the sand and foilage. we were delighted this morning to find that the 8 ducklings she brought down yesterday all survived the night , a good sign at this young age that she has a nice safe nesting for them overnight. they look about 4 days old and look just so sweet paddling furiously along the waters surface to keep up with mum. B1 and i spent the whole morning sitting in the sun watching them swim about and then settle down for a rest.

Wednesday, October 15

The Growing Challenge - post #8

this glorious warm spring weather is doing wonders in the garden. time for a Growing Challenge post hosted by Melinda at OneGreenGeneration. Last week i planted up the purple king climber and bush beans. Both have performed incredibly and are up and running. Compared to the beetroot,carrot and parsnip and tomato, which look so wispy and delicate when they poke through the topsoil, these emerging lovelies look so tough and strong as they uncurl from their seed.

The second planting of various heirloom varieties of tomatoes, black zucchinis, pumpkins and cucumbers are finally showing some promise. About a month ago i planted the first sowing out in egg cartons. Never again. unless you are prepared to keep yor eye on them FULL TIME ( ie: no pizza ovens, no kids, no other responsibilities). The reconstituted pulped cardboard acts like a water wick, so it draws the moisture away from the soil rapidly and i was watering, when i remembered, up to 4 times a day. (my husband did warn me) They obviously did not enjoy such a haphazard start to life. So i planted my second run in a plastic seedling tray and after a week and a half they are on the move.

I planted out corn among the middle section of the climbing bean support structure so it can grow up and amongs the beans. Bit of an experiment to maximise space so we shall see how it goes. Corn is apparently a very good plant for determining the quality of the soil and as this is the first year we have used these new beds, i will be interested to see if we applied enough compost, gypsum and lime to this very heavy and acidic clay soil.

The rocket is already starting to go to seed, so a new lot has beeen sown amogst the old until they go to seed and sow themselves. You can see in the pic below, the cabbages in front of the rocket are gaining strength, the bush beans have secondary leaves and the climbing beans are this big after peeking out from the soil only yesterday and the garlic is also shooting.

A rather unusual growing chalenge is Ollie, our rather large 3 legged cat, whois creating havoc in the lower vege garden .i have had to develop a way to prevent him from both digging up the earth to use as kitty litter (noice!) and from lolling in the afternoon sun all over my coriander and chives and totally flattenning it. i have resorted to the feline version of razor wire: vertical sticks pressed in amongst the growth ! it appears to be working a treat.

And just because i can, here's the latest progress shot on the ...yup...the pizza oven, looking like a ruin from pompeii... except for the purple ice cream tub... my mum came over yesterday to look after the boybean so i could put in a solid days work, and after 5 hours of squatting and pressing in the middle of the oven, i have to say , one of my butt cheeks is rather well worked out. The clay chimney pot you can see next to the oven is from my old house. when i had a new roof installed i needed an unused chimney removed and this came down and i kept it, its 100 years old, lovely and i knew it would come in useful one day! if it doesnt end up looking too big for the oven, i will install it as the flue. i love that kind of continuity in lifes path.

Tuesday, October 14

school's open

B2 went back to school today. I knocked on her door this morning; no answer. i opened it and declared it was time to get up. "ohh nooo" came her muffled response from under her doona and i laughed. She dressed, had breakfast, grabbed her lunch and at half 8 she happily hopped in the car and we trundled off to school, i however hopped into the car with a little bit of fear and trepidation, not at losing B2 from my days, but since two terms ago, when i drove her to school a WHOLE WEEK EARLY. poor kid. i find immense relief at seeing the school car park packed with cars that first day back.

