Lemony Goodness

Tarty lemon cordial.

Soft eating lemon and olive oil cupcakes.

Lemon zest over mexican rice.

Marmalade with chunks of lemon in it to slap onto still warm sourdough.

Lemon in a green ginger wine hot toddy.

Possibilities are pretty much endless for the humble lemon. On a week where our family’s health has taken a smashing, it’s all about the lemons.

I hear there are healing properties in Lemon and Olive Oil Cupcakes…surely.

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What’s your go to lemony goodness?

Thoughts of raindrops falling

There’s a quiet peacefulness to your waking

Rhythmic raindrops create a steady beat on the roof.

It’s dark outside, with hints of grey. Just enough to show the puddles pooling in a long since saturated ground.

Thoughts dance briefly over the seedlings you planted three days ago, wondering at their willingness to grow through soggy adversity.

You scrunch your eyes tight to the predictable incoming thought parade.

The mental list of to do’s can surely wait. Just now, here in the early morning grey, this is dedicated gentle think time. Just like the raindrops that continue to fall outside, so to will the thoughts. Speeding up as the day cracks open.

But not yet, not now. It’s still early, and listening to those raindrops falling outside is the only required thought.

 

 

It’s all pretty exciting really

It’s 5.15am and your alarm goes off.

Outside is dark. Stars still stand defiantly in the night sky as sunrise isn’t for another good hour and a quarter yet. You stumble into your swim suit, add another 6 layers over the top and silently tip toe out of the house, bundled up like a marshmallow woman. It is after all 7C out.

The trick is don’t let the cold sneak in. Don’t let it.

The stars are still there as you arrive. Looking our over the flood lit pool, and watching the wind whip up over the tops of the waves, you question yourself briefly. Although these days, the why no longer comes into it, it’s just something you do.

You wait patiently for the sun to arrive.

Swimming at sunrise at Merewether Ocean Baths throughout the year isn’t something that appeals to the masses (especially during these winter months), and yet to a select group of people this is the secret to a well lived life.

For over a year now I’ve been documenting these sunrise people, a visual story culminating in an exhibition scheduled for early next year. Over the next six months I will be sharing snippets of these ocean lovers, the magic of sunrise and a tiny part of the process in what it takes to create a body of work for exhibiting.

I hope you’ll jump on board for the journey, it’s a really exciting one that I’m tickled pink to be able to share.

In other news, there is a new website of mine if you are keen for a peek, and if you are still keen as a bean in finding out a few more super fascinating facts about me, I was kindly invited over for a lovely chat at Duckfeet on their Duckfeatures series.

Hope your week to come is good one dear people.

Conversations with Community…April, the Environmental Scientist

Today, another special post as Part IV has landed for Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some crazy inspiring things. People quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, living creative lives, connecting in different ways that are often ignored in our culture of time racing, and today?

Today is a fascinating chat with April the environmental scientist, (also shark whisperer, fire pit lover and part time mermaid, but you have to read on a little further to find out about all that.) I hope you can grab a cup of chai, settle in and have a read.

Rightio, importantly, let’s set the mood… Tea, coffee, something to nibble? What shall I bring and where shall we go? 

Definitely a pot of fresh tea and some savoury snacks. I’m all about the savoury. A spread of cheese, crackers, olives, nuts, fresh prawns etc is one of my favourite things. Fortunately they also make a great picnic so we’d probably go outdoors, preferably by the water somewhere.

You work in the field of environmental behaviour change. Can you explain that area little further? (I feel like that’s at the frontline of all things really important!)

I originally actually had no intention of working in the space of behaviour change however as my career has evolved I have developed a deeper interest in this space. I had studied environmental science at Uni and the dream was to be a marine biologist and get paid to dive and conduct research. I grew up in a small coastal NSW town and the ocean was (and still is) a big part of my life, so my motivation was to save the oceans – so to speak.

It wasn’t until I started working as a fresh graduate that I was introduced to the concept of ‘behaviour change’. The organisation I was working for (and still work for) have the philosophy that if you are looking at an environmental issue, you have your back to problem. Meaning that to achieve any meaningful environmental change we needed to also focus on working with the people in our community (or organisation) to address environmental issues. This changed my perspective entirely. As an environmental scientist I guess I had always thought that, if you knew what I knew about an environmental issue, then you would care like I care, and make the changes necessary. Humans are way more complex than that and a bunch of facts and figures don’t really motivate people to change.

