Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

The blue moon casting its gorgeous spell over southern Australia, 30/12/09, 11.30 p.m.

Wishing you a joyous and fulfilling 2010!

For his last birthday, I gave my DH a telescope. Not an enormous one - we thought we'd just start off small - but one that can be easily set up in the backyard for a little nighttime skywatching. So last night we positioned ourselves out there for the full moon - of which the telescope gave us a brilliant view - and I was quite awed to actually see the craters on the moon's surface. What made it extra special was that it was also a 'blue moon' - an 'extra' full moon that only happens very occassionally (the last one was in 2007).

A blue moon is apparently quite auspicious and so it seemed to me a very appropriate note to finish 2009 on. It's been a funny year (and I don't mean funny ha-ha). I have just done a quick round-up of all my favourite blogs and a lot of people have said that 2009 was not a great year for them. Well, I must count myself among them. A hard year, this one, in which I had to face up to the fact that the professional path on which I had set myself was probably either a) the wrong path or b) right or wrong, not the path that was going to succeed. I'm still working out how to solve that particular problem. But I think I have a few little ideas which I'll tell you a bit more about in January (I hope).

All this, of course, in the time honoured tradition of vicious circles, has caused my stress-o-meter to go through the roof and has brought all sorts of other long-standing issues (anxiety, depression) bubbling to the surface. But this has not necessarily been a bad thing. Now I'm addressing things. Looking them square in the eye and trying to sort them out. Not burying them in a pile of other stuff that simply has to be done first (...before I deal with that stuff).

So, as 2009 draws to a close, I would have to say that I feel pretty positive. It's been a lousy year in a lot of ways but in that lousiness, a lot of thinking has been done and, hopefully, a lot of learning. I've still got a long way to go, but 2010 seems like that year when it might all just start to come together. But don't just take my word for it. That lucky blue moon agrees with me.

I have so enjoyed getting the blog started this year - it really has been a highpoint for me. And it's been great to meet the lovely people that I've met here in cyberspace. Tell me about your year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I have always been a keen diary keeper. Not pages of personal purple prose mind you, but jottings of appointments and lists. I can look back at a diary from ten years ago and be as much reminded of what I was doing then by '10 a.m. - tutorial' as by any more lengthy description of my day. So, I always approach the purchasing of 'the diary' with great consideration each year. It's got to be just right - the right amount of space for notes, the right sort of cover, the right colour. Imagine my surprise then, when I came across this little cutie in the supermarket this morning. All of $2.99, with a nice, bright retro-style cover (there's even felt centres on the flowers) and...the cruncher for me...cherry blossoms on each page. Simple and cheerful, just like I hope 2010 will be for me. Aaah, the promise of the blank page, the promise of a new diary...the promise of a new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nothing succeeds like excess

Well, another Christmas has drawn to a close. I do hope you had a happy one, or, at least, a bearable one. Ours, I would say, came under the latter heading and given past Christmases, I am ok with that. I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon on this, but I think perhaps the photo above sums up what I want to say. This is just a small portion of the edible stuff we received on Christmas Day. Chocolates, crackers, biscuits, cakes, wine, spirits. Too much, too much. Stuff we would never buy for ourselves and, in fact, may not end up consuming. And while generosity is truly lovely, for me it says something about the nature of Christmas. Excess. More and more, I look for simplicity. Quietness. Kindness. Not huge explosions of emotion - either good or bad - or emotions supplanted by things, as so often seems to be the case at Christmas. I don't want a box of chocolates/a DVD/a book. Let's just treat one another well during the year. But perhaps, as Lady Macbeth once said, I think too brainsickly on things. Perhaps this is just the nature of a modern Christmas. What do you think?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings

Wishing you a wonderful festive season
filled with light, joy and, above all, peace.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Summer Solstice

