Friday, March 30, 2012

The Paris Wife

Have just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and found it intriguingly enjoyable after a bumpy start.

It's one of those 'faction' books - books based on a real event, in this case the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson, and then fleshed out to create a story.

The book begins with the two characters meeting in the early 1920s, falling in love and then moving to Paris. Hemingway isn't yet published and the story weaves around his writing, their relationship and people they mix with, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.

The reason it took me a little longer than expected to warm to the book was because I found the Hadley Richardson of the book, frankly, quite wet. Whether she really was or not, I have no idea, obviously, but her prime reason for existing seemed to be to bolster Hemingway. But I went with it and ended up quite admiring her.

It's the sort of book to read tucked up in bed with a cup of tea and an iPhone, purely to reference Wikipedia when a bit of background is required.

Have a lovely weekend. x

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Note to self

Found myself a little early for a meeting in the city today so popped into Typo, only to discover a 30 per cent off everything sale (runs till April 3). I would have happily paid the regular $4.95 for a three-metre roll of this fab crossword-puzzle wrapping paper but brought it home for $3.50 today. Bargain.

Elsewhere, I discovered one of my favourite Australian paper-product companies, Earth Greetings, has a new line of birdy bunting notelets out. I can think of many things I'd do with these (use them on blank cards, lunchbox notes to The Child, attach to a vase of bare branches) besides the obvious by-the-phone pad.

A big dose of prettiness for $9.95 - and environmentally friendly as the notelets are screen-printed locally on 100 per cent post-consumer recycled board and waste paper

Earth Greetings has great credentials to go with their beautifully designed products, and its Christmas cards have been my seasonal card of choice for some years now - a girl can only make so many.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I've been thinking about the comfort I take in rituals and habits lately, not least because of the funeral I went to on Monday but certainly not solely either.

It began when I heard Alain de Botton being interviewed on ABC radio's Conversation Hour about his new book, Religion for Atheists. Now, this isn't the sort of title I'd normally jump at but a lot of what he was saying made sense to me, particularly when it came to creating a sense of community. He seemed to be suggesting (and I haven't yet read the book) the rituals of religion give people a reason to come together in a way that doesn't exist elsewhere.

While secular society has other get-togethers, such as sporting clubs, baby groups or school communities, you have to have a common interest to belong to one of those groups and often those interests won't span socio-economic groups like religious gatherings can. I'm pretty sure I don't know any financially strapped yachties, for instance.

He wasn't suggesting anyone not religiously inclined suddenly turn to God (de Botton is an atheist himself). Rather, that society should borrow or steal similar rituals (taking belief out of the equation) and use them in a secular way. Not unlike the way Christmas is successfully celebrated by making it a time about family and friends.

Monday's funeral was a case in point for me. It was a secular ceremony and friends and family ran the service so every word uttered was by someone who knew Jeremy well. They painted a lovely picture, which was colourfully added to later with a wake in the family's (cul-de-sac) street. It was a beautiful goodbye.

I'm no Alain de Botton but I do take comfort in many of the small rituals of our life. Every morning, my husband brings me a cup of tea, and I see that as a small gesture of love. I've no time for commercial festivals like Valentine's Day but many years of morning tea speak the world to me.

As does the daily gathering of doves on the back fence waiting for my (and the seeds I'm carrying) arrival. The way that every afternoon the sun falls on our rangy and rather scruffy old grevilleas and makes them glow is another small constant that warms my heart.

Life can be very short, so I'm determined to take more notice of every bit of it while I can.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

There's been some devastating news in our community. A good man and a great father has died unexpectedly and the area seems to be covered in a fog of disbelief and grief.

But his is not my story to tell. It belongs to his partner and their two girls, the eldest of which was a good friend of my daughter's through primary school.

I'm intruding just long enough to offer an explanation as to why I won't be posting for the rest of the week. The world feels a little shaky after such news and I need a moment to mentally steady my foothold in it.

