29 May 2012

Taking a break from blogging

Between now and my thesis due date I'm taking a break from blogging and social media. I need to get my Masters in Communication - majoring in journalism and new media. I do not want a degree in procrastination. I'm just over half way with writing my thesis, have read many pages of literature, and need to power on.

I have a few things to post here - things that won't take much writing and are for good causes, but predominantly, I won't be committing myself to writing large amounts of quality content. While I'm gone, read some of my old blog entries. Would love to receive some comments :)

And now I've written that down, because in my studies for my my thesis on blogging - writing things down validates a situation and makes it happen, I'll leave you with this picture of a double rainbow. I took it out of the train window. There is some scribble on a board at my work that says "no rain, no rainbow". And that is so true. It will be raining for the next week or so - maybe even real tears, but after seven years of doing my masters, it will be done and I will be able to prepare for my trip overseas! The brightest of rainbows!

And if you see me wasting time, yell at me.

Stick around, I'll be back!

28 May 2012

Six tips for new bloggers

Last week I received an email from a new blogger. She wanted some tips about what makes a successful blog. While I don't proclaim to be an expert at blogging, I've been at it a while and had some pretty exciting personal successes through my blog. I started a blog to practice and showcase my writing. It's certainly given me a lot of exposure and opportunities - and I am so into blogging I am doing a Masters thesis about it, plus flying to New York for BlogHer.

Here are my tips that I told my new blogging friend.

Start up and stick with it

A successful blog takes time. So many people tell me they want to start a blog, but then make excuses for not doing so - they don't have time, they are afraid of putting themselves out there etc. Start up and stick with it. Set aside some time each week to start with, and then a few times a week when you get the swing of things. So many new bloggers give up very quickly. I had been blogging for a while before I found my voice, and became a part of the community. Writing a blog is good writing practice. And also good photography practice, and I think it really teaches you observation skills. Everything's a story. Sarah from That Space in Between said to keep blogging even when no one is commenting. Write what you are passionate about, again, even if no one is commenting, it will make you feel good writing about your passion.

Write from the heart

Write from the heart. You'll find your own voice soon enough, and your readers will appreciate your writing a lot. Be honest and authentic, but also know when to draw the line with how much you reveal. I guess put your best self forward on the internet. You never know who is going to read it! Oh and ensure good spelling, punctuation and grammar too! Sometimes it can be strange to have people know you through your blog. But it's flatering too.


I definitely think blogging 60% content creation and 40% self promotion. I have Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Google Plus plus Instagram. I promote my blog A LOT, but I also interact with my readers and the blogging community though social media, and find new blogs to read. Social media is two-way, and it's fun! I leave comments on other blogs too. I have definitely made a few good "real life" friends through blogging who I catch up with regularly. Take advantage of blog meet ups. Conferences, dinners etc. Blogopolis and ProBlogger conferences are is coming up in Australia soon - I recommend attending these for networking and learning. (I'm not able to go to Blogopolis because I'll be on my way to London!) Plus interaction with other bloggers makes you feel good. It's a real privilege receiving comments and having readers open up by sharing your stories after you've shared yours.

Here are my social media buttons if you want to connect with me.


Be prepared for criticism. You will get it. I find that the blogging community has cushioned me - I wrote for the Punch and got FLAMED yet on my blog I mostly get love. I also have learnt to know that if someone visits my blog for the first time, it may be out of context. I wrote a post about Typo's use of the word "retard" on a card, and I had first time visitors pulling m down, and not understanding the context of why I blogged about that issue (disability activism). Try not to let the trolls (usually anon commenters) get you down.  Sometimes it can hurt, especially if it's a personal attack on your character. But my experience has been that once you've found a place in the blog community, they'll have your back.

Seek permission from others if you are going to write about them. And keep work/blog boundaries.

Think about whose story you are telling? Is it your own, or are you unwittingly bringing someone else into the story? I made a mistake two weeks ago - I blogged about a conversation I had on a friend's Facebook wall. One of her friends had a go at me for not being a mother. I wrote about it, in a broader context, but without permission. My friend read it, got angry and we are no longer friends. I guess be prepared that you may upset someone you know. Usually I am so diligent in asking permission about who I write about and put pictures up of. That guy who broke my heart - permission sought. When I write about work (not often) - permission sought. I also keep my blog/social media life VERY separate from my day job. Work knows about my blog and freelance and TV, but I don't write about work (unless it has been relevant here). We have a strict social media policy. I don't want to get caught out. If you have a day job, keep this in mind. If your blog IS your day job - that is great!


You can make money from your blog. if you are going to monetise your blog, be authentic about it. Disclose that you were paid, or got something for free, and write your sponsored posts with heart. But don't expect to make a lot of money straight away (I haven't!!). And there may also be some backlash from readers for monestising. Lots of bloggers make money, but as Nikki Parkinson from Styling You (Australia's best blogger 2011) says, "don't look over the blogging fence, focus on your own backyard". The money I've made from my blog hasn't entirely been through advertising - it's been through freelance writing too. So try to make money because of your blog, not on your blog. If you are an artist or crafter, use it to promote your work. Same if you're a writer - it's a great way of building a portfolio and having writing picked up for other publications.

I hope these help you if you're thinking about starting a blog too.

And bloggers - do you have any tips to share? Would love to learn from you.

