It's a Resolution, Baby!

52 Weeks. 52 New Year's Resolutions.

52 Weeks Wiser. Resolutions in Review. January 10, 2011

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I realise none many of you have lately found yourselves wandering listlessly, stuffing yourselves with all manner of unhealthy concoctions to fill the empty void that’s opened in your hearts since this blog has come to an end.  So I offer you this one final post to tack up on your wall and read over and over until the pain begins to fade.  OR it will simply bore you to tears and you’ll feel immense relief at never having to subject yourselves to my banal meanderings ever again.

 

First of all I’d like to thank my family—particularly my mum and dad (when they weren’t cursing me for my stupid resolutions)—my friends and the occasional strangers for all your incredible support.  I have felt astonished and touched (the good kind) by your positive comments and suggestions and I am very much looking forward to spending more time with you this year which is one of my (unofficial) resolutions.  Amazingly I have even managed to inspire one of you to start a similar crusade of your own.

 

Some have asked me about my resolutions for this year and while I have delightedly answered that I have none, the truth is it’s difficult to separate all the things I want to achieve from the resolution tag.  For instance I am thrilled about finally having the time to finish some of my Playstation games, complete my studies, establish our new business, go out more often, experiment with my camera and actually clean out my room (I can hear my parents gasping already), some of which I will only be able to bring myself to do by adopting the resolution approach and putting aside dedicated time for them.  I’ve said it before and I shall repeat it this one last time—it is amazing what you can get done once you commit to making it happen.

 

An interesting side effect of these resolutions is a newfound bravery.  Once I would have let embarrassment and inconvenience get in the way of things I wanted to do but yesterday at the Gallery of Modern Art my friend and I put aside discomfort to join long queues for the best and most memorable exhibitions and have a go on the large metal slide that joins the third floor to the ground floor.  Normally I would have walked away from these experiences because they were too challenging but they ended up being the highlights of the day.  I am so looking forward to enjoying life without having the resolution blog looming over me every second, but with the greater enthusiasm it has given me for adventure and new experiences.  You never know, I may even come back to this blog if I find myself with some money to burn.

 

In the meantime I’ve started a new task which I may blogarise in the future if I can think of a way to make it interesting.  I’ve begun entering every competition I find provided I’m eligible and the conditions aren’t too difficult.  The idea started as a way to prove how unlucky I am but it occurred to me that maybe that’s because I don’t put myself out there enough.  So if you’re lucky (or, more specifically, if I’M lucky) you may find resolution baby has turned into winner baby.

 

To end this blog I thought I would give an update on each resolution, perhaps unwisely because I found that writing the updates was almost as painful as actually doing them so only the truly committed amongst you should bother to read on.  For the rest of you I hoped you enjoyed Resolution Baby.  Thanks for coming.

 

1.  Start a Blog.

Well, yes, I did start a blog and by some miracle managed to sustain it for 52 weeks.  Sadly, now I am ending one.

 

2.  Be a Better Photographer.

Thanks to the blog I finally feel as if I’m at a point where I can wrap my head around the workings of an SLR without having to continually reread the manual.  Problem being, whenever I take my camera off ‘Auto’ the photos usually turn out terrible.  In 2011 I plan to discover whether this is because my camera is faulty or if I’m simply not destined for photography.

 

3.  Learn to Use Photoshop.

Earlier in the year I applied for a retouching job which initially resulted in a lot of interest from the employer but after sending them some of my Photoshop efforts I never heard from them again.  I’ve barely used Photoshop since due to a lack of time and a lack of faith in my skills.  I assume Photoshop can’t be faulty so I’m taking full responsibility for this one and will dedicate large portions of this year to being better with it.

 

4.  Read 3 Books a Month.

I’m well aware I never posted my books for the final three months so here they are:

 

October –

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Beautiful Creatures – Garcia & Stohl

Prophecy of the Sisters – Michelle Zink

 

November –

Guardian of the Gate – Michelle Zink

Hush Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick

Crescendo – Becca Fitzpatrick (the worst thing I’ve ever read)

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life – Bryan Lee O’Malley

Preincarnate – Shaun Micallef

The Countesses of Castello – Milena Agus

 
December –

An Object of Beauty – Steve Martin

The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C. Morais

Nerd Do Well – Simon Pegg (I hate to admit it but I technically didn’t finish this until January so it doesn’t actually qualify for December.  Therefore, I failed one resolution.  That’s alright isn’t it?)

 

I’ve decided not to include reviews, however if you continue to be interested in my reading efforts you can find me devoutly using Goodreads at http://goodreads.com/Starlsy – a site I cannot recommend highly enough if you love to read.  If you do decide to take a look you will notice I have 80+ books on my ‘To Read’ list.  Sadly, at least 75 of these are already cluttering my bookshelf waiting for their turn to have their pages ruffled.

 

5.  Make a Record Bowl.

It sits on my dresser holding my stuff.

 

6.  Learn to Yoyo.

Suffice to say I have not decided to take yoyoing up as a regular hobby however I did recently have a go of my five year old second-cousin’s yoyo and, while I was still useless with it, it was much easier to use than the plastic hunk of crap I was trying to use.

 

7.  Go to GOMA.

I’ve been back twice since.  It never disappoints.

 

8.  Register as an Organ Donor.

Still registered, although, thankfully, organs still intact.

 

9.  Start a Trivia Team.

I have not been back to trivia since but am definitely keen to do so now I have a bit more spare time.  I shall endeavour to drink less.

 

10.  Become a Fictional Character.

Nick Earls’s next book is due out in July.  No idea what it will be called.  No idea if my character will make the cut.

 

11.  Learn a Craft from Mum.

I am never sewing again.

