Is Calmness next to Catliness

Keep Calm, Grasshopper, and Jump On

In keeping with the international interest in the Keep Calm and Carry On poster and assorted accessories mania, I, too, have succumbed.

To remind you, here’s an extremely cute short, short film about the history of Keep Calm. And I have to say that if more book shops looked like Barter Books, we’d all be a lot calmer and have many more paper books on our shelves instead of Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, and lawnmowers. A Few More Blinks


Here are a couple of links you may find useful, entertaining and informative.

Anne R. Allen’s Blog – about all things literary – Anne is a best-selling author who shares her considerable knowledge of the literary scene with anyone who happens by.

Jane Friedman – her interests are in the tagline: writing, reading, and publishing in the digital age.  Jane has plenty of experience to call upon very generously shares it with us, her grateful readers.

How Writing Affects Your Brain – An Infographic

Hello, Grasshoppers.

Here is a very interesting and different look at writing and the brain. Infographics are one of my favourite forms of communication at the moment, and this one cuts close to the bone for those of us engaged in narrative.

Take special notice of the information about how the brain responds to story telling, its integration and referencing of so much more than simply the facts – reason enough on its own to continue the hard slog.

“Only connect,” as E.M. Forster wrote, and you’ll make a world of difference.

Amazing Facts on Writing and How it Affects Our Brain [Infographic] - An Infographic from

Embedded from

National Library Week – Silence Forbidden: The Rise of the New Library

So, I arrived early with the internet desperadoes after dropping off my partner at drumming class 5 minutes down the road. ‘It’ll be a little experiment,’ I said, as we parted. ‘I’ll see how it is in the great world with Elmo (my cute and new baby laptop – so tickle me, I like giving them names) for company. If I get bored, I’ll go for a gander at the gallery.’ 


State Library of Qld

State Library of Queensland


We waited a few minutes past the hour, the desperadoes and I, but once those sliding doors opened, the gang of six charged in to acquire their monitors and desk spaces. New to the place, I strolled around assessing the best spots before planting myself at a ‘study space’ and plugging in.

Within 15 minutes, the ‘study space’ hub morphed into the compleat hubbub. A Few More Blinks

A History of Typography – in 5 minutes

I’ve added a You Tube video to my Creativity page – it’s A History of Typography – a short animated film well worth 5 minutes of your most valuable resource.


If you’re interested in changing or experimenting with the fonts on your (self-hosted) web site, have a look at Google Fonts – a treasure trove of fonty goodness to play with there.

And if you want to load them into your Word Press theme, have a look at this plugin, WP Google Fonts – I’ve used it for a while and it works perfectly.  Plus, you don’t have to know anything about coding to install and use it.

Time is Peppery – or So it Seems

We have a row of planter pots positioned along the side of the carport so the herbs in them get maximum sunlight each day.

On our way out recently, my beloved remarked, ‘Time is peppery.’

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘it certainly is, and what a wonderful metaphor.’

‘You can use it in so many dishes,’  Beloved continued, preoccupied with clearing away some twiggy and leafy debris.Thyme_1_23313_IMG_9701Peppery

The penny dropped, eventually, and thyme was the actual word, representing the herb whose homophonic alliance suggested a change in perception, at least for a blink or two.

Well, on consideration, time is peppery, after all. It must be one of the most peppery entities, concepts and actual events in existence.

Think about it: it’s all we have, really it is, and you can’t even see it, hold it, or box it up, but you can donate it, sell it, barter it, and measure it. Yippee.

On the other hand, that’s rather aggravating, and inflammatory on so many levels. Sort of grinds you down, doesn’t it? Until you realise just how Carlos Castaneda, Timothy Leary trippy it really is – in that fighting a cloud with a sword kind of way.

And time is elastic, as Einstein so craftily pointed out.

It’s so elastic that each and every one of us who breathes on this strange little world, has an entirely different experience of it from each and every one else.  But we enjoy or endure a similar enough experience of time to take generally attentive notice of clocks, and solar movements, and other astral indicators so as to make it to work, play, and the next episode on time, if you will.

Peppery time: sneezy, sniffly, bitey, hot, irritating, flavoursome, and multi-coloured.

There’s no other such unit of time, either, than this very moment in which I type this letter and this letter, and this very moment as you read this word.  But it’s hard not to stay with the old continuum – remembering the past, imagining the future, and avoiding the present even as we wish we could do so much more with it, pesky little thing.

Which reminds me: I’m off to pluck some thyme for the stir fry – just give me a minute.


Gappy New Year – if you make it so, Grasshopper

Candle party

If you find reflection difficult, make friends with a candle.