In the Southern Hemisphere, we are celebrating Summer Solstice, or Midsummer. Our weather has not been too overwhelmingly hot as yet, although 36 degrees celsius is predicted for tomorrow. Summer Solstice is a time of rejoicing, of celebrating life in all its fullness. 2009 hasn't been a great year for me, but it has been an important time of learning and reflection. A number of the issues which have troubled me this year (and, in some cases, for many years past) have come to something of a crisis point of late. So, while my own inclination is towards Winter Solstice - of still being in the dark, but waiting hopefully for the light - I am also grateful for Midsummer and all the bursting promise and fullness yet to come.
PS Apologies for the predominance of Net-sourced images of late - my camera is on strike.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'll awa hame tae ma tatties

I have recently become hooked on the tv crime series Rebus, taken from Ian Rankin's books (one of which I have also just started reading). Me being me, I didn't just accept this new found interest but began to think instead...why am I interested in watching this show, and, to a lesser degree, the similar Taggart? Why are we interested in watching crime shows at all, or reading true crime books? There is the classic whodunnit element of course, but is it also that characters like Rebus are living lives we would never want to actually lead - investigating horrible crimes, never seeming to sit down to a good, square meal or sleep peacefully in their beds - but which we are happy to vicariously lead through tv shows? Is it perhaps even the location? I have never been to Scotland - I would love to go - but the mean streets of Edinburgh that Rebus paces are not streets we actually have to (or want to) walk down. We can rest back on our sofas and watch him do it. Is there an essential 'Scottishness' to the show, just as I imagine there are certain unique aspects of Scandinavia in Denmark's The Eagle, which I mentioned a little while ago, and which I believe you can definitely see in Austria's Inspector Rex and Stockinger. Parts of the landscape that write themselves into the story.

Further to this I have also been enjoying A History of Scotland, hosted by one of those charismatic tv historians, Neil Oliver (and I mean no disrespect here - I spent 10 years trying to make history sound interesting to university students - anyone who can do it gets my vote!) Such a beautiful, beautiful place! Yet another one to add to my holiday wish-list. Has anyone been there? Are there any Scots out there reading this blog? My husband's surname suggests that long, long ago his forebears were from Scotland, but he has no real interest in it. My suggestion that he wear a kilt in his clan tartan to our wedding fell on deaf ears :)

So, as a stereotyped homage to all this, now that the weather here has cooled down here, I am going to bake some Christmas goodies from Ena Baxter's Scottish Cookbook this is the land of shortbread afterall. But, as with all cultural bower-birds, I pick and choose. There will be no haggis.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tree Hugger

image courtesy of
I have been thinking about trees of late, and their meaning. All a part of looking inside myself a lot at the moment, I think. And, having trained as an academic, I also love to think about symbolism and meaning, and to decode. So it is that I have got very interested in decoding the meaning of trees, or, more precisely, of what they are said to symbolise spiritually. A great site I have come across as a result is http://www.thegoddesstree/ Reading it while working through a set of cards I bought a long time ago called "The Green Man Tree Oracle", I have learnt a lot not only about different types of trees but I have also come to appreciate them much more. Like the Moon, they're not just a backdrop to human activity. As always, I am very Eurocentric in my tastes - I have to say give me an oak over a eucalypt any day - but I would still be interested to find a good, similar source on the trees of the Southern Hemisphere.
I remember the plum tree in my grandmother's backyard was wonderful - old and gnarled but still bringing forth the most beautiful fruit every year. I would climb it as a child, and pick a plum straight off the branch. It was horrible to see it die and eventually be cut down. Do you have a favourite tree? Were you told stories, myths or legends about trees when you were a child?

Monday, December 14, 2009

La Luna

Image courtesy

An interesting study has just come out here, confirming scientifically what many people have known intuitively for a very long time...the Moon is not just another light in the night's sky -

It's a bit of a shame that there was such a big emphasis in the article about the negative effects of a full moon because I believe the lunar phases can also have positive effects on our behaviour too - or, at least, have things to teach us about the bigger picture. Aboveall, I think it's a good message - there is more to the world around us (and beyond us) than we imagine. We are dependent on our natural surroundings, and they have much to tell us. As Shakespeare said it, so much more eloquently: "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Personally, I love to look up at a full moon - it seems to me a nurturing rather than an ominous symbol.

