Friday, 31 July 2015

A really good read: Euphoria

Oh my goodness! This book broke my heart over the weekend... I've probably said too much already, so without spoiling the end anymore than I might have already, I want to tell you about Euphoria by Lily King.

The first I heard about this book was here, followed by here. As I like how these women write, I figured it was worth getting my hands on a copy, and after a short wait I was able to borrow it from the library.

It was well worth the wait.

Oh my goodness! It sucked me in: I could feel the tropics, smell the cooking fires, taste the breadfruit and yams, and see the lake where most of the book takes place. Euphoria is electric, vibrant, gripping, tantalising, and beautifully written. It made for excellent reading while resting an ouchie knee.

King has taken the story of groundbreaking anthropologist Margaret Mead and created a piece of fiction that is engaging and quick to read. I keep wanting to use the word "elegant" to describe it but there is too much sweat and grime and passion in the pages. I could gush and gush about it, but then I remember King's efficiency with words, so here's a little from the dust cover:
[...] King's new novel is the story of three young, gifted anthropologists in the 1930s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and ultimately their lives.
If you're over winter, if it is winter where you are, this book is set in the Territory of New Guinea, which is now part of Papua New Guinea. There is sweat, humidity, and mosquitoes in the pages.

My own time in the tropics, my year in Samoa, is probably the main reasons this book struck such a strong chord with me. Every time Lake Tam was mentioned or visited, I saw Lake Lanoto'o, even though it has no beach. I remembered the heaviness of the air. I remembered how dry the dry season can actually be. Whenever the rivers were mentioned or travelled on, I thought of scenes from the African Queen.

Like Lake Lanoto'o, Euphoria is now etched into my mind. It has provided an interesting and unexpected link between the year Michael and I lived in Samoa and our time here in Manhattan. Getting to Lake Lanoto'o is not easy, and it was not easy to put Euphoria down. It sucked me in and broke my heart. It was a very good read.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


We are about to have a very big change here at the Playground: I am going back to paid work. Here in Manhattan.

The last big piece fell into place over the weekend with the arrival of my US work permit.

The other big pieces? A job and daycare. Both of which are sorted, but require a bit more paperwork.

And yes, I had the job lined up before I applied for my work permit. The permits cost a bit of money, so I wasn't going to apply for one without something lined up. Turns out there are two people who would like to employ me based on my CV and a brief chat. Yay me.

I did what was needed to apply for the work permit, sent it off and hoped it would come through. Recently I had been kicking myself for not filling out a contact form so that I might hear about the progress of my application but I realised that too late. Oh well.

Once the permit was in I needed to find a place in a nearby daycare for Jimmy. That came through a week or so ago and we arranged for Jimmy to start at the end of August, or earlier should the permit come through. There was a possibility that Jimmy would start daycare and we would still be waiting on my permit. Did I mention that Jimmy was only on one waitlist?

Yes, it might seem like I went about things in a contrary manner, but since signing the new lease money is tight we weren't prepared to pay for the permit without someone wanting to employ me.We also needed to make sure that Jimmy would be in good hands, either at daycare or with Pop, who was going to come over and look after our little man.

Naturally, I had to work out if it was going to be financially worth me returning to paid work. And it will be. Not by much, at least initially, but hopefully working here will make me more attractive to prospective employers when we return to Australia.

What does this mean for the Playground? Well, mostly it means that I might only manage to maintain the 52 Project for a few weeks while we find our new rhythm. It also means that Michael will be contributing written pieces, not just lovely photos. Who knows, I might manage to write enough posts in the next few weeks that there is no difference here, but if not, well, we'll be finding our new rhythm.


Monday, 27 July 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: Rocking print-on-print and new sunnies.

This boy has some seriously bold style. He knows what he likes and if his fruit shorts are in the wash or his gumboots are wet, well, he's not really interested in being cooperative but he does acquiesce to alternatives after the fifth "no, they're wet/dirty, you can't wear them".

Thursday, 23 July 2015

K State Gardens in summer!

These photos might be nearly a month old, but I've been wanting to share them since Jimmy and I walked around the K State Garden in June. So, here they are. K State Gardens in summer!

There's really not much to say about the Gardens that I haven't said before. There's also no need to point out that Jimmy likes water, and would have gone into the fountain if I'd let him.

Despite the dark clouds, we did not get caught in any rain, and the time we had in the garden was fun, until Jimmy fell into a strawberry patch... Ops! He went into the Manduca pretty quickly after that, and from memory he stayed awake the whole walk home.

There are more photos...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Missing/Enjoying: Fresh air...

It might be difficult to tell, but I took this photo in winter. January to be precise. And yes, the windows were wide open.

No, I'm not crazy.

Ok, maybe I am, I am from Queensland, Australia, after all.

