Pussycat Pussycat…

…Where have you been?

Cat Children Pat Twins Gumboots Boots

We’ve been all sorts of places this past month, enjoying the good weather and festival season of our island home. Here’s a photographic summary:

Taste Tasmania Hobart Street Performer 2014

The Taste of Tasmania Festival, with nosh, nibbles and noms galore (sorry, I was on a roll with the aliteration). Not to mention giant lego, street performances and fantastic buskers.

Mona Foma Hobart 2014 Mofo Tasmania Mac 2

Mona Foma, or MOFO for short; a super cool music festival run by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Sun Ra Arkestra Mofo Mona Foma Hobart 2014

Highlights for me were the Sun Ra Arkestra, (above) an international, interplanetary stage explosion; The Bombay Royale from Melbourne via Bollywood; the tight-as-a-leopard-leotard punkish rock of The Julie Ruin and a mesmerising machine/music installation called The Ada Project.

Mona Foma Hobart Tasmania 2014 Mofo

The festival precinct, by the Hobart waterfront, was also just a really cool place to hang out with other music fans at dusk and beyond.

Mona Foma Mofo Tasmania Pixar in Concert Symphony Orchestra

We took the kids to see the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performing music from the films of Pixar and they showed remarkable patience and focus. They are still talking about “the concert!”

Robin Hood Hobart Botanical Gardens Big Monkey Theatre

We also went, as a family, to see a musical version of Robin Hood performed in the Royal Botanical Gardens by Big Monkey theatre company.

Bruny Island Tasmania Beach Sand Child Running

Day trips have included jaunts to the Cygnet Folk Festival and the Middleton Country Fair. We took a ferry to Bruny Island and collected shells and rocks on the sensational beaches.

Bruny Island Beach Tasmania Child Rocks Sand

And in a surprising twist, given my usual relationship with sport generally and tennis specifically, we attended the Hobart International Tennis Tournament (and enjoyed it!). Check out the view beyond the court in the photo below.

Hobart International Tennis Tournament Women Doman 2014

It has been a month of involvement, discovery and new experiences.

(And I should mention that while we’ve been visiting all these different places, and more, it has been possible to find me in one “place” the whole time: Instagram. Look me up under the name manychacha if you are a frequenter of that particular social medium!)

New Norfolk Tree Children Hipstamatic

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Coffin Chasers

Coffon Chasers Found Old Photos History Antique Photograph

Stunning weather to go and see some art at MONA today. But the art is all underground. And a lot of it is confronting, mind-bending and preoccupied with death. (Fantastic activity to do with the kids and a visiting aunt. Really!)

Then it’s a case of chase or be chased… by the chickens on the lawns outside  that is.

Is it just the same with the human preoccupation with death? Is that why we make endless TV shows about it, read true crime trash, slow down to perve at the car wreck? Trying to catch death, somehow, so it can’t catch us…

Coffin Chasers Chasing Chicken MONA lawn Hobart

This is the week of the year when fascination with death and dead people is socially sanctioned and indeed, celebrated in many parts. I’ve never done Halloween but I can understand the appeal. I’m interested in the leftovers of people who have gone before… the remains that can be seen in old photographs. Ghostly faces, frozen moments and smiles from long ago.

On the one hand I’m fascinated by the time distance between us and I wonder about the lives of the people who stare at me from old photos. On the other hand I marvel at our similarities across time. People don’t change so very much (check this out for a lovely example, and the smart alec in the centre photo, below).

If I were really interested in death and the chasing of it, I would travel to Manitou Springs, in Colorado USA, where yesterday the Emma Crawford Festival culminated in the 18th Annual Coffin Race and Parade. It’s part of a “spooktacular” calendar of events based around the creepy story of poor Emma’s remains being washed down the hill by stormy weather, 30 odd years after her death. The festival website features some suitably spooky photos of Emma Crawford herself.

Even if it’s true that each photograph captures a tiny piece of your soul forever, as some cultures supposedly believe, we should pose for as many as we can to leave a trace of ourselves behind. Because as sure as that cheeky chicken is going to steal some of your picnic lunch, death is going to catch up with us all sooner or later.

Coffon Chasers Found Old Photos Ghost Antique Photograph

Hands On Art

Artful Parenting Drawing Festival Toddler Marker

Child art is often as good as any abstract art in a gallery, I reckon (no offence to any abstract artists who may be reading) and I’ve been looking forward to framing work created by my own kids. But anticipating the outcome sort of misses the point of children doing artistic activities, doesn’t it?

For kids, the value of making art is in creative play, exploration and discovery. It’s about the process.

Artful Play Al Fresco Art Nature Painting Children

We’ve been trying out some new art-based activities lately. Collecting natural materials to use as brushes….

Artful Outdoor Painting Garden Nature Paint Children Kids

…and painting al fresco…

Artful Painting Nature Paint Creative Kids Children

…which resulted in more paint on our clothes than on the paper!

Artful Play Dough Child Home

There’s been lots of play dough (or “fray dough” as it is known here).

Artful Play Dough Garlic Press Worms Kids Creative

And yesterday we attended thINK, a drawing festival arranged by Bradfield Dumpleton, who is an arts educator and illustrator.

Artful Parent Bradfield Dumpleton Draw Connect Learn Festival Hobart

We chatted to Jane Brown, who worked with Bradfield to make it all happen, while the kids scrawled all over the paper table cloth and got a grip on the different kinds of drawing implements. Jane explained that the festival was as much about creating connections as creating art.

Artful Bradfield Dumpleton Drawing Thinkubator Festival Hobart

The idea was to get imagination juices flowing by exploring lines, links and the workings of the human brain.

