Monday, December 27, 2010

Time to reflect

Christmas is both a time of celebration and a time of reflection for me - as I have to good fortune to have been born in Australia, to be able to choose my faith, and many other things, I like to take the time to be thankful for what I have and to consider what I do not need.

For me this Christmas has been lovely as I was able to visit my parents interstate earlier, and to have my sister and her family at my place for christmas day. There's so much to be thankful for when you have family.

But hand in hand with the joys of christmas, comes time to consider stuff. I wont go into my thinking too much right now, but I wanted to share with you these links. One of my New Years Resolutions will be to increase the capacity for Australians to be able to support my favourite charity - the girls school and hostel in India where I have lived and worked and fallen in love with girls who once had no hope. So
  1. Watch this clip from TED Global and then.....
  2. Visit this website - and find out how you too can sponsor the girls who live and learn in Thirichuli, Tamil Nadu.
Thank you so much...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dance Dance Dance - Murakami

I finished this book about a month ago, but life has been hectic and I haven’t had the time that’s necessary to reflect on this awesome novel. This is one of my Japanese Literature Challenge 4 novels, and I am so glad I choose it. It’s true to Murakami’s style and, at the same time as being chaotic, bizarre and surreal, I felt that there was a message in it for me.

There are many excellent reviews about the content of this novel, some include:



Oatmeal for breakfast

Ben, who review it at GoodRead, states that the novel is “set in Japan in the 1980s, at the height of the country's economic rise, it tells of a solitary magazine writer who suddenly has a strong urge to search for his old girlfriend”. So, given the story is set in a profiting Japanese Economy, where this journalist could have anything he wanted, I have taken away these messages from the story.

The narrator tells us he’s ‘over’ his job, he describes it as just like ‘shovelling snow’, repetative, boring and anything he produces will eventually just disappear anyway. He’s discontent with his lot in life, although not able to put his finger on it, unable to actually say he’s discontent. Other reviewers noted that he was represented as a happy go lucky kind of guy, able to take what came his way with relative ease. However, I still pictured him as discontent. I think that’s why he had dreams that were focused on ‘searching’ – for the girlfriend, for the mysterious floor at the hotel, for the sheepman...

I wondered if the narrator was in fact searching for a deeper meaning to life. He’s divorced, lost his girlfriend (in Wild Sheep Chase) and doesn’t get a great deal of meaning from his work. He is amused by the lack of meaning and substance in his movie star friends life, but envious of the opportunities that his friend gets.

He spends most of the story in search of something, which I think is meaning, by fostering a ‘big brother’ relationship with a young girl – perhaps trying to see if ‘family’ is what he wants. He reconnects with his movie start high school friend, and searchers for meaning through pleasure – driving the Ferrari, seeing call girls, and drinking at fancy places. He wonders if there’s meaning in building a new relationship and looks towards the hotel receptionist for company.

If, as Ben says, the novel is set in an economically strong Japan, then perhaps money isn’t providing the narrator with what he’s longing for. Perhaps there’s something very familiar to us about his journey?? Have we not been persuaded to think that with money we will be happy? That our job is our identity? That we’re of no value if we’re not in a relationship? Even with these things, the Narrator was not content – he was driven in search of the real meaning in his life.

Perhaps the message is Dance, Dance and keep on Dancing until you find what it is your looking for.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

I have recently been reacquainted with this work and I thought I would share it with all who may find themselves reflective during this season. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a special time of connection with all that's important to you.

Desiderata - Max Ehrmann, 1928
Go Placidly amid the noise & haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. as far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter: for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is. Many persons strive for higher idea;s and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune - but do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome disciple be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less that the tress and stars.
You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, what ever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with the soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'll be back soon

Hello dear friends, I just wanted to say I'll be back soon. I've just popped out for a few things, but they wont take me long to do, so please come back and visit soon. I look forward to seeing you then.

Regards Tamara

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dance, Dance, Dance

It's been quite a while since I've been here, but I have a few things to post soon. Most excitingly, we've booked our spot on a trip to the Tour de France 2011. We're going to be riding our bikes with the last 14 days of the Tour- yep, that's the mountain stages!!! I've started my training, which is taking me away from by usual blogging hours. [Click the picture to see more about the TdF.]

I've also recently finished Murakami's Dance, Dance, Dance. As is usual with a Murakami novel, it's still sinking in - but I'm close to thinking this is one of my favourites of all. This is also, I think, my fourth book for the Japanese Literature Challenge 4. Only two months to go and I haven't really got my next one lined up - any recommendations??

In the Garden - I'm loving the feel of a real summer... I've been spending what time I can in the garden. With Daylight Savings, it's light well up to 730pm now and that means heaps of time to get out there after work. I've been planting, pruning and protecting from the bugs.