My mother worked at an airport in the 60s, and she said that she had a manager who would always behave differently on a full moon. How about you? Are you effected by the lunar cycles?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two good things on Friday

image courtesy of
1. Another great yoga session today. I am so enjoying it. During that one-and-a-half hours, there are just tiny, tiny, fleeting moments when I catch just a glimpse of the calm, together person I could be...I just have to keep practicing.

2. So enjoying too picking up little mid-century pieces to add to my slowly retroising house. One great declutter tip I picked up during the week - don't bring anything into your house before you know where you'll put it. And I did just that with these thrifted bits and pieces.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One good thing on Thursday

I must admit I've stolen this idea from Jane Brocket over at but it does fit quite well with other thoughts I've had of late of being grateful for and enjoying what is around me instead of looking to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing...and all the things that aren't here quite yet. Also, I'm thinking it might just build up to some ramshackle 12-days-of-Christmas type countdown (build up to a countdown...hmmm)

So today - one good thing on Thursday - is this beautiful, peaceful Buddha which I have just bought and which is taking pride of place on the sideboard in the living room, catching your eye as soon as you come in the door.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In the comfort zone

Close-up on my current favourite cardigan: minty-green goodness from the thrift store.

A Muesli Fruit Loaf patiently awaits its fate in the late afternoon sun.

Do you ever feel the need to be comfortable or to be comforted, even in the smallest of ways?...
I think that if a baked good has muesli in it, it can't be too bad for you. Can it? Anyway, here's some yummy, comfort food goodness from the weekend (now almost completely devoured). I give you -

Muesli Fruit Loaf


2 cups self-raising flour

1 cup muesli

1/4 cup raw sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten

75 g butter


Combine flour, muesli, sugar, cinnamon and apple in large bowl. Combine buttermilk, eggs and butter in separate bowl. Then combine dry and wet ingredients. Pour into baking tin. Add crumble topping, which comprises:

1 tablespoon self-raising flour

1/2 cup muesli

1 tablespoon raw sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

30 g butter

Bake at 180 degrees celsius until cooked through. Very nice warm and spread with butter.

And on the topic of comforty goodness, who's with me on cardigans? I know they've made a bit of a comeback with the current Mad Men craze, but I have always loved them. Somehow, they're more comfortable and snuggly than jumpers. Prior to the present fancy for all things retro, cardigans had a tendency to be seen as a bit daggy (sorry, this is an Australianism - perhaps 'lame' or just plain 'unfashionable' suggest the same thing?) but I have stuck with them through good times and bad...fashionable or no, for me, they're just like a woollen hug.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Image courtesy of Google

I went to a new yoga class today. This is the fourth that I have attended in the last fifteen years - that is, classes at four different schools of yoga. The first was great and I finished the course there but then didn't keep up the practice. The second was too big a class, pitched at too high a level for me. I got lost in the first class and didn't go back. The third was promising to start with but when I told the teacher about recurrent back pain I wanted to be mindful of when doing yoga, she told me 'to just work through it'. No. I don't think so. But this morning was really lovely. Slow, with every move explained, and everyone encouraged to go at their own pace and stop if it hurt. I really felt like I got a good, gentle workout, which I feel I am in dire need of at present since I seem to have just a few too many aches and pains for someone only in their (gulp) mid-thirties. As well as this though, some of the philosophy of yoga was also covered during meditation. Too often, I think, yoga is presented as just another form of exercise, without the mental aspect being covered too. So, hopefully, this is the beginning of an exercise plan I will stick to, as well as some much-needed nourishment for the soul.
Does anyone else do yoga?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Remember how everyone used to love James Dean? When I was growing up in the 80s, James Dean was a major crush. The jeans, the quiff, the rebellious thing. I don't think I even saw any of his films until the 90s. It was the look that was the thing, the look was enough to set the teenage pulse racing. But watching this clip from Rebel without a Cause just now, I was struck by how good an actor he actually was. This scene really drew me in. As a young person you tend to personify with JD's character - 'parents just don't understand!' - but watching it now (a little -ahem - older), you can also see that break between the idealism of youth and the loss (or tempering) of idealism that comes with age. But is it a loss of idealism? Or is it a growing wisdom and understanding of how the world works?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deck the halls with tinsel - lots and lots of tinsel

