Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Bright star
I had so looked forward to this widely acclaimed movie, written and directed by New Zealander Jane Campion, whose movie, The Piano, so enthralled me.
But sadly, I was disappointed.
It's gorgeous to look at at times. And for fans of textiles there's a lot to swoon over. Gustavian interiors, too.
But that's all.
The dialogue alternates between wafty and dense, the story is unconvincingly told, the whole is tedious.
This is not to detract from Abbie Cornish, who plays Fanny Brawne so luminously, and now I long to see her in something she can really get hold of and breathe life into. This had very little to offer her.
The story is about the three years when the young, pennilesss Romantic poet, John Keats, and Fanny live in Hamsptead.
They meet. They fall in love.
But, in this film, it's without heat, passion, lust, or, in fact, any conceivable reason.
Their relationship seems totally devoid of chemistry, perhaps because Ben Whishaw as Keats is such an unappealing wuss with his annoying secondary-modern accent. When he starts sprouting poetry, it's just ridiculous!
And how exactly does he achieve that constant five-o-clock shadow? Think about it! It's not possible.
The relationship between Fanny and Keats's best friend, Brown, with whom he lives, is far more interesting because at least it is based on mutual dislike and irritation.
If Brown hadn't said to Keats in the film: "By Jove, Keats old boy! You've jolly well started writing quite well in the past few weeks!", you'd never know Fanny had inspired some of Keats's most famous works.
And honestly, one more brooding, lingering shot from the ground through out-of-focus flowers, or through wobbly old glass windows, or in doorways, and I've have screamed.
We have been spoilt by Jane Austen done well, as my husband said to me on our way home from the film.
We are accustomed to lavish period pieces in which the drama and the dialogue match the sumptuous costumes and scenery.
This one doesn't pull that off.
Two and a half out of five from me, I'm afraid.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Day, with good friends and loved ones, plenty to eat, lots of laughs and a thoroughly great time.
Thanks for coming by through the year, and for all the comments and bloggy fun.

(I just went to stuff the turkey and roast it all ready for tomorrow. The bastard — bought ready to bang in the oven — is frozen inside. Sigh ... )

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Almost there
After three years in storage without us, the old Christmas tree was retrieved from the garage on Thursday. It spends its non-Christmas days wrapped tightly in an old tablecloth, bound in gaffer tape.
In my book, if you can't have the real, proper Christmas tree species — preferably a Norwegian spruce, or any of the beautiful conifers we could get in the US — then I'm going artificial.
I bought this pretend tree 27 years ago, and they do not make trees of this calibre any more. Even my best friend Dace, who is strictly a Must-Be-A-Real-Christmas-Tree girl, was full of admiration and had to ask if it was real or not.
Anyway. I got the tree into the living room, set it up in its stand, and then realised a lot of the branches had broken off, leaving it very gappy and sad-looking.
But two hours with metres of black cloth tape, pliers and the hot-glue gun soon fixed that.
Don't you love Christmas?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Buying books for Christmas?
Then take a look at my brilliant young friend Isme's blog, The Book Slooth.
She's a ravenous reader with broad literary taste, so if you have youngsters to buy books for, and teenagers, you'll find some great ideas there.
Will, Lily and I spent the past few days at Albany, making a Christmassy visit to all my family down there.
Sunday was hot and sunny, so we headed for Gull Rock (above). The metal hulk in the water is the remains of an old ship's boiler — if you click on it, you'll see Will and Lily.
And that's Albany you can see in the background. Beautiful. That pic is looking almost directly south — the next landfall way over that distant line of hills is Antarctica.
I stayed with Mum and Dad while the kids stayed with my brother, who now owns our parents' old house — and with it its beautiful, rambling garden that Mum created out of the sand, with years of hard work and hundreds of trailer-loads of very good soil.
There are dozens of mature rose bushes, many of them David Austins.
All of them are perfumed.
Can you smell this philadelphus (mock orange)?
There's even a pond full of frogs — Will scored this great shot.
Back in Perth now to await the arrival of Nick's parents from Seattle ... and Christmas, of course.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Up to my eyes ...
... in Our Lady of the Immaculate Kitchen (and loving every irreverent minute).

