Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Bailey-dog!

Life would be so boring and empty without you.

“It's just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn't it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal.”
~ John Grogan

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday* Mail Out: Rain Mail...

Q: 25.6.12

I regret to advise that the purpose of this correspondence is to inform you that we will no longer be requiring your services. On two occasions last week when I went to collect the mail in the evening I was mortified to discover that every piece was wet. I appreciate that on those particular days it had rained quite a bit, but part of your responsibilities as a letterbox is to protect the mail from the extremities of the weather, and in this area I'm afraid that you have failed.

Therefore, as soon as I decide on what to replace you with you will no longer harbour the responsibility of holding my mail. I appreciate that it has been a solid 30-year stint on your part, and since I'm not an entirely cruel master, I have decided to retire you to the garden. 


*Yes, I realise it is Tuesday. This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but unfortunately I was engaged in mortal combat with an unrelenting headache and it just didn't happen. So let's just pretend it's Monday, okay?

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


[Winter Solstice Sunrise 21.6.12]

It's mid-winter and I keep losing track of the time.

It's the same every year: I wake before sunrise and get home in the evenings after the sun has set, which makes the days blur into a never-ending twilight.

It makes me sleepy. I keep forgetting to do things, like updating my blog, because I'm not entirely sure what day it is. The cold is persistent and I am in hibernation mode. This means I don't really do a lot, aside from stubbornly sit in front of the fire with books, and drink an endless amount of steaming hot tea. There's also a fair bit of baking going on because food is comfort, especially when it's cold.

But you know what? Today is the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and it arrived in spectacular fashion, all pretty in pink. Last night the wind howled relentlessly, but with the first light of day it died away and there was the gentle pitter-patter of rain. The days will now grow longer with each sunrise and sunset, so perhaps I'll not be in hibernation for very much longer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dead in the Family, book 10 in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris, is predominantly made up of a sequence of sub-plots based upon complicated "family" dynamics. First, there are Sookie's supernatural cousins forcing their way into her life, swiftly followed by the arrival of Eric's "brother" and his maker (what us old-school vampire nerds would call a Sire); Bill's "sister"; Tara's impending motherhood; and Sam's family breakdown after the Were Revelation of book 9. The plot lines are intriguing, but they don't really go anywhere and little is resolved. Resolving little seems to be Ms Harris' forte, though.

Unfortunately, Dead in the Family was not a return to the awesome writing form displayed by Harris in earlier books of the series, such as Dead to the World (book 4), which remains my favourite. Instead it feels like Harris is trying to milk Sookie for all she's worth, painfully dragging her story out until she can no longer be bothered and she kills the poor wretch off.

However, in contrast to book 9, where so much happens it is almost mind-boggling, in Dead in the Family there's not much happening at all, although the author does try. Boy! Does she ever try! But I felt it was forced, almost desperate in its construction. I swear I almost vomited when Harris resurrected poor Alexei Romanov as a creature of the night. One famous vamp per series is enough, and this already has one in Bubba, thankyouverymuch!

However, there are some good points. First, it was great to see a greater depth of character being developed in Jason, Sookie's brother, and Claude, her fairy cousin. Also, Sookie and Eric appear to have finally got it together. There's a lot of loving in the book, which is probably a good distraction for Sookie considering the traumatic events she suffered in Dead and Gone. But that's about where the good stuff ends: Although Vampire Eric has clearly aided her recovery, it's not the happy resolution to Sookie's love-life that I was hoping for. It is a very different Sookie and an almost unrecognisable Eric Northman in this book. I mean, what happened to the badass Viking vampire hero of old? The two characters are mere shadows of their former selves and it has left me reeling.

There was also a political aspect to the story frustratingly skimmed over by the author: The call for all Weres to be registered. I cannot help but feel this would have been a far more interesting plot line, but perhaps that is yet to come? Although, with the King of Louisiana clearly about to become the next "Big Bad", I won't hold my breath.