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

And on the subject of Christmas, I have recently decided that - taking both my current aesthetic obsessions into account as well as a desire to make of Christmas what I can - a vintage themed Christmas could be a lot of fun. Vintage decorations, vintage food. There's certainly lots of both to be found online, so I'm obviously not the only one to get this weird little idea into my head! I think, realistically though, that I can only apply it at home and then only moderately - the wider family group that we visit over the holidays may not quite get it - but it does have a promisingly amusing and appeallingly quirky quality to it nonetheless! So, here goes...a wonderfully fake silver Christmas tree and lots of bizarre recipes...but, a word to the wise, DH, I won't be happier with a Hoover on Christmas morning...
PS Not sure if a glittery 60s Christmas quite fits with yesterday's rail against Christmas be the judge! :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

You're a good man, Charlie Brown

I have a couple of reasons not to be a big fan of Christmas. Key amongst them is the crass commercialism, the idea that somehow you can buy happiness, you can buy love, if only you will get into our store right now and buy, buy, buy this special Christmas gift-pack for your loved one...but if anything is going to restore a bit of genuine Christmas feeling (for me at least) it has got to be this very, very sweet clip from 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Charlie Brown - a boy after my own heart. So, as the Advent season begins, enjoy :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

The rule of threes...

A little bit of Q&A fun to round off the week...

Three jobs I have had in my life:

1. Selling tickets at an historic jail (I hasten to add the jail no longer had any inmates)

2. Teaching German history

3. Typing classified advertisements for a newspaper

Three favourite drinks:

1. Milk coffee

2. Really cold orange juice (with the orangey bits still in it)

3. Gin, soda water and elderflower cordial

Three TV shows I watch:

1. Mad Men (didn't know that, did you?)

2. Ghost Whisperer

3. Kommissar Rex

Three places I have been:

1. Vietnam

2. France

3. England

People who email me regularly:

1. My DH

2. My dear friend, Bodecea

3. Another dear friend, KB

Three favourite foods:

1. Chocolate - preferably a Mars Bar but I am not fussy :)

2. Light rye toast with peanut butter

3. Good, crunchy apples

Three things I am looking forward to:

1. Travelling next year

2. Renovating our house over the summer

3. Working out the next bit of the puzzle

Want to play along?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Small and random observations

Vintage tropical birds from

A still from "300" courtesy of

Three small and random observations today. First, we are in the midst of some very tropical weather. It's humid rather than hot (only 26 degrees), there is a strange, expectant quality to the still air and I can hear the rumblings of a storm in the distance... We have certainly been on something of a magical mystery tour weather-wise here of late. I'm not sure how anyone can still be sceptical about global warming...

Certainly the dramatic weather suits the film "300". It was on tv here last night. Although there was much about it that was both comical and offensive at the same time (quite a feat) - and it is of course very violent - it also had an extraordinarily mesmerising quality to it, shot as it was in monochrome - be it black (almost blue) and white or sepia with touches of red. And I am always a sucker for tales told on a grand (and I mean grand) scale. As with Gladiator, it drew me into the Classical World about which I know so little but which transfixes me whenever I see films like this one. If anyone has seen it, what did you think? I don't know whether I loved it, hated it or should ask for the DVD for Christmas to think about it some more...

