Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Reason

A little story about a religious skeptic who worked as a farmer [by Paul Harvey], which I would like to call 'The Reason'.

One raw winter night the farmer heard an irregular thumping sound against the kitchen storm door.  He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth inside, beat in vain against the glass.
Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through fresh snow to open the barn door for the struggling birds.  He turned on the lights and tossed some hay in a corner.  But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, hid in the darkness, afraid.
The man tried various tactics to get them into the barn.  He laid down a trail of Saltine cracker crumbs to direct them.  He tried circling behind the birds to drive them toward the barn.  Nothing worked.  He, a huge, alien creature, had terrified them; the birds couldn't comprehend that he actually desired to help them.
The farmer withdrew to his house and watched the doomed sparrows through a window.  As he stared, a thought hit:  If only I could become a bird - one of them - just for a moment.  Then I wouldn't frighten them so.  I could show them the way to warmth and safety.
At the same moment, another thought dawned on him.  He had grasped the reason Jesus was born.

From the The Nativity Story

Oh Holy Night
Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure

Oh Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, the night when Christ was born.


Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love, and His Gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

As a side note, it's interesting how all the old paintings of the nativity scene, etc. show the Jewish Mary and Joseph as Anglo white people.  Not very politically correct *cough*.
I'm sure you'll understand that by displaying these pictures I am in no way promoting this sort of exclusive idea.  Hence, I included the previous picture from the movie The Nativity Story, which I think is much more realistic. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Confessions: I think I'm a grinch

I thought I should write something about Christmas here on my blog.  I mean it's only a four days away, and millions of people are already celebrating the Christmas 'season'.  The decorations are up in the streets, carols are playing through the stores, cards fill the letterbox, and presents are being wrapped.

To be honest, though, I couldn't really be bothered.  There, I've said it.  What a grinch.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Charles Le Brun
As a Christian, I first recognise the story behind Christmas.  But after almost 20 years of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the Three Wise Men, the story has become so familiar... almost clichéd.  How sad.

But don't worry!  When a person [like me] realises that something has become clichéd, they're on the way to re-discovering it's power and originality!  (Seriously.  I mean, it's the first step, right?)

So please bear with me as a re-discover what made the Christmas story a world-wide 'best-seller'.

While we're on that subjects, here's something which I found in my inbox this morning - a new Christmas song.

While at the mall a couple of years ago, my then four year old nephew, Spencer, saw kids lined up to see Santa Claus. Having been taught as a toddler that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, he asked his mom, "where's the line to see Jesus"? My sister mentioned this to my dad, who immediately became inspired and jotted words down to a song in just a few minutes.

It's just amazing - listen to it here.  There is a gorgeous music video too which already has over 1.5 million views on YouTube!

Anno Domini Edwin Long 1883

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Well, there's not much to say with these photos.

high tide at the inlet

We had a great time, it rained a lot, and I went to the beach.
Here's some proof.  In this photo you can see the sky about to break open and deluge us with fresh water.  Hehe, let's just say we didn't have to jump into the ocean to get wet.

stormy sky 

Before it rained we ate chips.

what we do at the beach

overdoing the effects as usual

I could tell you more, like what movies we watched, and what we ate, but you'd probably find that boring (ever seen a John Wayne classic?).

There was one nice-weather day.

shall we swim?

Is it just me, or are the above rocks a little different?
I hereby declare them to be retro rocks, because they are chunky and clunky.



I hope you all have a beach moment this summer, and that it doesn't rain on your parade.

just to prove i was there

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

hello summer

hello summer
hello summer by TheMouseFiles featuring wedge sandals shoes
summer 2010 begins with storms, floods, and torrential rain. Oh, Aussie summer!

Is is gumboots or sandals today?

I've been away for two weeks (v. nice) hence the long silences on the Mouse Files.
But I'm back and rearing to go!  Look out for some holiday snaps...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This could be interesting

Update Sunday, November 28:  Morning after and we still don't have a result... what a freaky political year! First the federal election, then the AFL Grand Final (okay so that's not political, but still!), and now Victorians have managed to come up with something that could be a draw.

Herald Sun online this morning.

Forty two seats to Labor. Forty four seats to the Coalition.  Forty-five needed to win. Two seats left undecided - Macedon leaning to Labor, Bentleigh leaning to the Coalition. And 550,000 pre-poll votes that won't begin to be counted until Monday...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Will my prediction ACTUALLY come true?  I didn't see this one coming.

