Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Howards End is on the Landing....

Currently reading (& loving) the newest book from one of my very favourites:

Sorry to have been posting about so many books lately but I just couldn't get out of 'book mode' without a mention of this...
Inside the cover:
'Early one autumn afternoon in pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, forsaking new purchases in order to get to know her collection again'.
She describes a book which is left lying on a shelf as a dead thing but also a chrysalis, packed with the potential to burst into new life. How often have you picked up a long ago read book which didn't hold much fascination or appeal when you read it only to have a completely different opinion on second reading due to your own maturity, life changing circumstances or emotional journey?
I really enjoyed Susan's literary blog which came to a sudden halt (after starting to read this book, I found out why) and she makes a really interesting point which I have been mulling over for the last few days. I would be interested to hear your views.
''The start of the journey also coincided with my decision to curtail my use of the internet, which can have an insidious, corrosive effect. Too much internet usage fragments the brain and dissipates concentration so that after a while, one's ability to spend long, focused hours immersed in a single subject becomes blunted. Information comes pre-digested in small pieces, one grazes on endless ready-meals and snacks of the mind, and the result is mental malnutrition. The internet can also have a pernicious influence on reading because it is full of book-related gossip and chatter on which it is fatally easy to waste time that should be spent actually paying close, careful attention to the books themselves, whether writing them or reading them."
Whether you agree with any of that or not, if you are a bookworm, (albeit the unfocused butterfly blog addicted variety like me!!) please read this - you won't be disappointed.......s

Friday, 19 March 2010

Weekend reading....in my dreams...

I would love to be planning a weekend with nothing more arduous than re-reading some of my favourite books...I love these...I bought the first one 'Salvation Creek' for a plane trip back to the U.K from Sydney and was hooked!

Upon my return I had to get hold of the sequel which I enjoyed just as much:

I don't want to spoil your enjoyment if you haven't read either of them but just to give a bit of background info - the first book is the story of how Susan ends up living on beautiful Pittwater, just north of Sydney after a series of life dramas which make her re-assess her priorities about work and where she wants to live. If you know Pittwater and have ever dreamed of living the island life, you will love it. If you don't - it will make you realise what you have missed!
The second book continues her story when she marries Bob who lives, rather fortuitously, at 'Tarrangaua' built as a holiday home for the iconic Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar. Anyone who ever went to school in Australia will know of her most famous work:
My Country

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

I have left out the 3rd, 4th & 5th verses but these three hold the conundrum which dominates a lot of my thoughts and plans...if only I had the conviction of Ms. Mackellar. She evoked, with this poem, the passion of a young nation tired of being seen as 'Britain's grubby apron'. In a single line - 'I love a sunburnt country' she embraced everything Australian and made fools of an establishment that continued to yearn for 'green and shaded lanes'. I think maybe my indecision about green & shaded lanes or the wide brown land is best left for another post.......have a happy weekend whether your love is green or brown........s

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Lot on My Plate....

This was me today - well not exactly homemaker, more sandwich maker....I didn't have such a wide smile on my face and there was steam rising (not just from the AGA I might add).....

The L.A.B had a meeting at the M.H today which he sometimes does - on these days, I get up early and put on my 'corporate caterer' hat (it doesn't fit that well...!!) and off I go...(Good job I got lots of experience at the school canteen)...Shopping, chopping, cutting, slicing.....cucumber and cream cheese....

Trout & watercress quiche....easy peasy.....just line a flan tin with (ready made of course!) puff pastry...bake blind until golden and then tip in pieces of trout (or salmon), a chopped up bag of watercress, some dill, 4 eggs beaten with 300 ml double cream, salt & pepper...into the oven until golden and slightly risen...you're done & the lovely quiche-y aroma scents the house, welcoming the corporate visitors to the home of, if not a high-flying caterer, at least a domestic goddess.....!

More chopping, slicing, mixing & spreading - chicken, spring onion, celery & walnuts with mayo this time....

When I returned this afternoon, there were only empty plates so I think I might be roped in to do it again! I once had a vision of opening my own catering business but after several of these lunches requiring enough food for (only) 4, the very idea sends me into a cold sweat......sandwich anyone?.........s

Monday, 15 March 2010

Opulent Orchids on a Sunny Sunday..

We spent a happy afternoon yesterday at the R.H.S Gardens, Wisley in Surrey where they had a fabulous display of orchids in the glasshouse, to coincide with the Mothering Sunday weekend...
I would never turn down an orchid in any shape or form although I tend not to go for these bright colours - they looked wonderful in the tropical setting of the glasshouse but I find in the setting of the home, they can look garish...