Behaviour change programs use the wisdom of social science to communicate complex issues to a community, to find out what motivates people to change, and how we can tap into that to move them through from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. It’s a softer approach compared to enforcement and has many benefits like connecting people with each other, developing solutions together, building a sense of community and developing a greater connection to place.

Having a gloriously green looking organic urban backyard farm is something that many people aspire to having. Is it something you’ve always had an interest in, and what’s your thing you are most proud of growing?

I had no interest in growing food until I met my partner Joël almost 20 years ago. He had grown up in the bush in rural QLD. As a kid his family had veggie gardens and chickens and he had spent many school holidays working for one of the neighbours picking grapes, or tomatoes or whatever needed harvesting. So when we first moved in together he dug up the back yard of our little rental house in Brisbane and started growing. We’ve had a veggie garden at every house wherever we went and I’ve always been really proud of what he’d bring in from the garden. Of course we’d talk about what to plant but I never really knew what I was doing so I left it to him and I would get busy turning food from the backyard into delicious and interesting meals.

It wasn’t until 6 years ago when we lived and worked on a farm in Spain that I truly understood what it felt like to get your hands dirty and the connection we have to the soil. After living in a yurt in rural Spain, being connected to the community we were living in, having much more reliance on the food that was grown, and the time dedicated to sharing with each other really lit a spark for me. So when we returned home, and moved back into our house we went about converting our backyard to a small urban farm. The goal was to minimise the amount of grass and maximise food production. So my personal interest and involvement in the garden is a relatively new thing.

I don’t think there is any single thing that I’m the most proud of growing, although we’re always trying to grow new and interesting things. The thing I’m most proud about is that we can create an entire meal from our backyard. Fresh eggs, herbs and vegetables can create a wholesome meal. It’s a simple delicious meal and that’s what I love about it.

Living in The Great Lakes area, water is obviously something that plays a part in your life, is water somewhere you feel comfortable?

Absolutely. I’ve never been able to stay away from water for too long, I need to see it, hear it, smell it and get in it as much as possible. My parents will tell stories where as a kid they would have difficulty getting me out of the water, in ANY kind of weather. I love adventuring along coastlines, and when I first started scuba diving I felt like I had come home. Being underwater felt like I was in my natural state. However the ocean has since reminded me a few times of her power and the thin line we walk when we are underwater and I definitely now have a deeper respect for the forces of the seas.

What’s the most exciting/scary thing you’ve seen underwater?

Am I allowed to say everything? (YES!) Underwater truly is like being in another world! It’s beautiful and exciting and harsh all at once. I’ve gotta say that the first time I saw a shark was pretty exciting. We have a few Grey Nurse Shark congregation areas around here and watching 50 or more sharks swim back and forth in front you is a stunning sight.

The scariest underwater thing I would say was an experience rather than anything I saw. I was on a dive trip to Vanuatu to dive a shipwreck ‘S.S. President Coolidge’, a popular dive site. One of the icons of this dive is a statue called ‘The Lady’ which is located in the first class dining room of the ship at 40m depth, and a must visit when you dive the Coolidge. We made it to the lady, I took a photograph and then blacked out. My awesome divemaster got me out of there promptly, for which I am forever grateful, but it was definitely my most scary underwater moment.

I see having a backyard fire has popped up on your instagram feed a few times. I love having a firepit in the backyard as it’s something I’ve aspired to for nearly two decades. Now that we finally have access to one (albeit an old style bbq, which I refuse to call it because firepit sounds so much better) it’s a highlight of our cool weather weekends. Why do they appeal to you?

My dad made our firepit out of an old keg and it suits our urban backyard perfectly. An outdoor fire has a way of bringing everyone together, to chat and connect with each other, to draw us away from our screens and other obligations and just be with each other. There’s no pressure for conversation either and sometimes just watching the flames can be meditative. Personally I feel like it burns away all the stresses of the day or week and makes me feel relaxed.

Considering we first connected on instagram, how does social media play a part in your life?

I first joined instagram because my friend Eartha had told me how awesome it was, and gave all of us girls a lesson one day. I’m a bit of an introvert when it comes to sharing things publicly, and I started our ‘freefunabundance’ account when I wanted to plug into the urban farming and growing community. I use it to share but also to learn. There is so much knowledge out there on all sorts of things and people are more than willing to give advice or help out. Plus I’ve met some great people on insta, including yourself.

I do like the extra ability to connect with people on social media, and to stay in contact with people I don’t get to see often, or relatives that live far away. I can also opt out for a few days or weeks if I need to and it’s no big deal.