Back soon. x

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sky high

I have little to zero interest in Facebook, and have an account only to be a friend of my daughter, which was part of the agreement to let her join a couple of years ago. After policing her page for a while I found it was the same as listening to her and her friends wittering on in the backseat of the car - and there's been many a time I wished I had a chauffeur's window I could activate for instant, relieving silence.

I have nothing against Facebook, mind you, it just doesn't appeal. Or it didn't. Until reading the Sydney Morning Herald on our iPad this morning (I'm not a complete luddite) and found my favourite cockatoos - those who live in Sydney's Botanic Gardens and grace many a head in our family photos - have their own Facebook page.

Not just so birdophiles (I mean that in a nice way, not as people who creepily stare at pictures of birds on the internet) can be amused by photos of cockatoos, but, as a bunch of them have been wing tagged, to discover what their flight habits around Sydney are. Apparently, very little research has ever been done on this before.

Judging by these photos, I may have to move to a high-rise apartment on the off-chance the cockatoos choose to sit on my particular balcony-railing one morning. I'm off to break the bad news to my doves.

Photos via

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I'm a pretty organised person but I tend to be a bit lax with paperwork. To the point where I started getting reminder notices for unpaid bills and penalties for late payment, which was enough to spur me into getting this small but irritating part of my life under control.

It was easy, really. Set aside a day to get to the bottom of the basket I threw everything into and decided to deal with paperwork every Monday. Now when mail hits the letterbox, I open it, throw it in the basket and deal with it on Mondays.

Come Monday, I'll pay what needs to be paid and file what needs to be filed, and then put anything with a due date past the next Monday onto a clipboard. If it's an email bill, I'll put a note to myself on the clipboard. Pretty rare now that I have to spend more than half-an-hour on paperwork - usually about 10 minutes.

My system has been running like clockwork for six weeks now and I feel a bit smug that I've formed a good habit.

If only regular exercise was that easy...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ebony and ivory

The gold ones were too high, so now that there's a bit more room in my wardrobe thanks to the posting off of the giveaway bags I've added these to the shoe rotation. My wardrobe is therefore having an ebony-and-ivory-go-together-in-perfect-harmony moment.

So now I have two pairs of wooden bricks to walk around in. They're surprisingly comfortable as long as I don't step on anything not completely flat as there's no give in the sole. Walking over a grate makes me look a little drunk and I take the right one off when I drive as can't feel the brake pedal properly, but otherwise all good!

Have a lovely weekend. x

ps. I've been to Sweden and have no idea how anyone could possibly totter around in these in Stockholm's designery Sodermalm district. One word: cobblestones...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ides of March

I have a love/hate relationship with Typo. Every time I'm in the new Westfield I have to go and have a look, but when I do I'm disappointed. Mainly because I want it to be Muji, and it's not. It slightly reminds me of Muji, but only enough to pale into comparision and make me wish we had a Muji in Australia, let alone Sydney. It's also got that cheap Cotton On vibe, yet sometimes manages to turn up something fabulous and affordable, which is why I go back.

These stamps are a case in point. I'm using them more than the similar but smaller set I bought from Muji in London so I have to admit I actually prefer the Typo stamps. But still I pine for Muji. I remember my first taste of Muji, which was in Rome. I came out of the shop with a rather large bag (possibly two) only to be excitedly talked about a few minutes later when my logo-ed paper carry bags were noticed by a bunch of Japanese teenage girls. Yes, an Australian comes to Rome and buys Japanese stuff. Very happy I was about it too.

So was delighted when I heard some Muji products would now be available through an online Australian shop, Amasia. Quickly got Amasia on my screen and headed to its Muji section. And there was a pile of Muji stuff. Just not any of the Muji stuff I wanted.

The ides of March may not have been kind to Caeser, but I'm sure he'd be happy knowing that if he was alive today it'd only take him 15 minutes to walk from the Roman Forum to the Muji on the Via del Tritone. Or he could hop on the metro at Coloseo, jump off at Barberini Fontana de Trevi, saving precious leather on his Roman sandals.

He could even pick up some of my favourite dishcloths for me while he was there.

