If You Always Do What You've Always Done...Then You'll Always Get What You Always Got

Friday, 30 March 2012

Movie #11 - The Departed

Sam has loaned me a few DVDs, and for the last week or so he has been bugging me to watch The Departed.  Yesterday was his birthday, so I thought it fitting it was watched then.  I went for a run, started to inhale my dinner, and began the movie.  Not a good idea.  I was a little distracted by some other things at first, but then when I really got into it, the food was ... just... not welcome.

I used to be fine with violence on-screen.  One friend will even watch my face when we're in a violent movie, and when I stop grimacing she'll face the screen again.  But a couple of weeks ago I saw Safe House and didn't cope too well, and last night didn't go swimmingly either.  Well, I should clarify.  I'm not ok with violence to extremities, especially hands.  So when Leo is having his arm, only just now in plaster, bashed against a pool table, I was curled in a ball with my eyes averted.  That reaction happened a lot.  (This is a really good way to avoid eating too much of anything during a movie).

This is a movie I will need to see again - just not near a meal-time.  I loved all the twists and turns, and the deception on both sides - it was quite Shakespearean.  Especially the ending, where pretty much everyone is dead.  And the last man standing is the character I liked the least for most of the time, but who was (I think) the only one who really was who he said he was. 

Often when I see a movie with well-known actors, I know who they are the whole way through.  There's no escaping some people, no matter what part they are playing at a particular time.  I was surprised that I kept forgetting who these actors were, they did such a good job.  And not just their acting skills, but the actual casting.  Leo's face is so perfect for this role - trying to clean up, but able to look rough.  Jack Nicholson (with hair - didn't recognise him at first) so godfather-like, but also similar enough in features to both Matt Damon and Leonardo di Caprio that he could have passed as a father to either of them.  I knew Mark Wahlberg was in the cast, but with longer hair and not showing off his guns in most scenes, as well as really offensive language, it took quite some time for me to spot him.  And Alex Baldwin and Martin Sheen, similarly, looking almost trustworthy but with enough sleaze you doubt yourself. 

One thing that kept swimming around my brain today was the idea of environment and choice.  It seems (from my movie and tv watching) that often, the bad guys are bad guys because of their environment.  If you grow up in a gang neighbourhood, it's really hard to get out of that.  If that's what you know, it takes a lot of guts to even see another way, let alone pursue it.  As humans, we need to adapt to our environment and society in order to survive.  It may not always be legal, but it's human.  So, Leo's character is far more likeable because we can see that he is coming from a scumbag environment, but trying to be a better, more upright person.  Matt Damon's character, though, once we find out "Dad" is in fact Costello (Nicholson), is far less likeable, as he's got the good upbringing but is putting it to waste by being a rat.  And that's aside from the fact that he's not the right man for Vera Farmiga (who is becoming one of my favourite actresses). 

But there's even more to it than that.  In order for the law enforcement agencies to bring down Costello, there was such a web of deception.  So many people were rats that it seemed all Costello's crew were actually undercover agents, and most of the law enforcement people were rats for Costello.  Finding the right people to do your dirty work, as it really was, would be so hard - but then, actually being that person would be immensely hard.  As we see with Leo's character.  Trying to lead a double life, convincing both sides you're loyal to each of them, knowing this might get you killed, trying to 'keep things on an even keel' (a line which pops up a few times) and deflect suspicion - it does your head in. 

And this really ties in with personal identity.  Who are you?  Are you a rat, a cop, an ex-cop, an undercover cop?  One thing Leo says near the end is, Being a cop is not an identity.  Which has only just got my brain ticking over.  When is your occupation your identity?  When is it not?  How do you know who you are?  Getting very philosophical here...

Other small things about this movie:  Having visited Boston many years ago, I really enjoyed seeing that scenery, picking out those landmarks, pretending to be there again.  A few of the phone numbers were not - I repeat, not - 555 numbers.  (I guess they were real, then...).  Music - there seemed to be very little, and what stuck in my head was the opera.  IMDb tells me it was Lucia di Lammermoor, and also reminded me of all the Irish and Scottish music.  Duh.  I don't know if it's an actual thing, or a scheme set up by producers or something, but older bad guys seem to have a thing for opera.  I wonder about the psychology of that.  Does it make us think more highly of them?  Is it intended to mess with out brains?  Anyway... All in all - a very satisfying movie.  Ooh, it does come with violence and language warnings though.  Not one to watch with squeamish people, or one's parents.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Outfit #21 - Surprise!

 ... As in, Surprise!  It's a Thursday outfit photo.  But, even more Surprise! - different location.  Yes, I need to do some weeding on the holidays.  The basil plant in the foreground is large, but maybe not so monstrous as the perspective suggests.  The strawberry plant to my right is more so, though, it's just that I'm standing in front of it.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had to go to work again today.  Again, it hardly seemed worth it - my first 2 students didn't turn up, and if it weren't for them I would have had all my students yesterday.  But, now I'm on holidays from school. 

Outfit details:
Skirt: Jeanswest. Singlet: Ice. Top: Ambra.  shoes: Hot Options.  Earrings: made by me.  Scarf: ?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Outfit #20 - Floaty Blue Debut

I bought this top nearly 3 years ago.  Today was the first time I wore it...

Outfit details:
Singlet: Hot Options. Top: Witchery. Skirt: Sunny Girl.  Shoes: Pulp.  Necklace: op shop. Earrings: silver shop?

Although this top feels incredibly beautiful when on (it's silk), it's rather awkward in terms of being weather-appropriate.  Walking to the station this morning, I was quite chilly, but by the time I'd taught my first student I was feeling quite warm.  I think it might get more wearings in the cooler months as a layer piece, but we'll see.

I almost didn't even count this as an 'outfit', as I only taught 3 kids at school, and changed into jeans as soon as I got home.  And then pajamas for a nap.  But having only 3 kids today means I have more to teach at school tomorrow.  After that, though - holidays!

(Apologies for the poor quality lead photo, again.  And yes, I decided at the last minute to change accessories.  Meanwhile, isn't the 'soundproofing' in my teaching room attractive?!).