27 May 2012

Weekend snapshots

It's been a weekend of study, resting and food. I cooked two meals today as it will be a big week ahead. I made red chicken curry and baked risotto of asparagus, peas and zucchini - yum! I hope you had a good weekend too!

25 May 2012

The hug from a stranger. Skin hunger - part 3

It's been a big week for my little blog. Firstly, thank you to everyone who visited, shared and commented on my "skin hunger" posts. So many visitors have stopped by! I have received such a wonderful response to those posts, especially to my own personal story. There was also great discussion generated on both posts. Readers have told me their own experiences related to skin hunger - SO many empathise. It's a privilege as a blogger to know my writing creates a sense of trust in my readers - enough trust to open up to me themselves. Thank you everyone.

Work has also been so busy. I took this photo from the office as I stayed back a bit later than usual last night.
I went out last night - it was a late night of eating, drinking and watching comedy, and now I feel a little worse for wear on a work day. It was a bit of a tweet up at Softbelly Comedy Club in the city - Clare, a friend who I'd met on Twitter a few years ago due to our mutual love for Bob Evans - had dinner with me at 1000 £ Bend before the show.We both ate pork and bean quesadillas.
We were there to see half of my favourite podcast duo - Mel Buttle (from Mel and Patience from The Grates' podcasts The Minutes and You're Welcome). We got to Softbelly early - as they sell the show on a first come first served basis. (Last night they turned 50 people away!) When we walked in, a lovely girl stopped us and said "You're Carly! I talk to you on Twitter!" It turns out this lady was Leisha who I've been talking to because we are both fans of Mel and Patience's podcasts and we are both going to New York soon. Leisha was there with her husband.

The comedy show featured a range of Australian comedians - Mel Buttle plus Glenn Robbins and Tom Gleeson, and a few other up and comers.It was a lot of fun, and good to have a weeknight outing.Here is Glenn Robbins. We chatted about my old man crush on Mick Molloy. Tom Gleeson was very good dealing with a heckler.
Mel Buttle was very funny. She does great voice impersonations.
In the break I walked to the bar to get a drink and two girls smiled at me. After I got my water, they stopped me and asked if I was Carly. One of the girls, Bonnie, said she had tweeted me in the day telling me she's off to see Mel Buttle too. She also said she read my skin hunger post, and gave me a hug!! I was SO excited! She and her friend were so unreserved in speaking to me and when we hugged, it was a lovely feeling. And then she told me she read my post about sex too! Awkward! Gosh it felt strange for stranger to know so much about me! We talked for about 10 minutes - the girls were so nice! How funny I got a hug after putting it out there that I want to be touched more!

After the show we had another drink, and then hung out with Mel for half an hour or so - she's funny, lovely and so intelligent. I guess I was like the stranger who gave me a hug in Mel's company, knowing a lot about had due to her podcast, and discussing her stories with her.

It was a great night!

Again, thank you again for all your support on this blog.

Here's Leisha, her husband, Clare and I with Mel Buttle :)

23 May 2012

Interview with sex worker Rachel Wotton - Skin hunger part 2.

I never thought I'd be interviewing a sex worker in my writing career. But everyone has an amazing story, especially when they are helping others. (Please note, this blog post is probably not suitable for people under the age of 18.) This is part two of my skin hunger series. You can read part one here.You can also read Untouched here, which is what got me thinking about skin hunger. 

A few months ago I was listening to a podcast from ABC radio between Rachel Wotton and Richard Fidler. It was one of the most interesting interviews I've ever heard, and I really wanted to do an interview with Rachel myself, for this blog. I was struck by her empathy, compassion and dedication. She was so well spoken. I contacted Rachel by email immediately after the interview, and spoke to her a few days later. I asked her for an interview as I am so interested in the concept of skin hunger.
Rachel is a sex worker, and some of her clients are people with disabilities. Rachel help set up Touching Base, a charitable organisation that gives people with disabilities access to sex workers. From the Touching Base website:

"Touching Base developed out of the need to assist people with disabilities and sex workers to connect with each other, focusing on access, discrimination, human rights and legal issues and the attitudinal barriers that these two marginalised communities can face."
Touching Base provides people with disabilities and their carers information about how to access sex workers, as well as providing disability education to sex workers, and training for the disability service providers. 

A documentary called Scarlet Road aired on Australian TV last year, and Rachel tells me it's just aired on TV in Switzerland and in film festivals in Canada. Scarlet Road showcases Rachel's work with her clients, and highlights the positive difference she makes to her clients' lives.


About 18 months ago, I did a radio interview on 3CR about sex and dating. I was asked about my thoughts on people with disabilities using sex workers. To be honest, I was quite confronted by this question. I was not prepared for it, and my personal view was that I wouldn't use one. However, after some thought, the Scarlet Road documentary and Rachel's interview on ABC, I could see the role of sex workers in ensuring people with disabilities have access to sex and intimacy. I came to realise that sex workers are equally about companionship and intimacy as they are about sex. And Rachel's interview with Richard Fidler and also with me really demonstrated the way two marginalised communities come together.

Sex is often a taboo topic among families and carers of people with disabilities. There is sometimes the assumption that people with disabilities are asexual and do not want or need sex or intimacy. It can also be difficult for people with disabilities to access sex.

Here's Rachel's story. Thank you for your time Rachel, I appreciate it.

Carly: Why do you take care of people with disabilities?

Rachel: "I do not "take care of" people with disabilities - I merely treat everyone with dignity and respect and that includes my clients. Some of my clients just happen to be living with disability so I just modify my services to best fit their needs.

