Monday, February 28, 2011

Things I once knew


In the early 90s, I did a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major study in English Literature. Reams of essays I wrote on Shakespeare and Marlowe, Keats, Shelley and Byron, Tennyson and Arnold. And then I moved onto other things, decided my major study should be history, and that was kind of that. But lately I have been remembering all the beautiful poetry that I read then and I am beginning to rediscover it. The wonderful series, "The Romantics" (hosted by Peter Ackroyd) has helped me to revisit these poems and, actually, to get a bit more out of them than I did twenty years ago! My favourite at the moment is Keats. Do you read poetry? Or is there something you once immersed yourself in and then forgot?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kawaii - Not!

Images from Click to enlarge

And as the perfect antidote to a sugary overload of Japanese cuteness (or 'Kawaii' as it is called), I also discovered in Sydney the website, - there's still lots of super-cute images but each one has a delicious little sting in its tail. Love it. Suits my weird humour completely. I showed these to my husband last night and he looked at me in that way that he does when my offbeat sense of humour surfaces. "Don't you think these are funny?" I asked expectantly. "No." He replied. You be the judge :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Awaydays No.3

No, I can't read a word of Japanese. That's how much I'm in love with these books. I bought them anyway.

Who doesn't want to embroider a hedgehog?

Or a smiling rabbit?

So beautiful

Yes, I know the clothes' patterns will need to be...ahem...adjusted or shall we say up-sized?

I love the crochet book best of all

I would love to know what the rabbit's caption is!

As I mentioned yesterday, while on my rambling travels in Sydney, I found the most. beautiful. bookshop. ever. Kinokuniya. Oh yes. Originally Japanese (as you may have guessed), they now have shops throughout the world. Apparently their store in Sydney in the largest bookstore in Australia. It's surprising that I was able to leave.

I found the most beautiful Japanese craft books that have completely renewed and reinvigorated my interest in:

1. Japan (and so, all things Japanese)
2. Embroidery
3. Clothes-making (and so, using my sewing machine)
4. Drawing (and so, making my greeting cards)

Who knew that a visit to a bookstore could be so inspiring?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Awaydays No. 2

Back gate of the oldest house in Sydney

Back door of the oldest house in Sydney

Detail on an old building at the Rocks

Does this one need a caption? :)

I have been to Sydney several times before (and seen the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House etc., etc.) and of course it is only an hour away by plane, so I can go up there any time really, but I made a point of avoiding the tourist spots this time around just the same. Though I did walk down to the famed Rocks area one day, which is one of the oldest parts of Sydney, only to find half of it was shut and the other half was so boringly commercial and touristy that there was little to occupy my interest. I suppose I have done my fair share of souvenir buying in other countries (Tirolean hat, anyone?), but here I felt no need for a stuffed koala or kangaroo.

The one thing I did want to see - the oldest house in Sydney, which I think was built in the early 1800s (you have to remember we're in the 'New World' here!) - was closed so I retraced my steps. I had a brief look at the Harbour Bridge and then went back up George St (one of Sydney's main streets) where I found the Cupcake Bakery ( and partook of a chocolate cupcake with deliciously thick peppermint icing (I would've taken a photo but I am sometimes shy about doing this in shops!) and the wonderful Japanese bookshop Kinokuniya ( that's tomorrow's story.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Awaydays No. 1

I think this is a pomegranate.

There seem to be cranes everywhere in Sydney - I had to remind myself a few times that I was not back in Japan!

He's there...look closely :)

In case you've been wondering where I've got to, I've been in Sydney for a week, having a very nice break. My husband was at a conference up there so I decided to hitch a ride and have a wander around Sydney. I had some plans in mind - things to see, places to visit - but the best things I found were the places I hadn't planned on.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship was certainly one of them
( Designed in the traditional sparse yet rich Chinese style, they are so very peaceful. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping off the busy paths of the Darling Harbour area and quietly pottering through the various beautiful landscapes, past the ponds full of gaping carps (hard to photograph - I think I was distracted by all those opening and closing mouths!) and into the lovely open-air teahouse where I sipped jasmine tea and watched the lizards pacing self-importantly to and fro.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Grey day music

I don't know if this ever happens to you but sometimes I hear a song and it so exactly captures my frame of mind, I'm astonished by it. That happened this morning. Completely by chance I heard this song by a Dutch band, Spinvis, over at Hammie Hamster's blog ( I had never heard of Spinvis up until that moment, and in fact I'm not sure if I have ever listened to a song in Dutch before. Something about it taps straight into my quiet, mostly peaceful but slightly melancholy mood today, which is matched by grey, humid and eerily still storm weather.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm a little teapot

Sometimes without even realising it, you start collecting something. Teapots are a case in point. Both my father and I are great op-shoppers. Dad started to buy me unusual teapots when he saw them. Now they line the kitchen windowsill! He gave me this one - a very sleek, Zen-like number from Vietnam - this morning. I love it.

