Sunday, May 29, 2011

Taking a detour

Something's got to give. That's what I've been thinking over the past few weeks, trying to fit in all the ... words ... in my life. But there comes a time when the words buzz like angry bees. When there are so many of them trapped up there in my head, trying to breathe, that the noise is literally deafening.

So, I'm telling some of them to buzz off. To which end, I'm having a mini-blogcation while I try to break the back of the non-fiction manuscript I'm working on. Deadline day is drawing near, and I want to be on top of it before then. I'm being responsible and clearing some room to get it done. Before the night before it's due. Breaking the habit of a lifetime.

I'll be back on Friday night with the Weekend Rewind.

Have a great week everyone!

[image: necklace from aPassionForFashion/etsy]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend Rewind

I learnt three things today:

*things don't always go to plan,

*family is a wonderful support,

*it all works out in the end.

To that end, the theme for this week's Weekend Rewind is... Lessons. I don't mind if they're lessons learned, lessons taught, lessons attended, lessons ignored. The drill remains the same as always: become a friend of the Fibro if we are not already acquainted, link up an old post for some new comment love, visit as many other links as possible to share the comment love around.


To get you started, I'm sharing this post, about the early days of my guitar lessons with Mr7. In case you're wondering, we finished our joint lessons at the end of last term and he's preparing to begin piano lessons (his call) next week. I'm taking a guitar break and will find a new teacher at the beginning of next term. But in this post, we are just starting out... Happy days.

Anyhoo... Ready, set, Rewind!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are you living a 'wild' life?

"What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - The Summer Day, Mary Oliver

I read this quote today. It's from a poem. I do not read a lot of poetry. I spent many hours with the Norton Anthology of Poetry during my first year English Literature studies at the University of Sydney. I didn't love it. I spent many hours with The Canterbury Tales during my year 12 English studies. I didn't love it either (though I confess the Wife of Bath sounded like good fun at a dinner party).

I do love this quote. Though I confess that, sitting here in my study, wrapped in my Slanket), I connect with the 'precious' aspect of the quote moreso than the 'wild' at the present time.

How many of us live 'wild' lives, I wonder? What constitutes a 'wild' life? I suspect that it doesn't involve suburbs, school runs and vacuum cleaning. Or does it? Does a life need to be 'big' to be 'wild', or is there wildness in living small?

Poetry is designed to make you think. So what do you think? What makes a life 'wild'?

[image: tiny porcelain house beads from lofficina/etsy]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The world's best kitchen appliance

Last week, the inimitable (and hilarious) Mrs Woog wrote a post about a Thermomix, a kitchen appliance so advanced that I hadn't even heard of it. Clearly Fibrotown needs to lift its game in the party plan/sales demonstration stakes. I commented that if I had such an amazing beast, it would no doubt sit in the cupboard, right next to my breadmaker. Gathering dust.

Last weekend, I had a conversation with a young friend about the wonders of her pie maker. She truly waxed lyrical, going so far as to show me evidence of the fabulous pies she had created and frozen for future use.

I confessed that I didn't have a wondrous pie maker. How, she wondered, aghast and amazed, did I make pies? I told her that I had a truly incredible kitchen appliance. Because I had this one appliance, I didn't need a pie maker, a pizza thingy, a pancake whatsy, a slow-cooker, cupcake whoosit, or, it has to be said, a breadmaker. Yep, one magic kitchen essential.

It's called an oven.

I know. I'm so old-fashioned.

What's your favourite kitchen appliance? Are you a gadget girl (or boy)? And, please tell me, which appliance gathers the most dust in your kitchen?

[image: hmmm, I would like one of these baking dishes from JanFairhurstPottery/etsy to put in my oven]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

World Series Wrestling: Fibro style

Little boys like to fight. They like to wrestle and roll, rumble and rock. They like to throw themselves from sofas and tables and chairs and toy boxes, launching themselves into attack.

They bounce off walls and floors and furniture - and sometimes they don't (bounce that is).

They'll pummel and punch, karate chop and kick, belt and wallop, laughing all the time - until they don't (laugh that is).

They'll use their Dad's dirty socks as nun chucks (true story), rulers as swords, wooden spoons as sabres. They put their bodies on the line.

Every afternoon when The Builder gets home, the Fibro becomes the staging house for an all-in brawl wrestling match of epic proportions. All-in, bar one. That would be me. I stand back and watch as they do their thing.