I find people very interesting - the things that are similar in all humans and also the 'uniqueness' of each person. This flows into my work. Every scar tells a story. Every client teaches me something - whether it be about the kind of work they do, their hobby, where they went on holidays, what music they're listening to, the wine they like to drink... I am also learning more about how to best provide services to clients with disability via my clients. They know their bodies best and how they can and can't move. They teach me about their limitations and how they have learned to adapt. I have also learned a lot about how modern technology has assisted so many people to communicate - the iPad has given so many people the freedom to directly communicate with others in such quick and easy ways. It's amazing!"

Tell me about some of the intimate services you provide, and why are these so important? Keep in mind my blog is M rated! I really like your discussion about touch and hair washing on Richard Fidler's show.

"I provide a range of services to my clients depending on their needs. Yes, I spoke about the simple beautiful appreciation of just being able to touch another person and the joy of washing someone's hair on the Richard Fidler show. I know that people also take the sheer joy of spooning for granted but a lot of people never get to experience what it's like to have another naked body up against yours. Everyone has their own thing that makes them happy. The main thing is always about consent. People get so caught up in what sex workers provide and to whom and when and how much but it really isn't anyone's business. It is a mutually consenting service between two adults.

I do like to stress though that seeing a sex worker for many people with a disability is just one of many options for someone to pursue sexual expression. I never advocate this as the only option but it is an option that shouldn't be taken away from someone just because others are morally opposed to it or it isn't for them. It's about choice. Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they should suddenly lose the right to be treated as an adult when it comes to matters of sexual expression."

How do you define skin hunger?

"Skin hunger - you can google it and come up with a lot of people writing about it -  ie: an Urban Dictionary definition and Dawn Lees.

As you would have heard me talk about on Richard's show - we are bombarded with information to eat well, exercise daily, don't drink too much, stop smoking etc. Everyone forgets that the skin in the largest organ of the body. Some people are lucky enough to always hug and kiss their friends and family hello and good bye. Others are more isolated and perhaps are working in a world where they only shake peoples' hands. Others have no other regular contact with other humans at all. Skin hunger to me is the craving of regular touch from others in a caring way. Even a regular therapeutic massage or scalp massage from your hairdresser can make you feel buoyant and more in touch with your body. That in turn can awaken a desire for a deeper level of intimacy or touch from another in a more sexual way. I, as a sex worker, provide services to consenting adults who wish to spend some quality time with a woman which can include being intimate with me. I get to put a smile on someone's face and make them feel good about themselves. To me this is a great job!"

How do you change the perception and stereotype of sex workers?

"There are many sex workers and our allies across the globe trying to change peoples' perception of sex workers and our clients. Consenting to be a part of Scarlet Road is my small contribution to making people stop and consider the issues from a different angle. I wanted people to 'walk a mile' in my own shoes and see what I see.

In the film you can see some of the amazing and talented sex workers and friends in my life. You see the diverse range of people involved in the sex industry. We come in all shapes and sizes, different ages, work and live in different countries. Yet we all fight for Decriminalisation. This is the only regulatory framework that treats the sex industry equally to other occupations and also removes the police from the equation. The police cannot be their to do their job (to fight crime, take reports from the public about crimes committed against them and apprehend criminals) if they are also the ones regulating and 'policing' the sex industry and treating us as criminals.

The abhorrent "Swedish Model" laws that, among other things, criminalise the clients treats all sex workers as victims without the ability to consent. The Swedish Government says that there is no such thing as consensual sex work and all clients rape us.This is insulting and demeaning. Scarlet Road clearly shows that this is NOT how the sex industry operates and that sex workers are quite capable in articulating what with keep us safe, eliminate corruption and give us our Industrial Rights, provide good and concise Occupational Health & Safety guidelines and protect our Human Rights.

People have such a black ideology about who is involved in the sex industry and what's involved. I always try to normalise it to what it is. People are going to bars and going online to dating and pick up sites to get a date and to have sex. No one cares how many times a week their neighbour has sex or who they are doing it with. No one cares about who is or isn't using a condom and certainly no one cares to monitor if anyone at the bars and clubs and online is every getting an STI check up. Suddenly when you actually say that you are calmly negotiating what you will and wont do with the other person, arrange a mutually beneficial time to meet, have a clear discussion about safer sex practices and just happen to put a monetary value on this exchange - THEN people get their knickers in a twist and feel that they have the right to talk about you. They suddenly feel that they are threatened by you and suddenly that both the clients and the sex workers need to be in isolation far away from everyone else in the public. Yet people forget that we ARE part of the general public. We ARE the parents at the P & C meetings, we ARE the people buying milk at Coles, we ARE your neighbours, we ARE someone's son or daughter, we ARE sitting next to you in the cinema.

So, I always try to normalise things. People try to talk about the sex industry like it's the worse thing in the world but people are having sex all the time and no one cares about that. It seems that it's ok to give it away for free but if you add money to the bedside table suddenly it becomes a horrible experience in their eyes. It's not for everyone but then that can be said for every occupation. Personally I would hate to be a garbage collector because I hate getting up in the morning so early! I'd hate to be a pilot because I'm afraid of heights. I couldn't stand being a bank teller ... but I'm very glad someone else is doing that job so there's people there at the bank each day. I don't spend very much time cooking so I'm very thankful that if I choose to go to a restaurant or order take away that there are people there happy and willing and able to provide those services for me. AND I PAY THEM for such services. This is no different for sex workers and our clients. The only difference is that the garbage collectors, the pilots, the chefs and the bank tellers all have laws supporting them and the public who do not overtly discriminate against them for their occupational choice."

