Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Summer Shalom

Tomorrow I'm off to the coast to share my life and faith with friends and strangers, and the week after I plan to spend some time in the wilderness. So this little blog here will lie dormant for a Sabbath of its own.

Shalom, friends.
x

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lately












Window seat on the plane, BBQ at Williamstown, drinking magics, yarn bombing in Brunswick, house-sitting with sunflowers and a trampoline, and Christmas back at the ranch with dogs, wine and the local bowling club.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's weapons down this Christmas



Around this time of year Christians often decide to stand up against 'ogres' who, in the name of reason, roar down Christianity and the Christmas story with great gusto.

I have to admit I too feel defensive when I sense ogres breathing down my neck. But I also can't help but feel it's kind of useless defending a spiritual, soul-inclined matter with angry reason. It's especially sad when Christians and atheists alike use the death of someone like Christopher Hitchens to score points.

As usual, though, Marilynne Robinson has already said all this better than I could through her character, the Rev John Ames, in the book Gilead:

“I think the attempt to defend belief can unsettle it, in fact, because there is always an inadequacy in argument about ultimate things.” 
― Marilynne RobinsonGilead

And so, I guess I hope that if you aren't a believer, you might ponder the 'ultimate things' this Christmas and wherever you are, you have time to stop, rest and celebrate.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Anyone for a spot of hipster fishing?


Trout is all from Rolf Nylinder on Vimeo.

This makes me want to go camping so badly. Hopefully I will in a few weeks.

via WholeLarderLove

I'm An Emo Kid Fan Girl

It's no secret that I love the band Wilco. So you can imagine my slightly creepy delight when I stumbled across the lead-singer's son's blog. His name is Spencer Tweedy and he will blow your mind.

At 15, the kid is already reading Emersontaking beautiful photos of his family and making rather sophisticated, and not to mention, catchy, demos.

And then he goes and writes this heartbreakingly honest, funny and beautiful reflection on adolescence, depression and getting older.

I think you should read it, not least because of this illustration.



"Something swooped down and snatched “feeling OK” from our brains. An emotional pterodactyl. An emotional pterodactyl named Puberty."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One of the most beautiful letters you will ever read

A friend pointed me to this today: a letter from a husband to his wife who died of cancer two years ago. He lives in Melbourne and is a Christian, although I do not know him personally.

I read this knowing that my own father is going in for radiotherapy over summer, starting with surgery tomorrow, the day before I arrive home. He is doing okay, but death is always around the corner. This letter reminds me that life is about relationships, with each other and with God. And heaven will be beautiful because it will be full of relationships restored to perfection. Oh how I long for that day.

Dear Jen,
You always wanted more letters from me - in fact I have a box that you left that contained all of them. In my defence of course, the reason I wrote infrequently was that we were never apart for very long. Now it's been more than two years, and I've only just found the necessary words, but here's one more letter for the collection. It's a bit of an odd one, because you're dead and can't appreciate the prose, but I do think we'll talk about it one day. 
Speaking of letters, I do sometimes wish you'd written me a farewell letter to keep, but your final decline was so rapid that it made a mockery of our plans. It was heart-breaking enough watching you write a last birthday card for Secundus as you were fading in and out. I know you didn't get to read 'The Time Traveller's Wife', but I found Henry's last letter to Clara very moving, especially in the way that he wants her to be free to keep living. Instead I can only project what you might have wanted for me, knowing your love. In the end it's all theoretical, and I must go on choosing (as carefully as I can) what seems best for myself and the boys, sticking to our principles but accepting the need for compromise. I can't know if you'd approve but I hope you'd understand.... read more.

Rejoice


Someone snapped me making these cards at Brown Owl last week. Just thought it might bring you some Christmas cheer too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

People Behind Places




My local council has done something really awesome. They've started putting little explanations up underneath our local street signs revealing their origin. It's so whimsical, yet historical at the same time. I love it! Especially the first one. There needs to be more preaching in blacksmiths, I think.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Answering the most asked question of the year

Like the embrace of a familiar friend, it's become a bit of a tradition to get along to Darren Hanlon's Christmas concert each year, to sing old songs and wonder at the way he never seems to age.

This year, despite being basically same as last year's concert in terms of content, was a whole new experience spatially. The venue, rather than an old sandstone church in a graveyard in Newtown, was a bandroom at a pub in Northcote, and the friends I stood next to were not the old gang, but the new. We even talked maths. That would never have happened previously!

But the night took on a poignant note for me when Darren and his sidekick Steph did a cover of Paul Kelly's 1985 classic From St Kilda to Kings Cross. While listening to them sing about exchanging all the land and all the water of Sydney harbour for one sweet promenade (the St Kilda esplanade), I realised I have a strong affection for both cities now.