And speaking of Christmas, I know it is a perennial complaint but can I just say: IT IS STILL NOVEMBER! Already I have seen Christmas trees going up in people's front windows and the
exteriors of houses being bedecked with Christmas lights. Why do people do this? Is it a case of commercial brainwashing gone mad or is Christmas genuinely something that people really look forward to, a bright spot in the year? Perhaps you love Christmas with this sort of anticipation? Perhaps I am just an old Scrooge...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Retro Renovating

I think I may have mentioned before that we live in my grandparents' old house. Both of my grandparents have died and so it has come to us. The housing market being what it is, it's a tremendous boon since the house is closer to the city than we could afford to buy if we had just been looking on the market like everyone else. So, I am grateful indeed for that. And, of course, it is home to a lot of happy memories. But...
It. is. so. small.
Now, I am not looking to live in a mansion. And we don't have any children as yet so it is just the two of us. But it is a five room house. Five rooms. Count 'em. Five. And small rooms at that. We've lived in bigger apartments. Living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, study. The study could be a second bedroom if it had to be. In fact it was when my father was still living at home with my grandparents (how they all managed here in this tiny space I don't know!). All I would really like is another two rooms - that's it. No grand extensions. Just a dedicated study/den and a second bedroom. Of late, the issue has really started to bother me. I spend a lot of my time working from home and the walls started to close in a little. "I hate it!", "Why can't we move?" etc., etc. My DH pointed out all the sensible arguments as to why there was 1. No reason to hate the house and 2. Not much would be achieved by the horror that is moving. But now I am starting to come around to a calmer way of thinking about it and this is how I've managed it (not solely from sensible arguments, I have to admit...) - I have a plan. Indeed, I have a cunning plan (sorry - irresistable urge to steal a line from Blackadder's Baldrick there). I have decided to work with the house instead of fighting against it. It was built in 1948 and the kitchen especially speaks of this. So, let's go retro. Let's celebrate the house's uniqueness. This is not to say, though, that I want to turn it into a museum. Let's improve it, update what needs to be updated (paint, fittings etc.) but let's do it with a retro eye. Because you know how I love thrifting and retro stuff in general, so why not go with that theme? First stop, then - the kitchen, which I will repaint white and pick out details (cupboard doors etc.) in red, to match the original red counter tops and my grandfather's painfully constructed red-laminex-topped kitchen table. I'll keep you posted on the great Feronia renovation of Summer '09. And that extension will come in due time...

PS Amazing how many people go with red and white when they retro-ise their kitchens! See above, courtesy of Google Images.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Random 5

(5.) Raffles Hotel, Singapore, photo courtesy of

(5.) Shibuya, Tokyo, photo courtesy of me

(5.) The Black Forest, photo courtesy of

(4.) Photo courtesy of

(3.) The Mad Men girls, photo courtesy of

(2.) Photo courtesy of

(1.) The living room at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, photo courtesy of

(1.) I would be very happy if my living room looked like this (the living room from Bewitched) or (2.) This.
(3.) I am developing a real penchant for clothes like this. Especially the full skirts. But how to wear them without looking like (a) a lunatic (b) I am in costume? The problem may be solved by the fact that my waist will never be small enough for the vintage dresses which always seem to be for sale on Etsy and the fact that I cannot sew (that well).
(4.) Gin, soda water and elderflower cordial is a very nice summer drink. And before you start to wonder where I'm going with that...chilled orange juice is also delicious :)
(5.) I need a holiday! Here beckons (as always), as does here (ditto) and also here.
How about you? What's your 'Random 5' this week?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pretty in Pink

And while on the subject of innocence and possibility but on a slightly lighter note, I have to say that I feel much the same way about the 80s, but that could just be because I grew up then. Looking back, people wore some horrendously hideous clothes but they did so - in my view -with aplomb and joie de vivre. Hot pink ankle socks, stripy bubble skirts, big bows in their hair...and hey, that's just a selection from my 80s wardrobe! The BBC's Ashes to Ashes captures this brilliantly with Alex Drake now, in the second season, finally managing to wear her early-80s garb less like a costume and more like she considers it to be fashionable and smart.

