Thursday, December 29, 2005


Although the current exhibition of works of one of my favourite Sydney artists, Grace Cossington Smith, has been on at the Art Gallery for nearly two months, I have only just managed to find the time to see it. It was, however, worth the wait. Many of the paintings I had already seen before in other exhibitions and galleries, but there was one that I found mesmerising: Sea Waves, a simple study of the ocean at Thirroul, a pretty little seaside hamlet south of Sydney (famous because DH Lawrence, Bret Whiteley and various other writers and artists have lived there at times).
Of course I was also spellbound once again by The Lacquer Room, a painting that I have loved for a long time -- I once decorated my dining room in colours and furniture inspired by it. The series of images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge being built are quite breathtaking: Grace Cossington Smith really captured the general sense of awe and disbelief that was prevalent in Sydney in the 1930s as this marvellous structure was erected. Would the arch meet in the middle? Would the city ever be the same? In hindsight, obviously "yes" and "no", but you can imagine at the time the doubt and fear in the minds of many Sydneysiders, especially when you see Grace's paintings.
I've been fishing around for another embroidery project, similar to the moonscape which I enjoyed stitching so very much. The Sea Waves painting inspired me -- which will come as no great surprise to those of you who know my obsessions -- and at first I thought that I would reproduce it in stitches: but later (thinking about it on the bus) I felt that I should choose a seascape that was more personal. Though I like Thirroul very much, it's not my favourite beach. Diamond Beach, on the other hand, comes close.
Here is the page of initial notes from my visual journal. Stay tuned for more images of the work-in-progress.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas moon

This photo was taken at Sydney Airport, 2.30am on Christmas day. The moon had just risen over the buildings on the horizon.

Bah! Humbug!

Well, maybe Christmas is not so bad after all, thanks to Santa's little helpers, the Maltesers...

Saint Ness...

The Glamour Girls...

and Wonder Boy, henceforth to be known as the Dude.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Moon Box

Step 1: Punch holes around the edge of the box lid with a large needle.

Step 2: Baste padding to reverse of embroidery.

Step 3: Stitch embroidery to box top with strong thread, keeping the fabric stretched as you stitch. Run a gathering stitch around the excess fabric to draw it up.

Step 4: Add a wide ribbon (not very successfully) to cover the edges of the fabric. This is the step I am least satisfied with -- the ribbon is a bit wrinkly. I may need to rethink this. My stepdaughter, the Drama Queen, suggested using a narrower ribbon and wrapping it around several times, which is one option. Only I am not going anywhere near Bondi Junction on Christmas Eve, so a trip to Spotlight will have to wait until after the festive season.

Step 5: Fill box with moonstones (thanks for the idea, Maureen).

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Moon Rock 6

For those of you who have been interested in my moon embroidery, I apologise for the lack of updates in recent weeks. I have been working on it, but my trip to China interfered with my ability (and time) to upload images. And, of course, one is not allowed to do embroidery on planes any more, even if one has one of those groovy safe thread cutters with the blade inside a metal disk, because sharp, pointy needles are sooooo dangerous (although Amanda Vanstone can do a lot more damage with an HB pencil). But now my moonscape is finished: at least, the embroidery part of it is finished.

Here is the original image (from a document released by NASA/JPL) for comparison:

I have washed the embroidery in mild detergent, stretched it in the hoop again, and found an appropriate round cardboard box to attach it to. The next step is to stitch the embroidery to the box lid, pad it and then find some ribbon or braid to trim the edge of the lid and hide the excess fabric. More photos to come!
I will also accept suggestions as to what I can keep in the box when I have finished it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I have finally uploaded a selection of the best photos from our trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong to my flickr account. If you're interested, check them out. Then you can say you've already seen them, when I try to force you to sit through the whole boring slideshow!

Diamond Beach

Oh, don't you love summer! I've just spent a couple of days with my mum at Diamond Beach. Spectacular weather, spectacular walks on the beach, and spectacular star-gazing (actually planet-gazing: we looked at a brilliant crescent Venus and at Mars) at night through Terry's new telescope.

Down at the beach the tide was out and the sandbar was making the waves do crazy things, such as this amazing crossover manoeuvre:

After dark, all the pretty lights came on, including the ones in the sky. Here's a picture of Venus and some Christmas lights across the road from mum's house.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Congee and other delights

