I’m gonna stop now.

I’m getting shortlisted for jobs but unfortunately I’m bombing out in the interviews. Next week is my last job interview. I’ll be retiring after this. It’s too hard to keep going.

What friends and family fail to understand is that I’m really terrible at Vivas. I seem quite robust and confident, but I panic when spoken words are required. So interviews, which are vivas for jobs, do me in. I can’t think on my feet. I respond to fairly asinine questions with even more asinine answers, and don’t even ask me to tell you a story about how magnificently I managed something. I won’t remember it, thus will panic and relate instead some terrible unrelated story.

I can’t remember my value proposition, and I think I’ve reached the end.

I’m done now.

Also, I think I’ll take a little break from this blog. If you’re all still interested in my renovations you can access my other blog The House That Jess Built at brisvegashome.wordpress.com, in which I chat about the endless house painting I seem to do.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing my research journey and other life events with me. I have really valued the small community I joined, your kind words and commentary, and camaraderie.

Take care.

 

 

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Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m deep in comfort cooking mode as the weather cools. Have a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of tea.

The weekend ended up being full of family and home and small comforts. After going to the ballet on Friday night with DH who is invited to EVERYTHING (this was a really beautiful Gershwin-inspired show, with ballet and tap and some gorgeous gorgeous orchestrated Gershwin and some of the most lovely costumes I’ve seen in AGES), I prepared a letter of recommendation for my PhD supervisor (she’s up for an award). Hubby was off with stepson visiting Sydney on Saturday, so I parked myself on the couch and enjoyed putting together the 500 word written commendation. One of my great joys is writing, and I’m beginning to do a lot more of it. Starting can be a bitch, but once I’m into it, I hate to stop.

I spent the rest of Saturday doing Very Useful Things. Earlier in the week I’d bought some fresh herbs and gardening equipment. I’m determined to grow herbs the possums can’t reach. So after spending the morning going to a yoga class, shopping, and cleaning the chookhouse, in the afternoon I covered an old concrete laundry tub with bird netting and stakes. Earlier on Friday I’d prepared the tub with a combination of potting mix, perlite, coco-peat and cow compost. I planted and watered the plants, and covered them in this new chew-preventer. It seems to have worked. I’m pretty sure that if they were determined the possums could get into the tubs, but they’d have a hell of a time getting out from under the netting – it’s very tangly stuff.

In south-east Queensland, the subtropical climate means that you can plant almost anything nearly all year round. Keep the plants well watered and they grow like topsy. I’ve been enjoying adding some interior plants to our house in the spare corners. It makes the house feel so friendly and house plants are once again back in fashion. My only problem is remembering to water them!

I also prepared a ham and potato soup. Now, I’m not normally a recipe sharer, as most of my recipes can be located online, but this was widely regarded by my family as a soup to beat all soups. Here’s the recipe. I omitted the cream because it just doesn’t need it, I used a smoked ham hock, and I used Campbell’s salt-reduced real chicken stock. I cooked the crap out of the ham hock before adding the (red-skinned) potatoes, because ham hocks need longer cooking. And by setting aside some of the potatoes before blitzing the soup means that the soup has lovely chunky pieces, as recommended. I like this soup much more than split-pea and ham soup.

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One of the things my stepdaughter and I like to do if we’re at home together in the evenings is watch a silly rom-com and eat snack-food. I made some nachos because we had been given 5 ripe avocados by a student, and we watched Bridesmaids again, hysterical when the pooping scene began. DH arrived home just in time for the scene, one of his all time favourites. One of the reasons I love this movie is that it has an all-woman cast of comedians (and Rose Byrne, who is delightful, and funny). Even the subsidiary male characters are comedians, and Jon Hamm SHOULD be a comedian. Gosh he has a goofy smile.

Sunday was spent with the whole family. It was a lovely day. Step kids and my daughter all behaved themselves, the day was a gorgeous autumn, south-east Queensland at its best. Bright sun, cool, crisp mornings and chilly, still evenings. Stepdaughter was singing in a choral concert at a local festival, so we watched this very good school choir perform 3 lovely songs. I ate my favourite market food: Turkish Gozleme, and then hubby and I went home for a bit before heading out to the local shopping mall, where I bought two pairs of new shoes (flats. I’m sick of wearing high heels, and I can’t walk in them any more), and my stepdaughter tried in vain to persuade us to replace her broken phone with a brand new one (nope. She broke it when she SAT on it, and there’s still 6 months on the contract, so I’m not spending more money on it). She got my old iphone 4S instead.

