Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Post-Christmas Blog Post...

[Our super pretty Xmas Tree]

In true 2011 fashion, the past week has flittered by and I've barely noticed its passing.

Where does the time go?

I'm on leave from work until next week. During this time I'd planned to achieve a many wonderous thing, but already it is Thursday and I've not yet done even half of what I'd planned.

[Xmas cards decorate the dining room mantel]

Xmas Day was a warm one in our sunny, windy, thunderstormy part of Australia. It reached 36*C in our little town, and due to the thunderstorms brewing it was humid all day until around 9pm in the evening when we had a quick patter of rain followed by a cool change. So, the day after Xmas was wonderfully pleasant, as have been the days that have followed it, although tomorrow is supposed to be back into the high-30s, and it is possible that we'll have temperatures in the 40s for the next week or so.

[Useful Xmas gift #1: Don Burke's Organic Gardening]

But back to Xmas Day: A BBQ breakfast, followed by a feast of a midday meal, followed by a feast of an evening meal left us feeling quite gluttonous!

I love to give useful, practical Xmas gifts, and I tried to do that again this year, but I also received some wonderful useful gifts in return. I've already put Don Burke's Organic Gardening book to use and planted seeds for the next lot of planting, as well as having planned my vegie patch for autumn.

[Useful Xmas gift #2: Homemade preserves and dukkah]

And this morning for breakfast I had quinoa bread spread with a generous serving of homemade pear and vanilla jam, which my sister made. I didn't know she was quite so clever in the kitchen and it was delicious!

Now I'm spending this warm afternoon writing some letters, watching a bit of TV, cooking (in the slow cooker), and reading. I've four full days left free from the confines of paid employment and I intend to get myself back on track with all that I have planned...

Tomorrow I think I'll made some nachos. Gosh, it's been years since I've had those! I'll have to share the recipe...

How are you spending your holidays?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris.

Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3)Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric looked down at me. He seemed to have a hickey on his neck. I opened my mouth, and then shut it again. Better not to comment.
"I don't like having feelings." Eric said coldly, and he left.
That was a tough exit line to top.

Club Dead is the third instalment in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. You remember Sookie, right? The Bon Temps barmaid with the telepathic abilities and the Vampire boyfriend named Bill? Yes? Good.

This novel begins innocently enough, with Sookie enjoying semi-domestic bliss (as domestic and blissful as it could be with a Vampire, I suppose) with Bill in Bon Temps. Bill has discovered computers and the internet, and Sookie's worried that he's turning into a bit of a geek.

As it turns out, that is the least of her worries.

Bill is under strict, secret instructions from the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, and not even the Vampire boss of Area 5, Eric Northman, knows of it. When Bill leaves town for a few days but then suddenly disappears, Eric seeks Sookie's help in locating him amongst the undead underworld of Mississippi, which sees her risking her life to save her boyfriend from an untimely demise. Not only is danger present at every turn, but Sookie also finds herself having to grapple with the development of romantic feelings for her charming guide Alcide (a Were); the almost-unwanted attentions of Eric the Vampire; and the heartwrenching truth of her boyfriend Bill's betrayal.

Each novel in this series builds on the personalities, perspectives and histories of the characters, and whatever the situation in the previous two books, it is not necessarily the case in the third. Things are changing at a dramatic pace, and Sookie's world is quickly turned on its head, giving the otherwise perky Bon Temps barmaid a hell of a lot to think about - and her readers in turn. It is through the encounters that Sookie has with the Vampire Eric that the author hints at there being more to this character than what meets the eye (the never-judge-a-book-by-its-cover scenario).

For me, Club Dead is the novel that sees this series turn from a fun pastime into a major bookish obsession. Characters that once appeared simple and satisfying have become far more complicated than I originally anticipated they could be, which is an intriguing turn of events of which Sookie too is fast becoming aware. In Club Dead, Sookie can no longer hide behind innocence and naivety, being forced to make very adult decisions when faced with some nasty truths about the world in which she finds herself.

FYI: Team Eric. Totally.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex.

Dracula in LoveDracula in Love by Karen Essex

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dracula in Love claims to be a retelling of the Mina-Dracula relationship from Bram Stoker's classic novel, Dracula. However, the story told by Essex is at best misleading and at worse implausible and annoying. Here's why:

1. The characters are inconsistent. Their personalities were all over the place, not a single one of them constant.

Jonathan Harker was a good man, then a bad man, then a good man. Morris Quince was a rotten scoundrel who wasn't.

