January 2006 Archives

Memoir: Engaged


Now here we are, living together (in sin, oooooo!) in Tod's ratty old apartment. How did we go from that to married?

We never really proposed to each other. We had lived together from the time I finished up my degree, and simply slipped into the idea that we'd be getting married. No questions asked. We broke it to our parents in the summer, eight or nine months after we'd met.

We visited my parents across state for the weekend and on Sunday morning after breakfast, I stopped my mother from clearing away the dishes. "Hold on a minute, I want to tell you all something." My parents and sister looked at me with curiosity. "Tod & I are going to get married." There was not a lot of fuss or surprise. Some quiet congratulations, a few questions as the dishes were carried out to the kitchen. It was oddly low key.

Then we told Tod's parents. Low key it was not. After dinner with the family, Tod worked up the courage to blurt it out. 'My BAAAABY!" was Jean's response, rushing towards him protectively. She cried. I blushed. Oh, my. Thereafter it was referred to as "dropping the bomb on the family."

Looking back, I get the feeling that nobody was particularly thrilled about this decision. But it didn't really matter. Tod & I were happy together. If the families were taking secret bets on how long we'd last, I wish I'd gotten in on it...

Memoir: Moving In

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From reluctant love interest to inseparable partner, I was soon ready to save time and money by living together. But not without some drama.

Moving In
Before long it was the end of my last semester at university, and Christmas to boot. I graduated without ceremony, quit my job at World's Treasures and went home to spend the holidays with Mom & Dad. It was the first time in six weeks that Tod & I had been apart but we had a plan for when I got back.

I told my parents that when they returned me to Pittsburgh in January so I could start job hunting, I'd be taking my things to Tod's apartment and winding up my lease on the Carrick place. Mt. Washington was more central to the city and the rent was very low. We could share the costs and have enough to live on even while I looked for work.

Mom offered to pay my rent in Carrick.

She thought I was making a mistake. My previous boyfriend, Sam, had broken my heart. Wouldn't Tod do the same? She didn't want to see me get hurt again. The intention was kind, but I refused her offer.

The weeks passed with a couple of phone calls to and from Tod, and then we were off to Pittsburgh. I knew that Tod & Rob had promised to clean up the Dilworth apartment before we got there. Turns out they stayed up all night taking care of things.

We dropped off my bags and I gave a quick tour. It wasn't as much of a disaster as it had been, though I'm sure its unmaintained bedraggledness didn't impress anyone.

I was excited to show off the quaint rose papered attic space, but when I turned the corner to the door, I saw I warning sign: "Do Not Open!" But I was compelled to peek in. Fortunately, I managed to slam the door shut before anyone else could see, and before anything escaped.

Tod & Rob had filled the stairwell with everything they'd tidied up--including a meter-high ball of "trip shit," wide ribbons of negative image refuse from Bannertalk's four color thermal printer. It had formerly decorated the ceiling and walls of the living room.

We safely escaped Dilworth, and had arranged to have dinner at Station Square, so Tod could join us after work to meet my family. Rob, who worked at the CD shop down the hall, came by first and completely charmed my parents. Rob was a handsome young man from a good family--well-mannered, a beautiful voice, sparkly brown eyes, and good sense of humor. Any parent would love him. I don't think he stayed with us too long, but a few minutes was all it ever took to connect with Rob.

Later, quite a bit later than we'd figured, Tod arrived at our table. He was gangly, goofy and a little nervous. Did he make a good impression? Whether or not he did, it didn't matter because we were together and I was delighted to see him. But I wonder what my parents said in the privacy of their hotel room that night.

Memoir: Our Second Date

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The story so far: Tod saw me and decided he liked me. He persisted in asking me out until I agreed. Our first date kept us up all night. Now here's the second date--a continuation of the same day.

Our Second Date

During school hours, probably in the midst of third grade science, I got a phone call. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, but I know that Tod called and told me that he'd had the day off and had borrowed his friend Rob's car. Would I like to go to dinner with him at his parents' out in the suburbs that night? It was his mom's birthday.

