Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A postcard!

I was delighted to find in amongst the post today a postcard from my good friend Bodecea (http://bodecea.blogspot.com/) and her partner, WirrLicht (http://wirrlicht.twoday.net/). What a nice surprise! As much as I am loving life here on the Net, so nice to get a good, old-fashioned postcard! Thank you :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Hobby

I have decided to improve my photography skills and I am sure that you, as regular visitors to my blog, can understand why! I would really like to get a better understanding of the things my digital camera can do and to really be able to express something in a photo rather than 'this is a...' or 'that is a...' Having said that, I still reliant on my dodgy little mobile phone camera when I want to take something quickly. The black and white effect is interesting, I think, and the photo of the 60s building looks pleasingly (to me!) like it was taken when that building was new (if you just ignore the car window with the modern aerial on it in the foreground...oh and all those modern cars out the front of the building...perhaps my digital photo editing skills need some work too!)

Saturday, June 27, 2009


The Saturday afternoon winter ritual continues on...Linz Short Cakes this time or Linzer Augen (Linz Eyes) as Specialities of Austrian Cooking subtitles it. The mixture tasted good (ahem!) and the end product tasted good too...but the mixture did not hold together well and the cookies correspondingly fell apart. Weird. But I followed the recipe! Not fair! I demand a recount! Actually, I think I would follow my instincts next time (and there will be a next time - they're yummy) and add a little more moisture and also not try to make them into fiddly little Viennese-cafe-like shapes and just go for a good, solid spoonful glob of biscuit. Anyway, try them for yourself if you're so inclined and let me know how you go:

50g sugar

100g butter

150g flour

1 egg yolk

1 small packet vanilla sugar

Mix. Roll out into short crust. Bake at about 180. The recipe then calls for them to be joined - in very Austrian fashion - with apricot jam but I just left them au naturel.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Fuzzies

Yesterday one of the Age newspaper's columnists published a light-hearted but nonetheless fairly cutting review of one of my favourite shows, Inspector Rex: http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/tv--radio/canine-cop-has-the-chops-for-comedy/2009/06/24/1245522871409.html. One thing the writer really didn't seem to get about the show is that it's because of the sometimes slightly falling-flat jokes, the just-too-complicated-to really-happen tricks with the dog and the overall improbabilty of the situations the characters sometimes find themselves in, that make this show is such a heartwarming and satisfying way to spend an hour. Also, of course, the stories are simply often really good but the Age managed to overlook that too!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Taking up more space

I've just read this lovely post from 13mimosa -http://13mimosa.blogspot.com/2009/06/poppy.html - and it got me thinking rather laterally about how much like plants we humans are - or could be. There's a lot of love, accolade and admiration to be found for the "fresh...(and)...tall" and, I would add, beautiful. But not always the same sentiment for the "droopy" and the "twisty", "taking up more space" with their problems, imperfections or differentness. In point of fact, here are my orchids, still keeping on, losing some petals, losing some buds, but still keeping on.
PS Thanks 13mimosa for getting me thinking, and for reminding me of why the blogosphere is often a very interesting place to be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I am a big fan of many things German and Austrian. I think I may have mentioned this before in my ramblings through the Wood. I am trying to learn German, I have travelled through Germany and Austria and I've spent ten years of my life researching and teaching German history. I also love German and Austrian food, and I've collected a number of cookbooks on this very topic. But. But. But. Cooking German and Austrian food scares me. It looks complicated. It looks hard. It's got things like yeast in it which you have to heat and knead and cajole into doing the right thing by you. So imagine my surprise and delight when I successfully made Austrian-style dumplings on the weekend. And they were easy. Equipped with my Specialities of Austrian Cooking cookbook, I figured I'd just give it a go...no harm in trying...I can just throw them out when they don't work...and then they worked!

500g flour
40g melted butter
300 ml milk
1 egg

Mix it all together. Make little dumpling balls. Drop them into boiling water and when they bob to the surface, you're good to go. I added sliced chives to the mixture and a little bit of salt.