Listen to Rachel's interview with Richard Fidler. 
Read more about Scarlet Road.
Read more about Touching Base.
View Rachel's website.

21 May 2012

Skin hunger

Last year I wrote the blog post I am most proud of - Untouched. Untouched was born from a conversation between me and the man I love/d. The conversation was about the crave for human touch. Writing it brought tears to my eyes as I wrote it, and left my heart heaving. The part at the end where I refer to sleeping in a man's arms is about my time with that man I love/d. I keep changing the tense of the way I feel. Love vs loved. I think I still love him. In an Alanis-like moment, he changed his Facebook profile picture today - a picture of his hands. Those hands that held me and made me feel so wanted.

Writing Untouched took such emotion. I felt worn out after the final key stroke. But the comments lifted me up, especially from him (he was so moved by the post he wrote that he was going to save it to look back on) - I didn't realise how much it would resonate with people. I look back on it and think about how I considered every word, and how the sense of touch really makes me feel. I also think about how much I helped the man I love/d and am bittersweet that I gave him some confidence and belief in himself to find a new love.

My Dad read that post, and it was very awkward as he said he worried that I was not being touched enough! When I saw Dad next, he gave me a big hug and said he didn't realise that I missed being touched.

I think about touch a lot. I think about how long it's been since. I don't get touched a lot, and when I do, it feels amazing, and sometimes heightened, even just a tap on the shoulder. It's not necessarily sexual touch that I crave, it's just the feel of skin on skin that I want. A hand held, a hug. I've got skin hunger.
"Skin hunger is the desire or craving to be touched, usually after a period of deprivation...Skin hunger is a relatively new term that has been applied to the emotional response engendered by the loss of touch in our society. One of the five basic senses, touch is the only one deemed essential to human life. During WW II babies in orphanages developed Failure to thrive or even died when deprived of human contact. In a classic study by Harry Harlow, newborn monkeys were taken from their biological mothers and given surrogates made of either wire or soft terry cloth. The baby monkeys consistently chose the soft mother even when deprived of nourishment. The need for bonding outweighed even the basic necessity of food". (As stated here)
This document discusses skin hunger quite well, and so does The art of love and intimacy. And Dawn Lee also discusses how it is a psychological condition.

I didn't know that skin hunger was an actual condition until I read about it on Lori's blog. I am glad I know that what I feel (or in this case, don't) is real.

As I wrote in Untouched, I do believe that having a skin condition like mine means people are scared of touching. Scared they may hurt the person with the skin condition, and maybe scared of getting dirty or catching it. I see others touching things I've touched - they do so gingerly, and with pincers. That sometimes hurts to see, so I pretend I didn't see, in case it makes them feel uncomfortable. It is human nature, even for me, not to want to touch something that looks suspicious. And beauty product advertising is about smooth, touchable skin.

Touch validates people. It shows that someone cares. It shows that you're in fact a real human being - physical matter, and not just a concept that doesn't physically exist. Sometimes I wonder if we are all just stardust, and this world's not real, and then the check out chick puts coins in my hand and I feel their fingers on my palm, fleetingly, and I am reminded, I am real. I exist.

I was thinking about touch at my grandfather's funeral as the celebrant read out the eulogy. I can't remember if I've ever really held my grandparents' hands. I don't remember the feel of their silky aged skin on mine. It made me sad that I don't remember, and sadder if I have never held their hands.

About a month ago, I went to the theatre with my friend. In the dark, he dispensed chocolates from a packet into my hand. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. It was innocent, his hand brushing my palm. And all the while I thought about how long it's been since someone has touched my hand. The touch was less than 10 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime.

As my friend and I said goodbye for the second time that night - for I had missed the train by a few seconds - he hugged me like a bear, said "goodbye darling" and kissed me on the cheek, his stubble scratching me in a good way. Let me reiterate - we are only friends - but this touch stayed with me for so long I had to write about it in my notebook (ok my iPhone notes functions) the next day. That's the closest I've been to someone in a long time.

Skin hunger is strange. My skin is my existence - it defines me in a way. I put cream over my whole body twice a day or more. Self touch is not the same as another's touch. And so few people are in contact with my skin. So, when someone does touch me, the sensation is accelerated. Yet in between touches, I don't have a vivid memory of how it feels (as opposed to the vivid memory of the moments the touch took place). I lose so much skin, and it constantly renews. Is it because my skin constantly renews that I can't remember touch? Is it that my skin's renewal makes for a loss of its memory?

Some forms of touch do not satiate my skin hunger. When I was younger my parents would put cream on my body - in addition to hugs. Of course it would be gentle and with love, but it was more of a carer-type of touch than a cuddle. And in hospital, the nurses and doctors would do my dressings and bath me too. Now I usually do what I can in hospital, and the nurses just do my leg dressings. But this touch is different - it's vinyl-gloved, clinical and impersonal. I wonder that because there is the barrier of my creams that the touch doesn't feel the same?

Other forms of touch do satisfy my skin hunger. A kiss on the cheek, a brush of the hand, a warm hug, naked bodies spooning. My Mum's hands, they're soft and always warm, like milky coffee. Our hands are alike, and I remember comparing them when I was small. She combs my scalp like no other, and doesn't mind when I get her clothes greasy or covered in skin.