These reminded me of displays I have seen in Sydney and Singapore - displayed en masse in shallow metal bowls and suspended over water...beautiful....

We were hoping to see lots of bulbs but were a bit disappointed - no daffodils in bloom and only a sparse carpet of crocuses...

Interesting blossoms starting to appear....

And you know I just cannot walk past any statuary sporting angel wings!

All in all, a day filled with the promise of Spring...& helped along by a delicious afternoon tea and some time well spent in the huge and well stocked shop which, luckily, had a great selection of books of my favourite subject.....if I tell you that the ones I noted down had titles like 'Saha' 'Meals in Heels' and 'Canteen' you'll quickly guess where I spent most of my time....I didn't have very high hopes for the outing when we arrived and saw the serried ranks of cars stretching as far as the eye could see; I heard the deep sigh emanating from the LAB and a few mutterings along the lines of 'You must be joking' but I can happily report, it all turned out well in the end!
Hope your week turns out the way you would like.......s

Friday, 12 March 2010

On My Wish List this Weekend...

This morning, this plopped through my letter box & I have hardly been able to tear myself away from it! Thanks Sarah at semiexpat for telling me about this place - I have been a regular visitor ever since...their new catalogue contains yet more covetable, beautiful objects....Everything in their shops is displayed stylishly (as in the photos below) and basically, you could just turn up and completely furnish your house from top to bottom & then accessorise every room too - all in the one visit (should be you inclined...I have always found that a disastrous way of furnishing but have had no option when arriving on another continent sans EVERYTHING!! I have never had success that way...I have always regretted at least one of the hurried purchases later and wished I had had more time to think it through.)

This is not in the same league as Habitat or Ikea though (just in case your thoughts were wandering in that direction: catalogues, entire room displays)...far from it - think more along on the lines of the warehouse of a very exclusive (& sometimes very expensive) interior design company and you will be on the right track.

Whatever is on your weekend wish list, have a happy one.....s

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Harvey Nic's Goes Wild...

I spotted these at Harvey Nichols in Bristol at the weekend - the (apologies naturalists amongst you) leopards? are made from what looked like bits of wood offcuts (gave me a great idea for all that kindling we're going to have left over when the weather miraculously warms up!!)

Tin foil croc...

Cling wrap elephant...

Paper zebras...

Really beautifully & imaginatively done ........s

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

And the Oscars go to.....

I am about to raise my neck above the parapet & risk the Sword of Damocles coming down on it!

Guess what? I don't care who wore what to the Oscars, whether Sarah Jessica Parker looked like a greek goddess or a greek statue, whether silver was the colour of the night or if Charlize Theron had vegemite scrolls stuck to her dress!!!!

I am so over actors and 'celebrities' parading their indulgent jamborees of self-congratulatory back patting whilst the rest of us go goggle eyed at the designer dresses they wore (loaned for the occasion for the promotion of the design house of course) or how many security guards were employed to safeguard the jewels on loan from Chopard worth millions....

Yes, I think it's terrific that a woman has been recognised for her work in directing a movie for the first time and yes, Kathryn Bigelow's 'The Hurt Locker' has a powerful message to deliver about the realities of war - however, if it's a reminder of the atrocities of what's going on in Iraq you're after, just let me know when you'd like to come over and we can sit by the window with a nice cup of tea and watch the Hercules planes circle overhead as they begin their descent into R.A.F Lyneham bringing yet more dead soldiers home....

Maybe the mothers, wives, daughters and girlfriends waiting in the streets of Wootton Bassett would quite like a good night out now and again (with a designer dress thrown in? or the loan of some diamond earrings?) Or how about sending them a promo bag filled with goodies just for turning up?

I would like to hand out some Oscars of my own - to the women who are living all around me, alone, for months on end, putting on a brave face for their children and knowing that if their doorbell rings late at night, it won't be revellers turning up for a post-awards party.......there, I've said it....now chop my head off......s

Monday, 8 March 2010

Bath's Buskers...

On any given weekend, you can be sure that there will be buskers on the streets of Bath. This guy is seemingly a permanent fixture...he is there, every day of the week, rain hail or shine, singing his (VERY) familiar Bob Marley songs..or at least, his version....

There are nearly always instrumentalists - currently we are enjoying the beautiful voice of a young girl who sings opera arias....sometimes jugglers, sometimes flamethrowers....

This is one of my favourites - haven't seen him for a while - maybe he will be back when the weather warms up...must be chilly standing still for so long...you can see how good he is....even the pigeons are convinced....

