U is for Underwater: Getting Reacquainted With The Dive (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
chrisinplymouth's
photostream

Is there anything more soothing and magical than the ocean?

I have always been drawn to the ocean and consider myself lucky living in a beautiful harbourside city with amazing beaches. The rhythm of the breaking waves, the blue azure of water on a sunny day and the glinting of the sun all combine to seductively draw me to its presence. Even just walking along the cliff tops, gazing out at the Pacific Ocean, letting my mind wander is incredibly cathartic. Occasionally, the water throws up one of its inhabitants in the form of a dolphin or a whale to remind me of Mother’s wonderful nature.

About 18 years ago, the Italian Stallion did a PADI dive course and obtained our open water diver qualification. This enables us to dive to 18 metres. We have not dived as much as we have liked as we put diving on hold when our children were born. But the lure of it is ever present.

There is nothing like a dive, particularly in tropical waters. We have been lucky enough to dive in a few tropical locations and snorkel in a few others, including the Great Barrier Reef. Tropical waters are warm and clear and the visibility is amazing and that’s just the start! Then there’s the marine life, spanning the spectrum of nature’s palette, a world of grace and action, beauty and terror.

Great Barrier Reef - Australia

Our last diving experience was in Morea, Tahiti in the lagoon. We decided to take it slow with an introductory dive to reacquaint ourselves with this wonderful activity after our parenting hiatus. I remember the day vividly. I woke up nervously questioning whether diving was like riding a bike and whether I could really just jump back in and pick it up. We were the only people on the dive that morning, being escorted by Pascal, a  handsome fifty-something year old silver-haired Frenchman who spoke no English. Luckily I had five years of schoolgirl French in my repertoire and between a lot of hand gestures, bad French (on my part) worse English on Pascal’s part and miming we established basic communications. I think I must have inadvertently communicated my nervousness because Pascal looked as though he was stuck with a skittish nerveball on his hands wondering how he we were all going to survive the next two hours.

To do an introductory dive, you have to pass two underwater skills. One is to take off your mask and put it back on without it ending up full of water and the other is to put the breathing apparatus (called a regulator) back in your mouth once it has fallen out. We all jumped into the water to do these skills. I had done them before of course, but that was over a decade back. Hitting the water, I started to panic breath. Panic breathing (short sharp bursts of gasping breath) is not a good thing on a dive as it quickly consumes precious oxygen. Pascal tried to calm me down in his gentlemanly French way holding me in a death grip, liability firmly etched in his face.

Dive skills

Within minutes I started to listen to my breathing, found the rhythm, focused on the length of each breath and watched the bubbles. I was back!! Pascal was relieved and gave me the OK sign with his fingers. Quickly dispensing with the skills we set out to explore. The kaleidoscope of colours was amazing, the fish life incredible and the thrill of spotting a shark energizing. But what I will particularly remember is getting reacquainted with the slow and deliberate movements of the dive. You kick slowly and deliberately, you turn slowly and deliberately and you breath slowly and deliberately. There are not too many opportunities in life to just be slow and deliberate. I also remember the euphoric feeling afterwards and this huge jolt of confidence in my abilities.

Awesome

I am hoping to one day dive the Maldives and Palau, possibly with the children. In the meantime, I am content to explore the underwater world by snorkel from above confident in the knowledge that diving really is like riding a bike….. you never forget. Oh and it really does help to have a handsome silver-haired French diving expert and the Italian Stallion egging you on.

Are you a water person or a land lubber?

T is for Taste, Texture and Tone: Flunking Interior Decorating 101 (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
chrisinplymouth's
photostream

I was talking to a friend earlier about the topic for today’s “T” blog post because I was not really happy with my initial topic choices. It’s every good woman’s right to change her mind and I must be a very good woman today because I’ve changed my mind about my blog topic a hundred times. But enough about my blogging angst….

I have always pictured living in a house with personality – one that’s warm, personal and says a lot about its inhabitants. Understandably, this personality is not created overnight and requires something more than just a professional interior decorator’s touch. Our naked rooms are just begging to be dressed and I would like nothing more than to dress them. But I am looking straight into those oncoming headlights, just like those cute little rabbits that end up as someone’s rabbit stew.