Love doing things I didn't think I could do. Going to try some sweet ones tonight, with apricot sauce. And sorry, no pictorial evidence...they were gobbled up in ten minutes...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ode to Orchids

A short post today to celebrate my favourite flower: the orchid. I have always loved them - they look exotic and delicate but I think they are actually quite tough. Certainly, their cut flowers will last for weeks. I suspect my love for orchids was in part passed down from my paternal grandmother who also loved them and had them dotted around the garden in the ground and in pots. I have never been brave enough to try growing my own (they do look a bit temperamental!) but luckily my dear Fellow Traveller regularly buys me a bunch!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not in the bleak midwinter

And capped off by a very pleasant winter's evening by the heater watching re-runs of "Foyle's War" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foyle's_War) and eating my (if I may say, very tasty) version of an apple crumble (peel, slice and stew apples, place in casserole dish with muesli, brown sugar and butter on top, bake for about 30 minutes at about 180). Happy Winter Solstice!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crafty goodness

Look where I went today...a papercrafting fair at the local showgrounds and I spent quite a bit of money without too much trouble at all - though not outside of my self imposed budget! Three lovely new stamps, lots of gorgeous stickers and this beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Japanese paper. My friend who came with me is a fellow Japanophile. We chose seven sheets of paper each and then I said, "We should go." "Yes." she said. I am planning some cards with today's booty and I would also like to do something else with some of the Japanese paper. Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's the little things

My grandma used to say "courtesy costs nothing." The Dalai Lama has said (as I mentioned in a post once before - sorry, but I love this quote) "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." Now, I'm not suggesting my grandma had a lot in common with the Dalai Lama. In fact, if I were able to ask her now, I don't think she would have known who he is. And, I would guess, vice versa. But I think these ideas amount in a roundabout sort of way to the same thing. I don't want to be a curmudgeon about this and (I hope) I don't quite fit the criteria of a "grumpy old woman" just yet, but the slow, the polite, the gentle, the side-track, the giving-way, the kind seems to be becoming a little passe. Since I have consciously tried to step back, re-assess and let myself off the hook a bit, I have noticed this more and more. Again, I know, I am not coming up with anything mind-blowingly original. And I am first to admit that pushy, bossy, impatience-wise, I have a lot of karma to make up. But saying 'thank you', stepping aside on the footpath to let someone past, making a phone call, returning an email. It's all so easy but - and not always out of spite or malice - it so often falls prey to 'I'm just too busy for all those little things!' But, as with kindness, you just never know how it will be received on the other end.
PS The photos these last few days have been random selections from my camera, taken - obviously! - prior to its demise. Today: a grapefruit on our tree last summer. Yesterday: a flower several years ago in our local botanical gardens.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A cup of tea

In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath writes, "There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them." I think the same thing could be said about a cup of tea. Last night I fell asleep on the couch. I had been reading the excellent A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas and despite how glued to that I really was, it being winter (I know, I'm blaming it for everything), me still being sinusy, the heater hissing soothingly and my dear Fellow Traveller playing his violin in the study, I thought I would rest my eyes for just a minute. An hour later I woke up. If someone had asked me my current mood at that precise moment, I would have said 'relaxed and thoughtful'. I decided to make a cup of tea and while I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I being both the overly introspective soul that I am and still 'relaxed and thoughtful' (the journey into the cold kitchen hadn't squashed that out of me yet), I started to mull things over.

Now you may've noticed - or maybe it's not that clear yet - that this blog is a bit about a journey. My journey to, I guess, work myself out a bit after what I feel has been a long time of expecting one thing, expecting a certain direction, and then being horribly disappointed and angry with the world at large when it didn't pan out. I am wary of pop-psychology speak but I suppose I am trying to 'own' what goes on in my life, carve my own path and not wait anymore for other people to do what I imagine they should be doing and then blame them when things don't happen as I imagined they would.

So, while I was pouring the water into my cup, a thought came to me. Perhaps this is just as it should be. It's not original, I know, and far greater and wiser minds than mine have already come up with it and expressed it far more eloquently. But for the first time I could really see how it applied to me. Perhaps everything is happening just as it should. No more 'I should have done this...', 'Everything would be different if I had...' I didn't. I did what I did because this is how it should be. Then, more than a little spookily, I read the following in A Three Dog Life:

"I was between lives. "What is it?" I asked. "What is it we are longing for?" He thought a minute and said "There isn't any it. There is just the longing for it." This sounded exactly right. Years later and a little wiser, I know what the longing was for: here is where I belong." (page 30)

There is a lot of stuff tied to these ideas, I know - fate, destiny, all sorts of things - and I would really love to hear what you think.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In late breaking news: woman's creativity NOT crushed by marking exams!

