Sunday, January 31, 2010

Charcoal And Vintage Jewellery

Yesterday was the final class of my first drawing couse for the year. For three afternoons over the last three weekends I have had an absolute ball learning different techniques with charcoal, erasers, and conte crayon, from Ryan Nazzari. Ryan, who has exhibited at a range of places around Perth, from Little Creatures to The Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (an example of his artwork is blogged here), is such a fun instructor, full of encouragement and random surprises - I will certainly be keeping an eye out for any future classes he may be running.

Many of our drawings were shared efforts - with a neighbour, or indeed the whole class putting charcoal to your paper before you came back to finish it off. Our focus yesterday was on drawing with emotion - working in pairs, we had to fill our half of the paper with happy or sad marks. We roamed the classroom, making happy or sad marks on everyone's paper, before returning to our own page, cutting it in half, and working with whichever emotion we were left with. Eventually, we were given a picture of a clown, which we were to work into our creation.

Today was much less productive, however I did get down to the 'peachiest retro fleamarket ever' at Sugar Blue Burlesque! The gorgeous Ash was hosting her first market stall there and by all accounts made a killing selling lovely household goodies and clothing from her wonderland. For my part, I wandered around exploring the gorgeous dresses of yesteryear and, other than making off with half of Ashliegh's stall myself, I spied a pretty little something from the lovely ladies at Vintage Splendour that I just had to have.

Every girl needs a lovely piece of vintage costume jewellery after all...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Read Me

After a pre-bedtime failure last night due to heavy, droopy eyelids, a lunch time break failure, and a train ride home failure today, both due to falling short of time, I have finally just finished reading Lionel Shriver's, We Need To Talk About Kevin. Again, I'm not one for offering a review but after a semi-slow start, I thought this book was brilliant! I don't know whether it was due to my identifying with the narrator of the story, or whether it was my socially common yet 'kept quiet' and 'this feels wrong' fascination with the dark workings of the mind of a killer, but I was completely absorbed by this story. As I go about normal household chores this evening, I find myself haunted doggedly by the ending.

I'm dying to talk to someone about what I've read - fortunately, I've recently joined a book club and our first meeting, to discuss this very book, is on Tuesday night! A colleague of mine, also a member of the club, will be finishing his copy of the book this weekend. By far the hardest thing I'll have done this year to date will be to get through Monday and Tuesday at work without breaking the golden rule of the book club by jumping ahead of the pack to discuss the ending!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Australia Day Picnic Extravaganza

Delectable pasta salad made with truffle oil, fabulously fun friends, bright sunlight, delicious varieties of marinated chicken, lessons in Kanzashi flowers, a cooling breeze, a boom-box playing electro-swing music, flying formations overhead (including bi-wings... I *love* bi-wings), home made raspberry pie with generous dollops of fresh cream, chilled white wine, Australian flags surrounding our picnicking perimeter, red velvet lamingtons, red and white polka dot towels and a vintage checked picnic blanket, chilled red wine, pretty summer dresses, a big blue umbrella, delicate hand-held fans, shimmery fireworks, extra servings of pie, temporary tattoos. The best Australia Day ever.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

That Was Fun, Let's Never Do It Again

Today was a baking day, in preparation for our Australia Day Picnic Extravaganza with Mr & Miss In Wonderland.

After many hours of careful contemplation, I had put together a small dessert menu consisting of red velvet lamington squares sandwiched with strawberry and raspberry cream, chewy Anzac biscuits, and a family-sized raspberry pie with perfect home made pastry topped with a little pastry Australia.

After many, many hours of mixing and baking, I have a small dessert menu consisting of chewy Anzac biscuits, a family-sized raspberry pie with patchy home made pastry (don't even think about trying to create a map of Australia out of that stuff), odd shaped red velvet lamingtons coated with a dark chocolate ganache and no cream filling, and a green and yellow layer cake sandwiched with strawberry and raspberry cream, iced with sky blue royal icing and decorated with a southern cross made from white hundreds and thousands...

All in all, not a roaringly successful day of baking! But, as I was reminded by a friend, it's all about the finished product - we'll see how the picnickers vote on Tuesday. Besides, I did learn a few valuable lessons... Namely, there is a definite logic to Mum choosing her stress-free pastry from the freezer section of the supermarket and, $8 trays of lamingtons at Woolies are an absolute steal!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Existing In Strawberries

I love how Fridays can sometimes not feel like a week day, but rather a day of gradual transition to the weekend. At work, we can dress casually on Fridays - I get to don my pretty skirts and be more playful with my hair. On Friday mornings, I can get ready for work with a smile on my face, knowing that Adam Hall and the Velvet Playboys will be watching me lindy hop my way around the dance floor at the Mustang Bar in a mere matter of hours. On Fridays at lunch time, I can leave my packed lunch at home, venture away from the food courts, and head somewhere a little more special (I am wearing my pretty skirt and playful hair after all)... Somewhere like the Greenhouse.

My lovely lunch date and I had both been dying to try this place out ever since it opened last month, and Friday was the day! The Greenhouse is a striking restaurant that is all about recycling, re-using, and gardening. The entire outside of the building is covered in strawberry plants and almost everything inside, from the plastic crates used to make the floor, to the recycled jars used for serving dessert, is experiencing a new lease on life filled with purpose and thrifty love.

Foreground: spicy prawn, tofu, duck egg noodles
Background: skirt steak, green mango, cashew & fragrant herb salad
In the glass: home made organic iced tea

The food was just divine - perfectly sized portions of amazingly fresh produce served on colourfully inviting plates. Even though our lunch hour was already up, we couldn't resist playing truant so that we could degust a little dessert.

My watermelon jelly was delicious and refreshing...