Sleep deprivation may have had a part to play in my answer. I said yes. At 5 pm he picked me up from my apartment in Carrick--a neat and tidy place, sparsely furnished--in Rob's hand-me-down luxury car and drove us to a posh suburb south of Pittsburgh.

Tod's parents were charming and fun-loving. They welcomed me warmly, but thought he'd been keeping me a secret. They had no idea we'd only just met. I probably wasn't very good company that night, and I nearly fell asleep during dinner as puns volleyed across the table. After the cake and presents had been dispatched, I sat on the floor at Tod's feet and smiled as he relaxed in his dad's blue recliner. I listened and laughed but started a precedent for not taking part.

I don't remember much of that night, but Tod & I were inseparable after it. We saw each other every day. We took our breaks together at Coffee Express. I added my Jennifers to his numbered list (Jen Zbozny (#13) and my sister(#14)) and got to know his friends and many of the Jens. He wrote me poetry. I wrote him doggerel. We were sweet on each other.

40 x 365


creative perspectivesMy friend, Dan, one of the most exuberant and creative people I know, has just celebrated his 40th birthday. To mark this milestone, he launched a new project: 40x365.

Every day for the next year, he will publish 40 words about someone that he knows. "But not just anyone, it's got to be someone I've actually met in person, someone whose name I still remember, and someone who was interesting." He suggests that we all try to list 365 people from our own lives. Good idea.

My list came pouring out up to about 100 people, then I faltered, flailing like I do when I am in a bookstore ("What was the name of that author? There was that book, I read that review..."), but promised I'd pick it back up in a day or two, and haven't yet. I still have a few months before my own 40th birthday, so there's time. I won't wait too long. 365 is a lot of people, even when you travel and live in a place where interesting people come and go all the time.

The handful of Dan's vingettes that are already online are little gems. I particularly like this one:

Betsy said, the day we met, she hated the fact that every boy she introduced to her roommate ended up falling for her roommate. I was so swept away by Betsy I promised I'd be the exception. I was wrong.


Blue Cheese Cheesecake


recipe thursdayThis recipe came about after a discussion with Adrian, a friend and former coworker of Tod's. He'd had a bad experience with a too-blue blue cheese cheesecake, but we agreed that if you toned it down, blue cheese might be a good enhancement for a cheesecake. And it is.

I started my experiment with the Three Cities of Spain cheesecake recipe from Gourmet and embellished it with blue cheese and dried cranberries. I considered walnuts on top, but they were too polarizing. There are still improvements to be made; Jeremy discovered how difficult it is to cut throught he cranberries (they bored tunnels into the cake). Next time I make this, I will create a sauce of dried cranberies to serve on the side.

Like most cheesecakes, this one needs a good long time to chill. Starting the night before is a good idea.

Blue Cheese Cheesecake
serves 10-12

15 McVities digestive biscuits (~140 grams)
6 Tblsp butter, melted
1/4 c sugar
pinch salt

Crush the digestive biscuits (or graham crackers). Mix with the sugar and salt. Add the melted butter, working through with fingers. Press into the bottom of a well-buttered springform pan.

750 gr cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sugar
12-20 dried cranberries

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next. Mix in the sugar and vanilla. Arrange the dried cranberries over the crumb crust so that each finished slice will get a berry. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust.

Bake at 180/350 for about 45 minutes. The cake will be done around the edges, but wobbly in the middle. Remove from oven and top with:

400 gr sour cream
2-3 Tblsp mild blue cheese (danablue works well)
1 Tblsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c dried cranberries

Cream the blue cheese, then stir together with the sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Drop by spoonsful around the edge of the cake, spreading towards the middle. Sprinkle with dried cranberries. Bake for another 10 - 15 minutes.

Allow cake to cool to room temperature, running a knife around the edge to release it from the sides, then refrigerate for 6 hours in the pan. Remove pan when the cake is completely set. (If you take the pan apart before the topping sets, it will run down your arm and burn you. Please learn from my mistake.)

The cake is even better the next day, if there is any left.

Memoir: Our First Date


In the previous installment, you learned how Tod struggled against my brusque manner and disinterest. Now find out what happened when he got me alone.

