Friday, January 30, 2009

Bring on the holidays!

In the process of wrapping up work for the month...

I have actually never taken a month off work on "official rec leave". I think in 2001 when I went to Canada I can close to a month off - think it was about 3 weeks or so. Then in 2004-2005 I took 3 weeks off when Mark came to visit in Cambodia.

As of mid-afternoon today I am a free woman for a whole 4 weeks... Bliss! Scary, but I am slightly more excited about this prospect than my wedding the following weekend...

Bring on Malaysia and Borneo!

One of my Cambodian girlfriends will be arriving on Tuesday and I am over the moon about this. I havent't seen Theary since leaving Cambodia and am so excited about this prospect. I received an email from her yesterday saying how excited she is and that there is a high likelihood of tears at the airport. I assured her that the tears would be freely flowing on both sides!

The list is being checked and double checked but it looks like we are all set to go. Only one week to go now and I get to become Mrs Denman - sounds kinda strange!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama's Rural Policy.

For anyone who hasn't read the agricultural policy for the new US government it is quite interesting... Now really people why wouldn't you have read the rural policy? It is REALLY interesting...

That said… I’m torn… Natalie Imbruglia style… It appears that there is a lot of “utopian” view of small country markets direct selling to consumers or direct supplying supermarkets in these policies - "gettting back to the roots" - which is just not possible with our current populations. It is a very populist view to have a "weekend getaway" or "build a vegie patch to feed the family".

I think grow what you can, but buy the rest is a good option for many. There is also a trend recently reported in the “do it for me” culture. So people - far wealthier than I - who pay gardeners to develop and tend a vegetable garden in their yard. They can pick their produce and “feel good” but never tended the garden. Very strange!

Let Steph's rant begin...

One of the reasons small family run farms in the US are still in existence is due to the substanital subsidies offered to farmers. I agree with the comments made by a number of commentators that, in opposition to common thinking, family run farms are not being smothered by the larger commercial operators. The larger farms, in a lot of cases, started out as small ones and became more and more productive - requiring fewer and fewer operators, so the poorer operators leave. No different to a restaurant strip where you have competing operators - the poorer operators have to get out as they can't compete. Farms are a business like every other and if you are not competitive you will exit the industry. Develop a niche, increase productivity or get out.

This is what the Green Revolution was all about - producing more on the same land. I am not saying whether this is good or bad, however put simply if we want to feed the masses (and don't get me started about the large amounts of food grade staples going into biofuels) we need to produce more. Small operators simply don't get the production levels needed to sustain the ever increasing populations.

Another thing… I cannot believe that the US doesn't already have Country of Origin labelling in place. In Australia all imported fresh produce - fish, meat and fruit / vegetables etc all have country of origin labelling to allow consumers to make the choice. Sometimes the only option you have - due to seasonality of produce - is to opt for the imported alternative. I have to admit last night I was shopping for lemons and I could not purchase Australian grown lemons much to my disgust. I had to purchase the US imported option and the quality was quite bad really. However, at least I knew the origin of the product and made an informed purchase.

As far as seafood is concerned I never purchase imported seafood - my theory is that I live in a country surrounded by water... Why the hell would I purchase seafood sourced from overseas? In some cases with meat labelling it even goes as far as processor - so with chicken I can select which chicken processor I purchase from. I always try to buy from the company I used to work for as I know their operating standards inside and out!

I have a couple of issues with the grow organic, buy local campaign. I agree, buy local and organic where possible, but for me it is more about the opportunity to purchase from the farmer - it is a relationship decision. I also look at it from an input basis - this took less inputs to grow. Less fertilizer, less chemicals and better for the soil - so, in theory, the land will be handed on in a better condition. The health, quality and taste never really enter into the equation. I have read mountains of scientific, sociological and public interest documents and there is very little evidence to convinve me that organic has many - if any - health implications. I think my decision to purchase organic - and I don't all the time due to the fact that financially it costs significantly more - has more to do with fingerprint on the environment than a personal health implication.