Hung Parliament Looms in Victoria  
The Australian, Saturday 27 November, 12:00am
VOTING is underway in the Victorian election with opinion polls in the state favouring Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu for the first time.
[read full article]

Time to go and vote in the rain...

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Old Friends

I couldn't live very well without books.

I know this for a fact because I've actually tried to go for one week without reading.  (This was a punishment inflicted by my parents when I was younger. Obviously they knew I would suffer).

I shunned the bookcase, and instead found myself reading the backs of cereal boxes.  And the car manual.  And the instructions for the DVD player.

This was a few years ago, when I would read three or four novels a week.  Simple, easy classics by excellent authors.  Allow me to introduce you to my old friends.  I pulled them out the other day to have their portraits done.

I can't remember when I first picked up Anne of Green Gables, but I know I must have read it over thirty times since then.  The thing I love most about this series is the way you can grow up with Anne.  It seems that each year I've been introduced to the next book in the series, and matured as Anne matured.  It was only this year that I read Anne's House of Dreams!

  And people laugh at me because I use big words.  But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven't you? 
- Anne of Green Gables

Australia has its own distinct brand of fiction I've discovered.  Each of these books presents the Aussie ethos, the unique landscape, the historical tensions and events which shaped the nation.  That sentence sounded so intelligent.  Don't get scared off!  They're great stories, and all based on truth.  Can't get much better than that.   

Oh, how girls love this lot.  I just read Jo's Boys again the other day.  Did you know it existed?  I'd only ever had a trilogy of Little Women, Good Wives, and Little Men, until Mum picked up the fourth in an op shop.  Knowing how it all ended for the March family was faaaaantastic.
Jane Austen - what can I say that hasn't already been said about her?  Nothing, that's what.  And Elizabeth Gaskell is someone I will read forever and always.
"Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true and we could live in them?" 
- Jo March, Little Women

Trixie Belden the girl detective.  Oooh, I love a good mystery.  Especially one set in the hip 50s and 60s.  I have these old ones, but the series is just being re-released after years and years.  I believe the first one was written in 1948 - isn't that just swell!

“I have so got an ambition,” Trixie
told him with a toss of her head. “It’s 
all settled. Honey and I are going to 
be private detectives; aren’t we, 

Jim hooted with laughter. “And call 
your agency Schoolgirl Shamuses, Incorporated, 
I suppose. I can just see 
your business cards,” he went on gaily. 
“‘When the FBI gives up, we take over,’ 
printed in red.”

- (Trixie Belden and the Gatehouse Mystery, 1951)

Let's get a little adventurous now (and ignore My Fair Lady, I don't know how she got caught up in this crowd).   Grey Chieftain is a gem, especially if you like animal stories.  The Hound of the Baskervilles is a recent acquisition, and a spooky one at that. If you haven't read Ben Hur yet, then what are you waiting for?  Jules Verne was my first taste of science fiction a la 'ye olde style'.  And then The Adventures of Robin Hood brings action, romance and the medieval world together between two tattered covers.

"But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body. He did not observe any. But I did—some little distance off, but fresh and clear."
     "A man's or a woman's?"
     Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered:
     "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"
     The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 2 (1902)

Hurrah for the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, the Five Finder-Outers (or was it four?), the Six Cousins on Mistletoe Farm... etc. etc.  Enid Blyton was so 1940s-50s-60s.  She opened up a world of endless summer holidays, tiny islands, rowing through the rocks at midnight, home made 'ices', canned 'tongue' (um, gross?), lots of chocolate cake, ham sandwiches on thick slices of bread.  Just smashing.  Now I'm hungry. 

"It wasn't a bit of good fighting grown-ups. They could do exactly as they liked". 
(Julian in Five On a Treasure Island)

Some perennial favourites.  Did you know there are sequels to Heidi?  Yes, and they are just as good as the first.  Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced me to life on the prairie through blizzards and fires.  Who can't relate to What Katy Did?  And Black Beauty makes me cry.  Now, The Railway Children only made its way onto my shelves about a year ago.  Its such a precious little story!  

Speaking of precious stories...

What perfect illustrations.

And funny sentences.

Don't worry my old friends, you'll be safe with me forever.    

