Saturday, November 26, 2011


Well, it was two days late and we had to adapt some of the traditional recipes, but we didn't let the holiday go by unnoticed. I was actually working, Valerie was in school, and David was in the UK on Thanksgiving proper. Someone at work said to me "isn't it Thanksgiving today?" I was startled because I hadn't even thought about it. Earlier in the month I was contemplating whether or not to try to make something of it even though it is just a normal day here. On thursday (which is still wednesday in the States) I had forgotten about it. Part of the problem is that it is coming on Summer, and heavy, harvesty foods don't really fit. Standing over a hot stove in 80 degree weather is unthinkable. We are here to start a new life, and we have to get used to a new routine and new traditions.

In the end though, it got chilly out and rained all week, and hearing all our friends and family on facebook mention their celebrations made us want to give it a go. We did our best to make dishes resembling all-American fare within the constraints of vegetarianism and Aussie groceries. I made a stuffing/strata main dish with apples, chestnuts, celery, onion and sage. We also had sweet potatoes with orange juice and brown sugar syrup, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, and green bean casserole. They don't sell french fried onions, so we had to use (don't be shocked) cheese and onion potato chips! It actually passes. Mira made apple pie and little custards with whipped chestnut and pumpkin that she roasted - they don't sell it in a can. The desserts were unbelievably good and we three were more than sufficiently stuffed. Mira and I cleaned as we cooked so Valerie didn't have too much to clean up in the kitchen duty detail. We each said what we were thankful for (there is a lot).

We missed our friends, extended family, and David (not just because he usually does the dishes). I don't think there will be any leftovers on Tuesday when he finally gets home. We will be thankful when he gets back and we will still be missing our peeps in the US. I doubt that we will ever be back there for Thanksgiving but we can be part of the Australian melting pot, and develop the tradition over here. For Christmas we are planning a bbq seafood feast with mangos, fresh salads and even Pavlova.

(the last photo is of me skyping with David from his hotel room in Newcastle)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Love Lace

Last Monday I went back to the Powerhouse Museum to have another look at the Love Lace exhibit. I had gone to a symposium back in June when I had first arrived in Sydney. At that point, I had wanted to check out some of the fiber arts scene here and meet some like-minded people that I might get to be friends with. It was a wonderful event and I was overwhelmed with inspiration and anticipation of days and months and years of mixing in a creative community. I listened to talks given by some of the artists, chatted with some of the attendees, and breezed through the exhibit. I planned to come back to spend more time looking at the over 100 pieces.

So, months later, I was not disappointed when I returned. The museum website has an extensive description of the artist with lovely photos, but I snapped a bunch anyway. I hope the inferior quality of my camera doesn't deter from the beauty of these works.

The mere technical skill and determination to make these things is marvelous and inspiring in itself, and while not all of it was to my taste for one reason or another, many of the pieces were just so lovely and amazing. Anyone who loves texture, pattern, or light play, would be enticed by this exhibit. Since shadow and negative space are so important to lace, the lighting was important. In many of the photos you can see the pattern better in the shadow than in the piece. I love this because it is like you get two for one.

It was hard to pick a favorite because of the variety of materials and categories (i.e. fashion, jewelry, home decor, architectural) but I narrowed it down to 2 for me: 1. I loved the seaweed hair picks because I have always loved the artistic qualities of seaweed, I love that they are made out of colored and melted plastic bottles (yay recycling!), I love the twist on a Chinese hair pick that is usually made from jade, and finally, just because they were beautiful. 2. I loved the lacework in the native New Zealand grass. I just love the idea of weaving a bit of art into something so common, simple, and ephemeral as a blade of grass. It reminds me of something fairies might do and I imagine that if I owned one of these, I would never get tired of staring at it.

One of the things they talked about at the symposium is the fact that lacemaking is a dying art. I truly hope that young people get exposed to it and have the opportunity to appreciate it and learn the techniques because I think there is a primal response to it whether it is done traditionally or with a modern edge.

The last photo is a close up of a spider web on our front porch. I manipulated it to show off the lacy texture.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Go Get! Who, What, Where?

Last week-end we had a couple of fun and productive days. Since we moved here we haven't owned a car. We get around on the bus, trains, and taxis. Public transport is great most of the time. We don't have to worry about parking, struggling with crowded streets, gas prices, or directions.

However, there are times when we want to be bourgeois and just sit in our own, quiet car, and go wherever we want or need to go. For those times there is a company/scheme here called "Go Get". We signed up and only have to go on-line to reserve a car for a designated time. We can do it in hourly increments or by the day. There are three of them within a block of our house so we can usually get one without trouble. The hassle is that you have to know how long you need it, and you can't take it from one place and leave it at another. Overall, it is working for us for now and it is cheaper than owning a car.

