Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Forty-two centimetre tongue

Today I learned that a giraffe can pick its nose with its tongue, and even clean out its ears. The tongue can be up to 42 cm, about the length from fingertip to elbow on a biggish man. A giraffe's tongue is blue to make it resistant to sunburn, as it is used so much in leaf collection.

I spent nearly three hours today at the zoo with my husband and two children. I have never seen it so busy - I am usually there on a non-holiday weekday - but the zoo seemed prepared for the crowds with extra parking on the grass cordoned off, lots of talks by the keepers, and a kiosk that I had never even noticed before open selling icecreams and pies. The animals were very obliging, nearly all visible and active which is not always the case.

There isn't nearly enough shade at Canberra zoo, but luckily the day wasn't too hot considering it is nearly the middle of summer.

My favourites today were the giraffes (with zookeeper talk and hand-feeding carrots which we didn't do because it cost $10 but was fun to watch) and the red pandas which were very cute. One made a slow way down from the top of a tree to his bamboo lunch, he was so hesitant and careful maybe he was scared of heights! A big drawback in a tree-dwelling creature. I always wondered what kind of creature 'Master Shifu' from Kung Fu Panda was, after today I think he was a red panda. That cute little face!

Monday, December 28, 2009

G string

I've been looking through my posts, and there are comments from three different people. My husband also reads this, so that means I have AT LEAST four readers already. I'm not being sarcastic, this is really exciting! I am not just blogging to myself. Keep reading, and making comments please.

What I learned today is how to play G and A on my guitar (third string). My husband gave me an acoustic guitar for Christmas, I sing and I want to learn how to play guitar so I can accompany myself. I always love it when other people strum on their guitars. Tim also gave me a beginner's lesson book. So, counting Christmas, I have had the guitar for four days and I can play eight notes: G A B C D E F G. With this, I can play bits of 'Song of Joy', 'Skip to my Lou', 'Aura Lee' (Elvis stole the tune for this for 'Love Me Tender') and 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore'. I am so proud of myself!

The only thing holding me back from practising a lot more is the pain in my fingers. I have a pick in my right hand but the left fingers push firmly on metal strings and that hurts more than you would think. I can only do a couple of very short sessions a day, I need to build up calluses.

When I have finished this book of 10 lessons, and know where all the notes are, I will move on to chords.

Oh, another problem I have is with my right breast. It gets in the way. I am very short and the big body of the guitar (acoustic is much bigger than electric) takes up nearly all the space between my leg and my armpit when I am sitting down, I need to hold it tucked close to my body but my bosom pushes it away. Not sure what to do about this, I refuse to do the whole Amazon thing and cut off my breast.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Just a Trifle

Due to some bad planning and lack of communication, three different people brought trifle to Christmas lunch. For those who have never heard of it, trifle is a dessert that is made of ... well ... they vary a bit but it has cake and jelly (jello) and custard and cream and sometimes brandy or some other alcohol and probably some other things I don't know about. You soak the cake pieces in one or some or all of the wet ingredients until it has sponged it all up, and layer the other things, and put cream on top.

So I got to try three trifles and guess what! Just as I thought. I don't like trifle. The only other dessert was plum pudding. I don't like that either. Luckily I brought gingerbread.

Merry Christmas!! I had a great couple of days with the family and hope everyone else did too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mouse foreskin trials

Today I learned that scientists have been able to turn mouse foreskin cells into 'brown fat'. Unlike white fat, which makes you fat, brown fat actually helps you burn calories. Amazing. Some more mouse foreskin, anyone?

Who thought of using mouse foreskin cells for this trial, anyway? I suppose you could carefully circumise the mouse without killing it. All in the name of humane research. I don't recall ever seeing a mouse penis, but I imagine the bandages would be very very small. And what do the girl mice think when their partners are returned to them, sans foreskin. Maybe they prefer the look.

Luckily, you don't have to actually eat the mouse foreskin. In the trials, the converted cells were injected into a mouse (the same mouse? or a different mouse? I can see some butch mice out there denying another mouse's foreskin came anywhere near them) where they helped burn off sugar which would otherwise have been stored as fat. Lets push for human trials!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Washing and vomit

Hmm I seem to have missed quite a few days/weeks lately, what with the Christmas bustle and also the fact I am not learning anything ... well what I learned today is to not let the washing get so far behind. Somehow I didn't do any clothes washing all week so there were huge piles of dirty clothes, sheets and towels in the laundry, and the baskets were all full of clean clothes from the weekend before that I hadn't got around to putting away. Then this morning my three-year-old Aiden started throwing up. Suddenly clean sheets, towels and clothes seem much more important! So as well as looking after my sick little boy, I am trying to dig through the clean baskets for necessary items and run about seven loads of washing today.