The 80s revival that I see worn by 'the kids of today' is just not the same - as with all pop culture 'revivals', it's too studied, too knowing - and leaves out too much of the truly horrible! If The Go-Gos singing "Our Lips are Sealed" doesn't jog your memory or at least give you the gist of what I'm talking about, then you were so totally like not even there at the time :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Robert Kennedy - photo courtesy of
Pete Seeger (right) with Bob Dylan - photo courtesy of the Austin Chronicle website

Peter, Paul and Mary - photo courtesy of

Joan Baez - photo coutesy of the BBC website

We have bought the DVDs of the second season of Mad Men. Now, if you're a regular reader here, you'll know that I am pretty near obsessed with this show. And being the deep thinker (some would say over-analyser) that I am, I have been asking myself: why? Why do I love this show so much? Yes, the clothes are beautiful. Yes, the sets are mesmerising in their period detail. Yes, the plots are thoroughly engaging. But is there something else? And then I realised - yes, there is. Innocence. If you know the show, you may well laugh at this juncture. Innocence? In that hot-bed of extra-marital activity of an advertising agency, Sterling Cooper? Are you kidding? Are you even watching the right show? But what I mean is, the overall innocence of the era. Hey, I am no fool. I am well aware that people throughout time are people. They have good motivations and they have thoroughly awful motivations. Sometimes in equal measure. But when I think of the early to mid 1960s, I think of it as an era of innocence, when Western society as a whole (and that is all I can really vouch for) believed that things were possible. I'm sure there are a million holes that you could poke in that argument. This idea was informed initially by what my mother has said about the era: "People believed in things. We thought we could change things." Now, my mother was no radical and neither am I. I am notorious, in fact, for not having strong opinions on matters political. But I love the idea that people thought things were possible. Folk music of the era spoke of it especially. People like Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and Pete Seeger. Music, thanks to my Mum, that I was raised on.

Lately too, on this same theme, I have become fascinated by the story of Robert Kennedy, JFK's brother. And before I go any further, I know all about the stories of the Kennedys. The philandering, the extra-marital affairs, the apparently appalling attitude towards women. And I don't condone that for one second. But, recently, watching a documentary about Robert Kennedy, I was very interested to learn of the change he went through after his brother's assassination, how tragedy and absolute sorrow nearly broke him. But eventually, it didn't. He didn't live imbibed with hatred. His social policies, in fact, suggest the complete opposite. I love this quote of his from 1968:

"My favourite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

To me, it suggests that growth - not destruction - can come through pain and life's sometimes profound hardships. There is not always the easy fix which we sometimes seem to look for today, but solutions will come.

Do you agree with me? Do you think that more than anything we are blighted by cynicism now? Or are we, as Kennedy began to suggest, learning from all that's happened worldwide since the 1960s - as painful as much of it has been - to emerge in a better condition when all is said and done?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Little corners

I am re-reading Quartet in Autumn by my all-time favourite author, Barbara Pym. I found a copy quite by chance at an op-shop this week and I just couldn't leave it to languish on the shelves, even though I already have a copy! Although Pym has quite a following, there are also a lot of people who just don't get her books, as I discovered while net surfing through some reviews... Even my mother - who is an ardent reader - exclaimed "But nothing happens!" when I tried to get her into Pym. And it is this very thing that I love about her writing. She writes about individuals quietly leading ordinary lives. They make cups of tea. They worry about giving the appropriate amount of coinage to a girl rattling a charity tin at the railway station. They fret about social gaffes. They have things on toast for dinner. No-one scales mountains. No-one is murdered. No-one has affairs. No-one scales the ladder of corporate success. They simply live, and make as much of every day and the everyday as they can. Above all else, I love Barbara Pym for depicting people who would otherwise be deemed as being of little interest - those people just eeking out their little corner of the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The Ektorp, courtesy of

We need a new couch. Our current couch was new circa 1975 and it belonged to my mother-in-law. Sadly, it is not retro chic. It is brown. With beige stripes. And it is made of a peculiar, nubby, thoroughly unidentifiable fabric. But for all this, it has served us well ever since we set up home together. And it's a good length so you can stretch out very comfortably for a post-dinner snooze. But its time has come. Its cushions have become flat and depleted and there's no getting away from the fact that it's just plain ugly.