With two younger sisters and one much-younger brother, I don't get it. But it's not up to me to get it. It's what they do. So I cover my ears and my eyes and let them get on with it.

Little boys (and big ones) like to fight.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Tips for writing features #7: Where ideas come from

It took 16 months of posting six times a week, but the day finally arrived. I ran out of things to say. I was sitting here tonight, fingers on the keyboard, willing them to just start without me, hoping they'd type something sensible, but no. All was still and silent. My hangnail looked at me accusingly.

So I did what any sensible person does in the middle of the night - I asked Twitter. "What should I write about?" I tweeted. "Taking requests." The answers came back thick and fast:

"Merkins." (Thanks Mrs Woog - strangely not too many of those in the Fibro.)

"The weather." (Thanks Melissa - been there, done that. At least twice.)

"True love. Chocolate. Cars. Masterchef." (Thanks Lucy for that Mystery Box of ingredients."

And so it went on, with requests for photos of my brother TICH (apparently this would bring much traffic to the Fibro...), to a great idea for a story starter from Cath at Leaf Journals, which I'm going to save for my Writing Club at the school tomorrow. Trish from My Little Drummer Boys chimed in with a request for an "original idea", and that got me thinking.

There are two questions I'm asked most often when people find out I freelance:
1) Where do your ideas come from? and
2) Do you come up with the ideas or do they tell you what to write?

Clever observers playing along at home will note that this is actually the same question. The truth is that when you're starting out, the ideas come from you. Nobody will tell you what to write if they have no idea who you are, what you're capable of producing or whether you'll even get the story in - let alone on time. These days, I do a combination of stories that I'm asked to write and stories that I come up with. I'm still always on the hunt for a story idea.

My friend Alex Brooks and I once organised our thoughts enough to present a workshop on freelance writing at an RWA Conference. (You can read our thoughts on pitching here.) This is what we came up with for ideas:

"With magazines, newspapers and websites there are ideas and ideas. New ideas based on changes in society, newsworthy events, scientific breakthroughs. Then there are stock ideas done in new ways – an example here might be a breast cancer story – every October, in support of Pink Ribbon month, most Australian women’s mags run some kind of related story. The trick is to present material that might be familiar to a reader in a new way. Presented with this challenge one year, I suggested that we do a story on the ways in which men cope when their partners are diagnosed – it created a lot of reader interest and comment.

So where do they come from? From the news, from reading other mags, from talking to friends and family (if a subject comes up over and over, chances are there’s a story in it), from looking at what a particular mag has run previously, from movies, from the internet, from professional associations (archicentre or housing industry association, for instance, if it’s homes stories that interest you), from your life experience (renovations, babies, marriage etc), from the ether. As with fiction writing, it’s a good idea to carry a notebook and jot down possible stories so you don’t forget."

To that list, you can now add 'canvassing your network on Twitter'. You may not take up any of the suggestions - but who knows where a simple question might lead you. And if anyone asks, just tell them a little bird told you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Imaginary friends: Another reason to blog

The Weekend Rewind really is a source of inspiration. I was reading this post by Kellie at Three Li'l Princesses, about how children with imaginary friends retain knowledge faster than other children, are more sociable and more creative... and it reminded me that the Fibro has not been graced by the presence of the redoubtable Alla Hoo Hoo for quite a while.

In case you haven't been introduced, Alla Hoo Hoo is Mr4's imaginary friend. She appeared in the Fibro about a year ago, and teaches him all sorts of things. She wears a brown dress and 'big' shoes. She rides a motorbike, has a purple forklift, is a member of the SES, has a fluctuating number of children (anywhere between four and 98, depending on the day), and is, apparently, married to a pizza. You can see how her presence would be missed.

I decided to probe.

"So, where's Alla Hoo Hoo these days?" I asked. (I am nothing if not subtle.)

"Oh, she moved to Sydney," said Mr4. Unconcerned. Completely.

"Will she come back? Is she just visiting? Why did she move?" Concerned. Completely.

He looks at me. "I don't need her anymore, Mum."

And with that, she's gone. Replaced by his friends at preschool and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm not quite sure what effect this will have on his knowledge retention, sociability and creativity, but I know that I'll miss her.

And if I ever question the value of my blog for Fam Fibro, I will think of Alla Hoo Hoo. Without this blog, our future conversations may go like this: 'Remember how Mr18 used to have that imaginary friend when he was four? What was her name?'. Instead, she will forever be remembered as a big-shoe-wearing, motor-bike-riding, bushwalking, evil genius.

