Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hot, hot, hot!

Forecast from

Talk of the weather over the past few months has referred to mild temperatures, thunderstorms and plenty of rain.

In fact, it was so mild and so wet I was beginning to think that summer would just pass us by this year, and we'd not have to spend days and weeks (and months!) sitting in the dark with the air con on high.

Turns out that was a pipe dream, as summer made its arrival Christmas Day when the temperature  hovered around 40 degrees Celsius until a cool change started to move through later in the evening.

A week later and we are back in the 40s again, with the temperature expected to range between 35 and 45 degrees over the next week.

I cannot think of the words best to describe it, but at the very least this type of heat is stifling. Walking outside is like stepping into a furnace: The air is so hot and dry it burns the insides of your nose and makes your eyes water. The tar on the road is starting to glisten and become sticky. Inside the air con is on but I'm still sweating enough to be stuck to my office chair. And I'm certain I just got sunburnt walking to the post office, which can't be more than 200m from the office.

There was a stubble fire just outside of Quorn yesterday that the CFS was quickly able to control and douse, but it instilled some scary thoughts and momentary panic. It's the first so close to Quorn in a long time, and if the weather hadn't been so kind it could have been an entirely different scenario. There'll be no fireworks this New Years' Eve, that's for sure!

This is the type of weather I dread every year. Having lived in South Australia my entire life you'd be forgiven for thinking I'd be used to it by now. Perhaps I'm just getting "soft" as I get older, or perhaps this is just weather you never become accustomed to.

With heatwaves and floods, Australia's start to the New Year is not going to be what most had anticipated and planned for.

...What's the weather like in your part of the world at the moment?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reading Challenges for 2011

This year I took part in three Reading Challenges - Women Unbound, Royal Reviews' Historical Fiction, and a Jane Austen challenge - all of which I have enjoyed immensely. Challenges are a great way to get through books already waiting to be read, to discover new authors, and to read topics you wouldnt normally find yourself reading.

Since I am on the last book for my 2010 challenges (and am still confident of finishing it before the end of the year), I thought now would be a good time to pick some reading challenges for 2011.

At this stage I am unsure as to how busy I will be in the new year with work and studies, so I have decided to commit myself to just the two challenges at this point in time. If it turns out I'm not all that busy, I will probably add more later.

The Ireland Reading Challenge 2011 is hosted by Books and Movies. There are three levels: Shamrock (2 books), Luck O' the Irish (4 books), and Kiss the Blarney Stone (6 books).

In order for books to comply with the challenge rules they must either be written by an Irish author, be set in or about Ireland, or have Irish characters. They can be both fiction or non-fiction, adult, YA or for children, and audiobooks are allowed.

I am aiming for Luck O' the Irish, and my chosen reading list will be as follows (in no particular order):

The second reading challenge will be (most appropriately) a Seconds Challenge, hosted by A Few More Pages. The thing that attracted me to this challenge is that it will get me to read some books that have been sitting on my shelf for awhile now, all of which are either a second in a series, and/or will be the second time I've read something by a particular author.

There are four levels to chose from: Just a Spoonful (3 books), A Few More Bites (6 books), A Full Plate (12 books), and All You Can Eat (20 books).

So as to not over-commit, I am aiming to achieve the Just a Spoonful level, and my books for this challenge will be:

Will you be taking part in any reading challenges for 2011?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Etsy Swoon (+ a thank you)

I dislike the crazy panic that is Christmas shopping. Normally I struggle to think of things to get people that are both original and practical that wont cost a fortune. I find myself wandering the shops aimlessly for months, and then in a last-minute blitz buy everything a few days before Christmas Day.

Every year I make the resolution to be more organised for Christmas in future, and I am proud to say that this year I have (mostly) achieved that aim, for the first time! And it's all thanks to Etsy!

I am in love with Etsy. Obsessed and addicted, even. There is so much amazing, beautifully original handcrafted items available at Etsy for a reasonable price that I thought I would share some of my favourite shops.