I've been receiving emails from all year, she helps you organise all your housework by sending reminders to, for instance, run a load of washing in the morning and stack your dishwasher in the evening. I read the emails every day but don't actually do anything about them. Somehow this system isn't working. Maybe I have to actually do the work? I need a system where I just have to read the emails/book/magazine and magically all the cleaning/dieting/exercise happens without any further input from me. My house would be cleaner, and I would be a lot thinner and healthier. Anyone out there got a system like this?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eggs and more eggs

Today I learned that truth is almost as strange as fiction.

Last night I went to see 'New Moon' which I enjoyed (for the movies I am in camp Jacob but for the books it is Edward all the way) and they had an ad before the show which involved someone eating 50 eggs in an hour. Urg. And impossible. Anyway, my brother was visiting this weekend and for breakfast he asked for soft-boiled eggs. Six of them. I thought he was joking, but no. So he ate his six boiled eggs with five pieces of toast, and then ate my 3-year-old son's mostly-untouched egg. I didn't even know it was possible to eat seven eggs first thing in the morning. But there you go.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pyjamas, pajamas, let's call the whole thing off.

Today I learned that - according to my spellchecker - Americans spell pyjamas as 'pajamas'. How odd. How silly. It just looks wrong.

I also learned that if you accidentally put a toddler to bed with no nappy on (wasn't me!), in the morning the bed, the pyjamas, and the toddler will be soaked in wee. Euw.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Uni results

Yesterday I learned by Uni results - I achieved a Distinction in Editing and a High Distinction in Writing Short Narratives. Yay!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I can exercise

I just started back at the gym last week and I have been going to exercise classes but taking it pretty easy - partly because I haven't exercised for nine months and partly because I've just got over being sick for the past two weeks. Today I was expecting a fairly relaxing class, when I used to attend this one it was billed as being for the unfit, the elderly, the injured etc - usually a bit of aerobics and using the fitball and those stretchy elastic things. But they seem to have completely changed it, it is still a varied mix of whatever the instructor has come up with for the day but it was HARD. Half aerobic step, half pump weights; lots of lunges (ow) and lifting (ow) and running up and down on the step (collapse).

But you know what? I did it! Lower step and lighter weights than some others, and I slowed down a bit at the end, but I got through the class. I sweated and went all red in the face and my thighs went all wobbly but I DIDN'T DIE! And I didn't give up and leave. So today I learned that I can do it after all. I am rather proud of myself.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Today I learned that half a pepperoni pizza has nearly 1000 calories. Oh dear. And I was going so well this week.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Worst Shoes Ever

Today I learned that, yes, they can make women's shoes even uglier than the previous award winner; those ones with the high heel bit coming from the middle - the arch of the foot - rather than the back. Looked very precarious and uncomfortable. Today I was flicking through a women's magazine and saw a picture of some actress or whoever wearing blue shoes that defied normality by leaving the pinky toe sticking out sideways. It made her feet looked deformed. Like someone who needed special shoes with a hole cut in the side because her weird little toe can't be contained by a normal shoe. By the caption, this seemed not to be the case. If I was forced to wear something like that by my sponsorship agreement I would be scared of always catching my poor toe on everything I walked past.

Maybe this is the exciting new thing in shoes. I am certainly no fashion expert. But somehow I don't think it will catch on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holding back the tide of fat

When I was going to the gym, I often felt it wasn't worth it. I dragged myself there three times a week or whatever, get the toddler into the creche and leave him crying and trying to hold on to me, get changed into gym gear, exercise, shower, change back into normal clothes, pick up toddler, go home. A huge chunk of my day and for what?

I wasn't losing any weight, although that was my goal. Waste of time. And then this year I was really busy and wasn't often making time to go to the gym. So I cancelled my membership.

And put on 8 kilograms (more than 16 pounds) in nine months. And feel completely unhealthy and rotten and tired all the time.