The ides of March have a lot to answer for.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Birthday song

As I waved The Child off to school from our front gate, this magpie was singing the most lovely song. To my motherly ears, it sounded just like a birdy version of Happy Birthday, but that's perhaps because today The Child officially became A Teen.

We have quite a few magpies in the area, two of which have made a nest in a disused chimney in a house across the street. Once the sun is properly up, they either fly to the tops of other houses and sing or walk around the nature strips looking for worms.

This one's having a sing just after sunrise, hence the sky isn't its ususual blue blue yet.

This is the chimney they nest in, snapped just after dawn.

If you don't know what an Australian Magpie sounds like, they have the most beautiful song (hear it here.) When they're all going at it at once, it sounds like a choir singing from above.

And today that choir was definitely carrolling to the tune of Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Square necessities

My wool stash was making feel guilty. Here was all this perfectly good pure wool that'd I'd probably never use. Then I remembered Wrap with Love, the not-for-profit organisation that takes knitted squares or whole wraps from volunteers and then sends completed blankets to people who need them.

So I'm knitting squares in between crocheting my own blanket. The project will take a while as I intend on making an entire wrap according to the pattern, but at least I'm on the right track.

Thinking of squares reminded of all the fabric squares I'd cut for some patchwork cushions I made a little while ago. Being a novice patchworker, I cut way too many patches and had spare squares spilling out of drawers. So these will go towards another cover for our outdoor bench.

I now haven't got a square to spare.

Here's the wrap-with-love pattern if anyone feels like putting their wool stash towards something genuinely useful.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The winners are...

After an unsophisticated allocating of Scrabble letters (according to the order the comments were received) which were then thrown into an old pudding bowl, the winners are Bountifully's lovely Tracey, who's got the bronze leather bag, and Harmony & Rosie's also-lovely Kate, who'll soon be able to tout an orange koala around the streets of London should she so wish.

Thanks to everyone who entered. My other bags particularly thank you as they have a little more elbow room in the cupboard.

I'm planning a trip to the post office on Friday so Tracey and Kate would you drop me an email with your addresses please.

ps. Kate, I always liked the koala bag against navy or dark blue so should go well with the dress you're wearing in today's post!

If you're reading this...
Sally and beezneez, I'm very sorry but I didn't include either of you in the draw as your comments weren't published by blogger for some unknown reason. I've just noticed them now on my gmail account, ie, after the draw. This isn't the first time this has happened, unfortunately, and my queries to blogger have never been answered. I do wish they'd fix this glitch up. Again, apologies.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bag giveaway

I'm giving two bags away, actually, but bags giveway just sounded wrong.

Truth be told, I haven't been doing deals with designers to bring you fabulous bargains. Something far more self-serving. Yesterday's cleaning frenzy included a bedroom cupboard, so I'm now looking for two people to help me keep my house tidy.

I bought both of these bags some years ago from Francesca Rockette, who used to have a regular stall at Paddington Markets. Like them as I might, I know I'm not going to use them again and was hoping there was someone - or two someones - who would like to give them a bit of love.

One is bronze leather, with a pretty paisley fabric lining, and the other is a lined-fabric shoulder bag (there's an emu on the other side).

If you'd like a chance at one, leave me a comment letting me know which one and I'll choose two winners at random on Monday. Nothing more involved.

Will send anywhere.

Have a lovely weekend. x

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Clean break

The house had gotten a little out of control and so I'd put aside today for a thorough clean. Turned out to be a perfect day as the rain was torrential, thunder and lighting was pummelling the skies and Sydney traffic had come to a standstill.

The Husband and Child stayed home today prompted by radio announcements recommending anyone who could should work from home today - the roads really were that bad. Not wanting to be deterred from my task, I popped back into bed (it was still early) and took this book with me. It's a trick I sometimes use on myself.

Looking at lovely clean, uncluttered rooms makes me want some too.

Coffee finished, I hit the shower and started on our bedroom, kicking The Husband out.

"Do you know it's International Women's Day today, Mum?" asked The Child. I did.

Perhaps not the best day to don an apron, in retrospect.