So, on Saturday, Valerie needed to get to her camping start point which was way up north in an out of the way place. We got the car at 8 a.m. and David (with the help of google maps) navigated the tunnel, freeway, and small streets with only minor backtracking. We got her there at 9:05, just past punctual. The kids and leaders from the Duke of Edinburgh scheme were getting ready to leave, and Valerie found her friends and disappeared into the crowd. They treked a day in, set up camp, and treked out the next day (just like last time only the weather was better, the terrain was more interesting, and the leader was nicer). Valerie took the train and bus home Sunday and had much more positive reports.

After we dropped her, David, Mira, and I drove to a northern beach called Balmoral. It was quiet and beautiful with a lovely park, cafe area, and walkway. It is a cove so surrounded by cliffs and land except for the distant opening to the sea. The haze of the morning was still hanging around so we sat at a nice Italian cafe and had eggs and toast, coffee and delicious Italian biscuits. One had fig filling and one had crushed almonds and mixed dried fruit. Yum! The waiters were both charming with their friendly smiles and lovely Italian accents.

We had to motivate ourselves to get back in the car and drive back home because Mira and I had a fabric event to go to, and we had errands to do with the car. When we got back to Redfern, David dropped Mira and I at a warehouse where we climbed 4 flights of stairs to the first annual Fabric-a-brac. It was a fabric and trims swap designed to get crafty people together to buy or sell their excess materials. There were lots of nice pieces but the prices were a bit high. I expected it to be more of a flea market type thing but it was really more of a design sale. Old scraps were called "Vintage" and sold for over a hundred dollars. It was fun to be sweating and digging around in an old warehouse, but I went away with nothing other than the thought of how much I could have made if I hadn't given or thrown away so much of my stash before I moved.

After that David and I went to the "Supa Centa" - yes that is how it is spelled. To make a long story short, we got a BBQ, patio chairs, and three fans. We were gearing up for summer! We packed it all in the little Go Get car and came home. We cleaned up the patio and set everything up. It was satisfying to get so much done at once and it made the house seem more like our home (even though it is not).

We finished the day by getting take away fish and chips and sushi, and going to a Southern beach that we had never been to. The interesting thing there was that the beach was large and pretty, but the area was not so nice and the buildings were a bit grungy. How waterfront property can go unmaintained is a mystery to me.

We dropped the car at 8 p.m. at the same spot, walked over to the wine store, went home and chilled with a white wine in front of the fan, the noises of Saturday night partiers in the streets outside.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Can't We Be Friends?

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan during the '60s and '70s. I was taught, both subtly and blatantly, to be afraid of African Americans. I won't go into all the long stories and details. I am sure everyone has heard some version of them. I was also taught that racism is wrong, that America is founded on equal opportunity and fraternity, that we are all god's children. So, the fears were conflicted. I tried to understand the stereotypes and look beyond them, but I had to admit that they were planted somewhere in my brain.

When I moved to California I was confused and then shocked to learn that people there had a whole range of negative stereotypes against Mexicans and Latin Americans. I thought it was so cool to have the rich and interesting cultures of our southern neighbors. It was clear to me that the racist attitudes were absurd, wrong, and based in some kind of "us and them" competition.

My friend who lived in San Francisco said she was not being racist, but, the Chinese women in her neighborhood were stinky, pushy, they spit on the ground. They would try to cheat you in their shops.

When I moved here, to Sydney, I was thrilled by the huge amount of ethnic, cultural, and lifestyle diversity. There are just so many people from so many backgrounds. As a newcomer, I feel like we are all part of something bigger that is happening with the participation of everyone. I was told by one of the first friends that I met here that there was a lot of racism and prejudice here. I couldn't believe it as everyone seemed pretty open, welcoming, friendly and cosmopolitan.

I have been here just over five months now. I have met, had conversations, and socialized with what is starting to feel like a good deal of mostly nice people. As I meet people and get to know them, the subject of various social issues comes up. Topics like neighborhoods, housing prices, crime, schools, Australian history, even trees, can often lead to comments regarding racial or ethnic groups. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is blatant and aggressive or self-righteous, either way, I am both confused and shocked by it.

As an outsider, I have the objective, unmarred perspective of seeing each person as a person, with no story, no stereotype that I could attach even if I wanted to. This is a beautiful thing to someone who is willing and wanting to start a new life with fresh, new experiences. As someone who is working to make friends, build a community, and "make it" in a big, new city, I can't help wondering what stereotypes people have of me and which of those are being held against me.

I understand that histories involve conflict, struggles and unresolved hurt. I understand that it is complicated for diverse cultures to understand each other and welcome differences. I also understand that it is easier to walk away from a problem and to minimize it by thinking of the other person in a category different to our own. It is easier to accept social problems like economic inequality and political corruption when we are focused on blaming racial or ethnic groups. "The schools are suffering because poor immigrants get no encouragement at home". "The universities turn a blind eye to under performing Asian students because their parents pay large sums to the school." "The Aboriginal neighborhoods are dangerous because the youth have no value of success and the parents don't care about where they live."

I can't remember all the small, subtle things that come up but I am little by little realizing that I have to call people on them. I want to judge each person by the quality of their values, by what is in their hearts. That is what I want to use to decide if I want to be their friend.