 

12.  Make a Terrarium.

The terrarium still provides a leafy home for my plastic figurines although it is looking a little sadder and sparser now than ever before.  Unfortunately the smaller one died quite quickly, was replaced, and died again.  Regardless, it was a fun and worthwhile task.

 

13.  Explore the Rumour of a Local Beach.

I’ve not been back which I hoped to do come summer, but since Queensland hasn’t seen the sun for weeks it may have to wait a touch longer.  I’ve added it to my ‘Things To Do’ file which is oddly labelled ‘Time Travel’.

 

14.  Dress like a Geisha.

Even thinking about this makes my eyes hurt at the memory of the white gunk plastered on my face.  The kimono is now safely tucked away until next time I get the urge to spend hours getting dressed.

 

15.  Check out a Roller Derby Game.

I actually went to the second bout as well but it gets a little boring if you attend too regularly.  Still, a fun night out and am looking forward to catching a game from a different league eventually.  Also, a skate centre has opened up near my house so … well … I was going to imply that maybe I’ll get so good I’ll join a derby team, but who am I kidding right?

 

16.  Make a 3-Dimensional Theatre.

Now lives in a box in the garage.  I think.  Where’d you put that Dad?

 

17.  Learn About Nutrition.

Ahem.  Oh hey, I did get a dehydrator for Christmas and I’m whipping up some tasty and healthy snacks as we speak.  Hopefully this will offset the 10kg of Cadbury chocolate sitting in the fridge.

 

18.  Make Homemade Ice Cream.

T’was delicious.  Also made a second batch of sorbet that was pineapple and passionfruit flavour.  Now that it’s summer we’ll undoubtedly finish that off.

 

19.  Free the West Memphis Three.

As of November all three of the WM3 have been granted evidentiary hearings to decide whether a new trial will be ordered due to insufficient evidence being available in the original trial.  The case is being given priority as the judge is keen to “get this done as soon as possible”. Damien’s wife delivered the news saying ‘this is the beginning’.  He replied, ‘no, quite frankly, this is the end.’  Easily my most popular blog post.

 

20.  Notice other Numbers.

The number 33 continues to plague me, in fact, more so now that my parents take photos of their own instances of 33 and email them to me.  I just try to ignore it.

 

21.  Attend Paniyiri Greek Festival.

This was my least favourite resolution of the year, and probably the weakest addition.  I apologise.

 

22.  Learn to Knit.

I never did wear that cowl.

 

23.  Prepare a Four-Course Meal.

Is anyone still reading?  Purple Monkey Dishwasher.

 

24.  Attend Lifeline Bookfest.

I believe there’s another one soon.  I was going to volunteer but the temptation to add more books to my collection would just be too great.  My name is Hayley and I’m a bookaholic.

 

25.  Make Preserves.

The jam was delicious.  I’m waiting for the day my mother asks me to make more.  The corn relish is too dry and chunky.  Have never found a solution for this and as a result it’s slowly turning mouldy in the pantry.  Sad face.

 

26.  Go to Australia Zoo.

And I did.  Writing a recap for all 52 resolutions was a bit silly really.

 

27.  Wander Through a Cemetery at Night.

Looking forward to wandering through a cemetery during the day, equipped with camera, sometime soon.

 

28.  Be a Tourist in my own City.

It would be too soon to do this again but it was a lovely experience and I’m looking forward to working with some of the photos this year.

 

29.  Learn to Meditate.

Haven’t done any meditation since.  I would like to though.  I’ll stick it on that ‘Time Travel’ list.

 

30.  Appreciate Past Achievements.

A few more to add now and hopefully the future will bring many more substantial ones.

 

31.  Splendour in the Grass Music Festival.

Will I go again this year?  Only time will tell.

 

32.  Watch Movies I’ve Never Seen.

Now I just need to catch up on all the other movies and TV shows cluttering up the place. You can follow my viewing habits at http://gomiso.com/u/starlsy.

 

33.  Catch Up With My Family.

Just got back from Adelaide having spent Christmas with the Southern relatives.  It was a marvellous time.  And not so fraught with drama.

 

34.  Visit a City I’ve Never Been To:  Adelaide.

Now I’ve been there twice!

 

35.  Attend a Writers Festival.

I look forward to attending more now that my anger over the last one has subsided.

 

36.  Go to Powerhouse Farmers Markets.

I haven’t been back although I’ve discovered a couple nearer to home that I’m looking forward to attending.

 

37.  Eat My Weight in Chocolate.

Why did I think this was a worthy resolution?  I do this all the time!

 

38.  Get to Know My Local Area.

Now that the resolution challenge is over I’m immensely looking forward to spending more time in these newfound places.

 

39.  Learn about Web 2.0.

Well, whaddya know?  I finished this very worthy course from which I’ve learnt a lot.  And I won a $50 WOW Sight and Sound GIFT VOUCHER.  Awesome!  They will be revising and adding new components to the course later in the year.  And hopefully, more prizes.

 

40.  See the Tim Burton Exhibition.

I did finally buy a copy of ‘The Art of Tim Burton’ from eBay for cheaper than from the publisher.  It is the most beautiful thing I own.

 

41.  Try Cake Decorating.

This just ain’t for me.  I wonder if she ever ate it all?

 

42.  Zombie Walk!

Already thinking about my costume for this year.  Bring it on.

 

43.  Make Something with Felt.

I haven’t made anything more yet (except a pouch to hold a present) but I’m always thinking of new things to make.  Perhaps I’ll have a whole felt family by the end of this year?

 

44.  See Monster Trucks.

From what I understand the Monster Trucks Association has since fallen apart (much like the trucks) so we may have been very lucky to catch this show.  I might have my facts wrong though.

