Of rain and rainbows

I do love cute things. I also love earrings. So when I saw these cuties, I was really doomed from the start.

DIVINEsweetness makes adorable polymer clay jewellery: earrings, hair clips, pendants, rings. Anything you can stick a macaroon on or fashion in the shape of an ice-cream cone, really. They’re reasonably priced and shipping almost disappears if you buy two or more items.

Look out, DIVINEsweetness – you may not have much stock left when I’m done!

Find her on Etsy, that haven of handmade cuteness and vintage whimsy.

How very pinteresting…

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I’ve joined Pinterest.

Yes, after months of thinking, “Oh, it’s just another social media fad,” I’ve finally jumped on the bandwagon. And you know what prompted it? These shoes. Courtesy of my new favourite shoe blog.

I am in love. And for six hundred pounds, I think it’s going to be a long, unrequited slog. So I grabbed them the only way I could – by pinning the photo. (Sorry. This is a very link-heavy post.)

And now I’m stuck. All my favourite photos, in all their varying and clashing goodness, will be up online for everyone to see – and for me to browse, any day of the week.

I’m warming to this concept very quickly. I may even have to link you in, just in case Pinterest becomes my new Indie Press Review (I doubt it. I just want you to see all the pretty things in my life).

So come on over, and see the prettiness that is Pinterest. Who knows – maybe you’ll get hooked too!

Sidenote: A little thing I bet you didn’t know about Pinterest.

Drama, drama, drama.

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Hello again! Did you miss me? I missed you. There’s been a lot of drama that I’ve been storing up just for a grey, free afternoon such as this.

So, I’m getting married in June (ostensibly. Once we’ve actually booked a few things, we’ll know for sure). When my gamer boy proposed, the first thing I got excited about was my bridal party. Who was my gamer boy going to ask? Who should I ask? Did I only want my sister, or some close friends as well? Delicious possibilities abounded.

Then I did the thing that got me into this mess. I opened my mouth and asked an old best friend to be my bridesmaid. Without consultation, without consideration, I had bridesmaid #1.

Then I asked my three current besties – a girl, a guy and my sister – to be my bridesmaids. Suddenly the count was a four, to my gamer boy’s two. Worst of all, I knew where I’d made the mistake.

Which brings me here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for advice – I know where I went wrong, and I know what I’m doing to fix it. I guess this is more or a cautionary tale – when weddings are involved, don’t do ANYTHING without careful consideration and consultation with your other half.

Spicy lemon date spread

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For breakfast this morning, I’m taking it easy. I think it’s important to do that sometimes – but then again, too much taking it easy is not a good thing. Believe me. I’ve been taking it very easy this week.

This lemon date spread is so easy, it practically makes itself. Chop up some dates. Throw in some spices and lemon. Stew it for a while. Blend it so it looks like jam. Warm up some garlic naan or roti. Dip. Munch. Repeat.

And it’s so good. It’s breakfast food, after-work food, anytime food.

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Many thanks to the wonderful Joy the Baker for this recipe.

Spicy lemon date spread

Makes about two cups, which should keep sealed in the fridge for a few days.

2 1/2 cups dates (Tunisian are the best, but I’d bet money you’ll only be able to find Californian)

2 cups water

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh grated/chopped ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin*

scant 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (do it. you’ll be rewarded)

1 teaspoon sea salt (I used regular table salt, but the awesomeness factor would be lifted with sea salt. I think.)

warm naan, roti or pita to serve

Get a medium-sized saucepan. Chop up your dates and throw them in. Throw in the lemon zest, spices and ginger. Slosh in the water and lemon juice. Simmer over a medium heat for 25-30 minutes, until everything’s soft and rather squishy. Most of the water should have evaporated. You don’t want runny spread, after all.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then blend it all up into a thick, gooey, yummy paste. Spread. Whatever.

Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, with warm garlicky dipping bread. Share with your other half, because it’s communal and he likes it more than he says he does.

*I managed to leave the cumin out, even though it’s my favourite spice, because we’d run out. It turned out fine, but I bet it’s awesomeness would be exponentially lifted if I’d included the cumin.

Do not be afraid

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Ever feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place?

Fighting between the life you had as a child, and the one you’re trying to build yourself as an adult?

That’s where I am right now.

I guess it happens to all of us. Suddenly high school finishes, and we’re granted maybe one year of leniency before we’re out on our asses. Moving out. Going to uni. Getting a full-time job. Making grown-up friends. Suddenly we’re growing apart from the family, friends, hobbies that kept us together in our teen years. For myself, I was a violist. I was an avid member of the school band, and captain of the Celebrations team at my Catholic high school. Even in my gap year, staying at home and working, I found an orchestra and a parish council to keep that part of me going.

Three years later, my viola sits lonely in the corner, and the thought of going to mass makes me cringe a little. I’ve lost a lot of who I was, and a lot of people can’t handle it. Well, my family can’t. They’re not really sure what to do with me anymore.