Monday, 7 December 2009

R-e-l-a-x-e-d ...
We've just had four and a bit days here, on the bay down south.
Could not wipe the smile off my face as we walked along the beach. Perfect preparation for the busy few weeks ahead.
We had good mates with us and played a lot of cards, drank some lovely wine and ate lots of yummy stuff. Oh — and we spent a few hours whipper-snipping the bush-block to comply with the bushfire regulations.
We also took a few pics of me sewing, for Lisa's Extreme Sewing competition.
It was a gorgeous afternoon until the wind picked up the sheet I was "sewing" and I thought I'd lose the sewing machine in the water!
Summer by the bay.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Best-laid plans
Here's a pic of beautiful, beautiful City Beach last Saturday.
Will and Jesse have spent many mornings there, and Will is very proud to show off our superb white sand and clean blue water to his mate from San Diego.
Perth people rave about Cottesloe, but frankly, it sucks compared to City and Floreat!
:: I'd set aside yesterday and today for Christmas shopping.
But Lily has asked us to cast a critical eye over her thesis before she sends it off to college this week, so we shelved the shopping plan (not unhappily).
I have orders now for seven aprons to make for Christmas gifts, and I'd set aside Sunday to make them all. I started early and had them all cut out and ready to go, but as I was sewing number one, my sewing machine, the trusted and beloved Bernina workhorse, started acting a little weirdly (nothing major, just a big loop on the underside every 10 or 12 stitches), so I now have a table full of apron parts.
Oh well! I'm keeping calm and carrying on.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Nick Cave
Exquisite song, wonderful video. Four minutes.
Turkey goodness
What a feast we had — these are our two Americans: Lily's partner, the gorgeous Nick, on the left, and the gorgeous Jesse, a really good mate of Will's from San Diego who is staying with us for a few weeks.
We all made surprisingly short work of a seven-kilo turkey, but I'm happy to say there are some leftovers, with gravy and cranberry sauce, for today.
Nick and Lily grilled the corn on the barbie, with delicious results, and Jesse was a great fan of our roast potatoes, which he'd never had before. It seems his family either bake potatoes whole or have them mashed. So he's asked me to demonstrate how to do roasties so he can show the folks back home.
After all the thrills yesterday, I didn't wake up until nine o'clock this morning, when my best friend Caroline rang to find out why I hadn't turned up at her house for our planned walk! Nine o'clock! Shocking!
The house is so clean and tidy this morning — there is nothing at all on the big table, and the kitchen is spotless. Everything's just waiting for me to spread out and make a brand-new mess ...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Much excitement
Well, there have been great happenings here at Schloss Zed today.
To begin with, I received the quilt that I had sent Tracey in FNQ to quilt for me.
OMG: what a beautiful, careful job she has done. It's an all-over pattern of swirls and stars and it's just perfect!
It's no wonder Tracey is widely acclaimed and gets write-ups in magazines. Such a talent.
I'm so very happy with it, thank you, Tracey.
And thanks, too, for the squares of lovely fabric that I'll be able to incorporate into a quilt really soon.
Laura was her with me this morning when this parcel arrived, which was great fun — plus she was able to hold it up for a photo!
This is a swap Tracey and I organised a few weeks ago during one of our many Scrabble games on facebook, and in exchange I'll be making a papercut to send to her. Just brilliant.
This beautiful quilt will be bound and then packed off to Brighton, UK, for my cousin Samantha, who is expecting a baby at the end of January.

:: The other event of great excitement was an email telling me that Los Angeles artist and papercut exponent Elsa Mora had seen my work here and on flickr (you click on the link over on the right of the page) and had added me as a contact.
This is praise indeed — I was astonished.
I have lovely Laura to thank for this, as she emailed Elsa to tell her about my papercuts and got a lovely response, which she then forwarded to me.
Thanks, Laura — you are such a pal!

:: Hey hey hey it's Thanksgiving. I do hope all my American friends will (get through the day unscathed and calm, and) enjoy the most wonderful day with family and friends.
We are celebrating here tonight with turkey dinner for 14, two Americans among them.
Thinking of which, I'd better scoot ...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

All done
Finished (with three or four leaves discreetly re-attached!) and framed this papercut, a wedding present for a young couple with a big old Victorian house.
It was a stroke of great luck that their initials were J and R, beautiful letters to play with, with those lovely long curvy tails ... though now I look at this pic, I think the J is a poofteenth higher than the R ...
Today's brand-new project is to make four aprons for my best friend Belinda, for her to give as Christmas prezzies. Brilliant!
:: Thank you for all the queries about what happened to the moth in my ear! I've had no symptoms, no deafness or irritation, so I'm assuming the moth has ... disappeared.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Catbus bag
Today I sketched and carved Catbus. He's one of the characters from the famous and popular Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli.
... I mixed up colours ...
... and printed on a really nicely-textured linen that I brought back from California in my stash.
I'd bought a twist-clip-frame on line from U-handbag, and used Lisa's amazingly detailed and accurate instructions to make this make-up bag.
It's a 20th birthday present for my best friend Dace's gorgeous daughter, Halina, who is Ghibli-mad.
It's lined in creamy leatherette PVC (which was ever so slightly a teensy bit tricky ... and involved just a teensy bit of swearing).