I also thought it would be a good opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Daisy at AskAlice, from whom I purchased the grey tote pictured above. Due to a PayPal issue that I still cannot figure out, I was unable to record this purchase at Etsy. It took a few days, but Daisy and I were able to come to an arrangement that saw me pay for the tote outside of Etsy. She was always quick to reply to my messages, and to suggest alternatives. Then, knowing I needed the tote as soon as possible, she sent it straight away by registered post. I must mention that the tote is absolutely gorgeous: I love it and I know the person I've bought it for will love it too. I will definitely be returning to Daisy's little Etsy shop again in the near future.

I have found all the Etsy shop owners I've dealt with over the past couple months so incredibly helpful, generous and an absolute pleasure. NoCryBabyDoGs surprised me with extras sent along with my purchase, and JewelryDeli, MermaidsTearsJewelry and rockitbot posted out my items the same day I ordered them.

All the items I've received are of the highest handmade quality I have ever seen: These people are exceptionally talented, and if you haven't yet checked out what's available at Etsy, then I highly recommend that you do! Immediately! There is something there for everyone. So, if you're looking for gifts for people, then I recommend you check Etsy out: If you need something quick, you can search for local sellers.

As an added bonus, I felt like I've avoided the ridiculous hype and panic that I normally find myself in at this time of year. Yes, I still have a two family members who I am struggling with for gift ideas, but everyone else is sorted. I have never been this organised for Christmas in my entire adult life. It feels good!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

The Wise WomanThe Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Royal Reviews' Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010

Who is the Wise Woman?

This novel by Philippa Gregory, set during the time of the English Reformation, revolves around Alys: Abandoned as a child by unknown parents, she is raised by the local wise woman of Bowes-Moor, Morrag, until she is enticed away by the glistening riches of a nearby Abbey and the tenderness of Mother Hildebrande, and becomes Sister Ann.

With the destruction of the Abbey, Alys returns to Morrag and Bowes-Moor. Wanting to remain true to her faith, her idea is to live life as a herb girl until she can find a safe nunnery to escape to. However, a twist of fate sees her taken to care for the feudal Lord Hugh, later becoming his scribe. Alys grows increasingly infatuated with Lord Hugh's son, Hugo, an otherwise selfish and brutal man, and another woman's husband, known for his lustful ways.

Alys eventually gives in to her desires and turns to dark magic to win the young Hugo's affection, and then to increase social status and power. However, magic has no master, and it soons become clear to Alys that she treads a perilous path, at the end of which is always death.

Although The Wise Woman is set during the reign of Henry VIII of England and the Reformation of the Church, it is not a Tudor Court novel. There is no Courtly romance and little political intrigue, but instead a lot of deceit, lies, manipulation, and magic.

One of Gregory's earlier novels, The Wise Woman is significantly different to her more popular Tudor fiction (The Other Boleyn Girl &c.), both in context and style. It is reasonably well-written and the storyline is intriguing, yet I must admit that The Wise Woman is not of the standard that I was expecting from a Philippa Gregory novel, and that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weathering the Storm...

Fallen gum tree...

...and the clean up.

Tuesday night we had the most terrifying, yet amazing thunderstorm.
The approaching storm clouds stretch as far as the eye could see and seemed to swallow everything in its path.
There was so much lightning it turned day into night.
The rain came in horizontal.
The wind was so strong it ripped off roofs, balconies, sucked out windows, and uprooted trees.

We suffered a fallen gum tree, some broken branches, a damaged fence, a few loose sheets of iron on the shed and house - Nothing compared to the damage suffered by others, so we count ourselves lucky. Yesterday evening was spent clearing it all and doing makeshift repairs: The fallen gum tree came in handy to prop-up the collapsed fence, but we will need to put in new posts, support beams and a few new sheets of corrugated iron. It will do to keep Bailey-dog in the yard for the time being.

