Summer is well and truly upon us here. It's 35 degrees here today and I have drawn all of the curtains and blinds to try and keep out that baking sun. Despite this, Mr Yellow Wood and I ventured out last night to shake a tail-feather or two to The Smiths - or at least an excellent local cover band, Plagarism begins at home. It was so hot at the venue - no air-conditioning and lots of people crammed into a small room - but damn, it was fun! Good to see that even in my decrepitude (forty next year), I can still move a step or two!
This is all in the lead-up to Morrissey himself visiting our remote shores next week. I only hope that after twenty-six years of admiration I won't be disappointed and discover that the hero has feet of clay (as they say). Twenty six years! Oh my...that's older than most of the people who were there last night!
I hope it cools down soon so I can bake up a few little treats I have planned as Christmas gifts. I've also got a few other little crafty goodies on the to-do list for the weekend. I'll show you next week.
What are you doing in the lead-up to the holiday season?
Ahem...I have an announcement! It is with considerable pleasure that I can announce I have finally learnt to do purl stitch!! It has taken me so long. I just couldn't get it. I watched You Tube instructional videos, read books, looked at diagrams and yet...those pretty little stitches eluded me. But on Saturday afternoon, I thought 'Right! Enough of this flummoxing around!' (or something similar). I sat down with the excellent Learn to Knit by Penny Hill, read everything very carefully and IT STILL DIDN'T WORK! I tried again and again and finally through my own befuddling about and plain and simple perserverance, I got it! I have to say I was pretty chuffed.
So I have just made this sweet little pouch for my Etsy shop. It has a pretty Australian Mookaite stone inside too.
Have you been watching This is England? It may not be to everyone's taste, but I have found the original film (This is England) and the subsequent series' This is England '86 and This is England '88 to be extremely well done and very moving.
Part of that has been due to the beautiful soundtrack by Ludovico Einaudi. Here is one extraordinary example ~
Mr Yellow Wood had a significant birthday yesterday which he was not at all happy about, so I treated him to lunch at De Bortoli's Winery restaurant (http://debortoliyarra.com.au/restaurant.html) in our beautiful Yarra Valley region (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarra_Valley). We had a huge and sumptuous lunch (I am still getting little shivers of joy about the salt-encrusted olive bread) and then we walked around part of the vineyard and through the lovely garden. There were harlequin beetles everywhere (including the little fellow above, perched on some purple stasis), as well as gorgeous roses, trailing nasturtiums and, of course, lots of beautiful grapevines.
As is sometimes the case with what is right under your nose, I had forgotten how lovely the Yarra Valley is. We both agreed we should take a drive up there more often. Especially if there is food involved...
In 1981, when I was eight years old, we went to the Royal Melbourne Show (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Melbourne_Show), as we did every year. I was bought a teddy bear - Misha - who has remained a faithful companion ever since. He is sitting on the dresser in our bedroom now, thirty-one years old and a little careworn but still keeping his end up, as they say. When I was eight, I didn't realise that Misha (or Mishka) had been the symbol of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. When he made it to Melbourne, Misha had been transformed into a football bear and wore a little Hawthorn t-shirt.
Lately I have been looking around the Net at all things Misha, partially on a nostalgia trip and partly due to my love of Soviet-era vintage. There's a lot to be found! Misha is still a very popular bear...
Do you still have a special furry childhood friend?
Lovely 'flock' covered Misha on Dawanda
Hipster Misha getting down in time for the Olympics
Image found at http://femtasia.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/misha.html
Image found at http://paulina.holbreich.org/tag/bear/
Misha as I knew and know him (though no Olympic rings on my Misha)
Hello! I feel like it's about time to start blogging again! I hope you've been doing well in your corner of the world since we last spoke. During my blog break, we 'cat-sat' for a friend of mine who was renovating and then moving house. Midg was with us for about five weeks, and after he spent the first afternoon behind the couch in total shock, we got along quite well. He is fourteen years-old and quite set in his ways, but it was a delight to have him around. I have never had a pet, so I was quite fascinated just to watch him do his thing...