I do believe that the "buy local" is a really important factor. Purchasing locally you are purchasing seasonally - whatever is in season and available. To me this is an important part of lifecycles and living how nature intended us to. I try, try, try to only eat what is in season.

Another aspect that I don’t quite understand is the renewed push by the US government to encourage young farmers onto the land. Come on... The US has had the some of the best agricultural education programming for generations. The 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs has been replicated internationally and it is all about putting young people in touch with the rural communities and farming practices.

The dream of an idealised rural life is far from reality of getting up at dawn to milk cows / check on livestock etc. Farming is freakin' hard work and most young Gen Y's opt for a more transferrable profession that gives a more balanced lifestyle and family balance. It is no wonder that my graduating class in 1997 was approximately 30 across plant and animal industry majors. My degree has since been dissolved due to a lack of students in successive years.

The industry needs bodies - agreed - but industries also needs to question why people haven't chosen it as a career; it needs to adjust its practices and mentality to make it more inviting option to new entrants. That is both financially and socially. The dairy industry is one such example - instead of buying a farm, which is nearly impossible for a young farmer, there should be options to co-farm, rent or similar type of thing. It is about changing the mind set of older generations on "this is how we farm".

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Monday, January 12, 2009

21 pieces of advice...

21 pieces of advice...
...your mum should have told you

There’s some life advice you’ll only ever learn from your mum, bless her! But we’re not always listening when she shared it. Here’s a quick refresher…

1. Got the hiccups? A spoonful of peanut butter will stop them in their tracks.

2. Avoid chipped nail polish by dipping your nails in cold water when you’ve finished painting them.

3. Pouring white wine over a red wine stain will save your clothes from a messy death. We’re serious! Rinse the white wine out then machine wash as normal.

Hit the link below for the remaining 18.

4. If you sit in gum, pop your pants in the freezer for a few days. This freezes the chewy solid and it should peel off easily.

5. Chill your used tea bags and use tem to get rid of eye puffiness.

6. Leftover takeaway does not improve with age. Store your Chinese/Thai/Indian leftovers in a glass or porcelain dish (seal with cling wrap) and eat within 24 hours.

7. At a barbecue, put some freshly chopped mint in a vase to keep the flies and mozzies away. They hate the smell.

8. For brighter clothes, add about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle when washing.

9. Keep two chopping boards in your kitchen (one for meat, one for vegies) and as they become overscored (with cutting marks), replace them. Bacteria breeds inside the scores.

10. Stop your mirrors from fogging up by applying a thin film of shaving cream or liquid soap. Use a lint free cloth too.

11. Stop your potatoes from sprouting green shoots by storing them with an apple.

12. Got ants? Find out where they’re coming from, then sprinkle a trail of sage, cinnamon or pepper around these areas.

13. Constantly talking on the phone will clog your pores.

14. Possums on the roof driving you nuts? Mix a little olive oil and chilli powder and sprinkle it around the gutters. They’ll soon vacate the premises.

15. Seal bananas in a brown paper bag if you want to speed up the ripening process.

16. Onions won’t make you cry if you store them in the fridge and peel them under cold running water.

17. If you spill wax on the carpet, place a piece of brown paper on it and iron lightly on low heat. The wax will stick to the paper.

18. Microwave lemons for 30 seconds before squeezing to get more juice out of them.

19. Clean up rusty pots and pans by rubbing half a potato dipped in baking soda over their wet surfaces.

20. The key to cooking the perfect steak is to only turn it once.

21. Your candles will burn a lot longer if stored in the fridge until just before use.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

My kid could paint that: toddler's art on show

Yes but does this exhibit have a guy pooping on a toilet? I think Freeman Davis could teach this little artist a thing or two...

My kid could paint that: toddler's art on show
9:00am AEST Thu Jan 8 2009 (Clare Kermond, The Age)

IS THIS a story of a child prodigy or a deliberate joke at the expense of the art world? In the curious case of Aelita Andre, it could be both of those things — or neither.