The entire state of South Australia suffered a lashing from the storm front that moved through: AdelaideNow has some great pictures, for the curious folk.

Australia is in the middle of the La Nina Weather Pattern, which normally brings unstable and unseasonal wet weather, although this year more than ever. She's unpredictable, but I must admit I kind of like Her: Better than Her counterpart El Nino! The garden loves Her too, although perhaps not so much the fallen tree...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The White Queen Giveaway: WINNER!

I didn't get to do this yesterday. Obviously. I have had a sick dog-son who needed to go back to the vet yesterday for a follow-up on a ruptured ear-drum and ear infection, which meant having to take the morning off work and then being crazy-busy in the afternoon when I did finally get into the office.

So, yes, I am a day late in announcing the winner of The White Queen giveaway, for which I apologise, but I can now tell you that the brand new paperback edition will be going out to:

(Manchester Lass: Please email me with your postal details and I will arrange to have the book in the post asap!)

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my blog and enter the giveaway. I will endeavour to have another early in the New Year, so keep an eye out!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In the Garden: Spring 2010

[Backyard, January 2009]

[Backyard/Garden bed, January 2009] 

When we purchased our house in January 2009, the backyard consisted of a bit of lawn (a combination of cooch and golf green), a few unkempt garden beds, and a whole heap of bare earth.

With last summer being so hot, and then followed with a frosty winter, many of the plants in the garden beds died, and the lawn slowly disappeared into nothing. 

[Backyard, October 2010]

With the promise of a wet and mild spring, SJ and I decided that it was the perfect time to attempt to re-establish a lawn and extend it to the back fence to keep the dust down, and to put in some new plants.

We got out the rotary hoe and dug the entire backyard. Then we had to remove all the stones, rake it smooth and leave it a couple weeks to catch any weeds that came up. We put in a new sprinkler system to make watering easier (it's such a large area), and sowed kikuyu lawn seed. Then we cleared all the weeds and dead plants from the garden beds, pruned and removed the undergrowth so as to not tempt snakes into the yard. There were many sore muscles and bones for days afterwards!

[Spring thunderstorm, November 2010]

[Backyard, November 2010]

With some regular watering and some perfectly timed thunderstorms, the lawn has sprung to life and we now have a pleasant sea of green stretching all the way to the back fence. Slowly the patches of dirt are being replaced with thick, healthy lawn - a far more enjoyable sight than bare earth!

[Backyard & flowerbed, November 2010]

[Flowerbed, November 2010]

I'm also attempting to grow some new plants: In this bed I have sweet alyssum, daisies, chamomile, armeria, geranium, rosemary, salvias, and lamb's ear. Here's hoping the sudden arrival of hot weather (it's 38*C today) doesnt kill them off before I've had time to enjoy their prettiness!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory + a GIVEAWAY!

The White Queen (Cousins' War, #1)The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"I remember my mother mourning her son and saying that when you have got a child through babyhood you think you are safe. But a woman is not safe. Not in this world. Not in this world where brother fights against brother and no one can ever put their sword aside, or trust in the law." - Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen

The White Queen is the first book in The Cousin's War series by Philippa Gregory, and tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who falls in love with King Edward IV, during the English Wars of the Roses, and the mysterious events surrounding their sons, the Princes in the Tower.

Elizabeth is from the House of Lancaster, at war with the House of York for the English throne. After the death of her first husband during the war, she is left a widow with two young sons and no means with which to provide for them. This leads her to petition the King, Edward IV, from the rival House of York, for assistance. This bold decision changes her life forever: The rivals - a commoner and a king - fall in love and marry in secret, resulting in Elizabeth being crowned Queen of England after the House of York defeats the House of Lancaster for the throne.

Edward IV's decision to marry Elizabeth and favour her family is not approved by everyone, particularly the Earl of Warwick, who had hoped for an alliance with France through the marriage of the king and a French princess. Bitter and refusing to take a backseat, Warwick tries to overthrow Edward IV, first with his younger brother George, and then later by trying to restore the mentally unstable Henry VI to the throne.