But I'll still continue to read this series despite its flaws. I've been sucked into Sookie's world and there'll be no breaking free until Ms Harris finally and unreservedly brings Sookie's fate to its ultimate conclusion - whatever that may be.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In My Kitchen: June 2012

A sure sign winter has arrived: Fresh, homemade fruit loaf! I've made this every weekend for the last three weeks. It's my favourite thing to have for breakfast at the moment, washed down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice...

Since SJ brings home a bag of oranges from work at the end of every week, this orange cake has been doing the rounds: Morning tea with my Ma & Pa, an easy dessert with the in-laws, and taken to work to share with my work colleagues...

Custardy, custardy goodness: Peaches & Cream pudding.

Ma picked me up these CWA (Country Women's Association) recipe books from a garage sale recently. They are fantastic! SJ & I had a good chuckle at the opening paragraph of Fingers and Forks, a delightful little book on outdoor entertaining, which sets out the expectations of the dinner party hostess. Timeless!

I picked the last of the beets from the veggie patch last weekend and using the CWA's Ways with Fruits and Vegetables, set about making some beetroot chutney. It was a terribly messy process (as things involving beetroot inevitably are), but surprisingly easy and incredibly tasty.

In My Kitchen is a monthly feature hosted by Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.
To take part, simply make a blog post and link back to Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Mail Out: No more faffing about!

I've spent a fair portion of this long weekend (thanks for the public holiday, Queen Lizzie) writing letters, which seemed like the perfect thing to do since it is so cold at the moment and if I can do something to avoid having to go outside then I will! There is little that can drag me away from the comfort of combustion heating during winter (aside from my garden!), and letter writing is the perfect excuse to stay indoors.

It was during these moments of letter writing that I realised that whilst I really do enjoy writing letters, there are certain things about modern correspondence that really gets my goat, and so I thought I'd share them with you today, dear blog reader:

1. It really, really bugs me when someone only writes once a year. Sending a Christmas card anyway? Might as well include a letter with it, right? Wrong! A whole year's worth of news to absorb and return is incredibly daunting. And you know what else? These letters are completely one-sided. So much time has passed since the last instalment that any attempt at conversation is completely lost. Also, I'm a procrastinator. I can easily come up with a million other things that I could be doing instead of writing letters. I don't need another excuse, but these types of letters I avoid replying to like they are the plague. The next thing I know I have 1 year and 3 months worth of stuff to write about. It's a vicious cycle so PLEASE DO NOT EVER DO THIS TO ME!

2. It may come as a surprise to learn this, but I can tell when someone has sent me a letter months after initially writing it. I'm not psychic, just observant. If you ask me what my plans are for March but don't send the letter until May, it's a dead giveaway. It is proper etiquette to drop a letter into the post as soon as practicable after having written it, but it should never be any longer than a fortnight between the writing and the sending, okay?

3. If you have never received a FORM LETTER then you are blessed! I hate the things. For those who don't know, these are letters (usually typed) that someone will send to multiple people all at the same time, and each letter will say the same thing. They are completely impersonal and non-conversational. In my humble opinion, form letters should be outlawed, but what I really don't understand is why someone would ever waste postage on sending them. Don't have the time to write a full-length letter? Then send a note or a postcard instead. Form letters are simply poor form!

4. In all the years that Jane Austen wrote her sister Cassandra, not once would she have sent a CHAIN LETTER. There are some really fun, creative aspects to letter writing, but a chain letter is not one of them. Send them my way and they will end up in my recycling bin. The time and effort spent on writing them out and copying them is far better spent on something else. Also, the environment hates you for it.

5. One thing that happens surprisingly often is the postal service losing mail. Where do all the misplaced letters end up? It never ceases to amaze me how a single bill never goes awol, but a pretty piece of mail will seemingly disappear off the face of the earth. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, POSTIE!

6. Most large, central mail processing and sorting stations contain automatic printing machines that cancel the postage stamps on standard letters - and they ruin them! I'm not a stamp collector, but I write to many people who are, so I always try to include interesting postage stamps. It infuriates me to think that the stamps are being made worthless by these printing machines. Adelaide GPO, you are the WORST by far!