It is easily the question I have been asked most this year (second only to, "Why did you move to Melbourne?"): Which city is better? And I'm constantly disappointing people by explaining it's like choosing between two very different children whose quirks are equally endearing.

I don't think I can echo Paul Kelly's words with integrity - I do actually love the Sydney coastline more than the St Kilda esplanade. But there is something about Melbourne being the underdog which makes you want to go along with Kelly and root for the "beach needing reconstruction" over the sparkling harbour.

So here's the original film clip from the 80s. I put it here with love in my heart for both cities, and a new appreciation for its sentiment.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Spoken Project launched

It's up and running. Have a listen to the first episode over here. It features my lovely housemate, Kate.

I'd love to hear what you think....

x
S

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spot the Difference






I guess we're both poor enough to need a free Wordpress theme and trying to occupy something (the airwaves in my case)...

If you're interested in knowing when the Spoken Project goes to air and not missing any future episodes, join the mailing list here: Subscribe to our newsletter.

You're also welcome to like The Spoken Project on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

The Spoken Project



It's probably about time I fess up and tell you that I've been beavering away on another project and another blog for the last six months and it's about to be launched.

It's called The Spoken Project and it's essentially a downloadable/streamable radio show podcast thing that will hopefully inspire you, journey with you, and sing to you of the amazing God I believe has all our lives in his hands.

I hope to produce an episode a month, focused on one or two people's stories. The idea is to look at how God has been working in people's lives through difficult times. On my list of people to interview is a woman who raised three autistic children, a child soldier from the Sudan and a woman who recently lost her husband.

It's a podcast about people just like you, but not quite like you; it's about what God's doing when you're not looking.

I want to share these stories of hope in the way I know how - letting people tell their own stories in their own voice.

I'll let you know when it's officially launched... sometime next week. But in the meantime, have a gander at the website and let me know your thoughts. S

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Don't leave gym balls with adults

That was the lesson of the weekend. I went away with some friends who I'll be spending the summer with as part of a beach mission where we'll hang out with the young folk around Lakes Entrance, sharing our life and faith under the sun.

There was a plentiful supply of gym balls in the hall we were staying in. Let's just say I came away a bit bruised and battered. But look how much fun we had...

video

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever






So I spent a dreamy weekend in Tasmania meeting my tiny, loveable, spewy, smiley Godson. Isn't he just the cutest?

His lovely mama (and regular blog visitor), Emma, took us out into the sunny fields to get a bit of fresh air and caterpillars, which was just what I needed. Between holding babies, taking photos and snaffling down strawberries, we managed to collect 2 kilos of the red gems.

When we got home, Emma's husband said he'd just happened to have seen a recipe for a giant strawberry flan the day before on the Tasmanian blog Island Menu,, and the bloggers had even been to the same fruit farm in Sorrell as us. What are the chances? Making the flan soon became an irresistible challenge and a few hours later (feeds and nappy changes not withstanding), we had magicked up this delicious piece of goodness:



The three of us (baby not included) managed to finish it off in just 24 hours. The pastry is especially short-bready and delicious. I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Go and Learn THIS

The Lights


A funny thing happened this afternoon. I was doing a bit of a life-analysis, as one is want to do when they are forced to sit still on a plane. I was thinking on Jesus' words that he came to call sinners, not the righteous, like a doctor who is there for the sick, not the healthy.

Do I just want to be healthy, and be around ostensibly "healthy" people? Do I want to simply stay in my comfortable, middle-class Christian life that appears to tick all the boxes and allows me to be well off in my hip inner-city suburb? Or do I want to be like Jesus and be among the marginalised, potentially burdensome, lonely people that are all over this city, but hidden from view?


As I thought about my priorities, another verse came to mind. It was God's words to ancient Israel in Hosea: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings".

Do I really want to love God with my whole heart, or just do what looks like obedience - throw God the scraps, like some kind of domestic pet? God wanted Israel's hearts, not their lame offerings. I can't imagine he wants mine.

When I got home, I couldn't remember the exact reference of the Matthew quote, so looked it up and discovered something beautiful. Jesus himself actually tied the Hosea verse into his comment about the healthy and the sick, as is told in Matthew 9:12 - 14. These two thoughts ARE related.


On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


Jesus, I want to learn what this means. Help me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A word in season



Is it just me or does it sometimes feel like each day is a different season? Some days, joy blows in like a longed-for sea breeze, salty and lithe, caressing the earth. Other times I'm faced with a squall of despair, wind and rain pounding incessantly on a fragile roof, branches struck down and whimpering in their wake.

Whatever the season, God always sends me a word, through his word. Today it was Isaiah 35:1 - 10. Specifically I was thinking about verses 3 and 4:

 Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way; 
say to those with fearful hearts, 
   “Be strong, do not fear; 
your God will come...