Monday, October 13

Taurus + Rising + Love

when i named my blog it was using a process i often use to make decisions in my life which do not involve potentially adversarial or problematic outcomes; the first thing that popped into my head, aka gut reaction. taurus from the obvious, i am taurean, and taurus rising because the boybean was born taurus and so is my husband and this blog began when i was late into my pregnancy and looking forward to new life with him. looking at my stat meter and search terms used ,it seems lots of people stumble their way here searching the net to find whether their new love is their soul mate; whom is a taurus with rising ascendants suited to? So if thats you, you've been searching the net, wondering if this person is the one for you, i offer you this piece of wisdom from my experience. If you're looking online to determine whether this person is right for you and you cant work it out in your own heart and mind, then its probably not the relationship you are searching for. Blessings to you and may you find what you are looking for.

Sunday, October 12

i love a home day

today was the last day of the school holidays , the themometer hit 33 degrees and we all decided to have a home day. a nice end.
it was a nice slow start. we all lounged in the sunshine on our bed and played with the boy and had morning coffee. heaven.
then we mooched, i made another lemon cake, simon finished off the bridge over the creek, B1 vacuumed the house, dusted downstairs, polished mirrors and B2 attempted to clean her room for the 5th day in a row. i felt very satisfied with everyone busy contributing to managing the house. it was a cruisy, balmy mood. friends came over, we ate, we talked, we walked, we sat on the lawn among the daisys, the kids played. i planted out the corn seeds, roma tomato, some more parsnip and watched the bush beans grow. literally. it blew me away.

we finished the day with a salad from the garden and a late evening walk; the first one with all 5 of us, i stood back and had a moment.

Saturday, October 11

damn, i forgot my camera [again]

through my blogging experience pictures really help make a blog post interesting. some bloggers write with such wit, style and clever use of language that they dont need a picture. However, Im not one of those bloggers and im always forgetting to take the camera. not good if you're not able to rely on said wit, style and use of language. often ive come home and sat down to blog and thought 'darn, shoulda taken the camera'.

Im particularly annoyed about todays mishap. we went out for lunch to a friends' house, she has 3 weeks of her pregnancy to go. interesting story in itself. Shes a single 39 yo who saw her chance at a baby by the traditional means slipping by. So she met a guy, said how about 'it'? he was 50, same situation, he said 'sure' and whaddaya know, first go...blimey, baby on the way. So these 2 complete strangers are negotiating their way through what seems to be a pretty modern relationship and they seem to be doing a really good job. im so impressed.
Anyway, he's into fishing, particularly fly fishing. im not normally really a 'wow, fishing!' kinda girl, i like it coz its a great way to legitimately sit around the waterfront for a whole day and do pretty much next to nothing in a very relaxing manner and im really into the whole catch/forage/grow your own food thing. lunch was really special for that reason, fresh snapper, prawns and calamari all caught by expectant dad. Fly fishing, bit more thought required and energy expended i know, but he makes his own 'flies'. they took my breath away. i spent half an hour inspecting two special pocket sized cases which were loaded with a whole variety of incredibly delicate, intricate and very beautiful lures. there were tiny replicas of lavae the size of ants, native bees, flies, and crickets just to name a few. They were made from delicate whisps of stunning feathers and deer hair, intricately bound and woven and trimmed to shape. they were tiny works of art. and they are why im really pissed i didnt take my camera to lunch.

Friday, October 10

Haiku Friday

alphabet swimming
veins rush and thoughts are racing
mind cannot focus

Thursday, October 9

The Growing Challenge - post #7

Time for a Growing Challenge post, hosted by Melinda at One Green Generation.
Climbing beans and peas, tomatoes and other verticaly challenged productive plants need support, sometimes lots of it and at heights that can seem a little daunting to the home gardener. Enter the wonderful, magical plant of bamboo.

Bamboo solves a multitude of problems in our house and garden and when it came to planting out my beans and peas last week and constructing the supporting frames they will need to grow well, bamboo helped me out.

We have several stands of non invasive bamboo in our garden and every year my husband harvests canes from them in various lengths and stores them and we have a few deposit sites around the garden so they are ready when we need them for something.

