Ribbons of remembrance

These ribbons were on the fence around a church in New York. Each yellow ribbon marked a US soldier who had died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Each week they read out the names of those who died that week, and add ribbons to the fence. The blue and green ribbons are prayers for peace and for the 100s of Iraqis and Afghanis who have also died.

In this week of ANZAC Day, a remembrance of all soldiers who die in interminable wars, especially where the motives and intents are determined by old men and corporate interests.

Easter, eggs and dogs

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Easter Bunny came and left his deliveries at the end of boys’ bed – experience has taught him (or indeed her) that leaving them in the garden overnight results in Easter eggs which have been gnawed on by cats and possums. To my great surprise, only one egg (one of Zac’s) had been eaten by the time I got up. Zac then complained bitterly about the “stuff inside”.

However, all was not lost on the Easter egg hunt front. Fortunately the Easter Bunny had also made a stop at Jackie and John’s house, so after hot cross buns for breakfast it was time to head over for egg hunts and lunch.

The Easter Bunny clearly did an excellent job hiding eggs, as the hunt took quite some time and a bit of assistance and hinting from Auntie Katie.  But eventually all the eggs were found. The boys were accompanied in their hunt by Max, John’s grandson.

It was then time to divvy up and eat the spoils. This was quite enthusiastically embraced.

And with those formalities over, it was onto lunch and a bit of pleasant relaxing in the gorgeous Canberra autumn weather.

James’ uncle Ian, his partner Leslie and Beth, James’ cousin, were in town showing their dogs so came along to lunch, with six of their furry friends. Jude was particularly taken with the dogs.

Then again, so was James…Nonetheless, we managed to escape without any commitment to adopt. It was a narrow escape though.

Happy Easter everyone!

May the force blow out your candles

This year Jude chose Star Wars as the theme for his birthday party – and as you can see from above, as usual Rachel came through with the birthday cake goods.

In addition to being a Star Wars party, it was also a sleep over party, so it was already nearly dark when the guests arrived. Thus, time for a bit of  light sabre action outside.

Inside games included Pin the Light Sabre on Yoda, with my own attempt at a home made yoda.

And Musical Frozen In Carbonite, which did result in some quite hilarious dancing.

Zac had fun as the Master of Music, which included the Catina tune and the Imperial Death March…

Then it was feasting time – hot dogs and wookie cookies and Yoda Sodas.

More playing and then it was time for the cake!

The cake was definitely enjoyed by all…some more thoroughly than others…

Two of the girls went home shortly after this, leaving us with four additional boys and one girl. They all bunked down in the lounge room and watched Return of the Jedi. Tessa, the one girl, spent part of the early bit of the movie with her blanket on her head, but was lured into the joy by the ewoks. They are clearly good for something. When the movie was over it was time for sleep. The firm hand of parental control saw them all asleep by 10.30ish. Impressively, no one really woke up til after seven, so it was actually nowhere near as bad as I thought it might be.

So it was then pancakes for breakfast and more television until everyone headed off. Jude had a fabulous birthday party, but I think in future we might limit the overnight guests…at least a little!

Wookie Cookies!

Jude’s birthday was Star Wars themed, so it was out with the Star Wars cook book. Jude and I decided to make wookie cookies. They were rather srumptious.

Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Flea

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Until James made it to New York, I stayed with Frederique and Eric, Jules and Blaise at their place in Brooklyn. There part of Brooklyn is wonderful, brownstones, funky cafes (all with free wi fi), bars, cool little shops and only 10 minutes in the subway and you are in New York. I loved catching the train over the bridge every day.

Eric and I went out one night to cool cocktail bars – one which was all prohibition style with no signage outside. The second was the very groovy steampunk themed Way Station where I got to go to the loo in the TARDIS.

Another night Fred and I went dancing with one of her friends at a club in an old church. Sadly it was a full on trance techno music night in the  basement dance area, but it was a very cool spot.

The Saturday afternoon local activity involved a visit to the Brooklyn Flea. Apparently in summer it is held outside and is bigger, but I loved its venue – a grand old bank building.

It had a great collection of flea markety stuff, amazing old post cards, vintage clothes, jewellery new and old and assorted bits on pieces.

There was some very cool earrings and cufflinks made from the key of typewriters and bingo pieces and the like.

The building itself was great – cool old windows and fittings.

I found some great old army surplus and couldn’t resist buying a fabulous World War II Marine jacket for James. Beautiful with its original buttons and the like. And for $75, something of a bargain.

We then headed downstairs for lunch. The original vault doors are still in place – these are huge, heavy and impressive.

We had delicious fish tacos – and it is entertaining to see “Mexican coke” on sale – in Mexico it isn’t made with corn syrup, earning it more hipster cred or some such. We enjoyed our lunch listening to the pork rolls man accompany jaunty tunes with his squeezy pig.

