Saturday, January 31, 2009

Doubt film flyer

0902 Doubt film flyer
Originally uploaded by rooruu
The cinema foyer wasn't brightly lit, so even though I kept my camera as still as possible, this was the best photo I got. And then I thought, it's oddly appropriate to the film's subject matter. I know all four major performances are Oscar nominated, but overall while I'm happy to have seen it, it's not on my Pete-Repeat list. If any of them do win Oscars, I can nod sagely and say, ah yes, I saw that film....

(in an airconditioned cinema.  werry welcome, in this weather!  not the only reason to go, of course, but additionally appealing.)


Morning mist

0902 morning mist 01
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Don't be fooled. It's not winter, but a balmy summer morning, early. That mist is soon gone, and then it's been heating up and up and up. The seven day forecast still has our part of the world being 35degC or more every day (close to 100F) or in the forties (definitely over 100F) next weekend.

February's the hardest month of summer - heat, humidity. Mind you, it's been hotter in Adelaide and Melbourne, enough to cause power outages and buckling of railway tracks.

Roll on autumn.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Alexander McCall Smith books

Now why would this photo make you think that this house has been holding an Alexander McCall Smith readfest?

With the holidays over, the pace has slowed a bit. But so far, having read all the published Isabel Dalhousie books, the first No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book (the second will be here any day) and being partway through the first 44 Scotland St book, I've enjoyed each in their different but similar/similar but different ways (the sly observational humour in each of them, for instance).

Just have to get his latest daily novel, Corduroy Mansions, onto my bloglines (which it doesn't seem to want to do, so I've added it to my favourites Feeds folder. If you know how to bloglines it, do let me know!). You can find Corduroy Mansions here:
and there's a daily audio feed/podcast as well as the text feed.

What's really happening? Up early, it's hot. Go to work, it's hot. Work hard, it's hot. Come home, the house is hot despite drawn curtains. Sleep, but it's hot. Wake up, it's still hot. Seven days of 35degC or more (that's 95degF) is rather wearying. Lots to do at work, though, and friendly faces. Roll on March (when it cools down a bit and is less humid).


Monday, January 26, 2009

Australia Day

Thought I'd better mark Australia Day, so here's the front cover of today's Sydney Morning Herald. Surreal artwork by Reg Mombassa.

It's thankfully cooler today, much better for a day when people are out and about.

I've just done a catchup of blog entries on films and books and more (can you tell it's work tomorrow, holidays over?).

Yesterday the extended family gathered to celebrate a big-0 birthday, and just sitting around talking across the generations was one of the best days of the holidays.  Hearing more of Dad's stories of the RAF in WW2, talking sushi trains and Thai food with the older kids, talking books and films and who's done what, all sorts of conversations big and small, and much laughter.  So good.


Star Gazing by Linda Gillard

I bought this one on a punt, because the premise intrigued me: a woman blind from birth who visits the Isle of Skye with a man who says it's so she can see the stars. That sounds clunky and suggestive, and in some ways cliched, but it isn't. It's a lyrical, engrossing, well-written novel that I'm really glad to have read.

To start at the end, as I closed this book I realised that, in a way, we all come blind to any novel we read, dependent on the author's words to make the novel's world visible to us. Maybe we have other visual experience on which to draw - we've been to Edinburgh, or seen pictures, or know what leafless birch tree looks like - but even so, we come blind. I hadn't quite thought of it in those terms before.

The story is substantially told from multiple points of view - Marianne, the blind woman; Keir, the man she meets; Louise, her novelist sister. I got a fascinating insight into what must seem unimaginable if you've never had sight - how to explain a wheeling mass of birds in the sky, or glass? It's not at all a sentimental book - part of the attraction between Marianne and Keir is the fact that he doesn't make unnecessary or patronising concessions to her blindness, but instead finds ways to challenge her, and to provide musical analogies to explain the unexplainable.

The author has a website here:  and I got my copy of the book from the Book Depository . Not sure if it's in Australian or US bookshops as yet.

Recently I read The Forgotten Garden, and have now mostly forgotten it as I didn't enjoy it at all. This, however, is one I'm going to be happily recommending to friends - better written, better story, more engaging characters.

Oops: I typed the heroine's name as Margaret, when it's Marianne.  The author kindly pointed this out, so I'm happy to have fixed it.


Film/movie catchup: Slumdog Millionaire, Valkyrie, Milk

This is the pick of the bunch.  It starts with a torture scene, and at times is hard to watch, and yet so much of it has you on the edge of your seat, utterly engaged with these characters and this story, as you find out how Jamal, a chai wallah (tea boy) and slumdog, knows the answers to the TV quiz questions.  A terrific film.