So, even if you think that bit of exercise isn't doing anything, it is. It is stopping you getting worse, if nothing else! I am going to rejoin the gym and lose this extra 8 kg and then some more. My short term goal is 5 kg by Christmas. 5 kg in 5 weeks is a big ask but I can do it. I believe in me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today I learned that the thing about not touching any sensitive areas after chopping chillis applied to capsicum too. Probably not as badly. But the skin under my eyes is currently stinging and burning.

Anyone in America, I think you call them bell peppers. The big red things.

So I am going to wash my hands very very carefully before I do anything else with them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pasta sauce

I have often thought it a shame that there are only two base pasta sauces (that I like, at least), tomatoey ones: lasagne or bolognaise or with chilli and olives for example, and creamy ones: well, anything where you add a big pour of cream. I find an olive oil or butter based sauce a bit bland no matter what bits you toss in. But today, reading through a pasta recipe book from the library, a whole new world opened.

What you do is, you cook your roast or steak or venison-stuffed partridge if you are that way inclined, and then you use the meat juices to roll your cooked pasta in. How excellent is that! I usually avoid wasting delicious meat juices (and fats) by cooking some zucchini or spinach or something in the pan, but I never thought of using pasta to sop up the flavour.

Of course on the down side you now have two meals to deal with at once. The book suggested using the pasta as a entree and the meat in the main course, but that sounds like a recipe for massive overeating to me. Good if you have visitors I suppose - except then the entree and main would taste the same ... oh I'm hard to please I know. Just have to be strong, I guess, have small portions with lots left over for lunches the next day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sickness and Health

Did I read somewhere recently - or maybe I saw it on Oprah or similar - that you shouldn't marry someone until they have looked after you while you have gastro. Yuck but true. It's important in a partner that they love you enough to look after you while you are all gross. This weekend, as I lay sick in bed, my husband looked after me and our two little kids and cleaned the whole house ready for the carpet cleaners coming tomorrow morning. Amazing.

You may say; well, of course, wouldn't every husband/wife? Apparently not. My mother has often complained that my dad wouldn't even cut her toenails for her when she was nine months pregnant with twins and couldn't even see her own toes, let alone reach them with scissors. (They are divorced now, by the way.)

So lesson for the day, don't marry someone until you know that they really will be there in sickness as well as health, in adversity as well as happy times.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Word of the day

I couldn't think of anything that I had learned today, so decided to fall back on the faithful dictionary.

nucha - the back or nape of the neck

Lets all remember that one shall we?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Get Well - See a Doctor

Well, obviously, you might say: to get well - see a doctor. But I mean it in the sense that no matter how long you (or your child) have been sick, no matter how obvious and revolting the pus, rash, laboured breathing, rapid heartrate, whatever - the moment you sit in front of the doctor all symptoms disappear. What rash? Um, see this kind of faint pink dot here? A moment ago that was a pox covering my whole body. My child who is currently jumping up and down on the examination table looks quite well to you? But I promise he has been bed ridden with a hacking cough for a week!

This rule also works with getting plumbers to come and look at your faulty dishwasher (nope, looks like it working just fine to me ...) and techies to check your computer which miraculously works the moment they come to look over your shoulder.

I'm not sure what the lesson is from this. If you don't go to the doctor, you will stay sick; if you do go you have the expense and embarrassment but walk out cured.

Weird Families

I didn't get to post yesterday because I got home so late, but what I learned was that there is nothing more interesting than other people's weird or tragic family stories! I was at dinner with a group of ten people I had recently completed a months-long work project with, we all got along very well and the chatting was loud and congenial. It was a long table, so it was hard to talk to everyone at once; there were always between three and five conversations going on at any one time. Until, that is, someone near me mentioned obsessive behaviour and I revealed that my brother has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Suddenly I had everyone's undivided attention. All other conversations stopped as I was questioned about the manifestations of my brother's disorder and what caused it and how it affected me.

I used to think that I was the only one with a weird family and tragic childhood, but the more you get to know other people the more you find out that just about everyone has something. A mother lost to MS after years of slowly losing control of her body and mind. A cousin dying at 24 of anorexia. Years of sexual abuse by a family member. A father who threatens to shoot you if your mother leaves him. A father who turns out to be not your father after all. Most people have had something strange and horrible happen in their family, and I think it is quite normal that other people are fascinated by it. It makes them feel not so alone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Well today was a public holiday here in Canberra. Nominally 'family and community day' or some such, but in actual fact so that we can all be home to watch the Melbourne Cup on TV. It's only been a public holiday for a few years (used to be just Melbourne city itself) and the caterers are all complaining that they are losing money because there are no big work functions for the race any more as everyone is home. So the public holiday is being discontinued. Oh well, hope everyone (other than the caterers) enjoyed it while they could.