Now, coming from Queensland, I know a few things about the cold - mostly that the novelty is nice, even if I feel I need to sit on a heater just to stay warm. Having lived in the tropics and subtropics for the best part of the last 10 years, I know a lot more about living in hot, humid climates. The most important thing to remember is when to open the windows and curtains or blinds.

In winter, in Warwick, Queensland, I have memories of my parents opening windows for short periods during the warmest part of the day and usually on the sheltered or sunny side of the house. The windows were shut tight an hour or two (or three) before the sun went down, and might not open the next day. In summer, east facing windows were shut and curtains drawn after 8 am and opened after midday, when the windows and curtains on the west side of the house were closed up. In Brisbane it was relatively easy to do the same thing, although in summer we would open the house up once the sun was down, to let the heat out.

This practice allowed for some fresh air coming into the home, most of the year. And it was good. It wasn't until last summer, our first in Manhattan, KS, that I realised how much I like sleeping with windows open when night time temperatures are above 20 C (~70 F). I realised this because there were many nights when we couldn't open the windows because it was either raining or hotter outside than inside, even if we were only 'cooling' the place to ~30 C (85 F). We would sleep with the ceiling fan moving the hot, heavy air around while we stewed in our sweat.

Summer passed, and there was a brief period in the autumn fall when we could leave the windows open just a little, without getting a chill. And then it was winter proper.... and it was cooooold - Queenslanders know nothing*. The apartment was closed up, stuffy even, so every chance I had, I opened those east facing windows until the thermostat hit 15.555 C (60 F) and then I'd close the place up again.

It was worth it.

And now it's summer again. And it can be really, really hot - over 38 C (100 F) in-the-shade hot. And our apartment faces east. It's on the top story. There's a concrete carpark outside. Oh and the hottest part of the day is around 2-3 pm, sometimes later. Hot-box much? Some days there's nothing else to do but close the windows and blinds and turn on the A/C....

Initially, just like last summer, we were 'cooling' the place to ~30 C, but Jimmy and I were still sweaty, cranky creatures in the stuffy hot-box. So, after a few really, really hot days, I turned the A/C to 28 C and it made a huge difference. The apartment was still warm, but the temperature much more bearable, and we weren't sweating anywhere near as much. Even Michael noted that the 2 degrees Celsius made a huge difference. And no, the A/C doesn't seem to be working harder to maintain the lower temperature.

But the funny thing is that when the day is mild and the maximum hovers around 30 C, it is actually nice having the windows open, letting the air flow through the apartment, and having the noise of the day drift in and out. The apartment might be hotter than it would be if we closed the place up and turned on the A/C, but there is just something about fresh air.

Hot or cold, fresh air is what it is: fresh. And I like it. I miss being able to sleep with a window open 9+ months of the year, but we're aiming to move back to Brisbane, so I'll enjoy the dramatic changes in the air, when they come... in a few months... In the meantime, there is always the A/C to keep us from melting, even if it means no fresh air for a few days.

*Ok, ok, so there has been a cold snap across Australia, and there has been snow in parts of Queensland, but 3 days is nothing compared to 3 months. Just saying.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Over the weekend we...

Had a little birthday party for Jimmy. And didn't take a single photo. Except a photo of the cake (and yes, it's the same recipe that I made for his birthday breakfast).

Just like last year.

And just like last year, it happened sorta-kinda by accident, but it is also easier to host and get lost in the moment when I'm not trying to get a photo of a fast moving boy. (I'm also really bad at asking my friends if I can use photos of their children here.)

It was a lovely gathering and it was really good to keep the numbers low - Jimmy, like so many small children, can be overwhelmed by crowds and lots of noise even in his own home. The two small children who were able to make it seemed to have a great time and left tired but happy, even if one of them wasn't that interested in going home. Jimmy slept well once the guests were all gone, and he was happy to see his friends today, so I think he enjoyed his birthday party.

One of the things about having guests over for special events like birthday parties is that it's nice to have a clean house for everyone. Yes, I'm not a huge fan of cleaning and sorting, but there is something about clean surfaces and organised books. It won't last long. The mess is already returning.

On Sunday we found some uninvited guests on our sage... Three little, green caterpillars had been happily munching away on some of the leaves. And of course I didn't take any photos. Story of the weekend? The wee beasties are gone now, so are the damaged leaves, but the sage might still need a little attention. Ah well...

Michael and I stayed up late on Sunday night, reading our books. And then there was a storm, just as I was crawling into bed. Let's just say today required lots of coffee and a nap. At least it was cool enough to have the windows open.

Monday, 20 July 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: "Actually being noisey."

Yes. Noisey.

Noisey, noisey squeals of joy and laughter.