 

45.  Start a Business.

This is still very much in the works, however after a few negative comments and a few timing issues this is probably moving forward slower than anticipated.  It will be the first task I commit to this year.

 

46.  Learn how to Frame Pictures.

No mat cutter for Christmas people!  My birthday is in May.  I did buy some frames from Ikea and have framed a few of my favourite pictures.  If only the mats fit them properly.

 

47.  Try Pumpkin Pie.

Most of this went in the bin.

 

48.  Have Acupuncture.

I stopped having acupuncture and taking the Chinese herbs.  I’ve barely had hayfever since.  Stupid unpredictable condition.

 

49.  See U2.

I saw Gorillaz the following week.  U2 were good but the Gorillaz stage show was bloody incredible.  If you ever get to see them, whether you like them or not, jump at the chance.

 

50.  See The Nutcracker.

I was given a ticket to see Wicked the Musical for Christmas which I’m thrilled about seeing since I originally missed it in London.  I didn’t get a nutcracker though.

 

51.  Give to Charity at Christmas.

Well I’ve only just done this resolution.  Gimme a chance!  Am looking forward to seeing the RSPCA pet I sponsored after January 25th.

 

52.  Celebrate the New Year & Reflect on the Last.

If you’re keen to do something next year get in touch and we’ll plan something BIG.

 

Anyone still with me?  Hello?  Is this thing on?

 

You’re the truly special ones.  Thanks for taking the journey with me to …

 

The End.  🙂

 

 

Week 52. Resolution 52. Celebrate the New Year & Reflect on the Last. January 8, 2011

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One of the primary reasons I began this blog is that last New Year’s Eve I was filled with despondency at spending the most important night of the year playing Little Big Planet with my mum while the outside world erupted in fireworks and joviality.  I love my mum (and also Little Big Planet) but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being left out of a universal cause for celebration.  This ignited a lightbulb of realisation that I’d become the kind of person who waits around for life to happen instead of forcing it to work for me which could only end in another 12 months of failed expectations and false hopes that each successive year would be better.

 

Did these 52 resolutions make for a better year?  My initial response was no but that was because I was looking at it from the wrong perspective.  Sure I am still single, working a casual job and living with my parents.  If anything, the resolution challenge made it even more difficult to improve upon these areas, sapping all my money and spare time.  But it did give me a purpose, 52 personal achievements to be proud of and more confidence in my writing.  It sent me on many journeys I wouldn’t necessarily have taken and forced me to put aside excuses to learn and create things I’d always wanted to but would never have gotten around to otherwise.  While it distanced me from some, it brought me closer to others and it has given me a handy method to tackle all my tasks in future and an ingrained motivation to continually strive to be better in years to come.  Maybe I didn’t tick any of those big boxes but that certainly doesn’t mean that this blog has not been worthwhile.  Perhaps it wasn’t a brilliant year but it was by no means a bad year either considering it was rich and full and I was blessed in many ways.  There are two sides to everything—it’s just a matter of which one you choose to focus on.

 

For my 52nd resolution I was adamant to spend my New Year’s Eve doing SOMETHING.  Initially I had grand plans to finish my resolutions with a flourish but most people don’t like to think about New Years before Christmas and early efforts to rouse interest in friends fell on deaf ears.  This was my mistake in 2009 and the frantic scrambling for last minute activities was not something I wished to repeat.  Subsequently, ideas such as house boats, theme parks, beaches, golf and picnics were all thrown around as the ideal way to spend the day of New Year’s Eve but when I discovered I’d been scheduled to work, my plans shrunk in size.  Instead I considered a pre-eve dinner, gathering friends together before they set off on their drinking adventures but my work hours were extended and so all my plans became unfulfilled dreams.  No matter.  I still had a party to go to and nothing was going to get in my way.

 

After work I was a whirlwind of preparation cooking hors d’oeuvres and blending fresh raspberries, mint, and apple & cranberry juice to act as mixer for my vanilla vodka.  Both of these were enjoyed amidst my friend’s backyard tropical garden where the night was filled with chats, laughter, music, sparklers, toxic punch and the inevitable end of night Singstar screeching.  (I suspect our hosts practice a lot of Singstar in their spare time as I can never beat them.)  It was a fantastic evening among company that I always enjoy immensely, even if I did suffer a mammoth hangover, a shattered container, a grazed knee and a potentially fractured toe the next day.  But as the night ended at approximately 4:40am these ailments were probably to be expected.

 

The interesting thing I learnt in my process of concocting the perfect evening is that most people simply don’t care about New Year’s Eve.  Many folk I spoke to about their plans were more discouraged by having to stay up until midnight than the disappointment of spending the night at home.  It seems that they’d learnt a lesson I was still yet to learn.  That New Year’s Eve simply marks the end of another average year and the start of another mediocre one and no manner of crazy celebration is going to affect how the new year will turn out.  It made me realise that I shouldn’t feel resentful if I have no plans and in fact, if I hadn’t spent a New Year’s Eve at home I may never have devised the Resolution Challenge.

 

However, there’s also much to be said for sacrificing one night of sleep to spend tapping into universal good cheer with friends and family celebrating having made it through another year with all the trials and triumphs it bestowed and the glimmer of hope that the next year will be filled with good health, good fortune, inspiration, accomplishment, happy surprises, and more good days than bad.  And if nothing else, the recognition that it takes an average year to prepare for an amazing one.

 

There are two sides to everything—it’s just a matter of which one you choose to focus on.  And your choice may make all the difference.