More updates soon.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Madame Bovary - Updates

Frances from Nonsuch Books has been hosting a read-a-long during October, and this past week saw the final reviews get posted. Well, all but mine, I guess.

I've been following the posts of many bloggers, and it's because of those reviews and comments, that I've decided to take my time with MB. I've been blown away by the depth of the reviews, some of the analysis has been as powerful as the text. I really want to get the most out of reading this classic, so I'm not going to rush through it. I'm going to be pretty busy the next two weeks so I'm going to put up MB and return to Murakami for my travel reading.

I promise to return to MB after Nov 12..

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Fillins #197

Australian Blue Tongue Lizard because he has a blue tongue

1. While the cat's away the blue tongue lizards (native harmless and gentil lizards) and the native birds are happy playing in our yard!
2. Blue tongue lizards are Australia's best organic controllers (eating snails and slugs) - fabuloso!
3. Children are also good pest controllers - picking up interesting bugs and squashing them.
4. I love to see my dog's face when I get home from work or shopping or what have you.
5. This may seem odd, but I don't celebrate Halloween, in fact I go to the movies to avoid it. (sorry to those who do, but it's just not very Australian).
6. It is Australian to celebrate summer (and spring) evenings with a glass of wine/beer out on the back verandah while the BBQ is cooking dinner....and that seems like a fine idea to me! (like tonight)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to BBQ on the verandah at sunset, tomorrow my plans include hair dresser and reading Madam Bovary, and Sunday, I want to rest and cook.

For more Friday Fillins visit here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thyme for Reflection

Japanese Water Rituals
I don't know if you've every flicked over to read my 'about me' page, but sometimes I do just to revisit my thoughts and reflect on where I'm at with my goals. After having brunch with my girl friend yesterday I was encouraged to to be true to myself and my goals. On my 'about me' page I say.....
My blog header states that 'Thyme-for-Tea' is a spot for me to blog on life in my garden, where I grow things, read things, drink tea and ponder. These are all important aspects of my celebration of life and important aspects of me caring for myself, providing me with sustenance to carry on with advocating for others. I am also passionate about caring for the earth, because without her, we have no way to sustain ourselves.
So today (being a rainy day and great for tea indoors) I'm going to ponder here...
You know that recently I visited a retreat for a few days where I was challenged to think about what I eat, the choices I make and why I make them. Well, this week I've been reflecting that I've been a pretty conscious person, trying to be mindful of my place in the environment, for a while. But I cant say that I've ever been quite so challenged on my food choices before. I grow organic veggies for my self and my partner - probably more to protect the earth from the harmful effects of fertilizers, chemicals, and because we like the taste of home grown produce. I know also that by growing my own I'm reducing the carbon footprint of transport of produce around the world. But these are different issues to the one about what food we eat. I'm interested to know if anyone has read any good books about these issues???? some of the questions I'm asking myself are a) what's happening to my body when I'm eating things I didn't grow or make? b) what's in the food I buy? c) what are the environmental impacts of the production of the food I eat (like meat)? d) what's happening to the life cycle of the things I eat (like the chickens who lay the eggs or the cows who make my diary products)?

Sometimes when these types of thoughts are developing in my head I can become overwhelmed and paralysed by the challenge. That's why I included the photo's at the beginning of this post. When visiting Japan in 2007, I was in awe and totally affected by the simplicity of the water rituals. My understanding is that prior to entering a temple or holy place, you wash away the evil spirits by splashing yourself with the water at the entry to the temple. It's a simple process, a ritual, that symbolises the self making the offering to be washed clean before the holy. When my head is swimming with questions and thoughts, I am reminded of this ritual. Like a form of meditation, it can help clean the mind and I find, I can give the space necessary to process the questions.

So, on the question of food and choices. I'm trying to reduce or cut out my chocolate intake for a range of reasons (it's financial costs to me, to not support multinational firms with bad practices, to improve my own health etc....). When I was at the vegan retreat I learnt this recipe for a little treat. 2 parts raw almonds (or any nuts), 1 part dates (or any other dried fruit), 1 part sultana's (or any other dried fruit). Blend together until the nuts are finely chopped. Then roll into bite sized balls. You can then roll these in desecrated coconut if you like (I don't). If you used all dried ingredients, the balls will last quite some time. But if you like to use some fresh fruit, like some banana or mango, keep them in the fridge. Yummy!

This afternoon I'm heading out in the rain to feed by garden. I've been noticing that most of my root vegitables (beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes, raddishes etc) have bee struggling to thrive and have been very slow to develop. So after some time on line today, and a visit to the nursery, I've decided its time to inject some potasium and phosphorus, and repreat the blood and bone spreading more frequently. Because it's raining it's a great time to get out there for this job- as it will help it soak down to the roots.

