Saturday, 30 April 2011

Walden, or Life in the Woods

My mum gave me a postcard with this painting (Collins St.,5pm by John Brack) on it.  It says on the back of the card "In the winter of 1955 John Brack stood in a doorway in Collins Street on successive nights between 4.45 and 5.30pm and observed and sketched office workers on their way home from work.  He commented "There are so many of us whose lives are encompassed by offices in the day and suburbs in the night, that it seems almost urgent for the painter to say something about it."

This painting fits neatly with the sentiments of Henry David Thoreau, who's book Walden or, Life in the Woods (published in 1854) I am currently reading.  He famously said "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

"Walden emphasizes the importance of solitude, contemplation, and closeness to nature in transcending the "desperate" existence that, he argues, is the lot of most people. Thoreau regarded his sojourn at Walden as an experiment with a threefold purpose. First, he was escaping the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution  by returning to a simpler, agrarian lifestyle. Second, he was simplifying his life and reducing his expenditures, increasing the amount of leisure time in which he could work on his writings. Much of the book is devoted to stirring up awareness of how one's life is lived, materially and otherwise, and how one might choose to live it more deliberately. Third, he was putting into practice the Transcendentalist belief that one can best "transcend" normality and experience the Ideal, or the Divine, through nature." (from Wikipedia)

It is interesting that all through the ages there are  people who question the life that the masses are living while others are happy to follow the prescribed path. I particularly like these paragraphs toward the end of his conclusion.....

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him......In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness"        and

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Friday, 29 April 2011

Why can't school be more fun?

I am rereading for about the third time a book called " Awakening your child's natural genius" by Thomas Armstrong.  He succinctly expresses my concerns with our education system....

"Children are programmed by nature to absorb knowledge easily and joyfully when surrounded by a positive learning climate.  The problem is that tremendous forces in our culture - and in particular in our education system - stand in the way of a child's natural learning ability.  These barriers include competition, testing, grades, stress, shame, boredom, dull textbooks, bland teachers, student labeling and educational tracking."

He goes on to say...  "The worksheet wasteland still lives, and the clamor nationwide for higher test scores threatens to make this condition worse by causing teachers to focus too much attention on test preparation at the expense of real learning."

This book was written in 1991 in America,  however I think it is relevant to our education system today  which has foolishly followed along the standardized testing path.

Education should be about curiosity, creativity, problem solving, wonder, excitement, exploration, enthusiasm  and passion.  It should help children discover their interests, aptitudes, passions and hobbies and then teach them the skills to pursue them.  Children should be learning about the world and how to best live in it.  Less worksheets, more art, drama, creative thinking, hands on maths, real book literacy, writing, scientific observation and experimentation, gardening, dance, music, cooking, hands on - real life  learning, doing.

Luckily there are some inspirational schools out there.......

1. Green School in Bali

2. The Blue School in New York.

You can also read some articles on progressive education at Let the children play.

Unfortunately those schools are overseas and very expensive.  We need public schools to be more fun, creative, colourful and inspirational so everyone can  receive the best education possible!  Maybe we can start a red or yellow school in Australia or even a rainbow one!

Luckily school isn't this bad!

"I have no patience with the stupidity of the average teacher of grammar who wastes precious years in hammering rules into children's heads.  For it is not by learning rules that we acquire the powers of speaking a language, but by daily intercourse with those accustomed to expressing themselves with exactness and refinement and by copious reading of the best authors" Erasmus.

The Art of Living

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Trees mean life

Nelson is at the top of the mulberry tree.

A tree of life pillow I made for a friend this week.

A book I got for my birthday ( Bruno Munari - drawing a tree) and a tree collage idea from it. You start with a strip of paper for the trunk, then halve it to make the next two branches, then into quarters for the next four branches, then into eighths and so on. It worked really well and I think it would be a great maths lesson at school too!

Another tree painted on our toilet.

A favourite tree we can see from our veranda.

 I'd like to make a wishing tree, that looks like fun!

Herman Hesse has written a lovely passage on trees in his book Wanderings.  Read the excerpt here. 

This is our lovely friend Lulu with a beautiful lovemae tree wall sticker that her mum Peta makes.

An old favourite song Hairy Trees.

Cute picture from TheSeaKiwi

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Monday, 25 April 2011

Don't be a Twit, be beautiful!

On our long drive to Sydney we listened to Roald Dahl's The Twits in the car.  I love this book and thought I'd share this page......

"The funny thing is that Mrs Twit wasn't born ugly. She'd had quite a nice face when she was young.  The ugliness had grown upon her year by year as she got older.  Why would that happen? I'll tell you why...

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face.  And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly.  You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Mad World

I was listening to an old mixed CD I had made a few years ago and I heard this song which I used to love but had forgotten about.  It is great to remember an old favourite!


After being away for over a week we came home to 14 eggs! How exciting! So with eggs to spare and cupboards that are a bit bare, Django and Nelson made popovers and organised themselves a lovely little feast with lots of honey and jam to make the table sticky with.

The recipe is very easy and is from Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen.