 

Week 51. Resolution 51. Give to Charity at Christmas. January 3, 2011

The Christmas story I’ve always found the most moving is the Hans Christian Andersen tale, ‘The Little Match Girl’ where a young match seller freezes to death while imagining the perfect Christmas for herself—the kind of decadent Christmas so many of us take for granted.

 

It seems ironic that our bizarre Christmas tradition, intended as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, generally results in gluttony and excess.  However, it can’t be denied that it is the one time of year where we can enthusiastically love and be loved, give and receive and show our appreciation for the people who enrich our lives.  They say charity begins at home and at no time is this truer than Christmas making it the perfect opportunity for some of this charity to spill over into the lives of those for whom Christmas is a struggle.

 

Over the years charity has become a controversial topic about which a lot of criticism, negative attitudes and judgement have arisen.  There was a time you could donate some blankets, tins of food or second-hand toys but now all the charities ask for is MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, and, in some cases, a signature on a petition.  Subsequently it’s become difficult to make a difference if you’re time or cash poor.  Most people are now sceptical about how much of their monetary contribution actually makes it to those in need with the establishment taking a sizeable scoop off the top.  Charity shops have become priced well out of the range of those in need because demand has outweighed supply and the dollar has become more important than provisions for the underprivileged.  Whatever your opinion it’s clear that charity certainly has a massive PR problem.

 

Furthermore, people are often judged for the nature of their contribution with a common belief being that the only valid way to help is by volunteering, while others simply use the guise of charity to falsely flaunt their philanthropic natures.  On the other hand, people who actively campaign for charity can become a financial burden on their friends and risk adopting a self righteous attitude.

 

Personally I’ve not always been an overly charitable person.  I’ve given here and there but never with great gusto and I, too, felt charitable organisations were not to be trusted.  Yet, gradually my attitude has changed over the past two years to the point that I now I find myself passionately adopting causes and donating unthinkingly.  I always empty my wallet of change whenever I see a collection box for the RSPCA, Leukaemia Foundation or the Guide Dogs and feel saddened when my coins makes a dull thud against the plastic instead of clinking upon a mountain of change.  I hope my gradual progression will evolve from “change for change” to eventually inspire me to put aside my insecurities and make a tangible difference through a hands-on contribution.

 

To work towards this end I began thinking about what I could do this Christmas.  My interest was initially sparked by an ad in a local magazine looking for gift-wrapping volunteers in support of the Leukaemia Foundation.  As someone who has directly experienced the helping hand of the Leukaemia Foundation I jumped at the chance to give something back, despite my extremely shoddy gift wrapping skills.  Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for them) they already had enough volunteers and so I was added to a standby list should they need extra assistance.

 

This is not the first time I’ve put myself forward for volunteer work and found that the charities in question were already full up with volunteers or had a list of demands that were impossible for the average Joe to meet—most likely because they’re looking to sift out the best from a charitable, but not necessarily qualified, bunch.  Naturally, to retain the best of the best, they then need to consider paying wages which is where the cost of running these organisations begins to skyrocket and why people become wary of how their contributions are being utilised.

 

I’ve personally chosen a number of charities to support of which I’m no longer suspicious about whether my money is directly reaching those in need because I’ve come to understand that the infrastructure and staff are equally crucial in making a difference.  Besides, if you gave money directly to a cause you’d likely find it would be squandered without proper procedures in place.  And let’s not forget that you need to spend money to make money.  Charity organisations may not be ideal but they’re the best vehicle we have.

 

With this in mind I put a small amount of money aside from my Christmas spend to divvy up between my favourite charities, being the Leukaemia Foundation, Amnesty International and the RSPCA in my support of health, human rights and animal protection; all charities I’ve seen direct action from and feel I can trust.  I also deposited some money into the commissary account of Damien Echols from the West Memphis Three to contribute to his nutrition while on death row, making a direct impact to his quality of life.

 

As my Christmas holiday involved a plane journey I ensured I put some money into the Guide Dog containers scattered throughout the airport and donated my change via the UNICEF envelope distributed with Qantas headphones.  I also signed petitions for World Vision and Amnesty for causes I believed in.  I purchased gift tags only from companies that gave a portion of the purchase price to charity and I picked up this little guy from IKEA to put under the Kmart Wishing Tree.  He made me smile and I hope he makes a child in need smile for a time too.  I considered at length whether I could bring myself to donate blood but simply the thought of giving a whole bag made me considerably squeamish and so I decided against it.

 

I expect some will judge me for my meagre contribution.  It would not be the first time.  But I believe I’ve made a difference that requires no approval and while it may not seem like much now, I know I’ve fuelled a  fire within myself that will lead me to make regular contributions by any means I can.  Perhaps I can urge you to do the same?

 

Week 50. Resolution 50. See The Nutcracker. December 24, 2010

Considering my level of coordination rivals that of a gangly, new-born deer attempting to walk upon a sheet of ice, you may find it surprising that I was once a ballet dancer.  For eight years I pirouetted, arabesqued, chasséd, demi pliéd and generally spoke much more French than I do now before the trials of life stripped my first passion away from me.  While I wasn’t a talented dancer by any means, I was certainly a committed one, studying six different types of dance that meant I spent more time in ballet shoes than any other form of footwear.  I was once even chosen to dance with the New Zealand Ballet as part of an ensemble but was swiftly kicked out for talking too much and subsequently received a much better character part.  I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

 

But, like the ugly duckling in reverse, I grew less graceful and more self conscious (and less talkative) as adolescence peeled me from my youthful abandon and my life as a dancer was over.