Later that day I made a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. It really looked like this, and it’s a beautifully light and moist cake. Made with real chocolate, butter, almond meal and eggs, it’s sinfully easy to prepare. Serve it with icecream, cream and raspberries.

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And then I prepared a lamb leg roast with gravy, roasted root vegetables and green beans. I added a tiny slosh of fish sauce to the gravy and it worked a treat. Added necessary body and salt. Told you I was in a cooking mood! Today I’ve made a macaroni cheese dish to cut up and freeze for lunches and side dishes, and later on I’ll make a quiche or two.

I’m making all this food because I love the weather. It reminds me of my hometown weather, all cold mornings, rainy afternoons and frigid winters. I very nearly made scones yesterday afternoon too, but then there would have been no dessert and the dog would not have been walked.

So today’s share is about food. I hope your weekend was similarly full of family comforts.

Today’s post brought to you by Diana, here.

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Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee (or a brew), I’d be inviting you to sit with me on our small enclosed porch, which I’ve recently dressed with some fresh greenery and new cushion covers. It’s amazing how awesome a nook can look with some palm fronds and a pot plant or two. And a stray climber to add some hipster greenery chic. (No, I’ve not done that deliberately: it grew all by itself.) Sorry about the image size: WordPress used to have small, medium and large sizes but they’ve taken out the medium one. Bad, bad WordPress.

 

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I’ve been doing some cushion updating recently. Diabolical for my DH, who thinks the following scene is an appropriate reminder of what I’m doing to him:

I think they look quite nice but I concede I may have reached the limit:

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The stabby Ben Stiller limit. The truly sad part is that the old cushions are still on the bedroom floor awaiting repurposing!

While I’m waiting for my job interview, I’m doing some soft furnishing upgrades. I’m not yet ready to start painting the interiors again but it’s getting close! In the meantime, I’ve created rooms of colour stories. The master bedroom is and will be a combination of soft blues and greys, navy and white soft furnishings married with warm antiques and soft white walls. The lounge room is the winter room, best enjoyed with a comfortable rug and a glass of red wine. It’s warm reds and autumn colours married with dark wood furniture. The kitchen has splashes of red but I’m not being precious about the colours there. The dining room is a bright mish mash of primary colours, turquoise, orange, blues, greens, pink and yellow. It sounds too much but they’re mostly paintings and glassware, riotous pops of colour. I’m loving colour right now, but it’s best enjoyed with bright white walls and that means house painting. Not yet.

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m rather enjoying some home time right now. I’m cooking a bit more; I’m baking, I’m loving the chookies. It’s easy in my household to be so outward looking that we don’t get to spend time making our home lovely. The DH, who it must be said is not a homebody, has finally mown the front lawn and we’re slowly cleaning up the garden in preparation for some landscaping. This morning DH cleared away a garden disaster zone near the house in the backyard and I have a cunning plan to level the area and pave it, giving us a bit more usable outdoor space while we wait in vain for the next lot of funds to renovate the remainder of the house.

As the wife of a VIP who runs a music school, I reached my functions threshold this week. Last night, to be precise. Sometimes I just need some quiet nights at home and this week was one of them. Never mind we’d been out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings! This weekend is an ensembles festival. I begged off. Hubby has in no way tried to persuade me to accompany him, luckily.

Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day in Australia. I’m truly hoping I get to wish my mum a happy day, because it’s all getting a bit difficult to stay in touch from far away. You’d think birthdays and special occasions would become more important away from family. Truth is: life gets in the way and I often forget to plan for special times. I always swore it was due to busyness. Nah. I’m just forgetful, and the birthdays and special moments just seem to get closer and closer these days. The older I get, the faster they go by.

Screw you, old age.

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Nah. Seriously. Have a great day, ladies. May your young children give you a piece of pottery they made in Art class; may your teenagers do the dishes, laundry, wash the floors and clean the bathroom and kitchen; may your adult children give you something really really special. Like a gift card for a massage or something. And champagne.

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This post was brought to you by Diane, at Part Time Monster. There’ll be a linky very soon!

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Friday Filibuster: Writing habits.

I’ve been trying to write a few vignettes of my home town lately in preparation for writing my crime novel (Nanowrimo is looming large) and I thought, in a moment of fancy, I would buy a pretty notebook and write by hand. But I’m a bit annoyed by the use of pen and paper. For a start, I can’t edit without crossing out and starting the sentence again. It’s slow and my sentences don’t get any better by handwriting them. And, sadly, I’m annoyed by the notebook I bought. The lines are made up of the stories of famous authors and are too legible for comfort. I may give up my attempts and transfer what I have to a writing folder in my Dropbox. The notebook can become the working notebook for my cabaret. And I’ll hightail it back to my lovely lovely Moleskin notebooks. Moleskins are great. They might be expensive, but they hold their shape, don’t fall apart, and have narrow lines. I don’t know why I abandoned them! No, hang on: I do. There weren’t any at the shop I went to.

