Tuesday, September 16, 2014

sewjourn is not just about the sewing

I'm not really much of a sewer but I get invited to go to Sewjourn anyway: I feel very lucky, but for me the long weekends are about much more than the actual sewing.

Last weekend was so calming that I'm still in relaxation mode. Today, two days after coming back someone remarked how well I looked. Trying to hang on to the slowed-down feeling as long as possible.

Trying to analyse it, I realised that on these weekends  I get to do all my favourite things, with no expectations by anyone to be anywhere at a certain time or be responsible for anyone else except myself.

 I pinned up and tacked all the doilies for my tablecloth and I took some clothes to mend: took up some shorts, mended a shirt and sewed some snap fasteners on a shirt. I spent a long time in the beautiful town book shop. The next town was having an "all town garage sale" with 35 households selling off their stuff. Five of us went over. ( I only bought a ceramic for S, a funny little cookbook and a big empty glass jar. Sue, who runs a vintage shop called Bruthen Bizarre bought up big: her car was filled to the top with things). I made lunch for everyone on Saturday. I got into my bed in the middle of the afternoon, read and slept. I had a BATH: I haven't had a bath in years. I read 180 pages of my book. There is no wi-fi and I don't take a phone so there was no internet. No radio and we don't turn on the television. It is so....peaceful. It was sunny and the town was filled with daffodils and trees full of blossom. We took turns making meals, emptying the dishwasher and making cups of tea. Janet made a huge tin of melting moments and we scoffed them. We sat down for "family dinners" at night, and Saturday lunch. There is talking, talking, talking, but there are friendly silences too.

Here are some photos from the weekend. Thank you for having me fellow craft campers.

creepy doll bought for Sue's shop

Linda and Suse studying the garage sale map

blue skies

tacking the tablecloth

Sewjourn garden view

quiet Sunday morning reading

bought this junior version of P&P for S

Linda bought two chairs, $5 each

blossom time
Suse's studio photo I stole from instagram. I am pinning in the background.
the house

Friday, September 12, 2014

friday books: Margaret Pole and the terrible Tudors

If you're not interested in Tudor history STOP READING NOW.

( I'll write about another book down below but the first cab off the rank is Phillipa Gregory's latest novel, The King's curse).



 This portrait above of an unknown sitter is commonly believed to be Margaret Pole, one of the few  members of the Plantagenet royal family to initially survive when Henry VIII's father seized the throne from King Richard III after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Margaret was the cousin of the legendary "Princes in the Tower",  as well as being cousin to their sister, Henry VIII's mother. Confusing?, yes, they were all related, which is why Gregory called her series about the War of the Roses The Cousin's war . The King's curse is the last in that series, dealing with the life of the last Plantagenet.

Her first series about the Tudor times in England is called The Tudor Court Series: The other Boleyn girl is the most well-known, but there are five others and I've read them all: books about most of Henry VIII's wives, his daughter Elizabeth I and her rival Mary, Queen of Scots - another cousin!

I haven't read all the Cousin series because they weren't as interesting to me as the Tudors, but I remember poor Margaret's fate from the TOBG and wanted to know her back story: how she survived as long as she did with Henry seeing a conspiracy to unseat him behind every curtain.

I've only read a little but I'm enjoying it: teenage Catherine of Aragon has just arrived from Spain to marry Henry's older brother Arthur. Did you know Henry had a brother? Nor did I until I fell down the rabbit hole of Tudor history a few years ago. They should teach it in schools: makes Game of Thrones look like the teddy bear's picnic.


I read another of the little 40 page Penguin specials, the very slim volumes of essays, fiction or non-fiction published as mini-books to read in one sittting.

This one, A story of grief, by Michaela McGuire, is about the reaction of people in Melbourne to the rape and murder of Jill Meagher in 2012. It is not about the crime or the perpetrator or even the victim, but about the way the city reacted, grieved, and dealt with this shocking crime. I don't think anyone who was living in Melbourne at the time will forget that week. People were fearful: everyone trying to help find her and then grieving openly when the poor young woman's body was found and her killer apprehended. I read this essay with tears in my eyes, remembering that terrible day.