Our First Date

Tod didn't give up. Within a week or two, he hit on a plan I couldn't refuse. After work on Sunday, when the mall closed at 5, we'd go take photos on the South Side. Great idea, only it was early November and the sun set at 5:11 and by the time we'd closed up our shops, it was too dark to take pictures.

So we walked across the Smithfield Street Bridge and went to an artsy movie theatre downtown. I still believe that what we saw that night was the world's most boring and pretentious film. Some avant garde famous guy invites all his friends to make a movie about nothing. That's what it was. It was so bad that we left before it was over and to this day I cannot remember what it was called.

It was still early, so we cast around for something to do, but downtown Pittsburgh is not known as a spot of delight after five on a Sunday. No comment about when it might be a spot of delight--it did have its moments, but not on Sunday night.

Tod suggested that we go up to Mt Washington where he lived. I agreed, to his surprise, and we walked back through town and across the bridge to the incline. As we were threading our way through the unfamiliar streets of Mt. Washington, I mentioned that I'd never find my way back to catch my bus home. Tod paused a moment, cocked his head and said,

"I'm surprised you're coming with me. You really don't know anything about me. I could be insane. I could have a machete in my wall."

"I don't think so," I said, assessing his wraith-like face and innocent smile. "I doubt you have a machete in your wall. I'm pretty safe."

"I *do* have a machete in my wall, though!" he protested and we continued in this vein for the rest of the walk to Dilworth Street.

The second floor of #25 was definitely a bachelor apartment. It was a mess. Piles of pizza boxes sat in various corners. The rooms were dingy and smelled of unwashed laundry. There was a sofa in the kitchen. The refrigerator was taped shut and a warning in indelible marker threatened bad thing if it were opened. Tod explained that something had exploded in there and the mold had gone wild. The fridge hadn't been opened in months.

And there was a machete in the wall.

Tod spent the next hour or two playing me all the songs he liked--mostly things I've never heard of but I still have a great fondness for Allison Moyet's Ode to Boy.

Then the phone rang. It was Dave, the roommate who had planted the machete into the wall. He and Tod were old friends and Dave had mysteriously disappeared from the house a week before (after the machete incident). So there was much catching up to do. I listened with half an ear and kept an eye on my watch. Despite that, I missed my last bus.

So Tod & I stayed up all night, talking and laughing and listening to more music. I caught the first bus in the morning, took a quick bath at home and went to spend a day doing student teaching. Thankfully I had the night off from work.

But I had no respite.

Memoir: How Tod & I Met


My sister is leading a series of memoir-writing workshops in Wilkes-Barre and posted some hints about how to write memoirs on her weblog. I thought maybe I'd try some of her ideas and see how it goes. So here is the story of me and Tod in the early days. It's rather long, so I'll serialise it.

How Tod & I Met
It's kind of embarrassing to admit that you met your future husband in a shopping mall, but I did. We worked across the hall from one another in Station Square on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

I spent my evenings and weekends dusting the crystal ornaments and glass shelves at World's Treasures and enticing blue-haired bus tour ladies to buy cloisonné accessories for their granddaughters. Tod worked at Bannertalk, where he sold mugs and buttons and in between wrangling customers into the path of the shop's camera, he wrote the printer drivers to print video stills on the merchandise.

We worked across the hall from each other for quite a few months--at least a whole summer. I heard "She Blinded me with Science" playing over there regularly but that was about all the awareness I had of Bannertalk or Tod.

On the other hand, he had his eye on me. One evening, as I was hauling the trash across the mall to the dumpster past the Bannertalk counter, he called out to me, "You look like you're having a bad day..."

I glared at him and replied "I am" then continued on my way to the service entrance. I don't remember exactly what sort of bad day I was having, probably something related to not having enough food and a class full of naughty children to deal with all day. Whatever it was, it was not enhanced by some strange boy talking to me.

And he did look like a boy in the white lab coat that was the shop's uniform and his goofy red framed glasses. He also didn't eat enough and was extraordinarily thin. Daneen, the manager at World's Treasures, laughed about how nobody knew how old he was and how he hit on all the girls that came by.

