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Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Update

Surprisingly, some craft still occurs in this blog.  This is the latest pair of socks, Scrappy Socks, for George.  Made from the leftovers of six other pairs of socks.  He likes them!  Knitted to my usual pattern (for him) of 68 stitches on 2.5mm needles.  The yarns are a mixture of Patonyle, Spotlight, Opal Hundterwasser and Araucania, so from the el cheapo to the sublime!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Really Happened When Darth Vader Retired

With profuse apologies to George Lucas...

Mr Dark Vader married, lived happily ever after with Mrs Darth Vader and a couple of little Darth Vaders, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon he indulged in some gardening.

Mrs Darth Vader decided to bake some biscuits.  She baked coconut macaroons, because they are a favorite of L from Death Note.

Using this cookbook.
Then choc chip Anzacs.
Using the recipe from this book, which half a cup of choc chips added to the mix, which was originally Wombat's idea and makes for particularly wonderful Anzacs!
Meanwhile the Darth Vaders' dog came

 and went.

Then she started to make basic butter cookies using the recipe in this book

 to which she intended adding mixed nuts and Craisins.  Some visitors popped in to see the Darth Vaders at this point.  Three large glasses of wine later, the biscuits were finished, but she forgot to put the vanilla essence in them so they taste a bit nothingy, and the photo came out all blurred!

And Mrs Darth Vader was going to do some gardening too, potting out some herbs and petunias, but by the time the wine had been drunk, the visitors farewelled and the last batch of biscuits cooked, it was time to cook dinner.

So much pleasanter than rampaging around the Federation wheezing at people...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

Yet again the location written on the label underneath this tiny chappie has worn or smudged or something so I cannot read it.  There is an 'ing' in it - Reading perhaps?  I lived near Reading for a couple of years in the early 1990s.  But then there are rather a lot of places in the British Isles with an 'ing' in their name!

He is one of my tiniest teddies. 2cm tall and rather petite.  And nekked except for his natty red bow tie!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bobby Went to The Show

He went about a month ago, but the photo has only just been downloaded.

Bobby the Ram, Momo the Lemur (why isn't he is this picture?), George and Wombat went to the Royal Melbourne Show. Bobby was introduced to alpacas. He was not too sure about them at all. But ultimately they were friendly, and not just huge goats after all. But he has been a bit quiet about them since, so I;m not sure if it was a case of alpaca love or self-preservation!
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Friday, October 22, 2010

In Flanders Fields

Not an original title, of course. Baby Bear sang that song in several concerts as part of a choir and it makes me cry every time. This was an attempt at collage in 2008. The background is sprayed with walnut ink and possibly Moonshadow Mist ink spray at well, and the collage material was a Target ad from a magazine. It's not great but I still quite like it. I love collage but am still not brilliant at it, though I have recently bought a couple of books to inspire and refresh my ideas as I would like to get into it again.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bobby the Ram Meets Grandma

Grandma came up from Geelong on Sunday for a combined birthday lunch - mine, hers and George's all fall within the same three week period.  We usually go to Totos in Lygon Street because it is fun.  This was the first time Bobby had met Grandma - when we dropped in to see her on the way back from Koroit a few weeks ago he was sleeping off the excitement.

 Ok, so Bobby didn't actually show off his best side on Sunday.  He got a bit over-excited.  He was polite to Grandma - until she had a lemon gelati and he tried to take a lick.
 Then Wombat had a scoop of every gelati in the shop!  Bobby's allegiance is easily bought.
 Then the real problems started.  This is not a good look, Bobby.
 It's walk like an Egyptian, Bobby, not a pigeon.
 Oh dear, we aren't bringing him up very well, are we?
This one needs no explanation.  Except that that isn't Bobby.