If you are in New York on a Saturday, the Brooklyn Flea is well worth a visit, as is the general Brooklyn area. I didn’t make it to the Brooklyn Art Museum this time, but last visit was very impressed. Sometimes it is good to escape Manhattan – there is more to New York than the island.

Cross country

The school cross country was on Jude’s birthday. So it is only fitting that, in a last minute surge for the line, Jude overtook the leader to come first. He was most chuffed (not to mention pretty puffed).

Sebastian, who takes this fairly seriously and was carbo loading the night before as well as getting a good night’s sleep, came an admirable third, also pushing hard in the last section but not quite able to overtake his competition. Admittedly, the competition was a bit more serious and tough in the under 9s than in the under 7s. Sebastian will again head off to represent the school at the North Canberra District competition in the coming weeks.

Cross country runners – and me who can’t abide jogging? Who’da thunk it.

Freedom Trail!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Good friends from my deep past, Tara and Peter, live in Boston, so I decided to jump on the bus from New York for a 24 hour visit. While there, Tara and I decided we would do the whole New England experience, starting with clam chowder at Legal Seafood in Harvard Square and then followed by a morning on the Freedom Trail which Tara, despite being a Boston resident of some duration, had never done.

Legal Seafood was my first ever clam chowder experience, and it was a good one. Delicious. And followed by crab cakes and scallops and ‘shrimp’, it was a fantastic meal. Legal Seafood may be a little bit of a tourist locale, but it didn’t stop it being scrumptious.

So the next morning it was on to the Freedom Trail…


So the first stop was the Boston Common, which is where we parked. Well, under the Common. There were zillions of squirrels all over the place and I made it clear I was a tourist by photographing them.


So the State House is just the other side of the Common. Nice shiny roof. Currently the seat of Massachusetts state government. It was jsut after we had been here that we were appraoch by the far right-ers who tried to give us a leaflet about why Obama is constitutionally unfit to be President. We ignored them


The Park Street Church. Also right next to the Common. At this point I was thinking that this whole thing would be over in about half an hour. Church very red brick. Built in 1809 apparently (so not so Freedom trail really).  But apparently there was an important anti-slavery address here once.


Awesome cemetary with these amazing old old headstones with their grim pictures and the tales they told. The skulls’ head with angel’s wings was a regualr feature.  Dark notions of death and god and so forth. Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock all buried here.

You really could imagine zombies and vampires emerging from this graveyard.


Interesting church with its little booths, and another fantastic burial ground. This church was built in 1688 when, under orders from King James II, land was seized for the construction of the first Anglican Church. I assume it was this sort of high handedness which got on the nerves of Bostonians at the times. Though they all had their little family booth at the Church.

The cemetary next to it is Boston’s first burial ground. Again with the fabulous headstones. At the church I bought a t-shirt which has the skull head-angel’s wings motif and some rather gruesome text from a headstone.


And there it is. At the site of the first public school in US. Not the most exciting of the stops.


Here it is, pictured opposite the New Corner Book Store. Ah, the freedom.


Here are Sam Adams and me, inside the Old South Meeting House, getting angry about the tax on tea. It was at the Old South Meeting House that we decided to exercise our freedom and make the excursion museum-free, as paying $6-15 at a third of the stops was going to get rather expensive. And we didn’t have that much time anyway before I had to go and catch my bus.


I liked this building, surrounded and dwarfed by modern high rises. This was built in 1713 and is Boston’s oldest surviving public building.

Here is Tara standing on the red line of the Freedom Trail in front of the Old State House while simultaneously talking to and waving at Peter who was up in one of the buildings above us and could see us. At this point we took a short break from the Freedom Trail and headed off for coffee with Peter, but not before….


…we took a photo of Peter standing on the site of the Boston Massacre. Now a traffic island. The site is just below the Old State House balcony and is where five men were killed, including Crispus Attucks, the first Black American to “die for the patriotic cause.”

And then it was off to coffee.


At Faneuil Hall we ran into our first challenge to our fight for freedom. Well, something got in the way and made us deviate from the trail – the filming of I Don’t Know How She Does It. Much disappoint later when I discovered I could have seen Christina Hendricks and didn’t. Anyhow, we skirted the filming and got back to the line.

We then deviated voluntarily for a bit to look at the Holocaust Memorial: this is a pretty powerful piece of public memory. Especially with the steam/water vapour which curls up around you as you read each piece of descriptive text.

Then back to the trail where we discovered snow! (and couldn’t see the line!)

Well, not actually snow. More like salt. Clearly they had been filming a snowy scene earlier that morning. See, there, I have just destroyed the magic of movies for you.


