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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My big weekend...

Last weekend was very busy for me...I was busy celebrating my 60th birthday. It seems so surreal to be 60! What is being 60 supposed to be like? Many people have asked me how it feels to be doesn't feel any different to being in my 50s actually. However I now have a seniors business card which allows me to receive discounts from certain retailers, restaurants and other businesses. Dh has had one of these cards since 2009 and it's amazing the number of places where he can receive a discount.
Now about this busy weekend of mine...
Firstly on Saturday, my BIL, David and my SIL, Mary, hosted a family (plus some good friends) celebration. What wonderful people David and Mary are...they not only provided the food but also opened their beautiful home and gardens up for the party. My best friends Pamela and her husband Garry also gave a hand with providing food and Pamela also made and iced the cake. The weather was beautiful and it was delightful to watch everyone talking and laughing and the 2 babies, the 1 toddler and the 7 year old being looked after by everyone.

Four people are missing from this photo, so where were they hiding? lol Joel, a friend of DH's DD3 took the photo.

DSD3 and DD2

Then on Sunday, I hosted a High Tea event for 22 of my female friends. These guests ranged from school friends (from when we started school in 1957), a classmate from teachers' college, 2 people who I supervised when they were student teachers as well as colleagues from 40 years of working in schools. The tea-room here I chose is in the suburbs and is run by Eniko who cooks everything served on the premises. I had booked the little tea-room out, and again it was so nice to hear the excited chatter of my friends.

There were other friends I would have liked to invite  but I wanted to be able to talk to each of my guests but the deciding factor in numbers was that the tea-room really couldn't hold any more people. We all had a lovely afternoon in the little tea-room with its pretty china and silverware and the gorgeous food.

So as you see, I had one big weekend and enjoyed every minute of it! And the really nice thing has been the number of my friends who've written to tell me how much they enjoyed the occasion too!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On my mind...memories of my childhood

In my last 2 posts I've started relating childhood memories as I look back over my 60 years. I link some of my blog posts to my Facebook account so I tend to get more comments there than on the actual blog.
I wrote how my parents grew vegetables and fruit and how my mother made jams, pickles and other was just everyday life for them. She also made mine and her clothes and mended everything from underwear to sheets and curtains. One of my 'old' school friends made this comment:-

Sadly after my dad died, his beloved garden became overgrown

Valerie wrote: ‘Great blog Maria – interesting to look at the school photos- overweight kids almost didn’t exist. When I think back on what we ate – never ate out or had takeaway, never had fried food, deep fryers didn’t exist. We never ate pizza – didn’t know what it was. Never ate rice or Asian food or heard of stir frying. Never ate pasta – lasagne or ravaioli. Had never heard of risotto. From memory seemed to live on lamb chops and 3 veg. Life has changed so much in in our 60 years.’

Unlike Val, I did eat pasta; it was one of my favourite meals as a child. Pasta sauce simmmering on the stove would fill the house with amazing aromas. We also had 'peasant' style soups and casseroles filled with lots of homegrown vegetables. Another favourite meal was my dad's version of eggplant parmigiano with plump, purple eggplants, tomatoes and cheese on top of the layers. We also ate Greek style dishes as my father worked for a Greek family. I discovered pizza when it was served as one of the many courses at a cousin's wedding in 1963.

My mother, being Australian, did cook meals that  were 'English' in style but we ate them on Sunday nights if dad was working. He found such food lacking taste as herbs and spices were not used very much, let alone garlic and he wouldn't eat such food!

A family picnic in 1965; my mother made a 'mountain' of sandwiches (Aussie style) and we had the left-overs toasted for a few days after; little was wasted in those days.

Mostly I took Aussie style lunches to school (vegemite, peanut paste, tomato, cheese, egg and lettuce sandwiches) but sometimes I would take leftovers from our Italian style meals much to my school mates disgust! Having friends around to play could be a problem if my dad was home. He'd offer them Italian style food which was very strange to them!  (Some friends would suddenly need to go home when faced with strong cheeses and sundried tomatoes!) It's lovely all these years later to know that such foods are eaten and enjoyed by a large percentage of Australians and I'm no longer considered strange because of what I eat!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Some more of my story...

Dad and I standing on the front veranda; our house was one of the oldest in the street.