We had a lovely lunch (pizzas for most, lasagne for Grandma, carbonara for me, all followed by quantities of gelati and suchlike.  Bobby felt a but guilty afterwards and has been holed up hanging his head in shame ever since.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

I can't tell you anything about where this little bloke comes from. There is nothing written on his label (or not by me, anywhere, there is some maker information that appears to be in Chinese characters). Again I expect I bought him in England in the 1990s. He is 3cms tall and warmly dressed, obviously for a Northern Heminsphere winter. I love his blue coat with the yellow trim, I guess his mum didn't want him to get cold! Again I love the raised arms and the expression, saying 'pick me up Mum, I need a hug'. So much cuteness in such a little package!
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Saturday, October 16, 2010


Despite saying a few posts ago that I was going to read the Millennium Trilogy this month, I was seduced by the local library on Friday night and came home with a huge bag of books which need to be read first.

I've just finished Dead Europe by Christos Tsolkas.  It won The Age Fiction Award in 2004, apparently.  I have only heard of the writer because he won the Commonwealth Writers Prize last year for The Slap, which I was actually looking for in the library at the time.  It was out so I borrowed two others of his to see what they were like.

For the first 100 pages (a quarter of the book) I was reminded why there is a certain class of gay fiction that I dislike.  No matter how well it is written, the sex scenes are always too frequent and too boring, and heterosexual sex is treated as brutal and unpleasant.  Then the actual story got to me.  It is essentially a gothic horror story set within the context of Greek peasant myths and the modern day experiences of Greek migrants in Australia.  A lot of it was unpleasant to read, but I couldn't put it down.  In context even the (frequent) graphic sex scenes were totally relevant, just like descriptions of vampires feeding would be relevant to a vampire novel.

I can't remember which of his other novels I borrowed last week, but it isn't The Slap and there are only three others that I know of, but I will definitely be reading it, with considerable expectations (even if I do have to look under the bed before I can sleep at night!)

For light relief I am now reading some true crime, about a woman who stabbed her partner repeatedly and then cut him up and cooked him.  Well, it was what came out of the bag next!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sort of a recipe

Posted by PicasaI accidentally created a new recipe the other day.  It was so nice that we have had it twice since.  It barely deserves to be called a recipe, but it was so nice that I am going to put in here anyway.  And I went to the trouble of taking photos!

I often bake large chicken fillets in the oven with variations of teriyaki type sauces.  Nothing original there.  But the other day I had some blood oranges and decided to see what blood orange juice and soy sauce did together.

Forgive the pun, but they are BLOODY MARVELLOUS together!

Of course you can only buy blood oranges for a brief season, though you can get blood orange juice sometimes in bottles.  It is expensive though.  I expect that ordinary orange juice would be yummy too.

I juiced a blood orange.  It gave about 1/4 cup of juice.  Fish out the pips if you can be bothered - I did get rid of most of them.  Then add soy sauce to taste - the first time I added another 1/4 cup of kejaps manis, which is the thick sweet Indonesian style soy sauce that we love in our family.  That rather overpowered the juice, so the second time I used slightly less than 1/4 cup of ordinary soy sauce and that was better.

I used two large chicken fillets to feed four of us, accompanied with a big salad and bread rolls.  Cooked vegetables would also be nice, and the carbohydrate of your choice - rice, noodles, potatoes, couscous, whatever.

They take about 45 minutes in a moderate oven, turning them halfway through and basting.  Serve sliced nicely and with the sauce spooned over them (a couple of spoonfuls each).

I used my wooden juice pokey thing because it makes me feel like Nigella.  It is of course entirely possible to juice an orange in a far more boring and utilitarian way.  Also, the wood stains when you use it with blood oranges!

Bobby also fancies himself as Nigella.  Wrong gender, mate!  And wrong in so many other ways!

The dog loves nothing more than home cooked chicken, in any guise.  So when I am cooking it she hangs around in the kitchen looking hungry and adorable.  She usually gets a mouthful when it is being served..

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stitches and Craft Fair

I went to the Stitches and Craft Fair at the Exhibition Buildings last week. And a good time was had by all!  I decided not to do any classes, as I wasn't really in the mood.  So I spent my money on THINGS instead!