See. There's knowledge retained, right there.

[image: this sweet art print by thedreamygiraffe/etsy might be Alla Hoo Hoo... on a good day]

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend Rewind

What's in store for your weekend? Mine will be all about friends, family and a little bit of adventure. Sounds good, no? But, in the meantime, we Rewind!

If you're new to the Rewind, the protocol is simple: friend the Fibro if we're not already acquainted, and then just link up an old post for some new comment love. Don't forget to visit as many links as possible to share the comment love far and wide. If you're an old hand at the Rewind, welcome back and you can skip this paragraph. Oh.

The theme for this week is... community. Of the blogging kind, of the actual kind, of the imaginary kind.

Because I'm going to be offline for much of the weekend, I'm linking up my post right here: Crinkles on the road to happiness.

That's it.

Ready, set... Rewind!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lumbering along like an elephant

"Hey-dee-hey-dee-ho, the great big elephant is sooo slow..."
These were the words that went round and round in my head as I endured watched Water for Elephants at Fibrotown's fabled cinema this evening. Two hours of Robert Pattinson attempting smouldering looks. Two hours of Reese Witherspoon looking like she wished she were somewhere else. Lots of shots of sunshine-tinged shots - Reese's blonde bob, Robert's three-day growth (looked stunning with a bit of golden light on it, trust me).

"Nelly the elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus..."
My mum always told me that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. So I will say this: Robert Pattinson is a very handsome man (despite his red hair). I can see how he would play the undead hero of Twilight very well.

The elephant was lovely.

"The elephant sways from side to side, he's terribly big and terribly wide..."
Other than the movie, which suffered, much as elephants probably do, from being way too long and inflated by gratuitous sunlight shots, I enjoyed my opportunity to get out of the Fibro with friends. Seeing a bad movie with friends is much better than seeing a good movie with friends - much more opportunity for loud asides and rustling of choc-top wrappers at inopportune moments. The great thing about the Fibrotown cinema on a weeknight is that you can have loudly whispered discussions about whether or not its sequins or nipple showing through Reese's costume without disturbing a soul.

"One grey elephant balancing, step by step on a piece of string."
We tumbled out onto the footpath afterwards, wrapping ourselves in scarves and coats and hats, heading off to Fibrotown's one cocktail bar for a bracing reviver. Our consensus on the film was delivered within 30 seconds: The elephant was lovely.

Have you seen a, er, disappointing movie lately? Do tell. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sometimes life in the country is not worth a bean

This is the soup I made for dinner tonight. Only, not really. Every once in a while I am reminded that I live in a country town. Today was one of those days. Where am I going with this? It all started with the borlotti beans...

When you live outside the Big Smoke, there are certain things you expect not to be able to get. Lebanese food. Good Japanese food. Reasonable access to a doctor (oh wait, wrong post). Borlotti beans? Not so much. I have spent several days trekking the various supermarkets (and we have many), health food stores and organic doo-dad shops of Fibrotown searching for dried Borlotti beans. I was all ready to soak, boil and do whatever else was required to have those suckers in my soup.

No dice. Today, I admitted defeat.

So, this is the soup I made tonight, only I used tinned cannellini beans instead of dried borlotti beans. It was still good and, admittedly, it took about one 20th of the time it would have taken had the borlottis showed their little faces. The recipe is here: Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Soup.

I'm keen for more soup recipes, so if you have a favourite recipe, link it up below. I've got a feeling that it's going to be a long soup season this year. And if you find a good stash of dried borlotti beans anywhere, send me some, c/- The Fibro, Fibrotown... Otherwise, I'll add them to my shopping list for my next trip to the Big Smoke. Let's see... shoes, a coat, serious make-up, borlotti beans. See, they fit right in.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's on your Lifetime To Do List? It may not be what you think.

Yesterday, I ticked not one, but two things off the Lifetime To Do list. The Lifetime To Do List is that ever-accumulating list of things that you're constantly getting around to, but never actually seem to get there. Hence, they seem to take a lifetime to achieve. Things on this list for me tend to include such things as getting the carpets cleaned, getting the pictures framed, dusting under the bed, having the blinds cleaned, hanging the pictures... all those things that you're forever 'getting around to'.