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Outfit #19 - Face It, Summer's Over

 Getting dressed this morning, I couldn't face the world without leggings and a cardigan.  I wore flats to work and it took some effort to change into the green shoes, exposing my toes.  I'm facing it - summer is over.  But that's ok - I love this time of year. 

Outfit details:
Dress: Hot Options.  Singlet, Leggings: Ambra.  Cardigan: Jeanswest.  Shoes: Pinet.  Earrings: Oxfam.  Bracelet: Eumundi Markets.

Every time I photograph these earrings, they look a different colour.  They're mother-of-pearl (or something similar) and so they're more reflective than most of my jewelry. 

The bracelet is nearly 3 years old - I bought it just before Easter in 2009, on the way up to Fraser Island and a fabulous holiday.  It's perfect for me - it's green, and it's the style that wraps around and stays put, so it doesn't jangle around when I play.  Other bracelets tend to annoy me so much I remove them within about 10 minutes.

I was glad I changed shoes, eventually.  A few teachers now check out my shoes as soon as they see me - a big change from last year!  As I was vacuuming on Monday I was checking out the shoe collection, thinking for some I'd better wear them this week or it will be another few months - this was one of those pairs. 
 My first student after lunch looked at me with a raised eyebrow and asked if I was wearing leggings.  Well, yes, I've been cold all day.  I don't think she really believed me, until I had to fix one of her hands - then she felt how cold my hands were.  She believed me then.

I must apologise for the slightly blurry photo here.  And for the less-than-enthusiastic expression on my face.  I didn't take that many, thought they were all fine, and this was the only one with my head and my shoes.  Great.  I blame it on the woeful lack of sleep recently.  Last night I had just over 5 hours and it felt like luxury. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Running with Purpose

Last night, I had the most amazing run.  I knew I needed a really long run for many reasons, and set out wanting to go further than Ann St (my previous best along the bike path).  I don't know if it was the new running gear, or that I'd had a rest day (instead of running on Saturday I had a Bollywood string quartet night...very fun!), or just that I knew I really needed it, but it felt so good on the way out.  And most of the way back, too, except for a couple of stitches and what felt like my stomach jumping up and down.  So, with Finding Nemo's Dory singing 'just keep running, just keep running' combined with my normal running music (Tico Tico) and themes from Indian quartet music (yes, it was bizarre in my head), I kept running to the Goodwill Bridge and was greeted by an overwhelming endorphin rush. 

After a much-needed shower, I checked Google maps and discovered this was a 13 km return run.  I also had a text from Trainer Dan wanting to change training times for this morning, and I told him what I'd just achieved.  His reply was along the lines of, Are you doing the Gold Coast half marathon?  I'd been thinking about it, and so he sent me a training schedule.  Turns out it's an official training schedule for this specific run.  It starts 20 weeks out, but we're already up to 14 weeks.  As I'm relatively fit, it should be ok to just jump in.  At least, I hope that's the case!

Last time I did an official run (a 10 km in Toowoomba last October), my training consisted of a few runs in the leadup... Not very effective.  So the idea of actually training for a run is a bit new to me.  Not to mention getting my brain around the idea of running that far.  But here goes!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Polling Place

Saturday was Queensland's state election.  I'm not going to get political on here, but I'm really glad my Facebook newsfeed demonstrates the like-mindedness of my friends.  Normally, I would vote at a Uniting Church about 10 minutes' walk from home, but yesterday being a very busy day, that was just a little awkward.  What with teaching, buying presents for special little people, and a gig, it was easier to pick a polling place closer to one of those activities. 

After teaching, my brother and I went to the larger of the nearby shopping centres and, before anything else, I voted at the Uniting Church across the street.  There was no queue, which is great for speed.  When there is no queue, however, signs with arrows are handy so that voters don't end up in a tiny tots ballet class.  Just saying.  There were 2 sausage sizzles set up, as well as a craft stall, and cheery people manning the doors and the imaginary queue.  Thankfully, as I was walking in a local was engaged in conversation with one of the party people handing out flyers and they only just saw me - but by then I was far enough past them that I could just shake my head.  I find them just as irritating as the perfume spruikers in department stores - less smelly in a literal sense, but just as on the nose.  (I felt a little silly taking a photo, so you can't see all the placards lining the street to the right of the church).

Lovely people with the electoral rolls - possibly also glad to have another to cross off the list - and my little old lady complimented me on my names (as most doctors do as well - thanks mum and dad!).  As this polling place is so convenient to the shopping centre/gym, it might just become my new regular place.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Last Minute Change

This week was the school Music Festival.  Monday - Wednesday are the heats, where (ideally) every child learning an instrument/voice gets up and performs.  Strings, thankfully, are divided into junior, middle, and senior.  There is a guest adjudicator, the kids get a certificate and great feedback about their playing, as well as the chance to get up and play in front of someone other than their teacher.  Students who are awarded a High Distinction in the heats get to perform in the Grand Concert on the Friday night. 

On Tuesday, I was asked if I was going to the concert.  Probably not... So you won't be going to drinks afterwards?  Probably not...  On Wednesday another teacher asked if I was going, was surprised I didn't have an invitation, and said to text if I wanted the address. 

All week, a friend had been bugging me to go dancing Friday night.  Friday morning, she called to ask me to please wear super high heels, as she would chicken out if she was going to be the only one wearing heels.  I was actually not that keen on dancing, but promised to have coffee beforehand.

When I got back from my run, however, there was a message from the viola teacher saying he could give me a lift to the staff party.  My first instinct for social occasions is, unfortunately, no.  And on Friday nights, no, as I teach Saturday mornings.  But especially when I haven't told the host, no!  However...  I knew this would be a good chance to have some fun with other teachers when not at school, and you get to see a whole other side to them.  Plus, having had one child get through to the grand concert, I wanted to know how that went (she played beautifully).

Apparently the host was fine with me turning up, and I could be picked up from where I was having coffee - perfect timing.  So, I went to a staff party, on a Friday night, instead of dancing.  It was so much fun, and I found out so much about my coworkers.  Seeing everyone relaxed and laughing, not to mention on a first-name basis (instead of Mrs Smith like we are at school, for example), was really refreshing.  My abs hurt from laughing so much.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Best Foot Forward

I remember hearing the phrase "put your best foot forward" when I was a child, and asking an older brother, "But which one is my best?"  Apparently, your right foot is your best foot.  At least if you're right-handed.  I don't know if this is because we live in a right-handed world, or if there is in fact some reason for our right foot to be our best foot.  Even though I'm right-handed, I feel left sided for everything else.  Especially in the feet.