Quiet times here in the Woods...I am marking exams... Suprisingly though, this has not utterly stifled my creativity! Last night I finished a set of 4 cards for my blogging buddy Helena (http://sketchandcolour.blogspot.com/) which I have to say I am moderately pleased with and I have just now sewed some quirky 60s buttons on a very boring jumper and so giving it a much-needed and long-overdue overhaul (I have been staring balefully at it in the wardrobe for months). I would like to show you these efforts but my camera is temporarily kaputt and the usual stand-by - the phone on my mobile - has similarly become tired and emotional. Also, I don't want Helena to see the cards before they reach her! :) So, you will just have to imagine my inventive endeavours. But, so that this entry is not text, text, text, I thought I would stick with last week's nostalgia theme and post this little treat. Hope you all are having a great weekend :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mad Men

I must be getting old. Or maybe I just watch too much tv (but hey, it's winter)! More nostalgia (of a kind) today.

Is anyone else watching Mad Men, the tv series about the Madison Avenue ad agency, set in the early 1960s? If you're reading this in the States, I think you're episodes and episodes ahead of us here. We are only about 6 eps into season 1 but I have to say I love it as much as the advertising for it told me I should. Many of the characters are repugnant - the men are so sexist! - but there's something compelling about it nonetheless. Initially I thought I would just watch it for the wonderful 60s decor and costuming because I really didn't like the characters. And this normally switches me off a book, tv show or movie very quickly. But there's something kind of mesmerising about just watching the sets unfold before you - they really do make you feel that you are looking through a window and into another era. And I have always said that if I could do one thing it would be to time travel, so this suits me very well. My mother who was actually around in the early 1960s (though not on Madison Avenue!) isn't a fan of the show but she does concede that they set the scene very well.

Now I find myself warming to the characters. Especially Peggy - slightly dorky, a little too earnest but genuinely nice and looking for just a little more than what the mainstream is offering. So, I'm posting a link here to a great exchange between her and Joan, the office bombshell (see, now I'm slipping into 6os speak!). Just as I've discovered the joys of embedding a clip (thanks WS!), the poster of this clip has preventing the embedding of it. Oh well! Follow the link if you like and you'll get the gist of it, just the same!


And if you're a Simpsons fan too, you'll probably like their spoof of Mad Men's opening credits:


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nostalgia time!

I love music. It can alter my mood in an instant. And I have pretty eclectic tastes too - what I'm listening to really has to match my mood in that moment and so, different things appeal at different times. And I have always loved music. I can remember getting my first LP (that dates me nicely!) at age 4 - it was Abba and I was a major fan. I even had Abba socks and like a lot of girls around the world at that time I'm sure, I wanted to have straight blonde hair just like Agnetha. A big ask for a kid with curly dark hair! But one of the first music clips I remember seeing on tv is this one by Andy Gibb. It wasn't exactly this one - I remember the 'official' clip in which he was riding a bicycle - but this song still brings back strong memories of the the 70s for me, and takes me straight back to that moment. How about you? What's the first song you remember?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Brrrrr...Monday Mirth

I have been a little under the weather these last couple of days. I've had long-standing issues with sinusitis and asthma and despite the weather being exceedingly cold and despite the fact that I was already sniffing and sneezing, I decided it would be a very good idea to clean out our very dusty storage space on Sunday morning. Not very surprisingly, within an hour I was sneezing violently and my left eye had swollen up. Brilliant! So Sunday afternoon was a write-off, spent on the couch watching a truly daft Elvis movie and feeling sorry for myself. I felt a little better yesterday but the weather this long weekend just passed - rain, cold winds - has not inclined me to do too much at all. It is 8 degrees (celsius) here at the moment...