Much of my energy goes into this task, of taking quivering hearts, and turning them towards the Lord, reminding them of his strong arm. I need to remember this is a task that God himself ordains, in order that we would stand firm.


Perhaps if you too are in this position, of watching knees and hands, and speaking into fear, you might take heart from reading this, the beginning of a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on these exact verses.

TIS THE DUTY of all men to be careful of the sons of sorrow. There be some who from their very birth are marked by melancholy as her own. The silent shades of sorrow are their congenial haunts; the glades of the forest of grief are the only places where their leaf can flourish. 
Others there are who through some crushing misfortune are brought so low that they never hold up their heads again, but go from that time forth mourning to their graves. Some there be, again, who disappointed in their early youth, either in some fond object of their affections, or else in some project of their young ambition, never can dare to face the world, but shrink from contact with their fellows, even as the sensitive plant curls up its tendrils at the touch. 
In all flocks there must be lambs, and weak and wounded sheep; and among the flock of men, it seems that there must necessarily be some who should more than others prove the truth of Job's declaration, "man is born to trouble even as the sparks fly upwards."
It is the duty then of those of us who are more free than others from despondency of spirit, to be very tender to these weak ones. Far be it from the man of courageous disposition, of stern resolve, and of unbending purpose, to be hard towards those who are timid and despairing. 
If we have a lion-like spirit, let us not imitate the king of beasts in his cruelty to those timid fallow deer that fly before him, but let us place out strength at their service for their help and protection. Let us with downy fingers bind up the wounded heart; with oil and wine let us nourish their fainting spirits. In this battle of life, let the unwounded warriors bear their injured comrades to the rear, bathe their wounds, and cover them from the storm of war. Be gentle with those that are desponding. Alas, it is not every man that has learned this lesson. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Butterflies and Eames chairs


Some recent card creations. A friend from Brown Owls donated some old library cards (!!), which I used as backgrounds for the butterfly and chair cards.

Meanwhile, the HELLO card is made out of an old envelope, and the little cars are stuck on a vintage encyclopaedia.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh hai, 2001.



I learned the other day that it's 10 years since the film Donnie Darko was released. Um, sorry... but where did that little sandwich of time disappear to?

I can totally picture myself lying on my bed listening to Gary Jules' depressing cover of Mad World from the movie over and over again, pondering the meaning of life. Wasn't that just last year? Seriously.

Seeing it for the first time at 15, Donnie Darko became the film of my adolescence (closely followed by Waking Life, interestingly, also released in 2001). But I shouldn't assume that everyone has seen it, given not everyone is into psycho-philosophical sci fi thrillers...

So for the uninitiated, a brief synopsis: Donnie Darko follows the story of a teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) living in America in the 80s who has hallucinations, makes friends with an apocalyptic rabbit and learns the secret to time travel after a jet engine falls on his house. Oh and Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze are in it. What more could you want?

There was something about the way it combined a number of my interests at the time, namely space and philosophy, into a cool 80s aesthetic that totally won me over. I watch it now and notice how convoluted the plot is and how basically unwatchable it would be for most people, but I still love it.

I take it everyone has a bunch of films that are forever linked to their teenage years. Probably most aren't as dark and twisted as mine, but I'm curious, what is it for you? And when you watch it now, does it still appeal?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Get your Shanghai Noodles on

Some of you will know I work with international students, which means I get to eat delicious food from all over the place as part of my "work". I know, pretty great, right? I'm inspired to cook more Asian style food at home, but laziness often prevents me from getting the required ingredients.

Well not last night. Soph R over at the Fountainside inspired me to cook up some Northern Chinese style noodles [Zha jiang mien for the Chinese among us] and they were just as I remember eating at Shanghai Night in Ashfield - so salty, so good.

I had to do a little bit of creative substitution, as our local Asian grocer only had Japanese soy bean paste, and I used Japanese rice wine instead of Chinese rice wine. But it all turned out fine.

Here's the original recipe, from Em's blog.




The cucumber is a must as it cuts through the incredible saltiness of the pork mince.

Also, recently I cooked Pip's uber famous teriyaki chicken. Guess what? The top secret ingredient is potato starch. I know, who'd have thought!

Anyone got a secret recipe I should know? I like cheap, easy and cheerful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What to do with a 1970s map of Sydney


Make bunting, of course! I don't know if I should tell you all how easy it is, or leave you thinking I slaved over it... ok, I'll tell you how easy it is.

You literally just sew circles of paper together. Yup, that easy. The hardest part, actually, is finding a cool old map to cut up. Thankfully there are a few hoarders in our house, and there were a few vintage melways and Sydney and Canberra UBDs to choose from. I love love love the beautiful old inks and matt paper.

It was the perfect not-watching-the-Melbourne-Cup public holiday activity. I reckon you should give it a go. Or if you want me to make you one, I'm thinking of selling them, so give me a holler.