From top to bottom:

Three books (obviously).  I had been looking for the Paintstiks one for a while.  I have quite a few Shiva sticks and have played with them, but this book pulls the techniques together quite succinctly.  The Stitch magazine (OK, not a book as such) I used to be able to buy in the newsagents but they haven;t had the last few copies, so that will be fun to read.  And the collage book was an afterthought, not actually bought at the fair but at a bookshop afterwards.  It looks like fun and I want to brush up on my collage skills, not that they are much to brush up on in the first place so maybe improving them might be in order.

Middle photo - yarn.  And two postcards from one of the yarn sellers showing some of the amazing stuff they do.  The two cones are (left) a fine dark denim merino (I know it looks black here) and the right hand one is a fine black and glittery mixture of cotton and stainless steel.  No, that is not a typo.  I think it might either be that Japanese Habu stuff, or else is similar.  They had a scarf there knitted in stocking stitch with the two yarns together and then lightly felted.  It looked amazing.  The yarns are incredibly fine and I will probably go bonkers trying to knit them together on biggish needles, but I don't have (and don't like) a knitting machine and want to have a go.  The turquoise and purple and green is actually a Habu yarn, raw silk I think, which I will knit in a very simple shallow V shaped shawlette/scarf thing on big needles.

Bottom photo - beady things.  A bead mat, which I had never got round to buying.  A twirly thing for making paper beads, and sparkle Mod Podge for sealing paper beads in a sparkle arkle way.Some new beading needles.  And a new set of pliers and things, because I am always losing the cheapy ones I have and because these come in a pretty case and include, I think, tweezers and a reamer, which I didn't have.

An expensive but fun day!
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

There is a place name written on the sticker on the bottom of this tiny teddy, but it must have got wet at some point because it is too smeared to read. But that most likely places it as having been bought in England in the 1990s. He is 3 cms tall and the scooter is 3cms long, making him perfectly proportioned!

I love the air of innocent childhood about him. He is playing and having fun. The scooter is nice and colourful (good visibility - a thoughtful safety feature!) and he has such a natty green scarf around his neck.
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Friday, October 08, 2010

In October I am reading...

Carrying in my handbag - The Scorpio Letters by Victor Canning.  I had never heard of him before, but found several of his books in my father's extensive collection.  He wrote lovely, jolly, old-fashioned thrillers that are perfect handbag material.  By the look of it he was enormously prolific and I look forward to reading more of his books.  The hero is flowed but handsome and brave, the heroine is sassy and beautiful, the villains are proper villains, dashing but evil and villainous.  They romp all over Europe.  Sometimes they (both sides) use guns, sometimes blunt instruments, sometimes drugs.  At one point the hero and heroine monster a villain with - cats!  He is violently allergic and he cracks under the pressure of wheezing.  No cats were harmed in the making of this scene.  The heroine is easily as capable as the hero and saves him on several occasions.  What's not to like!

I recently finished Bloodless Shadow by Victoria Blake. This was picked up at the church fete, and I haven't been able to find her other books in the normal bookstores I have been to since reading it.  This is a pain because I want to read the others in the series!  It is the first of several about a private eye called Sam (as in Samantha) Falconer, who lives in London and has strong ties to Oxford, the book being set between the two.  It is rather cliched in many ways - she has a tortuous family background, unlucky in love, weird eccentricities, she's not Inspector Morse by any means but you get the picture.  But it is engagingly written and, if it makes me want to read the rest of them, it is obviously not too cliched to be beyond redemption.  The title is rather meaningless in the context of the story, but it's a good title.  I know Oxford pretty well, and it's always nice to read about places that you instantly recognise.  I also know the part of London she lives in slightly - I never lived there but did spend the best part of week there in a hotel and recognise most of the places mentioned.  It was the sort of whodunnit where the whodunnit was rather secondary to just enjoying the story.