There is little peace during Edward IV's reign, who is consistently forced to fight for his throne, despite Elizabeth providing him with a brood of healthy heirs, and the two of them establishing a glittering court - usually sure signs of a stable kingdom. At Edward's untimely death his younger brother, Richard, is proclaimed Protector of the child Edward V, but later claims the throne for himself by disinheriting Elizabeth and her children. It is this that leads to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower: Edward V and his younger "brother", Prince Richard, are held captive in the Tower of London by their Uncle, now King Richard III, but are never seen again.

The White Queen is told from Elizabeth Woodville's perspective. Gregory portrays her as a woman of strong will and determination, with an unrelenting devotion to her husband and children. It is easy to feel compassion and frustration at the situation that Elizabeth finds herself in, over and over again, as she battles through an unstable England where friend and foe cannot be easily determined.

Elizabeth, as a descendant of the Water Goddess Melusina, possesses the power to control water: Lakes, rivers, storms and seas, through which Gregory adds magic and a supernatural intrigue to the events that unfold. The sad tale of Melusina is entwined within the unfortunate events of Elizabeth's life as Queen of England, perhaps suggesting that fate is the most powerful magic of all, and one that cannot be fought.

A fantastic historical novel, beautifully written and impeccably told: Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Giveaway details:

I enjoyed this novel so much that I must, must, must share it! I have one brand new paperback edition of The White Queen to GIVEAWAY!

Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the 30 November 2010 will go into the draw to win it, with the winner being announced on the 1 December 2010.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

About the House: Renovations + Redbacks

On the weekend I found a Redback Spider in the living room, the third in just a matter of weeks! Due to the fact that we are still renovating, with some of the old cornice in the living room having come loose from the ceiling, they are obviously getting inside from the roof cavity.

[Gaping hole in living room ceiling!]

I don't like redbacks. I can handle the odd Huntsman, or the occassional Daddy Long Legs. I will not tolerate redbacks inside: They hide in and under things, in dark corners where you wouldn't think to look for them. Their bite isn't normally fatal, but can be exceptionally painful.

Needless to say, there was some slightly crazy cleaning done over the weekend as a result, in order to rid the house of any of its friends. No further spiders were found, thank goodness, but it has been resolved that the renovations on the living and dining rooms need to begin as soon as possible. I expect that this is what we will be spending our time doing over the coming weekends: Putting up new ceiling, new cornice, and plastering the walls. Eventually - hopefully not too far down the track - there will be sanding and painting too, and yet another two rooms will be complete. There is nothing like a redback spider to get a girl motivated!

We finished the renovations in the bedroom back in August. It is amazing the difference that paint makes! The room feels so fresh and bright now! It has become my favourite room in the house: It make me feels accomplished and calm, unlike the rest of the house, which simply reminds me of how much more work there is yet to do!

Ceiling: Dulux Ceiling White
Walls: Dulux Hog Bristle Quarter
Architraves: Dulux Hog Bristle Full (semi-gloss finish)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

Mistress of RomeMistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It's ancient Rome, and a Jewish slave falls in love with a Gladiator from Britannia. This begins the story of Thea & Arius, and their savage existence under Emperor Domitian's rule.

Sounds intriguing, right? If you believe the reviews it should be, but unfortunately for me, I could not get into this story. One hundred pages from the finish and I had to stop: It was impossible for me to continue reading, not even after I had subjected myself to 300+ pages.

I don't know how to categorise this novel: Is it hist-fic? Romance? Something else? Perhaps I have become too much of a history snob, but I did not feel the story centred around Domitian enough to be based upon his life, especially considering that most of the characters and events in the story are entirely fictional. For me, the story lacked historical substance, and that was the greatest disappointment.

Another major issue I had with this novel was that not one of the central characters was likeable, nor could I relate to or connect with any of them: I could not care less what happened to them in the end, hence the reason for my not bothering to find out.