For a long time, I have started off on my left foot.  This goes for stairs, kerbs, lunges... (which is fine for even-numbered workouts, not so great for odd numbers!).  Knowing this often looks really weird when you have to take a teensy step not to use the right, I bow to my desire to at least appear normal, and can use either foot.  The right often results in a mental face screw-up, though, but the more I do it the less it bothers me.  I'm still quite conscious of it though. 

Now for the Change bit for today.  Every time I start running, it's starting on the left.  Every time.  For the last few runs, I've been thinking I should try starting on my right foot.  I didn't think this would be so hard, but it is.  I couldn't do this spontaneously.  My brain kept thinking it over, how I would actually manage to get my right foot to be the take-off foot.  I started having flash-backs to age 4 and ballet (note: I didn't continue ballet). 

Tonight, I was having second thoughts about running (it was raining).  But I decided to just do it - I've discovered it's much nicer, in some ways, to run in the rain.  Once I was in my running gear my brain kept on thinking about this right-footed thing.  Not wanting to totally embarrass myself in my street, I had a couple of little practices in the hallway. 

Running is a mental thing for me.  Tonight, it was super-mental.  Every time I was about to run (I have 3 or 4 walking bits), I had to remember how to start on the right foot.  I'm sure I must have had a weird expression every time.  This was not a great run.  I'm not sure if it was actually from the right-footed running, or if I was just a bit tired or hungry or under-hydrated... I will be trying to do this more often, but more so that I know that I can do it.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Outfit #18 - Retro Lime

Today was all about the shoes.

Outfit details:
Skirt: Temt (op shop).  Singlet: Ambra.  Shirt:  Suite Boutique.  Fabulous retro lime platform stilettos: Show Story (op shop).  Earrings and necklace: gifts.

The last time I wore this skirt I found it quite short.  As soon as I put it on for the outfit test this week, I noticed a difference.  I know I've lost a tiny bit of weight recently, but have really started to notice it in the clothes in the last week or 2.  So today it was not nearly as short!  (Although maybe not such a flattering length).  I was a little concerned about wearing a knee-length skirt for grade 3s as I still need to kneel frequently to help with shoulder rests, so at the last minute I wore leggings as well.  This was great for extra warmth this morning as well, and I ditched them after morning tea.

These are the shoes I wore to Ted's place on Sunday but didn't get a photo.  They don't feel that tall to wear, but several students commented on how tall they were.  I had students, teachers and randoms telling me how fabulous the shoes are (on Sunday, too).  This is not my normal green so I had to be a bit more neutral in everything else... The sad thing is, by lunch time they were just a little loose around the heel - I'll try the insert thingies to see if I can get a firmer fit.

Not a great photo day.  Plus, despite having loads of breaks, there was plenty of movement around my room so I didn't want to look too silly by taking photos of myself.  So, apologies, but this was the best I could do.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Outfit #17 - Please Don't Rain On Me

This morning was one of those mornings.  It's still really rainy weather, but the nights are cooler now also, so some things I hoped would dry overnight, didn't.  Slightly mad morning rush.  But I still left on time.  Just as I was arriving at the station, I was enjoying the light that comes early morning, with dark rain clouds still lingering and the remainder of a recent drenching... and I realised I had no umbrella.  I considered going back, but then I would miss the early train (which allows me to get a coffee on the way) as well as the later train.  I decided to risk it, and crossed my fingers. 

It rained several times throughout the day, and despite needing to collect little people and get to and from the office, it didn't actually rain on me.  Well, not until I went running, and then I got drenched near the city.

Dress: Jeanswest (op shop).  Belt: Target.  Shoes: Pulp.  Leggings: ? Earrings: Mombasa.

Today's outfit needed to be comfortable for a long day, as there was a school event in the afternoon.  It fit the bill, nice and soft but not frumpy, smart enough to meet parents.  These shoes are great for long days - the first time I wore them I had a 14 hour day, no blisters, no pain - all shoes should be like this.  They are also my 'nearly autumn' shoes, which is how the weather is these days.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Dealing with Five

You know that weird person who stands at the tomato section of the supermarket, counting the tomatoes in the packet?  Well, that's me.  I like the number 6 for lunches - 6 small tomatoes, 6 snow peas.  I don't go so far as to count baby spinach leaves, or the number of cuts in the avocado, or the number of pieces of meat (if it's a meat day).

At the start of the school year, I tried the 'Romatherapy' variety (like mini Roma tomatoes).  The first couple of weeks, each packet had 12 tomatoes - perfect.  Six for each day.  Not knowing if this was a coincidence, I started counting the number of tomatoes in each packet before I put one in my basket.  And a good thing, too - the third (and every subsequent) week, I had to try a few packets of 13 before I found a 12.  Today, I thought I'd picked one with 12.  Obviously, I can't count.  Making tomorrow's lunch this evening, I found I had 15.  Agh!

I honestly felt a dilemma, and more than a moment of indecision.  Should I still use 6 tomatoes but have 3 leftover for Thursday - which would then require a meal with only 3 tomatoes?  That didn't seem right, so I settled for 5.  This feels wrong.  Only 5 tomatoes means only 5 snow peas, too.  No way I could have 5 of one and 6 of the other. 

I'm sure I won't really notice this tomorrow, especially as I will be teaching from 7:30 am - 5 pm without any breaks, so meal time will be during student time as well.  Fingers crossed I don't stress out over only having 5 tomatoes.  Yes.  I'm weird.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ted's Place

 This is the view from Ted's place.  Ted is an 80-something-yr-old from church, who has been building a place up in the mountains for many many years.  At least once a year he invites a crowd up for lunch.  Every time, I have declined the invitation.

