Living your life as a work of art

TheWheelHouse1-640x402Image from Where Cool Things Happen

I have always admired people who make art of living, but Jeni Bernard and Barney White have created a living work of art that literally rolls around the world. They do not travel in a house on wheels, their house is a wheel, a single wheel set in motion by their own acrobatic movements inside.

Acrojou has created and performed six different shows in nine countries, and it is an incredible spectacle, as this extraordinary circus rolls into town and people gather to watch the acrobats. It is an incredible physical feat as well, propelling the wheel house around Europe.

Here are some more links to stories about Acrojou and the wheel house:

Acrojou Circus Theatre in Sideshow circus magazine

The Wheel House at JunkCulture

Living is Queasy in a Circle Wheel House (Quite the pun, ABC News)


Cookbook review: Bake it like you mean it

5191gotOPgL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I’m a sucker for a beautiful cookbook. Ravish my eyes with delectable photographs of glorious culinary creations, toss in the recipes so I can try to recreate them, and I am your friend for life. The author of this book says her philosophy is “bake it like you mean it:” – create desserts that are delicious and beautiful from the inside out. I can live with that.

The recipes start with meringues, a section called My Big Fat Creamsicle Meringue Moment. I adore meringue, usually floating on top of a lemon pie, but I also love her basic meringue recipe, and what she does with it. Far superior to macarons, in my estimation, are two fat fluffy meringues sandwiched around a luscious filling. You can even colour them. They look so utterly delicious I have to try it. Then there is Nut Kiss Cake, which looks like a chocolate dream, and Grand Marnier Souffle with chocolatey creme Anglaise. But let’s not get hung up on the meringues or we’ll be drooling here all day. But I can’t leave this section without admiring the sass of whoopie meringue pies filled with raspberries. I shall return.

 The next section is sponge cakes, starting with an airy Citrusy Angel Food cake, a recipe possibly stolen from the gods. It is served with a dollop of marmalade on top, probably to stop it floating off the plate.The Madame Butterfly is an opera cake, a sponge flavoured with green tea and joined in layers of seductiveness – mango buttercream, white chocolate ganache and almond paste. It looks like the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  But then I am arrested b y the gorgeous dark enchantment of Rigo Jancsi Slices, named after a Gypsy violinist who persuaded a beautiful, wealthy and very married American woman to run off with him. A creation fit for a romantic legend with its heroic layers of chocolate sponge, apricot preserves and chocolate filling, topped with a crown of white buttercream. Even Nutella gets the OMG! treatment.

In the rich and decadent butter and pound cakes section, some adorable little Bundt cakes, flavoured with wine simmered pears and glazed with thin white icing, catch my eye, and pumpkin pie can’t hold a Halloween candle to a glorious Pumpkin Toffee Coffee Cake. I like the idea of making a drunk Figgy Pudding with Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, and sticking a pastry axe in the top. Halloween is going to be spectacular this year.

In the Cheesecakes section, the Sunshine Creamsicle Cheesecake looks divine, the mocha ricotta tower looks almost impossible to make (but if I see one in a cake shop, I’m having it), but the caramel macadamia carousel almost looks achievable. Oh, and decades after reading ‘What Katy Did at School’ and wondering what ‘crullers’ are I finally know how to make them. Easy peasy.

 In the yeast section, there are recipes for brioche, pain perdu, little German doughnuts called krapfen and croissants,, as well as lots of other delights. have i tickled your taste buds yet? What I am saying is that this book is crammed with the most sumptuous dessert recipes I have ever seen, and some of them have wonderful stories as well, like the Rigo Jancsi slice. I just love it. This is my kind of cookbook.

This dreamy cookbook is available from the Book Depository.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

Face to Face

Thanks to NetGalley, I get the opportunity to review some gorgeous art books. The latest is a photographic essay, Face to Face, by Alison Wright. Ms Wright is a superlative photographer, and you can see her work at her website.

Face to Face is simply a gorgeous book.  A timeless facebook, is how it is described in the introduction – and yes, faces are timeless but this book goes far beyond mere social media. These faces are unforgettable, from the very young to the very old. Wright has spent a lifetime trying to capture the elusive human spirit in her portraits, in many parts of the world. She seeks the unguarded moment, and often touches something deeper, like the seemingly casual portrait of the Dalai Lama reaching out to touch the hand of one of his guards – a hand that is holding a gun. The loving expression of compassion makes even the weapon seem inconsequential. What power does it have over an uncorrupted human spirit? Yet it is there because of the corrupt human spirits who seek to harm others.

The other images are no less arresting – a young Cambodian monk in his saffron robe is a vivid contrast to the ancient stones of the Bayon Temple; the expressive eyes of a Tibetan monk; a beautiful Tibetan child gazes anxiously as the camera gazes at her; a Nepalese girl carried her sister on her back. All of these portraits, right at the beginning of the book, set the mood. The colours are deep and rich, the light has a Rembrandt quality, and the subjects encompass humility and humanity. These are not camera wise fashion models, they are people reaching through the lens to connect with the viewer.