On Saturday, I spotted this guy...haven't seen him before but I was impressed...he played a mean fiddle which I would love to be able to do but whilst walking on a tightrope??

The Bob Marley gets a bit wearisome after a while but all these brave souls make shopping on a Saturday much more interesting....wishing you all a colourful week filled with interesting characters......s

Friday, 5 March 2010

On My Kitchen Windowsill & Show and Tell....!

These red beauties are gracing my kitchen windowsill this week - they look fab with the red AGA (directly across from the window!)

I couldn't resist this next bit!!! Those of you who are familiar with Meredy over at Count It All Joy will have seen her post today about her love of cookbooks (if you're not familiar, go there immediately, she has a beautiful blog full of warmth and fun and lots of yummy recipes!) I share her love of cooking and cookbooks & reading about her 'addiction' (as she refers to it!) I was prompted to do a bit of a 'show and tell' so she can see she is not alone! - I could not imagine a house not filled with well-thumbed cookbooks...it would be like living without the sun (which we have been for some time now here in the grey northern hemisphere)...sorry, I digress...I have loved books about cooking and all things food related for as long as I can remember & when I move house, I have to give serious consideration to where they will 'live'. They must be accessible at all times, to be consulted before a shopping trip, pored over when organising a supper or lunch, browsed over tea or coffee, perused in the bath, beside me with a notebook and a glass of something delicious or piled high on my bedside table....this is their official 'home' - on the kitchen dresser...

A closer view...

The middle 'section'!

The bit at the end.....

And the 'overspill' shelf - in the T.V room!

Ah, yes, I have these too - piles of folders with photo-copies of recipes from T.V programmes, friend's books, the net, & you see the one under the pink folder? That's the one I used to bring with me when we visited the U.K (filled with copies of all my favourite & appropriate recipes depending on the season) to be used when I didn't have access to my collection! (YES I SWEAR IT'S TRUE!!!) It usually had to go in the hand luggage as it was so heavy and attracted quite a few strange looks at the x-ray machines!

This little 'tomato' recipe notebook is from 'Paperchase' - they have lovely recipe folders also...I bought one with 'lemons' for my G.G when she was returning to Sydney and wrote all her favourites in it before she left....oh dear, am I starting another collection?

Hmmm....yes, more recipes....magazines this time.....

The shelves are filling up fast!

Whatever your passion....hope you get to indulge this weekend..........s

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dear Me...

This is an interesting concept....a book put together as a fund-raising project for Elton John's AIDS foundation and foreworded by him; a whole raft of 'personalities' asked to contribute by writing a letter to their sixteen year old selves...

A couple of my favourite paragraphs are these - firstly from Lynda La Plante:

'As I think back to you, my 16 year old self, I want to give you advice but am finding it hard to do so because nothing I have ever done was on anyone else's advice. So maybe I should just encourage you to follow your dreams. If you want something badly enough and are prepared to work towards the end result, it will happen.'

And Emma Thompson:

'Two top tips from 50 to 16 - 1. Don't EVER EVER EVER bother to go on a diet. I know you're obsessed and have that awful thing of standing in the 6th form canteen trying to choose between a yoghurt and a breath of fresh air (whilst wanting chips and a cheese salad). Don't sweat it. Eat regularly, try and avoid rubbish and never diet - you'll end up the same size anyway, so drop it girl and drop it NOW. Believe me - nobody cares. Diets are the best way of confusing your metabolism for the rest of your life. Just be you and get on with it. I cannot tell you how much time and energy you'll save and how much happier you'll be.

2. When he says he doesn't love you, believe him - he doesn't.

That's it. All the other mistakes you make are worth their weight in gold.'

It made me stop and think - what would I say to my sixteen year old self from where I am now? I think I would say this:

1. To thine own self be true - always;

2. Be kind.....

3. Listen to your mother....

4. Reach for the stars - all things and every thing is possible...

5. Never envy anyone else's possessions, looks or talent - just be the best 'you' you possibly can be...

What would you say to your sixteen year old self?........s

Monday, 1 March 2010

And not a moment too soon...

It's been a long, long winter up here in the frozen north....but today the sun came out and tempted us to the window....

In amongst the carpet of white snowdrops, there are some little yellow heads appearing, winter aconites;

The daffodils are slowly but surely emerging from hibernation;

And there is a scattering of fragile mauve crocuses;

The hellebores are waking up too;

Mother Nature is putting on her glad rags and getting ready for another glittering premiere;

Happy March...whether it's Spring or Autumn where you are, enjoy the show!...........s