As a parent though, I also make sure I’m across all the social media apps so that I understand the spaces that my children have access too. I actually quite enjoy watching the kids interact with their own communities (safely) and I make sure I have some fun myself.

Describe your perfect weekend.

Camping, by the beach, no phone reception, with a campfire and salty snacks!

Ahhh perfect. April thank you so much for taking the time for a chat. I feel like there a thousand more questions I would like to ask you, but for the moment…I say lets go for a swim!

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If you would like to see a few more snippets of April’s world, she is on instagram @freefunabundance (All pictures are supplied by April.)

conversations-with-community

Conversations with Community– a series focused on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

 

Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet some of these inspiring, wonderful women here.

Pumpkin, a currency of gratitude

Sometimes in life, funny little things happen.

Like organising your parent-in-law’s holiday and accidentally flying them into a different city than stated, booking family accommodation for a stopover night in the wrong town, driving home without your lights on, or maybe driving home with your shoes on the roof etc. etc.

When there is a fairly lengthy supply of funny little things like that happening on a regular occurrence, well the day you throw your keys up on top of the roof of the house. It just feels like another day.

It was another day. Another day without my house keys.

When I asked a few people if by chance they had access to, say, maybe a cherry-picker? Most people followed that up by what the hell? How on earth did that even happen??

Mysteriously, that’s how. It was like a tiny winged elf grabbed hold of the said keys and whoosh, up they went. Right up to the top of the roof of the house.

Thankfully I had a spare set. (Which mind you, is only a new edition as I had got them cut after losing the same keys that were now on the roof. Where were they that time I hear you ask? Well to keep a ridiculous story brief, after 24 hours, lets just say they were under my nose all long.)

However they weren’t now. They were definitely 8 metres off the ground in an unseen guttering system attached to a questionable roof in the dark, with heavy rain now predicted.

I sighed.

The kids yelled in excitement and then we proceeded 10 different fairly useless methods of getting them back.

The keys weren’t budging. I couldn’t even guarantee they were there. I couldn’t hear them, or see them, but surely there was no other option right? For them not to be there, would be as crazy as arriving into a town for the night with all your tired family only to find out you had actually booked somewhere three hours south.

Of course that’s where the keys were. Which is how my lovely inventive neighbour managed to get them the following day. I’d asked for any suggestions he might have in retrieval. He assessed the situation, then disappeared into his garage for a time, rigging up a far more solid contraption then my broom-wire-coat-hangers contraption, and after 20 or so minutes of poking?

Jingle jangle.

I hugged him with glee, pocketed the keys carefully and then gave him my current currency of gratitude. A pumpkin. While there are many currencies in which to say thank you so much for your time, thoughtfulness and energy. Home grown pumpkin is my current numero uno. They have been prized possessions, something grown with a lot of love and contentment over the summer months and are now sitting in storage ready to be eaten or passed onto with basketfuls of thanks as deemed warranted.

And boy was it warranted. As along with being able to access your own front door, you can’t put a price on wonderful neighbours who show unending kindness now can you.

The week that was

Eating… Colourful lunches that I never get tired of.

Reading… About anxiety and some of her multi levelled forms, and Blinky Bill to the small folk.

Exploring… Crazy talented people* that always inspire.

Listening… To Paul Dempsey cover Middle Kids “Edge of Town” and damn, it’s good.

Enjoying… Neighbours who share their tree’s bounty. Supermarket mandarins? No comparison.

Planning… Lots! Cracking the whip, and planning because living like you mean it is a bit damn exciting.

Chuckling… At dusty wonky blinds, that for some reason to me are the antithesis of household cleaning, (and also the dog, because just quietly, she’s a whippet and they are hilarious and ridiculous on a permanent basis.)

 

This is the week that was…well a tiny snippet of it.

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*If you are in Sydney over the next few weeks, try and catch some of Head On.

What’s been happening in your week? Lunches eaten? Books read? Maybe some of your own wonky dust filled blinds?

 

 

Educating your ears

The last couple of months it’s been all about the podcasts. And I mean ALL about the podcasts. Sure I’d listened to some here and there before but not quite at the rate I’m flying through them at the moment, (on reflection, it’s probably something to do with having three kids at school for the first time, yes ever- my ears are ready!)

Now, if I missed something interesting on the radio, I can catch up. If I have a particular subject I’d like to get to know a whole lot better there are generally oodles to choose from.

While there are some fantastic podcasts to choose from there are some eye crossing ones that simply don’t work for me and generally I’ll find the stop button fairly quickly. I’m all for giving most things a fair crack, but there is no point in listening to something that doesn’t resonate, I value that time and want to make sure I’m using it wisely. Educating my ears has been very enjoyable.

