Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Week in Pictures...

* Slowly but surely I am getting the garden organised. I picked the last of the root vegetables (turnips, beets and radish) from the winter crop, and have started clearing the veggie beds for a summer crop. Late is better than never, although I'm going to have to select my veg wisely. I also now have a lemon tree, which I plan to plant in the frontyard; the Lisbon can grow up to 6m in height, so I hope to utilise both its shade and fruit to the best advantage I can.
* Slowly but surely I am catching up on my book reviews. I am such a terrible procrastinator on everything, which is silly really because I enjoy reading books and writing the reviews. I just need to try harder to write the reviews prior to starting a new book!
* Slowly but surely I am catching up on my mail. I was in a bit of a letter-writing slump recently but have now found some motivation again in the form of a new mail art project, which I will announce here later in the week (keep your eyes peeled!).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn...

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"She hugged me again, fiercely, and flew off to the kitchen, leaving me feeling fairly staggered. I was the daughter of an earl, I thought bleakly, born to privilege and wealth most people could not even hope to imagine. And in that moment, I would have happily traded places with a little maid who had everything I did not." - Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

Silent on the Moor is the third novel in the Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn: Victorian murder mysteries featuring the delightful Lady Julia Grey and the wonderfully enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane.

Silent on the Moor sees Mr Brisbane come into possession of a wild and rundown estate known as Grimsgrave on the Yorkshire moors. Despite Mr Brisbane's express wishes that she not, Lady Julia invites herself to stay at his estate, dragging along her sister and brother on the journey north as her chaperones (custom of the times required that a lady should never travel alone, especially to visit an unmarried man in his own home). Upon arriving at Grimsgrave, Lady Julia is shocked to discover that the previous owner - Mrs Allenby and her two daughters - are still residing in the hall, but even more surprising is Mr Brisbane's coldness towards her. Being the determined and stubborn woman that she is, Lady Julia refuses to return to London and decides to stay at Brisbane's side despite the clear opposition; she is determined to get to the bottom of the mysteries of Grimsgrave Hall.

Silent on the Moor is wonderfully gothic. Set on the wild expanse of the Yorkshire moors in a crumbling mansion, with attempted murder, mummified remains, ghosts, gypsy magics and well-guarded secrets, it is unabashedly addictive. The story conjures images of a derelict, darkened hall alight with the amber glow of the fire whilst the wind howls relentlessly outside, and Mr Brisbane's dark and brooding character is deliciously Heathcliff-esque: The author's inspiration for this story is quite obviously Emily Bronte's classic novel, Wuthering Heights, but she pulls it off. I loved it.

Don't be misled by the cover: This is not a romance novel. Although the romantic tension between Lady Julia and Mr Brisbane is electrifying, Silent on the Moor is an historical mystery novel with seemingly star crossed lovers playing the central roles. And it is brilliant. I loved everything about this novel: The setting, the characters, the style, and it is my favourite of the Lady Julia novels to date (I hope to see Lady Julia and Mr Brisbane return to Grimsgrave in future).

I would highly recommend this series to anyone.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Week in Pictures...

* I labelled the marmalade and gave a few jars away to family and friends. Then I ate an entire jar of it to myself. Whatever I could smother in marmalade I did: Bagels, english muffins, bread rolls, toast...I'll definitely be making it again.
* It was Ostara (spring equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere this week, which means it's time for me to quit stalling, get out into the garden and plant something.
* I received my order of most awesome washi tape from Deco Tape Paradise on Etsy. Washi tape threatens to become my new favourite crafting addiction.
* There's a change on the cards.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Week in Pictures...

* I started sorting through the photos in the photo album of our house that came with the house. Some of the photos look as though they date back to the 1970s. I find them fascinating.
* I used grapefruit, oranges and lemon to make seven jars of marmalade.
* Shane was sick with a 'flu bug this week so Bailey-dog and I camped in the spare room so as to avoid his germs. Bailey-dog is a bed hog.
* The garden is blooming, but everything is looking painfully dry already and it's only September. I dread January.
* I found the German/English dictionary I won in 1992 when I was 11 years old. I remember being presented with the dictionary but I don't remember the competition. Funny how the brain filters stuff in and out.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Making colourful stationery - tutorial.

Living where I do, it can be quite the challenge to find interesting and attractive stationery for letter writing, and with the added cost of postage shopping online can become expensive. So when I'm looking for a bit of inspiration or just something a bit different, I simply make my own.

If you'd like to do the same, you will need:
Writing paper
Scrapbooking paper, cardstock or wrapping paper
A circular die cutter (for cutting shapes)
Paint and a paintbrush

Step 1: Using the die cutter, cut as many circles as you will need from your scrapbooking paper, cardstock or wrapping paper.

Step 2: Glue the die cuts to your writing paper, leaving half the circles exposed at the edge, as seen above. I put mine along the bottom, but you could run them down the sides or all the way around if you wanted to.