Well, no more. On a few items anyway. The Fibro is currently beaming under the weight of freshly steam-cleaned carpets (bonus: under the bed no longer requires dusting - result!). I realise now why I put it off for so long as well. It took one hour to do and yet the furniture is still cluttering up the hallway, awaiting the moment when the carpet is truly dry. I have a bad feeling that once you wet the carpet it will forever feel 'slightly damp', either in reality or in my mind. Jumping over the magazine rack to get to the bathroom is rapidly growing old though.

My second achievement was to arrive at the framing shop with two lovely prints that Mr4 received for his first birthday. Time moves slowly in the Fibro. After half an hour of discussing frames and matting and foamcore and wires, the pictures are in the hands of the expert and will be returned to me, ready to hang, in a fortnight. Are you wondering why it took me so long to get around to this? I know that I am.

So there you have it. An achieving kind of day. I feel ready to tackle anything. Well, anything but the next item on my Lifetime To Do List, that is.

What's on your Lifetime To Do List? Are there things that take you an apparent lifetime to get around to doing?

[image: how cute are these notebooks from ShePinTea/etsy - just the thing for a Lifetime To Do List.]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Helpful advice on how to apply for a community grant

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of the community grants application with which I am currently wrestling on behalf of the primary school. Have you ever written one of these things? Eighteen pages of meaningful guff, broken down into 200 word sections. Full of 'keywords' and 'strategies' and 'outcomes' and 'solutions'.

Yes, I am going nuts.

Hence this short but useful post. My top three tips on how to apply for a community grant.

1. Make sure the grant is a good fit for your school or organisation.

2. Have a clear idea of what you want the money for - and be able to articulate that within the guidelines.

3. Read the guidelines.

If you need more tips (what, you're not an expert now?), check out this story that I wrote for Ninemsn's Money website. It's called How to Apply For a Grant. I found it very helpful. I just wish I'd got one of the helpful experts I interviewed to apply for this grant for me.

Now that would have been very useful.

Have you ever applied for a grant for your school or sporting organisation? Any exciting tips or insight to share? Alternately, want to write mine for me???

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The appeal of the new

There comes a point in every writer's life - actually, make that day - when they have to fight temptation. Literally, beat it off with a stick. It usually occurs when you're halfway through a particularly difficult story/feature/manuscript/sentence/word. You're in there, wrestling away, trying to wrangle the words into submission - or at least some form of sense - when it appears. A New Idea. A bright, shiny, seductive, full-of-promise New Idea.

"Look at me!" it shouts. "I'm fabulous."

"Listen to me," it whispers, "I'm fully formed and ready to go."

"Come to me," it tantalises. "I'll never be boring, or difficult, or just plain dumb."

It's a siren song. Particularly when the current work in progress is looking boring, difficult and dumb. When you can't see how it's ever going to work. Whether it be 500 words or 50,000 words.

The new idea is better. You just know it.

Only, it's not. Because you'll get halfway through that project and find yourself in exactly the same place - casting around for something, anything, to distract you. And then you become that writer. The one with half-finished manuscripts stuffed under the bed. The one who couldn't 'resolve' the work and so gave up on it. The one for whom the next idea is always going to be better.

The best idea is the one that results in a finished piece of writing. Once you have a complete draft down on paper - be it that sentence or that novel - then, and only then, can you consider the charms of the New Idea. Take the time to jot down its essence, by all means (it'd be terrible to lose that fabulous thought all together), and then put it aside and go back and finish the Idea you're working on. The one that used to be the New Idea.

I wrote this post tonight to remind myself to focus on one thing at a time. Trying to catch all the New Ideas just makes a girl crazy. Are you distracted by the next idea? How do you deal?

[image: bookplates from etsy/FromTheLibraryOf]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Well now. Blogger crashed and put paid to the usual starting time for the Weekend Rewind. But we shall not be daunted, shall we? No. Instead, we shall conduct the thrash metal version of the mixed tape this week. Fast, furious, full of passion.

We have no time for niceties, so here's the drill: become a friend of Fibro if we are not already sharing our most intimate thoughts. Link up an old post to share with the Fibro community and, then, and this is key, especially this week when we are light on time, go visit some other links to share the comment love.

In honour of the Blogger fail, this week's prompt is... blogging. Any post that you have ever written that deals with blogging. If you happen to have one on how to back up your Blogger blog, now would be a good time to bring it out.

Right. Let's do it. Ready, set, Rewind.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What does a writer look like?