I'm also concentrating some effort into developing my fruit crop this year. Last years peach and nectarine crops didn't set (which means the fruit didn't develop from the flowers). So this year I've been keeping a watchful eye on each step of the way. (I'd give you photo's if it wasn't raining today). The fruit have set and are now about the size of my thumb nail. So it's time to start the defence system against the dreaded fruit fly (which once it gets into your fruit, the fruit goes off and is spoilt by the lavae). So, when it's finished raining, I'll have to get out an spray with an organic and eco friendly insecticide called eco-naturalure. I've also got to set baits which attract the flies into the traps. Unfortunately with fruit fly, the traps aren't totally effective on their own, but they do provide the gardener with a sense of how big the fly problem is over the season. My hope is that I will have fresh home grown peaches for Christmas!

Harvesting at the moment in my garden:
  • Spinach
  • Silver beet
  • Celery
  • Lettuces (different varieties)
  • Rhubarb
  • Radishes
  • Snow Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Leeks
  • Herbs - lemongrass, parsley, rosemary, thyme, mint..
  • Fruit - Black Sapote (Chocolate Pudding Fruit)
This past week I made a delicious leek (home grown) and potato soup, a baby spinach (home grown) and balsamic BBQ Roo & BBQ eggplant salad, and stewed rhubarb (home grown) and apple for dessert.

Blogs I've enjoyed reading this week have included:

I don't like long posts generally, but that's where I'm at. Currently reading (playing catch up with the read a long with non such books) Madame Bovary, and for JLC 4, I'm reading Murakami's Dance Dance Dance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Mini Break

World Championships, Road Cycling.
30 Sept - 3 Oct 2010
in Geelong, Victoria.
View from our seating on trackside.
The first four days of my mini break was spent with my man and some friends watching the road cycling world championships. Our purpose for being there was to cheer on Cadel Evans. We weren't let down in anyway, as Cadel waged war on the track right up to the last lap. His 2nd to last lap was worth every effort we made to be there - it was awesome. Sadly though, things changed in the last lap. Over the weekend we saw under 23 elite men's race won by Michael Mathews, Aussie. The Elite Women's won by Giorgia Bronzini, Italy, and the Men's elite won by Norweigan, Thor Hushovd, followed in third by Aussie, Allan Davis. Cadel came in 17th.

It was beautiful weather, the atmosphere was electric at times, and the company was fantastic. Tour de France 2011 here we come!
So my next move was too say farewell to my man as he headed back to work, and I went to the beautiful region of Daylesford, Victoria for my 5 days in a vegan yoga retreat. I wasn't actually on a yoga retreat, but that's what the centre provides. I was actually WWOOFing. That is, I worked for my food and board. It's called the Willing Workers on Organic Farms scheme. I worked for four hours a day on what ever task I was given, and I had the rest of the day to myself for my mini break. Of course the work I was given wasn't too onerous and in fact very relaxing for me. I had to dust and wash down the front verandah of the centre - quite meditative.

Each day started with a walk in the village, followed by self serve breakfast - anything you wanted, as long as it was vegan (that is, no animal products like cheese, milk, eggs, honey). I then worked on my chores, frequently interrupted by others offering tea, toast, fruit salad, or fruit smoothies... my afternoons were spent, walking, reading, or at the famous mineral spa pools where one day I had the full on clay treatment and massage! One day I went to my first every yoga class and managed to most of it without tripping myself up.

In the evenings I found myself enjoying the company of other volunteers. We had all come for our different reasons, so we had much to learn from each other. I took the opportunity to learn some vegan recipes and talking about the choices we make each day about the food we put into our bodies. I soon found myself being challenged to think in more depth about food, animal products, the concept of a 'balanced diet' and my own well being. I've challenged myself to try and eat 2 days a week vegetarian (I'm not quite ready to do vegan and give up my cheese).

Here are some shots from around town... making the mini break all the more relaxing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Paris on a Plate

I've returned from my mini vacation - no I didn't go to Paris, but I did finish reading this neat little book. Paris on a Plate is a gastronomic diary, by Stephen Downes, Australia's most experienced restaraunt critic.

This is his diary of a return to Paris after his first visit more than 30 years ago. He has returned to Paris to see if the chef's of Paris are keeping up with their counterparts in Australia, and lucky for him, he was invited to eat for free at some of Frances most renowned eating places.