The gallery of drawings completed by (mostly school-aged) participants was cool and inspiring. Better still was the opportunity for our little guys to get their hands dirty and have a go themselves.

Artful Parent Crayon Texta Festival Art Drawing Kingston

The Quirks of Quark and Pretzels

Brezel Catherine of Cleves Morgan Library Museum Pretzels Brezels

Thinking about Germany the other day, I headed down a trail of research as twisted and twirly as a knotted pastry. I learned a bit about European dairy products, something of the history of pretzels and not much at all about physics.

Nope, it wasn’t that the start of October reminded me of Oktoberfest, that seems so obvious. (Plus, while I like beer and have consumed plenty of it, something about the phrase “the biggest beer festival in the world” just sounds messy).

Instead, Germany came to my mind because I happened to be seeking a quick snack and stumbled upon The Brezel Bäckerei. They serve all sorts of German delights, including some fat salty “brezels” (aka pretzels) which come in a cigar shape, rather than the traditional knot. In addition to the pretzels, which are very popular in our house, I scored a portion of poppy seed and quark cake that can only be described as a slab. It was a creamy, indulgent treat and I wondered: what on earth is ‘quark’?

Brezel Backerei Quark Poppyseed German Cake Hobart

Quark, it turns out, is an unfermented cream cheese, sort of like crème freche or ricotta, which is obviously ideal for desserts. It is unrelated to the building block of universal matter which physicists call by the same name.

And pretzels have been around for hundreds of years, having originally been a reward offered by monks to Sunday-school students who turned in their homework. Apparently it’s the holes that are symbolically relevant in the traditional shape: they represent the Christian holy trinity.

Since Oktoberfest is wrapping up in Munich today, if you do choose to indulge in much beer I recommend some plump salty pretzels as an accompaniment. You can be sure that even if the beer leads to bad things, that the pretzels will be good (in the godly sense) as well as tasty.

Brezel Pretzel Quark Poppyseed German Cake

(The image at top can be found at the Morgan Library and Museum).

Pirate Allies

Pirates Puffed Sleeves Stuart Weitzman Suede Pumps Shoes

It was Talk Like a Pirate Day last week, the equally fun and silly “holiday” whose profile and popularity increases each year, despite it having no apparent purpose.

We were confronted by some pirates on the day, no higher than my waist but twice the size of my two boys, it seemed. One brandished a plastic sword, flourished a cape and repeatedly yelled “Imagine That!” (is it a quote?). The other *kapowed* and *boomed* a toilet roll/musket at us with one hand, and hiked up his striped boxer shorts (worn on the outside of his trousers, with red galoshes) with the other.

“Only pirates are allowed here,” we were told. I was proud at the defiance shown by my kids in the face of such formidable and flamboyant danger. Or perhaps they just didn’t understand. They simply stared while I got them off the hook by pointing out various clues that they were pirate allies. Spotty pants, skulls on sneakers, the usual. Since then, whenever the little guys are dressing up in their most crazy combinations, they shout “argh!” and declare themselves as pirates. They seem to have missed the real point of the pirating business.

Their dad took them to the Tall Ships Festival, which is taking place on the Hobart waterfront. It’s like days of old down there at the moment; masts and flags standing tall and dominating the skyline. In addition, and coincidentally, I have been reading about treasure-hunting in old National Geographic magazines.

And all this led me to researching real pirates like Blackbeard, Spanish shipwrecks with New World riches and imagining what it was really like in the Bahamas during the 17th century.

Pirates Boat Bed Marc Jacobs Style Military

These images of glittering skulls, dreamy beds on boats, military jackets, puffed sleeves and scarlet heels are probably quite far from the mark. But if you’re going to miss the point of the pirating business, you might as well be glamorous about it.

Pirates Nicholas Morley Swarovski Skull Ornament Crystal Buddhist Punk

Top image: Stuart Weitzman red and purple shoe, Comme Des Garcons jacket photographed by Paolo Roversi for Vogue.

Centre image: Marc Jacobs ensemble from some years ago (I think the bed is on a Kerala houseboat).

Bottom: Nicholas Morley Swarovski-crystal skull featured in In Style, August 2007, photographed by Tony Amos.

(Click on images for greater detail).

Killing Time or Filling Time

Our car was being fixed today and so we had a lot of time to kill whilst waiting. But that’s such a negative expression, and in fact we had a pretty good day exploring and playing.

Thus, it seems more appropriate to say we filled time. Here are some small things that captured my attention and “made my eyes happy” today.

Filling Time Secret Garden Barbed Wire Spider Webb

A spider has found an unlikely place to make a home.

Labels on an old trunk.

Filling Time Vintage Trunk Labels Many Cha Cha

An overgrown bathtub in the garden of a derelict house.

Filling Time Bath Planter Abandoned House Secret Garden

The broken old sign for a Chinese restaurant with a very westernised name.

Filling Time Old Sign China Diner Hobart

An impromptu moss garden growing under an abandoned old car.

Filling Time Moss Garden Old Car Tyre

A 1960s power station, I think, with Mount Wellington in the background.

Filling Time Hobart Mt Wellington

Spring begins to make an appearance in a bamboo grove.

Filling Time Spring Flowers Jonquils Bamboo

Textural, stone, house foundations.

Filling Time Old House Stone Foundations Vintage

Curvaceous architecture from 1949, with a tiny stained glass window embellishment.

Filling Time 1949 Building Stained Glass Window

Once I’d set my mind to looking out for attractive details, the time went so much quicker.

Filling Time Weathered Sign China Diner