I am not a very social person.  The idea of being in the mountains with a group of oldies... well, it's not a terribly inviting proposition.  At a Christmas party last year, I had a brainwave.  I much prefer playing at parties rather than being a real guest, so I thought if I took my trio up and played, I could still accept the invitation but not feel socially awkward.  Ted was thrilled with the idea and has been handing out invitations for about a month.  Because yesterday was St Patrick's Day, there was a bit of an Irish/green theme.  I didn't actually end up taking the trio, as my brother (the cellist) was running a half marathon this evening, but Jeannie and I played duos. 

I wore a green bracelet from the Eumundi markets, and lime green retro platform stilettos.  No pic of them just yet, but I'm hoping to wear them this week.  It seems there were as many comments about my shoes as there were our playing.

We started with Jigs, Reels and Hornpipes and then moved on to tangos.  This group (maybe 40 people, at a guess) was the most appreciative audience we'd ever entertained.  They danced, they clapped, they cheered and whistled, and all at the right times.  They even fed us.  After we'd finished, another guest (who happens to be an actor, entertainer, amazing brain) sang a song and told a story, and another guest sang a song also.  There were a few tears...

I was very glad to be playing (and therefore have only a short time for socialising), and very glad to have Jeannie there as well, but even gladder to have finally accepted an invitation to see Ted's place. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Silken Tofu

I used to be practically vegetarian, or 'free-tarian' (eat meat if someone else has paid for it).  So firm tofu was eaten on a semi-regular basis, mostly because I knew it was good for me.  Then I just got over it and stuck with tuna instead.  Yes, very boring.  (I am no longer quasi-vegetarian, and switched to salmon late last year).  I know that tofu is an excellent source of iron, and today I decided to try silken tofu.

This is not a meal I would serve to anyone, really, except me.  Really quick and easy, reasonably tasty, but sloppy and, let's face it, ugly.  The texture I greatly prefer to the firm version and I didn't feel I had to douse it in soy and spices to be able to eat it.  It was much harder to find in the supermarket though.  Environmentally, and for my insides, I know a more vegetarian diet is better, so I will be trying to incorporate silken tofu into my diet more.  I just need to find a better way to prepare it.  Maybe I'll actually find a recipe for the next time.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Not in Black

I mentioned in the last performance photo that I can't really deal with the idea of not performing in black.  Haha, that's really funny...

Tonight was the Global Music Fiesta, raising funds for CARE Australia.  As I was already going, when the quartet found they would be down a violin, they asked if I'd play.  Not a problem.  I assumed all black (the standard), but checked anyway, and heard 'black with a bit of colour'.  Easy.  But then I started to wonder, is that, like, black with a coloured top?  Or black with a coloured brooch?  How much colour is a 'bit' of colour?  Then, I get a message saying, let's not do black, let's do colourful so we look more festive.  Ummm...

This morning, I tried on every dress I own that is not a work dress, and not black.  I even tried on clothing that has languished in the ironing basket for a really long time.  None of these was suitable.  5 of them were red.  One made me look like a bridesmaid, another a pear, another like I should be at a summer brunch, another was a close contender but the front is just weird, and the other was way too short.  A blue dress made me look a few decades older, and a purple dress feels more like a work dress.  As I had to go into town anyway, I thought I'd check out the op shops, and if I had no success, I'd wear black.

My favourite op shop had nothing, the revamped store next to it didn't fill me with sartorial delight (despite 20% off), but the boutique - end of lease sale...  Because it's not an op shop but has really pretty dresses, I'd never actually set foot in this store (a bit too dangerous), but today was the day.  Oasis Boutique (in the arcade at 144 Adelaide St), 50% off or $20, depending on the rack, until the end of March.

This evening was rather humid, which is not ideal when not wearing black.  Once I was actually at the venue though, it was fine.  And it felt rather liberating to wear emerald green while playing Mozart and jazz (not at the same time...)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

QSO Matinee

To be honest, I did not even know that QSO did matinee concerts on Thursdays.  But, they do.  A series called "Morning Masterworks", this one was "QSO Plays Elgar".  I only found out about this because my brother was called in as a casual, and then was issued with some complementary tickets, and I don't work until after lunch on Thursdays...  Free concert!

I arrived at the concert hall just before the 11am start, and discovered that my seat (18) was right in the middle.  And everyone else had already taken their seats.  Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, so sorry, excuse me.... The other thing about sitting in the middle (and near the front) is that it looks like the whole orchestra is staring at you.  I had to keep reminding myself, they're looking at the conductor, they're just turned that way, the stage lights mean they can't see anything really.  Still, it was a little unnerving.  Also unnerving was the woman to my left turning her head several times during the harp concerto.  I know she must have been looking past me, but it really felt like she was staring at my nose.  I resisted the urge to return fire.  And, out of the 8 cellists, I could only see 7 - guess which one I only saw during a page-turn?

It has been a really long time since I've been to a concert at the QPAC Concert Hall.  I picked up a program but didn't really need to look at it.  This is what years of musical study has achieved.  I saw that it would be a Haydn symphony, a harp concerto, and Elgar's Nimrod Variations.  For the Haydn, I could predict the basic layout of the movements, and it was a bit like seeing well-known people as every expected bit happened.  Same with the harp concerto (played by Marshall McGuire).  Except, for most of that I was thinking of The Emperor's New Groove and the dress/robe argument.  And trying not to giggle.

Ah, Elgar.  It's been several years since I've heard Nimrod, and I don't think I've ever played it.  He really knows how to write a heart swell.  It was really something. 

Some orchestras, you get the feeling the players have all done this a thousand times, they're just playing the notes so they can go to the bar for a drink (for example), it's just a job.  Today, this group of players were, mostly, really into it.  The expressions on their faces and the movement of their bodies described a passion for this music that I wasn't expecting, to be honest, but really appreciated.  Although it felt really decadent to be at a classical music concert, late morning, on a weekday, to see and hear people living a passion was very inspiring.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Outfit #16 - A Bit French

Today was blergh.  But blue and white and red - hello France.

Outfit details:
Skirt and white singlet: Hot Options.  Top: David Lawrence.  Shoes: Milu.  Earrings: ? from David Jones.  Necklace: made by me.