A few favourites in the last few months.

Conversations with Richard Fidler: so many varied topics in here.

A Small Voice: interviews with photographers.

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: creativity and all her shades.

Chat 10 Looks 3: Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales talk about art, books, politics and everything in between in an intelligent and funny way.

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What are some of your favourite podcasts to listen to at the moment?

Contemplating Cumquat Marmalade

Making a large batch of cumquat marmalade is a perfect time for deep contemplation. Not so much of the fruit themselves, but using the opportunity to completely dissolve into the task of cutting the flesh open, separating the pips, and cooking it up.

It’s a long labour of love if you have cumquats like mine, with small balls of juicy tart fruit that are filled with those pectin producing seeds. You need them out, but you also need them to set your marmalade. Cut, separate, simmer, stir stir stir, test, and bottle. While there’s not a lot of room for nodding off here, you do still need to pay attention, there’s also room for having a good think.

And so the wonderful dissolving process begins.

With hands busy, the task of making marmalade that tastes like sunshine in a jar begins, and with that, like many creative and repetitive tasks- the mind is set free.

To wonder at will, delving deep into ideas that often few other tasks in any given day allow. You need these kind of activities now and then. Busy hands creating something, but also time to slow it all on down, contemplate the intricacies of life, ponder on the importance of speaking up, our moral values as a society (or maybe just how good that sunshiney marmalade is going to taste with a few squares of dark chocolate tonight.)

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This cumquat tree was originally planted as a Tree of Life.

The marmalade was loosely based around this recipe.

Speaking Up

When you come away from a weekend of listening to intelligent people articulating on topics that are very close to your heart, it’s hard not to be completely pumped up about that, (and perhaps ready to bend anyone and everyone’s ears that happen to cross your path.)

In times like this I’m thankful for this space. So I can consider and muse to my heart’s content without the side effect of possible ear weariness, that may be associated with anyone that happened upon my doorstep in the last couple of weeks.

While the topics spoken on varied from anxiety, death, masculine shaped communities, politics and the importance of women’s voices; for the sake of not writing a thesis today, I’m going to stick with the last one.

The importance of women’s voices.

Now as a woman, someone who writes, someone who engages in regular cultural questioning and as someone who often feels censored on various levels, this one was always going to be a big one. With Tara Moss, Jane Caro, Tracey Spicer, Emily Maguire, and Sara Mansour, this panel wasn’t going to be wishy washy.

A panel known for speaking up where it matters, standing to be seen, and making sure their voices are heard in ways where it counts. These women have established voices, words that have been finely tuned and (for some) have been articulating well driven words for decades.

So where does that leave the listener?

Or the person that doesn’t have the public presence, and has no interest in being thrown into the arena spotlight, but still wants to be heard and counted on matters that lie close to the heart?

To start with, think local. Now whether it’s your food system, your clothing or social change that you are advocating for, your local community needs you. It’s something i’ve banged on from the beginning in some shape or form, but your local community needs you. In regards to being heard; power and leverage comes from forming together. So keep it small at first and then if and when you are ready, widen your circle.

Remember you don’t have to be ‘nice’ all the time. Politely demand more, and then repeat yourself, and then probably again, and then, you guessed it again. (The Good Girl Stripped Bare– Tracey Spicer.)

Equal representation needs diversity. Those different voices need to be heard, otherwise you don’t have an accurate snapshot of the area in which you live. Who’s driving your community? Who are the ones speaking up within your schools? Your work place? Your public spaces?

Turn up and connect. Power is networks, use existing structures or like minded souls to make those changes. Often it will just take one person to get the ball rolling. Ripples become waves and watching a single voice turning into a chorus is a wonderful thing. (2017 Women’s March)

You’ve always got something. Always. Something to give, no matter how small that voice seems at times, it’s yours to be used. Whether it be in a letter, a protest, standing up, creatively fuelled, the written word or simply raising a question in a room where the conversation has never been challenged before, (and oooh, there’s plenty of those to choose from.)

Throughout the ages there have always been people who have moved against the tide, stepped out of line, thrown questions in a noisy room and refused to be silenced.

Those voices, with their diversity of backgrounds, experience, colour, communities and sex, simply put, encourage a more wonderfully inclusive and balanced society…and that’s certainly something I’d like to aim for.

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Silence and Powerlessness– Rebecca Solnit

Icelandic Women’s Strike– 1975

Nurturing Wild in our Daughters– with Steve Biddulph