Coordinating taste, texture and tone just seems like an impossible task. Scanning ads and the Internet for furniture pieces I like is easy. I’ve got a pile of torn out newspaper pages all depicting wonderful buffets, sofas and display cabinets. But matching pieces to decor, pieces with each other, pieces to fabric and having the vision to put it all together is beyond me. No number of trips to IKEA or items with really cool sounding nordic names will teach me the art of home decorating. Just digressing for a moment: those IKEA design names are so great, I wonder if they design first and wait for inspiration to name it or some manager at IKEA says make me a “pysslingar” or a “raskog”.

As a result, our rooms echo, our walls are bare, our sofa is old and our knick knacks are homeless. This friend I was talking to has so much talent in this area, I want to live in her house…. heck, I want to be her house! She decorated it herself and it screams “welcome” and this is a “home” from every angle. Thankfully, she has offered to provide me with some much needed advice, hopefully enough to overcome my decorating inertia.

Another tool I am going to use is the website, design-seeds.com. The site has delicious colour cards, presented in such a fashion that you mostly want to eat them. I am hoping to find at least a few cards that will give me some ideas on what matches with what. One of life’s little mysteries has always been that I cannot transfer my ability to colour co-ordinate my wardrobe to furnishings and wall colour. They are not so different, are they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe it’s the thought that getting it wrong has big consequences. The possibility of having to stare at an olive green coloured wall next to pink skirting for the next 20 years of dinnertime does not bode well. But they looked really good on the colour card and that small postage size sample we tried out before committing. They did officer, honest…..

The time has therefore come to bite the home decorating bullet. My knick knacks need a home, the rooms need to be dressed and I need to get over myself. My tones will now learn to match my textures so that I can telegraph my taste. Onwards and upwards to furniture swatch, colour palette and wood grain hell heaven!

Have you had any interesting home decorating experiences?

R is for Reality: When Realities Collide (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's
phosostream

I have been married to the Italian Stallion for more than two decades. When we first met back in the dark ages we spent some time comparing our respective realities and decided that we were a pretty good fit. The big items were all processed and ticked (checked) and the courtship culminated in a marriage proposal….eventually…..after seven years and well, it was a leap year. We were married nine month’s later, went on our honeymoon and then we started to live together.

That’s when each of us REALLY got acquainted with the other’s reality.  The first decade of our marriage was about whose reality was better. Ah, young love…aint it grand? The next decade was about making our own new, bigger and better combined reality, something we have done with moderate success. The third decade is still a work in progress but involves consolidating and building on that combined reality and helping our children create their own.

Let me give you a pictorial sense of our reality on a few of the more significant marital issues:

Pets

His Reality                                                                                                 My Reality

Our Reality 

Holidays

His Reality                                                                                                My Reality

Our Reality

Romance

His Reality                                                                                                      My Reality

Our Reality

Housekeeping

His Reality                                                                                                 My Reality

Our Reality

What happens when realities collide? Apart from the smoke and ash that eventually settles, it’s not really the black hole that one would think. Life is certainly not dull and we all bring our prespectives to the household.

And now, taking my tongue right out of my cheek, I am hoping to make this the best decade yet with the Italian Stallion and to continue to carve out our new reality in middle age. 

Q is for Quirkiness: It’s Quite The Thing To Celebrate (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr –
duncan’s photostream

I have a set of those magnetic word fridge magnets in my kitchen. The ones where each magnet is a word which can be combined to form sentences or thoughts or anything else that takes the author’s fancy. I thought having a set would promote creativity in my sons and communication within our family to assist with inventory control – there is much to take from a one word sentence: “milk”. Plus, I was just plain curious what my children would do with them.

The magnets have been used to comment on the garden, the weather, my sons’ self proclaimed awesomeness (well, they are teenagers) and my wisdom or rather lack thereof (well once again, they are teenagers). The other week, I woke up to find the following stuck on my fridge:

My initial reaction was laughter. My thoughts then drifted to the message being more of the same said self-proclaimed awesomeness variety and I found myself asking exactly to what apparatus was this referring? As far as I knew, my sons had not had a working chemistry set for at least five years. The thought then crossed my mind that in fact it could be my husband’s message. Well, I have to confess I have had more romantic overtures but for an attention grabber this scores about an 8.5.