I’m wondering if anyone else has the same frustrations as me? Has the long term use of your computer disabled your patience with long-form hand writing?

Sadly, I’m also really really bad at typing. I did a simple online typing course a few years ago and I developed some very good habits, but my typing speed never went above 50 wpm, and I make terrible, horrible typos. I’ve long since lost the skill and now I just look like a wanna be typist without talent or speed.

This morning I read a blogpost by a favourite scholarly blogger of mine: Patter, who wrote a light-hearted piece about what she wears when she writes. Upon awakening and before she has a shower, she gets into tracksuit bottoms and slippers and a sloppy joe. Hair goes up in a messy bun, cups of tea/coffee are made, and she writes for a couple of hours in the morning before planning her afternoon activities. Her habit describes mine to a T. I’m not an early morning person. So when I have a writing deadline, this is the best way for me to meet my targets.

Hilary Mantel does the same. In her words, published a few weeks ago in The Guardian:

I used to be a late starter, but now I get up in the dark like a medieval monk, commit unmediated scribble to a notebook, and go back to bed about six, hoping to sleep for another two hours and to wake slowly and in silence. Random noise, voices in other rooms, get me off to a savage, disorderly start, but if I am left in peace to reach for a pen, I feel through my fingertips what sort of day it is. Days of easy flow generate thousands of words across half a dozen projects – and perhaps new projects. Flow is like a mad party – it goes on till all hours and somebody must clear up afterwards. Stop-start days are not always shorter, are self-conscious and anxiety-ridden, and later turn out to have been productive and useful. I judge in retrospect. On flow days, I have no idea what I’ve written till I read it back. It’s a life with shocks built in.

You can read the whole article here. She doesn’t mind which writing medium she uses and she writes every day: The most frequent question writers are asked is some variant on, “Do you write every day, or do you just wait for inspiration to strike?” I want to snarl, “Of course I write every day, what do you think I am, some kind of hobbyist?”

It occurs to me that depression* breaks these hard-won habits. Depression and melancholia can disturb flow, and will power is meaningless when confronted by the miserable mind’s contrary bleakness. Which is why, I suspect, blogging is such a panacea for those with depression. It helps maintain connections, it promotes healthy habits, it helps to unburden the mind. And it keeps a writer writing.

 

*I don’t have depression right now. But I really do need a job to give me a sense of purpose, even though I’m starting to see the joy in having time to write, make music, compose and create again without being too worried about money. I’m not sure why I want a Proper Job. Maybe it’s the underlying middle-class Presbyterianism I was raised in!

Holiday Funtime 

DH and I are on hols right now, although it doesn’t feel very holiday-like to me. Last Friday we flew south to my home town Melbourne for my son’s engagement party on the Saturday and I’ve been schlepping about so hard I’ll need a holiday to get over the holiday. 

Friday am we arrived and promptly went to bed for a bit, because I’m tired all the time. In the afternoon we dragged ourselves into town to visit Whistler’s Mother, which (who?) was on show at the NGV International. Then it was an early dinner at a Korean diner before 2 comedy shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Folks, there were 500 shows at this festival. Unbelievable. Then cocktails at my favourite little bar Double Happiness, which is quiet yet buzzing. Not too loud and shouty there. 

   
 
Saturday was the engagement do, but not before DH and I went back to the NGV to see Warhol and Wei Wei. An amazing exhibition. Then it was a delicious Mexican lunch at a great place on Chapel St before seeing another silly show at my favourite venue Chapel off Chapel. This time it was Songs for Sarah Connor, terminated. Not as original as I’d hoped: I wanted more original songs rather than rewrites of well known show tunes. 

Then, Sunday morning after the engagement party we borrowed my sister’s car and headed to Aireys Inlet for a brief respite from the world. It’s quiet here and you can hear the ocean from the house. 

  
Then on Tuesday I headed back to Melbourne for my sister’s PhD graduation. Very proud. We now have 2 doctors in the family, neither of the life-saving kind. 

  
Of course, a real doctor would have come in handy for when my newly minted Dr sister decided to have a mild allergic reaction to the shellfish at lunch and get an itchy redness. I didn’t leave town until well after 7pm, so am in bed today recovering. 