But enough of the downer that is winter. The second season of "Flight of the Conchords" started here last night and so I thought I would give you the link to one of my favourite songs of theirs, "Foux De Fa Fa". I mean no disrespect to the French by posting this link. I have been to Paris and it's lovely. This is more about the absurdity of what they teach you at school when learning a foreign language.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rainy days and Thursdays

It's a weird thing, but there's something about Thursdays that have an element of flatness for me. I run out of puff on Thursdays. I lose impetus on Thursdays. What seemed perfectly do-able on Wednesday is dead-in-the-water on Thursday. If I am going to do my semi-regular tango with depression, it'll be on a Thursday. Which brings me to...Thursday. So, today I bring you some quiet little pictures of some quiet little corners of our backyard. I live in what was my grandparents' house, so this backyard has always had a sense of wonder for me. It was once an extraordinary scene of horticultural triumph: trees laden with plums, lemons and grapefruits. Vines of raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries... Now it is different and (I think, at least) for two pretty viable reasons: my grandmother was in a position to spend a lot of time working on it and water supplies were a bottomless pit in those days. Or maybe I'm making excuses. Either way, we're going with a slightly more down-to-earth (sorry) approach these days but in amongst the weeds and the slightly-too-long grass (as well as the lemon and grapefruit trees which chugg quietly on) there is still some magic to be had and I am all for believing that the fairies at the bottom of the garden need the slightly-too-long grass as cover and shelter, lest the humans or the elements get too close for comfort. And as A.A. Milne so rightly said: "Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wanna See Wednesday

Through my good and dear friend Bodecea, I have discovered a terrific site: http://vaude.twoday.net/ There, amongst many other interesting things, Distelfliege has 'Wanna See Wednesday' in which she shows off some part of what she very wisely terms 'the sacred everyday life'. I thought I would pick up this really nice idea here at the Wood. So, to start, here is part of my grandmother's dinner set. It is very beautiful 1930s Royal Doulton but she used it every day of her life and I think that's pretty terrific. It wasn't squirreled away in a cupboard - don't touch the Doulton! - but instead she and my grandfather ate off fine bone china every day. For me, this is a very worthy idea indeed. There should be some beautiful, meaningful or special aspect to every day - and this doesn't have to be delicate porcelain - it can be a thought, a hug, a tv show, a cat or a sandwich! - but something that gives the day just a little lift. Perhaps some of you have read Sarah Ban Breathnach's Romancing the Ordinary which talks about this sort of thing too. Personally, it's an idea which sustains me, and gets me through the rough patches. Sometimes I've really got to look for that special thing, but it's always there somewhere.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A little bit of quiet

Not too much to say today - and perhaps sometimes a little bit of quiet is just as good :) - so just a little snap of my marjoram which is growing very happily on the front step. I've just potted some bergamot and red sage too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

On Being Scared (and other random thoughts)

Well, the beef pie (see Saturday) was a bit of a fizzer. Not terrible, but a bit flavourless and not really worth a photo. I did, however, redeem myself last night with 'Poor Man's Quiche' which turned out very well. So well in fact that there's no photo of that either but for the opposite reason - it was gobbled up while we were watching "Doctor Who" (the Easter special - love living in the Antipodes - the Easter special in May!).

Which brings me to my next question/thought. Why do we like to be scared? Not that "Doctor Who" is especially scary - suspenseful maybe - sometimes just plain daft. But I have lately developed a penchant for scary tv shows. Tonight, for example, "Supernatural" is on, and on Thursdays, I tune in for "Ghost Whisperer". I am by no means a brave person spooky-wise. I jump at shadows and I have definitely heard things going bump in the night. I am still getting over "The Sixth Sense". So what's the attraction to being scared? Does anyone else share this? Maybe it's because when the show ends, I can turn the TV set off safe in the knowledge that it wasn't real...or was it? (sorry, thought I'd inject a bit of scary movie drama in there)

Another brilliant op-shopping Monday today. A lovely summery dress (hugely appropriate when the barometer is struggling to pass 10 degrees, I thought!) which I saw in the chain stores for $60 this summer just past...today I bought it for $4.50! Global financial crisis? Pah! Just gotta think a bit more laterally about spending... And I found some very cute silver frog charms whose cuteness manages to show through even in the awful-fuzzy-on-the-mobile photo above. I think I'll turn them into earrings...

On a completely disparate note, I have been reading the Dalai Lama's The Art of Happiness. I believe spiritual belief is an enormously individual and personal path so I'm not advocating anything here, but there is some very good and interesting stuff here. Has anyone else read it? Just ponder:

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."