Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bread, Culture and Starters

I remember what life was like out here, before Dad hooked up the internet.  American Author Henry Thoreau wrote of the "quiet desparation" in the mass of men, and  that about sums it up. No point ranting and raving about the pressures, because there's no one to listen.  We've all done our fair share of running to the back paddocks for a moonlit sob or a yell, but those essential  outbursts have been, thankfully, rare.

I remember the early days of computers here. At first, according to farming tradition, we bought second hand.  Like horses that bailed up at crucial moments, or  tractors that clapped out at harvest, those computers set us up and let us down.  I remember Dad, under his desk like a mechanic under a chassis, networking his outmoded hard drives to the newer ones.  Never buy new, never throw anything away.

We buy new these days. Through access to all the information flying around the broader world our little world has opened up, and our minds have opened up too.  Which leads me to the gut. Many say that's a kind of brain too.  We've had a rocky relationship with bread over the past few years, and it's taken a while to figure out just where the problem lies.  Current thinking is that commercial quick rise yeasts lead to shocking stomach acidity, when a basic PH is the most desirable. Both Mum and Dad researched the case, via the web.  I just pined and whined for the Sydney sour doughs in Bondi corner stores and the rye loaves from Frank's bakery in Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick.

About a month ago, Mum ordered sour dough starter cultures on-line and she set up a mini-lab inside the great, black, carved, almost hideous german press in her sitting room.  Open the top door on the right and you are faced with seething grey goo and and an interrogation strength light bulb. The product is pretty gothic too - hard, strong-flavoured, dark loaves best approached slowly with a very sharp knife. Sometimes they come with surprises - I'm having trouble finding words for the way I enjoyed the fig and walnut combination.  Well. Shall we say thinly shaved, lightly toasted, heavily buttered, laid gently on the willow pattern and sluiced with Russian Caravan tea?

Just like a bought one. (Only better).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Order in The House

Some years, my birthdays are tight little fizzers that last as long as a bit of cake.  Other years, I have what I call "birth weeks" - great rolling celebrations with new friends and old, massive shakeups, and sunny daffodil weather.  This year has been a corker.  The latest bout of inspiration has generated some great work, and resulted in complete domestic mayhem.  Living and working in a converted grain shed, with a lot of open plan spaces and not a lot of storage, makes minimalist calm a very distant dream.  One of my many presents to self this year was a fabulous shelf and sorting trays from Toole's Disposals.  Designed to hold 11 rolls of fabric, it will stand me in great stead should I ever learn to sew straight. In the meantime, it has allowed me to shelve my projects in full view and work a lot more efficiently.  We stay-at-home mother creators often battle piles of stuff mixed with kids toys, groceries and laundry - this system has helped me achieve a degree of separation.  A dedicated studio would be impossible for me right now.  The challenge is to work without shutting my little darling right out.

The upshot is, however, that Joseph's wonderful broad floorspace, generally occupied by the massive train set and soccer pre-training sessions, has become inaccessible.  The solution was to change bedrooms.  For a couple of years now, I've been occupying the mezzanine, which was designed as a master bedroom space.  When I mooted the idea of giving the space to Joseph I got a lot of comments about sons of single mothers and the dangers of elevating them to "man of the house" positions. Allowing them to dictate.  Truth be told, the space had never quite worked for me, something to do with the feng shui and neccessary placement of the big bed (first bed and mattress I have ever owned).  I had been thinking that the sense of discomfort was something to do with the fact that I haven't lived in one place for more than 18 months since 1984, but it was probably more to do with windows, roof angles and entry placements.
My dear friend Dawn visited yesterday and played volunteer Domestic (Joe and I both agree that a maid would be a great addition to our family). Thanks to Dawn,  Joseph's now upstairs in a fabulous little fort, with the dresser that belonged to his father and massive cupboards for sweeping the clutter right off the carpet.  The cupboards remind me of Japanese space philosophy - in traditional Japanese house, the cupboards are about a 1/4 of the room space, the beds are tucked away during the day and the living space is far more workable.All the hot air rises up to that room, so I no longer need to check for kicked off-quilts in the middle of the night.  (Joe has a tendency to shed pyjamas and thrash about like a little helicopter .)
To keep us going through the process, I fortified the maid with her favourite cocktail:
The Domestic (fruity, bitter, fizzy, frosty)
Ice frozen flat in a shallow tray and smashed to look like shards of glass
30ml frozen Absolut over ice in large glass
Italian grapefruit soda
20ml Campari plunged into the centre
Squeeze of fresh lime juice and 1/4 lime to garnish
10ml Cointreau dropped on top
swizzle and top up with blood orange juice 
Dawn reckoned pineapple thyme would be a nice touch, but I haven't got to the herb garden yet.
Now I have a neat little bedroom, with a big bed, block out blinds,  a functional wardrobe and the perfect place to hang Katsuya's Tomatoes.  I still haven't decided whether or not to peel the glow in the dark stars off the ceiling.
Just a little more de-cluttering and everything will be perfect.  
We head to South Melbourne on Friday, to house sit for two months. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