It's a fun little book to read - partly because he's prepared to say what he thinks, he's prepared to challenge those who think they're the best, and he share's his own personal experiences along the way. I enjoyed the way he was able to take me with him to those restaurants I will never be able to eat in, but he also took us places were we could see ourselves visiting one day. That's the fun part - think that one day I too could be visiting this place and sitting under the same wall of mirrors, or facing the same wall of famous art work....

I'll blog later about my holiday - but it was extremely bizarre to be resting in a vegan yoga retreat reading about Downe's experience of eating a calves head!

Friday Fillins #195

Tibetan Prayer Flags, Kathmandu, Nepal

1. Wow, it's my Grandmothers 91st birthday this week.
2. She's funny, generous and beautiful.
3. My favorite way to start a day is walking.
4. We decided to make soup with whatever was in the garden and he walked in the door holding a pumpkin.
5. I look out my window and see Saturday, blue skies, wind in the tree's, bee's in the blossom, the vegi's have gone to seed and the lawn needs mowing.
6. The completeness of the permaculture system and the decisions we make about what we eat - that is what I've been thinking about lately.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to cuddles with my dog, tomorrow my plans include seeing my french friends to discuss l'etranger at the Moroccan Cafe, and Sunday, I want to garden.

For more - see Friday Fillins

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lavender and Linen

It's spring in Australia and I start my annual spring holiday today. I cant remember when it all startedvfor me, but I have an inbuilt need to have time off in September. I don't do the same thing every year, last year I was in India. For the next 10 days I will be doing a couple of different things here in Australia (saving money for France next year) which include going with my man to see Cadel Evans racing for world championship (cycling) in Geelong, Victoria. Then I'm going to have some time on my own, volunteering through the Willing Workers on Organic Farms (wwoof) scheme at a yoga retreat in a gorgeous town in Victoria's Spa district. Then I am off to do a training course for my other volunteer life as a rescue worker. I'm really looking forward to it all. But I apologise now, I doubt there'll be much blogging in the next 2 weeks.

So a little book review before I forget - I read Henrietta Taylors Lavender and Linen. This is, at least, her second book about life as an Australian in France... how could I not read this? In her first book, which is called 'Verve Taylor' or 'Escaping' she describes the painful experience of losing her husband to cancer and deciding to move from the gorgeous northern suburbs of Sydney, to a small village in Provence. I loved that book then so could resist this one. It's about how she's established a successful B&B business in Provence and raising her 2 children in a foreign country. She's very funny at times with the decisions she's made, from dogs, house purchases and lovers... But essentially it's a fantasy - well for me anyway - to be able to find a new life in a new country with the romance of France, the french language and the ideals of living in Europe. It's a great 'escapist' read...... strongly encourage getting lost in Provence with Henrietta.

As for holiday reading I've got a sad confession - my Madam Bovary book didn't arive before I left on holidays - so I've packed an older version to start reading with the read-a-long. I've also packed Murakami's 'Dance Dance Dance', and Stphen Downes "Paris on a Plate: a gastronomic Diary'.

I'll blog more when/if I find internet somewhere....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday Fillins #192

South Indian Celebration Meal
1. Family can come to stay whenever, but they can only stay three days.
2. I wish it was easier to travel to France, and I could go back and forth as I please.
3. I love a champagne at dusk and at dawn!
4. Pleasant company makes a good meal.
5. I've got the idea that I'll do some more post grad study soon to prepare me for international humanitarian aid.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Dinner with a girlfriend whose finishing off her thesis this week, tomorrow my plans include gardening in my own yard, and Sunday, I want to join the permablitz - a working bee in a small suburban backyard to create a new permaculture food garden for a suburban family.

Wishing everyone a happy weekend. For more of these see Friday Fillins.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Cherry on Top!

Many Many thanks to Sabrina at Thinking About Loud for awarding me the Cherry on Top Award!

The rules that come with this award require me to:

1. Answer this question: If you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you, and what would it be?

There are many many things I would change about my life with the benefit of hindsight. One thing that comes to mind at the moment is that I wish I played my piano more often, practiced harder when I had a teacher, and bought my piano sooner. I lived for nearly 15 years without a piano after I left my parents home. Piano's are so expensive, but I find playing (even just for myself) is relaxing and I believe it must help reduce my blood pressure.

2. The second thing I have to do is, pick 6 people and give them this award. Then I have to inform the person that they have gotten this award.

I would like to award the Cherry on Top award to
  1. Michelle at Michelle's Musings
  2. Jacqui at Life in the Dome
  3. Electra at Wishin I Knew How to Blog
  4. Jeanie at The Marmalade Gypsy
  5. Chat Noir at the Library of the Back Cat
  6. Joan at Flowers and Stripes
3. The third and final thing is: thank the person who gave me the award.
Many thanks Sabrina, as I said on your blog - sometimes (often) I wonder what I am doing when I blog. So it's times like this that I feel supported and encouraged. Thanks for taking the time to send me this award.