Okay, I know this "Monday Mail Out" thing is supposed to be about the love of letter writing, but today I've shared my gripes instead. If you take nothing else from my ranting, please note there is one vital element to letter-writing that ensures the experience is enjoyable and worthwhile for both the sender and the recipient, and that is to always make your letters conversational. Do not just share your news. Rather, respond to theirs and build discussion on mutual points of interest. Picture them in the room with you and consider what you would talk about over a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake. Written correspondence is a great way to build and establish long-lasting, solid friendships, so don't waste your time (or theirs) by faffing about or sending rubbish.

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, June 10, 2012

The return of Mr Frost, Garden Annihilator!

There is no doubting the fact that winter has arrived in the Flinders, not when the nightime temperature is falling to zero or below, and thanks to the clear night skies we've had unwelcomed visits from that mean old fellow, Mr Frost!

For the past three mornings I have had to drag myself out of the warm comfort of my bed well before I am ready and wander out to the garden to partake in a sleepy-eyed rescue mission of my garden from Mr Frost's winter teeth.

Whilst still in my pyjamas I grab the garden hose, turn on the tap and inevitably wait for the block of ice to melt, my face gently numbing in the morning air. Then when the water eventually starts flowing I urgently spray the frost off the precious few plants in the veggie patch and flowerbeds before the sun rises high enough to frost-burn them to a crisp.

After completing this mercy dash, my wet bedsocks and I return to the cozy warmth of our cottage, where I thaw myself in front of the fire, somewhat annoyed at how there is nothing that wakes you faster than fifteen minutes in the garden on a 2*C morning.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris...

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, #9)Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title of this novel, book 9 in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris, says a lot about the general storyline of it: Dead and Gone is crammed full of death and a whole bunch of other nasty and confronting stuff that kind of leaves you wondering what the hell is going on.

Or, at least it did me.

In Dead and Gone the focus is on two very important events that may or may not change the world forever, and of which Sookie finds herself (yet again) very much involved. The girl is a supe-magnet.

First, the were community (shapeshifters) declare their existence, which is followed by the gruesome death of a were-panther in Bon Temps. Knowing the victim and being quite the amateur sleuth, Sookie decides to investigate the death in the hope of finding the killer.

At the same time Sookie is discovering more about her family history and the source of her telepathic abilities. Once again Sookie finds herself in danger (the life-threatening kind) as a family dispute turns into an all-out war.

Dead and Gone is a very dark novel, much darker than any of the others to date. Bad things happen to good and not-so-good people alike, and terrible things happen to Sookie. It is therefore not surprising that Sookie's character is also much darker, at times verging on sad and pitiful. I miss the fun, bubbly, optimistic barmaid that Sookie once was, but I guess torture brings out the cynic in everyone.

The two competing plot lines, the influx of characters, and the chaos of the events does leave one feeling a little exhausted at the end. However, Dead and Gone thankfully ties off some loose ends from book 8, with certain plots being finalised once and for all, hopefully paving way for a return to more delightful, warming events in future.

I think most people read these novels in the hope of there being a resolution to Sookie's love-life, that she will receive a happy ending. Yet there is so much stuff going on in books 8 and 9 that there simply isn't room for any development of her relationship with Vampire Eric - or Quinn. Or Sam. Or even Bill (remember him?). It's the reason I keep reading these books, but I'm beginning to fear there will never be a resolution, and that there's no happy ending in sight for Sookie.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Sending Memories...

The last time we were in Adelaide I found some lovely postcards by Tim Sylvester. This one of Frome Street is a particular favourite. SJ and I were suburbians of Adelaide for a decade, a city that doesn't quite feel like a city with all the parklands, green spaces, cafes and public art. Whilst I was studying I would pass this mural almost daily on my way to University.

Today this scene (this memory?) is on its way to Russia as part of the Postcrossing Project.

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.