Nobody might have known his age, but everyone in the mall knew Tod (except me, apparently). He was gregarious and fun. As we began to date, I learned that we could not walk through Station Square without several people stopping to say hello or waving from their registers. Tod said that he had a gift for talking to people at whatever level they liked.

I guess he struggled to find my level, because he wasn't reaching me. But it wasn't long after his first attempt to strike up a conversation that Tod had another chance. I was having my 15 minute dinner break at the Coffee Express just next to Bannertalk. I bought a small cup of the hazelnut flavored coffee that they always had on the burner, and ate some leftover rice I'd carried with me from home.

"Do you always eat yogurt with chopsticks?" he asked.

"No. It's rice." I don't recall the conversation going a lot farther than that. I was not much of a conversationalist at age 22. I wanted to eat my rice and get back to the feather dusting.

But Tod was undaunted and a few days further on, he asked me if I wanted to go to a Skinny Puppy concert. "No, thanks. But it's a shame my sister isn't around. She likes Skinny Puppy."

Oooooh, smackdown.


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wonderfulwords.gifI stumbled across this while looking something else in the online dictionary. It seems to me a few of my friends already know this one. Not that I ever mind--everyone's welcome at Chez McQuillin.

v. i. [See Sorehon.] To obtrude one's self on another for bed and board. [Scot.] --Sir W. Scott.

And looking up Sorehon, I found:

noun [Corrupted from sojourn, Scot. soirne, sorn.] Formerly, in Ireland, a kind of servile tenure which subjected the tenant to maintain his chieftain gratuitously whenever he wished to indulge in a revel. --Spenser.

White white white

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Snow, early Saturday morning.

It snowed, beginning at 4:01 am on Saturday morning (I know because my dear friend called me to say so) and ending on Saturday night sometime after pitch black set in.

Between those hours, we saw about 10 cm of snow fall on the city. I built a snowman in the park and watched the guard smile at it as he shut the gate for the night. I threw a snowball at Tod and watched him frown. I made cocoa from a bar of Cote d'Or Noir et Noir and enough milk to turn it milk chocolate-y. I opened the curtains in the living room and watched the snow fall.

Today the city was bedraggled white and grey. Shop owners took to the sidewalks with brooms, construction shovels, and hammers to break up the ice on the sidewalks. I slid down the hill, until I realised that the sunnier side of the street was melted clear.

More snow, please.

Color shifting


creative perspectivesAs I mentioned last week, I'm about to start redecorating the house a little bit. This week I moved all of the art on the walls through out the house to our little toilet room. It's surprisingly nice to have it crowded there, but the rest of the walls look so bare. I will start on new things for those walls soon.

While looking at sofas and thinking about new decorations, I'm seeing a shift in my color preferences. We've lived with a black leather sofa and greenish rug for the last 8 years, but I keep thinking "dark brown leather might be a nice change, and maybe a copper-colored rug"

So it occurs to me I might be starting a Brown Period. My two coffee cups, for many years a series of green ones (Tod drinks from blue ones), have been replaced with mismatched brown ones. Over the holiday, I dyed my hair dark brown. I considered and tried out changing the colors on mediatinker from purples to browns, but haven't yet found quite the right combination. I notice myself drifting towards browns in clothing, too. at least while window-shopping.

I'm not sure if this is only a fad of mine or if I am really developing a preference for brown over black , green and violet. I hope I figure it out before I commit to a sofa color.

Citrus-Chili Chicken Balls

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recipe thursdayThanks to Tod for the inspiration about the sauce.

Citrus-Chili Chicken Balls
makes 80 balls

500 gr ground chicken
1 egg
1 lemon, juiced
1 mikan, juiced
1/2 cup onion, finley chopped
1 Tblsp cilantro, minced
1 Tblsp parsley, minced
1 anchovy fillet, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups panko (bread crumbs)
Olive oil for frying
Sweet chili sauce (rooster sauce)

In a small bowl, whisk the citrus juices, onion, herbs, anchovy salt and pepper. Beat in the egg. Pour over the chicken and mush together with your hands until well-distributed. Add crumbs and mix again. The consistency will be soft, but not too wet--you may need to add more crumbs depending on how juicy your fruits were.