0901 Valkyrie
Competent, workmanlike, at times tense - I'm damning it with faint praise, aren't I?  I'm not sure how much of that is due to the fact that one knows the outcome - the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler failed - and yet I'm happy to say that I learned new information about the immediate aftermath of the plot.  The British headliner actors do their thing - although Bill Nighy's general is so fluttery you wonder how he would have become a general - and I was glad to learn at the end that Von Stauffenberg's wife and children survived.  It's by no means a terrible film, but it's not a great one, either.
Sean Penn is such an accomplished actor.  He is so different in this to the contained man of The Interpreter, or the death row inmate in Dead Man Walking.  It's a biopic done with care and attention, well acted, using archival footage to make you realise how much, in some ways, the world has changed.
As the cinema didn't have posters of Slumdog Millionaire or Milk, I've used and acknowledged posters from, where among other interesting possibilities you can search posters by designer.  So click here to see the many other striking posters designed by the same person as did the one for Slumdog Millionaire.
And what else did the cinemas have to offer this week?  Air conditioning....and it's good to pack in a few before the holidays end and the world of work takes over next week.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and book price maths

Having zoomed through the entire Isabel Dalhousie Sunday Philosophy Club series by Alexander McCall Smith, I've started on the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. This one I picked up in a second hand book shop as a start and to see if I like it.

I did. Very much. One down, eight more, almost nine more to go.

I don't think I'll be buying any of them at the full rrp in Australia. See, here are the sums: second hand prices for these seem to range between $8 and $12 (I'm talking second hand book shops, not lucky op shop finds). The rrp on the paperbacks in bookshops that sell at rrp (and some charge more on some of their stock AND DON'T TELL YOU) is $22.99.

Ordering from the Amazons, or Amazon marketplaces, or Australian online shops attracts postage, which offsets any discount.

BUT: if I order them from the Book Depository ( they are around six British pounds each, which on the current exchange rate is just over $12 Australian. Plus free shipping from the UK.

Which leads to my question: why can a UK online bookshop sell me the identical book for about half the price charged at my local bookshop? It's crazy, somewhere in that equation. Admittedly, our dollar has risen against the UK pound recently, and dropped against the US dollar, so UK prices have improved. But even so.

So sometime next week (Book Depository orders take a week or two at most, easily beating the Amazons' month or so) I'll be reading the second book in this series and enjoying more sly humour.


Bacon and egg pie and salad

The Loaves and the Dishes cafe in Leura remains a favourite - a mouthwatering cabinet of quiches and wraps and pies, crunchy interesting salad and yummy dressing.

Dachshund dish

0901 dachshund dish
Originally uploaded by rooruu
A few days ago we went up the Blue Mountains to browse antique and vintage shops and escape the heat.

This dachshund dish made us chuckle!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

100 Word Stories: a tale about a tail

It’s a steady thump, a heartbeat. Maybe muffled by the living room carpet, Dane’s body glued to his latest computer game but carefully not moving his chair so he doesn’t run over the dog. Maybe louder on the kitchen’s wooden floor as I race around making dinner and accidentally on purpose dropping bacon scraps. A damp nose pushed into your hand, a warm, heavy weight on your feet in winter.

Or it was. Dane looks up, abandoning his screen for long enough to ask, “When will he be back?” and wait for an answer.

“Tuesday,” I say, missing Dogger too.


Australia Day Address from the Chop Exchange

Explanation for those outside of or unfamiliar with this byway of Australian culture: Sam Kekovich got a name on TV for outspoken, blunt, politically incorrect, controversial and generally very funny comedy speeches, and for the last few years there has been a Sam Kekovich ad (funded I'm guessing by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation) addressing the nation in advance of Australia Day, encouraging us to eat local lamb.  This is the 2009 one, complete with references to events in the previous year.  YouTube has video of previous Australia Day Sam Kekovich addresses.


How hot?????

Today's temperature reached 42 degrees Celsius.  In case the translation is helpful to you, that's around 107 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the shade.  Hot?  Damn.  Yes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

P-sychic, like.

And did an Australian newspaper that I've read, or report that I've seen on TV or heard on radio, mention Praise Song for the Day, Elizabeth Alexander's poem for Barack Obama's inauguration? 

Nope.  Not a one. As p-sychically-like predicted on this here blog.  Sad but true.

Lots of info, YouTube and transcript in a blog entry from the day - just click on the link or scroll on through January 2009 and you'll find it for your reading, listening and viewing pleasure.  And I do mean pleasure.  It's still rolling around happily in my head.


Hamish Macbeth

0901 Hamish Macbeth
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Ah, it's been hot these last couple of weeks. Hot hot hot. The weather, for starters. Days of 35degC+ (hovering around and exceeding 100degF some days). Sure, the washing dries almost as you peg it out, but there have been no proper cool changes, with thunderstorms and rain and southerly busters, to relieve the temperature, and the grass and greenery is browning off almost as you look at it - crunchy lawn underfoot, anyone? If you don't have airconditioning in your house, you're heavily tempted to go out (cinema, for instance, or to higher altitudes) in search of a cooler place. Sleep isn't restful as you toss and turn, unable to cool down. The forecast says we have several more days of this to endure. Endure is the word for it. Me, I'm a spring and autumn girl, for the climate around here.