 

However, back then, such was my passion for music and dance that I consumed as much Grease, Annie, Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu than was probably healthy for a young girl but somehow never managed to see the world’s most famous ballet, The Nutcracker.  Ironically I’ve probably actually danced IN The Nutcracker but was too busy backstage being caked in hairspray, make-up and tulle to have ever experienced the full shebang.  I always believed it was the tale of a bunch of Christmas toys getting up to mischief while their human playmates slept—Like ‘Toy Story: The Ballet’.  But it’s not like that at all as I found out when I finally attended the Queensland Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ at QPAC this Christmas.

 

The Nutcracker is based on a story adapted by Alexandre Dumas of ‘The Three Musketeers’ fame and is (unbelievably I know) about a nutcracker.  But like most good ballets, and operas too I imagine, the plot is tenuous at best and simply provides a hook to hang the dancing upon.  The ballet was originally performed in 1892 but proving unsuccessful was abandoned on the scrapheap.  This was evidenced in the film Fantasia (as mentioned in an earlier post) when the narrator introduces Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite by explaining that The Nutcracker ballet “wasn’t much of a success and nobody performs it nowadays.”  However merely four years after this infamous statement the San Francisco Ballet introduced The Nutcracker into the hearts of the public, forever cementing the ballet as a crucial component of the Christmas tradition the world over.

 

The Nutracker begins at a lavish Christmas party in the mansion of the Stahlbaum family.  Much to the delight of the children, their godfather, the dastardly toy-maker Herr Drosselmeyer, arrives to distribute presents, one of which is the infamous nutcracker.  After the party the youngest child, Clara, sneaks down to the parlour to check on the nutcracker but as the clock strikes midnight everything in the room grows and she is beset by a plague of mice.  The now alive nutcracker and his army of gingerbread men do battle with the Mouse King but quickly fall to his micey minions until Clara throws a slipper at them triumphantly winning the battle.  Who knew slippers could be such an effective weapon eh?

 

Up until this point the ballet makes a strange kind of sense but then the nutcracker inexplicably transforms into a prince and takes Clara to the Land of Snow for a dance.  Afterwards they visit the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy celebrates their victory with a selection of dances including the Spanish Dance, the Arabian Dance, the Russian Dance, the Chinese Dance, the Mirliton Dance (?) and the Waltz of the Flowers.  Then they all dance some more until Clara awakens back in the parlour of her mansion, the nutcracker cradled in her arms.  This nonsensical second act could be blamed upon that old chestnut, “it was all just a dream”.

 

While this is the official story, in the Queensland Ballet version of events, following Clara’s dance with the prince, it was her omnipresent godfather Drosselmeyer who accompanied her to the Land of the Sweets and their rapport was such that I couldn’t help continually questioning their bizarre relationship.

 

Perhaps we simply mixed up the dancers because our $55 nosebleed seats meant we were so far away and so high up that my fear of heights was distracting enough to make the experience an uncomfortable one.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how dance is the only activity humans participate in where a complex set of movements are repeated over and over, night after night.

 

(If your mind just wandered to the gutter, come back now please because we’re discussing ballet for chrissakes.)

 

Tchaikovsky’s stirring and timeless score was performed beautifully by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the Queensland Ballet’s sets and lighting were lovely and spectacular respectively.  However as ballet was such a large part of my life for a time I still have a critical eye for dance and, while there were undoubtedly some stunning dances including the Snow Dance and the Arabian Dance, for the most part the performances and choreography were far from faultless.

 

An oddity of ballet which I’ve always found ridiculous is that you are required to clap so much that it’s a wonder your hands don’t perpetually meld together.  Not only are you expected to clap after every dance but at the end you generally clap for a good ten minutes as you applaud the ensemble, then each group of dancers, then individual dancers, then the ensemble again, then the director, the individual dancers again, the ensemble, and then, if you’re lucky, they might finally drop the curtain giving your blistered hands some peace.

 

Even though my time as a dancer is over there were certainly plenty of small, perfectly groomed girls in the audience for whom the dream continues or for whom, after seeing The Nutcracker the dream begins.

 

May your Christmases be merry and your godfathers not so creepy!

 

Week 49. Resolution 49. See U2. December 16, 2010

Remember when music was tangible?  Before iPods were all the rage you actively had to go to a shop and pay for an album in order to listen to a band or song that you liked.  The excitement you felt holding a freshly minted album in your hands was as much about the cover art and packaging as it was about the music.  A finely crafted album was savoured and played regularly—taking both the good with the bad.  (And AH-MAZING things like THIS were still possible!)

 

These days you merely have to visit the iTunes store to purchase a song of your choice.  While I love the convenience of paying only for the tracks that I want and having access to artists the local music store would be unlikely to stock, part of me misses the ritual and anticipation of hearing a new album for the very first time, and the second time, and third, and so on until I knew the words to every song.  Now our listening habits are more about variety than consistency and our love affair with our favourite albums has lost its passion.

 

Subsequently, my life no longer has a soundtrack.  For me, and you too I imagine, there are certain memories I can’t reflect on without remembering the music that accompanied them.  Whole portions of my life cannot be recalled without hearing The Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Doors, Nick Cave, Death Cab For Cutie and so many, many more.  But now, for the most part, my more recent memories are silent.

 

One of the most prevalent bands to accompany my memories, at a time when I was first discovering the importance of music in my life, is U2.  Towards the later end of my high school years U2’s Achtung Baby was the soundtrack.  When I graduated high school and first discovered real independence U2’s Zooropa was the soundtrack.  These albums defined moments of my life.  And, even now looking back at U2’s discography I can’t help but feel nostalgic for my teenage years.  So when U2 toured the spectacle that was Popmart in 1998, a concert I couldn’t afford to attend because I was only a poor student, I swore to myself that one day I would see U2 live.