Form into small balls and working in small batches, brown in a little bit of olive oil, then transfer to a baking dish or casserole and bake at 180 for about 15 minutes. Drizzle with sweet chili sauce and toss to coat, then return to oven for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is sticky and brown. Serve with sweet chilli sauce on the side for dipping.

Crow flight

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As I walked out of our apartment building nursing the remains of a migraine, a crow perched on the power line. It took off as I approached.

My street was rather quiet, and I heard not the usual beat of the crow's wings, but the sound of every vortex as air rushed over and under the flight feathers. Struggle, flutter and flight all in one 3 second burst.

It was the most amazing sound. Complex. Delicate. Ear-filling.

Then I passed an idling car and everything went back to normal.

Dot paintings


My dot painting

One of the most wonderful things we did while at Uluru was to take several walks and workshops with Anangu Tours, run by the local aboriginal community. My favorite was the Dot Painting Workshop.

We spent over an hour learning about dot painting: the symbols used in the paintings; the switch from traditional pigments on stone to acrylic on canvas; how the colors are meaningful but differ from painting to painting; and that many of the paintings are maps or textbooks, or just tell stories. Then we got a chance to make our own small paintings. We were encouraged to tell a personal story of our own.

Tod's dot painting

Independently, Tod & I told the exact same story. We had our own ways of telling the tale, but it's the same one, despite how our canvases don't match. Can you tell what it is? I can give you a hint: the C shaped curves indicate people (it's the shape left behind when a person sitting cross-legged in the dirt gets up) and circles symbolise places.

Kasumigaseki cameras

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To attempt to combat terrorism, Tokyo will install a facial recognition system at Kasumigaseki station, the subway stop nearest the seat of government.

The software, developed by NTT Communications was the hit of last week's Ministerial Conference on International Transport Security. The system can scan faces in just a few seconds and compare them to a database of known suspects. If someone matches, an alarm goes off. Starting in March, every passenger at Kasumigaseki will be photographed, scanned and compared.

This is a stupid waste of time and an invasion of privacy for citizens and visitors.

With half a second's thought if I were a terrorist, I'd use people not suspected - single-serving terrorists - or I'd go blow up locations other than stations. Of course, I suppose just getting around Tokyo without the trains and subways would be an inconvenience, but there are always taxis, rental cars and Shank's pony.

Face recognition is an interesting technology. At My Heritage is a slightly less rude use; you can upload your picture (or anyone's) and during their beta trial see which celebrities you look like. The idea is to develop a database for geneology but it's really rather lame. If you wear glasses, it finds other people wearing similar glasses. If your head is tilted or turned, most of the matches also have tilted or turned heads.

The results from my tests with this photo and this one, indicate I look like Anna Kournikova, Helen Clark, Scarlett Johansson, and Dustin Hoffman. Hmmmm.

I hope the Tokyo trials of the terrorist facial recognition system are more precise.

Holiday snapshots

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I edited 3 GB of holiday snaps down to a reasonable number. It may still be too many, but we did so many remarkable things. Did I capture the essence and beauty of the places we saw and people we met?

Elliston, South Australia 78 images + 4 subalbums.
Uluru and King's Canyon, Northern Territory 95 images + 1 subalbum.
Gold Coast, Queensland 39 images.

Changing all the art

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creative perspectivesWe've renewed our lease for another two years, so it's time to make some changes around the house. Because the sofa is slowly disintegrating, I need to either reupholster it, or buy a new couch, which means I can think of redecorating the living room.

One small thing that will make a big difference in the room is changing the art. There's not a lot hanging on the walls, and even fewer objet on shelves, but what we have is so familiar that it's easy to ignore it.

I think I'll replace the two small ink drawings in the living room with one quite large piece--maybe something I paint myself. Also I've been playing with sheet metal this week and I see possibilities for a sculptural lamp made from the scraps of my current project.

And moving around some of the other photos and prints scattered around the other rooms should give the whole apartment a bit of a lift. Fun!

This project gives me a double creative dose. Not only to I get to design the new look of my interior, but I will be making the works I want. Maybe you can redecorate one of your rooms with some of your artistic endeavors and we can share before/after photos?