Bamboo is incredibly hardy, very fast growing and strong yet flexible; an incredibly eco-friendly material. various sources report that after atomic bombs were dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki, bamboo was only minimally damaged. Now im not suggesting that you need atomic proof materials in your vege garden, but you get my point. its hardy, and makes a perfect living investment for the home gardener. We have food, shelter, wind breaks, privacy, trellis and support material, tomato stakes, banner poles, cubby and tent poles, easy to make and hang japanese style wall hooks, you name it, all at hand and ready to harvest whenever we need it.

So in about an hour i had 'woven' a very strong, wind resistant and flexible matrix trellising structure for my peas and some teepee style supports for the climbing beans and bush peas.

Its an endless resource. Not sure how you spin it tho'. Grin.

Wednesday, October 8

rome wasnt built in a day...

...and neither was my pizza oven. Isnt she purdy? Im taking SLOW to a whole new level. the hops vine has gone crazy , growing at least a foot a day (not sure what that is in metric measure??) invitation still stands, party at our place when Wombat pedals through! i love a deadline.

what goes up...

after a great week and half of school holidays, i've had it. had it with b2. im not sure if its being 10, being the newly middle child or just being her but im really feeling quite despairing and i know thats not a good place to be with your kids. they need you to be resilient when they are pushing and testing. BUT... shes a toughie. what do you do with a kid who doesn't respond well to positive reinforcement, encouragement, polite requests, or god forbid, being told what to do? well she doesnt respond well to just about everything. the word narcissist comes to mind. im finding myself not actually liking and that scares me. when b2 turned 1 we had a moment which now in reflection seems rather telling. She dropped a piece of birthday cake and i asked her to please pick it up. she looked me in the eye and without flinching picked up her little foot in its big, bright n shiny patent red Doc Marten boot and stomped that piece of cake and minced it into the floor. my girlfriend commented that it looked like we had a diva on our hands. great. it shocked me then and that behaviour is still shocking me. She shocks everyone. how can 2 girls be so different? Nose.spite.face; she'd rather go without than lose it. 'i dont care' is a common response. what do you do with that? Im feeling lost.

Monday, October 6

the end of something

this morning we used up the last of the 'little bottles', the last little bottle of conditioner, the type they leave for you in hotels and depending on the price of the room, determines thereafter the state of your hair.

These little bottles have a historic place in my life, a history i am happy to see the last of. My ex husband was a collector; not of antiques or art, but sachets of sugar from cafes and small bottles of hotel issue hair product. When we lived together he travelled a lot and upon his return from a trip to wherever, he would invariably empty his bag and his jacket pockets and deposit a couple of these bottles in a bathroom draw and toss a sachet or two of sugar in a kitchen cabinet. In and of itself, this habit is not a bad one. what did infuriate me was that he never, ever used them, he just brought them home and 'put them'. i, as a matter of principle, refused to 'manage' them, i figured they were his problem and let the collection grow; damned if i was going to take responsibility for something else.

so when the marriage gasped its final breath and he moved out, he took all his personal stuff, his toys, the modern electrical equipment (of course) and left behind the dogs, the cats, the kids and not surprisingly, thousands of these bottles and sachets. The sachets were kind of fun at the time to consolidate; i ripped, tipped and poured until i had a mountain weight of almost a kilo of sugar. it was theraputic and i vented my rage at being left to deal with so much of his unwanted past, on these little paper bags. But if you have ever tried to extract shampoo and conditioner from these guest portions then you know they take their own sweet time to drain and are more rage building than venting. So i have been sending the kids off to school camps with these and we have been using them at home, intermittently dipping in to the bags under the sink to use them up. 5 years later the last of these little bottles has now been used and its little soapy carcass tossed into the recycling. it's funny how it's the small, somewhat insignificant things in life which can sometimes be embedded with great meaning and be symbols of our past and our futures, our hopes and our dreams, our srengths and our weaknesses. i feel quietly relieved.