On to other meanings of hot...I won't explain*, except to say that there's been a Hamish Macbeth fest going on around here for the last couple of weeks, every program from series 1 to the end (series 3). It's lovely, clever writing, well acted, quirky, plots twisting in unexpected ways. Sometimes you just have to sit and laugh aloud at what you're seeing and hearing. A great ensemble cast (as with SeaChange, a wonderful Australian TV series with a similarly excellent ensemble cast, quirky, clever writing and distinctive location).

I noticed, with amusement, that writer of many episodes Daniel Boyle had a couple of line-or-two bit parts, as "Handsome Sailor" and chuckled at his enterprise and initiative - if you're the writer, and writing yourself in, why not make the part of the sailor "Handsome Sailor"!

Or maybe I'm just a tragic person who reads credits too carefully.

The background is a Buchanan tartan kilt. Modern Buchanan, fairly unmistakable and definitely loud - I've seen it cited as one of the gaudiest tartans. Go to Google images and look for "Ancient Buchanan" to see a less lairy version of the Buchanan colours and sett.

It's hot. Did I mention that? It will almost be a relief to be back at work, where there is intermittent airconditioning.

It's too darn hot. (That could be a good line for a song...oh, it is already. OK).

*because this blog only has intelligent readers

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A self portrait, with apologies to Shepard Fairey

Well, it's so much fun to play with the Obamicon, particularly today.  With apologies to Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic poster of Barack Obama.
Still, lookee there, it's a portrait of the blogger.  Rare, very rare.
You upload a photo, then can adjust the blues and red and white and if you like upload it to their gallery.  Or, as I did, take a screenshot (Control + Print Screen), paste it into a program and save the image file.  Do leave a comment if you blog one yourself!
Found the link courtesy of Remo, which has more remarkable, quirky merchandise than you'll find anywhere.

"Praise Song For the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander : Inauguration poem

It may not survive in full in edited highlights of Barack Obama's inauguration, but Elizabeth Alexander's poem was, to me, outstanding - with the simplicity and complexity of the best writing.  Here it is, in case you missed it.

I've removed the text of the poem, so go to this link to see it in print in a location on the net where it has the poet's permission to be.

Added later: see a video and read reactions to this poem here. Added even later: I've put in the YouTube link. I know not everyone will agree with the poem, or the declamatory style, but I was more than happy with both. Poetry is compressed language, rich with meaning, above all, and this was a poem.

Added later still: I've found a version that is set out as Elizabeth Alexander said she wrote it, in tercets.  Source of this info.  Here's a thoughtful critical analysis of it as a poem from the Guardian (UK) and a more critical review from the Times (UK).


Kiva: Azra, Nazreen, Sharifan and Zaitoon/ Inauguration Day

Almost a year ago, I undertook my first Kiva loan, to Moriya Nabieva who sells fabric in a Tajikistan market, in Yavan.  It's now paid back; and in the intervening year, I've undertaken seven more Kiva loans.  Facilitated by the internet, fuelled by the imagination of an American couple who said, why not?, this forum for microfinance is a remarkable venture.  I wrote on my Kiva profile back then that this is a great adventure, and it remains so.

Having woken at 3.30am to watch the inauguration of the 44th American president, Barack Obama, live on television (yes, before-sunrise early!), I figured the best way to celebrate was to take neighbourhood action.  Not here in my own community, but the wider community, give something from the opportunities we have here so others have opportunities too.

So my ninth Kiva loan is undertaken today.  Here's more information about Azra and her group:

My name is Azra. I am 49 years old and married. I live in a city named Borewala, Pakistan. I own a two room brick house in the city where I have lived for the past 25 years. My husband's name is Ibrar Hussain. He is a driver by profession. He drives an auto-rickshaw (a local three-wheeled motor vehicle) and has 15 years of experience. I am a mother of six children: three sons and three daughters. My eldest son is an electrician. My middle son works in an office. My youngest son reads in 2nd standard. My eldest daughter reads in 3rd standard. My middle daughter reads in 2nd standard. My youngest daughter reads in kindergarten.

It’s my wish to give my children a good education, because I truly believe that education is the key to success. If a person takes advantage of education they can achieve their goals. To achieve my wish, I earn money with the skill of sewing clothes. I get orders from my relatives and my neighbors. I have used the income to pay the school expenses for my children.
I am applying for a loan to buy repair tools for my eldest son, so that he is able to repair electrical items easily.
I am a group leader of some women in my locality. Nasreen akhtar baji wants a loan to buy wood to resell. Sharifan baji wants a loan to buy cosmetics to resell. Zaitoon baji wants a loan to buy groceries for her grocery shop.
This is a group loan. The loan funds will be distributed among the group members, each of whom will invest in their own business. The members mutually guarantee each other's loans. If one member does not repay, the other members are responsible.
I'm not American, but the principles of Barack Obama's inauguration speech hold true whichever country you are in.