Then I read Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel.  I know I mentioned Hilary Mantel in a blog post relatively recently.  And this was one of the books I mentioned in my Book Meme as being in my to-read pile.  Well, I read it.  And it blew me away!  I knew I liked the author but this has made me want to search out each and every one of her other books and read them, stat.  It is the BLACKEST of black comedies, indeed it truls is beyond black.  It's about a medium, and her career, and her assistant, and her childhood, and the pack of fiends who follow her around.  You never know whether to laugh, cry, or hide your head under a pillow when you are reading it.  (Which would make it hard to read, obviously, but might protect you from the fiends).  You are left wondering, at the end, what the hell happened!  And you WILL look over your shoulder every time you hear an odd noise for a while.  Love that woman.

Now I am alternating between two books which are quite capable of being read bit at a time.

I've borrowed the newly released Australian Ghost Stories by James Doig from the library.  It contains, well, ghost stories obviously, dating from 1867 to 1909.  James Doig has an enviable life.  He trawls through old magazines and literary collections from nineteenth and early twentieth century Australian literature, and publishes anthologies.  OK, he has a day job too, as an archivist.  Lucky bastard.  Why can't I do that?  I have also read his Australian Gothic collection.  Quite recently.  Recently enough to know that some of the stories in this latest collection were also in that one.  Can't he find enough good ones?  Or does he hope no-one will notice.  If you were that passionate about the reading material you would want to own both collections anyway, so I think he should have not had crossovers!  That aside, it's a good collection.  I;m halfway through it.  It includes authors such as Mary Fortune, Marcus Clarke, Ernest Favenc and Rosa Praed.  (Look them up yourselves!)  Of the half that I have read so far, (6 stories - one was very long, there are actually 17 stories but I read half the actual book last night) 3 have been in other collections, though I am not sure whether they were his or not - but I have read them before.  The other three contain two of the best ghost stories I have ever read - The White Maniac : A Doctor's Tale by Mary Fortune, and The Mystery of Major Molyneaux by Marcus Clarke.  I look forward to the others.

The other book is On the Home Front " Melbourne in Wartime 1939-1945 (second edition) by Kate Darian-Smith .  (The fact that it is the second edition is relevant, it was revised with extra material).  This should be a wonderful book - imagine all the richness of the social history of the home during the war.  But it is tedious.  George referred to it as like reading a laundry list, and he's right.  OK, it is a PhD thesis turned into a book, and they rarely turn out well.  But it COULD have been turned into a real page-turner.  It is dull, dull, dull.  And there are no pictures.  As Alice said, what is the point of a book without pictures?  I have to own up to something here.  I shared a final year class with the author in 1983.  She obviously worked harder than me, and was brainier than me, 'cos I got a god-awful degree and she is a professor and a PhD and all that.  I wanted to be an academic, I just wasn't smart enough or prepared to work hard enough!  But I am damn sure I could have turned this material into a better book.  Humph.

I am going to spend a fair bit of the month reading the Millennium Trilogy (the girl with the dragon tattoo and the other things).  I;m looking forward to them!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Wayland's Smithy

Wayland's Smithy is a Neolithic long barrow in Oxfordshire near the White Horse of Uffington.  Wayland was supposedly a smith (blacksmith) Germanic god.  Handy to have in the days of horses, presumably.  I guess his modern equivalent would be a motor mechanic god!

Legend had it that if your horse lost its shoe and you left a silver coin at the site, in the morning your horse would be reshod.  Presumably the franchise for that was passed down through the generations!  With a renewed interest in things Druidical and whatnot over the last 150 years or so, apparently some people leave votive offerings there once more.

The day I visited Wayland's Smithy, a hot summers day in, I think, 1990, it was occupied by a group of layabouts drinking beer.  It retained some of its magical feel, however.  The whole area is said to be riddled with ley lines.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Teddy Bear Tuesday

This little chap is only 2.5cm tall. The picture is bigger to show off his details. According to the sticker I put on the bottom, I bought him in Salisbury, in England. I should have dated them too! But there isn't much room on the bottom of a tiny bear. It would have been some time in the 1990s, as that's when I was living in England and collecting bears.

I love the wistful expression on his upturned face. He looks as though he is saying 'pick me up, mum, and give me a cuddle!'
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Monday, October 04, 2010

Road Trip!

