Monday 27th August 7am Lenox Hill, New York City.

Monday 27th August

7am Lenox Hill, New York City.

Trucks finish up their morning deliveries before getting caught in the building traffic. Cream O’Land dairy products, Corona Ice, FedEx, R-Way, Seoul Glass, U-Haul, Absolute Electric, the synonymous yellow taxi cabs deftly weave their way around garbage compactor trucks which pause at the curb. It takes some time to get used to the piles of thick plastic bags of refuse which edge the pavement. Thick black plastic ones, clear plastic ones, stacks of cardboard tied neatly.

The balcony is on the north-west corner, 11 floors up. If I lean forward around one corner I can see the suspended tramway system that takes people over to the nearby Roosevelt Island. The Queensboro bridge runs high straight over the top of it. A quaint transport system it may be for visitors to the city but 8000 people live on the island and a university has been recently added. I’d choose RI as my fantasy residence: physically close but cut off by a river, New York but not New York, looking back at the city but not really a part of the city and catching a few cool winds off the Hudson River.

Clouds are sparse and high this morning, a cool breeze knock about the flowers and herbs which are setting their autumn seeds. A vapour marks the sky though there’s no trace of the plane that made it. Small flocks of birds dart around the skyscrapers. Shadows are shortening as the sun climbs. Curtains are opened on the glass behemoth opposite. Balconies are empty though if I lower my glasses and concentrate I can see the odd resident finishing their morning coffee before heading out into the world.

Cacophony is the only way to describe the mix of noise. High pressure cleaning off the pavement below, a masonry drill too close-by, horns in call and response, screeching brakes, that ever-present low hum of engines and other noises too foreign to pinpoint. It’s not the growing heat but the masonry drill that finally drives me inside to my air-conditioned cocoon.

I entered my first writing competition

While I found the assessments for this subject a dense workload in an intensive format and also somewhat repetitive, I got an unexpected result out of taking this subject. I’ve seen writing competitions advertised and sometimes they don’t apply to my writing, but more often I just didn’t know where to start. It’s not that I felt my writing wasn’t up to scratch. It’s more that I didn’t know where to start talking about my writing. Like most things, you start by taking the first step.

For this particular competition, I needed to write a one page synopsis, a breakdown of subsequent chapters and a piece stating how winning the prize would benefit my writing career.

A one page synopsis? Bloody hell, I’ve only recently been able to construct one sentence about what I’m writing. “Eating America is an outsider’s look at the USA and its culture through the lens of food.” To flesh out the synopsis, I started with the who, what, where and why. Okay, done.

The chapter breakdown? Yep, I know where I’m going with that because it’s where we went in 2016. I name cities we visited, experiences we had and food we ate. In terms of the smaller story within the bigger story, I’m still getting there.

The third and final section regarding how winning the prize would further my career, I’ve got ideas on that too. I can honestly say that while the $10,000 cash prize would help, it is the 12-month mentorship with an editor from Hachette Australia that I imagine would be the most beneficial. Because that’s why I’m studying this course – to improve my writing.

Magazine 1

Our task for this semester was to devise our own magazine. Naturally mine was all about food because that is what makes life worth living. I also blame the podcasts I’ve been recently listening to and the websites I’ve been browsing. US-based Cherry Bombe celebrates women in food by sharing their stories and building communities. Their website, printed magazine and podcast will keep you busy for hours.

I credit Magazine 1 for pushing me to research what is already out there in preparation for my own magazine proposal. I discovered our own Australian version – Fully Booked Women. I made contact with them and even wrote a book review for them. I’ve also managed to secure ongoing content creation for them with an interview a week. I’ve begun the process and am really enjoying the research side of things as well as making contact with a range of awesome women in the food and hospitality industries.

Showing my magazine proposal to a few friends in the hospitality industry, they keep asking ‘When is it going to print?’ My response – ‘Are you going to become my silent financial backer?’ It’s not just money though, of course. The many hours of work require a dedication not all have and I recognise my own limitations in regards to this.

I have a great deal of respect for those that do take this path, but it’s not for me right here and now.

My quiet place

Everyone deserve a sanctuary, a quiet place where you don’t get mobile coverage, where you give yourself permission to do nothing. My place is a friend’s house in the Yarra Valley, an hour outside of Melbourne. She ensures that I always know that I’m welcome. Trees are large and overgrown. Pots are full of herbs and other fledgling plants.  The bed in the spare room is made up in linen I now recognise. I know which cupboards house the towels and which house the wine glasses. If I arrive home before they do, I receive a text telling me where to find the key.