Not so memorable. But here is Tara with a redcoat thereabouts for your visual enjoyment.


It was a bit of a walk (well, maybe 5-10 minutes) to the next stop through the picturesque North Boston. We kept track of the line.

People still had Christmas decorations out the front of their houses, but probably only because they had only stopped being covered in snow about a week ago.


This is the church from where Sexton Robert Newman hung two lanterns to signal the beginning of Paul Revere’s ride.

It also had a reminder of modern battles – with a memorial for soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And on the walk through Paul Rever Mall to get there we saw actual snow! Well, compacted ice at any rate.


Another cool graveyard, this one with a view. Apparently the British used to fire their cannons on Charlestown here during the Battle of Bunker Hill.


Time to cross the river for the last couple of stops. The red line did not fail us.


Who doesn’t love an old boat? We had to go through security scanners and so forth because it is naval property (and wouldn’t blowing up the USS Constitution be symbolic). But we got to wander over the ship and check out the cannons. Love cannons.


And from there it was onward to Freedom! Well, to the last stop anyway. The Bunker Hill Monument – don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes  – and all that jazz.

Here we are celebrating the end of the trail.

Of course, because I was with Tara, we decided to climb the 273 steps to the top. I should have learnt from that time, long ago, when I climbed Mt Fuji with Tara, that she will always be fitter than me. So while she breezed up, I staggered by the top. I had thought I was doing well, until one of the steps said “75” and I thought “is that all…”

It is very tall.

But the view is pretty impressive.

From there it was down again, back to the car and into the bus. A tip for travellers – don’t climb 273 steps in the cold, then go and sit on a bus to New York for 4 hours without moving. Does provide your leg muscles the perfect opportunity to stiffen up, and then you may need the suppost of stair railings a lot in the subway for the next few days….

So the Freedom Trail was lots of fun. The most fun thing of course was the fact that Tara and I got to hang out for a few hours, talking, having fun and occasionally being just a little bit silly. Nothing like good times with old friends.

Happy birthday Jude…

Many presents, a victory in the cross country, dinner at Happy’s with friends and family….and all round super-fantabulous birthday. And of course the best is yet to come with the birthday party extravaganza (with added sleep over) on Saturday night!

Pudding Odyssey Rejoined: Choc chip pudding

A brief pause from the US entries to detail Sebastian and my latest foray into the world of puddings – a choc chip pudding with an orange flavour.


Ingredients have gathered

We were having a guest so Sebastian enthusiastically volunteered our pudding services for dessert. This is a pudding which Sebastian has wanted to make for a while but we were stymied by (a) lack of stale cake and then (b) lack of food processor to turn them into crummbs. We specially froze some cake at one point to have it available, and now the arrival of the new food processor meant there was no excuse at all.

Sebastian did well with the chopping up of the butter, and slightly less well with the grating of the orange rind. The juicing of the orange was managed very efficiently.

But there was balking at the cracking of the eggs. Thought about it, then handed it over to The Mother ie me.

Egg trepidationIt is a steamed pudding so got to spend quite some time in the pot. Which we covered properly and put the lid on this time.

Making chocolate sauce is never considered a hardship. Even if having your photo taken doing it is.

Eventually the pudding was revealed. It looked very promising in the basin.

But it splurred slightly when it came out.

However, 30 seconds in the microwave fixed that and it tasted delicious. Another pudding success!

Quilts and women’s art

So I was off to spend the afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art when I discovered that was the afternoon it was closed. Sigh. But not to despair, the American Folk Art Museum was next door and open and I had never visited it before. So another New York first.

The Museum had a number of interesting works and I particularly liked the metal weather vanes (the unicorn above is an example). But the most impressive part of the visit was the exhibition of quilts for the Year of the Quilt.

I loved the quilts. They were amazing works of art and skill, painstakingly created with geometrical precision and creative flair. Appropriately it was International Women’s Day, and so it was a wonderful time to observe what was clearly an expression of women’s artistry from a time when women were not supposed to be about the art.

It is interesting to reflect on how women’s forms of (socially acceptable) artistic expression are corralled into the category of “craft” and then denigrated as less worthy than things like painting or sculpture. Looking at these quilts and considering the time, effort, creative and technical skill it would have taken to make them – hand sewing in the times before electricity – one has to embrace them as real works of art, as wonderful as many of the works one would see next door at MoMA. And such a wonderful expression of feminine solidarity, as they were the kind of art which was created collectively, either working alongside each other, or collaborating to make a whole.

Personally I have practically zero skills in the area of craft, but I think we should embrace the skill and artistry that is involved in things like quilting and knitting and stop seeing them as lesser because they come from the world of women.