I grew up in a household with books, magazines and newspapers as well as one filled with music. My father played the violin and would often give a little concert for my mother and I. Dad was into classical music and just like in the movies featuring Italian family life, operas blared out from the radio when he was home. Mum also liked classical music but also loved show tunes and the lighter classics. Because I was sent to Sunday school, I also had a repertoire of ‘choruses and children’s hymns’ that I liked to sing as well. I had tried out unsuccessfully for the school choir when I was 9 but finally was accepted in Grade 5! I loved the excitement of eisteddfods but it was only my mother who came to watch.

An old photo of my dad with his violin. He was still up north when this photo was taken
I also grew up in a household where vegetables and fruit were home-grown and jams, preserves and pickles were homemade. We had a large garden as our yard was ¾ of an acre; my dad was in his element! My mother also sewed, mended, knitted and crocheted constantly. By the time I was 10 my parents had expectations that I would help around the house and garden. I had to set the table and dry the dishes each night. On Saturday mornings I had to sweep/ vacuum and dust. In my early teens I had to pick the strawberries that my father grew in a large number of beds for local shops as well as the city fruit shop where he worked. I absolutely hated all these chores and complained that it wasn’t fair that I had to do everything because I was an only child! lol
Dad working in his large garden
Now even though I was an only child I knew that my mother had ‘another daughter’ who was my half sister. Her name was Margaret and as far as I knew, she lived somewhere down south where my Nanna lived. In her photos I could see she had very curly hair and my parents’ friends would often comment that it was a shame that I didn’t get the same curly hair...Yes, I was jealous but now that I’m a mother I can imagine how painful it must have been for my mother to be parted from her older daughter. I also discovered the concept of divorce from hearing about movie stars, then I found out my dad was divorced from his first wife. None of my friends seem to have similar things happening in their families and I often wondered why there wasn’t a wedding photo of my parents on the sideboard like there was at my friends’ houses...??????

Margaret as a youngster; she was only 5 years older than me

In my previous post I explained that my mother was diagnosed with MS eventually when I was 6. For a number of years she had ‘flare-ups’ of the symptoms on what seemed like an annual basis and spent considerable time in hospital. The year I turned 11 she went into remission and this was to last for almost 10 years. Year 6 was the last year we went for a family holiday at Scarborough where dad spent the 2 weeks fishing. I’ve wondered why we stopped going as it was an annual ritual from when I was 2. I guess I’ll never know. It was on this last holiday that my mother commented to the landlady of the flats (they had become friends over the years) that she thought something was wrong with my back as the clothes she was making for me seem to pull to one side. Mrs Ling in turn asked advice of her friend who was a veterinarian...yes a vet!!!! He looked at my posture, asked me to bend from the waist and then told my mother that she should take me to the hospital when we got home.
One of my mum's blurry pictures but the only one I have showing me wearing the body cast. I'm with my friends, brother and sister,  Donna and Lindsay McPherson.
Eventually I was diagnosed with scoliosis or curvature of the spine. My mother was distraught that she ‘had a crooked daughter’ and insisted it was because I didn’t sit up straight... I carried that guilt until my mid twenties when I read an article which stated that it was something that I was born with. Treatment was a pretty hit and miss affair. Immediately I was sent to physiotherapy a number of afternoons a week after school. I had to do the set of exercises each day before school...naturally I hated doing them. But I was trusted to catch a bus to and from the hospital by myself for these sessions so that made me feel a bit special.

At the end of Grade 7, I started more intensive treatment. (That's me behind the teacher!)

At the end of Grade 7 when I was 12, the orthopaedic specialist decided it was time for some different treatment. So the last week of term 4, I was admitted to hospital and put on a device that stretched me (straps under my chin and a strap around my hips, then the attendant turned the handles that the straps were attached to. I believe these machines had been used as instruments of torture, lol) Then when the doctor was satisfied with the amount of stretch, a body plaster was quickly slapped on then the traction was released. I started high school like this; mum bought me a uniform large enough to fit over the cast...I gained some notoriety at school as a rumour went around that I’d been in a horrific car accident. Everyone was nice to me so even though it was a ‘crock’ to be like that, unable to bend etc I had a lot of fun! The plaster casts went from under my chin to where my legs joined my body. The casts were changed about every 6 weeks and sometimes I would be sent home for a week or two without the a cast on. That was absolute bliss! This was the pattern of my life for 20 months...

See my loose uniform! (I'm 5th from the right, second row) This was one of the rare occasions in Grade 8 when i wasn't in the body cast!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another milestone birthday...