Barack, live on Australian television, very early in the morning
We have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly.
What could you do?  This loan was fully funded within the time it's taken me to write this blog entry, but there are new loan opportunities on Kiva every hour, every day.
PS he mentioned patchwork in his speech.  We don't just have a great craft, but it's also a compelling metaphor.  Did he knit anything, or sculpt or fashion or plane or sew or scrap?  Nooooo!  Patchwork! she says with a triumphant grin.


Monday, January 19, 2009

100 Word Stories: An invitation with three conditions

Green.  She hadn’t worn green in fifty years.  Not since…
The invitation seemed ridiculously expensive to her, professionally printed, and for an eighteenth birthday.  Suzannah had always been daft about her girl Chloe-Anne.  And why on earth, wear green, bring flowers and a plate with at least one green food.
Green.  Ken had said he loved her, loved the green dress.  That night, the earth had rumbled her from sleep and in the early light of morning the news had come of those miners who wouldn’t return.
Fifty years.  Was it time, now to try wearing green?  Just this once?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

100 Word Stories: Peanut butter, a llama and the police

I hate peanut butter. Mercedes wrote in her blog that her llamas love it. I suspect that llamas are much like camels and cows, unselfconsciously capable of more saliva than I want to think about.

It’s hard not to be cranky when you come home to a broken door and find that the burglars had time and better taste than you would hope. Not just the TV, but Aunt Lucy’s china. It’s all only stuff, I know it’s only stuff. The policeman held out my box of tissues just as my running nose and streaming eyes were getting entirely embarrassing.


Quilt in progress (N)

0901 quilt in progress
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This is the N quiltlet for Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine (vol 18 no 2, due out in 5-6 months). A bunch of favourite fabrics, happy moderns mostly. They didn't end up like this, but when the magazine is out, you'll be able to see it complete.

These are some of the fabrics I was cutting the other day - had the fabrics out, so I figured there was a happy quiltlet in there too, and cut some more to make it happen.

It's nearly finished now - the binding is half sewn down and (sometimes the bit that takes longer!) the instructions and article are nearly complete too.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Quilt in progress (M)

0901 quilt in progress
Originally uploaded by rooruu
A sneak peek at the M quiltlet for Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine. Love that vintage conversational scissors fabric, and that kind of dead plain vintage button.

This is going to be vol. 18 no. 1, due out in about five months (the published quiltlets are up to G for Gundagai in the alphabet of Australian places).

I'm halfway!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Cutting out a quilt

0901 cut quilt fabric
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Sometimes, you have a brilliant idea for a quilt. Then you start cutting (you've decided to include as much variety as possible). Fish out fabric, press with the iron, cut, trim to size, repeat.....then fold dozens of pieces of (now slightly smaller) fabric to put back in the stash.....

But the upside is that this quilt is going to include so many favourite fabrics. Yum. Fabrics from Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler, Denyse Schmidt and lots more.

So you bung on a DVD or talking book, and away you go. Some hours later, halfway done with cutting this quilt, you have a pile of anticipated fun that looks something like this.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

100 Word Stories: Birthday surprise

On Wednesday, the bride doll was gone. Mellie pressed her nose to the shop window, gulping a tear.

She looked everywhere. Mam chased her away from the airing cupboard, and that half-forgotten cupboard under the stairs.

“Leave it, Mellie. Stop sticky-beaking.”

But her birthday was on Friday, and they’d had baked beans for tea three times this week. Da came home late and tired, and Mam had been working extra shifts.

The birthday parcel was too small. Mellie tried to smile. Inside was a different doll, with clothes she knew her Mam had sewn, clothes like Mellie’s. A new friend.


Road Trip 4: exhibition I: The Art of Couture: Paris and London, 1947-1957

The object of the road trip was The Art of Couture exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery . (Note: information on that link, but only one picture.  More pics on a link below).

0901 Golden Age of Couture 03

We weren't the only tourists who were drawn to Bendigo by this exhibition - not only an extraordinary exhibition, but also the only place to see it in Australia.

It's in a separate wing/entrance of the gallery, and with an admission charge ($16 for adults).  Clever window decals, too (note the artwork/sculpture pretend pavilion in the background).

0901 Golden Age of Couture 04

Allow yourself plenty of time.  Last entry is 4.15pm, but you'd want well more than 45 minutes: if you watch the films of couture being made and shown, they run for well over half an hour on their own.

0901 Golden Age of Couture 01

But of course what you want to see are the frocks and gowns, hats and suits and the elegance and style of it.  The exhibition was first shown at the Victoria and Albert museum in London, which has a legendary collection of costume, fashion, couture and design.  They called it "The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947 - 1957" and their website is more generous with images at this link .