I then paused and concluded that this was my younger son’s work, he of the quirky nature. I say this with a great deal of motherly love and affection for I love this quirkiness in him. Whilst this was on my fridge, to me it was totally off the wall. This type of humour for an almost 13 year old?  I’m not one to brag incessantly about my children. In fact, I survived mothers’ groups with my infants without once proclaiming they understood the theory of relativity at the age of 4 months. Oh, the pressure!

But, it has made me realise I am drawn to quirkiness and that parenting a quirky child is not without difficulties. The school system generally does not rate quirkiness highly, relying on pushing students through a mass transit system. A lot of teachers don’t value and just don’t know how to deal with difference. In the jungle of the schoolyard, there is a tendency for quirky kids to be ridiculed and abandoned. Tweeny boys look for and bond over similarities. It has been that way since the cavemen starting comparing their clubs.

My desire is that my quirky one enjoys his high school years and looks back on them as a positive experience. But I am conflicted, I don’t want him to lose his quirkiness, his uniqueness. I have this sense that as an adult his quirkiness will hold him in good stead and that it will make him stand out in the competitive crowd in positive ways. In my adult world political correctness, conservatism and uniformity abound. But ironically, it tends to be the few who are truly innovative which leave a mark on that world. And how does the innovative adult’s journey usually begin? As a quirky child.

So, on this Q day I celebrate quirkiness. May my son’s apparatus continue to rock the storm throughout his life.

P is for Plethora: So Many P Words, So Little Time (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr-
chrisinplymouth's
photostream

The A to Z Blogging Challenge is an interesting beast. There are some letters that I have struggled with and yet there are others where the ideas just come in abundance. I suppose that’s why they call it a challenge.. and challenging, yet gratifying it has been.

“P” is one of these plentiful letters with great topics coming to me without pause. I really didn’t need to plow the dictionary or plunder the Internet for particular subjects. So being the positive person that I am, knowing that I won’t be pilloried by the wonderful blogging population out there and pondering that perchance this post will be pertinent to at least some of you, I have decided to publish a plethora of “P” words.

I have a passion for word play and punning. Some might say that’s a bit peculiar, but I have come to the conclusion that word play and punning are rather popular pastimes. Not one to procrastinate I throw on my pantaloons and pursue my passion with persistance and patience and without pause.

I also have a pechant for rhyming schloky poetry. I have penned a plentiful number of positive and philosophical birthday poems for plutonic pals and acquaintances. Some of them have even thought they were pretty as a picture and have framed them for posterity. They are rather unique pieces of prose and are in no way pedestrian. A poetic portrait, if you will. One day I may even find prosperity through my prose and passions. Pending that, I will have to participate in paid penance…er, employment and persist in perfecting my product  part time.

All “P” words aside, I really do love to write funny rhyming poems for friends’ special occasions and love to think about rhyming word combinations and puns. I’d love to hear from you if you (secretly or otherwise) love punning and word play. Let me know what form your punning/word play takes.

Just in case it wasn’t pitch perfect and painfully clear, this post was brought to you by the letter P and the colour purple. It was no problem or painstaking, and in fact was a pleasure to produce.

K is for Killer Wildlife: Kangaroos and Koalas (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr
chrisinplymouth
photostream

I have been reading some fantastic blogs on my travels through the A to Z Challenge. One of them is by Geoff Maritz, who lives in Capetown, South Africa. Geoff’s concept for the Challenge is to write about his home in Africa, including its wildlife. You can find Geoff’s blog here: Geoff’s Blogs. He has a killer post about Kilimanjaro today – great K word, Geoff!

Geoff has inspired me to write about some of Australia’s unique killer wildlife. Let me show you a couple of our natives.

Kangaroos

Kangaroos are native to Australia and are marsupials. The name ‘kangaroo” is derived from the Aboriginal language. “Kangaroo” was originally “gangurru” and was  the native’s description of the grey kangaroo. Groups of kangaroos are called mobs.