Sometimes when I get sent awards, I feel like 'just letting it go', or not responding to it. However sometimes when I get this type of acknowledgement I am affected - encouraged and uplifted. Perhaps there is something in my blog, my personal reflections on life, gardening, books and travel that helps others see more in life or think about something different. Then I feel I can keep going. It's so important to encourage each other - not just in the blogging world - but to encourage the people around us every day. My mum was really good at this when we were living at home - she used to write messages on the mirrors in the bathroom or our bedrooms saying "I love you" or 'You really are beautiful'..... With this award I am reminded, not only to encourage my blogging friends, but to encourage my friends here too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goodbye Tsugumi

Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto (translated from Japanese by Michael Emmerich) was my third (official) book in the Japanese Literature Challenge 4. While the picture I've got here looks a little blurry, it's actually how the cover looks, and I think it's a good cover picture for this story.

It's a shortish story of cousins Maria and Tsugumi. Maria is the daughter of an unmarried women who's married lover eventually leaves his wife to live with Maria (now a young adult) and her mother. While waiting for her lover, her mother and Maria live with Tsugumi's family and help running a local inn. Tsugumi is an extremely frail and sick young girl, with a spirit that could move mountains. She was feisty, rude and at times bitter.

The story revolves around Maria's recollections of her childhood and youth in the village, at the inn, and with Tsugumi. She recalls events, or experiences from her life, and in particular her 'last' summer with Tsugumi in the village. I think she is in fact searching for some way to make meaning of her life, to put some clarity into what was a Tsugumi centred childhood. (therefore I think the blurry cover photo makes sense).

I really enjoyed the book for the storyline - which was simple yet meaningful. I also enjoyed the authors writing style - which felt to me like Maria was wriitng in her diary. Yoshimoto very ably depicted the emotions, experiences and recollections of a young woman, and captured the essence of the adventure of youth.

I wont fill my page here with quotes from the book because there were just too many to choose from, however check out Dolce Bellezza, A Good Stopping Point,and A Striped Armchair, for their thoughts and favourite quotes. For me, I thought I would reflect on the characters of significance for me.
  • Maria - the narrator. Could've been me as I am just like her in the way I reflect on things, and relate to my family.
  • Yoko - Tsugumi's older sister. She doesn't get a lot of airspace, cos Tsugumi takes it all. But what a patient, caring and supportive sister she is. Will she ever have a life of her own, or does she reflect the traditional role for Japanese women?
  • Pooch - he's the dog that seems to capture Tsugumi's heart and brings out her compassionate side. He seems to offer her the unconditional love and acceptance that Tsugumi might have desperately wanted but could get because she saw her illness as a barrier to relating to people.
  • Maria's Dad - he seems to represent the real world - he's the one who has 'other lives' - with his first wife, his job in the city, and his desire to have family with Maria and her mother.
All in all, another good read in the JLT4.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Beeing Good for the Earth

It's not often I feel I can say this - but today - I'm so proud of myself. Today I am proud to say I followed my dream and found myself in tune with my philosophy.

I'm a greeny, the hippy daughter of my hippy baby boomer parents, and a keen advocate for healthy balance. I haven't blogged much about these ideals because I often don't feel I am doing it good enough to preach it. But today I wanted to share my activities because I think they will make a difference in the world now and into the future.

Today I wondered out into my garden and collected 1 grapefruit, 2 oranges, 1 manderine and 2 lemons. I wont need to go to the shops for citrus fruit this week. Then I collected the last hand of banana's from the palm. Sadly these wont be edible fresh, but will go nicely in muffins I will make tomorrow. I also collected from the veggie patch spinach, radishes, a leek, a large bundle of broccoli, parsley, celery and carrots. No need to purchase green veggies from the shops this week either. This also means I wont be supporting the long haul trucking industry to burn fossil fuels in order to bring me fresh food (that is usually stored in cold rooms for up to 4-6 months before I get to eat it).

After collecting my loot, I diligently paid my respects to the garden by feeding it generously. I spread out blood and bone, and watered with fish fertiliser. I then sprinkled out a few handfuls of lupin seeds which I found in the cupboard - I had obviously collected the seeds last year because they were such pretty flowers. Flowers are an essential element of a fruit and veggie garden, because without bees we get no pollination.

After enjoying some time in the garden this morning, I treated myself with a trip to the local monthly markets were I purchase my organic tea blends, organic jam & marmalade's, and organic palm oil candles. All of which I love to have in my life, but don't grow or make myself. So by purchasing at the markets locally, I am once again, reducing the number of trucks on the road bringing me the things I want. I'm also supporting local people with local dreams to improve the world.