Everyone deserves a sanctuary. A place where there’s nothing you ought to do. A place where you can do but you don’t have to do. I bring wine and cheese to this house though it’s not expected of me. I do it because I want to share these delicious things with my friends. And in this sanctuary, I’m at liberty to crack open the wine before they arrive home. It’s how we are with each other.

Everyone deserves a sanctuary. A place where alarms aren’t set. A place where the demands of the outside world are unable to penetrate. I can see the outside world from my place on the sun lounge under the large shade trees. I can see hills in the distance, vines clinging to their contours and beyond them more buildings and signs of civilisation. It can stay over there.

Everyone deserves a sanctuary.

Letter to my mother’s diabetes.

Dear diabetes,

I’m well, thanks for asking.

I’m not going to ask how you’ve been because I don’t care.

I wish I’d never met you.

You’ve robbed my mother of her sight. Not all of it, mind you, but enough to suck some of the sweetness out of life. I can picture her, many years back, sitting on the couch next to dad, crocheting a toy or blanket for one grandkid or another. Now she just sits on the couch, staring ahead at a fuzzy pattern of shapes and colours, hands idle in her lap.

Thanks to you, my sister and I have now inherited the abandoned craft supplies. The crates of fabric from under the stairs went to my sister who sews. My daughters and I happily received boxes of wool, knitting needles and crochet hooks. Yes, the cats do love chasing the wool but I am also relishing the chance to teach my daughters crochet.

Mum, like her mother, was always happy to let us kids have a go at craft. I can even see Nana sitting in her floral chair by the window so she would catch the natural light, knitting needles in hand. Somehow, she never was short with me as she attempted to figure out what on earth I’d done with the wool. It usually involved a drop stitch or three. So I’m not being sarcastic when I say thank you. The craft supplies that have been passed on to us means that we, too, allow our children to play around with creating.

The ability to have a go and fail is something my mother encouraged in me from a young age. She is not the type to take the pencil out of my hand to draw something for me. She would suggest I walk around it, pick it up and get to know the thing I wanted to draw. Her time at art school in the 60s was not wasted. Her paintings and sculptures filled the house growing up. But once again, thanks to you, diabetes, she can’t even paint. The half-finished canvases rested against a wall in the garage, blank faces poking out under a layer of dust and cobwebs, until they too came to live with me.

As a child, I remember my grandfather had a shed that smelled of wood shavings and engine oil. His tools hung neatly on shadow board which lined the walls. I recall stories of Papa making a home brew system from discarded fuel tins. My mother inherited her ingenuity from her father. She also inherited his diabetes, developing it late in life as he did. So damn you diabetes for cursing my Papa as well.

Whilst reducing my mother’s sight so that she can no longer drive, you have tried to curb her independence but you did not succeed. My mother simply upsized her phone’s display and downloaded a public transport app. So once again, I must thank you. Thank you for nudging her into the modern world. Buses, trains and trams have replaced her own car but she will not be hobbled. We are both viciously independent people and though you may try, you will not limit our wanderings.

It’s not just diet and insulin production you impact. You effect the eyesight, feet and healing ability of people who get too close to you. The strong genetic link looms over my life so I’m actively working to remain free of you, damned diabetes. I exercise regularly so that you can’t catch me. I eat well, so that you’ll not join me at my dinner table. I have inherited many things from my mother – my body shape, my love of creating and my independent streak. But I will not inherit diabetes. I will not inherit you.

Letter to Gay Bilson

Letter to Gay Bilson

Dear Gay,

You don’t know me though I like to think that I know you. In fact, I wish you were my neighbour. You’d hand me a bag of freshly picked broad beans still warm from the sun and tell me what to do with them – ‘Steam them lightly then douse with a glug of the good olive oil.’ I’d bring over dishes that I cooked and was proud of. You’d implore me sit at your kitchen table, the wood worn soft and shiny from years of use. No fancy dining room for you (ironic seeing dining rooms receive no less than six entries in your seminal book). Your table is writing desk, pastry bench and more. Only as I was departing, would you suggest a simple way to improve the meal.

I’m glad you are not my mother as we would butt heads and things would be too loaded.

But being my neighbour would be just fine.

I can tell you appreciate quality. The first time I came to learn about you was upon seeing your book Plenty: Digressions on Food in my local bookstore; its delicate duck egg blue cover, the thick decal-edged pages were so sensual in my hands, its essays meandering not in any timeline but according to your own aesthetic. Through these digressions I gleaned so much about you from your childhood home in Melbourne to your love of a simple congee. For five generous pages, you talk about this rice gruel, its history and its contemporary state, before giving us a recipe of congee to serve 250 people. I love that only a foolish reader would jump straight to the recipe.