Okay, let’s get specific. You can probably guess that my family is fairly religious. Mass-every-Sunday religious. No-sex-before-marriage religious. Get-married-in-a-church-or-the-sky-will-fall-down religious. And I found my way to deal with that, despite a constantly wavering belief in Jesus – I became the organiser. I organised masses. I was involved. Readings, music, offertory, ministry of the Eucharist, parish council – nothing was safe from my determination to be involved. Oh, sure, I had a Wicca phase as a teen – dressed all in black, wore velvet, did spells – but that was quickly quashed under my fear of my parents’ reaction. I was the oldest, and shy. I wasn’t cut out to be rebellious, despite the heavy metal and the red lipstick. (Not overtly, anyway. I’m pretty sure my mum wouldn’t have approved of the Nora Roberts novels I was racing through.)

Cut to me now. I moved straight out of home to live with my then-boyfriend (now fiance) of four and a half years. I was anxious; it was my first true act of rebellion against my parents. They were  devastated. But I’d never been happier. I hated going to mass alone, with nothing to do once there but listen. So I stopped going, and began to visit a witchcraft supplier every time I was in the city. Gradually I began to accept that the things that had held me together as a teen didn’t have to occupy the same roles as a young adult. It took me even longer to be okay with that.

I’m not religious, but I think about God – try to struggle out what he (she) means to me – every day. Some days I think I’m atheist, some days Wiccan, some days agnostic, some days back to good old Catholic. Some days I just don’t give a shit, and block out all of that vicious, dividing bullshit.

Some days I hate where I am now. I wish I could go back to the way I was – young, naive, accepting. Then I remind myself that if I’m not questioning my existence, my place in the world, I might as well be dead. Because I’ll never be any good to anyone – as a lover, sister, writer, daughter, friend – if i’m not always questioning and challenging and growing.

(And yes, the title is from Luke 2:10, when the angel appeared to the shepherds bringing “tidings of great joy.)

The politics of Christmas

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas (for obvious reasons – it is, after all, Christmas Eve). And I’ve been thinking a lot about not presents, or food, or carols, although those things have also taken up a lot of brain space of late. No, I’ve been thinking about Christmas itself, why we make such a big deal about it, why it’s so special. I mean, what’s so special about a baby that many people don’t even care about? Christmas is, after all, a Christian holiday – it’s all in the name. Christ-mas. The feast of Christ.

And yet, every year in this (supposedly) secular world of ours, governments spend millions of dollars dolling their cities up for the occasion. Businesses follow their lead and ply us with sales and advertisements, reminding us endlessly to buy our Christmas presents NOW and avoid the rush/take advantage of this great sale/get the perfect gift, but only from OUR store.

But what about those who don’t celebrate Christmas? They have to deal with it too, and they don’t even care. At my work, I am a minority. The people I work with are Chinese, Jewish, Hindu Indian. They don’t give a fig about the birth of Christ, and yet they too have to face the carols and the ‘Merry Christmas’ stickers and the onslaught of customers in the few days proceeding the big day. It’s just not fair. And more than that, if Australia is the land of multiculturalism (and that’s a debate for another day) then it’s un-Australian.

Here’s what I think. I, as an Anglo Westerner with a Christian background, am fine with celebrating Christmas. I’m even fine with it being a public holiday. But I’m not fine with shoving it down the throats of an entire society. In the Western world, we believe ourselves to be secular, that we have successfully separated government and religion. This is not the case. How can it be, when the city pays for extravagant Christmas decorations every year? We, as a society, need to face up to our Christian roots, and acknowledge that we are a society that was founded on Christian values. Maybe then we can realise just what we’re doing to everyone else come Christmas time.

American Gods

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Neil Gaiman was in Melbourne last Friday night, and I missed him.

I was devastated. Well, I was upset. I’d be devastated if my family was in a car accident. Compared to that, missing Neil Gaiman was negligible. But I really, really wanted to see him.

Neil Gaiman is one of those writers I want to be, but can’t ever imagine myself being that good. I love his imagination, his ability to create mood and setting and character simply by sitting his protagonist down in a seedy diner and giving him a mug of mead. I love that there are so many of his books that I’ve read and love enough to re-read, and I love that there are so many of his books that I haven’t read yet and am so excited about.

Recently I read, for the first time, American Gods. I bought the tenth anniversary edition a few months ago, and as soon as I began reading, I wished that I’d began earlier. It was one of those books that you love to be in, one of the ones that you get to the end of and just want to go back to the beginning. At least, that’s what I wanted to do.

I loved the merging of mythologies, the idea that they could actually all exist at the same time. It’s something that I’ve considered for a long time, though my theories never had as much, well, panache as Gaiman’s.

I loved Shadow, the protagonist without a name. Throughout the novel I felt as though I barely knew him, though I desperately wanted to. By the end, I felt I knew him a little. And so I wanted to go back to the start and try to pick up what I’d missed.

I didn’t, unfortunately. Real life got in the way, as it does. Real life and work and love and Christmas. Oh, yes. Don’t think that just because I haven’t mentioned it that I don’t know that it’s nearly Christmas.

I thought that American Gods was a wonderful book, and not just for the above reasons. It also made me think – about our culture, and about my own life, and the gods that I worship. It made me frown, and it made me smile wryly. It’s nothing I haven’t considered before, but it was nice to hear it in a novel, and not just on the news.

So. American Gods. Neil Gaiman. Go read it. You never know – you might just like it too.