Edited to add: this is a lovely book with nice words, apart from one major boo-boo. One chapter opening lists the great flea markets of the world, and includes Sydney's Paddy's Market. Which is a bit 'What the?' Paddy's Market isn't a flea or vintage market. It's a fruit and veg market with a side of cheap and nasty stuff, including badly made designer knock offs. Gave me a good laugh, though. Believe me, if one of the world's great flea markets was a couple of kilometres from my house, I'd be there all the time. I haven't been to Paddy's in years...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Homemade gozleme

Last night's dinner snapped moments before it was devoured.

Homemade gozleme is so easy to make. All ingredients are in bold.

  • Put 200g full-fat plain yoghurt in a bowl and sift 250g plain flour, 3 tsps baking powder and a pinch of salt on top.
  • Mix with a wooden spoon and then finish off with your hand.
  • Knead dough for a couple of minutes (I don't even bother taking the ingredients out of the big bowl I use) until dough is no longer sticky.
  • Put dough in a clean bowl lightly oiled with olive oil and cover with cling film. Leave for about an hour.
  • Divide dough into four balls.
  • Roll each ball into a dinner-plate-sized circle.
  • Place washed-and-dried spinach leaves on one half of each circle.
  • Crumble feta over spinach.
  • Fold the other side of dough over mixture and pinch edges together before sealing with a fork.
  • Fry each one in a pan with olive oil for a few minutes each side until golden brown.
  • Remove from pan, cut and serve with lemon, salt and pepper.

I cook two at a time in a large frying pan. As the base becomes firm when it's cooked, these are super-easy to turn.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Black Beauty

She may not have a mane, but my Black Beauty does have gears unlike my first bike love Apricot.

Apricot, a fixed-gear bike, was perfect on flat ground. As much as I tried to convice myself otherwise, getting up even a small hill was a hard slog - and we live at the highest point in our suburb so everything bar the corner shop involved more than a little pedal-power.

I told myself it was good for me, which I'm sure it was, but it was also impractical as I found myself using Apricot less and less and not at all in summer. Why young hipsters actually seek out fixed-gear bikes I do not know. Not being a hipster, either young or old, I don't understand. The only thing about fixed-gear bikes that appeal to me are the price but, apparently, you can still pay ludicrous amounts for them. I don't pretend to understand.

So Apricot has been sold to a film company to be used as a prop (minus the basket, I kept that) something she's well suited for as she's exceedingly pretty.

Black Beauty was surprisingly affordable as there's so many more of these types of bikes on the market now. She came from Woolys Wheels in Paddington, as they have a big range and you can road test before you buy, which I was determined to do this time round.

True love.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Stitched up

Never again should I have trouble trying a new stitch for a crochet rug, thanks to the book I bought today. See the blue, white and yellow cushion in the pic in the background? I've been wanting to make that cushion for a while but it was just a prop as the pattern in that book was for the ripple blanket (which I did make and was easy to follow).

Thanks to my new book, though, I now know how to do it.

And lots of other repetitions too.

250 in fact - and all in lovely UK/Australian terminology. And all in both words and diagrams. I almost punched the air in the bookshop but pulled myself together just in time. The colour combinations are fairly attrocious but I'll forgive this otherwise seemingly perfect book. Basic Crochet Stitches, $30, from Kinokuniya. Can be found much cheaper online, if you're that way inclined, but I personally had to have it on the spot.

I should never have trouble crocheting a rug again. But, as James Bond once said, never say never. Or was it Justin Bieber? That doesn't bode well...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kicking autumn

It's the first day of autumn, and I can feel my clothing mindset changing to visions of long sleeves and cardigans in shades of plum and olive, even though it's about 30 degrees outside.

Am thinking all those colours, not unlike the top of my coffee table, should go nicely with my new Funkis clogs.

I was wearing them for the first time the other day when The Husband's business partner remarked that his mum used to be a pharmacist and would wear them to work back in the day. Not quite the look I was going for. Maybe I'll only wear them to Swedish design shops.

Truth is, though, I've also got my eye on the gold sandals. Just the thing for kicking through fallen autumn leaves.