The markets are also a wonderful way to spend time with my neighbours and local community. I felt like my spirit was refreshed hanging out with crafty, like minded earth friendly people.

But that wasn't the end of the goodness of my day. I went to the local transition towns monthly 'idea's cafe' - were we throw around idea's and success stories, encouraging each other in being the change we want to see. Today's discussion was about bee keeping in the suburban backyard. I've long been convinced that I need to do this - and the day is coming soon. I need bee's in my yard to help my fruit grown, but bee's do some much more as well. They help bring a certain balance to the environment. They're truly amazing little creatures.

So, to end my day of beeing good - I've got friends coming round to share the good food that I have plenty of at the moment. To savour with my broccoli and pumpkin risotto I have an organically grown natures harvest Shiraz. Yumm...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Japanland - Book Review

Japanland by Karin Muller was going to be one of my Japanese Literature Challenge reads, however, I feel I need to disqualify it as it's written by an American author about travelling in Japan.

The cover sleeve says 'From years of judo practice she knew the Japanese had a word for the seemingly effortless state of harmony she longed for: wa. Yes, wa is what she wanted. So beginning's Karins yearlong quest to deepened her appreciation for such eastern ideals as unquestioning commitment and single minded devotion to detail. With only her western perspective to guide her, though, she discovers in sometimes awkward, often awesomely funny interactions just how maddeningly complicated it is being Japanese.'

I enjoyed this book because it was so easy to read, she is quite funny at times (as she gets herself into positions that you can only laugh about), and her adventures are eye opening into the Japanese culture. As a travel book, it would rate pretty high on my account. I have travelled in Japan, and I loved Japan geographically and culturally. So I knew some of the places and experiences she refers to. But as a lifestyle book, for those who might want to search for wa too - I think she lost the plot.

Karin's search for wa started with being invited to live with a Japanese host family. She knew that her search for wa would involve a high level of discipline, yet it's just not in her make up to play by the rules. She seems to push the boundaries, at the expense of her inner search. Eventually the relationship with her host family breaks down because she is unable to live by the 'code' for the women in the household. So after 6 months with the family, she then goes out alone- but ends up sharing an apartment with another American.

During her final 6 months in Japan, she takes herself off to temples to live with monks, she spends time studying the life of Geisha's, goes to bathhouses, visits the Sumo stables, and undertakes a pilgrimage to visit 88 temples on foot. When her attempt at the pilgrimage landed her in hospital half way though, and saw her finishing the Pilgrimage by bus, I finally understood my discontent with her search for 'inner harmony'. She was prepared to complete the challenge by bus in order to say she saw the 88 temples.

At the end of the book I was a little disappointed she didn't stick to one of her many plans to become more disciplined. I was equally disappointed that it seemed to me (and I've only read this book and haven't seen any of her documentaries) her real mission was to have many different stories to tell and to make at least one documentary out of her trip. Still, a fun read with many little views into life in Japan.

For another review of Japanland see WaterBridgeReviews. To learn more about the disciplined life respected in Japan, I'd suggest reading 'Eat Sleep Sit: my year at Japan's most Rigorous Zen Temple' by Kaoru Nonomura.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Fill-ins #191

Girls at the school in Tamil Nadu where I volunteer as an English teacher.
In 2009 my friends and I raised the funds to buy 100 girls these new dresses.
In 2010 we really need to help these girls stay at school longer.

1. You do your thing; I do mine and sometimes we'll be much more effective at changing the world together.
2. The children of Pakistan are what's been on my mind on and off all day.
3. Remember when you did something really special for someone special? What about doing donating to a charity in Pakistan right now?
4. Teapots, my garden and my girls at school in India are three of my favorite obsessions :-)
5. During the last year I've helped the school in India to set up their sponsorship program.
6. Seeing the emails from my girls in India always puts a smile on my face.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to hanging out at home, tomorrow my plans include my hair appointment and being treated like a princess by my hairdresser, and Sunday, I want to go for a bike ride with my man.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday Fil-ins #190

I'm currently in a Japan thing....
1. Laughter can be an amazing medicine - best when shared.
2. You are invited.....are the three words that started off the last email I sent.
3. What I'm most looking forward to today is gardening and cooking.
4. Listening to my nephews play piano over the phone always...puts a smile on my face.
5. Where in the world are my two best friends from high school - Sharon and Judith??
6. the past 2 days in bed reading was just what I needed!
7. And as for the weekend, Friday I was looking forward to my massage and dinner with my man, today my plans include voting, and Sunday, I want to be active again - walk on the beach perhaps?
For more Friday Fill-ins.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Murakami - A Wild Sheep Chase

I think this officially my second novel in this years Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza. Haruki Murakami has been a contstant author in my readings for the JLC for the past 3 years, and he still hasn't let me down. A Wild Sheep Chase was, yet again, another captivating and engaging story that made it difficult for me to put it down.