I reckon I need a room of my own ... just look at the mess I have to clean up — and it's mine, all mine!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

What a treat
While Adelaide and Melbourne have been sweltering with record periods of very hot weather and bushfire warnings, we are having mild, cloudy days and, right now, a torrential downpour.
This is the view from my kitchen/family room door.
Delicious rain. Bring it on. Let's hope we get lots more. And that summer stays away for as long as possible.
:: Oooh — I forgot to tell you about what happened while we were at Eagle bay on the weekend. First night there, I fell asleep only to be woken when some silly muddle-headed moth flew into the side of my head and then started flapping about my ear.
I woke up with a start and swiped at it (and my head), and the wretched thing went ... right ... in. All the way into my ear, burrowing, with wings buzzing and flapping.
I called out to wake David, yelling at him to get some tweezers out of the first aid box so I could yank the moth out.
He came back to the bed giggling and offering me not tweezers but a digital thermometer.
"What am I supposed to do with that?" Flutter, whirrrrr, deeper and deeper.
"Can't you use it to dig it out?"
Silence from me. More flapping and fluttering.
Then Dace comes in and she and David proceed to chuckle some more, while Dace tells me to shine the bedside light in my ear. Presumably so the poor little moth will do a U-turn in my ear's inner-passage and fly towards the light. Hmmm.
"Okay, well lie down and hit the other side of your head!"
Like the moth will just drop out.
The fluttering and whirring are now so deep inside my ear, and so loud, that the moth must be up against my ear drum. Or my brain.
I'm squealing, Dace and David are still giggling.
"Oil. Get the olive oil!"
Dace pours a good half-litre of extra-virgin in my ear and there's a glug-glug-glug noise on top of the moth's panicky flapping and buzzing.
Then silence.
Uh-oh. Now I have a drowned moth in my ear.
"Quick!" laughs Dace, tip your head over and the moth will pour out with the oil!"
No. The oil came out all alone.
Five days later and the dead moth is still in there.

until by now the poor little exha m
Been working on this one for a while. It's to end up in a big old Victorian house in Mt Lawley, so I had to get the feel just right.
There have been a few leaves lopped (they'll be invisibly fixed with microscopic dots of acid-free rubber glue), and I nearly went blind doing the grapes, but on the whole I'm very happy with it — hope you are too, Dace!
:: Went to see Julie & Julia last night — loved it.
Amy Adams is brilliant as the younger, present-day character, blogger Julie Powell. And Meryl Streep is an absolute joy to watch in the role of Julia Child. Before all the hoo-ha about this film, I'd never heard of this cookbook writer, or seen her on TV. Now I'm curious to find out more, having watched Meryl's amazing performance of this enormous (she was over 1.8m tall), vivacious, life-loving woman with her excited whooping and yelping and drunk-looking delivery.
And it's so funny! Meryl must have been chuckling all through making the film.
I was equally touched by the very great affection between her and her shorter, balder husband. Such a lovely man! All in all, a really fun, interesting movie — with blogging in it to boot!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Nick's dad and step-mum, Scott and Jenice, arrive early December and we are trying, via skype conversations, to persuade them that they do not need to go to see the Pinnacles (below).
Whoever works for WA Tourism and has had the Pinnacles to promote has done a cracking job, second only to whoever has promoted Wave Rock (below).
Hundreds of overseas visitors planning their trips must read fascinating, flowing, glowing praise of the Pinnacles and decide they simply have to go there.
So the poor things head off through the sandy wastes north of Perth, full of happy anticipation, only to be confronted by the world's most boring and desolate tourist spectacle.
And when you think that this is what Nick's dad does for a living (that's him on the right in the orange, 50m up a giant redwood) ...

... wouldn't you try to save him?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pretty sure that's not a word, but it does come to mind when I look at the park from my back deck. Here's a close-up.
The two big trees in the park (above) are starting to flower, and the three in my next-door neighbours' gardens are still bare. It will all be something to see in a week or two — afternoon tea, anyone?
On the weekend, my best friend Dace saw the start of the jacaranda blooms and immediately said: "Must be TEE time."
Poor school kids, having to sweat through all that pressure when outdoors everything is spring at its most beautiful.
Pretty warm here this week — we had 31C (87.8F) yesterday and they're talking about 34 (93.2F) today. Windy, too.
Well, that's exciting stuff — talking about the weather.
Here's a not-very-inspiring shot of my brand-new vegie patch, just after planting.