The doctors from the lunatic asylum who treated women for sexual promiscuity were insane sexual deviates. The irony is lossed on no one, I'm sure. I'm still trying to figure out how this fits into the story as a whole, though.

But let us not forget the supposed "heroine" of the story, Mina Murray Harker, who has this unenviable ability to change her mind in the most drastic and dramatic fashion. I found it impossible to like her.

2. The connection between the characters was difficult to fathom, on so many levels. Many of the events that took place in Dracula in Love simply do not make sense when considered in light of the story as a whole. At the time, I quite enjoyed Essex's descriptions of the asylum, but in retrospect I struggle with understanding its purpose.

3. Despite the title, the Dark Prince himself (that is, Dracula) is almost completely absent for most of the book. He turns up for the last quarter, but then his role in the story is annoyingly and frustratingly told predominantly through dialogue. I couldn't help but feel that the author was in a hurry to finish, either to meet a deadline or simply because she could no longer be bothered with the story. A pity.

4. The reincarnated Sidhe concept had potential: It was a neat idea, but poorly executed. I think Essex could have achieved more with this storyline had she not waffled on and got distracted by other things earlier on in the piece. This portion of the story felt rushed and confusing. I think it was supposed to be that awe-inspiring supernatural twist to the story, but the author's inability to think it through ensured it completely fell flat.

5. The author seems to be lacking focus as the book has far too much filler, making the plot and characters seem inconsistent and undeveloped, especially at the end. Half the time I wasn't even sure I knew what she was talking about! Not even the ending was redeeming: Like most of the story, it was simply confusing and implausible.

6. I had expected a supernatural love story set during one of my favourite periods in history (Victorian England), but what I got instead was nothing more than misleading erotica: Dracula in Love contained a whole lot of lust, but little Dracula and absolutely no love whatsoever.

A disappointing read overall.


View all my reviews

Monday, December 19, 2011

About the House: Second Bedroom Renovations.

No Monday Mail Out today, due to the fact that the house is in a slight state of chaos at the moment since we started plastering the walls in the second bedroom on the weekend.

I'm not entirely sure where I've put the camera and my laptop is under the bed. These photos are from my iPhone. I have pictures on the camera to use for a Monday Mail Out post, but I guess it'll have to wait until another time. We've pulled all the furniture out of the room, along with all the stuff in the built-in-robe, which is now scattered around the rest of the house. Pretty much wherever it fits and won't be a tripping hazard.

This is how the room looks at the moment. We're hopeful of having everything back in the room by Saturday evening. Our schedule for the week is as follows:

Monday: Sanding and final top coat.
Tuesday: Finish ceiling inside built-in-robe and sanding.
Wednesday: Undercoat and no-more-gaps.
Thursday: Probably more no-more-gapsing around the architraves and skirtings, but hopefully will get the first coat of paint on the walls.
Friday: Finish painting walls and architraves.
Saturday: Move everything back in.

All in time for Xmas...?

Friday, December 16, 2011

On My Mind: Books, Books, Books...

I have books on my mind today: Trying to decide what should take priority over the Xmas/New Year break, especially considering that I have a number of books still sitting unread in my bookshelf. Wolf Hall has been tempting me for months, but it's really rather huge and I haven't felt like lugging it around with me.

I'm also trying to decide whether or not to participate in any online reading challenges next year. I only took part in two this year, but I didn't quite get through all the books I'd planned to, mostly because I got distracted by other books. This year I will have read more than 30 books in 12 months for the first time. I would normally plan my reading lists months in advance, but this year I have quite enjoyed the freedom of reading whatever I want, as the mood takes.

E-books have played a major part in the tally too, since they can be read anywhere. I've been reading quite a lot on my iPhone: It is far more convenient to carry them around this way! I still have quite a large number of those to read, too (at the moment I'm addicted to the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris ~ they are so easy to read and a lot of mindless fun).

I shall mention, only in passing, that I am also terribly behind in my book reviews. I have five to write at the moment. Naughty me!

Do you have holiday reading planned?


This is a Friday photo feature from Down to Earth that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to Down to Earth. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, go to Down to Earth and add a comment , with a link to your blog photo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris.