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Two Cents: Victorian election

Yes, I know these are American coins.
Australia doesn't have 'one cent' coins.
These will do. 
Here starts a new type of files on the Mouse Files: 'My Two Cents' which I think is pretty self-explanatory. It's my two cent worth opinion on something which is worth having an opinion about.

Since I've emerged from my textbooks and papers to find 'how to vote' cards on the table, and newspapers full of generic election promises, here's a little something on the up-coming Victorian State Election.

First I have to say: Goodness, isn't one election a year enough? (Victorians think so.)  Everyone seems a bit tired this time round, creaking out the campaigns, throwing up a few signs, and doing the odd radio interview.

Who will it be?  John Brumby the Bland or Ted Ballieu the Invisible (sorry, couldn't resist).  
Labor or Liberal?  Greens in the Upper House... Democratic Labor Party or Family First, maybe?  The Sex Party or Country - WOAH!  Did I just say the Sex Party?  Um, yes.  Australia's newest 'major minor party'.

Say hello to the newcomers, boys and girls.  They're here to represent the adult entertainment industry, and all the Australians who like that sort of thing.  They got about .09 per cent of the vote in the Federal election a few months ago, and now they're setting up camp in Victoria.

I took a little look at their Victorian policies since they might very well get a member in.  After legalising all drugs for 'personal use', giving the vote to 16 year olds, replacing religious instruction with an ethics course, and advocating unrestricted same-sex adoption they sound a little Green-ish to me.  Oh, but they also want to 'decriminalise the sex industry'.  I suppose that explains the name.

The Australian Christian Lobby had something to say about their policies.  The Sex Party also had something to say about Christians moving around in Canberra, and the number of MPs in the Christian Parliamentary Fellowship.  Apparently it's cause for concern.  I could say something sarcastic here, but I won't.

But if this represents Australia's priorities for government right now, then the world truly has gone mad.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Mouse Files

The Mouse Files
The Mouse Files by TheMouseFiles

Confessions: Hiding under a rock having fun

It's that time of year again...

Three weeks of Uni left - five assignments to get in.  That's my version of 'exam week' because I don't have any exams.

So, I don't have much spare time on my hands. In fact it's the other way around: I don't have enough time on my hands.  Unfortunately, that means that I haven't had time to invent a revolutionary machine that I can plug into my clock every night and wind back to gain a few more hours to research academic journals, order library books or write another 1000 words.  (That would be very cool -  but I just don't have time...sigh)

I do the next best thing, and hide under a rock (not literally).  No shopping, no novels, no interior decorating, no cooking, no writing for fun, no photo-editing, no long phone calls with get the picture?  I'm locked in the study, chained to my computer (blogging. Hah, shhhh) I hear your sympathetic groans.  But not so fast, you don't have to worry!  I'm weird!
Yes.  I actually have fun when I'm reading, researching and writing in the world of academia.  Confession:  I do this during the holidays when I'm bored.  I do this on weekends sometimes.  I'm a research-aholic.  I read research papers by the Australian Institute of Family Studies for fun.  I borrow books from the library on the different generations, on feminism, on the decline of religion...fascinating.

So don't feel sorry for me when I disappear under a rock, because I'm secretly having fun.  But I do get tired, and my brain begins to bulge with information overload, so I'll always re-emerge sooner or later.
In the meantime - don't expect me to answer your letters or phone calls.

Disclaimer: I came out from under my rock to blog this and fiddle around with my laptop.  In the process of doing that, I deleted every single photo I've ever uploaded (don't ask me how I did it)  THEY'RE JUST GONE!  Hear my screaming.  Moral of the story:  I should have just stayed under my rock.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I won the Melbourne Cup

Well, it wasn't a draw (sigh), but I was slightly mollified when I won.

Yes, I won.  (I'm going to repeat that phrase a lot, because I never win.  Seriously. Ask my family and any one who has ever seen me compete in anything.)

Anyway, half an hour before the 'race that stops that stops a nation' started (and I won), I drew three horses' names out of a hat (theoretically), and so did the rest of my family, plus cousins, plus Uncle B and Aunty J.  My brother pulled out the sure favourite So You Think, so I did think that he would win for sure.

We all contributed $2 to the pool, and our sweep was done.  (Why is it called a sweep anyway?)
The sweeping took under 5 minutes so we spent the rest of the time embellishing the faces of the jockeys in the newspaper with black pens (yes, this was an immature thing to do, but it was a public holiday...)