 

Admittedly, I haven’t thought much about U2 in the intervening years.  Like all bands that blaze too brightly for a time, there is undoubtedly an accompanying full from grace.  Love them or loathe them, they are still unquestionably the biggest band in the world even if, these days, people tend to laugh AT Bono and not with him which is odd considering his philanthropic work has genuinely made the world a better place.

 

Thirteen years later when U2’s 360 tour was announced I had graduated from a poor student to a poor adult and initially thought that perhaps my dream no longer had worth, but on learning of the $40 seats the part of me that once longed to see U2 began to burn a little brighter.  Although the ticket ended up being $6o with the inclusion of Ticketek’s ludicrous fees, it was still a steal to see the world’s biggest band tour the world’s largest stadium show and my excitement grew as the event edged ever closer.

 

Catching the free shuttle bus to the concert was an experience in itself.  The driver announced he’d play some music to get us into the mood before assaulting our eardrums with a snippet of the kitschiest version of ‘Wheels on the Bus’ I’ve ever heard.  This was quickly followed by the Chicken Dance, the driver’s cackling and the blaring of U2 at shattering levels.  It was an odd sensation staring out the tinted bus windows, listening to blisteringly loud U2 and watching office minions begin their journey home.

 

Never before have I seen such a diverse range of people at a gig, ranging from children to the middle aged and all manner of sorts in between, including the charming young lady who couldn’t keep her boobs in her top.  I heard a girl nearby comment that seeing U2 was on her bucket list and I realised I wasn’t alone in this desire.

 

The expansive set looked as if an alien from War of the Worlds had descended on Suncorp Stadium, laying dormant in wait for its masters to bring it to life.  The massive 360 screen in the belly of the craft counted down from ten minutes to zero before Jay-Z launched onto the stage to attempt to rouse the beast.   Jay-Z was an odd choice for a support, no doubt dividing the audience, but I was personally thrilled to hear favourites Roc Boys, Hard Knock Life and 99 Problems (no Death of Auto-Tune though?).  While our view of Jay-Z was predominantly blocked by the drum risers for his two kits and horn section, the screen provided enough coverage for us to appreciate his lively on-stage presence (he always seems so serious in interviews?)  Jay-Z SOUNDS exactly like I imagine living the glamorous life in New York FEELS and nowhere is that more evident than in Empire State of Mind which worked the crowd into an appreciative frenzy.

 

After a brief break, a Mexican wave and another countdown U2 entered the arena and sauntered along the walkway surrounding the stage to Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and the cheers of a manic crowd.  Their trademark jangly guitar sound was crystal clear (Jay-Z’s set had been a little murky) as they broke into the instrumental ‘Return of the Stingray Guitar’ followed by ‘Beautiful Day’.  The set was equally littered with old favourites as well as newer tracks that I hadn’t heard.  (The set list can be found here, although if you’d like to see a more comprehensive list including the dozens of snippets of covers included in the set, go here.)  I’m glad I hesitated about buying tickets as I was more impressed with the set list for the second night of the Brisbane show in comparison to the first.

 

Naturally the alien spacecraft opened up and revealed all its bells and whistles under U2’s careful touch.  Rotating bridges joined the stage to the circular walkway so the band members, wielding their instruments, could flounce back and forth to interact with the crowd at will, including their ageless drummer Larry Mullen Jr. who either walked about with a djembe or spun his drum kit around to face all angles.  But it was the age old trick of smoke and mirrors that produced the most interesting effects with light reflecting off the two mirror balls, one below the screen and one atop the spacecraft’s tower, spewing so much smoke that the fine night above was shrouded from view.

 

However the true star of the show was the expansive 360 degree screen that for the majority of the show sat at the top of the stage transmitting in four different directions a mix of vision of the band, pre-recorded video and overlaid effects.  The impeccable camera work and vision mixing continually reflected that of a well crafted video clip and was of the best live standard I’ve personally ever witnessed.  It was a great surprise when the individual hexagonal panels of the screen OPENED UP on hinges to spread the entire height of the stage with each panel displaying a different colour.  Having worked in the event and video industry I could fully appreciate how immensely impressive this was and how brain shattering difficult it would have been to conceive.  The screen then closed up again at the bottom of the stage with vision that travelled around the screen in a circular fashion.

 

The band itself performed a perfectly manicured set and I couldn’t help but muse on how remarkable it is that they’ve never broken up or had to replace a drummer or bassist.  Bono’s high energy antics wooed his minions as, at one moment, he serenaded a young girl plucked from the crowd, while the next he was swinging around atop the illuminated steering wheel shaped microphone which hung from the roof.

 

The band expressed their support for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi by inviting members of the Burma Campaign Australia and One, Bono’s own advocacy organisation, onto the stage with Amnesty International lanterns to form a ring of light around the stage  while U2 performed the song originally written for Suu Kyi in 2000, ‘Walk On’.

 

‘With or Without You’ ended the show while an incredible amount of crew pooled to dismantle the spacecraft the second U2 left the stage.  If only the thing really could fly.  Perhaps that’s the next tour.

 

While I can only touch on the many highlights of the night, further incredible facts can be found about the tour here, including their carbon emission offsets and the placement of the stage on Google Earth a week before each show.

 

The show solidified U2 as still being as relevant and important as ever and while they may never return to high rotation on my iPod they’ve successfully managed to give me yet another memory to savour for life.

 

Week 48. Resolution 48. Have Acupuncture. December 8, 2010

I was going to begin this post by saying ‘I’m scared of needles’ until I realised it’s just as superfluous as saying ‘I hate dentists’.  Show me someone who enjoys having long rods of bloodsucking metal shoved into their body parts and I’ll show you a psychopath. What I should really say is that I’ve never met a needle that didn’t cause me to faint.  Except once—but considering I was already in hospital for fainting, Murphy’s Law dictates that it was unlikely to happen again under the watchful eye of a medical specialist.