If you're interested in the exhibition catalogue, this is what it looks like:

(That dress is beautiful!).  The catalogue is a published book ie. available from booksellers, not just the galleries.  The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide) has it here (from whence I borrowed the image).  It was about $60AU at the gallery.
There's a public carpark at the back of the gallery that has sections for up to four hours of parking.  Rates are cheap: we approved of the Bendigo habit of charging for parking, but not a lot - so people do move on and parking spaces are available.
And after all that practical information, what will you see?
Beautiful beautiful clothes, made with skills you can hardly imagine - thousands and thousands of hand-sewn beads on a single bodice, the cutting and draping of fabric to create quiet elegance.  A whole way of living, walking, standing, being that's utterly different to how most of the world lives or will ever live, even in our well-off first world society.
It also struck me how so many of these clothes were not made for broomstick figured young women, as is the focus of so much 'high fashion' today.  Women of many ages could wear these and have elegance and style.  Some were made for the wives of rich men, but some also for women with husbands in high positions, ambassadors or representatives, who needed a 'working wardrobe' of this sort of style, like the women of the royal family (at which point I'll note that Princess Margaret was apparently an early adopter of Dior's New Look and judging by the garments on display, she had a tiny tiny waist).
Part of the exhibition included dressed dolls: there were at least two touring exhibitions put together just after the war, with (skeletal wire with papier mache faces and real hair) doll figures dressed by couturiers in Paris and London to show these new fashions (and in a way that was less expensive than making full size costumes).  There were also photographs of the clothes by people such as Richard Avedon, with excellent information on how these were composed to highlight the clothes, and how the style of photography was changing to a more active style, rather than stiffly posed models.
The lighting is low, as you would expect with fragile textiles.  In just one case, the shadows cast by the placement of lighting meant you couldn't see something well enough, but the rest was fine.
Lovely, lovely work to see.  Don't miss it.  It closes late in March 2009.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

100 Word Stories: Rear window

Story prompt from 100 word stories blog archive (and why is it that so many of these seem to be written in anticipation of slasher/murder tales, or at least a goodly dollop of tomato sauce being involved??) was thus:

Laid up with a broken leg you look out of the rear window of your apartment and see…

I’m never here during the day, on weekdays.  Their rhythm is something I’ve never been here to notice.  The stop-start burr of the postie’s motorcycle.  Mrs Holt takes her yappy pug for a walk at eleven o’clock – I hear them in the corridor.  

But in the back garden of the next door house, under a shadesail, an older man is restoring a sixties Ford.  He has tools laid out carefully, and from what I can see of the car, much to do.  If I open the window, I think I can hear him whistling, but I don’t know the tune.

Julie & Julia

0901 Julie and Julia
Originally uploaded by rooruu
OK, I'll admit it, I tripped over this while browsing bargain audiobook CDs on the Barnes and Noble site a while back. The concept got my attention - funny, a tad nutty but intriguing. I ended up buying the audiobook on CD and the book (the hardcover was on special. I suspect I'm sounding cheap about now, or at least thrifty. Do remember that a) audiobookCDs are more expensive in Australia and b) I did have to pay postage).

Anyhoo. I'd started the book a while back, and was chortling through it while simultaneously trying to imagine cooking with as much butter as Julie was describing. Julia Child , and her 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (containing the 524 recipes Julie set out to cook in a single year, and blog about) are, I gather, American classics, through the book and Julia Child's TV shows.

The Australian equivalent, I guess, would be Margaret Fulton . The Australian Women's Weekly cookbook was in hundreds of thousands of homes, but it was/is a collective work, lacking the same cult of personality/individual imprimatur. I still refer to MF's Encyclopedia of Food & Cookery, and have a copy of the AWW Cookbook (the harcover one before they started publishing dozens of softcover narrow-focus ones) that was a school prize way back when.  Now, of course, the world is full of telecooks.

On the recent road trip, for some of the time, Julie & Julia got its turn on the car's CD player. As read by Julie Powell, the author, so you KNOW she must have the emphases right... and it was great fun to listen to.

If you're of tender sensibilities, be aware that she is not, or at least addresses with gusto (and salty language) topics that might make your mother wince here and there. But she also talks about food and cooking in wonderful, evocative ways, as the project she undertook to in some ways save her life, instead changed it in ways she could never have imagined.

This must be one of the earliest blog-to-book success stories. The film (directed by Nora Ephron) is due out later this year, with Amy Adams as Julie, Meryl Streep as Julia and Stanley Tucci as Paul Child.