McGuire writes well about her personal reaction as well as the media coverage, the collective grief and the issues around women's right to live their lives without fear. I like this series very much: I'm not sure if they are still being produced but I will chase down some more to read. They are also available in ebook format - as e books they are only $3.99 as opposed to $9.99 for the hard copy and I think much better value as the ones I've read have been 50 pages or less.

Off to craft camp for the weekend. I'm taking Margaret Pole, Sonya Hartnett's latest Golden boys
and a memoir about a man and his wife who spend three years or so watching every episode of Doctor Who ever made.... don't say my tastes aren't eclectic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday night bullet points

  • Here I am blogging at night, very unusual. I simply ran out of time today: then there was the Extreme Weather and hoping the roof wouldn't blow off or leak which was distracting late this afternoon. Shady was frightened by the noisy hail on the tin roof out the back and hid in a pile of clothes on S's bed.

  • I am headed off to Sewjourn this weekend with some of the nicest bloggers, ex-bloggers and non-bloggers that you could meet. If you search "Sewjourn" in my "search this blog" area you can read about my past stays there: I'm too tired to do the links tonight. I'm going on Friday. I am hoping to get away from here by lunchtime but I now have to take my child for a CT scan in the morning so it will be after that...
  • I have some mending to take, and my doily tablecloth to finish laying out and fix some holes.The others are immensely industrious and knock out entire quilts and fabulous garments: I'm much less skilled so I take little projects to play around with. Also books, walking shoes etc. Looking forward to this time away so much: you have no idea.
  • The photos are from the latest Woody Allen film, Magic in the moonlight, which B and I saw on Sunday. It was a lovely piece of froth with the most gorgeous 1920s frocks, lush gardens in the south of France and stunning interiors. If you weren't interested in the film you could just watch with the sound off because it's so pretty to look at. Colin Firth does a lovely turn as a 1920s Mr Darcy: I really enjoyed it.
  • Two garden questions: if I pruned my lemon tree HARD now would it survive? It's produced not a lemon in the last six to eight months and I think it needs stirring up.Also the old bulbs in the woodland garden ( there would be about 200 there) are very heavily clumped and only produced about 6 flowers this year. If I dug them all up ( leaves still attached) and just let them die off ABOVE GROUND, out of sight behind the shed, before dividing and re-planting - would that be OK? I don't want to look at yellowing bulb leaves dying off for the next five months and I want to dig over that whole area in the spring.
  •  I just found out that in France "selfies" are called "braggies" which I think is much more accurate and funny and I hope that word takes off here.
  • I have been watching more television than usual: Doctor Who ( of course) but also Utopia on the ABC and the Reality Bites program that follows it, and the kids and I are a bit obsessed with the Australian and New Zealand Amazing Race. We like all the couples who are left except for the terrible racist dumb (dyed) blonde whingeing husband and wife who should have been eliminated last night but inexplicably weren't. I'm surprised you couldn't hear our groans of disgust when they lived to race another day.
  • Still spring cleaning. Did the fridge today: threw out a few antique jars of condiments. Going away, even for only a couple of days always seems to send me into a frenzy of doing things I've put off for ever ( hair cut, bank appointment, washing out the vegie crisper) so I should do it more often.

Friday, September 5, 2014

friday book and beach

I was restless this morning: I knew the fog would burn off and it did. I wanted to see the sea.
B's day off: I made egg sandwiches, wrapped up chocolate digestive biscuits, made a thermos of tea and we drove down to Brighton beach for lunch.

It was just what the doctor ordered: an empty beach except for a handful of dog walkers and some people strolling along. One sole crazy sunbaker in a bikini. I could smell the coconut oil and wanted to give her a brochure about melanomas, not that I had one handily on me.

We had our lunch and a nice walk and collected some sea glass. B has much better eye-sight than me:  he kept spotting pieces that my rubbishy eyes just skimmed over.I think I should probably be wearing glasses all the time now: everything has such a nice soft edge to it and I don't see wrinkles on peoples' faces. I've a week off soon: optometrist visit in that week for sure.


It is Spring, so I am cleaning. I have a lot of (small) rooms to get through. I found all sorts of things in the upstairs bathroom which I've put out to use up: gift soaps, shower gel, nearly used-up bottles of perfume. Tossed old make-up which I don't wear anyway; also expired medicines. I'll get the house in order in the month of September and then relax until Autumn next year.

These are Italian cleaning products from the Mediterranean Wholesaler in Sydney Road. They work no better than the local counterparts but they cheer me up when I'm using them.


I'm re-reading another Barbara Pym book, Jane and Prudence. It is really wonderful. I had forgotten about the Pym Universe, where characters cross various books, their appearance sometimes not making much sense but it's always fun to spot them. In this one Crampton Hodnet's Miss Morrow and Miss Doggett re-appear, living in a village, not in Oxford. They are the same age as they were in Crampton Hodnet but Miss Bird who was 20 or so in that book is now 40, the same age as heroine Jane. Mildred Lathbury who is the heroine in Excellent women is mentioned in passing as having married an anthropologist.  P.D. James did this with Jane Austen's characters in Death comes to Pemberley and I didn't like it at all, but I love it in Pym.


Yesterday while waiting for the kids to shop at Lincraft and JB Hi-fi I read a 50 page book by Sonya Hartnett called Life in ten houses.

I absolutely loved it: she writes a little about every house in Melbourne that she's lived in, and in passing about the different suburbs where they were located, also about her life and the many books she was writing at the time. Some of those houses were bad decisions, some good, and the differences she points out between the suburbs, and even in the same suburb in different decades is just brilliant. Even if you've never read anything by Hartnett ( and I have: The children of the king is one of my favourite books of all time), if you know Melbourne you will adore this book. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

melbourne in blossom time

Everyone else has been madly posting blossom photos to their blogs and IG: my garden must be more sheltered and colder than most ( it is, the bottom level is all moss at the moment) because the first blossom flowers have only come out today, on the second of September. It's pretty cold today: not conducive to gardening although I can admire all the plants coming into flower from inside the warm house! The weekend was perfect and I gardened for hours. More days like this coming up, hopefully.


I try not to compete in the  "I'm so busy!" conversations because I think it's boring and generally just people showing-off, but currently at work I'm so busy because my work partner is away for two weeks, then will be back for a month and is then pretty much GONE. She's not ACTUALLY leaving forever until March next year, but will be away for 6 months before then.  I need to have a meeting next week about increasing my hours properly rather than doing band-aid replacement hours which will be impossible and stressful. I'm hoping to work another five hours a week adding to my two short days, and moving my work days to Tuesday to Thursday rather than Monday to Wednesday but we shall see what management says. Now the kids are both really adults ( 20 and nearly 17) I don't need to be here for the after school hours - I loved this when they were younger and was lucky to negotiate good "ladies' hours" but I don't need them to go on forever.


I think my internal thermostat has broken down. I'm either freezing cold and shivering while everyone else is in thin shirts; or I'm break into a sweat and throwing off bed covers and melting down. It's really boring and I'm a bit over it. It means I sleep quite badly, too.

End of whinge, here are some garden photos.

nectarine blossom

peach blossom



Lorraine Lee!

new growth on all the roses. exciting.

the passionfruit vine died and was pulled out. Nasturtiums have sprung up in the gap.

white banksia rose

plum blossom

Shady in his cat run, he looks out onto the new bulb bed.

asking to come out. There is a cat door into the house on the wall behind him.

blue sky! at last!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday books: re-reading Barbara Pym and a muesli bar recipe

Before the books and the muesli bars: I bought these op -shop boots yesterday for eight dollars, aren't they great? They need new heels and a polish but otherwise are in perfect condition. Apparently it is OFFICIAL Op-shop week this week in Australia, which highlights the work of charity shops and you are meant to donate to, shop in, or volunteer to work in one. Every week is op-shop week in this house, but I thought I should do my bit for the cause.

 I also bought more (!!) pillowcases, purple and pink striped 70s ones. I look out for these now. The 70s florals are as rare as hen's teeth : S gets angry with people hoarding them rather than using them in either sewing or on their beds - she's shown me pictures on Pinterest where people have whole linen cupboards full of them for no discernible reason.

 My job-share partner says of situations like this "of course, I blame the Internet" which is our running catch-cry for anything we find unusual, like The Otherkin and Therians (look them up: fascinating): I knew nothing about these folk (?) until S and I watched a documentary about them a couple of weeks ago. As we said, thank goodness for the Internet, because everyone now can find their tribe, no matter how unusual it seems to everyone else.


I have a big pile of books tottering on the chair on my room, and yet I am re-reading Barbara Pym at the moment. I started with Crampton Hodnet and have gone straight on to Jane and Prudence.
It's seven or eight years ( or more) since I read and obsessively acquired ( on Ebay) every one of her books. If you like sly humour, village and Oxford life, academics, vicars and excellent women you will love her books. Jilly Cooper wrote a wonderful introduction to Jane and Prudence, here's a link to it.


I am using up all the bits and pieces in the food cupboards at the moment, having a bit of a pantry spring-clean. I made a Muesli Slab, which can be cut up into pieces or muesli bars. I modified the recipe from  The $21 challenge book, written by Fiona Lippey and Jackie Gower. It is a bit addictive and I'm going to hide the plastic box of it in the back of the fridge: too easy to wander past and eat bits all.day.long. I cut it into small pieces, but bar size would be fine too.

Muesli slab

1 and 1/2 cups muesli ( any variety, I used un-toasted with apricots)
2 and 1/2 cups rice bubbles ( this was the only ingredient I had to buy
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup crushed nuts ( I used almond flakes cut up, also about 8 dried apricots)
125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Line a 28 x 36 cm baking tray with paper. This size tray apparently make 30 standard size muesli bars, I cut pieces so I had more like 60. Or more.

Mix the muesli, rice bubbles coconut and nuts in a big bowl.
Put the honey, butter, peanut butter and brown sugar into a small saucepan, bring to the boil, melt it all and mix, let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Take the saucepan off the heat and let it cool for another couple of minutes then pour into the dry ingredients and mix really thoroughly.

Tip everything into your lined tray and flatten the mix with a fork or spatula, packing it down firmly. Let it set in the fridge for a couple of hours then slice it up, keep the container of slice or bars in the fridge, out of sight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

so what do we think about the new Doctor?


Of course this Tuesday blog post has to start with this question, because I know that some people who read here are fans like me.

I loved Peter Capaldi in the part, he is a wonderful actor and I like seeing a mature Doctor. As I said on IG, I love that craggy lived-in face: I can RELATE. It will be interesting for the makers of the show because I'm wondering if the teen-Twilight generation audience they sought out by casting Matt Smith will hang around without a young Doctor to relate to and without romantic potential with the companions. Having said that, I did love MS in the part, as I did my pin-up boy Tennant ( isn't he everyone's?) and Christopher Ecclestone. I think Capaldi will take The Doctor back to a more Ecclestone-like Doctor and lose the romances. I am very intrigued as to whether River will feature as a companion in this series: the age match-up would be perfect.

As for the episode: it was a solid effort. The Change Management 101: how to deal with the Doctor's New Face was laid on with a trowel, but the villain was suitably spooky and I always love seeing Jenny, Vastra and Strax.


In other news, the winter is nearly over and I'm out looking for signs of spring in the garden almost daily.
The only winter vegies husband put in were silver beet, broad beans and broccoli: they have been so shocked by the cold that they have been sloooooow but finally the broccoli is ready and we ate the first one last night. Not one bug or insect! I think the cold killed them all.

See this climbing rose? It didn't flower at all last year, so about 6 weeks ago I took to it with the secateurs and cut most of it in half, intended to pull it out and plant something else. Some of the branches are are thick as my wrist and I was leaving them to attack with the saw when the weather improved. Well the bits that remain are flowering nicely so the thing may yet get a reprieve.

Here is my daughter working with her light box at the dining table. It was $20 at the closing down sale at a doctor's surgery, how lucky was that to find? She is back at university, working hard: that course is not for the lazy or faint of heart I must say. I am keeping a close eye on her as around this time last year the pressure sent everything pear-shaped around here. Fingers crossed.

I have been feeling exhausted and a bit overwhelmed lately so everyone else is stepping up and sharing the household/family load a bit more which is a relief. One thing I've been doing to help myself is do some Sunday morning cooking to ease the strain of the early part of the week when I'm at work. Last Sunday I made muffins for the freezer, soup stock and some spaghetti sauce to freeze. I really need to think about different things to make ahead and freeze: I did this all the time when I went back to work 12 years ago and have fallen out of the routine.

Then we spent the afternoon out celebrating with old friends: J's apartment sold at auction for a ridiculous price on Saturday ( people got into a bidding competition) so there was celebrating to be done.


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