Sometimes he watched me do mine...
Sometimes he really didn't want to be watched at all...
A lot of the time he watched the birds in the front yard with eager interest...
And more often than not, a nap was the activity of choice.
We are thinking now about getting our own pet. I went to Save-a-Dog today (who also have cats - they're at http://www.saveadog.org.au/) and there are so many animals looking for homes. If you are going to get a pet, please think about adopting rather than buying from a pet store. Midg was an adoptee and I saw so many sad canine and feline eyes this morning...
You might have noticed kind of a lot of silence here over the last month or so. Just to explain (because it drives me nuts when bloggers just disappear), I have decided to rest the blog for the time being. One day soon, perhaps, inspiration will come calling again and I'll have some more stories to share. Until that day comes (and I'm sure it will), keep your eyes open and your feet moving forward.
How I wanted this jumper in the winters of the early 80s, as worn by Princess Diana!
Image from http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/
As is the case most winters, I have sinusitis. But this morning my doctor said to me, "But these are the winters we used to have - real winters." I thought this was an extremely good point. One of the things I remember most from my 1970s childhood is the very distinct seasons - long, hot summers made up of school holidays, waiting for Christmas, playing with your Christmas presents and scudding down the slip-and-slide in the backyard and long, cold winters punctuated by hot meat pies, open fires and warm homemade jumpers. So I've decided to make the most of the month and a half we have left of winter and enjoy it for the real, distinctly seasonal time it's proving to be this year!
And this ad reminds me so much of watching TV during winter in the early 80s...
Even if the novel I'm in the process of writing is never published, I have to say it is a most excellent journey to be on. I have so much on my reading list at the moment that I really don't know where to start and I have all sorts of ideas coursing through my mind! Which is just as well because this winter is super dreary with rain, grey skies and low temperatures almost every day.
As well as or in conjunction with my writing, I have been getting creative in my Etsy shop, being inspired still by all things Victorian and Edwardian. I think I may have posted some Ernst Haeckel images before, but I couldn't resist these, so typical of the Victorian habit of documenting nature with extraordinary detail.
These images are from http://shewalkssoftly.com/2011/05/19/ernst-haeckel/
So, here are just a couple of images of bits and bobs I have made for the shop, with a photograph of some of my ancestors in the middle. I love his moustache in particular and so I am now using this as my Etsy logo.
This necklace is available at http://www.etsy.com/listing/103953678/edwardian-downton-abbey-style-necklace?ref=pr_shop
This necklace is available at http://www.etsy.com/listing/103953879/downton-abbey-style-necklace?ref=v1_other_1
As well as continuing on with A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, I am also getting stuck into Virginia Woolf's stream-of-consciousness novel Mrs Dalloway. Have you read it? I've just found a lovely clip from the film version with the always wonderful Vanessa Redgrave as Clarissa Dalloway.
It is so cold here at the moment. If we're lucky, it crawls up to ten degrees (celsius) by lunchtime each day, and it's been widely acknowledged around about the place that it's one of our coldest winters for quite a while. Now I know that those of you reading in Europe and North America are sunning yourselves in the rays of summer goodness (enjoy it while you can!) but personally, I am thinking of wool, knitting and sweaters! So, I was very pleased to find free downloadable 1940s knitting patterns at the Victoria and Albert Museum's website. If you're feeling the chill and you're a vintagey type person, check them out at http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/1744 Personally I have my eye on the V-neck.
Speaking of the V&A and in keeping with my theme of late, there are also lots of lovely bits about different eras of dress on the site too. I made a beeline for the nineteenth century section myself!
And, with yet another segue, I'm reading The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt at the moment. Love it. Lots of lovely Victorian era detail. Have you read Byatt? I think she's a love-her-or-hate-her kind of writer. What do you think?
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the windowpanes.