Tomorrow we must leave my favourite place but I’m pleased to announce that not only am I writing a cabaret but I’m also starting my crime fiction novel. At the moment I’m just writing a bunch of disparate scenes to see how I write fiction. There’s no plot yet. Mostly descriptions of Brisbane. I think I haven’t read enough crime fiction set in hot climates; mostly the books are set in temperate zones or cold climates. Time for some steam heat. 

So I’ve decided to do #2

That’s not a poop, folks. It means I’m gonna do the cabaret. Out of a list of 7 creative things, 2 was the consistent front runner. I did a straw poll on FB and my friends loved them all except the academic numbers, which I’ll save for quiet time. 

In the meantime I’m calling my cabaret “A Bagful of Crazy”: women on the margins. Or something like that. My problem is I’m not funny. I’m actually quite a serious person (which is why my husband is so good for me; he cracks me up every day). So it’s no good me doing a funny comedy show. I won’t be on my own; I’m roping in an ex-student, plus a woman in her thirties if I can get takers. They can do the funny songs and keep it fresh. I’m all tragedy. Pathetic really. 

I’ve already started the planning. Women in musicals are always written by men. There are perhaps 4 women I can name off the top of my head who’ve cracked the scene: Jeannine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Fun Home),  Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman (Secret Garden), and Cindy Lauper (Kinky Boots). Women in musicals can be written well. Sondheim is pretty good once he got over being lambasted for his poor portrayal of women in A Funny Thing…Forum. Marc Shaiman and Stephen Schwartz  draw women pretty well and each champion strong women such as Elphaba or Galinda. But there are a fair few women drawn as monstrous caricatures, such as Rose in Gypsy, or Margaret in Carrie. If played badly, they are rightly awful. I want to reclaim these women. They weren’t bad. They were lonely, sad, ignorant, prejudiced. Marginalised and maligned. They had their reasons for being awful. 

So the first challenge for me is to select the songs. I have about 10; I’ll need 12, and I’ll be culling as the cabaret takes shape. I’m thinking of doing a 2-week course in creating cabaret down in Sydney in July. Exxie but my business hasn’t had overheads this year, and I need a creative kicker to help shape the story and patter. 

I’m also writing some of my own songs. This will provide links to disparate songs and help shape the drama. 

For the first time in forever, this feels like a fun, creative thing. So, look out, folks. A Bagful of Crazy. Coming to a cabaret near you. 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee I’d be telling you that this is the second time I’ve tried to upload a weekend coffee share but my internet connection is so crap (thanks OPTUS and the Australian Federal Gov’t for your shit, misinformed policies on internet capacity and speed) that I lost the first one due to dodgy internet connection. WordPress doesn’t like interruptions and tends then not to save drafts. I’m racing against time to finish this post before the linky closes.

(Actually, how about this: I’ll post it now and edit as I go. Sounds fair. Back soon.)

And….that was quick. I often upload my shares on a Monday morning which is still Sunday night in other hemispheres so I think I get away with it!

Righty-ho.

Now, I could tell you about my three chookies Euphemia, Josephine and Iolanthe who are very dear little girls, but who are not yet laying consistently (in fact, I’m pretty sure 2 of them haven’t started at all as we’re only getting one egg a day). I sit and watch them every day. Or I could tell you about my doggy girl Poppy, who is a bit smelly and not eating very much. I think she’s overheating in this crap weather and needs another trim. Or I could tell you about my cat Lucy, who manages to piss someone off nearly every day. However they are self-sustaining little creatures, mostly. I could tell you that my attempts to manage our herbs are coming to no good. I can’t manage the water issue or the sun issue. They either get too much sun or not enough, or I manage to drown them in water or dry them out. I wish they’d let me know what the problems are without just dying on me. On the plus side, the basil seems to be growing well and the possums have finally stopped eating the chilli leaves.

I could also tell you about the umpty-hundreds of concerts I’ve seen this week, very excited by all the offerings at the Brisbane Baroque festival, including Handel’s acclaimed Agrippina (who knew 4 hours could go so fast?!); a Bricolage of Heavenly Bach, a Vivacity of Vivaldi with Vivica Genaux and tonight a Purcell treat called King Arthur with some wonderful ex-QLD CON graduates in the roles.

But no. Feeling the pinch of unemployment. And no recreational or legal drugs to while away the hours. Sigh. Except coffee. Here, have a brew.

My last post revealed I’d finished the book chapter. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, even if it WAS 10,000 words long. Plus a 165-word Abstract, and a 1000-word reference list. But that leaves me in that awful pit place of no job and few prospects. I’ve applied for 2 jobs OS: one in New Zealand (a 3-hour flight away, then a 2-hour drive), and one in Singapore (7-hour flight). There’s nothing here except a Head of Music at a couple of high schools, for which I think I’m uniquely unqualified, because I don’t like children. Much.