Although I didn't go to bed exhausted, I woke up in the middle of a dream.  From then on, it was mostly downhill.  I won't blab on and on about my day, but there were train problems, it was raining, I hadn't taken a warm top or painkillers (both, unusually, would have been great), and my eyes have felt like closing all day.

It wasn't all bad.  I'll now be playing as well as listening at a gig on Friday - the Global Music Fiesta starts at 6 at the Bleeding Heart Gallery, 166 Ann St, in the city.  Tickets are $15 (minimum) at the door, all proceeds to CARE Australia.  I'm excited!

This skirt was one of last year's most-worn items.  I didn't tally its wearings, but it seems to have been worn a lot in my memory.  And no surprise really, as it's black and white and doesn't need ironing, or even to be on a hanger.  It does, however, have some not-amazing memories to go with it.  Today I even considered putting it in my giveaway pile.  We'll see.

The shoes had a bit of a comeback today - the first (and last) time I wore them I had the most horrendous blisters.  No running for a bit, and I had to get those large Elastoplasts in order to not cry when I wore shoes.  Some preemptive Bandaids sorted that problem today.

 You can always tell when I haven't had many breaks at school - the detail shots are taken at home...  By the time I got home, all I wanted to do was change into pajamas and sleep.  See my dedication in taking detail shots first?  Well, maybe.  The earrings are hard to see.  But they're like snowflakes, if you're wondering.  The idea for the necklace I stole from someone else - theirs had black beads instead of red, and red instead of white.  I quite like the idea of using small beads to fill the in between bits, instead of bare wire and crimps.

This top has a very tactile front.  Kids love touching it (weird much?!) - not only does it have bits attached, but they're of different textures also.  Unfortunately it needs a different something underneath, as I was adjusting my front all day.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Outfit #15 - Like a Librarian

 Outfit details:
Blouse: Sportsgirl (op shop).  Singlet: Ambra.  Skirt: Sunny Girl (op shop).  Shoes: Pulp.  Necklace: op shop.  Bracelet: gift.  Earrings: made by me.

I thought today's outfit would be hampered by the shoes.  I was wrong.  It was the skirt that was rather restrictive.  The drawback of this was, obviously, I couldn't walk as fast as I would like.  Stairs took longer - and on Tuesdays, when I have at least 3 lots of 3 flights of stairs as well as every time I need to leave my teaching room, this is quite significant.  On the upside, though, there was no 'Marilyn Effect' on all those junior school stairs.  And the shoes were much easier to walk around in than I had anticipated. 

 This skirt I bought in January.  Shopping with some friends as a post-summer-school celebration, I picked this skirt and a few others off a rack and went to try them on.  Once on, I then noticed the detail at the back.  "Is this weird, or does it have the sexy librarian look happening?"  Unanimous vote on the latter - sold! 

I must admit, though, it doesn't feel quite as amazing as it did when I bought it.  There's just a bit more room in the waistband.  I do like the button detail though, and the ruched back doesn't feel nearly as raunchy as in the dressing room.
I made these earrings in 3 varieties - these blue ones, black, and green.  One of my girls said they look like little worlds, until you get closer and can see the flowers.

The necklace I'm liking more and more.  I discovered after its last wearing that one of the beads at the front is split so I'll have to glue that together.  It did come on and off all day so I could play, but it feels really nice when on - and suits the neckline of this top rather well.

How amazing are these shoes?!  I worked out today that I bought them 2 and 1/2 years ago - and this is only their 2nd or 3rd outing.  Incredible.  I was a little worried about wearing them to work, being rather high and platform, but they held up remarkably well.  I was originally going to wear a far more boring pair, but with all the grey/blue/black above the ankles, cherry red was just what was needed. 

Yes, I anticipated much shoe-gazing during the day.  Bonus - the shoes matched the drum!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Movie #10 - Crimson Tide

After last night's run (further than I've ever run along that path, btw), my brother fed me dinner and we watched, with his flatmate, Crimson Tide.  If you recognise the origin of my sub-heading, you might have worked out that I'm a big fan of NCIS.  You can imagine my delight, then, when Leon and SECNAV show up (in different roles, obviously), and not as the top dogs.  Gene, Viggo, and especially Denzel, are another 3 favourite actors I can always watch.

This was yet another movie that foreshadows world events.  So much so that I was wondering to myself today if maybe certain world leaders (or their speech writers, I guess), had this movie in mind...  Set in 1995, its events are similar to those of 2001 onwards.  Admittedly, there is a different enemy (Russia instead of a Middle Eastern country).  And I associate the Middle East and its US wars with desert, not submarines and water.  But we had the 'launch capability in an hour' threat, as well as the 'we need to make a preemptive strike' speech.  Ring any bells?

I found it an interesting snapshot into military reality.  There were things I hadn't considered, like how to exercise on a sub, and how to have a party (or, perhaps, that there still is that need to party).  More importantly, the significance of every job, no matter how seemingly inconsequential.  It looks like one of the characters (whose name I can't even remember) is rather low in the pecking order, has a mundane task regarding electricity.  But when the sub loses contact with command, they really need that radio working again, and the whole outcome of the mission (and the movie) relies on that one lowly sailor doing his job.

More than that, though, was the importance of following orders, the chain of command, and protocol.  There are reasons for everything and even though you might not like something, orders are orders.  But occasionally morals don't sit with what those orders are, and whether or not to obey something that goes against your moral compass is a dilemma I'm glad I don't have to face.  If you disobey, you can be court-martialled, and chaos is a potential threat.  Obey, though, and you have to live with your conscience and the repercussions of your actions. 

One of the great lines of the movie, spoken by Gene to Denzel fairly early on, is "We're here to preserve democracy, not to practice it".  Which is essentially the crux of the movie.  These very didactic power pyramids, where there is no room for discussion or debate, are sent out to bring (or force) democracy to other nations, so that these other nations can have the freedom to discuss and debate, to choose and choose again, and behave the way we see best.  Like fighting for peace. 

