Time to Sleep – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2017

Well, that was a ride and a half!

I’ve just submitted an 1800 word short story and 500 word exegesis for my Speculative Fiction assignment and I feel like I could sleep for a week. Unfortunately, there isn’t time for that!

Tomorrow (Friday here in the southern hemisphere) is the day I get to play music with The Superstars at Oak Tasmania, and we’re deep into preparation for a private function we’re performing at next weekend. These men and women are simply fantastic and I’m truly blessed to be able to write and perform with them ‚̧

Maybe I’ll be able to post some photos next week of our performance – I always love action shots ūüôā

Meanwhile, there’s lots of gardening that needs doing over the weekend, a jam session at a friend’s place to go to and lots of new movies to see. I’m particularly keen to check out the Kenneth Branagh¬†Murder on the Orient Express, Killing of a Sacred Deer, Loving Vincent¬†and¬†Jungle.¬†Let me know if you’ve seen any of these films, I always like to hear other people’s opinions ūüôā

I’ll leave you with a wonderful discovery I made in the greenhouse yesterday – the first Rocoto chilli flower for the season ‚̧

Headaches and Happiness – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2016

Well, I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

After yesterday’s long day gardening in the sunshine, all I’ve really done today is use my brain. And I must confess I don’t feel like there’s much of that left now!

This morning I double checked my assignment, made sure the format was correct and uploaded the beast into the ether!

After a celebratory lunch it was back to the grind. With one enrolled unit left for 2016, what units do I choose to study next year?

People have been asking me about what I’m studying so here’s the story.

Although I live in Tasmania, the southernmost state of Australia, my university is Griffith, which is based in Queensland. I’ve been studying online, one or occasionally two units at ¬†a time since November 2013, so it’s been a long slog. And consistent. Unlike being on a physical campus, the year is broken up into four study periods (SP’s) of 12 or 13 weeks and they go all year round. So I haven’t had a real break from study for three years.

I’m enrolled in an undergraduate degree course, (Bachelor of Communications) and I’m on track for a double major in Creative Writing and Screen Studies. After discussing it at length with folks online, and working out what was available in which study period, I’ve opted for my last 2nd year elective in SP1 Writing Crime and Contemporary Romance¬†which starts in late February, and although I love pulp noir fiction, I’m not a chick lit fan.

Then in SP2 it’s the start of third year subjects and a Screen Studies unit,¬†Media Audiences, which I’m really looking forward to. It looks at the theory and methodology around audience studies as well as constructing and interpreting qualitative and quantitative research and how it is applied to media policy and content. (Yeah, I know – it’s pretty dry but I like that kind of thing!)

SP3 is back to creative writing with¬†Writing Gothic and Speculative Fiction¬†an area I’m very interested in learning about and I finish 2017 with a cross over unit which applies to both Screen Studies and Creative Writing,¬†Documentary Scriptwriting.¬†This is going to be a fascinating and intense finish to the year with assessment work to research, furnish a proposal, write a draft and revised script. I already have an idea brewing for this!

Meanwhile, it’s late, I’ve got a headache and all I want to do is sleep. But it’s really hot tonight (24.2 C at 10:20pm!) and I have a whole week off before I start SP4 and Writing Poetry, my¬†last unit for 2016.

I wonder how much gardening I can get done in a week?

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A Day In The Life – Day 7 NaBloPoMo 2016

This post came from an idea one of my friends gave me this afternoon. So here’s a day in my life……..

Today was Monday, and a day off from my usual work at Oak Tasmania. But there were all the usual jobs and dinner to prepare early because I also had a 1500 word essay to upload to my tutor for my current creative writing unit, Writing For Children and Young Adults. 

First, feed the animals. There was squawking and jostling to get the best position, but the chickens all got their share of seed mix and there was an early egg from dear Hipster, the oldest girl in the flock. Then some quick weeding to gather greens for the rabbits and a big chicory leaf for each of them (because rabbits!) and the obligatory cute Bernard Black Bunny pic of the¬†day……

I'm Cute - But I Will Not Share My Chicory!

I’m Cute – But I Will Not Share My Chicory!

Once everyone was fed, water checked, pats and cuddles given, I watered the greenhouse and picked veggies for tonight’s dinner, a slow cooked beef and veg curry. This involved picking celery, purple cabbage leaves, silverbeet and snow peas and (as always) more weeding around the plants and cutting back flower heads – all of which went straight to the ravenous chickens.

Finally, I managed to get back in the house and make some breakfast for me! This morning I felt like something savory on my toast. So, before I went to feed the animals I went searching through the freezer. I had the last of my current loaf of sourdough toasted with a very decadent and different kind of topping. I was quite thrilled to find a tub of basil pesto (sans pine nuts) from the autumn harvest tucked away. By the time I got back to the kitchen it was defrosted enough to spread thinly on my toast. It was intense, both garlic and basil flavours came shining through and utterly delicious!