At the beginning of the year – so  long ago now – and for some time afterwards, a lot of my text messages began with ‘Happy New Year.’ But one such message began, ‘Gappy New Year.’ It was a hot day, letters swirled and jumbled and before I knew it I had a reason for a little article about giving yourself permission to take time out this year to smell the roses, or the Tanqueray, or to have a magnificent Mad Men boxed set weekend.  And by now, you’ve forgotten your New Year’s Resolutions, so try this instead, because…

Here’s the thing: gaps are good, gaps are you being generous towards the most important entity in your life: you. Think about it – without you – functional, healthy, purposeful or purposeless, charming you – where are you? Hmm? Answer me that, grasshopper. And no, it isn’t selfish to practise self care. It’s essential.

So enjoy a Gappy New Year with some of these self care activities:

.Meditation – 5 minutes twice a day at a time and place of your choosing, although if you have a house full of small people, or furry animals, or highly attentive (read high maintenance) spouses, you may have to be a bit sneaky. Get up just a little earlier, sit quietly somewhere and focus on your breath; drive to the station 5 minutes sooner and sit in the car – breathe; get an mp3 player, save some whalesong onto it and listen to it while travelling on your public transport limo, whatever it may be. When intrusive thoughts arise, or even timid ones, say hi to them and then let them drift off like Grandma on the ice floe, as you refocus on your breathing and those darling Southern Rights. You know the drill.

  • Meditate and create a little gap of quiet spaciousness.

. Gratitude – some people I know keep a gratitude journal in which they write down a few things they’re thankful for from the day just spent before they retire for the night. They’re not elaborate, but rather simple acknowledgements of positive experiences or valuable relationships. I don’t keep a gratitude journal but I try to remember on most days how lucky I am to live in a democracy, for instance, where blue skies are the norm rather than the exception, and where I can smell freshly mown grass most days of the week, listen to beautiful music whenever I choose to, and enjoy the company and love of my most beloved partner every day.  Also, I have the fixings for chicken enchiladas in my freezer and pantry, right here, right now.  Oh, frabjous day.

  • Be grateful for the things that count and create a cheerful gap of warm and fuzzy facts.

. Reflection – what I said about meditation, only add deliberate thought about specific subjects instead of letting said thoughts drift off on the mental ice floe with Granny. This is a way to consider what you’re doing and what you’re planning to do – perhaps we should name the forward reflection, projection. In both cases, you’re creating a little gap where you get to contemplate important issues and, with any luck, make worthy decisions about them, or defer decisions until a more fortuitous moment.

  • Do some reflection and create a gap of thoughtful, unhurried clarity. 

.  Distance – sometimes it’s best to simply get away from whatever it is that annoys, frustrates, irritates or otherwise aggravates you. Go for a walk, a run, a beer, a musical interlude, a dinner or breakfast, a visit to the art gallery, the museum, join a bank robbery in progress (if that’s what turns your widget, but keep your head down), the beach, a seat on the back steps where you can sip your tea or tequila and nibble your raisin toast, without the benefit of digital technology.

  • Keep your distance and create a gap of literal and/or metaphorical breaks in which to lose and calm yourself.

. Read – something new, or re-read a faithful old friend. I return to several books every couple of years to rediscover their gems. I’m never disappointed and I always find something new to consider. Here are a few I highly recommend: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Reaching Tin River by Thea Astley (an absolute disgrace to Australian publishing that so many of her titles are out of print or hard to source, or even sauce); The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (come on, Anne, you can do it – just one more for the Tyler Trippers, pleeeeeese).

  • Read up a paper chase and create a narrative gap, or three.

So, grasshopper, how do you practice self care? Whatever you do, do it mindfully and with sincerity: the sense of calmness alone is a worthy reward.

Feeling Cactus? Put the Bloom Back on the Rose Today, Grasshopper

A couple of weeks ago on my morning walk, I saw a cactus flower in full bloom. It was large, white, luscious and lifting its face to the sun. Full of energy.

My partner suggested we return with our cameras to capture the event. But after we arrived home and had breakfast, somehow the cactus flower left the to-do today agenda for the nether regions of tomorrowland.

Tomorrow arrived and the cactus flower was off the bloom, spent, exhausted from the effort of its beauty. Yes, it was cactus.

So the first picture with this post is the lesson for the day which, by now, you’ve probably guessed.

Cactus Flower

Cactus cactus flower

Don’t delay. Act. Whatever it is, do it now if it’s at all possible.

When opportunity arrives, grab it by the double p and shake it vigorously.

A personal case in point – yes, yet another instance of procrastination peeving a person. I wrote a short story about a time in the early 1980s – coming soon to an e-publishing platform near you – and I used a house I lived in then as a location.

As is the way of things, I thought an image of the house may serve as part of the cover design. The house is on the other side of town and it’s years since I was in that neighborhood. I’d been toying with the notion of a photo safari to shoot all the places I’ve lived in since I adopted Brisbane as my de facto hometown. So…

We drove there one day recently and discovered four townhouses where my old rental once graced the long gone grassy slope. They took up the block next door, too, spready little buggers.

Gone. Forever. No wretched image except for the one in my wretched mind’s eye.