With 3 musicians watching, there was bound to be some discussion about the soundtrack.  "Hans Zimmer soundtrack, anyone?" was followed by "... Ooh, that's embarrassing.  John Williams".  "Are we sure...?"  A quick check on IMDb proved the first instinct to be correct, but there was a lot of Williams in this.  In my teenage years I loved Georgian music (especially that really deep bass sound), so the Russian Orthodox vibe to a lot of this was both fitting and nostalgic.  It really fit the scene so well, all that rich, deep sound to match the diving submarine off the Russian coast.  In the mutinous scenes, though, was something akin to a Mozart Requiem mash-up.  The same pitch order as the Lachrymosa, but with the attack and strength of the Dies Irae.  Very cool.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Card Materials

A couple of years ago, I started making my own cards.  An 11-yr-old had given me a Christmas card that she'd made herself and I thought, I can do that.  Of course I then had a slightly card-obsessed phase...  Then I started looking at items that could be worked into cards.  All that lovely paper is lovely, but expensive and environmentally suspect.  So I have a collection of things that could be used in cards.  It's a bit like having an attic of shoe boxes filled with things like buttons, string, and nails.  (The shoe boxes in my attic have things like Christmas decorations).  On Friday was a friend's birthday, and I actually used one of these leftover bits for her card.

This friend is a home economics teacher but can also (and does, depending on the year) teach Japanese.  Her home has lovely Japanese items around and, when looking for inspiration, I thought this bit of cardboard with its Japanese-style print would be just right.  It's actually from the box of a mug I was given for Christmas (the mug is just as pretty as the box).

It was easy enough to cut a square out of a box, but it was just that little bit too big for the card.  I kept trimming and trimming, then eventually realised that I could take the top sheet off the corrugated part and it would sit so much better.  I was hoping for a bit more dark blue in the background of the card, or even some gold, but it looks like I'm all out.  I think the light pink works nicely though.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Triple Whammy

 Friday had 3 - 3! - new things.

1.  I went to Nocturnes at St John's Cathedral.  For the last couple of years, on Friday evenings during Lent they hold Nocturnes, a quiet musical ending to the week.  I used to have students starting at 8am on Saturdays, so I wasn't super keen to be out til 10pm the night before.  But that student is now during the week, and my first one isn't til 9am (a huge, wonderful difference), so I feel more able to attend a late evening concert.  Last night was the Camerata of St John's, a small string group a bit like the ACO.  Instead of performing in the main part of the cathedral, they used the north aisle which made it a very intimate setting.  One of my favourite pieces was performed - Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part.  I first heard that in the cathedral years ago, when it was used by the Queensland Ballet for their Francis of Assissi production.  Beautiful.  Last night there were some group pieces as well as solos by members of the group who were not the leaders of each section, which I found really refreshing.  Sitting in a darkened cathedral and listening to music at once intimate and filling the whole, huge space, was a very special end to the week.  This photo I took at the end - I had not known before that the huge window at the West End has a fire effect going late at night.  Pretty spectacular, and this photo doesn't really do it justice, but that's just a glimpse.

2.  My outfit was 100% recycled.  Dress, necklace and shoes from op shops (dress I bought last January and have been waiting to wear it that long!), jacket and earrings from friends.  Yes, this photo is a bit blurry - but it was night.  And the shoes didn't quite make it in fully (it's hard to get good help these days...).  I did have people walking past, and other friends trying to make me laugh, so this is the least blurred and ridiculous shot there was.

3.  I made a decision for a group.  This was met with amazement, and then much teasing.  Good thing they're my best friends!  After the Nocturnes 4 of us were going for coffee.  2 people decided not to make the decision as to where we went.  I said, not Three Monkeys because I've been there recently.  Much dithering ensued, so I then said, Let's go to the Three Monkeys.  Gasp.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Lime and Coconut Macaroons

I mentioned in the Sweet Soy Omelette post that I love lime.  I don't, however, love coconut.  I've found that coconut-lovers are shocked by this, but anyone not enamoured of the stuff can see my point.  So this Jill Dupleix extras recipe (from Good Cooking: the New Essentials) was yet untested by me. 

There have been 3 limes sitting in my fruit bowl for a couple of weeks at least, languishing because I've given up alcohol for Lent - no more G&Ts for me for a while.  Which is a good thing.  Today, looking for inspiration for something new, I was flipping through this cookbook, and spied this recipe.  I had all the ingredients so made them this afternoon.

So, so easy.  I was still hesitant on account of the coconut, but wow - delicious!  I had a little of the mix left after filling a baking tray and even that was yummy.  Once cooked, I thought I should probably taste-test before writing about it - drool.  Light, but with a chewiness that I adore in baked goods.  Plus limey brilliance.  These will definitely be baked again!  After all, I still have 1 1/2 limes and a whole lot of coconut...

Use your hands to mix 100 g caster sugar, 150 g desiccated coconut, 2 egg whites, 1 tbsp grated lime zest and 1 tbsp lime juice to a thick paste.  Press into a flat square, 1 cm high (I did this part on a piece of foil).  Cut out small rounds (or any shape), and bake on a tray at 170C/Gas 3 for 12 - 15 minutes or until lightly golden (mine were ready in 10 minutes).

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Embrace of Technology

I often have parents say to me, "I have no idea if she's getting it right or not.  I'm hopeless with music".  I've found that a lot of parents feel out of their depth when it comes to helping their children.  For some of them, this is partly by design, as they realise when they don't do it for their kids, the kids are forced to learn it all fully, themselves.  One of them even said that to me yesterday - and this is from a parent who is able to occasionally sit in on the lessons.  But a lot of my students I teach during school, and their parents don't really have the option to come in and listen.  Plus, I see most of my students for a half hour lesson.  Minus the time it takes to collect and return the little ones.  Minus the time it takes the older ones to remember they have a lesson, ask their teacher to leave, and make the trip to my teaching room.  And then they are back in school, absorbing a whole lot of other information.  Not to mention, the multitude of extra-curricular activities undertaken by young people these days.

It would be great if I could send my kids away and they remembered how to work out how to do something, even if they didn't actually remember how to do it straight off.  But...  In recent years a few parents have asked for Youtube recommendations.  I resisted a little (I much prefer students to work it out themselves), but it really minimises conflict at home if the parents can show a Youtube video to their child and say, See it really doesn't sound like what you just played.  Last year, I upgraded to an iPhone, and near the end of the year I discovered the sound quality of string playing on the Voice Memo function is really not bad.  This year, I have started recording what the student needs to practice that week, or the new thing, or something that still isn't right.  Then on Thursdays I email it through to the parents or, sometimes, direct to the student.  Some students have now started bringing their ipod to their lesson and I can record straight onto that.

