Happiness as Anarchy #13: My Brain Is Full

I’ve spent the last two days at the Creative State Summit at the Melbourne Museum. My brain is totally full and there’s a insane party of new ideas buzzing around at high speed in there. The speakers were by and large thought-provoking and engaging, but I’m more inspired by the people I met and the conversations I had. I will be processing and pondering, ruminating and reconstructing over the next little while, and I’m sure that will turn into new projects soon enough. On the one hand this all means more work, but it’s good work, meaningful work, exciting work, and that will make me happy for much longer than just today.

It was quite inspiring to spend a few days in the museum space, surrounded by dinosaurs and boats, fossils, trees and possum-skin cloaks.


Happiness as Anarchy #11: Indigenous Weaving

I feel very privileged to live on this ancient land, under the trees and stars. It’s Reconciliation Week this week and I was lucky enough to attend a weaving workshop today with Yorta Yorta artist Donna Blackall. She makes beautiful woven stuff (follow the link to see her amazing turtle) and teaches great workshops. After a terrible first attempt (which was so bad I had to undo it and start again) I managed to make a little basket out of New Zealand flax. I’m pretty happy with it! More than the object though, I enjoyed the experience – time slowed down, I talked with lovely strangers, learned to make something small and organic with my hands, and left feeling grounded and soothed.

Here’s my basket, made using a traditional weaving technique from Victoria:


The perfect size for two reconciliation cupcakes:


Happiness as Anarchy #10: Tiny Street Art

The world is fabulously interesting when you notice the small things. Tiny street art is such a delight when it catches your eye. The laneways off the Bridge Mall in Ballarat have a surprising amount of art if you look up and down. My favourite is Time Lane (opposite Drury Lane, where I always expect to see the muffin man) which has a dozen tiny bronze sculptures on and in the wall. The little scenes make up a series called “Incidents in Time” by local artist Jason Waterhouse. The scenes contain ordinary things in delightful combinations: there’s row of mailboxes, doorways, a caravan on cloud, a tv, a couch, a rollercoaster going nowhere. They make me smile every time I walk down the lane and will continue to do so indefinitely. I’m smiling on the inside too, content to be the crazy lady who stops and peers at the detail while everyone else strides past not even noticing that this is no ordinary brick wall.


Happiness as Anarchy #9: Spanish Hot Chocolate

Anyone who knows me a little knows that travelling makes me happy. France has been my most frequent destination, and Bordeaux in particular in recent years for my PhD research on wine. But just over the mountains to the south is Spain. I feel instantly at home there – it’s relaxed and easy going, Spanish is an easy language, they do siesta, and the food is amazing. I could go on for pages about all the Spanish foods I love (goats cheese, pinxtos, boquerones en vinaigre …) but I will simply share my love of Spanish hot chocolate. While in Australia we have the slushie machine that spins eternally with flourescent orange iced cordial, in Spain they have the same device for hot chocolate. It turns mesmerisingly, making waves of warm silky hot chocolate. Somewhere between a drink and dessert, it’s dark, not too sweet and has an incredibly decadent texture.

I make it as a gustatory escape to Spain when I’m on the other side of the planet and in need of a dash of Europe.

5 tbs dark cocoa powder
4 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs cornflour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk. Add the vanilla and water. Mix well then heat, stirring constantly until it is smooth, thick and silky. For a little extra depth add a pinch of spice such as nutmeg, cinnamon or chilli.

This recipe is more than a single serve, but if you don’t have anyone to share it with, it keeps quite well in the fridge and just needs warming.

Spanish hot chocolate

Happiness as Anarchy #8: Mr Finch

Mr Finch is a UK artist who makes the most divine creatures and plants and other bits and bobs out of fabric. His website says he’s a ‘textile artist who lives in a fairytale world’. I follow him on facebook and it always makes me smile when one of his posts appears in my feed. I think I find it reassuring that there’s someone beavering away in his studio making enchanting, whimsical sculptures for a living. I am particularly fond of his mushrooms.


Happiness as Anarchy #5: Mystery Wine

A friend came over for dinner tonight. That in itself makes me happy. On the subject of wine, however, I opened a bottle of Chandon Sparkling Red that has been in my cupboard for an indeterminate number of years. I can’t remember how I came to acquire it or when, which means I had no idea what to expect. I got lucky tonight and it’s delicious. Fruity but complex, nicely balanced, and very moreish.

Sparkling Shiraz is the only uniquely Australian wine, originating in Great Western in the 1880s. The story says that the French sparkling winemakers got bored and started experimenting with red grapes … and the first bubbly shiraz was made. The one I’m drinking has Pinot Noir in the mix and has those lovely secondary fermentation flavours of toast on the nose and the edge of the palate. Cheers!

Happiness as Anarchy #4: New fingering

New ways to do familiar things often come from unexpected places. One of my work colleagues has recently discovered the ukulele and we have a lunchtime uke session once a week. Today we soaked up a little autumn sunshine on the deck and played Blue Moon. It’s a pretty straightforward tune, except those couple of bars of Eb in the middle. I was showing her how to play the Eb chord, looked at her fingers and realised her way of playing the chord was much easier than mine. I was pretty happy with that little discovery, but it got better – I was playing around with the new shape after work and realised why I’ve been finding two note finger bars so tricky all these years. (I won’t bore you with the technical details!) In short, that nice little communal strum at lunchtime has led to a discovery that will change my playing for the better. And that makes me happy!