As a result ‘have acupuncture’ was never high on my list.  But as absolute necessity will overcome just about any fear, on discovering that acupuncture can be used to cure hay fever, the thought of a hay fever free life completely dulled my needle aversion.  That is, of course, until the day of my appointment when I came to my senses.  (Well, not all of my senses considering my sense of smell usually suffers under hay fever’s iron fist.)

To backtrack a little, I first discovered that acupuncture was used to treat rhinitis through someone’s posting of this link on Twitter.

As I’ve suffered the symptoms of hay fever since birth I’ve grown intolerant to most hay fever medication and so an itchy and sniffily nose has become like an old friend.  An old, incontinent friend who never shuts up.  As regular injections and medication sporting the warning ‘may cause drowsiness’ were my only remaining options I was certainly glad to consider an alternative.

Unfortunately acupuncture is generally one of those professions that has not yet harnessed the power of the webpage and as I’m one of those people who no longer uses telephones, finding an acupuncturist who treats respiratory problems was like trying to find a needle in a haystack (sorry).  It also seems that anyone can do a six month course and call themselves an acupuncturist which certainly doesn’t instil much faith in needlephobics. But a call-out on Twitter and Facebook (useful in so many ways) left me with a couple of recommendations and a quick phone call later (fine, I use the phone SOMETIMES, but begrudgingly) and I had myself an appointment.  Bonus—they also have a website, therapists with over ten years experience and were cheaper than others I’d found.

With my appointment looming I could think of only two things.  One—a story told by a friend who does acupuncture about the time a patient accidentally relieved herself while under treatment, and Two—NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!! NEEDLES!!

Good times.

But as chickening out is not part of the resolution code I simply had to ignore these incessant thoughts as much as possible and get on with the frightening task.

CUT TO:  INT. ACUPUNCTURIST TREATMENT ROOM – 2PM.

To kick off the consultation the therapist first talked to me about my symptoms, general health and explained the treatments she was going to use.  An unexpected fact that came out of this discussion is that it’s highly likely I have endometriosis which would affect my fertility should I ever want children.  Other than that, I liked the therapist instantly and found her laidback yet knowledgeable approach sent the last of my fears packing.  She then explained the principles of wind and fire making me realise I have absolutely no concept of how acupuncture works which I’m entirely comfortable with considering I’d likely find weaknesses to poke holes in (pun intended).

I jumped up onto the treatment table and prepared for the needle onslaught.  She used approximately 13 needles starting with feet and moving upwards to legs, hands and face.  Each needle is tapped into the pressure point and feels like a small pinch to the skin.  Nothing to fear at all.  I said as much and she responded that there was a time when people came for acupuncture literally quaking in their boots but these days it’s just so commonplace and the needles so fine that it’s really nothing to worry about.  And it isn’t.

The needles are left in for 20-30 minutes and at first feel like mosquito bites without the itch while they rest in your skin, but eventually the feeling goes away completely.  The only time I felt any pain was when a sudden movement of my foot made the needle bounce around.  The therapist explained that the majority of people tend to fall asleep while under treatment due to acupuncture’s relaxing effects, with most beginning to nod off after the second needle is placed into their skin.  But as someone who finds it difficult to relax and since I was all adrenalined up from the experience I simply stared at the ceiling, smiling to myself for tackling the resolution.  Afterwards her assistant removed the needles which felt like someone plucking a single hair from my skin.

The cost of the appointment was $70, of which my health fund will cover $33 and I was also given $22 worth of Chinese herbs to strengthen my immune system.  The therapist asked to see me in a week after which time I could continue weekly treatments if I so chose.

I’ve spent the time since drinking my wonderful concoction of curry flavoured dirt three times a day and hoping for the best.  I’ve suffered hay fever twice (both times it came on an hour before a shift at work – psychosomatic?) which meant I had to revert to taking my drug of choice, Cetirizine.  However, a week later and I suffered my third attack so badly that I booked my follow up appointment for the same day, despite the cries from my bank account.  This time I didn’t take any antihistamines and my symptoms were so intense that it made me realise exactly how effective my Cetirizine has been.

The therapist asked questions regarding my hay fever since my last appointment and upon discovering I’ve accidentally been taking too much of the Chinese herbs (I was given the wrong instructions) she laughed and said ‘no wonder it’s been working so well!’  Considering I was still getting hay fever this made me question HOW it’s been working so well and whether the acupuncture was just for show.  To my annoyance it meant I had to buy another bottle of herbs.  She reminded me that I should also be using a salt wash (where you pump a bottle of salted water through your nostrils to flush out any toxins) and so I picked up a kit on the way home.

The second application of needles was virtually painless until she put one into my face that must have been so close to a nerve that certain facial movements caused me a great amount of pain.  I spent the 30 minutes desperately wishing for it to be over.

Actually a hedgehog

When the assistant came to remove my needles she laughed hysterically when the one in my forehead refused to come out, commenting that she’d never seen it happen in all her 15 years of working there.  The brief vision of spending my life resembling a porcupine was not pleasant.

That evening my hay fever had become so debilitating that it was beginning to resemble a more serious ailment.  I later realised the likely reason for this particularly severe attack was because I’d managed to flick shampoo into my eye that morning and it had probably gotten into my sinuses.

Whether the treatment will be effective in the long term still remains to be seen but at least I now know the drill. (Oh sorry, that was a dentist joke.)