The purpose of many of the minor characters I couldn't understand: There's nothing more annoying than to have a character appear seemingly out of nowhere, and have the author try and establish their background and purpose to the story in a single, random paragraph. At certain points in the story, I was close to pulling hairs!

I also didn't like the repetitive use of full names: It was unnecessary and added nothing to the story. Also, too many characters were inter-connected in too many ways. For example, why did all the characters have to have had sex with one another to be known to each other? I just didn't get it.

All in all, a disappointing read and not at all what I had expected.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quandong Crumble Pie

[The Quandong, aka Australian Wild Peach]

I recognise that not everyone will be able to get their hands on quandongs in order to complete this recipe. However, we are eating plenty of them at the moment as the only fruit trees we have are Wild Peaches, and they are loaded with fruit!

Of course, the following crumble pie recipe doesn't have to have a quandong filling: Any stewed fruit will do!

To make the shortcrust base:
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
150g cold butter
1 egg
Cold water (the amount you use will depend on the flour and the humidity in the air)

--> Place flour, icing sugar and butter in food processor and mix until butter has been incorporated into the flour and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix for a further 3 to 5 seconds. With the food processer going, pour in cold water: Start with 2 tablespoons and then drizzle it in until the pastry comes away from the sides and forms a ball. Take it out, wrap in glad wrap (cling film) and place in the fridge for around 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, take the pastry dough out of the fridge, and on a lightly floured bench, roll it out gently with a rolling pin. Roll it into a circle until it is approximately 5mm thick. Place the pastry over your greased pie dish and gently press it in and around the sides. Cut off any excess, and prick the base many times with a fork (this helps the pie shell cook without rising). Put the pie dish into the freezer for 10 minutes before you cook it. Cook at 180*C until it is golden brown, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the filling:
5 cups seeded quandongs
1/2 cup white sugar (quandongs can be quite bitter so ensure you check that the fruit is of the desired sweetness, and use less or more sugar as required)
A little water

--> In a large saucepan place seeded quandongs, sugar and water and stew on a low heat until fruit is tender and well cooked (approximately 15 - 20 minutes).

Spread stewed quandongs evenly into cooled pie dish.

To make the crumble:
1 & 1/4 cups plain (all purpose) flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter

--> Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut or rub in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and press down lightly. Bake, uncovered, at 190*C for 20 minutes or until crumble has browned slightly.

Serve pie with fresh cream and/or vanilla icecream.

[Quandong Crumble Pie]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Title: Lady of the Butterflies
Author: Fiona Mountain
Category: Historical Fiction

"What was the point of living if it was not to learn? There were things I wanted to know, that I couldn't live without knowing, couldn't die not knowing, or not at least without trying to find out."

Fiona Mountain's debut novel Lady of the Butterflies is based around the life of entomologist Eleanor Glanville.

Eleanor grew up on the marshlands in Somerset, and was made heiress of Tickenham Court at her Puritan father's death. Eleanor was educated by her father in a manner that was unconvential for the time, teaching his daughter about the developing sciences as much as religion, and with little focus on "female tasks". This upbringing encouraged Eleanor's fascination with the natural world, and with butterflies in particular.

After her marriage to her first husband, Edmund Ashfield, and with plans in the works to drain the marshes for prime grazing land doomed to fail, Eleanor's interest in butterflies wanes as she settles into domestic life and becomes a mother. However, at Edmund's sudden death she establishes a friendship with London apothecary James Petiver, whose interest and knowledge of butterflies re-sparks Eleanor's obsession.

Her second marriage to Richard Glanville proves disasterous, and so Eleanor distracts herself in the collection and recording of butterfly specimens. Through this process the connection between the condition of natural habitats and butterflies was made. It was also these collections that made her famous, some of which can now be seen in the British Natural History Museum, and which lead to the naming of the Glanville fritillary in recognition of her efforts.

