Saturday, 30 January 2010

Attention urban homesteaders

A query for you. How old is too old? And we're talking jam here, not people.

As part of the general life improvement plan I have tracked down and examined all my jars of jam and other preserves as part of the process of moving them to a new cupboard. Is there a life span on these? How old a canned item would you eat? Does it depend on the item?

I have two-year-old jam. Would you eat that? What about a three-year-old Christmas mincemeat made with suet? There are no obvious signs of mould or other disintegration. Would you try it if it smelt okay? Or would you play it safe? Does it depend on how hungry you are? Or your philosophical stance on food resources?

What about unlabelled preserves? What would you do about them? I have a longstanding "discussion" running with certain close family members who do not label their preserves. Otherwise nice sensible people, they insist that you will know what is in the jar. Other than this not being the case (there was a tense showdown one Easter over confusion between plum jam and dark marmalade and there are the slightly confusing jams that are mainly one thing but also had a piece of some other fruit thrown in lest it be wasted), there is always the food safety aspect.

Any advice gratefully received.

Good intentions gone wrong

I was full of good intentions. I was going to blog a lot. I was going to post pictures. I was going to sort out the house. I was going to whip up a great report for work in no time at all. I was going to be a better person. These were just general life ambitions not specifically New Year's resolutions.

Actually I have been working on a couple of the things. On other things there is so far no sign of improvement.

The Blithe children are back at school -- two this week and one on the upcoming Monday. I went into my office for the first time in two months this week. My chair was the wrong height, all my paperclips had disappeared, and there was a suspected snake in the skirting boards. (Quick backstory: someone saw a baby snake come in the sliding doors to the building last week, slither down the hallway and disappear into the one open door it found. Animal control initially found it then it disappeared into the walls. This, apparently, is life in Australia).

It was great to be at work. I sat down and wrote for six hours without having to sort out a single squabble. (Sometimes however, my parenting experience comes in handy with clients -- I won't say which). I did sit with my feet raised off the floor though.

For the last fortnight is has been very warm here. Almost every day has been in the mid to high 30s celsius. The computer, in addition to a suspected conflict somewhere that was imported when we transferred profiles from the previous incarnation, doesn't like the heat. Every time I have tried to do anything graphic intensive I have had a core crash. Solving this issue in a cost-effective (read zero cost) way is top of my "to do" list. I am trying not to blame myself for my non-delivery of photographs.

The better person part though is entirely my fault.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A favourite place

I have a favourite place to lie on our lawn. It's a bit of lawn that runs downhill that somehow feels like an armchair and miraculously has soft, ant-free grass. On one side is a curving wall that Mr Blithe made from stones found on the property and in front of me the view swoops through green hills, to the valley and distant blue mountains. In the afternoons, it is shaded by the shed and increasingly by a teenage mulberry tree that rustles its leaves drily.

I go and lie there around about five o'clock in the evening when I don't like my children any more, my computer isn't doing what I want it to, my job seems distant and impossible, I haven't had time to write or a moment to myself and I'm just hot and tired and grumpy...

I lie down, wiggle my toes in the grass and begin to notice the breeze on my skin, the birds in the long grass, the impossibly blue sky, the sunlight in the top of the gum tree, the bouganvillea bright against the sky, the intense yellow of the leopard tree flowers against the dark green leaves -- that the world is in fact still there.

It's not a miracle cure, but it helps a lot.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Something about Blithe

Vivi noticed recently that I popped up as Blithe Auden and queried why. Like all things it has a simple and a less simple answer. The simple answer is that I was fiddling with my blog settings and decided that I should use my full nom de plume. I didn't realise that this would show up on the posts. You may have noticed that it has reverted to Blithe.

The less simple answer relates to why Blithe Auden anyway? Why a nom de plume? Well I didn't want an internet presence under my own name for obvious security and personal reasons. I didn't want to write about my own town and area under my own name. Have you read the classic (1934) Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson? That's what happens when you write about your hometown. People who know me, know that I am Blithe and that's fine.
People who don't, well that's fine too.

Why Blithe? Well I just like the name and it's a bit of a homage to one of my first fictional crushes, Gilbert Blythe of Anne of Green Gables fame. And it links nicely to the sidebar quote by Auden which leads neatly to the Auden and another homage to a poet I like.

In the end, it was simply a nom de plume that I didn't feel sounded entirely stupid. You have no idea how long it took me to work it out though.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The problem of brevity

I've made a list of all the places we visited: 32 places in approximately six weeks. And I've started to sort the photos. Here's the list sorted by country.


Frankfurt, Kuppingen, Herrenberg, Tubingen, Stuttgart, Rutesheim, Isney, Wangen, Munich, Burg Hohernzollern, Heppenheim, Marburg.

Vomp, Austria


Salò, Desenzano, Sacca di Goito, Bancole (Porto Mantovano), Verona, Venice.

Bern, Switzerland

Heathrow Airport, UK


Boston, Massachusetts; Connecticut, New York City, Dover, New Hampshire; Newburyport, Massachusetts; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California.


Sydney, Brisbane.

This list doesn't include places we drove through or petrol stops, nor does it include brief visits to towns in the vicinities of places we stayed. You might begin to perceive my organisational difficulties and the sheer problem of remembering all the details, let alone boiling it down to a single descriptive sentence and photo for each.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The eagle has landed

Or rather slowly drifted home mired in jetlag.

Before I say anything else, I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2010 will be a year full of good things for you.

It was a wonderful time away, but I am feeling disoriented now that I am home. Perhaps it is the waist-high grass that greeted us, or the shock of going from -20C and snow to 33C and humidity or perhaps just the contrast between home and traveling the world.

Another reason for not doing the laundry

Whatever it is, it is time to think quietly over what I've seen and done over the last six weeks, to get back to writing (and work), to work on neglected projects and start a few new ones.

My goal is to try to summarise each place we visited with one sentence and one photograph. Brevity is my new mantra. I'll post the results if I succeed.

In some ways I feel a bit like the public speaker tapping her microphone and wondering if it is working. Is there still anyone out there? Have I been forgiven for abandoning you my readers for such a long time?