Sunday, October 5

Sunday Happy

my 'ex' step dad came for afternoon tea with his girlfriend; he's the girls 'Poppy'. Family really is how you choose to define it. he's the only 'grandfather' left on either side and although he and my mum are no longer together, he's the boybeans Poppy too. He's been in my life since i was 10 and although we are not really emotionally close, the bond is there and always will be; he was the first real gardener in my life! he's got the heart of a lion. besides lots of cups of tea, i made fresh bread and a semolina and yoghurt lemon syrup cake and Poppy brought half a kilo of snow peas from his garden,bottles and jars of his well loved home made spicy tomato sauces and pickles, 16 home made vege pies for the freezer and a fantastic spinach, feta and potato number, maybe not a fair swap... but he was a happy Poppy and the bean was happy too.

Saturday, October 4

putting my money where my mouth is

if i was participating in a 'How to Look Like a Total Weirdo Challenge', this would be post 1. The vege seedlings in the garden are all hitting their straps, so its fertilising time. when it came time to feed them this morning i found no organic fertiliser in the shed. Now the local supply shop isnt far from home but it was a bit too far to carry a 25kg load on my shoulders. 20kg bags of mortar i have done, switching shoulders along the way but i was worried that 25kgs and the walk might have meant i'd bitten off more than i could comfortably chew. The day was glorious and the thought of driving up the road for just one bag seemed a bit rich; i was emotionally and ethically compromised. So i bit the ego bullet and wheeled the damn barrow up to the shop, along the footpaths and 'parked' it in the vehicle loading bay. The guys in the shop were pretty amused but thought it was a good idea. Made sense to me and i actually had fun pushing, not only the 'barra' but a few social boundaries. I think if i was a bloke then i wouldnt have drawn so many funny looks but then again maybe i was just being sensitive. now if id not changed out of my cut offs and gumboots...

Friday, October 3

'bad to the bone' mushroom risotto

Ive been a very bad girl today. i was a good girl yesterday so today im oozing badness. I couldnt help myself, i have been taste bud dreaming my favourite risotto and when i passed these again today in the market, bad girl came out, opened her wallet and bought 15 bucks worth of imported, soo not loca vore, 'i just increased my carbon footprint mouserron and trompets'. I usually always just buy swiss browns or portobellos and these are very good in this recipe too. but these mouserron and trompet de mort (trumpet of death) were a tad too tempting. Its hopefully a one off, just coz ive never had these before and my husband loves them but i cant justify a mushroom flown all the way from france. he has a very romantic story about the trompet de mort, when he was living in France, picking wine grapes and living with the gypsies in their caravans, he used to pick these in the wild to sell to local markets to earn more money so he could save enough to get to a port where he could hitch a ride on a boat to freedom and adventures.

Heres what i did to them. Its in my top 10 dinner meal list (i also have a top 10 book list, a top 10 under $15 wine list and a top 10 daggy song list.

Mushroom Risotto with Garlic, Thyme and Parsley (adapted from Jamie Oliver). Ooh yeah

risotto base
1 ltr stock of your choice (vege, chicken etc)
1 tab olive oil
3 shallot / 2 onions, finely chopped
1/2 had of celery ( i just use stalks), finely chopped
sea salt n balck pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
400g/14 oz risotto rice (arborio)
100ml dry vermouth ( i just use our home made'verjuice', wine would be fine, im sure ;-)
70 g butter or creme fraiche
85-100g fresh grated parmesan cheese

Mushroom component
250g mushrooms ( any kinds, mixture or one sort)
3 tab olive oil
small handfull of thyme, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
handful parsley, chopped
pinch chilli powder
squeeze lemon juice
Slice/tear mushies. Heat oil in hot pan, add mushrooms and thyme. Cook for a minute or so then add garlic and pinch salt. Seasoning mushies at tthis stage allows them to fully absorb the flavour. Cook for another couple of munutes and add parsley, chilli and lemon juice. Chop half the mushrooms. Set aside.
Heat stock. in another pan heat oil and onion, celery and salt and sweat for 3 min. Add garlic and cook for another 2. when vege's are softer, add rice. Turn up heat. Stir, frying the rice. Keep it moving so it doesnt burn or stick. After 3 min or so it will look a little translucent as it absorbs flavours and crackles. Add vermouth/wine/verjuice. it will sizzle and steam up and smell great. when this has cooked ino the rice add ladle full of hot stock and chopped mushrooms. Add ladel fulls of hot stock, stirring after each one and not adding the next until the previous ladelful of stock has been absorbed. Check rice is just firm to the bite. 'Adjust' seasonings. Add the unchopped mushrooms, cheese and butter/creme fraiche. YUMMO!

Haiku Friday

hitting a curve ball
fields of life be our teacher
embrace the pitcher

Thursday, October 2

this is not a compost post

i was going to do a post about compost and composting (how thrilling i hear you say) but Im all steamed up after a trip to the paediatritian (god, that spelling looks wrong). we booked in months ago and had to wait all this time. due to the rather traumatic entry of the bean into the world, we wanted what we thought was a bone haematoma on his head, checked. by the time the appointment came around it had pretty much resolved.LOL Nice guy, great baby bedside manner, boat shoes... and then he did IT. He told me i was a 'good girl' when i answered in the affirmative to his breastfeeding query. He had a lot of options to affirm the positive benefits for breastfeeding and my willingness to do so ... 'thats great', 'well done', 'healthy choice' and the like. But 'good girl' just ended him up in the paternalistic pile. Im a 38 yr old, highly educated professional and a mother of 3. Grrrrr

nb bean is fine. no bone abnormalities on the noggin and no apparent neurological damage, which is what we had been most concerned about having had an apgar of 1 at birth.

Wednesday, October 1

A Walk to Beautiful

I watched this documentary on Monday night. I sat for the most part sobbing, heaving from the chest with heartfelt and emapathic tears running down my face, mourning the loss of dignity for these women. The plight of women, particularly in Africa, is heartbreaking. My husband sat quietly next to me and held me throughout the film. I have known about this hospital in Addis Ababa for many years, probably as the hospital was founded by two Australian surgeons, a husband and wife team from Melbourne who went to Africa in the 50's and remained there, one Dr Hamlin died and his wife Catherine maintained their lifes work, establishing The Fistual Hospital and helping women with childbirth injuries. She has been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize and is testimony to persistence.

This hospital is for many women an end and a beginning. An end to the shame and rejection by their families and communities and lack of self worth and the beginning of the potential for a new life; a life free from pain and humiliation. Many women walk hundreds of miles to recieve help. Five mini hospitals are being built in remote communities to provide help to those who cannot make the journey to Addis Ababa. It is estimated that 200,000 women in Ethiopia alone suffer from fistula. The film "documents the plight of fistula sufferers and the inspiring journey of five women as they move from devastation and despair to restored health"

So, what is fistula? A fistula is a hole. An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in Ethiopia (and many other developing countries) is a hole between a woman's birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby's head against the mother's pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls away and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder (called a vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). This hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell.

Can fistula be "cured"? Yes. An obstetric fistula can be closed with intravaginal surgery. If her surgery is performed by a skilled surgeon, a fistula patient has a good chance of returning to a normal life with full control of her bodily functions. The Fistula Hospital has a 93% success/cure rate.

How much does it cost to treat a fistula? At the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals, it costs US$450 to provide one woman with a fistula repair operation, high-quality postoperative care, a new dress, and bus fare home.

So thats what i did to honour these womens lives, and the telling of their story. I decided to 'love-a-sister' and paid for a fistula operation and have pledged to donate one more each year on an ongoing basis. i figure 37 dollars a month can be covered by my family, all of whom have had the priviledge and benefit of professional midwifery care. There are many ways available to support our sisters.
Tesfa Ineste
let’s give them hope