I couldn't tell you about my trip to China without raving about the food. The congee, of course, was plentiful -- especially in Hong Kong, where the best I had was at the Sweet Dynasty restaurant in Canton Road, Kowloon (weekend breakfasts) and next door at the Chinese Kitchen (weekday breakfasts).
Wonder Boy valiantly persisted in eating most meals with chopsticks, only occasionally begging for a fork to cope with particularly slippery comestibles. We made a pact to try everything -- well, almost everything. (I draw the line at thousand-year-old eggs, which I have tried before and really can't bring myself to eat: they're an acquired taste that my life is too short to acquire.) So we ate such ordinary things as duck, goose, pork and beef as well as the more exotic offerings: Yangtse River hairy crabs, eel, snails, jellyfish and, yes, dog. The Voice of Reason prefers to refer to the dog meat by its name on the English version of the menu: pierced meat (it was served on bamboo skewers with a kind of red sauce).
All-time favourite foods in Shanghai were easy to choose: for snacks, you just can't go past steamed dumplings: six dumplings for about four RMB (80 cents). Wonder Boy and I tried hot coconut milk tea at Renmin Square. Sounds weird, but it tastes like ambrosia. We soon discovered that you can buy this beverage, as well as a chocolate version, from street stalls for three RMB (about 50 cents). It is sweet, hot and you drink it through a really wide straw so you can suck up the jelly balls from the bottom of the cup.
Favourite foods in Hong Kong were harder to find. We were heartily sick of noodles in broth after four days in the city, as this is the staple diet. We did discover a seller of tooth-shatteringly-cold coconut milk just outside the Temple Street Night Markets, and went back more than once for this refreshing drink. There were also street stalls selling hot coconut milk tea, to our delight. The congee, I have mentioned, was wonderful but unfortunately limited to breakfast time. On our first day we sampled the famous Hong Kong afternoon snack of toast smeared with condensed milk that may become a bit of a favourite source of after-school sustenance for Wonder Boy. It is also necessary to mention the mango pancakes at the Chinese Kitchen: mango-flavoured pancakes stuffed with mango pulp and sweetened cream and served cold.
It wasn't until our final day, however, when we visited the 10,000 Buddhas temple at Sha Tin, that we ate the dish that got my vote for the best meal in Hong Kong. Halfway up a mountain, a tiny plastic-walled hut in the temple grounds serves vegetarian meals such as deep-fried salt-and-pepper field mushrooms (and shark's fin soup !! -- must be vegetarian sharks). It was worth every one of the 400-odd steps to climb up there for the mushrooms, and the descent was also necessary to burn off the calories because I ate so many of the blessed fungi. Luckily I am better at using chopsticks than the VoR, so I was able to purloin the lion's share of mushrooms off the plate and wolf them down while he fumbled with the cutlery.
We saw lots of McDonalds restaurants in China but didn't set foot in a single one (no, I tell a lie, we did peek into the one on Victoria Peak to check out the menu -- they were selling tubs of sweet corn, which all the local kids were eating). We ventured into one of the ubiquitous KFC outlets, too. In Shanghai, I had noted that KFC sold steamed dumplings (twice the price of the street vendors, though, so we didn't bother to try them) but in Hong Kong we experimented with the chicken, corn and macaroni broth for breakfast. It wasn't nice, and I had to go and wash my mouth out with congee afterwards.

We're back!

This morning we arrived on a red-eye flight from Hong Kong to a hot Sydney summer day, with wonderful Australian clear blue skies. How do we get the sky so blue down here? Even on the best day in China the few blue patches that could be seen through the smog of Shanghai or Hong Kong were pale grey by comparison. And my beautiful peppermint gum tree in the backyard has never looked so green!

I didn't realise just how homesick I was.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Communism at work

I've just spent a few days in Shanghai where the traffic has to be experienced to be believed. I have always thought Sydney drivers (including myself) were aggressive, selfish and at times downright rude. But a Sydney driver would get nowhere in Shanghai! The first thing I noticed was that pedestrian crossings, despite being controlled by traffic lights, mean absolutely nothing. Even with a little animated green walking man showing, you take your life into your hands when you step out onto a pedestrian crossing. Horns sound constantly, warning you to get out of the way of the oncoming cars, buses and trucks. And you can't bluff them by stepping out in front of them to make them stop -- they just swerve around you, hand on the horn.
Travelling in Shanghai taxis is something else I don't want to do again in a hurry. Merging from two lanes into one is like that scene with the Knight Bus in the Harry Potter movie: the cab driver squeezes his car through the tightest of gaps to get one space ahead in the gridlocked traffic -- I swear, if I hadn't held my breath we might not have made it through in a couple of cases. The Metro was a much better way to get around.
The most amazing thing was that we didn't see a single car or pedestrian accident in all our time in the city. The only vehicle accident we saw was on our way to the airport when we were leaving, when a truck had lost its load on the expressway.
I believe the Shanghai system of road rules (or lack thereof) is a perfect example of the result of communism. In Sydney, I often complain that certain drivers think they own the road, and act accordingly. In Shanghai, everyone thinks they own the road.
Now we are in Hong Kong and I am happy to report that vehicular and pedestrian traffic is more like what we are used to dealing with, although we were in Mong Kok this evening -- the most populated place on the planet -- and there were roads that were wall-to-wall pedestrians: I doubt a car could have got through the crowd if it had wanted to.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Rules of cricket (for Pierre)

You have two sides, one that's out in the field and one that's in.

The side that's out in the field tries to get the side that's in out.

Each man in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes out.

When they are all out, the side that's out comes in, and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get the side coming in out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When both sides have been in and out, twice, including the not outs, that's the end of the game.

Taronga Park Zoo

I have not posted for a week because I've been busy entertaining my American guests, who flew back to upstate New York yesterday. One of the things we did was visit the zoo to acquaint Pierre with all the Aussie animals (and a few exotics). Pictures, for those interested in a) animals; b) Sydney; and c) my family, are in my flickr album. Click the button in the sidebar.

Papal bull

I laughed out loud over at the Fafblog this morning.

Yesterday's moon

Near side (with Venus):

Far side: