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 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.

Friday, August 22, 2014

friday books: sedaris again, with tea-towels

I read David Sedaris' latest collection of essays, called Let's explore diabetes with owls, published in 2013. It's probably the fourth collection of his essays that I've read: they are extremely funny and if you are a fan you will love these.

 I wrote about Sedaris previously when I went to see him speak when he was in Melbourne in 2012. There is a link to one of his pieces in that post - he is a most fabulous writer and once you accept that some of his tales are made taller for purposes of entertainment you squirm less and enjoy the stories more.

(apropos of nothing, here are a couple of images from that bag of shiny tea towels I bought at the op-shop last week. I am still having camera problems so there are only two)


I borrowed some Philippa Gregory books from work this week: a teen series set in Italy in the 15th century: it is called  the Order of Darkness trilogy. Also found her latest adult novel called The King's curse.
 I've been really disappointed by Gregory's last series, collectively known as The Cousins War novels, and thought I was done with this author, but as this one is back in part in the Tudor court, I'll give her another try.


Gorgeous sunny day today. B now has every second Friday off and we try to have an outing of some sort ( movies, lunch, art etc). He has resigned from his job and has given them long notice: he doesn't finish up until mid December.

 This morning we had breakfast at a local cafe : this was a  real treat and afterwards we went for a walk and enjoyed the sun. I had to take one of the kids for a specialist appointment in the afternoon so going there and back seemed to take up a lot of time. J and I took turns choosing songs to listen to on the way home: I chose Lana del ray, Michael Buble and Oasis; when it was his turn I learned all about Scandinavian heavy metal: it was LOUD.

( bits of more tea towels)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1984 was 30 years ago

Every now and again I feel surprised about how life races by so quickly.

I'm a bit sad and nostalgic because my job share partner of the last 12 years has decided to retire in two months time. Recently I've been thinking quite a bit about the fact that it's been THIRTY YEARS since I moved out of my old family home and started my first library job, in a library in a school in South Yarra. I was 21 in 1984 and it really was a different world.

I earned the grand sum of $215 every week and paid $60 rent for my little one bedroom flat in Domain Road. I walked to work every morning, rain hail or shine (10 minutes away), and wore a skirt every day. I never wore jeans to work in that job: contrast that with this past winter where I've worn  two pairs of black jeans on rotation with only skirts occasionally because it's been so cold. I ate out a lot, went food shopping only every couple of weeks. I had a lot of fun:went to the movies constantly - look up the list of popular movies from that year: I saw nearly every one of them. I went  to nightclubs in King Street before it became violent and terrible and took public transport and taxis everywhere because I didn't learn to drive until I was 24.

In those days I hardly visited an op-shop ( unlike during my student years) because I worked full-time and never had a chance. I read much less, and hardly watched TV because I either worked or was out. Again, look up popular tv from that year: I didn't watch any of those shows.

At work I was an "Assistant Librarian": didn't go to library school until the following year when I started post-grad study part-time.  I typed ( on a typewriter) index cards for the wooden card files and covered the books and stuck all the labels and stamps on them. No computers in libraries I worked at until about 1988.  A couple of years later when the Senior Librarian retired very suddenly due to ill-health  I was promoted and at 23 was the Acting Senior Librarian, in charge of the budget and buying all the books! At the end of that year I graduated in Librarianship and trundled off to work in public libraries where I've pretty much spent my working life ( three different local government areas), 27 years! with some years off to have babies and do the garden and read all the time ( not joking, in my old diaries I see I read over 100 books every year).

Anyway, that was me 30 years ago. I'm aiming to stay here for another 5 years and then stopping to get stuck into major gardening again, maybe in a new garden somewhere...... and read another 100 books per year. I've no intention of working until I'm 70, despite the government's plans for us all.

Where were you in 1984? Were you even BORN? (Zara, I'm looking at you!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

friday books: we were liars and the convent

I went to sleep very late last night: the book We were liars was the culprit.

The last 25 pages reveal the mystery: the secret which is the core of the story. I finished the book, in shock, and then immediately turned back to page one to go over certain passages again, to look for hints about the ending. They are there, once you know what you're looking for.... the answers are there, hidden in plain sight.

The most important thing about this book is not to reveal too much of the plot and so spoil it for others. The author builds a fabulous, tense novel where you know something is not right with the storytelling, but you just can't quite get there in understanding it until the big reveal at the end.

In brief, the story is about a family of rich Democrats, an elderly couple and their three daughters, who spend every summer off the East coast of the USA, on a private island. They are rich, the adults arrogant, and the eldest teenage grandchildren Cady, Johnny, Mirren and a friend, Gat, spend their time avoiding their parents while still observing their dysfunctional relationships. During the summer of Cady's 15th year, she is involved in a terrible accident, which gives her a brain injury. No-one will tell her what happened: all she knows is that she was found in her underwear washed up on a beach.

In the summer of her 17th year, still suffering from massive gaps in her memory and from migraines, she returns to the island for a family holiday and tries to solve the mystery of what happened to her.
This is a suspense novel aimed at the young adult market ( High School) but which can be happily enjoyed by people like me, much older than the target audience. It's well written, sophisticated - a little like the very early books of Bret Eaton Ellis (Less than zero) and Shakespeare's King Lear gets a bit of a nod, also. Wonderful, suspenseful read.


The other book I read was also excellent, Maureen McCarthy's The Convent. This is what I would call a New Adult book, a genre aimed at a slightly older age group, dealing often with people who've just left school, who are coping with university or first serious relationships or moving out of home.

It's a very Melbourne based book, almost a modern-day family saga concerning four generation of the same family who have either been residents of the Abbotsford Convent, or who have worked there in its modern incarnation as as an Arts and Cafe precinct. Some of the details of the tough lives of the nuns and the girls who were incarcerated there to work in terrible conditions in the laundries made for harrowing reading and really opened my eyes about an important institution and time in Australian history. My mother would have loved this book: definitely for all ages.

The author interviewed many people who had gone through the convent at different times and who had different experiences so used oral histories, including that of her own mother, to write her novel.
Wonderful Melbourne history come to life: I love this book!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

two movies and a bag of tea-towels

The end of last week completely sucked, as the young would say. Things going wrong, more health things to worry about (endlessly). We are a family, truly, who hardly saw the inside of a doctor's waiting room for about 16 years and now it's the reverse - I seem to constantly be making appointments with the GP, some specialists, scans, for blood tests, for wisdom teeth extraction.... it's exhausting and makes me anxious and I'm getting pessimistic too, wondering if it's ever going to end. I want us all to be well again! Just so tired of illness, so tired of it.


I saw two films last week: Still life at the cinema, and at home we watched the DVD Gravity.

They were very different sorts of films: Still life (2013) was quiet and heartbreaking, telling the story of a public servant whose job was to track down next of kin for those who had died alone, with no visible family connections and often in very basic circumstances. Very thoughtful and sad, although not a depressing film, it made me think a lot about life and the different people you meet through different stages and ages: some quite fleeting, but everyone would have a memory or a story to tell about you, to make a complete picture of an otherwise unremarkable life.

Gravity (2013) is a big budget, edge-of-your-seat thriller set in Space. Very different to things I usually see, and tense, but I liked it very much. The ultimate mission into space gone horribly wrong: S's boyfriend, the robot engineer, dreams of going to work at NASA one day: we think this would put anyone off that particular dream!


I had a little op-shop tour on Saturday and came across a load of brand new old-style tea-towels. Of course I bought them all: beautiful linen for 50 cents or a dollar each. I have a bit of a tea towel situation and probably have reached Peak Towel in the drawer so may have to cull a few older ones to make room. I also bought a skirt and a shirt: the shirt I bought for the nasturtium print on it because it's beautiful, I don't think I could wear something quite so busy, being pretty short.

I will post tea towel photos when my camera decides to co-operate: this morning it is playing up for some reason.....


I'll keep my book chatting for Friday's blog post. I finished reading The convent, Maureen McCarthy's wonderful New Adult family tale that features the Abbotsford Convent; and I've started We were liars which Is a Teen Read that people rave about.... I'm not sure about it yet, we shall see.

I'll also write a little about the difference between NA and TR genres because  - you know - being librarygirl and all that.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


The last part of the week really went down the drain on a number of fronts, and with it went my Friday bookish blog post. Yesterday was a particular corker: it started with some crazed driver on ice or something attempting to push my car into two lanes of oncoming traffic. Also my daughter is still suffering ill effects from the FILTHY DIRTY hospital she spent 12 hellish days in last December. Back on yet more drugs. AGAIN. 

Going out to do some retail therapy ( in op-shops) and will write my book post later.
Over and out. 


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