The storyline is pretty simple - there's this guy who gets divorced pretty early in the novel, his business partner, his girlfriend with sexy ears and a mystery guy who gives the guy a quest to hunt down the missing sheep. I think that's about where the simplicity ends.... as is Murakami's way, the story is also quite surreal and is never predictable. However, I didn't find this book as bizarre as others. So if you've been put off Murakami's in the past, try this one.

Other's who have reviewed this novel have included Bellezza, Tony, Another Cookie Crumbles, Tanabata, and Mel U. It's interesting what people have taken from this story. For me, I guess it about mediocrity, the search for meaning and purpose -in the daily grind, in relationships and hope for the future. Murakami does leave the characters unnamed for some reason, but for me that doesn't mean their without character - they are quite strong of character I think. Some of the characters I liked were the man in the suit with manicured nails, the girlfriend with the sexy ears, the sheep professor, the sheep man, and the caretaker. I think I liked these because they were all pretty confident about their lot in life, they knew where they were and why. Their purpose was clear and they seemed to have few questions.

Some quotes:
On mediocrity:
Nothing changed from day to day, not one thing. I woke up at seven, made toast and coffee, headed out to work, ate dinner out, had one or two drinks, went home, read i bed for an hour, turned off the lights, and slept. Saturdays and Sundays, instead of work, I was out killing time from morning on, making the rounds of movie theatres. Then I had dinner and a couple of drinks, red, went to sleep, alone. So it went: I passed through the month the way people X out days on a calendar, one after the other.
The Ears:
She'd become so beautiful, it defied understanding. Never had I feasted my eyes on such beauty. Beauty of a variety I'd never imagined existed. As expansive as the entire universe, yet as dense as a glacier. Unabashedly excessive, yet at the same time pared down to an essence. It transcended all concepts within the boundaries of my awareness. She was at one with her ears, gliding down the oblique face of time like a protean bean of light.
An explanation?
"More precisely, our organisation can be divided into two elements. The part that moves ahead and the part that drives it ahead. Naturally, there are other parts managing other functions. Still, roughly divided, our organisation is made up of these two parts. The other parts hardly amount to anything. The part at the forefront is the Will, and the part that backs up the forefront is the Gains. When people talk about the Boss, they make an issue only out of his Gains. And after the Boss dies, it will be only his Gains that people will clamour for a share of. Nobody wants the Will, because no one understands it. Herein we see the true meaning of what can and can not be shared. The Will cannot be shared. It is either passed on in toto, or lost in toto." "what is this Will" I asked. "A concept that governs time, governs space, and governs possibility".
Loosing mediocrity:
Darkness crept through my ear like oil. Someone was trying to break up the frozen globe of the earth with a massive hammer. The hammer struck the earth precisely eight times. But the earth failed to break up. It only cracked a little.

I've read that Dance, Dance, Dance is like a sequel - so that's on my list soon. But next its another Banana Yoshimoto - Goodbye Tsugumi.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's "A Wild Sheep Chase", which I will probably review next weekend. So instead I'm posting on mygarden pondering . Istarted this morning with a read of a few of my bookish blog friends, and a few of the posts I read started me thinking. So here's my train of thought.

Dolce Bellezza posted about some deformed tomatoes and her experience of summer heat and her huge reading stack. I was left with the thought that there's nothing more special than home grown vegetables, and while Bellezza is busy preparing for the new school year, my priorities for this weekend is to get the winter veggie patch under control and planted for a spring collection. I went outside in search of current crops and collected
  • Carrots
  • Bok Choy
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Celery
  • Parsley
Bookgirl's Nightstand provided a link to a website for free ebooks. I downloaded a pdf version of a George Sand Novel in French. While I was out in the garden I wondered when I would actually try to read this book. I was left thinking about the actual homework I need to do for my french class this week, and realised that it will be a long time before I get to reading this free download. There always plenty to read.

Ruth at Synch-ro-ni-zing introduced a discussion about change and the wabi-sabi way. I left a message on her site saying I was taking her thoughts out to my ever changing garden space to think about. Generally I'm a change oriented person - changing me, changing things for the better, problem solving which involves change. So Ruths post about transitions and change prompted me to think about what sort of change I dont like... I recommend Ruth's post to start your own thinking about change and transitions.