Julie's original blog, The Julie/Julia Project
Julie's current blog
IMDB entry for the film

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

100 Word Stories: A stroke of luck

I hate weeding.  Small weeding, the persistent stuff that you can never get rid of, onion weed and wandering jew, is no fun.  But Grandma’s vegetable garden, a single bed now when once it was an entire backyard, is one of her few pleasures.  So every week, I weed it.  She sits in a garden chair, behind the big old house that’s now a nursing home, and points out what I’ve missed.
But then we slice a fragrant tomato, warm from the sun, and I understand why it’s worth weeding, and why I’m lucky to still be fed by Gran.

An Award!

Candy at Not A Walking Encyclopedia gave me this award!
This is what she said:  The Prémio Dardos is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web. I award this one to Patterning The World and she well deserves it. Not only will you find her original fiction on her blog but she spreads the word about methods to help those less fortunate. She also is a quilter and miniature enthusiast.
Thank you, Candy!
As a mark of return respect, I'll note here for anyone in Australia who also plans to set their alarm clock for 3.30am Sydney time on Wednesday 21 January, that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) is broadcasting Barack Obama's inauguration on ABC1, live and uninterrupted.  Here's the TV guide link.
Quite accidentally I was in Washington DC when Bill Clinton was inaugurated for the first time (I was on a fellowship grant, travelling through North America), and it was an amazing time to be there.  The atmosphere...well, the closest I've got to it since is probably in Sydney during the Olympics in 2000, the general bonhomie, goodwill, the sense of shared celebration.  It was a great time to be there, just being among that crowd, walking the Mall, hearing the oath of office not only through the radio (I was a fair way away, but could see the Capitol building) but also faintly through the loudspeakers.  Whatever one's hindsight opinion of his presidency - back then at the start it was all optimism, the hope of change, and I imagine it's a similar feeling now, too.  The audacity of hope.


Collector is a tiny village just off the highway to and from Canberra, not far from Lake George.  It's little more than a pub, a general store and the very highly regarded Lynwood cafe.

On my way home from the Canberra quilt show last winter, I detoured onto the Collector road because it was snowing, and I wanted to stop and enjoy this novelty and how beautiful it was.

Remember this?
0808 snow near Collector NSW 04

Well, this is how it looks in summer.

0901 Collector road in summer

Bit of a difference!

I haven't finished with the Road Trip pictures - more soon.  Thanks to Ngaire and to Jamie at Bendigo Accommodation for the lovely comments - always good to get ticks from the locals (that's ticks of approval, not the kind with rather too many legs and a habit of adhesion...!).  And to C/Quiltycat - what a pity you'd gone to visit where we'd left to visit not far from where you live!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Road Trip 4: architecture

One of the pleasures of travel is seeing the architecture of Away.
Sometimes it's just the angles of a modest nineteenth century cottage, like this one in Violet Town.

0901 Violet Town house top

Or the pleasure of seeing a classic corrugated roof weatherboard cottage with wire fence and a tumble of pink roses - this one also in Violet Town.

0901 cottage, Violet Town

Or else something grander, like the Art Gallery in Bendigo, Victorian sandstone and the clear influence of nineteenth century gold rush money.

0901 Bendigo Art Gallery 02

0901 Bendigo Art Gallery 01

We parked next to the Art Gallery, in a car park overlooking the oval and this graceful grandstand - iron lace done well, as historically it was (and in modern terms, usually isn't).

0901 Bendigo grandstand

In the city centre, there were lots more buildings to admire - influences from English architecture, other tall thin buildings with mansard roofs that looked like they might be found in Paris, and a whopper of a cathedral (which I didn't photograph).  Rosalind Park has this Soldiers' Museum, with Queen Victoria keeping an eye on things:

0901 Soldiers' Museum, Rosalind Park, Bendigo

For me, it's sometimes the smaller details that are most engaging.  Here's the ex-fire station, next to the Gallery - a wonderfully grand side door:

0901 former fire station, Bendigo

And (from memory on the same street, View St), this relic of past activity:

0901 Bendigo laneway and sign

In Castlemaine, the visitors' centre is in what we guessed was once a wool store, with wonderful green paintwork.
0901 Castlemaine tourist info centre

Lots to see, and much more than I could photograph on one short visit.  Castlemaine (that's cassulmaine, not carslemaine, one learns - rhymes with hassle rather than parcel) and Maldon (wonderful main street!) too are rich in beautiful buildings, large and small.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Road Trip 3: food

Away is a chance to try something different, maybe for lunch (a dee-licious sandwich isn't hard to pack) and definitely for dinner.  Like, maybe this sort of pizza: white wine chicken with napoli, mozzarella, spinach, leek, cracked pepper, roasted mushrooms and port salute cheese from Clogs in Bendigo.

0901 pizza 01

We did bypass this opportunity (in the main street of Bendigo); although if you had hollow-legged children, it could have been a useful option.

0901 opportunity

The gourmet pizza was good enough to have another one from the same place the next night: roasted pumpkin with napoli sauce, spinach, roasted capsicum, goats cheese and mozzarella.