Exeter Stew and Savory Balls


recipe thursdayThis recipe comes from a cookbook published in Adelaide by the Argonaut Bookshop. Judging by the type, ads and other clues, I'm estimating it was released around 1945, but since the cover and several pages are missing, I can't tell for sure. I've preserved the format and wording of the recipes as they are interestingly casual.

I wonder if this stew was served at the Exeter Hotel on Rundle Street? Perhaps so, though I don't believe it's on the menu these days. All I ever have there is pints of Coopers and packets of Smith's crisps.

Exeter Stew

Two pounds blade steak or chuck steak, an onion (large), 1 oz drippings, 1 oz flour, a pint and a half water, four cloves, one small piece mace, quarter teaspoon pepper, one teaspoon salt.
Cut the onion in thin slices and cook in the hot fat til brown. Add the flour and brown well. Stir in gradually the water, and boil for three minutes. Slightlly cooll and put into a saucepan with mace and cloves (tied in muslin), salt pepper and meat cut into suitable pieces. Simmer slowly for two hours.

Savory Balls

Six ounces flour, one teaspoon baking powder, 2 oz. suet, one pinch salt, one teaspoon chopped parsley, one pinch dried herb.
Chop suet finely, add other ingredients, and mix to a soft dough with water. Form into balls and cook in the stew for 20 to 30 minutes.

UPDATE: I made this with modern ingredients but the same methods as above and the results were excellent. This feeds two people. 300 gr beef, 1 med onion, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp flour, 350 ml water, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 2 whole allspice, 1 piece mace, pinch white pepper, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt. For the balls: 1/2 cup flour, 2 Tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp baking powder, pinch salt, 1 tsp mixed herbs (basil, corriander, herbes de provence)

Bread advertisement



This is a page from a South Australian cookbook, published by Argonout Bookshop circa 1945. MJ's stepfather, Pete, gave it to me when we were in Elliston. It's lost its cover and the pages are wrinkled and acid-burned but the recipes are delightful. Expect to see some of them in upcoming Recipe Thursdays.

But what cracks me up is the page opposite this brilliant bread ad.

Delicious deer

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Tod & I met for lunch today at an interesting French cafe in Marunouchi. Brasserie Aux Amis looks French--from the red leather seating accented with brass fittings to the drawings and writing penned on the walls. The Japanese waiters speak French. They play French radio quietly in the background. On fair days, there is sidewalk seating.

And ooo-la-la, the menu! Aux Amis offers two lunch specials (1050 yen each) that include a choice of entree and a main of fish or meat. Today's meat dish was roasted Ezo deer served with bacon-simmered potatoes and carrots. It was delicious. I had the pork rilettes for my entree. Meat, meat, meat! Tod had the fish (herb infused steamed suzuki over a creamy cabbage risotto) and started with a tiny slice of quiche lorraine. We finished off our meal with an espresso (210 yen) but were so satiated that we passed on the mocha eclair (also 210 yen).

Next time you find yourself in Marunouchi or around Yurakucho at lunchtime, I suggest you stop in. They have other restaurants and wine bars scattered through Marunouchi and Ginza, and run a small chain of flower shops.

Brasserie Aux Amis
Shin Tokyo Building, Marunouchi 3-3-1 [map]
Tel: 03-6212-1566
Monday - Friday 11:00 - 24:00 (LO)
Weekends/Holidays 11:00 - 23:00 (LO)

Wide Horizons

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For the first time ever, I came home from travel and saw Tokyo as others claim to see it- ugly, grey and dirty. It took me a day to think this through, but I figured out what happened to change my perspective.

Elliston cliffside panorama. (Click for larger view)

Australia is huge and empty. It has vistas - views to the far horizon. Even the cities all have ocean coastline and those that are inland are surrounded by vast deserts and bush. So after a few weeks in Australia, I looked at things in the macro view. I took it all in from edge to edge. And when vastness was too overwhelming, I focused in on tiny details: a desert flower, a lizard, a stone.

Australia was most interesting and beautiful at macro or micro scale, but not so much in between.