However, Eleanor's family did not share this appreciation. They used her interest in butterflies to found claims that she was not of sound mind in order to turn over her will and claim her estate.

Whilst Eleanor's exact fate has not been established, Fiona Mountain provides one of the most inspriring and clever endings to Eleanor's story that truly reflects her passion and determination to be free, like the butterflies she dedicated her life to admiring. This is not just a novel about a woman with an interest in butterflies: It is a story about the amazing and inspiring life of a woman who refused to be dictated to and restricted by convention, and whose tireless work in the study of butterflies has provided us with the understanding necessary to ensure their survival.

A beautiful story, impeccably written, and highly recommended.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Taking Leave...

...and looking forward to a week of relaxing in the sun and admiring the ocean with a good book in hand!

I will not be able to blog whilst away, but posts will recommence once I return.

Hoping everyone has a wonderful week ahead!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Letter Swap: Partners!

I've decided to organise partners a little differently for this swap, in that the person you will write to will not be the person you receive a letter from. I thought that due to the fact that there is not a large number of participants, this will be a fun way for each person to get a little more out of this swap.

So, the letter writing will work as follows:

Amanda will write to Sarah
Sarah will write to Louise
Writer.Elh will write to Alison
Alison will write to Rae
Rae will write to Denise
Denise will write to Pia
Pia will write to Amanda

Letter Swap Rules
Letters must be sent using the old fashioned postal service (not electronically)
All letter should be in the post no later than 29 October 2010

What you elect to write in and include with your letter is entirely up to you.
Whether or not you decide to reply to the letter you receive is also entirely your discretion.

Thanks to everyone participating for taking the time out to be a part of this swap. I hope you will enjoy it and that there will be some new friendships created along the way.

Also, a special thank you to Denise over at A Bun Can Dance for her promotion of the letter swap; it really helped boost interest and I appreciate it so much!

I will be emailing everyone with their partner's contact details over the course of the morning. You will need to contact that person to request their postal address.

Happy letter writing everyone!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Challenge of the Utmost Kind: 12 months later...

Twelve months ago to the day I decided to take part in Dottie Angel's "Challenge of the Utmost Kind", which entailed purchasing only handcrafted and secondhand goods for home and wardrobe for 365 days. I set down the rules by which I was to abide, and in the blink of an eye, twelve months have passed and it is time for me to review the challenge.

The first rule (exception) was that "handcrafted and secondhand" would not apply to books. I am a complete bookworm and in order to ensure that I continued to have sufficient books to read I decided to exclude them from the challenge. In hindsight it was a good decision, as in the course of the year I have discovered that there are few books available secondhand in my area, let alone books I'd want to read. The local libraries were unable to assist either: Neither contain a sufficient hist-fic and historical biography selection to meet my reading demands!

However, not all the books I've read in the past twelve months have been purchased by me, brand new. Some have been gifts, and I also made the concerted effort to seek out and participate in as many BookCrossing bookrings for the books on my wishlist as possible, which was surprisingly successful. These days I find myself browsing the rings offered at BookCrossing prior to purchasing a book.

For obvious reasons, under-garments (including socks, stockings and tights) were excluded from the challenge, as was any clothing items that I needed for work, which included work-related footwear (I have a uniform). In regards to all other clothing, they had to be purchased handmade or secondhand in order to comply with the challenge.

I found that the local secondhand and charity stores do not stock a lot of clothing, and what they do stock is not much to my taste. Instead, I found myself avoiding the clothing stores so I wouldnt be tempted by all the pretty garments in the windows. For the pst twelve months I've just not purchased anything that I did not need and made do with what I already had; the only items of clothing I bought were items I needed to replace, and I waited until the old ones had basically disintegrated first!