So it's simple, right? Go out, find the one you like, buy it, bring it home, sit on it. No. Not. So. Simple. We went to Ikea on Sunday and also Freedom, another furniture store which we have here in Australia. Now, having done my Net research, my plan was to go in, buy a 2-seater 'Ektorp' at Ikea in a suitably goes-with-anything colour which wouldn't show every little mark and get out. But then we sat down on an 'Ektorp' stationed near the door. "What do you think?", "I don't know, what do you think?", "Is it comfortable?", "Let's try the 3-seater", "Oh, they have a 2.5 seater", "What about the 'Beddinge'?", "Oh no, it's a sofa-bed", "That one's too expensive", "Well, that one looks a bit wonky"...and so on and so on until we'd walked through the entire store and bought a wreath for the door, a scented candle, a jar of Lingonberry jam and a bottle of Elderflower cordial but no couch. Then my DH said "Let's go to Freedom..." and the whole process began again...

Having had my memory jogged by Crazy Aunt Purl's latest blog to tell my Ikea-and-the-couch story, I will now take up another of her themes and express my dislike of self-checkouts at the supermarket. We have used them a couple of times lately and they are really quite useless in my view. Every time we have ended up having to call for help when the machine decided we'd done something it didn't like the look of and terminated our transaction. So, remind me, how is this saving my time and the supermarket's workforce (and, more importantly, money)? Aside from this, though, it is just another way of disassociating people. Soon, there'll be no need to interact with other people at all. For some this may be a good thing, but for me, I think it's rather nice to say 'hello' to a number of people as I go through my day. Obviously, these are not hugely significant interactions but just for a moment it takes you out of your bubble, that little space you hum along in where you and yours are number one. How bizarre supermarkets today would be to the shopper of the 1920s or 1930s. My grandmother would often recount tales of going to the butcher for this, going to the grocer for you grab something wrapped in plastic off the shelf and swipe it through a machine without having to talk to another soul. My DH is all for this brave-new-world streamlining and perhaps it will prove to have its merits one day - when we cannot remember it being any other way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Treasures from the Thrift Store

"Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us."
- Oscar Wilde.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Out of the midday sun

Image courtesy of

We are in the middle of an early hot spell at the moment. Since late last week it has been 30 degrees plus and it doesn't look like abating until Sunday at the earliest. Now, I'm going to be honest with you - I hate hot weather. For someone who has lived in Australia from birth, I am no beach-bronzed sun-lover. No. I burn in the sun. I get heat rashes. My hair frizzes. In short, as you can tell, during summer I look and feel an absolute treat. But having just read Jane's entry about winter at, I have similarly decided to take a different view of summer. Slip into a bit of a 'colonial' mode, if you will - and I mean this strictly in an aesthetic sense and without the ugly racism, of course. Close the curtains and lower the blinds during the day, thereby subduing the house into darkness. Sit outside in the cool of the evening and read a book. Try to move slowly in the heat. We have just had ceiling fans installed so this should enhance the mood! In other words, I am going to try to work with the season instead of fighting it. Think of me tonight reading A Passage to India in the backyard as the ice cubes clink in my glass!

To get a sense of what I mean, just have a look at the cooling and calming Indian verandah above and also this lovely link:

Monday, November 9, 2009

An ephemeral start to the week...

" Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." - the Dalai Lama.

"The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that. Unknown is what it is. Accept that it's unknown and it's plain sailing." - John Lennon.

"There are two types of women in this world - ones who like chocolate and complete bitches." - Dawn French (sorry if you don't like chocolate - I'm sure she's not referring to you :) )

Some more from my little blue folder of ephemera...three beautiful postcards from Tokyo's National Science Museum (which took on an interesting sepia tone when photographed in the hot afternoon sun) and three random, clipped-out quotes...