0901 pizza 02

Two nights of good pizza meant something different was needed for the third night.  Noodles!  A Combo Box from Noodle Box  includes: thin egg noodles, roast pork, lean beef, chicken, prawn, shrimp and Asian vegetables in oyster sauce.  Yum!  There's a local branch of this franchise, I've since learned, so it will be a future destination for sure.

0901 noodles

I won't mention lunch at the Bendigo art gallery's cafe, which was the most tasteless frittata I've ever had the misfortune to encounter (I took to vainly adding salt in search of some flavour). The water for the tables was warm from the tap in a bottle hot from the dishwasher (on a day when it was nearly 40degC outside, hot hot hot - they had no ice) and the service indifferent. So forget about that.

BUT: on the way home I had the pleasure of a sushi train lunch with the (charming) Shopping Sherpa , after an expertly-guided tour of her doll house exhibition (of which more in another post). I didn't take any photos of lunch, but she did. They're here.

And to tell the truth, when you're travelling for hundreds of kilometres, it's good to have the fast food option of Subway , for decent nutrition and the crunch of fresh salad; also, although I don't drink coffee, a McCafé may be the only place to get decaf cappuccino in small country towns (on the main road in-transit food places, anyway). We did notice that the coffee brands in Victorian cafs are quite different to those in NSW; seemed like a very diverse market. One particularly good coffee place in Bendigo is the Wholesome Bean. Free trade, different varieties of coffee, a tiny hole-in-the-wall place that smelled fabulous. The menu looked good too, only it wasn't lunchtime. But they had decaf.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Road Trip 2: Meg & Mog Patchwork shop

0901 Meg Mog Patchwork shop 01
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Rushworth in Victoria isn't a very large town. A thousand people, according to the welcome-to sign. Maybe in the US you'd think that's plenty to support a quilt shop, but it's a trickier call in Australia, with fewer quilters per capita; and Rushworth's a think-about-it drive from anywhere else.

But there, as we drove through Rushworth, was a sign: quilt shop open. And so we stopped. It was nearly closing time, but a quilt shop is a quilt shop, and a break was welcome too.

It's a charming little shop. 

0901 Meg Mog Patchwork shop 03

The garden's suffering from the same dry weather and lack of rain as much of the country through which we drove, but the pink roses were blooming, and the shady verandah looked like an inviting place to sit.
0901 Meg Mog Patchwork shop 02
A carefully chosen selection of lovely fabric, samples everywhere you looked of quilts and dolls and embroidered pieces and stitcheries, with the patterns and all you needed to make whatever it was you fell in love with.

0901 Meg Mog Patchwork shop 04
Purchases were made. Oops, there goes the 'no fabric buying in 2009' plan. Oh well. I can always get back on the wagon.

0901 Meg Mog Patchwork shop 05

If you're travelling in the area, make sure you stop at this quilt shop.  Meg was lovely too, but said that the duty 'mog' was elsewhere on this particular day.


Road Trip 1: on reading, and being Away

I've just been on a road trip.  Good to be Away, good to be home.

0901 evening
You know how I listed a bunch of books I was going to read? Some went on the road trip, ready in a bag for the reading moments that come on road trips, maybe in the evening as the sky goes softly pink and the trees turn into silhouettes, but there’s enough light to read by, at least for a while.  It's good to prepare yourself with the drink of your choice and a plate with seaweed rice crackers, a white Castello cheese and some green grapes, if it's January in Australia when the grapes are in season (Castello and seaweed crackers are in season all year round, hurrah!) (but don't substitute strawberries for the grapes - something about strawberries isn't happy with Castello).

And then you can always read before sleep, in the luxury of not having to get up at the crack of dawn for work, but being able to be a bit indulgent, flexible, foolish about finishing several more chapters than you otherwise would. 

Maybe read a chapter or two over breakfast, before you dig out maps and guidebooks and the local phone book to plot where you want to go, what to see that day in this place that is new to you. Maybe just sometimes have time to stop, and disappear into a book; and if you’re lucky, be travelling with company who read too.

I worked out, on this trip, that there are books that are voyages. You need to fortify yourself to undertake them. I’m not necessarily meaning Dickens or Tolstoy or such (none of which were on my list, some of which I have read) (why did I think I should tell you that?), but books that require a certain amount of attention to character and mood, to the intricacies of plot or language or the rhythm of the sentences. Books that are voyages, so you need time, and attention, and to bring to them your focus so you can journey well. 

And then there are books which are easier. A small boat, wooden, with oars. All you need is a picnic basket, and a bit of not-too-energetic rowing, and maybe you’ll find a tree to moor the boat, and a place to spread a rug and lie in the shade and disappear into the story. Maybe the second time you read it, if it’s good enough to warrant the second reading, you’ll pick up the intricacies of language, or the qualities of plot or structure or writing that you didn’t notice first time through. But first time through, it’s reading for fun, a little row on a pond and the certainty of being home in time for tea.