Home improvements were also exempt from the challenge. However, we had purchased all GPOs, light switches etc prior to the challenge beginning, and in twelve months we have only been able to complete one room: Our bedroom. Once it was finished we did purchase a new bedroom suite, which isnt exactly "making do" with what we had, but we didnt have a suite, just an old, uncomfortable bed that we had planned on replacing once the room was finished - a decision made prior to the challenge. But other than the suite, everything else in the room are items we already owned and have re-used: Curtains, doilies, blankets and linen, pillows...

I have been gifted vintage serving dishes, biscuit tins and a cake tin, not because I asked for them, but because others have noticed that I like the old and re-usable and thought I would like them. There is much joy and intrigue in receiving an item much older than you! I doubt many of the things I've purchased new would last long enough for me to pass them onto another generation forty, fifty or sixty years later.

It may seem an odd thing to exclude from such a challenge, but I elected to allow myself to purchase new scrapbooking supplies for any projects I decided to make as gifts. Surprisingly, the only thing I actually needed to buy was ink for my printer in order to print out photos, and I ensured I used whatever paper, embellishments, brads etc I already had. I've also been recycling giftwrap, gift cards, postcards, notecards - whatever I do not wish to keep that looks nice! I guess that is true "scrap"-booking. In the past twelve months I have made bookmarks, book tags, and photo journals as gifts.

Unfortunately, I have not had the time to improve on my knitting skills or learn to sew, but these are skills I am still determined to master one day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

Simply because I cannot make my own doesnt mean I have had to go without. During the course of this challenge I have discovered and fell madly in-love with the wonderful creations and creators at I've an ever-increasing list of favourite sellers and favourite items. I've made a few small purchases so far, and there will definitely be more purchases in future: From here on in, all Christmas and birthday gifts will be bought from Etsy. If you have not visited this website, you are missing out on some of the most fantastic handcrafted, recycled and upcycled pretties your are ever likely to see!

The greatest truth I have learnt from Dottie Angel's challenge is that "want" and "need" are not the same thing. These days I find myself standing in the stores admiring the goods on the shelf, but I no longer simply buy whatever it is I like. Instead I find myself questioning whether or not I actually need it: How will it make my life easier/better/more enjoyable? How often will I use it? Is it a necessity, or do I already own something else that can do the same thing or similar? A lot of the time I find myself walking away, empty-handed, and the feeling I get from not giving in is greater than the thrill of having something new. Nothing stays new forever, anyway.

Not only have I changed the way I buy and what I buy, but I've also changed the way I think about buying: A valuable lesson learned.

Thanks to Tif (Dottie Angel) for taking on this challenge for herself and allowing the rest of us to be a part of it. It is something I recommend everyone try at least once: The results will surprise you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Letter Swap (Reminder)

Sign up ends 29 September 2010
Partners allocated 30 September 2010
Letters must be sent using the old fashioned postal service
All letters should be in the post no later than 29 October 2010

This time next week I will be issuing partners for the Letter Swap I am hosting. So far we have 4 participants, a nice even number, but it'd be lovely to have more!

To sign up, please just leave a comment, either on this post or on the original, expressing your wish to participate. Please dont forget to include either your email address or blog details so that I can get in touch with you later.

Each participant will have one partner, unless you specifically request more.

At the end of the sign up period I will randomnly generate partners, and then get in touch with you to let you know the details. You will need to contact your partner to get their postal address. What you decide to include in or with your letter is entirely up to you.
Any questions? Just ask!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wombat, Wombat, Wombat.

Ving the wombat takes a nap! Picture from here.

I love animals. It is one of the many reasons why I am vegetarian. I am especially fond of Australia's native animals, and every day I am blessed to see kangaroos, wallabies, and emus in the wild. When we lived in the city we were not far from a nature reserve where there were koalas in the wild, and sometimes in summer during heatwaves they would wander into the suburbs looking for water.

But this isnt a common occurence right across the country: Not everyone in Australia is as privileged as I have been.

Today I discovered that it is possible to sponsor a wombat - one just like Ving (pictured above)!