forgetting to remember

Joe and I hammered the 60km into town on Saturday night, heading for a very special birthday party.  We'd never met Bec, but she'd been recommended to us by our friend Helen and we were so honoured to have been invited. 

This talk of friends is not casual.  As creatives, out here, away from the city tribes of like minds, fellow freaks are rare as hen's teeth.  There are people we know and see from time to time, but very few whose eyes don't start to glaze over at the first mention of "projects", "writing" and painting anything other than trees and water.  I drive the Murray Valley Highway to town a couple of times a week, if I'm feeling brave. There are always a thousand errands to run, and friends are squeezed in.  My Albury friend Nick once criticised me for always having one foot out the door. And he told me off for drinking in a frenzy when I took him to Prudence (last house I ever shared, now a very fine bar) in West Melbourne.

I read once that our seafaring ancestors, and the landlocked sailors who shore, waltzed and jobbed their way around this continent, have a bit to do with the way we still drink.  For three quarters of the year you get work, isolation, lack of water. Then, when the sheds cut out and you're cashed up, you roll into town, blow the dough as fast as possible, and then drag yourself back out to necessary deprivations. And family. Personally, I feel I spent most of my youth coming down on Greyhounds.

So. Last Saturday I partied like a sailor and Joe did too, fuelled, most of all, by the joy of association with like minds. Singing, dancing, dressing up, flirting, feasting, cocktails, yarns, kids, balloons, fire. Ahh.

But before the party I actually stopped, and pulled over to photograph the landscape that I only ever seem to watch out of the corner of my eyes as we barrel by.  At the time I was frustrated by the lack of zoom (too rough on cameras to risk anything that sticks its neck out too far) and by the time I got the camera sorted the sun had all but set.

Sometimes I forget to remember that I live in this wonderful place.

Looking at the shot now, I see that the annoying red blur below the half sunk sun looks, ever so slightly, like a flame crowned heart. 

PS A short story has emerged in time for The Write Around The Murray literary festival competition. Thanks to Felicity of The Witches Garden for scaring me into doing it!  A little tweak today, and it will be posted.

PPS Wish me happy birthday!

XX Char.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Going Commando

Deep button flies
Cut broad to just above the knee
Pleated and skirty but with legs
Heavy pure white cotton drill
Fully adjustable waist...these are a few of my favourite things about this armload of garments.
Try a pair on and suddenly everything becomes clear.
And I thought the saying "going commando" was something to do with muddy fatigues and saving on laundry.
These shorts are so easy and breezy we may never need to launder again.
Even when the summer to come starts to sweat our way.
Dreaming of sunny skies 
(and sharing a little of the love on Big Cartel)
Soon my darlings, soon.

XX Charlotte

Saturday, July 17, 2010

box a trix

In amongst the nails, screws, rulers and drivers 
a packet of  hair pins
perfect for holding the nurses' hats tonight

Friday, July 16, 2010

Disposa Mania Spoils

I had half an hour to spare in Wodonga today, so I took a breath, set a spend limit and  ventured over the threshold at Tooles Disposals.  Last time I went there I disgraced myself to such an extent the sales people weren't sure that I was going to be able to fit my child back into the hatchback.  Billy The Toole did ask me if I'd like to visit his bunker, I asked the divine Miss Pen Pen if she'd like to come too - and she blogged all about that marvellous experience.  I didn't spend hard that day.  To busy taking it all in, swearing at the new camera, and enjoying the sight of my two idols doing deals.

Today, I had a Hotel - California - in - military dress - fetish type of experience.  I tried to leave four times and kept getting drawn back.  The helpful Steve Stuart mediated.  