Some kangaroos can jump 30 feet and and can hop up to 45 kilometres and hour. The largest kangaroo, the Red Kangaroo, can grow as high as 6 feet and weigh 200 pounds. Something I didn’t know and just found out was that kangaroos can’t move backwards and they can’t move their back feet independantly on land. However, when they swim they can kick with one foot at a time. Baby kangaroos are called joeys and are born after only 31 – 36 days of  gestation.  They are basically tiny,  pink, hairless animals that don’t come off of their mother’s teat for weeks and live in their mother’s pouch.

That’s gotta hurt!

Kangaroos are strong and males usually box. Usually this is playful, but can be part of a show of dominance. You do NOT want to be kicked by a kangaroo, although it is an amazing feat of strength and balance. A kangaroo will rear up on its tail and then kick with both feet at the same time. If you are a male of average height, that usually connects with your pride and joy. Great subject for a family video, but you would only want to capture that frame once!

Kangaroos essentially sleep during the day and feed at night. Contrary to popular belief, there are no kangaroos hopping down the street in urban areas, although in some parts this can happen in times of drought. Most urban dwelling Australians see kangaroos by the side of the road – either alive or as road kill or in a wild life sanctuary, just like tourists.

Koalas

Koalas are only found in four states of Australia: Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The word ‘koala‘ comes from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘no drink’. Koalas mostly eat eucalyptus leaves and this provides them with the water they need. Therefore, they do not, or only rarely, drink water.

Koalas are not actually bears, they are marsupials, which means they carry their young in a pouch like kangaroos. Adult koalas measure between 64 to 76 centimetres in length and weigh between 7 and 14 kilograms.

Koalas have a great life, they basically eat and sleep and seem constantly in a languid satiated state. The reason Koala’s sleep so much is that it takes a lot of energy to digest eucalyptus leaves, which are tough. They are also poisonous to other species.  Male koalas are solitary animals, like their man caves and often live alone.

Most urban Australians will see koalas only in the wildlife sanctuary just like tourists. Sometimes, you can catch a glimpse of a colony of koalas living in trees in rural areas, but in my experience this is occasional at best. Unfortunately koala habitat is on the decline and they are also under threat from cars and dog attacks.

just hanging around

So, come on down and see the natives. They are cute, entertaining and we really don’t bite….much!

J is for Jeans: I Think Therefore I Am a Blue Denim Purist (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr
bon_here's photstream

I love jeans and have worn them ever since I can remember. Personally, I think all men and women, no matter their body shape or size look good in jeans. Jeans can make a person look incredibly sexy – more so than any low-cut top or mini skirt. A smart woman knows how to leave some things to a man’s imagination and play her jeanwear to the max.

Playing the jeanlook to the max!

Being born in the mid sixties, I was  a little young for the whole hippy flare thing when it appeared the first time around. I confess I haven’t really embraced it this time around either. I’m more of a straight leg or a boot cut kind of girl. The things those cuts do to a woman’s leg length are truly miraculous and I owe more than a few inches to some clever fashion designers.

Over the years, trends in jeans have come and gone. We have had the skinny, the stovepipe, the boyfriend, the baggy, the flair, the straight, the dyed, the stonewashed, high rise, mid rise and low rise to name just a few. I have worn most of these jeans styles over the years although have steered clear of the skinny, stovepipe and boyfriend. By avoiding these, I am hoping to prevent inflicting permanent psychological damage on my sons – it just wouldn’t do for me to be wearing the same clothes as their female teeny peers.

Traditional jeans were a product of the 1850’s gold rush. The miners wanted sturdy work clothes with pockets that did not tear away. Leob Strauss (later to be known as Levi Strauss) started making copper riveted “waste overalls” in 1872 and received the patent for them in 1873. Jeans became really popular in the 1930’s after covering many a bottom in cowboy movies. They were originally dyed blue by the use of indigo dye.

All of my jeans have been either black or traditional denim blue. OK, I admit that I did wear dyed jeans for a brief period in the eighties, but the dye colour I chose was light blue. My blue jean population has far outweighed my black jean population for I am a blue denim purist. I have never owned a pair of white jeans.

For those of you who are up on the latest fashion trends, the latest “jeans” style is the neon skinny. These come in all sorts of fruity flavours – pink, red, mint, grape etc. I am waiting for them to produce the multi-coloured fruit salad jean, if only to have all fruit groups covered. With the greatest respect to all the fashion aficianados out there – THESE ARE NOT JEANS. They are coloured tight-fitting pants, that happen to resemble jeans, simply because they have two legs, pockets and a zip. 