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"I stared up at the night and wondered, not too curiously, what the hell they were talking about. It's not like I was Russia, to be parceled out to the strongest dictator".

Romance, mystery, adventure, vampires and other supernatural beings: Welcome to the world of Sookie Stackhouse, Bon Temps barmaid and telepath! Her boss is a shifter named Sam, and her boyfriend the local vampire, Bill Compton. In Living Dead in Dallas, the second novel in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, Sookie is sent to Dallas with boyfriend Bill as her bodyguard. On the orders of Eric Northman, Vampire Sherriff of Area 5, she is to use her telepathic ability to help find the whereabouts of a missing vampire, believed to have been abducted by the Fellowship (a crazy-scary Christian-ish human cult determined to rid the world of vampires).

In this novel Sookie also begins to extend her acquaintances with the supernatural world, having both exhilerating and scary encounters with shifters and Weres in Dallas and a Maenad in Bon Temps.

More importantly, however, Living Dead in Dallas sets the scene for a change in Sookie's relationship with her vampire, Bill, as a result of Vampire Eric becoming a frequent part of her life. The distinct, constrasting personalities of Vampire Bill and Vampire Eric (one seriously dark and secretive, the other hiliarously bright and honest) brings about a shift in the Sookie-Bill-Eric-Sookie dynamic that by the end of the book leaves the reader desperate to find out what will happen next...

FYI: Still on Team Bill. For the moment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

About the House: Painting the hallway...

SJ and I (with the help of Bailey-dog) spent all day Saturday finishing the painting work required in our hallway.
The walls had been finished back in July, but with SJ starting unemployment in August we decided to leave the rest until we could spare the cash. 

So, for the past two weekends we have been busy no-more-gapsing, sanding, undercoating and painting the architraves, doors and skirting. It was an easy task, since the hard work had been completed months ago.

This week we start work on the second bedroom, which currently looks like this:

And is far more daunting!
The walls need to plastered.
The ceiling in the built-in-robe isn't finished.
Sanding is yet to begin (I'm trying not to think too much about the dust that it will create), and only then will we be able to paint...

All in time for Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Mail Out: Xmas Mail...

Has it been a week already? I have certainly been kept busy, what with all the shopping online in my pyjamas.

Got to love the internet!

This impressive pile of parcels was waiting for me when I got home from work today. I just love this time of year, even if the the goodies inside aren't actually for me. Sure, they're addressed to me, but the most of what came today are Christmas presents for other people.

The one right on top is for me, though: A letter from Nicola (it was her birthday today, by the way).

A day that brings a letter is a good day indeed.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Mail Out: Accessorising, postal style.

French Post themed iPhone cover from LinasStitch.
Arrived in the post on Friday, and I'm totally in love with it. 

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunny Sunday strolls around the veggie patch...

The veggie patch, wonderfully lush and green...

There's no such thing as too many tomatoes, right?

Silverbeet has a lovely earthy taste, which when picked fresh is really great in a salad with vinegarette dressing.

I didn't realise nasturtiums would be as big as the capsicums when I planted them...A wonderful bug repellent, though.

Corn. Corn corn corn!

I don't remember planting that many carrot seeds...

Cauliflower gratin. Deep fried battered cauliflower. Curried cauliflower. Cauliflower soup. Steamed cauliflower...

Of course Bailey-dog comes for a stroll too, but he's there for the lizards and the butterflies, neither of which he ever catches, yet he remains persistent!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Absence of a Quiet Mind...

A Quiet Mind by Thomas Vaux

"When all is done and said,
In the end thus shall you find,
He most of all doth bathe in bliss
That hath a quiet mind:
And, clear from worldly cares,
To deem can be content,
The sweetest time in all his life
In thinking to be spent. 

The body subject is
To fickle Fortune's power,
And to a million of mishaps
Is casual every hour;
And death in time doth change
It to a clod of clay;
Whereas the mind, which is divine,
Runs never to decay.


Companion none is like
Unto the mind alone;
For many have been harmed by speech,
Through thinking few or none.
Fear oftentimes restraineth words,
But makes not thought to cease;
And he speaks best, that hath the skill
When for to hold his peace.


Our wealth leaves us at death;
Our kinsmen at the grave;
But virtues of the mind unto
The heavens with us we have.
Wherefore, for virtue's sake,
I can be well content,
The sweetest time in all my life
To deem in thinking spent."