I know it all looks a bit pathetic, but I'm pleased to report that everything is standing up firm and happy this morning. Tomatoes (heirloom, ordinary and cherries), capsicum, parsley, basil and two kinds of lettuce.
I'm putting in melons and pumpkins in a big space out the back, with little Lebanese cucumbers as well.
Paper-cutting later, work this arvo.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The book will never die or disappear.
But I've found a really great alternative.
For the past few months, I've been very happily reading books on my iPod Touch.
I love my iPod Touch. It has all my music and lots of my photos, and solitaire games. And Jamie Oliver's singularly excellent app of 20-minute recipes with videos, shopping lists, step-by-step photographs and the works.
But it is the connectedness the Touch offers that thrills me. We are never apart. In the mornings, with tea and toast in bed first thing, I pick it up and read my emails, and then bloglines to see what you've all been up to.
And now it delivers me great reading.
Both reading apps I discovered on the NY Times — there's an excellent app for that as well, which delivers links to stories in every section of the paper: news, politics, arts, movies, books, fashion & style and so on.
Don't you love that "updated moments ago" at the top of the screen (click on the pic for a bigger image). Gets me every time.
But I digress.
The NY Times led me to e-books and mentioned the wonderful app, Eucalyptus, which you can download to your iPod for about $12 and then use to download free books from Project Gutenberg.
PG is a brilliant and admirable initiative whose basic aim is to make all books in the public domain — those that are out of copyright — available to everyone through the internet. Free.
There are over 30,000 of them.
So I was able to download Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel, The Shuttle, which I'd been unable to find in bookstores here and in the US. And now I'm reading The Lost Prince.
I was a bit sceptical about my ability to read on the iPod screen, though the NY Times article reckoned the Eucalyptus screen was easy to read — far easier than Amazon's much-vaunted Kindle, which is available in Australia now.
I agree. With Eucalyptus you can pick the font size that's easy for you, and it's even easy to read in the dark.
You just swipe the screen to turn a page, and the page you were on flips over just like a real book.
When you turn the iPod off, Eucalyptus saves your page and opens there when you return.
Though you need wi-fi to connect and download, after that you can read anywhere.
I've read three books this way — it's brilliant. I heartily recommend it.
More recently, I read this NYT article, Serving Literature by the Tweet, about a young team in Brooklyn who have just launched Electric Literature, a magazine of writing that will be delivered exclusively in e-book form.
This (below) is the amazing cover artwork on the first edition.
I couldn't resist subscribing, and am loving the first edition so far. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The last two babies in the family have been boys.
So it's nice to be contemplating a baby girl's arrival.
Only about 12 weeks to go now.
I'm just finishing the binding on this two-day cot quilt.
I literally threw this together for the pure enjoyment of total immersion in pink. Apart from measuring the squares, I eyeballed it, which is perhaps not a recommended technique for a slapdash quilter like me (I was very selective about the bits to show you).
I have a new walking foot for the Ancient Bernina which I was desperate to try out.
The result, I think, is pretty. And the busy, overall pinkness covers up any blues.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Lily showed me this yesterday — wonderful! DO click and watch this, it's a riot.

Monday, 19 October 2009

To market to market
I helped sell flowers at Subiaco's first farmers' market on Saturday morning, thanks to Shelley, who is one half of Australia's BEST flower business (Wayne Stubbs Flowers).
Farmers' markets are all the rage over here at present. There's been a really good one operating out of the the Graylands Primary School grounds on Saturday mornings, and last Saturday, Subiaco Primary held its first one.
All three of my kids went to this school, and the schools get funds from the market stall-holders, so it's all a good thing.
It also adds a bit of colour and energy to Subi on a Saturday morning — things have become very glossy and contented in that part of town recently, and the shopping's all a bit samey now that a lot of the smaller normal shops have given way to chain boutiques, coffee shops and jewellery stores.
So a casual, bustling market is just what the doctor ordered. And while this first one was a bit light on for fresh produce, with lots of artisan breads, olive oils, exotic cheeses and so on, this will soon right itself as the organisers attract more fruit and vegie sellers.

With Wayne and Shelley's amazing flowers and typical sense of flair and occasion, we turned our little patch of the school yard into a gorgeous and colourful explosion of flars.
It was very hot and dry, with big easterlies blowing in from the desert all morning, and the temperature quickly got to 37C and stuck (that's 98.6 F).
But there was an enthusiastic crowd, we had lots of laughs, and I saw so many familiar faces, which was brilliant.
I had so much fun with my best friends Deb and Shelley, and Iman and Isme — can't wait for next time!