Tokyo has few wide open spaces. The horizon is just across the street. Its details are predominantly man-made and drab colored or dingy from pollution. Beauty here is largely in sounds, smells, motion, and time. I will take a few long walks through the city, stopping to sketch and carefully observe Tokyo's details, to readjust myself to finding the visual beauty here.



We're home now. Here are some travel maps I sketched during our trip.

Mad Rush to Australia. December 16-17

I ran about finishing up the last minute details before we left. We met MJ & Yoshi on the Narita Express. Tracey was almost an hour late to meet us at the airport and she had the tickets, so this was rather stressful. We waited in lines, got through security, caught the shuttle across the terminal, dashed for the plane and as we reached the gate, they announced a delay of about 45 minutes. After the flight took off, everyone slept but me, I think.

Into Elliston. December 17-18

Gettting to a small town in South Australia takes a lot of time and conveyances. Each plane was smaller than the last.

Out of Elliston. December 26

Elliston to Adelaide is a four and a half hour trip by car and plane. We spent the night in Adelaide before moving on to Alice Springs, Uluru and King's Canyon. I didn't draw maps of those coach rides, though.

Chuck Map. December 31

Sorry to report that this one speaks for itself. You can click on the image to get a larger view and read the legend.

Homeward Bound. January 7

A quick shower and coffee, followed by packing the van and driving to the airport, where we suffered the usual queues and waits. Then a long, dull plane ride, interrupted by food service. Arrival in Tokyo put us in more lines, then onto two trains before dinner and bed.

First Dream

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The Japanese believe that the first dream of the year, hatsuyume, fortells the dreamer's coming year. I think I'm going to have an interesting 2006.

I've never flown in a dream before. Tod tells me he can--for him it is like sitting on a magic carpet without a carpet. Other friends say it's like being Superman or a bird. Someone claimed to have taught me how to fly in his dreams, but I've never managed to get off the ground in my own.

Until last night.

It was hard work! My first attempts were simple downward glides but I wasn't exactly falling. Then I learned to control them and change direction. At last, with a lot of flailing and kicking, I figured out how to rise under my own power.

And now I know what it is like. I can still feel the sensation and my center of gravity and balance. Seems like I should be able to do it in waking life, too.

Gone Fishing

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Tod's dapper sunhat brough him good luck

Today we went to South Stradbroke Island for a picnic and some fishing. JIm ferried us over in his motorboat and I spent the day in the shade hiding from the "Extreme UV" sunlight. Everyone else went fishing.

MJ caught the most fish - we stopped keeping track after 9, but it was somewhere around 16. Every time she caught a fish, someone had to take it off the hook for her. But when we got back to home base, she did help to scale them all before we fried them up for dinner.

Tod caught the biggest fish, a fair sized breem.

Yoshi without a fish

Poor Yoshi lost his fish. He reeled it in and it jumped off the hook before I could get a photo. What a shame, it looked really tasty.

I wasn't idle while I sat in the shade; I sketched the beach in watercolors. I'm still having trouble with waves.

South Stradbroke Island, looking west

Happy Spew Year


Tod & I have taken turns vomiting since a dodgy dinner in King's Canyon on the 30th. He had his bad day on new year's eve, I began chucking this evening.

Can food poisoning have a higher meaning? To try to get some benefit out of my first vomiting since 1998, I have decided that it must be an augur or an oracle. Tod's 2005 was one of expelling bad feelings, venting and forgiving. The coming year for me will be one of purging, cleansing and disposal.

I just hope I feel better soon, there is fun afoot in Brisbane and I don't want to miss out on too much.

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  • Robert Parent: I have learned to not let pass the subtle hints read more
  • Jenn(y): This is a good, goal-oriented way to approach the new read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am such a loser - sent off my cards read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): Hi Babe, Haven't seen you in ages it seems. Ash read more
  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlBlcLTfxgMWRgxf2_TuNkGW8AwePJPekQ: Hi Kristen, Tell me about it. Our last (3 month) read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): "We deeply apologize to our customers for the heavy burden," read more
  • Carolyn Farwell: Oh the gif you've created is so funny! You have read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am going to miss you!! read more
  • Eric Smith: Hey Kristen: Met you on a train a couple of read more