From the Himalayas to South America to the African Continent, these are the faces of our brothers and sisters on this world. Their faces tell their stories if we could only read the expressions in their eyes, the curve of their mouths, the body language they unconsciously express. It isn’t really about where they come from, if they are rich or poor, if they live in places that look like paradise to us, or a city, or a geisha house – they are us, they are hopeful, wise, apprehensive, calm, direct, joyous and restless. Wright focuses on the eyes, in almost every portrait, and reminds us that eyes truly are the windows of the soul.

Through the lens, they come into our consciousness and we enter their world for a moment. This book is about the power of the lens to bring us all face to face, unable to avoid the fact of our common humanity. Notion of, and preconceptions about, beauty fade from the mind – confronted with character, and beauty that is utterly natural like the portrait of Goite, the first in the book, we study each face for the clues it gives to the soul behind it. This is truly a life’s work to be proud of, and a book to treasure.

Face to Face is available from Amazon.51HDi4aODfL._SY300_

Finding the Healthier You

The Colosseum
The Colosseum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surfing the TV channels the other night, I happened upon the The Biggest Loser (Australia) and decided to give it a whirl. By the first ad break I was slumped in my chair, deflated and demoralised and hating myself. Not because I identified with anyone on the show, but because I realised I may as well be sitting in the crowd at the Colosseum in Ancient Rome, yelling at the Emperor to give these losers the thumbs down and throw them to the lions.

I felt dirty. I was watching people getting red faced and exhausted, falling over and clutching their chests, while impossibly toned and fit young gladiators bullied and harried them into pushing themselves beyond their limits. “Believe in yourself!” Michelle Bridges roared in the ear of a young girl who would make four of her, huffing and puffing on a running machine. Good grief. The girl fell off, gasping for breath and I finally went in search of another show.Something entertaining. Something uplifting. Something that did not involve a group of fat people facing each other off with a handweight and dreaming of being the one to stay standing, red faced and saggy kneed, longer. Just believe in yourself, folks.

How is this helping anyone? How is pushing people to the point of collapse for our “entertainment’ doing anyone but the studio execs and those overpaid trainers any good? When they are not threshing about gasping for air, the contestants are sobbing all over the place, releasing their ‘demons’ and berating themselves for being fat and unhealthy. How is tempting them with fattening food helping them, kind of like waving a packet of smokes under a quitter’s nose? Lit smokes at that.

And how is it helping us, in our quest to keep various weight related diseases at bay? Are we supposed to identify with these demoralised, sobbing, bullied, pitiable people? Are we supposed to think “there but for the grace of God and Michelle Bridges and the one called Shannon and the one who looks like he wishes he was actually in the SAS, go I?” Or are we supposed to feel the fear of God and Michelle Bridges et al, and quake in our slippers in case they come for us next? Put down that biscuit or else the cat gets it!!

Going on the usual Google hunt after being horrified (enlightened, inspired, excited – not) I found I was not alone in my concerns. There is a petition to stop the show promoting bad health and diet behaviours, and even sporting celebrities have come out again it. Good to know this is not considered the normal way to treat people who are obese and teetering on the edge of heart attacks.

Strangely enough, while hastily changing channels, I was again reminded that the only approach to health I have seen on TV that I admired recently is a flippin’ health fund ad. It’s for BUPA and you can see it here. I dare you not to get a teeny bit teary. Now, like most people, I can’t even afford to join a health fund and yet here I am, being incredibly moved and inspired by a  TV ad. Not a show which is designed to tug at my emotions and just leaves me feeling disgusted, but a TV ad that goes straight to the heart of the matter. That’s what I want. That healthier me, that person I haven’t seen for too many years, before the cares and pressures of life took away her love of life and most costly of all, her love of herself.

But fortunately, what the ad doesn’t tell you is that you don’t have to belong to a health fund to get those benefits. You can Google “healthier you’ and find, not just the BUPA ad, but a whole websworth of places you can learn to find your healthier self again. Try these:

Your local government or Federal health body – I live in Queensland.

Health fund websites are actually a good source of advice. Try AHM.

Reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack.

Find a good health magazine.

Learn about the best exercise, take up yoga, or tai chi.

Discover that finding a healthier you can be fun! Champagne and caviar? Yeah, baby!

Or you can download my free ebook, and follow the guidelines to a detox weekend to get you started.

The point is, finding that healthier you does not have to be a punishing process, letting fit bullies throw you to the lions and the derision of the crowd. You can take the gentle approach, loving yourself enough to want the best for you, enjoying food and life to the point where exercise and a good healthy diet become natural and life enhancing. Yeah, it’s about feeling good about yourself, not sobbing and blubbing in front of the cameras about how much you hate yourself and your horrible life and how grateful you are to that woman with the snarling face pushed into yours.

BUPA got it right, even if I still can’t afford to have health insurance. I can still afford to find a healthier me. And this didn’t turn out to be a rant against TV after all. It just depends what you watch. A lousy show, or a good ad?