~ T.S. Eliot
It is so foggy here this morning! Almost 11 o'clock in the morning and still it hasn't cleared. As cold and as grey as it is, though, there is something quite magical, mystical and otherworldly about fog. Out driving this morning, I thought to myself "Anything could be on the other side of this!" And of course, the only thing on the other side of the fog was exactly what I had expected to be there but it's the promise of a whole other dimension emerging through the grey-white gloom that makes fog so appealing (or scary, depending on your point of view!)
Having a nose around on the Web just now, I've found some lovely Australian paintings all about fog.
Morning Fog by Janice Gumbleby. Available for sale at www.madeit.com.au
South West Fog 2 by Kathryn Ryan. Image from http://www.timolsengallery.com/
Passing Trams by Clarice Beckett. Image from http://agsa-colo.netspot.com.au/agsa/home/
Keefers Jetty by Clarice Beckett. Image from http://www.diggins.com.au/?artist=clarice-beckett
As you know, I have a great love for vintage clothes and jewellery. My current obsession is all things Edwardian (thank you Downton Abbey) - not as frilly and fussy as the Victorian era but still very pretty. I have been looking at sewing patterns for Edwardian style blouses with a view to finally mastering my sewing machine as well as knitting patterns for Edwardian cardigans and sweaters with a view to...well, finally finishing a knitting project. The question is, though,
How do you wear vintage in everyday life?
I know this topic has been covered elsewhere many times before but I have never found it to be satisfactorily answered. In my own case, I want to wear something a little different, but I don't want to look like I am a fully-fledged member of a re-enactment society on my way to an event. Neither, and there is no nice way to say this, do I want to look...barmy.
So, what do you think? Do you wear vintage? How do you do it?
The weather here at the moment is very, very dreary. There has been quite a lot of rain and it is becoming very cold in the evenings as well as during the day until about lunchtime. Things seem very special today because we have actually seen the sun. It is, I suppose, winter and rain is a wonderful thing in these parts prone to drought but all together - the cold, the rain and the grey skies - it makes for a fair bit of blah.
Being of a naturally melancholic nature, I have thus been working doubly hard to keep calm and carry on (as they say) and one of my latest treats is to search out beautiful vintage jewellery on Etsy. Obviously, I have no plans (or means) to actually buy these baubles but just to look at their sheer beauty is enough to feed my need for bright spots on dull days.
Which one is your favourite?
Edwardian ring for sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TreasurlybyDima
Edwardian ring for sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ErstwhileJewelry
Edwardian ring for sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetHeirloomVintage
Victorian ring for sale http://www.etsy.com/shop/SITFineJewelry
Victorian ring for sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/adinantiquejewellery
Victorian ring for sale at http://www.etsy.com/shop/Amrapali
We are in the depths of winter here at the moment but I was delighted to see yesterday, when I had a little potter around the back garden, that everything is still there, hibernating, just waiting for spring. There were worms and beetles everywhere under pots, just resting in the moist earth, and these two little snails - a mother and child I'm thinking - all snuggled up in a leaf. Everything is always still there, you just can't always see it.
I have been working hard on my novel this last week or so, while also starting an online course on feature writing for newspapers and magazines. Phew! I must admit that my brain is now a little fried. On this, I am finding that I am not getting through my reading very quickly if at all. I am loving Young Bess by Margaret Irwin, but I open it up to have a read at night and I am asleep within half a dozen pages. Not good for an aspiring writer, or even for someone who just wants to finish a book! When do you do your reading?
Of course, I would probably be a lot better off if we threw out the telly. We have recently had a number of digital channels added to our tv schedule here in Australia, but the quality has certainly not improved. It reminds me now of the worst excesses of tv that I saw in Europe and the USA. Is my life being benefited by watching repeats of shows 40 years old or by a seemingly endless supply of reality shows about the American law enforcement system? I think not. And yet I watch and my books remain unread and my craft projects undone. How do you escape the tv trap? Perhaps you don't? Perhaps you love a bit of trash tv?
Having said that, I am in love with the comedy Arrested Development, which is re-screening on the ABC at the moment. Is anyone else watching it? And Downton Abbey? Don't get me started...