I started noticing benefits straight away.  As soon as I did the first recording for one child, that student looked up at me with big eyes and said "Wow.  You're really good".  Well, yes.  I'm a professional.  This way the student hears, right from the beginning, what the goal is.  Tuning, rhythm, and musicality have a benchmark, and the student can aim for my way immediately.  Moreover, the parents can hear that benchmark as well, and even if they are, in fact, "hopeless with music", they can compare notes (ooh, sorry for the terrible pun!).  And as the weeks progress, they accumulate a collection of recordings of everything they need to be playing.  One parent even emailed me yesterday to let me know that her child practices playing along to my recordings, and if they don't match, she has to start again.  Gold.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Outfit #14 - Stripes on Stripes

I have never worn 2 striped items at once.  Today was a debut.

Outfit details:

Shirt:  Lily White (op shop).  Pants: Portmans.  Shoes: Lipstick (op shop).  Belt: gift.  Earrings: Oxfam.

I quite like this shirt, and think I should incorporate it into more outfits.  The sleeves are actually puffy, which takes me back to childhood (yes, I wanted to be a princess, or at least living in a kingdom once upon a time).  It would be better if I can find more ways to wear it so the bottom edge isn't visible - it's not brilliantly finished, and my sewing skills are not up to altering that just yet.  However, wearing a tucked-in shirt is not a successful style option for violinists.  Sure, it looks great when you put it on, very neat and put-together.  But as soon as those arms are raised to hold a violin and make some sound, out comes the shirt.  Irritating.  That used to be the only thing I checked when trying on clothes - can I raise my arms without looking silly?  Now, I remember I need to be able to sit down or walk without flashing too much above the knee... I'm learning!

Stripe on stripe detail.  Very skinny stripes at the top.  Thicker (but still subtle) stripes on the bottom.  Pink mock-animal skin belt.  Piano and an attempt at sound-proofing in the background.

In 2 weeks there is a music festival at school.  One of my girls is super nervous about playing, so today I tried to get inside her brain, and give her some tips on performing.  It turns out one of the things that is worrying her is playing with an accompanist.  I'm not great on piano (really!), but I do what I can in the lessons to give the students an idea of what sort of sounds will be coming out when they have a professional on board.  It's really interesting to see which kids are totally unfazed by having another instrument play, and which ones just fall apart.  This particular child is fine, she's just letting her brain stress out a bit.  I reassured her that the accompanist for the strings for this festival is totally not scary.  Like a younger brother - for me, or an older brother for her.  He's the same age as my brother, they went to uni together, they're about the same height, and not scary
"Ummm.... how tall is that?"  Not that tall.  Not any taller than I am right now.  "Yeah, but you're wearing heels... Ooh, and they're platform as well".  So, definitely not any taller than me right now.

My coffee man was back today.  I only get coffee from there twice a week, and that only during school terms.  So when this coffee guy remembered my order (and that I play a stringed instrument) - from the middle of November - I was really impressed.  He has so much energy (yes, possibly chemically enhanced), tattoos, big discs in his earlobes, but he makes my coffee strong, he can make conversation before 7am, and there's always a nice parting remark.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Outfit #13 - I'm in the Money

 Today, I was cold for the first time in a while.  The first time this year when I wished I'd worn stockings and packed a cardigan or something.  Of course, we are in an almost-cyclone (which made tonight's run interesting).

Outfit details:
Dress (worn as a skirt): not sure (op shop).  Shirt: Miss Shop (from Jeannie).  Belt: Target.  Shoes: Pulp.  Owl earrings: Mombasa.

 I bought this dress on a rainy day last December.  I haven't had much luck at the op shop at Toowong, but a friend has found some fantastic things.  A sign out the front tempted us with 50% off (selected items), so inside we went.  A brown velvet dress (yet to be worn - we decided I'd buy it and we'd work out how to style it later), a long green maxi dress, and this green dress were my purchases.  But then I had problems with this green dress.  It feels really nice when on, but the top sits really oddly.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, and nearly put it in my giveaway pile - then I saw someone wearing a shirt over a dress.  Voila!  Styling success.  Belt required at waist, otherwise I look like a bag, but not a waste of a dress. 

The print of the dress is all money notes.  At first I thought it was US dollars, but on closer inspection it appears to be from all over the world.  Hence my feeling of being in the money... 

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Morning Routine

There have been a few refinements to my morning routine this year.  All are making me more efficient, although possibly more apparently obsessive.  But I like to think of them as Good Changes.

This first was regarding clothes.  During Summer School I had very little time or brain space to work out clothing.  I would go to the gym first thing then race home, have breakfast, get dressed and go.  So I would have everything organised the night before, on a hanger in dressing order.  This saves so much time that it's just the way I do things now.  As soon as I've trialled my outfit, it goes on the hanger and into the wardrobe, with the shoes for Tuesday on the left, Wednesday's shoes on the right.  Earrings, necklace and belt get hooked over the hanger. 

The second was regarding energy.  Last Saturday I was super sleepy, for no apparent reason.  As soon as I had gone to the gym in the afternoon, my energy was back.  I thought, there's something in this.  I have long been aware that exercise gets my energy levels up (even if sometimes I move 'like an old person' after a tough workout), so I decided to resort to something I used to do. 

In times past, I have variously done some yoga first thing, or skipping, or pushups.  So now, unless I'm going to the gym first thing, I do 10 of something.  It might be pushups, situps, burpees (ugh), lunges, jumping lunges (too many of these really hurt - trust me), skips, or hollow rocks.  That's all the ideas I have so far... But it sure wakes me up!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Movie #9 - The Siege

A friend has loaned me 5 movies, with the promise of more to come.  A wide variety is promised (but no chick flicks), and I kicked off the viewing with The Siege.  Just like The Bank, this was an interesting one to watch now, as opposed to when it was released.  A prediction of world events that did actually occur.