Tomorrow I turn 60 and for the life of me I can't work out 'where all those years have gone!' When I was in my 20s and 30s, to be 60 seemed so old! But it's not, I can assure

I was born in the early hours of the morning at a time when men did not stay to see their children born. Nope! Dad took mum to hospital and then came home to wait. Home then was a serviced room in a boarding house in central Brisbane. My parents weren't exceptionally poor, it was just quite common after the war for people to live in such accomodation. My dad worked in a fruit shop in the centre of the city so he was close to his work by living in the city. Now about my parents...

My dad was Paolo, but preferred Paul. He had come to Australia from Sicily as a 16 year old to cut cane in North Queensland. After 'making his money in the north, he moved south and at first farmed in the Stanthorpe district, growing grapes, apples and stonefruit. By the late 1940s he moved to Brisbane. My Australian-born mother was from Victoria and had been a penfriend of my dad and eventually he convinced her to move to Queensland. There was a bit of an age difference; dad was 42 when I was born, mum was 27 and both had been married before. When I was about 5 months old my mother was hospitalised and my dad took over the job of weaning me...with a cup and spoon. ( By the time I was 5 we finally found out why she was so ill...she had MS and pregnancy exacerbates the symptoms) dad was always a 'hands-on' father which was unusual for those times.
 When I was 1 year old we moved into a flat in the suburbs (Paddington). The owner of the shop where dad worked owned a block of flats behind an electrician's shop and we rented the ground floor flat. Then when I was 3, my dad bought a house at Newmarket where I lived until I got married. The family dad worked for were Greek and treated us all as though we were family. In fact my mother used to tell the story of how when I started to talk I used a mixture of English, Sicilian dialect and Greek. I don't remember much these days which is sad...but you have to use language.

Taken on my second birthday in the garden of our Paddington flat

3 years old here

5 years old here

10 years old here The pup is a neighbour's; my parents didn't want a dog but I had a pet cat!
The year I turned 6, I started school which was just a short walk from home. I loved school because of all the other children; home was a bit lonely for an only child... I learned to read pretty quickly and was soon reading anything and everything at home. My parents bought me lots of children's books which I 'devoured'.

10 years old here...can you find me in my striped dress?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Our day at Disneyland...

DH and I also went to Disneyland while we were staying in Huntington Beach. It was quite a short drive from there. We parked in the huge multi storey car park, then took the ‘tram’ to the park. At the ticket booth we opted just to do one of the parks and we chose the original Disneyland. Our tickets cost $76 each so we felt we had to cram as much as possible in to the day.

The tram that took us from the car park to the park entry
Disneyland’s Main St is so quaint with the horse-drawn tram, the old world shops and numerous vintage vehicles. And of course there is the station overlooking the ‘town’. Staff are dressed in uniforms of yester-year and everything is so clean.  We took the ride on the train to get our bearings and then started to explore some of the areas.

Stroller parking!

It was great seeing things that had featured on those TV shows of long ago that were shown on Sunday nights if I remember correctly...but it was a long time ago! The ‘fairytale’ castle, Frontierland, New Orleans was top on my list to wander through but we managed to see more of the park as well, especially Tomorrow Land. I really wanted to have a ride on the ‘Teacups’...don’t know why, but I just did. Unfortunately the queue was extremely long even though people sat more than 1 to a teacup. The other ride I wanted to go on, the one that goes in the Matterhorn was also extremely long. So we looked for alternatives.
The view from the ship

This was a real cat that walked out along the old damaged railway track

There was a 'spare teacup' which people were sitting in to get a photo

We took a boat ride on the old ‘sailing ship’ ‘Columbia’ as it was quicker to get a turn. It was a bit disappointing as the figures on the banks were so ‘dodgy’...sort of moth-eaten animatronics and I apologise for being so critical of such an iconic place. Dreamworld, Movieworld and Universal Studios and even Sovereign Hill have made me expect more. Now leaving from the wharf near the Columbia was a paddle steamer but it apparently went around the same stretch of water so we ‘caught the train to New Orleans’ and there we had a lovely lunch. Lunch was citrus chicken, a really yummy mashed potato dish, greens and some cornbread which appears to be a sweet cake-like food.
Now the things I really loved about Disneyland were many. Firstly the vision of Walt Disney to build this place which opened in 1955, the cleanliness, the focus on families, the beautiful gardens, the impeccably restored vintage motor vehicles and best of all for me...the live entertainment especially the bands, both jazz and marching! I did not like the queues as too much time is wasted waiting to go into or on rides and activities. You can buy special ‘queue jumper’ passes and I think you need them. We did line up for 40 minutes to drive the crazy little cars...despite my best efforts the vehicle rocked around and seemed to be not connected to the steering wheel and even though I knew it couldn’t come off the track I was glad when I got back to the start. Lol

We waited 35 minutes to get on this ride

One of the lovely restored vintage vehicles

In the gift shop DH tried on some ears!