I will take blue denim over food group fashion any day of the week. If the pair has a leather branding patch on the back depicting two horses pulling a pair of jeans and can fade in the wash, so much the better. I am not fussy, I’ll take dark denim, faded denim, almost white denim and sometimes spotted denim.

Many a pair of my jeans have retired into the cut-off hall of fame – at which point they cease to be classified as jeans and become jean shorts.  Another good use for used jeans is this handy quilt, which I DIDN’T make, but admire anyone who could.

Long live the blue denim jean revolution. The use of the indigo font in this blog is a salute to blue denim and Levi Strauss!

[To any students of fashion who may accidentally stumble onto this page, this article represents my own personal viewpoint and is written toungue in cheek. Please don’t use it as an educational reference, unless you want a guaranteed F.]

 

H is for Home Run: What It Means To Be An Australian Baseball Fan (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -mag3737's photostream

Have you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole?  I often feel that way with my love of baseball.

Living in Australia, I am surrounded by a sport’s mad culture. Relative to its population (currently just under 23 million), Australia packs a mighty punch on the world sport scene, particularly in relation to non-winter sports. We are one of only two countries that have competed in every summer games of the modern Olympiad, having won a total of 444 medals.

Our national games are Australian Rules football/ rugby league in winter and cricket in summer. In some parts of the country it is almost mandatory to introduce yourself by which footy team you follow… “Hello my name is Joe and I am a Sydney Swans supporter. It has been three weeks since I last entered a football ground”  and to speak “footy tongue” so you can converse with shop keepers and cab drivers.  For years Australia dominated world cricket – all forms: test cricket, the one day game, the world cup, we were the force! The force at the moment is “consolidating”  – the wonderful euphemism used by cricket lovers who are in denial and refuse to use the “s” word, or “slump”.

Me, I’m a baseball lover. That good old square peg in a country that dotes on cricket.

I am not sure how much you know about cricket, but the long form or test cricket is a game that is played over five days… as in five whole days!  The usual result is a draw, pushing keys into the grass to test the pitch is considered normal, commentators count the number of seagulls present on the pitch to stay awake  and players stop the game and take tea in the afternoon. All I can say is please point me in the direction of the national paint drying championships right now!

Baseball has a small following in this country and is played if you know where to find it. But you have to look!  Kids as young as five can sign up for the sport and there are clubs scattered throughout the country, although nothing as comprehensive as America’s Little League. We have a Major League baseball nursery on the Gold Coast and talented players are scouted and signed to Major League baseball teams at the age of seventeen. There have been about thirty Australians who have played in the Major League, about a dozen of whom are currently active. Our highest profile player is probably Grant Balfour, currently with the Oakland Athletics.

The Major League baseball season has just started in the States and all is right with the world again. I am always slightly conflicted this time of year as it means winter is headed our way, but thankfully we have the baseball to warm up and bless our little cotton socks. Baseball is generally played in the States in the evenings so it means we get the coverage during our morning – usually when school or work gets in the way. The best thing that has happened for us starving Australian baseball fans is the internet. We can now stream live baseball games and get the play-by-play in real-time, complete with American radio ads.

So this is how to spot an Australian baseball fan:

    • they desperately scour the internet for snipets of major league baseball news and happenings
    • they have lots of American friends
    • they know what a walk off homer is
    • they linger at social venues with ESPN just to catch a glimpse of play at lunchtime
    • they know that any cricketer who wants to know how to throw a ball needs to train with a baseball player
    • they pine for Autumn because that’s when opening day comes around and know that winter is baseball season
    • the will pay a scalper a bomb when they are in America to get tickets to a baseball game
    • they stand up to stretch in their lounge rooms after the end of the sixth inning
    • they spend summer and winter watching their children play baseball and have an all year around baseball tan

We are knee-deep in our football season at the moment and I have my head buried in the Boston Red Sox (when not blogging, of course). Thankfully, my blog has had a better start to the season than the Red Sox, but I live in hope.

And my ultimate home run? My family visit to Cooperstown and Fenway Park last year. Da da da datta daaaaa…… charge!