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Time then to knock a loaf of sourdough together and put dinner in the slow cooker. I replaced some of the bread flour with rye this time, which makes a nutty, slightly denser loaf. Wee Beastie the sourdough plant is really powering at the moment, so this is what it looked like after a few hours of proving under a damp tea towel in the kitchen.

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I cannot begin to describe how lovely and yeasty these loaves smell at this stage – and without any added¬†yeast! I’ll leave it to prove overnight and bake it first thing tomorrow morning so I’ll have fresh bread for breakfast ‚̧

Next on my list was getting dinner prepped and in the slow cooker. About 500g diced stewing steak and a couple of diced onions got seared in ghee and tossed into the pot with a jar of home-made tomato based chilli sauce from a couple of seasons ago and a tub of cooked chick peas. Lots of spices, herbs, red wine, plus celery, carrot, broad beans and mushrooms (thanks to the garden again!). All thrown in the slow cooker, switched on and forgotten about until later in the afternoon.

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Then it was down to the nitty gritty – wrangling all my notes into a cohesive discussion about what I consider to be “an area of childhood that hasn’t been satisfactorily written about”. It’s a potentially huge subject and I only had 1500 words to work with. Chained to my laptop for the next few hours, I referenced, edited and pulled it all together – with Brahms in my headphones and the first cricket test against South Africa on the television. It was a bit mad for a few hours, I remember getting up and making a cup of tea at one point but apparently didn’t drink it, and some kind soul put food in front of me at lunchtime. But I managed to get it all done, correctly formatted and uploaded to my tutor who lives in a different time zone.

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After a cuppa with a friend who called round, it was time for the afternoon feeding of the hungry hordes, more egg collecting – and bunny cuddles ‚̧

I also picked some snow peas that I’d missed that were way too far gone for the table but rather than waste them, I shelled them and set them to dry on my seed shelf. They’ll form the basis of the next crop and/or traded with other fellow gardeners.

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Finally, I prepared the veggies to finish off the curry, silverbeet, purple cabbage and snow peas while some nice person cooked rice.

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And now, dinner has been devoured (delicious!) and there’s plenty of leftovers to refill the freezer. I’m currently crashed on the couch with my laptop watching my favourite current affairs show, The Feed on SBS and once I publish this I might get back to reading my new book, Jennifer Livett’s¬†Wild Island.¬†Or maybe think some more about that song I’m starting to write. Or perhaps do a little work on my final assignment for this unit, a creative piece of writing and exegesis.

Or maybe go to bed early.

And this was¬†a day off……

A Month of Blog Posts – Day 1 NaBloPoMo 2016

Hey everyone,

It’s that time of year again! November means my annual writing challenge – a month of daily blog posts, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo. With the year I’ve had, it would be very easy to rehash the sadness and grief but I mean to focus on the many positives that surround me.

Having said that, I’ve recently been quite seriously ill, but with support from those closest and my GP providing the¬†right medication I’m feeling much, much better.

Also, today has started out especially wonderful. Early this morning, our new (and rather dashing) black British Giant buck arrived. He’s only 8 weeks old and impossibly cute. Like most British Giants, he’s also very affectionate and loves being held and petted, but if he gets to the size of his parents he’s going to be a handful to cuddle! In keeping with the household tradition, we wanted a “B” name for him. And given our love of the iconic comedy series Black Books there was only one thing to do.

Meet Bernard Black ‚̧

Bernard B Bunny

Bernard B Bunny

There’s heaps of good things happening in the garden, a bumper crop of broad beans and snow peas as well as the the usual forest of kale, silverbeet and various salad greens that produced right through winter. This is despite a very wet spring that’s kept the soil temperature quite low and of course the chickens are in full laying mode at the moment. But at the moment I’m focusing on university and my current unit, Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Because I’ve been ill, I’ve fallen behind with the work but I have a fabulous tutor¬†and I’ve been granted an extension on a major essay. It’s not an area I feel particularly comfortable with despite teaching music to young folks as well as adults. I think it’s because I’ve never specifically¬†thought about writing for those audiences and I tend to read so voraciously that I make little or no distinctions about genres. For example, I think of novels such as Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wind in the Willows¬†or¬†The Hobbit¬†as great fiction¬†rather than children’s¬†books – and of course, all those titles fulfill both criteria. As a result¬†I’ve learned a tremendous amount and found the unit quite interesting at many levels.

But I must get back to work, slaving over academic papers through the Griffith University online library and trying to make sense of my early notes. Then I can justify spending some quality time with Bernard, Boudica and Bella later this afternoon ūüėÄ

I’ll be back tomorrow, be well friends!

Assignments, Goodbye and Hello – Day 26 NaBloPoMo 2015

Hurrah! I submitted my last assignment for my current university unit this afternoon ūüėÄ

I nearly always find this part of units rather bittersweet – I’m a step closer to a Bachelor of Communication but I have to say goodbye to some wonderful people I’ve been studying with. Part of the deal with online study are the discussion boards, which act like a virtual tutorial group, and often these are assessed. In this unit, (Creative Writing, Forms and Structures) I’ve had the pleasure of exercising my brain cells with some really lovely people, and I will miss them.