On the surface, this is your typical action movie - bad guys, good guys, turf wars, token female or two, deception, trust issues.  Things that struck me about this one though were the faceless-ness of terrorism, and the typical human reactions of ordinary people as well as people entrusted with protecting us.  Guilt, anger and fear were the overriding emotions.

I know that, when a disaster occurs, we need someone to blame.  If we don't have anyone to blame, how will we know whose fault it was?  How will we isolate someone/people with whom we should no longer associate?  It creates such an 'us and them' existence that makes us feel safe and secure initially but, as the movie shows, develops into such a negative, closed-off view of the world that is really unsustainable.  Is it possible to show love even when we are hurting and scared?

Even though we, as voters in a democracy, have the freedom to criticise our leaders, do we ever put ourselves in their shoes in this sort of situation?  How would we react if their initial reaction was to forgive?  And when our 'us and them' mentality actually hurts someone close to us, how do we redraw the line in the sand?  It's all well and good to say, it's this particular group that we don't like - they look different, they don't assimilate, they act differently, pray differently, eat differently - but when we start to live our lives on one side of a line, we limit ourselves and further the problems that initiated the conflict.  And if someone is technically from that group but has done enough to prove themselves to us to be included in our 'ok' group, at times of stress do we banish them back to the other side of the line or do we recognise our common humanity? 

A lot of what I saw in this movie, as well as so much I have seen in the last 10 or so years, has shown me that we are all the same.  Well, not entirely... But every society has its rebels.  Every person needs to belong, somewhere.  Every person needs to love and be loved.  We cannot judge a whole race based on the actions of a few individuals.  In this multicultural society, we cannot assign a person to a particular group based on appearance.  I know it's hard, but can we ever produce a society actually based on love and acceptance?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Exercising Restraint

This morning, I made biscuits.

I only had one student this morning (bliss!), and I had a meeting in the afternoon which required me to bring something to share.  So once the student was done, at 9am, I baked.  This was so nice.  Made me wish for a normal job (you know, 9-5, Monday - Friday), so that I could actually have a weekend.  Excuse me while I have a giggle.

Now, this biscuit recipe I have used many times.  Many, many times.  And it's basic enough that it can withstand substitutions quite easily.  It's in the Donna Hay Off the Shelf book (Food Processor Biscuits).  Today I used more than the recommended 1 cup of chocolate chips (I had about 1 1/3 cups of dark chocolate melts which I broke into pieces), and I used dried apricots instead of raisins.  Partly because that's what was in the cupboard, and partly because comments on past baking has been the raisins are just mean - you think you're getting chocolate when in fact it's vaguely healthy instead.  At least when you bite into a piece of apricot there are no illusions.

The main thing for today, though, is that this recipe apparently makes 25 biscuits.  I always have more than that, as 2 tablespoons per biscuit is a lot of biscuit dough.  Now, I bake 10 biscuits per tray, so I'm always left with a certain amount of dough which will obviously not make a whole extra tray of biscuits.  I must admit, usually this ends with me just eating the remainder of the biscuit dough.  Enjoying it, yes, until I've finished it...  But today I thought, I'm going to bake a half-tray's worth of biscuits.  Which ended up being 8 biscuits anyway, so the total number was 38.  Totally feeling virtuous.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Emergency Coffee

My hair salon has moved.  It's great for them - bigger, newer, you can boil the kettle, keep the music playing and use a hairdryer all at the same time.  But it's less convenient for me.  Good thing for them, then, that I'm a loyal customer with an aversion to change.  It's much easier now to go in-bound rather than out-bound once I'm all pampered, so a hair trip often turns into something more.  Today, I had plans to catch a Citycat to New Farm and find a new coffee place there.  Great plan.  I was excited - the river was so inviting. 

I still caught a Citycat, but by the time I caught one, it was getting really close to the end of my acceptable coffee time and into the emergency coffee time.  So, with the Good Guide, I sorted out a cafe in the city I would try. 

I didn't make it.  As soon as I spotted this place (Boulevard St. Michel, 187 George St), I thought I'd give it a go.

It was not overly impressive.  I sat outside, as the inside smelt of food (an eggy smell, one that I can rarely tolerate).  Not long after I sat down, however, I remembered one of the huge drawbacks of al fresco anything in the city - smokers.  Thankfully after that first one there were no more.  Next drawback - panhandlers.  The coffee itself was not amazing, the foam not very stiff, but at least it came with a generous sprinkling of chocolate on top.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Outfit #12 - Bonus! - Staff Concert

 Tonight was the school's annual Music Staff Concert.  I can humbly say, it was pretty spectacular (as it always is).  I can't really imagine wearing something other than black to perform, so the black dress came out again.  I love these shoes (I know I say that a lot, but still...).  They may look dainty and uncomfortable, but I've worn these for 14 hour days and still felt human.  Stiletto, but a mini platform, a strap to keep things in place, a cute little bow.  These photos were taken once I returned home, but I think it's the camera rather than the tiredness that's the cause of the red eyes.  Although, this was the least scary of the lot.

Dress: Hot Options.  Shoes: Pulp Noir.  Earrings: silver roses.  Hair clip: ???  Violin: made by Arthur John Parkes.  It's a long story, but he's now a bishop.

Obviously, the concert was not in my living room.  And I never actually play in this exact spot, ever, because there's a wall. 

I work with really talented people.  Not just great teachers, but really skilled performers.  We should be charging $50 a ticket minimum!  It's a bargain at gold coin donation.  I was part of 3 things, as well as the (unrehearsed) group staff thing at the end.  5 of us on strings accompanied our Head of Music and a singing teacher in 2 parts of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.  3 of us performed the last movement of the Brahms trio for French horn, violin and piano (agh!  written in a key that's great for horn, not for violin).  And 2 of us performed the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia duo, on violin and viola.  This was the 2nd time I've performed that piece, and thankfully it went much, much better this time.  The last time, my E string slipped near the top of the last page, and I just could not foresee success for those ridiculous runs.  I had to stop, retune, and then start up again - it really ruined the mood.  This time, all strings stayed put, the music (mostly) stayed on the music stand, and after the first couple of bits my arms and brain calmed down.  And because I apparently have a smile fixed to my face whenever I'm performing, no-one could tell the nerves were there.  Success!