Back in October, Fitzroy commercial gallery director Mark Jamieson was asked by a Russian-born photographer whose work he represented to consider the work of another artist. Nikka Kalashnikova showed Jamieson some abstract paintings by an artist called Aelita Andre; Mr Jamieson liked what he saw and agreed to include it in a group show, alongside work by Kalashnikova and Julia Palenov (also a Russian) at his Brunswick Street Gallery later this month.

Mr Jamieson then started to promote the show, printing glossy invitations and placing ads in reputable magazines Art Almanac and Art Collector, in which the abstract work was featured. Only then did he discover a crucial fact about the new artist: Aelita Andre was Nikka Kalashnikova's daughter, and she was then just 22 months old. She turns two tomorrow.

More to the story - follow the link below.

"I was shocked and, to be honest, a little embarrassed," Mr Jamieson said of his response to the revelation.

He thought hard about whether or not to proceed, and talked it over with his colleagues. "And then I thought, 'Well, we'll give it a go'."

Mr Jamieson says the Brunswick Street Gallery has a policy of supporting emerging artists, though that policy doesn't usually extend to artists quite so young. He stands by his decision to show the work but concedes some people will think the gallery is doing the wrong thing.

He argues it is difficult to judge abstract painting. "There are different approaches, there is a formal approach and then there is a free-form approach that comes off a more intuitive base. And if you're thinking about the latter, perhaps a two-year-old can do it as well as a 30-year-old."

Nikka Kalashnikova says she and her husband, Michael Andre, did not set out to mislead the gallery. They simply wanted Aelita's work to be judged on its merits. "Of course, every mother is proud of their child. I didn't tell him (Jamieson) because I had all these feelings going through my head — fear, embarrassment."

Kalashnikova says Aelita began painting shortly before she could walk. Both parents are artists and Aelita was used to seeing them work on canvases on the floor.

Kalashnikova at first dismissed Aelita's painting as "just mucking around" but by August last year she'd seen enough potential that she provided her with a canvas painted red (by her mother) and let her get to work. The image that resulted is among those on display in the exhibition, which opens on January 16.

Despite being a typical toddler in other respects — she is a fan of Hi-5 and Care Bears — Aelita often pesters her mother for the paintbrushes, and her parents have set up an area where she can paint, using mainly acrylics on canvas.

Andre said that as soon as his young daughter began drawing in her Montessori play group, he could see her creations were quite different to other children's. "It immediately leapt out as a defined representation of something in an abstract form," he said.

But Andre admitted that most young children never had the opportunity to create art using proper materials and if others were given the chance, there likely would be more art like Aelita's.

That's a view shared by The Age's art critic, Robert Nelson.

When shown the works without any information on the artist, Nelson said his first impression was of "credible abstractions, maybe playing on Asian screens with their reds. They're heavily reliant on figure/ground relations."

Later, after learning Aelita's age, Nelson said he was not particularly surprised. "I have kids and when they were little, I used to do lots of painting exercises with them. If it is a child's work, it's not a child alone. We're happy to credit the child but it begins with a parental concept," he said.

Nelson said that he could go to any primary school and pick out some credible work from among the portfolios.

While there have been plenty of hoaxes in the art world and some critics of modern art have used the argument that a child could do better than some of the big names in the genre, nobody involved in the Aelita Andre saga has set out to belittle abstract art.

"No one's been tricked here," Nelson said. "You can't really trick a commercial gallery, the process of authenticity is too strict. The gallery probably thinks this is fun and I do too. I love it."

Aelita's paintings are priced between $350 and $2000. Her parents said they would likely place the proceeds of any sales in a trust fund for their daughter.

But Mr Jamieson said that he would not be "making a habit" of displaying other child artists.

Aelita Andre's work is part of the exhibition Soulcatcher X 3, at Brunswick Street Gallery.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Job offers.

First - a little background to this story. About 3 months ago I got a phone call from a recruitment agency asking me to apply for a position in Canberra. It is a dream sort of job for me and it offers a HUGE salary increase. The sort of salary increase I would never achieve in my currrent organisation. Everything about it is exciting - apart from the location which is crap!! That... and I am getting married in 4 weeks and would spend the first year of my married life living in another state from my husband.