The last time I watched the Melbourne Cup was when Makybe Diva won for the third time back in...wait, let me google it...2005! Wow, five years ago.  Okay, so I don't watch it much.

BUT, I do love watching horses on film.  Yes, don't you love those dramatic horse-races, with the intense music, and super slow-motion just before the hero horse wins by a nose... they're all the same, but I love 'em anyway.

Seabiscuit (2003) - Based on a true story. Little horse unexpectedly wins big races.  Set around the Great Depression.  Made me cry.

Here's the end quote by Seabiscuit's jockey which sums it up:
"You know everyone thinks that we found this broken down horse and fixed him, but we didn't, he fixed us, everyone of us, and I guess in a way we kinda fixed eachother too."

It's not a children's film (be warned), but very deep and triumphant.

Dreamer (2005) - Inspired by a true story.  Injured horse saved by girl, wins race.  Am I giving away too many spoilers?  It's predictable anyway, right?

Definitely more light and fluffy than Seabiscuit.  Dakota Fanning stars as the girl who saves the horse. Her name is Cale...isn't that deliciously original?

I love the song 'Dreamer' which plays during the credits.  It was written and sung by Bethany Dillon (who, if you don't know, is a Christian singer/song writer who has prodeuced some awesome music)

I am a dreamer, Take me higher. Open the sky up, start a fire. I believe, even if it's just a dreammmmm.  (Good thing you can't actually hear my singing.)

Phar Lap (1983)

Now, here's a classic - and it's Australian!! (Well, the horse was a Kiwi, but we can at least claim the movie)

It stars Tom Burlinson from the Man From Snowy River, and is another tear-jerker.  But for a good reason!  Phar Lap's story has a sad ending in real life (I won't give it away this time)

It also makes you want to cheer as Phar Lap thunders down the home stretch, and the commentator is going nuts in his super-Aussie accent which no one can understand... Yes, a classic.

Phar Lap was amazing.  I've seen his heart at the National Museum in Canberra.  It looked foul, but it was very big.  I would suggest you skip the heart and just go look at his skin in the Melbourne Museum.  Much nicer.
Anyway, back to 2010.

The race started at 3:00pm and we were all yelling for our three horses.  Race horses have such cool names by the way.  Hmmm.  I just tried to google the names of this years' horses, but our internet protection keeps blocking it as 'Gambling'.  That's really annoying, because I'm not even trying to gamble.

Back to last Tuesday. I was getting slightly distracted like I did just now, when all of a sudden, Americain shot up from the pack and overtook So You Think by a mile (or so).
*Long Pause*
"Who had Americain?"
*Longer Pause*
"Oh. Me!! I won!! Yes!!"
*Starts to dance around the room*

And then the phone rang.  It was someone from Adelaide, and I wanted to tell them that I had just won the Melbourne Cup, but I don't think they even knew it was on. So much for the 'race that stops a nation'.

He is a very beautiful horse.  Good job, mate! You ran well.
I won [five dollars fifty] the Melbourne Cup, and now I'm going to celebrate my win [with an ice cream - because that's all you can buy with five dollars fifty].

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore

This Sunday I went to my Nonna's house (yes, I really do call my grandmother Nonna. It's my Italian half), and we made lasagna.
There is no better lasagna to be found anywhere in the world, than that made by the hands of an Italian grandmother, in her own kitchen, for her own family.  I am totally biased here.

When the stars make you drool just like pasta fagiole
That's amore

 We made special gluten-free, even tomato-free, lasagna using some instant San Remo lasagna sheets from the local supermercato.

If we were not limited by dietary needs, we would have made the pasta sheets by hand (seriously, we do that.  My Nonna has this cool little gadget...anyway).

We used two and half boxes worth to make plenty for dinner, plus some for lunch the next day (about 7 serves).

Even though the packet says 'Instant', don't be fooled.  The softest lasagna is always boiled first.

We threw a few sheets into salted boiling water and left them for about 3-5 minutes (it's casual here, we didn't time anything).

It was scooped straight out of the pot into cold water in the sink, and more sheets thrown into the boiling water (too many sheets boiling at one time equals a big wad of uncooked pasta. Gross)

Note: the sheets are not actually cooked at this point - just softened.

We laid them out to dry a little on a clean tea towel.