On the other hand, next week I start a new unit, (Writing the Short Story) and I’ll be saying hello to¬†a new group of people to discuss and share work with¬†for the next¬†13 weeks. This unit will take me up to March next year, which is the start of Study Period One of the academic year. I decided on¬†my units for 2016 a while ago¬†and enrolled in them today – the last of my second year subjects.

I also realised this afternoon that I’ve been studying online continuously now for two years. It’s quite an achievement for me to stay that motivated and engaged, particularly without any campus interaction, but I’m interested in the work¬†and the teaching through Griffith has been excellent. I’m majoring in Creative Writing and Screen Studies, two subjects close to my heart, but I wish there were more screen units – I really loved them with a passion!

And this is my 100th post on this blog – I’m astonished! As I’m coming to the end of the NaBloPoMo challenge and starting a new unit, I’ll be pulling back from blogging a little. My goal from December 1st is to post once a week rather than every day.

Meanwhile, I’m taking the evening off and chilling out – I’ve got a few days solid gardening to do before Study Period Four starts!

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Sleepy baby

More Small Joys – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’ve had a great day – bustling and busy – but great nonetheless. This morning I fed and watered the hungry hoards and said hello to the baby bunnies, who are all growing at a phenomenal rate! Their eyes are open and they are getting quite inquisitive about the world.

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I picked raspberries (a daily job now) and I’m hoping to have enough to make a spectacular birthday cake for myself next week ūüôā When I went to give Boudica her daily raspberry leaf treat, I discovered someone had come out to see mummy and see what she eats ‚̧

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There were six eggs from six chickens this morning, so after watering the greenhouse, I pickled another dozen eggs using the recipe I shared  here recently and started another loaf of sourdough bread. This weather Wee Beastie is very active and needs more attention (and feeding!)

My son came over and hung out, he’s in the process of moving out of his old place and in with a friend who lives just up the road from here. I think he was just sick of sorting out the junk from the stuff he wants to keep and needed some chill out time. So we kicked back, drank lots of tea and watched cooking shows on television. We’ve agreed to have a birthday dinner at home for me next week – Roast Pork with all the trimmings, maybe some new potatoes from the garden – which will be perfect!

I’m gradually getting my head around this final assignment, which is due Friday afternoon. I’ve opted to write three poems for plus a 500 word exegesis. Although I’m a professional songwriter (and prolific blogger) I don’t have much experience with poetry and it’s a form I find quite fascinating. Interestingly, I’ve found the easiest way to start is take and idea and just write. Stream of consciousness seems to be the key way into it for me. Then I edit and arrange the words on the page so they make sense to me – and hopefully my tutor! So my poems are largely about the strange weather we get in Tasmania, the changing seasons, growing things, musicians and music.

The sourdough went in the oven late this afternoon and, as a light dinner I took fresh sourdough slices, slabs of Pork Brawn I made on Sunday and crumbled over feta cheese I made a few weeks ago. We put the slices under a hot grill for about 10 minutes – until the feta started to melt – and it was so delicious! The sharp saltiness of the feta worked so well with the rich, meaty Brawn on the fresh sourdough.

I was also reminded by HeWhoMustNotBeListenedTo¬†that everything on our plates was made by me. It was a very satisfying moment……

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So, tomorrow will be even busier – sand and pine bark chips are arriving for a project in the back end of the garden. I’ll have pics to show you all tomorrow night ūüėÄ

A Lazy/Busy Day – Day 12 NaBloPoMo 2015

Well, I’ve managed to do not very much today apart from write, and (so far) I’m pretty okay with it.

There’s a big easterly rain front over Tasmania and there’ll be little gardening action until Saturday afternoon. Usually, I’m the kind of person who has a checklist of things that I want to achieve every day, even if they’re ongoing tasks like music rehearsal, feeding “Wee Beastie”¬†my sourdough plant, or tending to¬†the animals. Writing tends to be shunted aside for when there’s time, especially at the moment,¬†which is the busiest season in the garden.

Instead today, I’ve been writing¬†poetry pieces for a university assignment and scoping out¬†my 500 word exegesis. The concept of an exegesis is interesting, it’s a lot like writing liner notes for a recording or an introduction to a book but digs a little deeper into what informed the creation of the piece. In fact, many writers have used introductions as a type of exegesis, and they make fascinating reading for students of writing like me.

I recently read Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, his latest collection of short fiction and I was really inspired by the introduction. Apart from the generalities, he offers a few notes about each story and it was really very instructive.

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Meanwhile, I imagine the water tanks are full again *happy dancing* so I’m going to find my raincoat and head down the yard soon to collect eggs, pick salad for tonight’s dinner, do the evening feed and check for any new mushrooms. I buy¬†bags of supposedly spent compost and usually get quite a lot out of them this time of year – and today’s humid, wet weather is perfect. Hopefully, there’ll be mushrooms on toast tomorrow ūüėÄ

Mushrooms from the garden - note the pencil for size!

Mushrooms from the garden

What’s your favourite way to spend a rainy day? Leave a comment – I love to hear from you!

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