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.

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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.

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