There’s another class again, the books which are utter bonbons, the written equivalent of the meringue movie, light and fun and nothing more, but that’s enough.

Actually, there are lots of sorts of books. Ones you read for pleasure, for duty, for information, from necessity, all sorts of reasons.  Many worlds to explore, to disappear into, many stories to entrance or engage or amaze or terrify you, depending on what you like.

But I found, on this trip, that by and large I’d taken voyage books along, and they didn’t really fit my mood.

We went to Bendigo, to see the Art of Couture exhibition at the art gallery there, wonderful fabulous clothes from 1947-1957. Of which more in another post.

Among Bendigo’s treasures is the Bendigo Book Mark , a second hand book shop that is one I’d love to have nearby always. A huge selection, beautifully organised, well priced and with a charming proprietor in Nigel. He greeted customers with equal charm and dealt with each customer with respect and thought, whether they were after military history, or their weekly fix of ten romance novels, or whatever.  (I'm not sure if all the stock is on their website - but it's a browsable shop for sure and certain if you're in Bendigo).
0901 Bendigo Book Mark 1
0901 Bendigo Book Mark 2
0901 Bendigo Book Mark 3
After our first visit, I emerged with The Sunday Philosophy Club, by Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve been resisting Alexander McCall Smith, for no good reason except he seems to be so ubiquitous and has such a prodigious output (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, the 44 Scotland St series, the Sunday Philosophy Club/Isobel Dalhousie series and so forth, each one seeming to get a sequel pretty much every year) that I wondered if I’d like them. But on holidays, and in a second hand book shop, you sometimes take a punt on something you might not otherwise try. I bought The Sunday Philosophy Club, and started it that evening, and had it finished, with pleasure, rather quickly (I am a fast reader, always have been).

0901 book: The Sunday Philosophy Club

Somehow, now home a few days later, I’ve already read book two (Friends, Lovers, Chocolate) and lent it to a friend; read book three, The Right Attitude to Rain which will be also lent to that friend; lent book one to someone else; and courtesy of new and secondhand book shops on the road trip, came home in possession of books four and five (The Careful Use of Compliments and The Comfort of Saturdays - US title The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday). Hmmm. Ample evidence that I’m enjoying spending time with Isabel Dalhousie in Edinburgh (it’s so many years since I was in Edinburgh, and all I can remember is the mad parrot in the hallway of the B&B, and catching the bus into the city on the one day I had to explore there). Right book/s for the time and place. Not a voyage, but a pleasant row (rows?!) on a shady river. And I’m sure I’ll enjoy rereading them when I’m dawdling for detail, not racing for plot as you do first time through. Keepers. Lenders, but I do hope they return promptly.

So now I’m home, and still with some summer holiday time, the voyage books can take their turn. (After books four and five.  I'm on a roll.)  Away isn't always away from home.

(If you're after the hardback of The Careful Use of Compliments, or from the 44 Scotland St series, The World According to Bertie in paperback, Clouston and Hall/Academic Remainders had them yesterday at reduced prices.  They were new arrivals, so if they're not on their website, you can phone them).


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Eight is enough. Holiday reading!

Eight quilts.  Well, quilt tops.  A basketful!  The two scrap tops I've been writing about, another little bright happy one I, um, assembled the other day because, well, just because - oh, and not a scrap of fabric was bought new, instead I cut up some lovely fabric I bought a while ago; the one I made yesterday (the cricket was on, OK?  Third Test, Australia vs. South Africa, and this means radio cricket commentary and that's just EXCELLENT to quilt by!) from some fabric and idea that had been percolating for a while (more shopping from the stash!); and, oh well, a couple (OK, four) others from the last while which it would be good to get quilted and done.
My poor Bernina sewing machine is begging for a break.  So eight is enough, at least for the next few days, when other things are on the holiday agenda.
Isabelle, you really should take up quilting.  Before you retire, so you can enjoy it sooner.  And no, it doesn't pay the bills here, but gosh it's fun! (Creates the bills, more like, the muttering says) (Phooey to that!).
For a change of pace, here's the current holiday reading list:
The story of Edgar Sawtelle (Wroblewski)
The good thief (Tinti)
Comfort food (Jacobs - same author as the Friday Night Knitting Club)
The book thief (Zusak)
Graceling (Cashore)
The household guide to dying (Adelaide)
I'm halfway through American wife (Sittenfeld)
I do have Morton's The shifting fog, but The forgotten garden left me a bit cold and feeling manipulated, so it's slipped down the list a bit.  I know lots of people liked TFG, but it just didn't do it for me.
Lots of possibilities in the next few days (and the absolute conviction that this evening's visit will mean that my dear mama will beat me at Scrabble.  She always does!).
Happy holidays!
(Excuse the extra full stops.  Blogger seems to have decided that it doesn't believe in spaces between paragraphs, bless it.)