I was so distraught that we resorted to cheeseburgers at the rebuilt, refurbished, totally over-sized yellow M take-away opposite so I could re-ground myself in the reality of grease and slamming ventricles – better that than a smack in the face with a dead cactus flower, anyway. Maybe.

You can see, then, that while we discovered another cactus flower actually in bloom, and had the good sense to photograph it before it was too late (again), my old house is eternally lost because I didn’t act in the now that has become then.

So sad. Too bad.

For what it’s worth and this is what all the mindfulness books, essays and blogs will tell you time and again: Act. Do it now.

You can’t always tell the difference between what may give you a re-run and what will disappear.

Do not fertilise regret, grasshopper.

Capture the cactus flower with its head raised in wondrous, sunny splendour, and rejoice in your immediacy.

Blooming cactus flower

Blooming Cactus Flower

The Best Thing to come out of the Tour de France is Edible and Drug-Free

Bacon and Leek Tart

Better than a million Lance Armstrongs

You know those people who say they read Playboy for the articles?  Well, I watch the Tour de France for the recipes.  Really and no kidding.  And I can prove it.

Last year’s Tour, as broadcast here in Australia by SBS, featured chef, Gabriel Gaté.  Gabriel also toured around on his Tour de Taste, as the lesser tour progressed, and he shared entertaining and delicious gustatory interludes involving various regional delicacies and favourites.

One of these is a good old-fashioned bacon and leek pie (or tart, as Gabriel calls it).  In French,  as Flamiche aux Poireaux, it achieves a level of sophistication that bacon and leeks can only fantasize about in their English incarnations.

But in either language, it’s tarty brilliance is tasty, satisfying, and can be consumed hot or cold, with salad or without, on a plate or in your hand as your rush off to pilates, guilt-stricken over what you’ve just fed yourself.

So let’s forget about blood dope, Lance Armstrong, and blood cholesterol, too, for that matter.  In ttf-ville, where we achieve kensho (temporary enlightenment) one blink at a time, EPO means Egg Pie Orgasm.

Here’s the recipe now, just in time for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  And here’s a link to the SBS page on which you can enjoy Gabriel’s segment all over again.  Thanks Gabriel.

Flamiche aux poireaux (Bacon and Leek Tart)

Ingredients and Method as we go – adapted from Gabriel’s presentation

First, preheat your oven.  Gabriel says 220C, but I’ve found that my oven is fine at 200C and it’s fan-forced – best to go with your instincts about your own little cooker.

1 sheet of savoury pastry (I use pre-fab shortcrust – remove from freezer about a quarter of an hour before you need it, and cover with a tea towel to prevent drying out while it thaws.  Then, when you get the chance, press it into a greased flan pan – one of those jobbies with a removable base and poke it silly with a fork – to prevent rising damp when it’s cooking).

4 middle rashers of bacon, diced, fried, cooled on a plate (speed up the cooling by refrigerating for 20 minutes or so).

2 leeks, halved down the middle, finely sliced, fried, cooled on a plate (refrigerate with the bacon) (don’t use the darker green part of the leek, it’s tough – just get over the fact that you’ll have to discard half the bloody thing after it’s taken up all that space in your fridge – if you have chooks, chop it up and share with them, but be ready for atomic flatulence and probably hideously malformed and curdled eggs)

In a bowl, whisk 2 eggs (not the leeky ones!), 80 mls of cream (some cooks substitute ricotta to be healthier, but if you’re going down, you’re going down, so don’t sweat it and get used to fewer working arteries for god’s sake), and 40 mls of milk (full cream, of course), salt and pepper if you wish (and I add a handful of finely diced garlic chives – for colour and a bit more flavour, like you need it – I have several pots of garlic chives in the garden so I have to use them or they stare at me eyelessly and affect an abandoned air).

Then, set this bowl of high fat goodness aside until we’re ready for it shortly.

Now, grab your prepared pastry flan and spread the bacon over the base.

Then, spread the leeks on top of the bacon.

Finally, spoon the egg mixture gently over the bacon and leeks.  Pat it out to the edges so you get good coverage, just like your broadband connection, when it works.

I cook my tart for around 20 minutes and it’s perfectly done, but Gabriel recommends 35 minutes.  Again, work out your own ovenly quirks and use these times as a guide.  But I highly recommend checking after 20 minutes so you don’t burn its bum or any other important bits.

Absolutely finally, enjoy – and you can try to resist the temptation to eat more than one slice, but  you’ll fail, so just go with the flow.

Tip: Why not make two if you happen to have two flan pans.  This dish is a seriously good one, and you (and your loved ones if you can bring yourself to share) deserve more of it whenever possible.

As the totally irresistible Julia Child used to say, and how appropriate it is for today’s treat: Bon appetit! (Watch the movie, Julie and Julia – excellent, and even better the second time around, especially while eating Flamiche, and Stanley Tucci is adorable, as always – I’m saying nothing about Meryl Streep – she is beyond saying).

Have you had an interesting culinary experience recently, grasshopper?  Let us all know here at ttf.