We made a pilgrimage to that great site of Scandinavianess - Ikea - on the weekend and bought ourselves a lovely new armchair which is both very elegant and very comfortable. Yet again I wondered if I should throw out all of our inherited, second-hand and just plain odd furniture and install a big dose of Swedish sleekness. Then I reminded myself that my life would not become sleek along with it as a result - despite what Ikea's image makers might like me to think - and that I do love all of our old and weird bits and pieces anyway. We did however also stock up on some culinary deliciousness, like the Swedish cookie(s) pictured above. The last one went down the red lane (as my grandmother would have said) with my morning coffee this morning. Love Ikea's foodie bits. Do you?
I may have posted a clip from this band - Dead Can Dance - before but their so very unique music has been wonderful for me at my desk lately as I try to keep my wee brainbox ticking over.
The Swedish artist Carl Larsson - one of my favourite artists - doing his thing.
Image from Wikipedia.
I have recently started doing an online art class here, at this gorgeous site - http://www.willowing.org/ - and I am really enjoying it. I have never thought of myself as being able to draw or paint (especially after some very negative school art class experiences!) and I don't think I will ever be one of the world's great artists but I am really loving learning the process and seeing what I come up with.
Speaking of which, Sefarina at Windleben is giving away some lovely blog candy over at - http://windleben.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/weil-ihr-die-besten-seid.html
Sefarina is such a talented artist so enjoying her blog has inspired me to continue on with my (currently) primitive scratchings!
Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s: image from http://chimagine.tumblr.com/
As you are perhaps aware, celebrations are taking place in Britain at the moment to mark Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee on the throne. I stumbled upon a live telecast of the royal procession down the Thames on tv last night. Did you watch any of it? Apparently some people down here in the Antipodes were setting their alarm clocks to get up and watch it live. Like or loathe the Royals, I think you have to concede that Queen Elizabeth had done a pretty fine job and has certainly - if nothing else - done her duty to the utmost. I've been watching a documentary the last couple of weeks about the Queen's reign and her commitment to duty and service is truly admirable. Also, as a commentator on the radio pointed out this morning, the British do do these sorts of occasions well and with a very touching quaintness - the street parties, the flags plastered on everything and, as for the London Philharmonic floating down the Thames on a barge, what can I say? Lovely.
Image from http://englishhistory.net/tudor/beeslychapterone.html
Quite coincidentally, I have just started reading Margaret Irwin's Young Bess about that other Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth I. Have you read it? Really engagingly written and such vivid descriptions. Very inspiring as I battle on with my own attempt at a novel! If you like historical fiction, you'll love Margaret Irwin.
I am taking my cue from the latest posts two of my favourite blogs today - Living in the kingdom of too much and Tiny Happy. I have had some great op-shop visits lately. Today, for example, I found a terrific collection of books, including Joan Phipson's childrens' book, Hide Till Daytime. It's about two children who are locked in a department store overnight. Did you ever wish for that? I had a favourite local shop when I was a child that specialised in Snoopy merchandise. I had my overnight stay there planned right down to what I would...uh...borrow from them while I was there on my own. Little wanna-be Fagin that I was (or perhaps Oliver Twist?) - if only in my imagination! I haven't thrown any books out, though, to even things up so I'd better get onto that if I am to keep visiting op-shops...
Teddy, above, was also one of today's finds. He has been in the op-shop for weeks, looking at me imploringly. I couldn't leave him on the shelf another day today. "Relax Teddy," The guy behind the counter said as I bought him "No need to look so worried - you're off to a good home." I've called him Stanley. What do you think?
Also found some sweet little Mac's Shortbread tins from the 70s. Perhaps this is a Melbourne-only reference? When I was a child I could smell the biscuits baking from our backyard. The factory (obviously) was not far away. Love little old tins for storing crafty bits in.