I really identify with the definition and discussion of skin hunger. I don't initiate touch much, and perhaps I should do it more. Although I don't feel lonely all the time, and certainly not depressed, my skin hunger is quite lonely. I can't remember what intimate touch feels like. Someone give me a hug.

Do you suffer from skin hunger? How do you overcome it?

19 May 2012

Gourmet Garden Blog Off/Cook Off

This post is part of a Gourmet Garden promotion. I was not paid to write it, but I was sent free products.
I've been wanting to take part in a cooking-blogging challenge for a while. And my wish has come true! Earlier this week, I was couriered an esky (chilly-bin for those in New Zealand!) full of Gourmet Garden herbs so I could take part in the Blog Off/Cook Off. I received five tubes of herbs and they came in a cute reusable chiller bag. I received tubes of hot chilli, basil, garlic, coriander, thyme and thai herbs.
First up, on a weeknight, I made a pasta, inspired by the prettiest blogger ever VeggieMama. It was a quick and cheap meal, and I had the stapled in my fridge and pantry already.

I started by chopping up a capsicum, some spinach and four big field mushrooms.

The mushrooms were cut thickly and I drizzled olive oil and sprinkled salt over them. I squirted some of the Gourmet Garden garlic onto them too, and placed them in the oven for around 20 minutes.

While the mushrooms were baking, I boiled some pasta - fusilli - and fried the capsicum in a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil. When the mushrooms were done, I took them out of the oven and put them in the pan. I whisked up half a cup of chicken stock and added this and a drizzle of cream plus the spinach to the pan. I reduced the stock, shaved some lemon rind and added a tablespoon each of the Gourmet Garden thyme and hot chilli to the pan. I added the drained pasta and cooked gently on low heat for a few more minutes.

I seasoned with salt and pepper, added some fresh parmesan, and there you go! Easy vegetarian pasta!

Next up - another vegetarian meal. Mushroom soup - oyster, cloud, shitake and brown, with Gourmet Garden garlic, basil and butter. Love it. A really hearty and warming soup for a Saturday night. Perfect with a glass of wine and some left over pizza!

My grocer had packs of mushrooms on sale. I love different mushrooms, and I especially love the way they go gelatinous when boiled. I picked up oyster, cloud and shitake mushrooms, and had some field mushrooms left over in the fridge.

I used about half of each pack, plus one big field mushroom, and cut them roughly. Mushrooms are quite pretty, they are so delicate and detailed.

I put the mushrooms in one of my favourite ceramic pots, filled it with around a litre of water, and added some stock powder (I should have made my own stock, I know!). I also added a tablespoon each of Gourmet Garden garlic and basil, and a small slice of butter (maybe 25 grams?). I boiled the soup on medium heat for around 40 minutes.

It turned out so tasty and a little creamy from the butter. The umami flavour that mushrooms have make the stock so incredibly intense. You should make it!

Edit - you can use whatever stock you want, vegetarian, chicken or beef - I happened to use chicken as that is what I had on hand, and I am an omnivore.

My verdict on Gourmet Garden herbs: I liked the convenience of them. I was quite busy and sore this week, so it was good to be able to make quick and nutritious meals. It was good not having to wash and de-leaf fiddly herbs, but I don't mind doing that either.The Gourmet Garden herbs add good flavour to meals, but probably not as intense as fresh herbs. I don't often buy fresh herbs because I forget to use them, and they are quite expensive. And then I end up with wilted herbs in the bottom of the vegetable crisper. I do use dried herbs and spices a lot. However, I noticed that Gourmet Garden's herbs do have additives and preservatives, which I am not keen on. I don't feel so bad because I cook with mostly whole foods, but I would prefer less additives and preservatives.

I really want to try the Gourmet Garden herbs on meat to see how the flavour holds. I'll report back soon.

Thanks Gourmet Garden for having me in the challenge, and for the herbs!

You can view more information about the Blog Off/Cook Off on the Gourmet Garden website.

Crispy pork belly tacos - oh my gosh!

After a long week of being busy at work (the project I'm working on is winding up and all our hard work is coming into fruition) and being very sore, I am glad the weekend is here. I had such a long stay in bed overnight that my morning became five minutes into afternoon! It's a cold miserable Melbourne day today too, and so I'm glad to be bundled up indoors about to work on the home stretch of my thesis.

I popped out for the newspaper and a fashion mag and some milk and mushrooms (going to make a gelatinous mushroom soup later on) and thought I'd have something breakfasty - eggs and salmon perhaps. My local shopping strip hasn't impressed me with its cafes, but a few weeks ago I bumped into a friend from work who recommended a cafe that's recently been taken over by new management. She strongly encouraged me to try it, and later that week I had apple smoked pork with poached eggs It was beautifully presented - a yellow flower atop the eggs. I couldn't wait to eat there again.

I looked at the breakfast menu - all good - and turned the page to see a range of Mexican inspired lunch items. My eyes lit up! Oh gosh! A Mexican cafe in my local area!!

And here is what I ordered. Tacos filled with crispy pork belly and a creamy cabbage, pineapple, lime and coriander salsa, and bitey cheese. So good. And a very generous serving - two large tacos with plenty of pork. Warming and fatty and satisfying. Maybe the best tacos I've eaten so far.

And if I wanted to, I could walk off that crispy pork belly - the cafe is so close to me!