George got a call on Friday morning about a job in Koroit, which is about 350 kms west of where we live.  It's a four hour drive each way.  Both the kids had made arrangements to meet up with friends, so he suggested that the dog and I come along to keep him company.  So the road trip was away!

Koroit is a tiny town in the Western District of Victoria, which is prime farming land.  Volcanic plains, very fertile, very bucolic.  I hadn't been that way for ages so I;m not sure how it fared during our lengthy and destructive drought, but recent rains have certainly greened it up and it all looked very lush.  I went to Koroit on a school camp in Year 8 and haven't been back since, but retained fond memories of it.  The coastal area, not very far away, remains familiar as we have been for several holidays at various spots along there.  We stayed inland this time, however.

I found this sign nailed up outside a shop.  It amused me because I live in Glen Waverley, and I was in Koroit, which, as I mentioned, is 350kms to the west of Glen Waverley.  There were other old station signs there too.  I can't remember what the shop was, but obviously the owner liked old station signs.

This is an old post office.  It is actually still the post office.  But it is of historical interest because the Australian author Henry Handel Richardson (real name Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson - like the Brontes and George Elliot she thought she had a better chance of publication under a man's name, and personally who would not rather be called Henry than Ethel!) lived there for a while when her mother was post mistress.  The Richardsons moved around quite a lot and it is certainly not the only old post office in Victoria with a plaque stating that she lived there. According to Wikipedia these places include Chiltern (I have seen that post office too), Queenscliff and Maldon (I cannot go to Maldon in case I bump into a member of a certain family, which has more members than the Mafia, and who still, I think, resent me because their son/cousin/etc dumped me in 1983!)  (I did take a photo of the plaque but you can't read it, it is rather worn and needs polishing!)  I imagine most non-Australian readers will never have heard of her.  Many Australians of my age had to read The Getting of Wisdom at school.  I disliked the book but rather liked the film, partly because large slabs of it were filmed at Ormond College, where I was living when I saw the film.  In later years I read her trilogy The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney and rather enjoyed it, in fact I've read it twice and will probably read it again at some point.  It is a faintly fictionalised account of her childhood and is a fascinating way to learn a lot about the history of Victoria.

Koroit was largely settled by Irish immigrants, and the local history society has an interesting map in its front window, showing the local surnames that came from the various counties of Ireland.  I was amused to notice that none of them came from Waterford, though they came from many other counties.  That means that I am not related to anyone in Koroit.  If any of them had come from Waterford, I would have been.  My mum says (quite seriously) that we used to only be related to half of Waterford, until X married Y, who was related to the other half.  So for the last couple of generations we are related to the whole of the city, and probably the county. This is the original school house in Koroit, dating from the 1850s, and is apparently one of the only Irish model school houses still in existence in ... Australia?  The Western District?  I can't remember.  Anyway, it is a distinctive style; the two 'wings' on either side are classrooms, and the bit in the middle is the teacher's residence.  It is no longer a school, of course, there is a modern primary school elsewhere in the town that looked rather inviting.

Bobby snuck along for the ride.  He had heard that there are lots and lots and LOTS of lady sheep in the Western District.  You're right, Bobby, there are - but they don't climb trees!

Bobby thought you should read a bit more about Koroit's Irish heritage.

It was a pleasant day out, but very tiring.  An 8 hour round trip leaves one feeling very stiff and sore!  And poor George had to spend four hours at a fire scene working very hard.  I explored the delights of Koroit.  Which are not quite sufficient for four hours, actually.  But there were two excellent tea shops which made very good coffee indeed, and I poked around very happily, and went for a long walk, and then rescued the dog from the car and took her for a long walk, and read my book, and read Facebook on my phone, and enjoyed the country air and a mild sunny day.  And got to spend lots of quality time with my hubby :)  I forgot to take any knitting, which was a shame, but I spend the whole trip down helping George by taking notes and making phone calls for him, and then it was getting dark afterwards, so there wouldn't have been any real car knitting anyway.