Mary Poppins entertaining the crowd

Some of the beautiful gardens
We spent the latter part of the afternoon looking at the museum dedicated to Abraham Lincoln where as well as an animatronics’ Abe there was a pretty impressive model of the capitol building. We also spent quite a bit of time in the ‘Tomorrow Land’  exhibit.
Later in the day the ‘lowering of the flag’ ceremony was very impressive back in Main Street. The crowds seem to grow bigger as the day went on, so that when Adrienne rang and said Cindy had brought home some Chinese take-away and would we be home for dinner, we decided to forgo watching the fireworks and head back to the ‘tram’ which would take us back to the car park. DH commented that he had left his trip to Disneyland 50 years too late...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm still here!

I haven't written much on my blog lately...we have been so busy! For 3 days this week, we rose at 5.30am, had breakfast and got dressed and went by train to the city. DH and I were doing a training course 8am to 5pm on a particular computer system which will be used in the next state election. Now we don't know when that election will be...but the present government have until late June, 2012 to call an election and the electoral commision has to be ready. So how have I got myself involved? DH is going to run an electorate and I have been made his assistant...It was a very full on 3 days and there is so much to remember...but at least I wasn't the only one 'floundering' around but DH and I were the 'new kids on the block' and I have no background in election work (unlike DH) so it was an extremely steep learning curve.
So any way these days were long and exhausting. Today was Saturday but no time for sleeping in! We were once again up at 5.30 am but this time we were driving in to pick up a 25 seater bus as DH had agreed to drive a group of people from our parish to another church in the town of Warwick about 2 hours from Brisbane.

We were going there to attend a ceremony where our former parish priest was commissioned as rector of St Marks Anglican parish in Warwick. Rod came to our parish in 2003. He came with his wife Dianne and their 3 children and we loved them all! He was such a lovely man and before he became a priest he was a vet and was much loved by those who took their animals to him.
Father Rod performed the service for DH and I when we married in 2004 and it was a beautiful service. Rod knew that my greatest wish was that I should be allowed to re-marry in a church despite being a divorcee. Thanks to Rod and the Bishop I got my wish.
I know how lucky the people of Warwick are to have Rod as their parish priest; they were without a priest for over 12 months. Our parish will now be 'in the same boat' as we wait for a replacement.

St Mark's Warwick built in 1869 (that's old for Qld)
Rod standing with some of the people who took part in the ceremony (note the beautiful embroidery on the stole of the lady second from the left)
Those of us who travelled in the hired bus. Many more came in private cars

This building was the original church and is now used as a hall (so if the present church was completed in 1869, this one is a lot older)

 Rod holding the youngest member of our parish. Rod baptised this little man in his last service in our parish

Today's ceremony was beautiful; the speeches of welcome to Rod and Dianne from community representatives were warm. I saw what a difference there was beween city and country today...their hospitality towards us was wonderful...and oh! the desserts...were yummy!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Some dogs of Huntington Beach...

In the last week of our holiday in the USA we stayed most of the time with Bruce’s cousin Adrienne at Huntington Beach.
The cousins

Adrienne and Cindy have a beautiful home which they share with golden retriever dogs. Not just any dogs...these are all rescued dogs.
Maddie, Cali and Casey being supervised by Cindy while Felix has his massage

Maddy loves to roll around on her back

Darling Felix who appeared to be at 'death's door' until the massages gave him back some energy

This is Casey (I think; she and Cali are very similar) with one of her toys

They live in the lap of luxury when they get rescued by this pair! Dog beds and blankets spread around the rooms of the house, walkies around the lovely neighbourhood, big dinner bowls, agility classes and even some special massage sessions for lovely elderly Felix who is 15! Felix was rescued at 13 and really was in a bad way. Adrienne said that they thought it was a matter of keeping him comfortable but that he was nearing death. The massages are done by a lady called Bettina and Felix has responded so well; he has lots more energy. I watched a massage session and it reminded me of Bowen treatments.

Bettina at work on Felix

What mess/ I didn't do anything...!

Maddy on one of the doggie blankets.
As well as Felix, there is Cali (short for California Dreaming), Casey and the baby, Maddie. DH and I loved the opportunity to cuddle and pat these beautiful dogs. Our dog Ozzie had died just over a year ago and we still miss her. When we were leaving Huntington Beach, Adrienne said that the dogs would miss us and I guess we’ve missed them too!