Because my husband was home I got a bit more free time than is usual on a weekday and this afternoon I learned how to do ToC (normal, not heroic). Seems easy at first, then you realise it is a death trap. At least, it is if you get Paletress the Confessor. If you get Eadric the Pure it's a doddle. And if you don't know what I am talking about well ... I'm tired and going to bed. I'll explain it another day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Don't Shop When You Are Hungry

Today I learned - or rather I was reminded - that you shouldn't shop when hungry! I found myself doing the grocery shopping just before lunchtime after a busy morning with no morning tea. I filled the trolley with lovely fresh fruit and vegetables. Still hungry. Chucked in a packet of scrumptious-looking apricot delight. Hmm, still hungry. Added a packet of Corn Chips to the pile. That's odd ... I'm still ravenous! Better grab a packet of Tim Tams as well. Why isn't this working? No matter how much lovely food I put in my trolley, I am still starving. Went through the checkout and there is a bread shop. Oh the delicious smells. Time to buy a cheese roll. And shovel in handfuls of grapes and a couple of Tim Tams on the way to the car. Finally I get home, right on lunch time, with plenty of healthy left-overs in the fridge. Funny, I'm not hungry any more ...

Finally spring

Today I learned that you can wait for six months for warmer weather, and then whine when you get too much of a good thing! 2/3 of the way through spring we finally got our first hot day here (28.5 inside my house, not sure what it is outside) and I am hot hot hot - but not in a good way. I am rather worried about summer if I can't even truly enjoy the first day of real spring. Having the oven on for a couple of hours for a pre-planned roast doesn't help.

But it's not really true that I didn't enjoy it. Picnic in the park (in the shade) for lunch was lovely, and I know I have air conditioning I can turn on if I need it. The backyard is in bloom, the lawn is looking neat and a little shocked after its haircut, the windows are open to the fresh air. It is spring!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Word for the Day

I have been rereading a lot of P.G.Wodehouse lately, particularly enjoying Jeeves and Bertie, and he uses the word 'blench' a lot. I always assumed this was a variation on 'blanch' - ie to go white. It seemed to fit, someone would get a shock or bad news and would 'blench visibly'. But apparently it means 'to shy away, quail'. That is, quailing of the shying away kind, not the bird kind.

I also learned, no matter how many times you check something, CHECK IT AGAIN! I had 15 copies of a book I had edited delivered to me today, to distribute to authors etc, and found that I had in the end sent the printer the wrong version. I had sent the 'final' version for a different purpose, not the 'final' version for the printer. So I spent a few Saturday hours fixing that mistake.

But maybe I learned something today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Learning about weeds

Is it even possible to learn something on a Friday? Or is the brain too exhausted by then? Day two ... I can't be struggling yet. Lets see, I learned that the prickly weeds I have in my herb garden don't care if you are wearing gloves, they just scratch their poison into your bare arms, leaving red spots and welts. One downside to gardening on a gorgeous spring day is the fact you are not as covered up against thorns, insects and sunshine. These particular weeds, I don't know their name (common OR botanic), have a very shallow root system. They don't need to anchor themselves particularly firmly in the ground when nothing can brave the poisonous spines to yank them out. Other weeds I faced, dandeliony things (probably actual dandelions, but I wouldn't like to gamble on it), have no protection and the stems and leaves break off extremely easily - leaving the entire root system still in the ground to grow again. A bit annoying really.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The day I learned something

I was chatting to a musician the day before emceeing an event she was to provide the music for. I had never emceed before (I only agreed to it after a glass of champagne) and I was rather nervous. I asked her if she would be selling her independant CDs at the function, and what it was called so I could advertise when I introduced her.
'Oh, it's eponymous,' she breezed.
Epony-mous, I started to write.
A nearby friend tactfully pointed out that the musician actually meant the CD was self-titled, not that it was called 'Eponymous'.
Really? I always thought eponymous meant something like 'most important'. Definitive perhaps. But apparently it is a person after whom a literary etc work is named, or a work named after its central character. So there you go. I learned something. And I wondered, do I really learn something every day? So I started this Blog, to find out.

Well, that was a few days ago. Did I learn anything today? Maybe I learned that I really shouldn't keep Cadbury's Mint Bubbles chocolate in the house. Or maybe I knew that already.