When I was growing up, if you'd asked me what a writer looked like, I'd probably have answered along these lines - thin, pale, wan, intense, bespectacled. Picture an older Harry Potter, sans wand and that would have been it. At no point would my thoughts have wandered along these lines:

This is Mark Dapin, Good Weekend columnist, author of King of The Cross and various amusing travel books, launcher of Kerri Sackville's very funny book and general writer about town. He's on the cover of his local, free newspaper. He will present several Features Writing workshops at the Sydney Writers Festival - and I'm sad that I am not attending as this is a man who really knows his way around a feature. This is not a sponsored post, though (disclaimer coming), I have had a beer or two with Mark. Merely a reason to share this particular image with as wide an audience as possible.

Mark blogs here. Ignore the recent posts featuring pictures of roundabouts and have a read through. He's funny when he's not obsessed by roundabouts. And he needs some blogging encouragement.

Oh, and if you could tell him you really like it when bloggers end their posts with a question that would be great.

And then tell me, do you have, or have you ever had, a picture in your head of what a writer looks like?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baby it's cold outside - come and share my Slanket

If there's one thing I miss about working outside my home, it's central heating. Never underestimate the joy of spending a goodly portion of one's winter's days in solid, all-round warm. Particularly solid, all-round warm for which someone else is paying.

Fibro houses are not noted for their stellar insulation properties. Thin walls are thin walls and no amount of ceiling insulation will stop the cold from creeping in. Unfortunately, it's not easy to convince oneself (well, if you're me, anyway) that running a gas heater all day to heat one person is economical. And let's not even start on those long, chilly, wintry nights which, as we all know, is mostly when my work is done.

So it is with some joy that I announce my latest purchase. Joy and a crimson blush. For I have purchased one of those blankets with sleeves. The original version was called a Slanket and I used to watch the ads for them whilst breastfeeding Mr7 (who was not seven at the time) in the wee small hours of the morning. Which is to say that I saw the damn ads every single night, several times a night, for what felt like 150 years. And yet I was never tempted to purchase. The whole name thing put me off. Plus I was still manufacturing milk and eating for two and somehow the cold never touched me.

Fast-forward eight years and here I am, in my Fibro, in my Slanket knock-off (sorry Mr Slanket). It is dark brown and toasty warm. I proudly modelled it for my boys this afternoon. Misters 7 and 4 thought I looked very like Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Builder took one look and said: "Monk." I can see that I will henceforth be known as Friar Fibro.

But, you know what? I don't care. The sleeves are very long and with careful planning I can have them positioned so that they cover all the way to my knuckles and still leave my fingers free for typing. I have the whole arrangement double-wrapped around myself, all the way to the floor. And I am warm. So warm was I this afternoon that I gave serious consideration to wearing the damn thing to pick up the boys because the wind chill factor was so... chilly. The only thing that stopped me? Maxabella's voice in my ear: "You left the house in a SLANKET."

It cost me $10. I can see no environmental downsides (not taking into account the number of polyesters that may have died to make my winter coat). I think every home should have one.

So fess up - do you have a walking blanket with sleeves aka Slanket aka Snuggie aka... Or do you prefer an old-fashioned dressing gown? Or do you turn the heater up and wear singlets all winter?

[image: you can get the pattern for this mini arigurami Obi-Wan from lucyravenscar/etsy - I look very much like this in my walking blanket]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The family that blogs together...

Last night I attended the launch of the Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers. It was a hugely fun night that resulted in visits to back-lane bars and me being thankful, as ever, that I rarely succumb to the lure of high heels. Lots of standing, people, lots of standing - and me smug in my flats. It was made even more fun by the fact that I got to share it with my sisters (who are both on the list - Maxabella Loves and And Then There Were Four) and my brother TICH (who is not, but would be if he blogged, for sure).

I love the fact that my sisters both blog. Not only does it give us an awful lot to talk about when we get together (not that we really needed prompts...), but it allows me to keep up with not only what my sisters and their families are doing - but with what my sisters are thinking. The latter is something that can be lost when one of you leaves town for Pinker pastures.

I read their blogs every day and love reading their comments on mine. There is always an inside joke to be found for those who are looking - and I'm looking.

I'm incredibly proud that both of them are on the Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers list - and I think you could do a lot worse than voting for them. Both of them, of course. You wouldn't want to be accused of playing favourites, now would you?

It's very easy - just follow the links.