Jimmy has been discovering his outside voice in a big way and it is mostly fun... especially when being sorta-kinda trapped by Daddy while Daddy takes photos - yes, Michael took this brilliant photo while entertaining Jimmy (by taking photos and running around the apartment).

Friday, 17 July 2015


It's hot. We're a sweaty, stinky bunch, and that's with the aircon on! Mind you, we have the AC set at 30 degrees C, just so that we don't died of shock when we head outside and it's 40C in the shade. Sometimes we make it to the pool...

The concrete is sometimes so hot that none of us like walking on it. I worry that it might even burn Jimmy's little feet, but so far, so good.

And then, when we think we've had enough, the clouds come over and open up and cool the whole place down...

Walking around trees in the rain is always fun, and makes the pines smell differently, fresher and sweeter. But the best thing about rain is the puddles that are left behind. Always jump in the puddles.

The cool day was just that, one day. Oh well. It's nice to know that sometimes summer isn't always 40+ degrees C, even if those days are few and far between.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


We celebrated Jimmy's second birthday last week. I would ask someone to pinch me, but Jimmy is so different from a newborn, so different from a crawling baby, and so different from an early walker.

The sounds that come out of his mouth are different too. Surprise, surprise. He imitates and copies, and if we're not careful he might start sounding like Ron Weasley, if Michael and I keep saying "bloody hell"...

We had a great day making a fuss over our little boy. The night before, Michael and I set up a tunnel outside the bedroom door and scattered Jimmy's presents throughout. We have built tunnels like this enough times that Jimmy knew what to do, and made for the emergency exit after opening his first present.

For breakfast there were strawberries and blueberries, just like last year, and this year there was cake. Wholemeal, almond meal, and honey, plus the usual eggs and flour etc. It was his birthday, and birthdays mean lots of cake, as far as I'm concerned, especially if it can pretend to be a healthy one.

There was a trip to the library, and one of Jimmy's presents (a matchbox car) joined us AND returned home - win! And there was a trip to Arrow, naturally. We were there after 5pm, and, because we didn't warn them the day before, they were all out of monkey bread... But Daddy was there before Jimmy and I, and so, the lovely staff at Arrow made some fresh monkey bread for Jimmy! What a birthday present! Even if Jimmy was unaware of the special treatment, Michael and I felt the love.

We took the monkey bread outside to do the whole blowing-out-the-candles thing (because none of us were sure it was ok to do it inside), and Jimmy was able to get up close and interactive - no burns, no fires, he was O.K. Then we went inside to enjoy the treat and the aircon.

Not that it was that hot. Once we were done, we head home, via our favourite footpath. And even though we had a gallon of milk to get into the fridge, we stopped at this little playground for a few slides.

A few... well... it was more like one slide and a bit of running around and investigating the equipment. It's a cute, well thought out playground. It just needs some shade cloth, and to be closer to home, and it would be perfect.

Slides are serious business. So is that tshirt Jimmy's wearing - it's a birthday present and it's just the loveliest cotton, soft and substantial and it's turning out to be a favourite already.

We fed a very tired boy pizza and more cake for dinner. Oh he was tired, but he knew what to do when we presented him with candles and started singing. He stayed up rather late, but that was ok because it was his birthday, and he had to have a red bath, just like Bunny.

Thank you so very much Granny & Pop, Grandma, Grauntie L, Auntie K, and CF & R for Jimmy birthday presents - Michael and I have been in denial, and reluctant to add anything to the list of things we need to bring back/give away, so we haven't actually given him a present yet. He is thoroughly enjoying all his presents, they are new and exciting and extending his knowledge and skills, and the clothes will come in handy.

And thank you Michael, for being Jimmy's Dad, for taking photos and letting me use them here, and for doing almost all of the tunnel building.

If you haven't read already read it, here's Jimmy's birth story.

No, I still can't quite believe it's been two years. Happy birthday little man!!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Over the weekend we...

Pretended to be mad dogs or Englishmen, and went out in the heat and midday sun. I kid you not, it was hot but so worth it.

Michael had to do something in the lab, so we kept him company, until Jimmy was going to slow and we were in sight of Michael's building and Michael ran ahead. By the time Michael was done, was were at the building.

We stopped by Arrow for Italian sodas and monkey bread to keep us hydrated and fueled for the walk home.

We also stopped for dandelions, squirrels, dirt, and the occasional stick, hat adjustment, and tickle.

Jimmy and Daddy played chasey along the path, mostly to keep Jimmy moving at a reasonable speed so that we could get home before we all melted in the heat. It was over 30C in the shade, but still just pleasant enough.

Somehow we returned home without sunburn or heat stroke. And then we stayed home for the rest of the weekend. Michael did do a quick ride to Dillons for some food, and we did go to the pool, but most of the weekend was spent indoors, avoiding the heat... melting, melting... oh what a world...