Step 3: Cut the circles along the edge of the paper so you end up with a semi-circle pattern, as above. Use the remaining halves to make the same pattern on another page.

Step 4 (optional): Take your paint and paintbrush (I use a children's watercolour set and a thin brush), pick your colour...

...and paint a border on your paper.

Step 5: Repeat the process until you have as many sheets as you need.

Step 6: Write a letter!

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.

The Week in Pictures...

What a week!

* Gale-force winds for 5 of 7 days. That kind of weather is almost biblical. Almost.

* September is my least favourite month of the year. The weather is awful. One week in and it flattened my peas, tore the blossoms off the apricot tree, and gave me hayfever. I want to delete it from the calendar.

* I'm still drowning in citrus fruits. At this point in time it feels as though citrus season will never end. It's lucky I like citrus. This week I squeezed over a litre of lemon juice and froze it in cubes for future use.

* Bailey-dog's favourite flavour of homemade kibble so far is fish.

* Art journalling is my new favourite way to waste time and use up scrapbooking leftovers.

* I finally figured out how to blog via iPhone. But it doesn't do all that I want/need it to. Technology is pretty awesome sometimes, and sometimes it's pretty darn frustrating too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Brief History of Montmaray is the first book in the Montmaray Journals series by Michelle Cooper. Montmaray is a fictional island in the Bay of Biscay between England and Spain, with its own fictional royal family, the FitzOsbornes. This particular story is told by 15-year-old Sophie FitzOsborne through the pages of her journal: The year is 1936 and the world is on the brink of WWII, but only time will tell if the Nazis will be a threat to the tiny island where Sophie lives in a crumbling castle with her sister, cousin, uncle (King John of Montmaray) and his housekeeper/carer - and Carlos the Portugese water dog. There is also Simon, who turns up in the story often; he is employed by the Kingdom of Montmaray to act as a sort of Ambassador, and is Sophie's teen crush (although, I have to say that she doesn't really have any other crush-worthy options with no other boys around her age on the island).

Montmaray is a place where there is no agriculture or trade, supplies are delivered by merchant ships, and the dead are buried at sea. Although Montmaray is a kingdom in its own right, the King is crazy and the heir to throne (who isn't really enthused about being the heir to the throne) is in England completeing his studies, so the day-to-day running of the kingdom has become the responsibility of the children. With the threat of a Nazi invasion on the horizon, it is up to Sophie and her family to do all in their power to protect their island home and heritage.

A Brief History of Montmaray is fast-paced, adventurous YA fiction that provides a glimpse into some of history's most defining moments, but they really are just a glimpse so if you are a true History Nerd this book may not be for you. Although I am not a fan of stories written in journal format, I was able to look past that fact as the story as a whole held my attention and I became quite fond of the characters (Carlos the dog was my favourite). However, I found at times the style to be inconsistent: One minute I was in the brain of a 15-year-old girl and the next I was clearly reading the work of an adult author with some pretty awesome descriptive abilities. As an adult reading a YA fiction novel I could tell the difference and it became distracting, almost frustrating at times. However, I know that my 14-year-old self would not have noticed and would have relished the adventure and mystery that this story provides.

I look forward to reading the next instalment and discovering where history and fate take the FitzOsbornes next.

Recommended for girls aged between 12 and 16 years old, and any adults that dig a bit of clever YA fiction.

**Many thanks to the author, Michelle Cooper, for inviting and sending me a copy of this novel to review.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Stamp it!

I just L-O-V-E this new stamp issue from Australia Post, especially the roadside mailboxes.
And the seagull.
And the children at the beach.
And the sheep...

Okay, so it appears that I am particularly fond of all of them, so much so that I can't quite bring myself to ruin the booklet and use them!

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, September 2, 2012

The Week in Pictures...

* My Spring Clean/organsation frenzy continues! I've been rearranging my bookshelf this past week. I really need Shane to finish the in-built shelving in the dining room so I can pull some more of my favourites out of storage. A house full of books makes you look learned, you know.
* We're looking to start the bathroom renovation before the end of the year. That is, if I ever decide on what I want. I swear I've flipped through the pages of a hundred magazines this past week.
* Bailey-dog has found himself a nice spot to sunbathe (dirt bathe?) in the gravel next to the shed. He just loves a bit of sunshine (don't we all?)!
* Even though I know next-to-nothing about native plants, I purchased an eremophila and a native daisy from the local show last Sunday. I like the silver-grey of the leaves, but the nights are still a bit too cold and the ground not yet warm enough to plant them. Which is probably a good thing as I've not yet decided where to put them.
* The days are warming oh-so-slowly, but the nights remain very chilly indeed. We had super late-in-the-season frosts this week...
* Not that the garden seems to mind, though, with everything coming into bloom, including the apricot tree. We planted it Winter 2011 and it did not blossom last year, but this spring it is right on queue. I am so freaking excited: Apricots are my favourite summer fruit and I'll be over the moon to be able to pick just a few.
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