17 May 2012


Here's some stuff I've seen and done lately :) I downloaded a new photography app called Pudding Cam and it makes photos pop. Highly recommend it!

Happy Thursday everybody!

15 May 2012

30, single, childless. One-upmanship part 2

This post may offend some people. But what's a writer's purpose when they don't move their readers in some way? Perhaps this post is too tit-for-tat, but whatevs. I need to get it off my chest.

Being 30, single and childless is not a sore point for me. My uterus doesn't ache for children. I find babies cute, but I haven't given much thought to having any of my own. I haven't been in a proper relationship since 2005. I'd love to find love, to be held at night, and to have somebody to share everything with. But right now, it's not happening. My situation is not a sore point until someone judges me for it.

There have been a lot of mummy-wars perpetuated by the media recently, Pitting mothers against each other before they've even been to ante-natal classes. Mothers judging other mothers about the way they raise their children. Too posh to push. Breast vs bottle. Public vs private. Stay at home vs working mum. Enough! Some actual mothers have written about the mummy-wars - read opinions from Megan and Annie. They write about the judgment of mothers in a better informed way than I could.

Years ago when I was getting bullied at work, a colleague who seemingly meant well told me that perhaps I had too little to think about, given that I didn't have a mortgage, husband or children. Perhaps I had too little in my life, and I was overreacting to the bullying. Yep.

And another friend compares her busyness to mine, and always tells me "well at least you have freedom". Parenting is a choice. And so is what I do in my life. I don't complain.

Last night I got into a Facebook argument. I'm not proud of it - the internet is forever. But I'll be damned if I didn't stand up for myself. It started off with a discussion about disability benefits. I asked the original poster about work, and whether there is a reason they don't work. I wrote about the success I've had with work, and that I do not get disability benefits. I stated that I was not being judgmental, and was curious and also encouraging her to give job-seeking a go. (As a way of background information, I learnt a lot about the international disability support schemes and job markets, and was reminded that not all types of ichthyosis are the same. I even wrote to the original poster with an apology and clarification that I was not being judgemental.)

Then there was a question from the original poster's friend. "Do you have children Carly?". She went there.

I replied: "I don't have children. But I do work full time, freelance write, volunteer as a TV presenter, keep a successful blog, study for my masters and have ichthyosis". I forgot to add that I live alone, 300 km away from family support.

And then the clanger reply: "Being a mother and a wife is a lot different to studying Carly, and you cannot compare your circumstances with anyone who isn't in the same situation...". Yep, They played the "you're not a wife and mother card". What?! And the final statement from them was "The point is, you have no idea what it's like to be a mother and work, which I do".

I replied, that these words were judgmental, that I put a lot into my life, and that I am fiercely proud of it. And stated "I really hate the whole 'you haven't experienced life until you're a parent' thing".

While I understand everyone is different and has different capabilities, there was no need to make judgement on my life experience or understanding because I am not a wife or a mother. Not being a mother or a wife is more of a situation than a choice for me. Perhaps if circumstances were different, I would be one of both. But I am not. And that's ok. Some women don't want children. Others can't have them. They are no less worthwhile or experienced.

No, I haven't pushed a baby through my cervix. I haven't breastfed. I haven't even changed a nappy. I don't know what it's like to be a mother. But I've seen mothers - I know what they do. I see how hard it is. I know that being a mother is a very important job - shaping young impressionable minds and teaching them to be good people. My mother worked from when I was five years old, and my Dad has worked full time since I was around two. They raised me well. My friends and colleagues are beautiful mothers - loving and nurturing their children in ways I could only hope to do some day, should the chance arise.

And that question "Do you have children?", with the added assumption judgment that because there are no children, you couldn't possibly know what it's like... could be like a knife through a heart to some. The women who are trying for a baby, desperately wanting to be mothers, don't need to hear that. I have friends who are or have been in that situation of struggling to conceive and it breaks my heart. The thought of them being devalued for being childless is also heartbreaking. I don't even know if I can have children - I certainly have never tried to get pregnant on purpose, but if I ever find conception or pregnancy difficult, that's not the sort of judgment I'd want to receive.

Being single and childless does not mean you are less compassionate. It does not mean you have less life experience, insight or wisdom. Just as being a parent doesn't automatically make you all these things. I am not going to judge you for your choices, and you shouldn't judge me for my situation.

Mummy-wars have got to stop. It is competitive, resentful and sad. Nobody wins.

I was joking on Twitter today with two lovely mothers. We were comparing who's "worse off" and who has the most talented child. There were stories of laziness and early enrolments and organic food.They told me, jokingly, that perhaps I should be doing more - volunteer to give those mothers a rest. Ha! It was very funny. I ended the conversation with "My child is only an egg and can recite the complete works of Shakespeare and dance like Beyonce. Already. Ner." And then after some playful one-upmanship from the girls, I said "Ummm my child is actually a Faberge egg".

12 May 2012

Illness one-upmanship. It's not cool.

"Compassion does not happen when you compare".

This post may offend some people. But what's a writer's purpose when they don't move their readers in some way?

I saw the above quote and picture on Nathalie from Easy Peasy Kids' Facebook page. It is an idea I've been thinking about for a while. Especially around the disability/chronic illness community. Perhaps I am too blunt, or too hard. But illness one-upmandship really shits me.