The Marmelade Gypsy was recently recognised for her blog. While I found her post really informative and interesting, it prompted me to think about the nature of my blog. These thoughts are still being processed, but were prompted further by the recent post at Wordy Evidence of the Fact who was farewelling a fish. She introduced the thought that blogging is like placing oneself in a fish bowl. In the blogging world, we are placing ourselves in a fish bowl for observation. Why is it that we do this? what is our motivation for blogging? what does it bring us? These thoughts will take a while for me to process, so in the meantime, I'm reverting to gardening.

This weekend I've removed 3 banana palms that finished producing in the past season, I've planted some more carrots, radishes and climbing beans, and I've been feeding my citrus plants which live in 1/2 wine barrels and are nearly finished producing this year.

See you next week.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Madam Bovary - Group read

Frances at NONSUCH Books is hosting a read-a-long in October of this new and acclaimed translated work of Gustave Flaubert. The rave reviews for Lydia Davis' translations tempted me enough - how about you?

Who is Lydia Davis? Check out this article and interview.

I've ordered my copy. While not yet released (to be release 23 September), this lovely hard cover edition is available for pre-purchase at the Book Depository. I'll look forward to joining many of you for this great experience.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kitchen - BananaYoshimoto

Kitchen - by Banana Yoshimoto
This is my first book for the Japanese Literature Challenge 4 (JLC) being hosted by Dolce Bellezza. In past JLC's I discovered Murakami as one of my favourite Japanese Authors. This year I have set the challenge to find others - and now Banana Yoshimoto joins the ranks. Besides the fact I think her name is just gorgeous, this little book was a winner for me.

Firstly, it's short. Secondly, she cleverly fits all sorts of stuff into two short stories. The back cover reads:
Kitchen juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, bereavement, kitchens, love and tradgegy in contemporary Japan. It is a startlingly original first work by Japan's brightest young literary star and is now a cult film.

For me - I enjoyed the strong and the flimsy threads through the lives of the two main characters. I don't really want to say alot about the book, but that I was engaged with the characters, learnt more about Japanese society, and was reminded that not all things turn out for everyone, and sometimes there is no 'ending'..

For JLC 4 - I'm currently reading Murakami's 'A Wild Sheep Chase', and then I'm reading Yoshimoto's 'Goodbye Tsugumi'.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Fill-ins #188

Click photo to see recipe
1. Life is Amazing!
2. When I start knitting something I really should just keep going.
3. My last text message (or IM) ended in these three words: Two gorgeous girls. (it wasn't my last text, but my third last - and the rest of the message was We're happy to say we have... - yes, my friends had twins.)
4. Almond crusted Baramundi is what I'm thinking about for dinner sometime soon. (and he's cooking it right now).
5. On the 1st day of August I had a lovely lunch with my inspirational friend.
6. I still remember my [late] granny as lively and energetic.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to diner and wine, tomorrow my plans include doing my tax and going to a formal diner presentation, and Sunday, I want to sleep in and have brunch with my friend! (I seem focused on food - perhaps I should go for a run too).
Link to Friday Fillins.

Paris in July - Participant List 2010

Karen and I enjoyed immensely, hosting the inaugural Paris in July Experience. Before I re-arrange my blog, I wanted to archive this information in my challenges page.
Karen and I took turns in posting the weekly wrap ups and choosing the winners.
  1. Tamara did a pre-event challenge, and the winners were Amy at Timeless Romance and Chasing Bawa.
  2. Tamara did week one wrap up and the winner was Sara at Wordy evidence of the fact
  3. Karen did week two wrap up and the winner was Sabrina at Think about loud!
  4. Tamara did week three wrap up and the winner was Anni at Almost Insider
  5. Karen did the final wrap up and the winners were Sara at Wordy evidence of the fact and Frances at nonsuch books.
Now I'm going to list all the participants: A bookish way of life, A few of my favourite books, Almost Insider, Bookgirls nightstand, Books as food, Buried in Print, Chasing Bawa, Chat Noir, Coffee and bookchick, Dolce Bellezza, Enchanted by Josephine, Farmlane Books, The Feminist texan reads, Flowers and Stripes, I love to read, Lakeside Musing, Loving Books, Lynda's bookblog, My porch, My cozy book nook, My spring show, Nonsuch Books, Once, oh marvelous once, Paperback reader, Random Ramblings, Recovery Artist, Synch-ro-ni-zing, The adventures of an intrepid reader, The boston bibliophile, The captive reader, The literary stew, The marmalade gypsy, The reading life, Thinking about loud!, Third storey window, Timeless romance, Truth, beauty, freedom and books, Wishin' I knew how to blog, Wordy evidence of the fact.

In Karen's final wrap up, we've indicated we'll be keen to see you all again for Paris in July 2011! Hope you can join us then.