I applied for the job thinking there is not a hope in Haiti that I will get an interview. I apply for a bit of a lark. Wonders never cease - a week before Christmas they fly me down to Canberra for an interview. Again... I head down for a "bit of a lark"thinking there is no hope of getting the job.

Today I get a phone call offering me "a position". Not the position I applied for however - I was quite correct in my assumption that I am not even remotely qualified for it. But it is a really good offer all the same. They didn't appoint anyone to the Senior role I applied for. Instead they restuctured internally and promoted from within. Then swapped around portfolios and created a suite of portfolios that matches my skills and passions. We are talking project managment in the areas of rural women's issues, leadership, rural vocational training, farm safety and regional mental health programs - perfect for what I love... This is the sort of job that would be amazing - travel, interesting work and great salary.

Mark had 12 months left on his uni degree so there is no chance we would be able to both live in Canberra. We want to start a family and I currently have a permanent position - so that means materinity leave benefits etc. Such a big grown up decision...

I am quite conflicted and it is soooo tempting... However I think I am going to have to turn them down. This is such a hard thing to turn down - the first time my personal life has really taken a front seat to a professional advancement. Wow... It is really blowing my mind.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009


4 weeks from today Sotheary arrives from Cambodia for my wedding!
4 weeks and 2 days from today Andrew arrives for my wedding!

One month from today most of my friends will be together for my wedding.
One month from tomorrow I will be getting married.
One month and one day from tomorrow I will be going to Borneo for my honeymoon.

Its all happening now!

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A few of my favourite things...

Oh my goodness... Just tasted Yogen Fruz for the first time. Amazing! I am in love with this product. At only 150 calories per serve it is a gift from the gods I tell you...

Banana and mango yogen fruz is set to quickly become my favourite tasty treat.


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Cute story from the news today...

Children, aged six and seven, try to elope
07:57 AEST Tue Jan 6 2009 - AFP

Two childhood sweethearts, aged six and seven, eloped from Hanover in northern Germany on New Year's Eve, determined to tie the knot under the African sun, police have said.

The pair identified as Mika and Anna-Lena "are very much in love and decided to get married in Africa where it is warm, taking with them as a witness Anna-Lena's little sister, aged five," police spokesman Holger Jureczko said.

The idea for the romantic trip began when Mika told the two girls about his recent holiday in Italy, while their families celebrated New Year's Eve together. "From this, the children began to make plans for the future," Jureczko said.

As the first dawn of 2009 broke, the trio started to put these plans into action, packing all the essentials for the journey, including "sunglasses, swimming trunks, a lilo, summer clothes and provisions."

According to The Guardian newspaper, Anna-Bell told the German television station RTL: "We wanted to get married and so we just thought: 'Let's go there.' "

Mika said: "We wanted to take the train to the airport, then we wanted to get on a plane and when we arrived we wanted to unpack the summer things and then we wanted to go for a bit of a stroll in the sun."

So while their parents slept, the trio left their house in the suburbs of Hanover, walked a kilometre up the road to a tram stop from where they took a tram for the central station.

Waiting for a train to the airport, they aroused the attention of a guard who contacted police.
Two officers managed to convince the young lovers that they would struggle to get to Africa without money or a plane ticket.

As a consolation, the children were given a special tour of the police headquarters at Hanover station where they were especially taken with the detention cells.

Their relieved parents picked them up from the station, the spokesman said, adding: "They can still put their plan into action at a later date."

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Friday, January 02, 2009

New toys...

For Christmas Mark and I bought a new camera as a shared Christmas present... I am in lust with my new camera. It is amazing and so much fun. Mark likes it because it has really easy point and shoot functions so he doesn't have to think about it too much.

I got a Canon Powershot SD990 IS (a new model in the Elph series). Here she is... Isn't she a cutie? So tiny after my old Powershot Pro I purchased over 3 years ago - I can fit this into my handbag!

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