Like me, you know the importance of small things. Your homage to Sei Shonagon’s pillow book in Plenty made my heart skip a beat. I also make lists of things that please, things that should be painted or things that are rare. Though I came to know of the pillow book through a movie of the same name, I’m sure yours was a more literary discovery.

I admire you for admitting your mistakes. In a piece for The Monthly you detailed an incident where you forgot the chowder you had brought to vegetarian friends contained bacon. The fact that they ate it anyway (the husband commenting that it reminded him of a dish from his danish youth) perhaps speaks of your culinary skill as much as their respect for your friendship. Admitting our mistakes is part of showing our humanity and our fallibility. I vow to be more human, more fallible.

If I come across your name online, I have to click through to the article. Your words are not overly complicated and always a sheer pleasure to read. You speak about food as a means of bringing people together across cultures as much as around the table. You champion knowledge of where our food comes from and how it is produced. Greater knowledge and greater connection to our food go hand in hand. Whether it’s an omelette constructed from a neighbour’s eggs or apples bought from the grower at local Farmers’ Market, we tend to respect food that we know more about. I am almost reverential towards the herbs I grow making them the star of the dish, instead of an after-thought thrown on top before serving.

An autodidact like myself, your writings are littered with references to chefs and food writers from years past who have things to offer us still. Twentieth century writers Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David share equal amounts of type with older, more established gastronomes such as Brillat Savarin and Escoffier. A recipe for lemon posset is given no less respect than a more intricate recipe for florentine biscuits. We both know that a healthy appetite for real food, devoid of numbers or fake fats, is key to a good life. Pastry hand made with almost equal parts butter and flour is not the devil. If we wish to be healthier, we should just eat less of it. I smile as I read this, snacking on creamy juicy papaya, the plate resting on an unstable tower of books.

Though you’ve run multiple restaurants, you now live quietly in rural South Australia. Literally miles from the competitive restaurant world of the big cities, you’ve managed to finally be alone. I, too, need to carve out time alone, particularly when my day job is also in the social realm of hospitality. Books and art soothe and quieten the voices echoing in my head after a day of others’ demands.

So perhaps it is to a peaceful small town one state over that I must relocate if we are going to be neighbours. South Australia has such a strong, local food culture and I have loved the times I have travelled there. But, if I’m to be honest, I’m not sure I can move so far away from my family. You see my daughters have just embarked upon adult lives of their own and I get to bake big vegetarian lasagnes to drop around unexpectedly. My sister-in-law regularly phones me up with a cooking dilemma that needs immediate answering. Also, possibly more importantly, what about my veggie garden? I’ve got several large fruit trees and a bay tree which I’m not sure would survive the move. My silver beet patch needs harvesting every few days in this warm weather and the potatoes won’t be ready til later in the year.

So Gay, maybe we could just be pen pals instead.

New York City, NY – Monday 5th September – part 2

Approaching the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue, colloquially known as Museum Mile for good reason, the building holds none of the magic that the Guggenheim art museum commands. From street level the brick pattern neutral coloured exterior is just another sheer building face with nondescript gaps for windows. If you’re able to step back and look up without falling into the road, you’d see the fussy decoration of an over-sized French townhouse.

Outside the front door is a black suited security guard. This is a sight I’m getting very accustomed to by now. As I attempt to enter he places his arm in front of me so that I walk into it.

‘I’ll need to search your bag, ma’am,’ he announces as settle back onto the lower step, bumping into Steve. I open the zip expecting a cursory glance for guns and explosives. Clearly a man who takes his job seriously, the guard lifts my wallet, tissues and other unmentionables in pursuit of who knows what. Snuggly packed into an external mesh pocket of my handbag is a half-drained bottle of water.

‘You can’t bring that drink in here, ma’am,’ I’m advised brusquely. How the word ma’am can come across so aggressively, patronising and outright rude is beyond me. I am not sure I’ve ever used the word before in my life and I’m not about to start with this trip. Both sir and ma’am have been levelled at us often this trip with so little apparent meaning.

I breathe out slowly but deliberately. ‘Am I able to leave it with you?’

‘No, ma’am.’

I don’t move from my place on the doorstep and proceed to drink as much as I can. I offer it to Steve who on this occasion declines. Try as I might, I can’t quite finish it after a filling breakfast. Watching my every move silently, the guard looks away as I pour the remainder to the side of the entrance, only steps away from his position. Perhaps I should water the tree buffering the footpath from the road but I don’t.