What are you collecting?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sunshine on a cloudy day

I've discovered lots of lovely new blogs lately and so I've borrowed a little quizlette from maedchen blogt ( -

Listening: Wham's "Club Tropicana". Cheered me up against all odds today!
Reading: Nancy Mitford, Pigeon Pie. I love the Mitfords and I love novels from this period - a perfect match for genteel reading :)
Seeing: Supernatural. I love a good scare.
Doing: Submitted my first collection of short stories to a publisher. I've just found out they bombed, but I reckon it was a good effort to get them written nonetheless. Elephant stamp for me!
Drinking: Water. Dull but so, so good in this warm weather.
Eating: All the beautiful fresh loveliness coming out of my husband's veggie patch at the moment.
Annoying: Anyone who assumes if you work from home, you're not 'really' working.
Thinking: Keep calm and carry on. It's still working...even today...
Pleasing: Just letting go and being whenever I can manage it.
Wanting: I continue my search for the greatest vintage find ever. I'm not sure what it will be. But I'll know when I see it. I'll know.
Planning: European holiday 2011!
Buying: Always a pretty pretty to be found on Etsy.
Clicking: - inspiring me for our Northern holiday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Come into the Garden

Flowers from a succulent plant

I call this 'dog herb' because it's meant to keep dogs at bay (we had some problems with big crazy dogs in the yard once) but I am sure this is not its proper name.

I love dragonflies (although Charlie Brown has always made me ever so slightly apprehensive around them...)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Let them eat cake

Used a basic teacake recipe from The Australian Women's Weekly 100 Favourite Cakes cookbook and added some dried fruit for this one. Looks like I was a bit stingy on the fruit in this photo, but the generous shake of the packet that went into the mixture is in there. Somewhere. I promise. This cake was nearly a Viennese Coffee Cake, until I discovered I had no buttermilk. Then it was nearly a fruit twist until the thought of separating out, rolling and then plaiting 3 lumps of dough freaked me out. Then it was nearly a Cinnamon-Apple Cake until I realised our cinnamon was well past use-by and looked a bit ill. But despite its checkered beginnings, my dried fruit teacake has nonetheless proved to be a success with the eaters of the household.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Down came the rain and...

We had an incredible amount of rain last night - more than I have ever seen in one downpour. Apparently it was leftover from Cyclone Yasi. We went to our local Japanese restaurant and there was water pouring down the front windows and all over the floor. Driving there, we had to stop several times because we just couldn't see what was ahead - just all this water. But nevertheless a very resourceful spider in our front yard, who I saw starting this web yesterday, had it finished by this morning.

Hope the weather is not quite so extreme in your part of the world.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

Some of my favourite things at the moment are...

Lovely 1972 edition of the Australian Women's Weekly 100 Favourite Cakes Cookbook picked up today at the op-shop for 50 cents! Full of all the cakes I dreamed about when I was a child. Swiss Roll, Ginger Fluff Sponge, Rainbow Cake, Teacake... I could actually eat just the picture of the Simnel cake above. We had a lovely recipe card index at home full of very pretty pictures of cakes and biscuits and so on and I would beg my mother to make some of these things, little realising or thinking how complex and time consuming some of the recipes actually were. When that didn't work, I would take the card in question to my grandma. I found one of the recipes hidden at the back of her kitchen cupboards recently.


A set of six very beautiful 60s bread-and-butter plates for $3 at the op-shop today!


Reading a bio of David Bowie and listening to his CDs simultaneously. What a strange and interesting man he seems to be.


Our local Japanese takeaway has opened a restaurant section. We had sushi there last week and tea cheesecake. Oh my.


Having a serious 80s overload on Youtube...Wham's "Last Christmas" - it's cheese but such endearing cheese.


Watching the by-turns poignant and hilarious Getting On on tv. Season now sadly finished!


What are your favourite things at the moment?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In Praise of Libraries

When I was an academic, I was a bit snobbish on the topic of libraries. The only libraries really worth looking in were the university ones. Local libraries were full of junky paperbacks and women's magazines with the recipes torn out. How wrong I was! Since I have rejoined the non-academic (real) world, I have come to love our local library. A really good range of books, a great source when I am researching something and always happy to order books in for me. Brilliant! Today I went in for a quick browse and emerged with seven books (above)!

And I have to share a clip with you from "The Librarians", a very popular Australian comedy.