One-upmanship. It's the comparitive behaviour that says "I'm better than you". Got a better car. A higher paying job. A bigger mortgage. Smaller sized clothes. The biggest penis. You know those people.

Is it really necessary to be THE BEST at illness though? I'm talking the "I've got it worse than you", "my illness is more painful than yours", "having a child with ABC disability is much worse than having a child with LMNOP disability", "at least you don't..." and the "my illness is the rarest" sayings. So it may be. But these sayings come across callous, and with little empathy. And it really questions the validity of an illness. What is the prize for who has the worse illness? Is there a medal? Or is it just a lack of perspective?

I have the wisdom, perspective and compassion to acknowledge that my illness is not the worst in the world. I understand so many in this world suffer from cruel symptoms. I really feel for these people. While I think it's fair to say it's much worse than a common cold, or perhaps a minor skin condition, I will never say to someone I have it worse than them. (Note - I didn't actually realise just how serious my illness is until the dermatologists told me that if an infection on my skin gets so bad it could get into my bloodstream and then my heart. So I do think it's fair to say it's a bit worse than a common cold.) Illness one-upmanship is one of the reasons I am not too keen on support groups for specific illnesses, because there is so much comparison about who has it worse.

I've been one-upped, several times. It's been said to me that my pain looks nothing compared to someone else's. I was offended by this. Pain is relative. How do you know what my pain feels like to make an assessment that yours is worse than mine?

Someone posted in our Ichthyosis Facebook community that other people with Ichthyosis have doubted the severity of her condition and have sent her nasty messages about her appearance, because it doesn't look Ichthyyosis-y enough. What? As with most chronic illnesses and disabilities, there are different variations of Ichthyosis.

A friend - Magneto Bold Too - who has a severely autistic son, told me that another mother told her she ought to be grateful her son's not blind. I can see that both disabilities are severe. But just as the mother of the blind child faces challenges, my friend does too.

What my friend, and the girl with Ichthyosis, needed was a "yeah, we may not be in the same situation, but I get you. I get how hard it can be". An empathetic ear can be like medical treatment.

One thing I have learnt in mentoring young people with chronic illnesses, and also having friends in the disability community is despite our differences in conditions, there are so many similarities between us, and so much can be learnt by sharing each other's experiences. There is great empathy to be shared between us. While I can't begin to imagine what someone with Cerebral Palsy is challenged with in terms of mobility and accessibility and caring needs, I can empathise with some of the social challenges and discrimination faced, as well as their triumphs. I have seen speeches and comedy shows and TV programs and just chatted with friends with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and thought, yes, I get it. I get what you are going through. My illness may be more or less severe than yours, but we share something.

Illness one-upmanship is not helpful. There is no need to question the validity of an illness. I believe it can lead to a very resentful and bitter outlook. We are all in this chronic illness/disability boat together.

Show a little empathy and stop comparing.

Use your experience to help others, and to promote awareness, so ignorance does not perpetuate.

Treat everyone with kindness and don't make assumptions. You never know the battles they may be facing.

No illness is less worthy of treatment/research/awareness than another.

Edit: Carma Chan sent me a tweet describing illness one-upmanship as "more oppressed than thou syndrome". Says it all.

10 May 2012

Home grown

I'm home. Home for the funeral. It's nice. This small town that I've wanted to escape from can often embrace. It's always warmer here. People in the street give a nod or a hello. The sunshine was delicious today. The sky spans further than I'll ever see in the city.

My Dad, he spoils me. He makes sure I never goes without. He bought everything I like for lunch today - cheese, cold meats and a pork pie. He served it with homegrown sprouts and tomatoes. And he's so proud of me. So proud. I told him I didn't win the Best Blogs competition and that the blogger who did (Eden Riley) is the best writer in the world. He told me how great it was that I was a finalist - and empathised when I told him I don't think I am consistent. Dad's a great writer too. We picked vegetables from the garden and I distracted the sheep while he went in the paddock to put feed down for them. We've had adult conversations, and playful ones too. He has just told me that I'm "not just a silly bimbo" after I've shown him how to create a mix tape for the funeral. Hah! Such a Dad compliment. When I was little he told me I'll always be his little girl, even when I'm 30. I'm 30 now.

Mum's come home from work. I want to cook dinner with her and talk over glasses of wine, near the fire. We'll talk about food mostly - I bought her a subscription to a beautiful food magazine and we'll talk about the New York street food in the latest issue. I have bought her a jacket from the op shop today. It's a beautiful grass green jacket. Dad hates it but I think Mum will love it.There'll be laughs too. There always are.

It's nice being home. This week I've felt a bit lost this week. Now I'm here, with my parents, who just get me. I really appreciate and love my parents. I'm so lucky to have them.

Edit: Mum hates the jacket. She told me. And then we burst into a fit of laughter.

Steve Poltz at Northcote Social Club - again!

Steve Poltz
Northcote Social Club

3 May 2012

I saw Steve Poltz again last Thursday night at the Northcote Social Club. It was a much different atmosphere to that in Footscray - a bigger audience and Steve fed off this, showing off boyish energy and immaturity.  It was wonderful.

The show opened with the delightful Kate Walker, who has become a bit of a fixture on Steve's Melbourne tours.Kate's songs are funny and often about love lost or chasing a boy. She's quirky, and has a good conversational manner on stage. Kate actually baked those cupcakes for the audience.