Wombats are intelligent marsupials native to Australia. They are hunted for food and sport, are killed by farmers who consider them a pest, and suffer diseases such as mange, passed onto them by foxes. A female wombat may only produce young once every two to three years, so it probably comes as no surprise that they are also endangered. However, they receive poor protection from government.

I think the wombat is often Australia's forgotten marsupial, perhaps because it is so rarely seen. We have wombats in South Australia. Where I grew up on the Eyre Peninsula the Southern Hairy Nose Wombat is native. I have seen wombats in captivity, and come across burrows, but I have never come across a wombat in the wild.

Pehaps this is not simply because they are nocturnal and shy - Perhaps it really is because there are so few of them left?

If you'd like to learn more about the plight of these adorable creatures, please visit the Wombat Awareness website, and to sponsor one simply go here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Foreign Correspondence + a Letter Swap

Title: Foreign Correspondence - A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Category: Memoir

"But the huge spaces, the deep silences, the vast paddocks free of road rules and stranger danger could never be transported to the black-bitumen blocks of suburban Concord. The great dark mass of movement from country to city is made up of little specks like me: children who don't have any land left to visit, except in their parents' memories."

I have been penpalling since I was 7 years old and am still in touch with my first pen pal. As a shy child growing up in rural South Australia, penpalling was a convenient way to make friends and learn about the world beyond my own, and over the years has taught me many things about people and the world in which we live.

This is the experience shared by Geraldine Brooks in her memoir, Foreign Correspondence. Her desire to learn more about the world through penpalling created the framework for the rest of her life, growing up to become a journalist and Foreign Correspondent.

After many years of silence, she decides to seek out the long-lost pen pals from her youth, the results of which are both unexpected and insightful. Through these people, strangers but not, she learns more about herself than she could have possibly imagined.

An interesting memoir, beautifully told.


Inspired by Geraldine Brooks' memoir and my own love for the lost art of letter writing, I have decided to host an old-fashioned letter swap for anyone who wants to take part.

All you need to do to sign up is leave a comment with your email and/or blog address, expressing your interest in participating. Each person will have one partner, although you can specify for more if you wish.

At the end of the sign-up period I will randomly generate partners and email you that person's contact details. You and your partner will then need to exchange postal address details in order to post your letters.What you decide to put in your letter is entirely up to you.

Sign up ends 29 September 2010
Partners allocated 30 September 2010
Letters must be sent using the old-fashioned postal service
All letters should be in the mail no later than 29 October 2010

--> Any questions, just ask!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

Title: The Lady Elizabeth
Author: Alison Weir
Category: Historical-Fiction (Tudor)

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir is a novel of the early life of Elizabeth Tudor, before she became Queen Elizabeth I.

As a historian, Weir always ensures to incorporate plenty of historical detail into her novels, bringing the story to life for the reader. It is not difficult to imagine Elizabeth's detached, confused childhood, her father (King Henry VIII) being its only constant; she admiring him endlessly despite his decision to bring her mother's life (Anne Boleyn) to a brutal end; her love-hate relationship with her half-sister, Queen Mary I; the utter choas that followed the death of her father and brother (Edward); her life becoming an endless fight for survival, and her unyieling determination to secure her place in the succession.

Weir's skills as a fiction writer improve dramatically with The Lady Elizabeth, her second novel, creating for the reader a truly compelling account of the events that culminated in Elizabeth Tudor's rise to the English throne.

Highly recommended.
4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

When it rains, it pours...

[Boolcunda Creek, between Quorn & Hawker, 4 Sept 2010]

We certainly have had some wild weather these past two days: Gale-force winds, thunder, lightning, and a heap of rain! Our area received more than 40mm in 12 hours Friday night, with another 15mm falling during the day Saturday.

Boolcunda Creek is one of 8 creeks/rivers that flow into the Willochra, the largest river in the Flinders Ranges. Most of the time these creeks/rivers are bone-dry, but if enough rain falls in a short period of time they begin to flow. They don't run for very long, but they make for an impressive sight when they do.