Popover Recipe
melted butter for greasing tray
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
(jam, honey, maple syrup for the popovers)

1.  Preheat oven to 190 C
2.  Brush muffin tray with melted butter.
3. Break eggs into bowl.
4. Add milk & whisk.
5. Add flour & salt and whisk again.
6.  Pour batter into cup -about half to two thirds full.
7. Bake for 20 mins ( recipe says 30 but mine are always 20 ish)
8.  Remove from pan, spread with sweet sticky stuff and eat! (Nelson & Django love them)

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

A holiday in Sydney

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Have you ever kept a journal? I do and I have, on and off since I was a kid.  I love them - they help me remember my life.  I have embarrassing teenage ones that I have felt like throwing away, very detailed ones from  overseas trips and others full of bits and pieces of my life - lyrics to songs I love, poems, quotes from books, adventures, inspirations, soul searching, contemplations of the meaning of life etc  Unfortunately since becoming a mum my journal keeping has been sporadic and certainly not detailed.  Seven years and three children have rushed by and I have not managed to keep much of a record of their childhood.  Whilst in the thick of it I feel I will never forget......but i know I will.

Anyway I recently (yesterday)  got a new book Drawing From Life - The Journal As Art by Jennifer New.  The author mentioned the three journals she now keeps - a work related one, another for recording her children's everyday activities and the third is digital  where she takes a daily photo of their domestic life. After reading this today I was inspired to embark on a similar project.  Mine is called fivephotos and every week I am going to take/choose five photos to depict our life that week.  It is too difficult to go backwards in time to capture past moments, instead I will start from now.  Lets see how long I can keep it up!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A lovely day at home

I have had a lovely day at home today.  The boys were all out and Sunny had a very long sleep.  Instead of doing any of the billion things I could have done  I made myself a little picnic of cheese and gherkin vita weats, a cup of tea (twining's chai) and the last piece of chocolate caramel slice, sat on the couch outside in the sun and read my book.  I started Arabella by Georgette Heyer last night.  It is a historical romance and is great light escapist literature ( the intelligent woman's Mills and boons as Libby calls it).  After awhile the midges started to bite, the wind came up and it started to I retired upstairs to the loft to continue reading in bed.  Still Sunny slept on.....what a rare treat!!

All good things must come to an end and feeling refreshed I went out into the garden and picked some Zucchinis and coriander for dinner.  I made a delicious, simple and quick Indian recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery called.....

Prawns with courgettes

350g zucchini
1 1/4 tsp salt
350 g peeled frozen prawns (defrosted and patted dry)  - I'm sure you could use fresh ones???
5 tbsp veg oil ( I used a bit less)
6 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped ( I used 2 massive Russian garlic cloves)
75g finely chopped fresh coriander
1 fresh hot green chilli, finely chopped ( I used 1/2 a hot yellow one)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper ( I left this out)
1 can of tomatoes
1 tsp peeled, finely grated ginger
1 tbs lemon juice ( our lemons are not yet ripe so I used lime)

1. Cut the zucchinis into 4 slices lengthwise.  Cut each slice into 4 long strips. Cut the strips into thirds crosswise. (sort of like matchsticks) Put the zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of salt.  Toss to mix, set aside for 30 mins. Drain and pat dry.   ( I didn't really do this bit)

2. Put oil in frypan set over med high heat.  When hot put in chopped garlic. Stir and fry till light brown. Put in zucchinis and all the other ingredients except the prawns.  Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.  Add prawns and stir them in.  Bring back to simmer, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 3 mins. ( I think i did cook it a bit longer).

3.  Uncover, turn heat to medium and boil away the liquid, if there is any so that you are left with a thickish sauce.

Serve with rice and I also made a cucumber raita.  YUM

This is a great cookbook.  If you like Indian food I would highly recommend it!

After cooking dinner I had to pick up the kids, take them into town for swimming lessons, go to the shop to get some cardboard boxes so that Nelson could make his hat for the Easter Hat parade.  He decided to make a robot bunny.

Now everyone is in bed and I'm going to go and finish that book.  Goodnight.

Who are these aliens?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dot. The world's smallest stop motion animation

Tree of life

I love this painting.  I think Gustav Klimt is a wonderful artist!




  • 10-12 dried red chili peppers - 100grams
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 - 1  teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin 
  • 2-3 tsp lemon juice
Put it all in the blender, wizz it all up and store in the fridge for up to a month.  It is a bit hot for me but Trisso loves it!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Cool Stuff

This is the work of Jonna Pohjalainen, who created coloured pencils from fallen trees in the forest.  Go to Streetart to have a look at a few others.

Now, this is a cool idea. Imagine driving around the country in a double decker dress shop! The perfect thing to do in your twenties with a friend!  (With a hula hoop)

Another Kate  leads a very colourful life!!

Saturday night songs

I love this song.  I never get sick of it.  So great to dance to!

I had to add this one too. It was my favourite on countdown when i was little. I love the film clip too.

Activities to inspire a reluctant artist

 Masking tape painting - put lots of strips of masking tape over a painting board (paper will rip).  Then cover the whole board with paint.

 Wait for the paint to dry and then peel off the masking tape.  Cool stripes!

 Trace around  a cup using a crayon then with water colours paint the circles and then paint the background.  Django and I did this together because painting makes him "tired". (You do it mum, I'm tired!)

Bubble blowing painting - Django quite likes this one! Just mix paint and dish washing liquid. Blow bubbles and hold the paper over the bubbles.