One of Kate's friends was there and we got talking. She's Laura Attwood - another singer songwriter. She's also just started a blog. And I got talking to another lady called Rosalie who was also lovely. We sat in the front row together. I think I've made two new friends :)

Steve came on stage, playing a lot of songs from Noineen Noiny Noine. He mixed it up a bit using the voice distorter - so much fun - and played classics. His guitar skills are brilliant too. He's got so much energy, and is an incredible creative mind. His lyrics paint pictures and contain beautiful metaphors. It makes me wonder how much it takes out of him to be that creative.

Steve has the type of voice that coats your soul. His music seeps into you - from the sweet love songs to those that make you blush. And boy did he make us blush, singling out Laura and I several times.

He played a beautiful cover of Paul Kelly's To Her Door, which I have recorded and will share with you soon. I think the thing I like most about him is the fun he has on stage - you can see the passion in his eyes when he plays guitar, and when he dances.

I am no music reviewer, so I really encourage you to read And Pluck Your Strings' review. It's brilliant.

An exciting thing happened - he brought me the note from Bob Evans, and we had a chat about it after the show. He said that it was me who put them in touch while Steve was in Melbourne, and they decided to tweet me while they had coffee. It was very sweet.

It was a very late night, but Steve's energy and the energy of the audience - EVERYONE was having fun - left me feeling fantastic. Thanks for coming Steve! I may see you in California!

I'll leave you with this beautiful song - a little song he wrote for Jewel. 

09 May 2012

Border Mail article. FIRST article

I was featured in my hometown paper - The Border Mail - on Saturday. It's a piece on blogging.
Thanks to Sue Wallace for the interview and article, and to Robyne Young for scanning and emailing it. :)

Also there's this article I sent in for Ichthyosis Awareness Month.
 Read the full article here.

It feels strange to be edited in American English! Apologizzzzzzed ;)

I'll be writing more about Ichthyosis Awareness Month soon. For lots of info and stories about Ichthyosis visit FIRST. They do a great job in education and facilitating connections.

08 May 2012

Happy birthday Darren Hayes!

Dear Darren,

today is your birthday. 40. You're looking better than ever. And I am so happy you are still making beautiful music.

When I first saw you singing I want you on the back of that truck in 1996, you were shaggy-haired and baby faced, I knew that you'd be my favourite for life. I knew it. And all these years later, you still have the power to make me feel amazing when I immerse myself in your music.Thank you for making me think, feel and believe in magic.

I wish you all the happiness in the world - and I thank you for making me so happy. Your music lifts me up, and I find a lot of myself in your lyrics. I am one of your very loyal fans that is so moved by your musical talents, and also by you as a person.  I love being a fan.

I took this video of The Siren's Call at your concert in Sydney. It is possibly my favourite song of yours. Just beautiful.

Have a wonderful birthday Darren. May your day be filled with love and laughter and doing everything that brings you happiness.

As you sing, "who would have thought it would be this amazing?" Thank you for the journey.

Lots of love,


07 May 2012

My Grandfather's passing - 15 August 1920 - 6 May 2012

My grandfather passed away peacefully before dawn on Sunday morning, at 91 years of age. In recent months his health had declined, and he was moved to palliative care two Mondays ago. Before that though, he was still walking with the aid of a walker, and playing his organ in the nursing home. He enjoyed gardening and until moving into the nursing home last year, he kept a nice garden. He had birds of paradise flowers - I remember those.

As I wrote here, he was a beautiful writer of poetry. He gave me a book of his poems - Streets of High Summer, which was published by Em-press Books in Nottingham in 1982. The blurb states "This second collection of poems by N.E Findlay attempts to represent the varied qualities of his work, the earthen and the beautiful belonging together, a glimpse of the magic that can still be born of urban living".

Reading his poetry has given me an insight into a man I never knew. His words make me feel that I wish I'd known these things about him. His creative and vivid imagination is brought to life through his words, and I see charming observations of both nature and people in his work.

I am glad that he was comfortable when he died. The nursing home and palliative care staff do a great job. My thoughts are with my Dad and my Aunty and cousins, Poppy's brother who is 93, and his extended family. Also, my Mum who was incredibly patient and did so much for both my grandparents during their time in Australia, particularly when their health deteriorated.

I am also glad that he left this world with me having a more peaceful appreciation of what he was like through his words.

Here's a poem he wrote. I will be reading at his funeral this Friday.

The five o'clock boat to Heaven

At the end of my life I will remember this shore, where the
outspread hands of a fig offered prayers. and this ancient bell
said goodbye, five times.
Slowly, how slowly the leaf moves, drifts out on the wide open
waters of Heaven, moved by a boatman so old, who wears in his bronze
the likeness of Christ.
Orange sigh flickers under the blue lids, apricot curls twist
in the grey clouds.
Gently, how gently the long oars dip to the silent calms, lifting
their gold from the cobalt bowl of the sea, and silence - such
silence, as though a whisper could be heard too far.
I drink with my eyes the final glory of Heaven, changing each silken
second from colour to colour, until I know in my heart that this is the
kind of death I have always wanted to live, where my lips
have sucked on the almighty words, and my soul was brimmed
with believing.
From a seaway of sleep I come to a jade dark shore, where the light
is as pink as the rose itself, and the kneeling twigs of a tamarisk
beckon. Already a stained minaret pricks the dark side of sky, and
wears in its crown the seed of a solitary star.
The day you gave us this day, was a day that died
a beautiful death.

~ Norman Findlay, 15 August 1920 - 6 May 2012


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