I found out that when Nonna was still living in the village in Italy, her family would never ever have lasagna.  Why? Too expensive.  They were living in post-war Italy which was not a nice place.  There was nothing to buy, no work, no money, no nothing except for what could be grown in the small patch of land outside the back door. Wheat, potatoes, tomatoes, olives.  Everything was saved and stretched, because there was nothing in the shops, and no money to buy it with anyway.

It was only when she hit the shores of Australia in the 1950s, that Nonna had all the ingredients for lasagna at her fingertips.
Now, our family has it every Christmas and on birthdays.  It's still for special occasions.  Thankfully, we seems to have lots of birthdays nicely spread out through the year.

Anyway, our sheets have dried enough now...
Time to spread some plain tomato sauce onto the bottom of our baking dish.  The tomato-less dish just had some meat juice spread across the bottom (see on the left?).

Then the fun part.  Press down the first layer of pasta.  This reminds me of doing a puzzle, especially when the dish is round and the pasta is square.

Now is probably a good time to talk about our filling.  Nonna made it the day before, and it is easy and smells great.

She simply fried some garlic and onion in olive oil and added some fresh minced meat (can't remember what type, sorry), and tossed it around for a few minutes until it lost it pinkness and was cooked.  I'd say she added salt, because she puts salt in everything.

This mix above is the tomato-less version, and so my ingenious Nonna replaced that vital ingredient with three orange vegetables: carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin. (Well-watered to be nice and mooshy)

Now some of the filling is spooned generously onto the pasta sheets, covering as much ground as possible.  On top of the filling, exercise your wrist muscles and sprinkle grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Get decadent and spoon a little plain cream over the whole thing...this makes it extra soft and creamy.  We also beat one egg and poured a smidgen across the top to hold it all together.  

Now...Repeat!  Until you have at least four layers.

Finish the top layer off with everything you have, and voila!  Ready for the oven.  
I don't think I forgot anything.

Cook for about 45 minutes and it should look something like this:

The SMELL is heavenly!  But don't take my word for it - you have to make it yourself!

Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella

When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not
Dreaming signore
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli
That's amore
Lucky fella

A Pocket of Time

It's nice when you can set aside a little pocket of time in a very busy life, to just do nothing much.

Time to just sit back, relax, and stare at distant horizons.


I believe that you need to get away from all that busyness and bustle before it drives you mad, so that's what we did.
On a grey morning two weeks ago, we set off on the two-hour and a bit drive to Phillip Island, and arrived in sunshine.
(Actually it was also a little wild, windy, and crisp.  But ever so lovely.)

Southern side, overlooking Bass Strait

I recommend wide open spaces uncluttered by anything built by mankind, and very fresh air directly from The Source which hasn't passed through someone else's lungs/car/air conditioning unit.

Sunderland Bay, Phillip Island is a good place.

Climb a cliff (on the conveniently provided board walks with sturdy railings to stop you plummeting into the sea), and take it all in.

It doesn't get much fresher than that, let me tell you.  

From left to right: Dad, Mum, Jono and Me.

Our pocket of time lasted for something like five days (it all merges into one lazy afternoon in my mind.)

Garlic Prawns at the Fisherman's Co-op, San Remo. Yum.
We went to the supermarket (a lot) and ate good food (possibly too much), we wandered into a Saturday craft market, down the main street of Cowes, across the pier, onto the beach, down the esplanade, through the rain, burnt by the sun and blown by the wind.  

When we weren't out we were in watching the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, or endless episodes of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.  

We visited Churchill Island and saw nice old things inside the homestead (1879), and nice young things (baby animals) outside in the farm.

This nursery had the most adorable nursery-rhyme wall paper.

I ran out of space on my memory card trying to get a shot of these frisky lambkins without blurring them (I failed utterly).

Awwww. Hello baby

There was the sweetest baby calf, baby rabbits, baby mice (not), and a baby horsey.  I love horses, especially ones with little hooves, soft noses, and squeaky neighs.  Awwww
A seven-day-old Clydesdale baby.  Very sweet.

Churchill Island is now owned by the government, but it was once owned privately.  This is me...dreaming about owning my own private island.

Not mother's best angle, right Junior?

My family's little pocket of time on Phillip Island was very satisfactorily filled.
Now we're back doing busy things, meeting due dates, keeping appointments, and crossing days off the calender.

But, I'll be back on P. Island sometime soon...

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