Friday, November 6, 2009


Image of the Madonna courtesy of

The problem with paring down is, of course, where to put everything. This is an especial problem for the inveterate collector, that is: me. I collect everything. When we go on holidays I keep train tickets, boarding passes, amusing wrappings off chocolate bars, serviettes at restaurants, newspaper clippings. And then I don't want to throw anything out because it reminds me of being there. "That wrapper was from those chocolates we bought in Tokyo!", "That was the train ticket from the day we went out to Versailles!" etc., etc. So it came as no surprise when sorting through my study yesterday to find a manila folder marked rather grandly: 'Ephemera'. I thought it might be fun for the next couple of days to sort through it and see just what this human bower bird picks up and drags back to her nest...

First up then are bits and pieces from our visit to the Museum of Russian Art at Minneapolis ( So beautiful but you could overlook it if you weren't making your way around 'the Twin Cities' reasonably carefully. Housed in what looked to be an old, Spanish-mission style church, it was showing an exhibition of sacred art when we were there last October. I am undecided on questions of faith but I find enormous peace in looking at Russian Orthodox icon paintings. Perhaps it's the colours used, or the expressions on those holy faces, I'm not sure. The little icon I bought did not photograph too well for some unknown reason so instead I post two other lovely ones above (the detail of the Archangel Gabriel painted by Semion Fedorovitch Ouchakov is from a print I have at home and photographed myself).
There were also other, more recent examples of Russian art at the Museum and I love that the women depicted in Konstantin G. Doroknov's "September" (above) are sorting through the cabbages. No reclining in salons for these ladies. Perhaps there's a little bit of Soviet Realism at work but I love those everyday details - the cabbages, their aprons, the kitchen. I have included two details from the painting which I photographed myself, since I couldn't find Dorokhov online.
Are you a collector on holiday?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Preparing for Summer

Image courtesy of

As a part of our home improvements week, we're ordering some Japanese Noren curtains for our front porch. There's no point putting in another door as such, because it leads in a very short step straight to the front door, but I'm hoping to make this little space just a bit cooler during the coming summer months. I also want to make it more of an 'anteroom' rather than being so much an extension of the outside space as you come in from the front garden so some dreamy, floating Noren curtains seemed like the answer. And once again through the wonder that is the Internet, I have found a local shop which will make them to custom fit our slightly irregularly shaped doorway. They will fit across more of the doorway than those pictured above, and with a little more emphasis on the practical rather than the purely decrorative, but I think it'll work out to be a nice solution. I like to see the house make these seasonal changes - it seems like more of an organic being that way!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On a break

Hello! Good to be back in the Wood after a couple of days absence. We have had an unofficial long weekend here, since the Melbourne Cup was run yesterday (which somehow extends into a four-day weekend for everyone!?) and my Fellow Traveller has also taken the week off from work so I have been away from the desk and working instead on a number of around-the-house projects which have been crying out for attention for some time. So, we now have a lovely new rug in the living room, we are in the midst of a major find-a-storage-place-for-it-or-throw-it-out drive, the fly screens for the windows and the water tanks have been sorted out in preparation for summer and we are getting the washing machine and a couple of electrical jobs fixed after a lot of procrastination (and darkness!). Very industrious indeed.

But you've got to have some fun too, right? So, today we set out for the nearby Yarra Ranges. We had a beautiful, beautiful lunch at Sweetwater Cafe at the Yering Winery. I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area (I would've snapped my thoroughly yummy risotto for you but I forgot my camera...) and then we headed on to Badger's Weir for a walk through the fern fronds. So peaceful. And we were delightfully surprised when we got back to our car to find the area populated by about twenty rosellas, a wallaby, a cockatoo and a couple of currawongs... Above are a few photos which my DH took with his mobile - one from the balcony of the Cafe looking towards the Yarra Ranges, the fern fronds and ghost gums on our walk and a wallaby wondering just why we were following him...