Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Wars have been fought over flowers. Novels have been written about tulip-induced mania. People have been beaten to death with dahlias*. So, it was with some trepidation, that I attended my introduction to floristry class on Saturday (I previously mentioned it here).

I had pictured myself sitting in a sun-filled room - possibly with a bluebird on the windowsill – while a Martha Stewartesque guide helped a select few to create dreamy, hand-tied bouquets (probably tied with rustic looking twine and wrapped in beautiful vintage paper) from white roses and baby pink peonies.

You know that sound in the movies where the needle gets scratched across the record and everything comes to a halt? Make that sound in your head now.

What I actually experienced on Saturday was twenty beginner florists in the back room of a wholesale shop at the flower markets, a lesson on how to make a box display using very bright blooms and an instructor who looked like a bikie.

Our teacher was great and an award winning florist to boot. I struggled a bit with the lesson format as we all stood in front of the instructor’s bench while he took us through the box arrangement from start to finish before sending us off to do it at our own benches. I have a memory like a sieve and most of what I had been told was already in a puddle on the floor by the time I got back to my bench. As a result my finished arrangement was decidedly less than perfect. But I promised to post a pic so here it is, along with some other images from the day:

My arrangement is supposed to have more of a dome shape and the flowers should be a bit closer together but I’m giving myself a score of “not bad for a total novice who barely remembers her own name”. I have always wanted to take a bloom wrangling course and I’m very glad I did. I don’t think I’ll pursue any further formal study on the subject but I picked up lots of useful tips (and scored a rose thorn stripper thingo) and do feel a bit more confident to tackle casual arrangements at home. I also learned to appreciate carnations which I am very pleased about as they have been subject to my Dianthus-based bigotry for far too long.

After the class, Andy, Agatha and a picnic basket whisked me off for a lovely lunch at the Sherwood Arboretum. The sun shone, birds sang, fluffy clouds obligingly turned themselves into dragons and islands and Agatha squashed a red grape into my white skirt. Happy days.

If you think it’s time to do more of what makes you happy, there are lots of classes and courses to choose from. These are some of the many, many courses available right now around Australia as well as in book, CD, DVD and online format:

Flying Trapeze Lessons

Colloquial Mongolian for Beginners

Learn to play the Ukulele

PADI Digital Underwater Photography

Hula Hooping Classes

What are you waiting for? Find your “thing” and sign up today!

*This may or may not be true but there is no evidence to prove it did not happen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bollywood Babies

Yesterday I did something that made me and I hope a few others, really happy. I threw a Bollywood-inspired baby shower for one of my dearest friends. Siobhan has had a complicated and inspiring journey to parenthood – she kindly gave me permission to let you read about it on her blog if you would like to know more – so it was an extra special pleasure to be able to honour her in this way.

My own experience of trying to become a parent has also had its challenges and we have shared many moments of joy, fear and despair as we wondered if we would ever hold our babies in our arms. Well, Siobhan is going to have those arms very full very soon as she is expecting twins!

Siobhan chose the Bollywood theme for its sense of fun and colour and joie de vivre and its execution was just my (western) interpretation of India and Bollywood – no cultural appropriation intended! Helpfully, Siobhan is pregnant with girl/boy twins so I was able to indulge my inner sexist with a hot pink and hot blue colour scheme. I bought huge swathes of organza to drape around the soon-to-be Mum's (very cool and spacious) apartment as well as lanterns and tissue flower pom poms – chosen to represent the marigolds that are ubiquitous at Indian festivals.

(Click to enlarge photo. Photos by Caroline Serrano Tran and yours truly).

I hung a poster of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, prosperity, light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm) partly for the glorious colours and partly because I love that she is associated with fertility and abundance. These, and her other outstanding attributes, are all that I wish for the beautiful babies about to join us in the world.

The food was easy and fun – a visit to a great Indian restaurant provided much of the feast, generous friends brought cake and curry puffs and a couple of trips to an Indian supermarket provided the rest.

In honour of the babies I also included lots of cute elephants (Indian elephants, naturally) which added to the general sense of fun. Games were played, Bhangra music was listened to (and in some cases danced to) and many beautiful gifts were given.

To round off a very special day we had a Valakaappu ceremony. Literally translated, Valakaappu means bangles and bracelets and a really sweet part of the ceremony is the adorning of the pregnant woman with bangles as a blessing for the Mother-to-be and her baby/babies. We all gave Siobhan a bangle together with a wish for her babies and needless to say it got a little bit emotional.

A lovely day for a lovely friend. How wonderful that making someone I love happy should be the very thing that makes me happy too. Ain’t life grand?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A life less literary

The new Queensland Premier, one Campbell Newman, has just announced that the QLD Premier’s Literary Awards (QPLA) have been scrapped. Politics aside, this absolutely stinks. Reeks to high heaven in fact. Like a dead fish which has been stuffed down the back of a decrepit sofa to punish a man with a wandering willy. The QPLA have played a huge role in the creation of a thriving, rich and innovative Queensland Arts scene, they have launched impressive writerly careers and given encouragement to every little Queensland bookworm who ever dreamed of putting pen to paper. R.I.P. You will be sorely missed.

Perhaps I should recuse myself since I am indeed a bookworm of epic proportions. Or perhaps we bespectacled non-arthropod invertebrates are exactly the sorts who should be standing up and objecting to this kind of short-sightedness. I shall stop there in case I blow a gasket or lose a body part or suffer some other malfunction commensurate with my age and experience.

All this talk of books has made me have a good old think about my current reading list and what I’m going to tackle next.

My bedside table is groaning under the weight of five tomes:

In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare
The story of Tasmania told via the life and legacy of “The Father of Tasmania” Anthony Fenn Kemp, a corrupt but interesting figure.

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
A bildungsroman set in a mining town in the mid 1960s, it follows the story of bookish Charlie Bucktin and mixed race maverick Jasper Jones. Small-town bigotry and tender friendship ensue.

Weekend Wodehouse by P.G. Wodehouse
A collection from the funniest writer ever to step foot on the face of the earth including Drones Club tales, Mr. Mulliner stories, and stories of Jeeves, Lord Emsworth, and Ukridge. The selection also features extracts from Wodehouse's novels and non-fiction writings.

Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best by P.G. Wodehouse (I REALLY like Wodehouse)
A complete collection of the short stories in Wodehouse's Blandings series including my favourite tale “Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend.”

Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy
Set in 1970s Britain, this engaging novel charts the journey of Faith Jackson as she negotiates her Black British identity and finds out “where she comes from.”

I wonder how representative our book choices are of our personalities. Do we read to see ourselves reflected or to escape ourselves? Does reading about Tasmania's dark yet fascinating history hint at a darkness in me or an absolute passion for Wodehouse suggest I might be pining for "the old country"? Does reading five books at once make me a little bit odd?

I usually like to change gear and read something completely different to my last book but this time I already have a biography, short stories and novels set on opposite sides of the earth. As for what's next, I'm not sure. Perhaps I’ll see who wins the QPLA for 2012 and read that… oh wait…

What are you reading? How do you decide what you’ll choose next?