I’m having a hell of a time staying positive and actually I just think I’m not very. I have a couple of creative ideas, but that would mean actually doing them. And when I’m low (depressed because no job= no value in the world, and this is literally the ONLY reason I’m low: I don’t have a fulfilling job) I’m not very proactive about creativity. I pretend to be a social constructivist but in reality I think I’m a pragmatist and I feel a lot more useful being gainfully employed.

Oh, to hell with it. Creative ideas are below in list form. Because that’s how I roll. Have another coffee. And here’s some delicious ginger cake I made a while back. Do have a slice, and enjoy the read:

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  1. Oily Rag Opera. A chamber opera company for small productions that only need 4-6 singers and a decent pianist. It could not pay for performers or players or personnel. How can it? The cost of putting on an opera is so high that even to stage a community production can cost upward of $50,000. And that’s just for the performance space! But I’d like to do a chamber opera: perhaps Suzanna’s secret or something like that. With actual proper opera singers who in this state are mostly out of work, and a good MD and D. If we could get a black box performance space this thing could have legs. There is some opportunity in this state for such ventures.
  2. Badly, sadly, madly.  Crazy women’s cabaret. A 55 minute cabaret with 3 female performers, one female MD, and one female D. Has it been done before? No doubt. There’s a few cabaret shows springing up in Australia – when I say a few, I actually mean shit-loads. There are hundreds. We have decent cabaret festivals in every major city, plus a heap of fringe festivals and comedy festivals too. So. 3 performers, 10 songs. Some self-penned songs (yes, I do this too), and some Musical Theatre favourites, and a few trios/duets. Obviously the theme being bad, mad or sad, all the songs have to relate in some way to a woman’s internal crazy. You know, stalker chick, psycho killer, manic depressive, abandoned woman, that sort of thing. With a half-decent patter and stage direction.
  3. Write a novel. Don’t know what about. Feeling a bit bereft of ideas for this one. I’m a bit plot driven, so perhaps a crime thingy. I love crime noir styles and have a peculiar fondness for a fellow called Peter Temple, who in my book writes some of the most compelling Australian crime fiction ever. His prose is sparse, hard to unpack at times (no problem with this: he writes for an intelligent audience), and he really GETS the bleakness of some Australian landscapes, whether of the human mind or the natural world. The only problem I have with it is that Temple writes with a strongly male focus, and all his main characters are male. He doesn’t write women well at all, really – they’re usually caricatures of what he thinks women OUGHT to be. Which isn’t so bad, exactly, just that I’d love to have some female protagonists in my reading. So, perhaps I could write my own.
  4. Write some more songs and compositions. This is not so hard if I’m doing pop and folk-inspired music. When it’s more classical or cabaret inspired it’s harder because my keyboard skills just aren’t up to it. And I actually believe good keyboard skills are what makes good composers. They know how to put chords together. Anyway, I could certainly write a few songs again. About fricking time. Or I could fix up some old ones.
  5. Write me my fricking monograph from my thesis and get me to a publisher, stat.
  6. Write a couple of research articles I’ve been putting off because.

So there you have it, folks. Yes, I have some creativity. No, I don’t feel like using it right now. Have another coffee, or perhaps a tea.

Brought to you by Diana here

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So, I’ve finished that article…

I’ve actually finished the book chapter I was writing and I’ve finished editing the book. I’m lazing about on the couch now, wondering what to do next. Friend reminds me to keep job seeking (in freaking Barcelona? Hong Kong? Winchester? Singapore?), write my book proposal and then begin another article. Between you and me, I’d like to be paid for my work. 

Sigh. 

I made a ripper brunch today. Here’s a picture:

  
Yes, I poached the eggs. You’re welcome. 👍

That’s all I got today. I think I’ll take a nap. Maybe I’ll finally begin that Goodreads book thingy I promised to start all those months ago. I still haven’t yet read a book: does erotic fiction count?!

Anyhoo. Ciao for now. 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were drinking coffee, you’d be in the backyard with me meeting my new additions to the fam. Introducing Euphemia, Josephine and Iolanthe. New members of the menagerie and my birthday gift. Which possibly explains why no posts for several days. Plus, mum and dad flew up to see us and that’s added another level of busyness to the weekend.

   
    
  
And our first egg. I’m a proud mama but have to watch out for vampire teddy bear Poppy the groodle who will eat the chickens, sadly. We’re planning a chicken run. Gotta go, driving to Tambourine today with the olds for a gentle day out.