 

Week 47. Resolution 47. Try Pumpkin Pie. December 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 2:38 PM
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In America they have a holiday devoted to shopping.  Let me just repeat that.  A holiday.  Devoted to shopping.  Previously retailers disguised their spending spree special occasions under fancy names like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day until one particularly clever (or lazy) marketing team decided to call a spade a spade and so Black Friday, the holiday devoted to shopping, was born.   The only company who seems to lose out on this particular consumerist celebration is Hallmark.  Oh.  Hang on.  What’s this?

 

That’s right.  A greeting card to apologise for your crazed Black Friday induced breakdown of Shopzilla proportions.  Oh America.  If countries were pop stars you would be Kanye West—bat shit crazy but still completely adorable.

 

Black Friday falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving and if there’s one thing I’M thankful for it’s that these American traditions have not yet permeated the rest of the western world.  However now that Christmas appears to begin in Australia at the start of November I wouldn’t be entirely against introducing Thanksgiving simply to stave off Christmas until its rightful place in December.

 

While Thanksgiving is a rough day for turkeys it’s a welcome day for leftover Halloween pumpkins or, sadly, PUMPKINS IN A CAN *shudder* since pumpkin pie is a staple of the Thanksgiving tradition.

 

If you ask me, pumpkin is the king of all the vegetables.  The Pumpking, if you will.  Sure it’s not as versatile as the trusty potato but it has much more personality.  Like Hamish to Andy or Jerry Lewis to Dean Martin.  You may feel inclined to tell me, as many have, that pumpkin is considered an inferior vegetable in certain countries, only fit for pigs.  But I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.  I did a Google search on this very myth and all I could find was this:  http://italianfood.about.com/b/2005/08/09/pumpkin-for-pigs.htm So let us never speak of it again and leave my beloved pumpkin alone.

 

I’ve consumed pumpkin in many forms – baked, roasted, steamed, boiled, pulped, souped, sconed, but oddly never in pie form and so when Thanskgiving rolls around every year I find myself wondering if I’m missing out on something truly wonderful.  Never again shall I wonder now that I’ve made my own and discovered the truth.

 

Finding a pumpkin pie recipe is a chore in itself since there are so many variations.  I ended up using an amalgamation of four different recipes.  Most recipes are unclear on what type of pumpkin to use so, having recently discovered that Jap pumpkin is far superior to Butternut after believing it to be the opposite for far too many years, I chose a big ol’ Jap pumpkin for mah pie.

 

First I started (using this recipe), by preparing ‘a stick’ of butter (which is 115 grams), cutting it into cubes and putting them into the freezer for roughly half an hour.  Apparently you want your butter to stay chunky in your pastry to get a nice flaky finish, hence the freezing.  I chose this recipe specifically because it didn’t use shortening (because I don’t really know what that is).

 

(Incidentally this is the only experience Australians have ever had with a stick of butter …)

 

Meanwhile I began preparing the pumpkin using this recipe which involved cutting the pumpkin into chunks, deseeding and depulping, and roasting for 45 minutes in a 180 degree oven.  While they were cooking I began on the pastry, using a food processor to combine the ingredients and adding ice cold water until the dough was coarse and crumbly.  I kneaded this into a four inch round disc, sprinkled it with flour and covered it in cling wrap before refrigerating for an hour.  When the pumpkin was done I waited for it to cool before scraping off the skin and using the food processor to liquefy it in batches.  (Ensure your pumpkin isn’t still hot or you may crack the bowl of your processor / blender).  The Jap pumpkin was enough for about six pumpkin pies so I froze the leftover puree.

When the pastry was nice and chilled I removed it from the fridge, letting it sit for ten minutes before preparing it using this recipe (from step 3) rolling and rotating the dough until it was big enough to cover my pie pan, transporting it by folding the dough into quarters making sure the point was in the middle of the pan and pressing the dough down to fit snugly.  I trimmed, tucked and squeezed the edges with my fingers to give a nice rippled effect before refrigerating it for 20 minutes.  I then pricked it all over with a fork, covered it in alfoil and refrigerated for a further 30 minutes.  I wish I could justify all this refrigerating but it’s simply what the recipe said to do.

 

Then I began to prepare the pie ingredients, combining the pureed pumpkin with spices, condensed milk, egg yolks and whipped egg whites using this recipe because of its stellar reviews.  I then baked the pie crust low in the oven on 200 degrees for 15 minutes with the alfoil, and ten minutes without it to make sure the pie crust didn’t go soggy.  The edges started to burn a little so I covered them with alfoil before adding the pie mixture and baking for 15 minutes.  I then prepared the streusel topping mixing together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and chopped pecans (the recipe calls for walnuts but I thought pecans might be tastier), combining until crumbly and sprinkling over the pie, cooking for a further 20 minutes or so.  I then jumped back to this recipe letting the pie sit for an hour once the middle wobbled like gelatine because it continues to cook on the bench (and stops your pastry from burning and your mixture from curdling).  Finally I prepared cream to finish (using this recipe) by whipping a cup of cream with a tablespoon of maple syrup.

 

WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT… I didn’t like it.  I don’t think the recipe went wrong, although having never tasted it before I had nothing to compare it to, it was simply that I detest cinnamon and nutmeg.  Only the Americans could take something lovely and make it unnecessarily sweet and gross.   Mind you, I did have three pieces just to be sure.

 

My Mum liked it though, and my Aunt and Uncle said they liked it (but considering there’s still half a pie left in the fridge I’m a little dubious).  I just don’t think the Australian palate is familiar with heavily spiced cuisine.  I probably should have suspected as much considering Thanksgiving, unlike so many other American traditions, has thus far failed to reach our shores.

 

So thank you America, we’ll keep the pumpkin carving but the pies are all yours. Happy Thanksgiving!