Vote for Maxabella Loves

Vote for Multiple Mum at And Then There Were Four

The whole blogging family thanks you.

[image: A family shot from the 1970s - and some insight into why none of us are fashion bloggers.]

Monday, May 9, 2011

Timing is everything

Do you find that time is a flexible beast? I never seem to allow enough of it to do what needs doing. I'm always thinking 'I'll be able to do X, Y and Z' in that allotted period of time... and then discover that I don't get much beyond X and fret about Y and Z.

I'm off to the Big Smoke today. Normally when I go, I schedule meetings all over the place and find myself running from one end of town to the other. This time, I have nothing on except the reason that I'm going. One thing. So I decided I'd put my train trip back until later in the day. To give me, you know, time to get things done this morning.

Only I haven't. Got things done, that is. Oh, I've done 'stuff'. Tidied here, tweeted there, straightened up in the other corner, organising and scheduling. But not the solid task I set out to achieve. My time management skills are sadly lacking.

Fortunately, there's a three-hour train trip between me and the Big Smoke. Plenty of time to achieve my task.

Or is it?

[image: CompassRoseDesign/etsy]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How (not) to grow a vegetable garden

For weeks I have been watching them grow. Thick. Verdant. Lush. Luxuriant. A carpet of health and vitality.

On rainy days, the green was particularly virulent, soaking in the raindrops, drinking in the vitality. When the sun shone, they seemed to bask, undulating in a light breeze, flexing to their very leaf tips.

Today, I decided, they had to go.

Like most refugees from the city, one of the first things I wanted to do when I got to Fibrotown was to establish my very own vegetable garden. I would be Peter Cundall, only younger and more... female. My backyard would become a Garden of Eden, without the snakes. We would eat our own tomatoes and lettuce and parsley and basil. In winter, we'd reap the bounty of cauliflowers and leeks and celery.

Things haven't turned out exactly as I'd planned.

The scales fell from my eyes early (you can read about the dream vegie garden (and the reality) here).

Then there was the Great Rhubarb Incident. Followed by the Spinach Glut of 2010. And my one and only Vegetable Gardening Success.

Which brings us today. And the enormously successful crop of Weeds that I managed to grow in my vegie patch over summer. The only thing, in fact, that grew at all after that one success with the tomatoes.

I got in there today and pulled them all out. Weed after weed after weed. Dirty patches on my jeans. Mud caked on my boots. RSI in my shoulders. As I pulled and dug and pulled some more, I found myself considering planting some nice shrubs in the space. Low maintenance. Good screening.

But as I pulled out the weeds, revealing the patch in all its glory, I noticed just how good my soil has become. No wonder those weeds flourished. All that compost so carefully dug through has provided the structure for a veritable worm farm in the beds. It is dark, and rich, and just bursting with goodness.

It'd be kind of a waste to put a Murraya in there. Not when it could feed some leeks to make me some soup. Or some parsley to save me buying it every five minutes.

Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.

[image: pictured above are the cumquats from my friend Jamie's wonderful inner-city food garden. He knows what he's talking about, and I should listen to him more often. Go see him at Garden Amateur.]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Oh, how I love me a Rewind. I know that when I pull out my little pink cassette image that Friday is upon us and a weekend's great reading is ahead of me. Love it. 

So, without further ado, we'll just get to it, shall we? The drill remains as per usual: follow the Fibro if we are not already friends, link up an old post for some new comment love, and then visit as many other links as you are able to share the warmth and Rewind friendship. As always, I will tweet and stumble the posts that resonate most with me to share them with a wider audience. Ah, it's so much fun.

Because I am freezing in the Fibro right now, I have decided that the prompt for this week is 'chill'. And, of course, immediately the soundtrack from The Big Chill starts playing in my 1980s brain. "Jooooy to the world...All the boys and girls...." Etcetera. For your link, think cold, or think relaxed. Either/or works for me.

I've chosen to bring a little Fibrotown Fable out of the archive freezer: Stone Cold Poetry at the Drycleaners.

Okay, that's all the formalities out of the way. So.... Ready, set, Rewind.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Conversations from the cafe

Today, Mr4 and I enjoyed what he likes to call a 'Mr4 Day', whereby he gets to choose the activities for the day and we generally steer clear of the supermarket. Supermarket shopping is not on Mr4's list of favourite things to do, which is fine by me because taking Mr4 supermarket shopping is definitely not on mine.