These are my spoils:

A habit - Army Padre's.  There was a very small one too, with a zip front, waist and gathers.  I'm going to ask them to put it aside.  It would fit Min Mae perfectly and I'd love to see the dance jam she'd need to get out of it.

Two little chef's hats - slipped back to play ravaged scullion in

A target tshirt like you ain't never saw.  Wonder what would happen when it's worn out?

Gurkha Shorts - white white bloomers perfect for summer striding, skirty but not, label still on.  Now for the Dunlop Volleys and the knitted tank. Top that is.

Two white aprons - one for the front of the apron dress, one for the back.

Beautiful yellow and blue painted metal trays - studio organisers really.

Three black boxes - to tell me what happened, after the event.

Two medicine cabinets - one for the bathroom, one for cocktails

A pair of sweet unlined black rubber gloves

Three white cotton shirts - small to bust out of, with discreet epaulates for pinning things on

A shelf

A box of bits

Lovingly patched and name tagged overalls

More photos to come.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

If I said I was Writing I'd be Lying...

I know I should be up scribing but instead I'm lolling all over my desk.  Too much in love with:

 My new Nikki Gabriel knit from Cottage Industry. It was kindly constructed for me by Joe's Nanny (paternal grandmother, that is, not the  foreign girl I'd like to employ to wrangle him). I don't think she'd mind me revealing that she used a bit of language in the process.  The bespoke wool wasn't available in time to get it knitted up for my birthday, so she went Alapaca hunting for an approximation. Apparently measurements in the pattern would have eased the way a bit.  I hear that pattern and wool kits are in-store now. I also like my construction upside down, and folded out into a broad shawl collar.  Lots of ways to play and featherlight to touch despite the actual weight.

The pre-customised flannie from Tallangatta Op Shop. 
It reminds me of the de-cuffing I gave my Ormond College rugby top back in 1990. I had no idea I was committing sacrilege, but I did start a grungy little trend.  Grass green county kid, I chose Ormond for the ivy and the sandstone. Didn't bargain on the ivy league thing.  Got my head shaved in O week.  All deliciously downhill from there.  After 20 years of nightmares about returning, I've bought a ticket to the Alumni Dinner in the great hall in October.  Orpheus descends...

The vintage Sally Smith skirt.  I fell for Sally's work back in 2001, when I bought a sand wool/linen asymmetric skirt and straight wide legged slacks from her store.  My brother was dating a recruitment girl at the time.  We went to QBar.
"Dance in your new pants and I'l give you a job." she said, minutes before the place was raided.  15 minutes, to be precise.  I know because I had just hit the dance floor when the lights went on and a policeman announced there was going to be raid in 15 minutes.  Then we were turfed out onto Oxford Street and into a bank of TV cameras.   Funny how they do things in the silver city. 

I got the job, I got promoted, and I wore and wore those separates, sometimes both at the same time. They (along with a pair of cut-price Versace grey flannel platform Mary Janes) carried me through my corporate moment and right out the other side.  I was working off a 22 grand credit card debt when the heavy denim skirt came to me, label on, in a Wodonga thrift store. It's been in storage for a while, but it's out again.

Now. Will I or  won't I wear this get up to do the kinder drop off at Mitta Mitta?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Sits perfectly over shoulder
Holds wallet, diary, phone, cardi, novel
Could transport very important not very heavy things from a great height
Plane not included

Art and Rules and Perfect Grey

Rules are necessary in art.  
An example: Paint on the paper, you may not always want that colour on the floor.   
I had a rule for this blog - I would post only when ideas had arranged 
into proper little essays, and not before.

It's been a while between posts.
Let me amend that opening statement. 
Rules are necessary in art, as long as they don't get in the way of art.

The past few weeks have been host to a charcoal smudged mood, but yesterday was dove grey. 
A perfect dove grey, I said to myself as I stood in the Wodonga Safeway carpark. 
Nothing has ever seemed perfect from that perspective, so I knew the fugue was about to lift.
I took Joe swimming and he loved it.  We are still arguing about whether they removed the rope dividing the kids pool or whether they moved the water.   
I attempted to develop my son's browsing skills in Wodonga Plaza. We made a little progress.
And today, as wind and rain lashed our corrugated iron house and rainbows blazed in and out across the back paddocks, I started to work again.