‘You’ll need to check your bag before entering the gallery, ma’am,’ he calls out after me as I push past. At the base of the stairs, I remove my bag from around my neck.

‘Is this where I check my bag?’ I ask but am answered with a hand palm facing me fingers directing me to my left. A young lady, perched behind a bench looks up from her phone as I approach.

‘Is this where I check my bag?’

‘Yes, ma’am. That’ll be two dollars,’ she answers with all the enthusiasm of a teenager working the overnight shift at a McDonalds drive-through.

‘Okay. Just let me grab my wallet,’ I say pulling my bag back towards me before rifling through it.

‘Just a reminder that photography is forbidden in the gallery,’ she smiles and doesn’t smile simultaneously. ‘And don’t forget to visit the gift shop on our way out.’

I pay, collect my card and we head back to the foyer. A white marble staircase circles up and to the right, a black botanical-motif iron balustrade following it. In front of the staircase is a reception desk and the owner of the hand, who speaks as we attempt to climb the staircase.

‘Where you wanting to visit the gallery?’

‘Yes,’ I respond, thinking that it is rather stating the obvious.

‘Admission tickets can be purchased here.’

‘We’d like two tickets please,’ Steve interjects over my shoulder in an attempt to save the receptionist from getting his head bitten off.

‘Any concessions?’ he inquires.

‘Actually yes. I have a student concession card.’ Realising it is in my wallet which is now ensconced in the bag/coat check room, I consider my options. My dogged frugality wins out over my short fuse and I replay the procedure to save myself US$10. I’m unsure if it is worth it.

Some galleries and museums in America have a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ policy but not this place, at least not today. Traveling can be expensive. Obviously airfares and accommodation are the bulk of the expenses. In my lifetime though, airfares have become substantially more affordable. In the twenty years since I first began travelling, the price of my plane ticket has remain unchanged, regardless of inflation. The price of petrol, however, has increased by two-thirds. I sometimes wonder if it were more accessible, would more people travel. Perhaps they’re happy to stay at home, to stay in their knowable, predictable towns. I’m the kind of person who needs to save up for a holiday otherwise the stress of handing over a credit card every time outweighs the joy of the travel. Eating breakfast in and grabbing food from a market or grocery store also helps to ameliorate the ongoing shelling out of money. So yes, the saving of US$10 has a wider impact than its immediate perceivable action.

The collection at Neue Galerie includes decorative arts, sculpture and fine art pieces from various Austrian and German artists. Steve has brought me here for one reason only – to view the paintings of Gustav Klimt.

When Steve and I met through an online dating website, my profile name was Klimt. I had previously attempted online dating to greater and lesser success in the prior few years before meeting Steve and had learnt many tricks of the trade. One of which is not to give away any identifying information in your moniker or profile. Yes, you want to stand out from beachandsmiles76 and lovestolaugh71 but I always looked at a profile name as the first impression. I like to make a good first impression. One that draws curious and intelligent people in for a second look.

By choosing the name of one of my favourites artists, I felt I was sending a message about who I am as a person (artistic, slightly left of center) and also who I was looking to connect with (that might be harder to pinpoint in a few words). Needless to say, Steve heard my message loud and clear. I’m not sure if the entire time we’ve been together he’s been looking for some original Klimt artworks to direct me towards or if it was a fortuitous twist that he discovered the Neue Galerie here in NYC.

Either way, we find ourselves mingling with a couple of dozen other visitors on a glossy tiled floor, in a cool dark long room. Ten or so pieces drawings and paintings hang solemnly behind glass around the room. A few plinths in the middle display sculpture of marble and bronze but I barely glimpse at them. I step swiftly past numerous pencil studies to get to the main subject. There are too many people in my way. Can’t they go away and leave me alone with this woman I’ve traveled so far to see. I decide to do another lap of the room, this time pausing at the pencil studies, admiring the energy and fluidity of his line work. Various poses with body twisting first one way then another, her face barely even blocked in and yet it cannot be anyone else but her. I see a break and decide to take another run at it.

Adele Bloch-Bauer. She is unmistakable – dark hair piled high in folds upon her head, elongated neck swathed in a jewelled choker and her pianist-perfect fingers awkwardly held in front of her. A chaotic mosaic of triangles, squares, eyes and swirls envelope Adele, merging her dress with the background. Gold leaf dominates the oil paint, elevating the portrait to somewhere near religious icon status. I smile to myself. ‘Nice to finally meet you, Adele,’ I say under my breath.