Interestingly, Mr4 Day generally involves doing all the things we would normally do on our days together - minus the supermarket bit. So we go to the DVD shop and pick him up another ABC Kids masterpiece. We have a milkshake. We 'poke about' in bookshops and pop in to say hello to our friends who run some of Fibrotown's best shops.

It's a good arrangement.

Our milkshake today took place, controversially, after a visit to a shop and, more specifically, after I had purchased not one, but two pairs of shoes (they were 30 per cent off - practically free!). Mr4 was not happy with the deviation from our Mr4 Day plans. I had some making up to do. This is a small excerpt of the conversation that followed...

The scene: A busy cafe in central Fibrotown. Mr4 is steered away from his favourite seat right in the doorway, allowing him the space to run in and out and climb on the ledge outside the large window so he can make funny faces at me through the glass. We settle on the 'comfy chairs' up the back and he sits happily with his DVD while I order not just a small chocolate milkshake but a Smartie cookie as well. When I return, we sit chatting about the wonders of Fireman Sam for a few minutes until his milkshake arrives, at which point I take the opportunity to bustle to the front of the cafe and swipe a newspaper from a recently vacated table. Upon my return, I find him sucking on his straw, deep in thought...

Mr4: "Mum, when you get big does your bottom get big too?"

Me (choking on latte): "Well, it grows to keep up with you. You'd look silly if you were as big as me with a bottom as little as yours."

He sucks his straw, considering, big blue eyes quizzical.

Mr4: "But does it have to be as big as yours?"

Me (trying hard not to laugh): "Are you worried that your bottom might be the same size as mine one day?"

Mr4 nods vigorously.

Me: "Right, then... More Smartie cookie for me."

[image: jim8ball/etsy]

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

One of the downsides of freelance writing: Life Envy

Today I went to visit a gorgeous country farmhouse. Big, light-filled kitchen. Fireplace in the monastic dining room. Verandahs on three sides. Chickens, ducks, horses, and a Border Collie. A studio. Old, rustic stables. Acres of green paddocks as far as the eye could see. Your basic rural dream. 

I wasn't just there to visit. I'm writing the house up for an interiors magazine. I don't do house stories that often these days, but I love them for the opportunity to step into someone else's life for a little while. Though there is a certain amount of Life Envy that can go along with that opportunity. I wrote about it in this guest post, which first appeared at Mother Hoot in September last year.

One of the worst things about being a freelance writer is the ‘life envy’ that can ensue. It’s bad enough simply flicking through the pages of a glossy lifestyle magazine – imagine actually visiting those houses, soaking in the dreamy views, lolling on the designer sofa…and then climbing back into your own trashed people mover and arriving back in your own life.

Some months ago, I visited a sublime modernist fantasy perched high on a rolling hill with vistas out to the ocean. There was even one of those infinity pools (not sure how you feel about them but, for me, the idea of swimming to the horizon without encountering marine life is extremely attractive). Soft music played as I tip-toed across the wide, timber floorboards, admiring the stonework on the floor-to-ceiling fireplace. Wide cedar bi-fold doors tempted me out to broad veranda, where jasmine twined a scented path to the sky. Lawn, like a verdant green carpet, ran down to the dam where picturesque white ducks splashed about.

Seriously? People live here? How do they ever leave?

The home belonged to a young couple from Sydney, who enjoyed it as a weekender. They rented it out to those who could afford it. And they let me through the door to share a glimpse of it with the readers of the magazine I was writing for.

I drove away, down a winding country lane, past fields of mooing cows and, within 10 minutes, was back at my place. A slightly tired cottage made of fibro. I turned off the car, listening to the engine die away, thinking of what I’d left behind.

And then my family burst out the front door, thrilled to see me after a three-hour absence. And what I’d left behind dimmed to a pleasant memory.

It doesn’t matter where you live, really. The best home is your home.

If you'd like to know more about writing house features, visit In My House, the blog of my lovely friend Catherine Shields, an art director and writer whose work features regularly in Australia's best home magazines. She shares the background stories of her 'house shoots', as well as her vast knowledge of all things interiors. The image shown above is from one of her own projects. And she loves questions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do you read your stars?

I don't believe in Horoscopes. Not really. I can't see how a planet moving two degrees into a different house with a rising something or other will change my life. Not really.

But that doesn't mean I don't read my stars.