And Tiny Happy wondered today about what was making me happy. I would have to say the gorgeous warm sunshine - lovely after yesterday's grey day. Autumn's last hurrah, I think. Stanley, as you can see in the photo above, is lapping up some rays.
My ardour for Eurovision is not quite what it once was! In the past, I have managed to watch both semi-final nights and the grand final but this year saw me watching the first semi-final night only. I had planned to watch the grand final, having assiduously avoided any mention of the winner all day on the news (here in Australia we are a day behind with the telecast, so the winner was already known), but our local news service announced the winner last night without so much as a "If you're going to watch Eurovision tonight, step out of the room now..." So, I thought, was there any real point in watching all the way through it last night? I watched Downton Abbey instead. But I must say I loved the Finnish entry by Pernilla Karlsson, "När jag blundar" (which apparently translates from the Swedish as 'When I close my eyes'). Beautifully sweet but perhaps not the sort of 'dance anthem' that is likely to win Eurovision.
You know how when you go to the op shop and you're thinking to yourself 'I'm going to look for a...' Well, of course, you won't find it. Op shops present to you what they want you to find, not the other way around. So today I was thinking 'I would really like a pair of warm, tweedy, nubby pants for winter'. Nothing. Not even something that I could make do with. Oh well I thought, dejected, I'll have a look around anyway. And then I found four of these super-sweet bowls (see one above). They're made by a German Pottery, Waechtersbach, and although they are a little the worse for wear, I love them. I've just checked Etsy and there's a ton of really cute Waechtersbach vintage. Just when I thought Hornsea was my collectable! My husband will be so pleased that I've found something else to fill the cupboards up with...
Did you watch the first episode of season two of Downton Abbey last night? I have to admit to being a little bit disappointed. I'm not sure if it's because there's been a fair gap between the screening of the two seasons or whether if watching it on commercial television with a block of advertisements every five minutes just breaks the continuity too much, but I just found it a bit too much like every other period drama I've ever seen. Upstairs, downstairs, thwarted love, war etc., etc. What do you think? So I couldn't resist posting part two of the Downton spoof I posted a couple of months back (see below)...
The scones incidentally went down an absolute treat on Friday night. I need to make them a little bigger next time but I would swear by this recipe -
Half a pound of self-raising flour
Quarter of a teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of butter
6 ounces of milk
Combine flour and salt. Rub butter in. Mix into a soft dough, using almost all the milk. Turn onto a lightly floured board, kned and then roll out to half an inch thick. Cut into shapes (I used the floured top of a glass). Place on greased tray. Bake in very hot oven (about 240 degrees celsius) for 7-10 minutes. Cooked when golden brown on top and sides are set.
The op-shopping gods seem to be smiling on me at the moment. Yesterday, three editions of Australian Home Beautiful from the 1970s to feed my current 70s obsession. I love the walkway pictured here, with the greenery of the garden so much a part of the house. I also bagged three lovely pieces of Polish linen, all patterned like the one above (which has just come in from the clothesline, hence its rather crumpled state). They are just about the right size for small wall-hangings but in our little house, I am fast running out of vacant wall. What to do?
I found another vintage Puffin too - Henry Treece, Viking's Dawn - as well as Miss Read, Affairs at Thrush Green and the short stories of Chekhov. It also looks like I may have found myself a little job at the oppy...oh dear!
I am going to try out making scones tonight for the first time. I know - how did I get to be thirty-(mumble) and not have made scones? I found Approach to Cookery, put together by the Melbourne Home Economics Teachers' Group in 1965, in an op-shop a couple of weeks ago so I'm figuring their 'foundation scones' recipe for school kids can't be too hard... We have dinner with my parents on Friday nights, so scones will be dessert tonight with jam and cream! Are scones a universal food item? I don't know. If you've not heard of them, they're basically little floury buns - originally from Scotland, I think? There's a (place) Scone in Scotland, isn't there?? Any fellow scone makers out there?
And joy of joys, Dowtown Abbey season two is back on our poor deprived Antipodean tv screens this Sunday. Hoorah! Anyone else looking forward to it?