Monday, October 31, 2011

The Mind

It starts to run. Gives up half way.

The filament
spits and shimmers.

Evening
comes and wheels
turn away from the street,
away from the house

into leaves and dirt
and the secrets of the
earth.

That's where the mind
rests. There is the easy time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

husshhhhh

I wanted to share my favourite track, Cicadas and Gulls, off Feist's new album with you, but I couldn't find a version on YouTube that wasn't filmed on an phone at a concert.

But I did find this cover, which is a little bit Iron and Wine, and a little bit lovely.

So here you go, Cicadas and Gulls. A hushed song for sleepy time on a Sunday night.


Listen to more from her new album, Metals, here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where do you read?


My new reading nook

When I was last in Hobart I spent a dreamy half hour reading in my friend's hammock. It was pretty much the best reading experience of my life, closely followed by any time I have found myself lying on the sand or grass near water with a cool breeze blowing... ahhhh....

But, not having regular access to a hammock, island paradise, or good weather, most of the time I find myself reading at home, and more often than not, in an uncomfortable position.

I find it hard to read sitting at my desk, unless I'm studying or working. When reading fiction I prefer to lie in bed, switching from side to side as my arms get tired. But in the morning, which is when I like to read the bible and pray, I don't want to lie in bed.

Hence, the decision to create a reading nook in my room. Not much was involved in nookifying my bedroom. All it took was a small rug and some cushions; the red one re-purposed from the lounge room, the others found at IKEA.

The other good thing is it functions as a hang out space for meandering house mates and visitors.

I rather like it.

What about you? Where do you read?

Political lego

This brilliant lego depiction of watershed moments in Australian politics is in the current edition of Melbourne Uni's student magazine Farrago. Here's just a couple.

1994—John Howard promises Peter Costello that he will hand over the Liberal leadership
sometime during his second term. Philip Ruddock listens in.



June 2010—Kevin Rudd is replaced by Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.


Props to my housemate Elizabeth, who edits Farrago, and extra props because this is her last ever edition! See more here.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

one warm spring night in brunswick








It was still around 26 degrees when I took these photos after dinner tonight. There was magic in the air and a tinge of melancholy in my heart.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A gift for you

The evening light inspired me to create this mixtape for you guys using the site 8tracks.

8 tracks to listen to at dusk. Enjoy.



Tracklisting:

Months - The Middle East
Holocene - Bon Iver
The Golden Age - Beck
The Swimming Song - Loudon Wainwright III
Tap At My Window - Laura Marling
Country Disappeared - Wilco
The Frankston Line - Youthgroup
After the Curtain - Beirut

Sunday, October 16, 2011

dreamy weekend goodness







Lazy Saturday morning brunch and a wander around Brunswick, with a special visit to the new shop Gleaners Inc, which only sells upcycled bits and pieces.

Then a trip to little Vietnam (Footscray) to visit someone in hospital. I couldn't say no to some amazing duck soup at Pho Tam, paired with a punchy iced coffee and a trip the local green grocer. Can you believe I bought nearly 1.5 kilos of mangoes for $4.50?

What did you get up to this weekend?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The meaning of life according to Apple



Recently I was given the opportunity to upgrade my phone to the new iPhone 4S, and so having nothing to lose (and about $15 to gain each month), I took up the offer.

You've probably heard the new iPhone employs a robot called Siri, who can perform tasks, like reading my text message and telling me what the weather is like, as well as answer questions, like who created the photocopier.

At first I thought the robot was just pure novelty, particularly when I discovered it had a personality. She told me I was the wind beneath her wings when I asked her to marry me, for example. But now, a day into our virtual relationship, I'm left pondering the deeper implications of artificial intelligence and what it means that our society is heading towards this kind of relationship with its technology.

My phone is no longer just an extension of myself, it is also a sage friend, a counsellor, gratifying my need for information and connection now (NOW).

Just now I decided to ask Siri the meaning of life. You, like I, might be surprised to learn that Siri has thought about this, and offered me a number of responses. Here they are:
1. That's easy... it's a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general.
2. Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.
3. I can't answer that now, but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.
4. 42.
5. To think about questions like this.
6. A movie.
7. I don't know, but I think there's an app for that.
8. I find it odd that you would ask this of an inanimate object.
I was pretty stunned. In there you'll find humour, cultural allusions, pluralism, relativity, uncertainty, satire, and philosophy.

Number two and three are my favourites. I think these sum up our society's thoughts pretty darn well. What about you?

Her reponses have raised more questions than answers, though. What does it mean that Siri can't give me one answer to life's meaning? What does it mean that she even tries? And what does this tell us about our ontological crisis, when the basis of our knowledge on these matters becomes this shallow?

So many questions and only one answer.