Even though I know that they're cut to fit the space in magazines and newspapers. That scene in Paper Giants where a features writer and an editorial assistant wrote them didn't really surprise me. I laughed. When I worked on mags, we always had real astrologers 'do' the stars. But we'd chop out a line or two to make the design work. Who knows what planetary chaos we caused?

So why do I read them? Hope. No matter what thought it is that's top of my mind, the stars can be read to fit. 'You'll have a great day' can mean anything from the sun shining in the morning to my ship finally coming in. Depending on what I'm fretting about most. Even if careful reading of every star sign on the page proves that every single star sign will be having the same great day (and we should all call the same 1500 number for more exciting details). Cynical, me? Not cynical enough to stop reading.

So tell me, what's your sign? And do you read your stars?

[image: MimiLoLo/etsy]

Monday, May 2, 2011

How (not) to hate the gym

When I joined the gym a few months ago, I didn't expect too much. I figured it would be boring. I figured there'd be days I had to drag myself there. I didn't imagine I'd be getting Biggest Loser 'numbers' in my weight loss each week.

I was right about all these things.

I joined what I fondly refer to as 'an old lady gym'. There are two in Fibrotown. Those places where you do a three minute warm-up, a 30-minute circuit and a 28 second stretch at the end. Very much the drive-through version of a gym. No posing, no pontificating between sets, no need for a towel to wipe the sweat off the machine when you're done.

I was clinical in my approach to this. I know myself. I know that while I could go to a gym that offers everything from Zumba to yoga to spinning to tai chi, I would not indulge in any of these classes. I do not have time. I need to get in, lift a weight, get out. I already had a well-established walking routine under way. I needed some toning to go with it.

I confess to being a little concerned on day one. There's something disconcerting about going to a gym where nobody, not even the instructors, looks as though they go to a gym. But it's a lovely, friendly place and I figured that my days of looking as though I go to the gym are well behind me anyway, so I persisted.

I did a Bio Age test, which put my age at two years below my actual age. Good place to start. I'll be 21 before I know it. I weighed myself (and gasped and spent the rest of the session trying to work out the weights of my shoes, socks and tracksuit pants so that I could deduct them from the figure to make myself feel better). And I surprised myself by going back. Again. And again. And again.

Twice a week. For 10 weeks. And then the school holidays struck.

It was at this point that I realised something surprising. I missed it. The gym, I mean. I missed it. It is boring. There are days when I have to drag myself there. My 'numbers' are not very impressive at all. But the pay-off isn't in the bio-age or the weight loss or even the health benefits (and I do feel fitter and stronger). For me, it's all about the calming effect of exercise. The Post-Old-Lady-Gym high. It's there, and it's real, and a stress-head like me really needs it.

Apparently, I'm a convert.

[image: how cool is this decal from AppleStyx/etsy - I want!]

I'm linking up this post with Lucy's Drab to Fab linky. Get involved and share the love! 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another step on the writing path

Mr7 and I have been talking about description lately. His English classes at school are beginning to move along from straight recount - we did this, and then we did this, and then we did this - and into writing. His teacher has been trying to encourage some description. He is not keen. He feels the descriptions distract from the story. I understand how he feels. I've read too many books in my time that required me to wade through pages and pages of adjectives before I could spot any semblance of plot.

But it's also difficult to build a writerly picture without it. The Cat Sat On The Mat. Straightforward plot. But what kind of cat was it? What colour? Long-haired? Short-haired? White socks on its paws? Was the mat a deep-pile oasis of luxury, or a rough, hairy, rubber-backed doormat?

You get the picture.

We went for a little bushwalk on Saturday, during a break in the weather, as raindrops dripped off leaves around us and we jumped over the puddles (or through them in Mr4's case). As we walked, I asked Mr7 what he could smell.

He took a long, hard, seven-year-old sniff.

"Air," he shrugged.

"Remember we were talking about description?" I asked. He nodded. "How would you describe the smell?"

He sniffed again. And again. "I don't know, mum," he said, desperation in his voice. He likes to get things right. "Is there lavender in there somewhere?"

I laughed. "Can you smell the rain on the leaves?"

Yes, he could.

"Can you smell the fresh, tangy eucalyptus oil from those gum trees?"

He nodded.

"Can you smell those soggy leaves, rotting on the ground?"

He nodded again. And thought.

"That's description, isn't it, mum?"

Yep. Lesson over. We'll save the other senses for another day.

How do you feel about description in books? The more the better, or do you prefer just enough to keep the story rolling along?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...