Later, I descend to the bathroom below street level. One thing I quickly learnt as a tourist is that you take toilet stops when you can get them. Incongruously, it is here outside the ladies bathrooms that I find a life-size poster of Adele with a sign next to it encouraging selfies and the gallery’s social media platforms so I can tag myself in.

The Big Idea

Our school puts on a great little event called Word Con at the end of each semester. We get to listen to a range of presenters on a range of topics, most of which are of interest. Rob Griffith presented on a session on ‘THE BIG IDEA.’ Now I wouldn’t say that I have a big burning idea. That’s ok. Big ideas sometimes come to us when we least expect them, during what I like to call my pre-thought stage that other people call daydreaming.

So meanwhile, I will continue to work on the ideas I do have. I’ve simplified my tag line for the podcast – stories from The Middle Third of life. I’m sorting out questions for a couple of people I want to interview. The Middle Third is still going to be predominantly focused on female stories as an attempt to redress the gender inequality in society in general.

I haven’t figured how to work the microphone I have with my iPad yet but I’ll figure that out. I’m planning on interviewing my best friend initially as way to ease my way into these things. She also happens to have a really spot-on story that fits with the theme of The Middle Third. She re-trained as a lawyer after the birth of her second child.

After that I am going to interview a woman I collaborated with a few years ago on an exciting project. Sensual Seed oracle cards brought together four women to birth a project aimed at encouraging women to celebrate them as sensual beings. These new directions and new experiences are precisely the kinds of stories I want to tell.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate by any stretch how flexible life experiences could be. I never had any burning ambition to have a particular career and it felt like a deficit. I forgave myself this a long time ago.

Now I’m in my middle third, I’m enjoying looking around and learning new things.


Monday May 1st 2017

Monday May 1st


Technically my day started at 1.16am when I gave up sleeping in the same bed as Steve. Gradually, his snoring stirs the whirlpool of anger deep inside me until I envision me smothering him with my 100% goose down pillow. Instead, I snatched my doona and pillow from my side of the bed and went to join the cat on the couch. At least she doesn’t snore.


At 7am, my youngest daughter Isabel stomped up the stairs to the kitchen to make her lunch. Surprising her with ‘Good morning’ from the other side of the couch cushions, she then asked for a lift to the station, which I agreed to since my slumber appeared to be cut short for now. I managed to keep my eyes open wide enough for safe driving and promptly collapsed into the now vacant bed upon returning home.


After a few more stolen hours, I dragged myself a little more willingly from the oasis and fixed a strong cup of tea – white, no sugar cause I’m sweet enough – as a foundation stone for my day. The pantry produced the last hot cross bun of the season, which I toasted and liberally buttered while I sat at the kitchen bench and read emails, checked Facebook and looked at my week’s calendar on my ipad. With only the cats to keep me company, the morning was shaping up ok.


Breakfast done and the obligatory short yoga routine completed, I dressed and gathered my bits for school. Leaving later than I had hoped, I rode the shorter yet more difficult route to Uni and arrived puffing and sweaty. An hour or more was then spent revising missed lessons. At 1.30pm with another cup of tea, I joined the afternoon class to learn all about making a WordPress website. This was actually very interesting and I started expanding on my own WordPress site during the session and know now where I want to take it.


Finishing up slightly early was great as I was able to do some homework when I got home. Organised me had made dinner (the ever-popular lasagne) the day prior as Mondays and Tuesdays are always somewhat chaotic in our household. At about 7.30pm I headed out to Buff Life Drawing at the Union Club Hotel. I hadn’t been for too many weeks and I wanted to get back into the habit, especially as I’ve been asked to model there in a few weeks.


A pint of ale in hand, I set up my watercolours and paper on a bar table and was looking forward to the session. Life drawing sessions are like going for an artistic jog. They use the muscles – both the hand and the eye. It’s practise rather than outcome. Sometimes you get something good and sometimes you don’t. Poses move from 1-2 minutes, 5 minutes then 10 and 20 minutes duration. I’m best at 10 minute poses. 20 minute poses see me over-thinking and over-working pieces. I’m learning not to be pressured to keep at my 20 minute pieces but rather leave them be at the place I think best.


It was a good turn out (about 15 people) and I’m hoping my modelling session will involve a similar number. Modelling for just a few might feel awkward.

I messaged Craig to let him know I’ve got my first gig and he was most supportive. Not sure if he’ll turn up to draw. It’s only fair, I’ve seen him naked enough times.


Upon coming home, I dumped my bags on the kitchen table and, turning off extraneous lights as I passed, undressed and climbed into bed. Phone plugged in and alarm set, my Coco cat found her spot on my chest and we both closed our eyes on the day.