Watermelon jelly, berries, lemon granita, labne

... But my lovely date's heaven-in-a-jar was just earth moving. Er. Mer. Gerd.

Valronha chocolate cream, cherries, hazelnut biscuit

If only lunch could last forever!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Letter H

Today, happiness comes via hydrangeas...

A beautiful arrangement of hydrangeas, green carnations, and pale pink spray roses, which I bought for myself a few days ago to sit on my desk to make me less grumpy at work.


Gorgeous new thick-heeled sandals that I snapped up for half price (yes, that is exactly what I say they cost... dollar figures are not required), and a beautiful collection of wooden and brass bangles that I thought would match them perfectly.

And Him...

Who only grumbled ever so slightly at the purchasing of the above sources of happiness. xx

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hot Spaghetti, Cold Showers

Tonight, His Flying Romance has taken him away and so it was up to me to cook a dinner for one. Inspired by a delicious and simple meal served at the farewell on Saturday night, I decided to make a pasta dish for which the key ingredient was fresh basil. The basil, I was instructed, had to be torn and then crisped quickly in some olive oil, after which the remaining ingredients are added to the pan - it was at this point that my spaghetti sauce guru was distracted by the dance floor, and I received no further advice on how to replicate what had moments before existed in my now licked-clean bowl.

Tonight's resulting dish was tasty, but I have to admit that the sauce was not as good as the other night... I do know that Saturday's spaghetti was made with a jar - I work under the assumption that fresh produce always tops a jar, naturally, so I will keep playing with my tomato and herb combinations until I get this one right. I think it's definitely a case of less is more...

Meanwhile, with two days over 40, I'm finding myself spending all of my 'at home' time sequestered away in our bedroom, taking full, simultaneous advantage of the air-conditioner and the pedestal fan. Most of the rooms in our house are not air-conditioned and it's ridiculously hot up in the lounge room. The kitchen, with it's wooden, cushion-less chairs, just isn't a comfy place to relax. So, I find myself perpetually propped up by pillows on the bed, only ever venturing out of this one cool room in order to top up my bottle of water with yet more ice.

Today was so hot, it was actually one of those rare days where I felt comfortable having a shower with only the cold tap on. I am a sook when it comes to being cold (and yes, I am aware of the irony of me leaving Australia for England, right before their winter no less) - even on a mild evening I can be counted upon to bring a shawl to the outdoor cinema, just in case - and it usually gets used! So for me to have a cold tap shower only is saying something... Of course, the cold water isn't all that cold anymore...

Reading: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. So far, a woman's contemplation about her life and what led to her son becoming a killer.

Impressed by: Marisa's goal to buy 365 items of clothing for $365 in 365 days. This lass is seriously crafty - some of her finds, and fixes, are absolutely brilliant and extremely inspiring.

Finding: Many, many people with whom I would love to do a work-exchange or two via Work Away, including assisting a real life cowboy in Phoenix, Arizona! Seriously, how cool would that be??

Monday, January 18, 2010

Anywhere But Here

It's a hot 41 degrees today, and I think that the world is feeling lazy as a result... Or at least my world is. Work is slow, and I find myself thinking about the things I would rather be doing right now...

- baking voluptuous muffins spilling over with fresh berries, and dusting them with icing sugar as they cool

- searching through second-hand shops for an eclectic collection of vintage vases

Photo by Jessica Claire

- wandering around a cottage garden, wearing a flowery, flowing frock, and filling a cane basket with beautiful roses and handfuls of lavender

- floating on a li-lo in calm waters at a sheltered, sandy beach

- laying on a blanket under a tree in a lush, green park, reading my book and lazily kicking my legs behind me

- dancing the blues with strong lead

- swanning around a winery in my sun hat, drinking a crisp white and discussing vintages and other such intelligent things (which I will magically know) with the winemaker

Chateau Elan Winery in Atlanta


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Such A Splendid Saturday

Yesterday was a fabulously fun day which combined three of my loves - baking, drawing, and dancing - all in the one deliciously sunshiny 24 hour period. To top it off, whilst I was covering myself and my paper equally in charcoal, and whilst I was being swept off my feet, quite literally, on the dance floor, I was sporting my new Vice brooch (previously mentioned here). Lauren's handy work was the recipient of much attention, praise, and adoration, and also acted as a great conversation starter whenever I noticed people staring pointedly at my chest whilst pretending to blow on their smoking pistol fingers...

The other recipient of some praise, and a little lip lickin' last night, was my carrot spice loaf. This cake fills the house with the most delicious aroma whilst it's baking, and it certainly doesn't disappoint when you take it out of the oven and try to gobble it down before it's had a chance to cool.

Carrot Spice Loaf
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
200g flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of salt
30g raisins
30g walnuts
1 cup finely grated raw carrot
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon minced ginger

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the sugar, and continue beating until the mixture thickens. Murmuring sweet terms of endearment, gradually add the vegetable oil and continue beating until well combined. Stir in the flour, walnuts, raisins, and remaining dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix together the orange juice, ginger, and carrot. Add the carrot mix to the dry ingredients, tell them they look fabulous together, and stir well.

Grease a loaf tin, or line with baking paper, and pour mixture in. Bake for one hour or until testing skewer comes out clean. Remove cake from tin to cool and admire on a rack. Dust with icing sugar or smoodge on some cream cheese frosting if you're that way inclined, then slice and serve at your next picnic, dance party, or at Peter Rabbit's birthday!

I promise, you will be loved.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Seeking Pirates

Despite having been awake since three o'clock this morning, one of the hazards of His Flying Romance, I'm finding it hard to fall asleep tonight. Wrapped in darkness and bedsheets, my mind keeps skimming over a dozen thoughts, from baking pies to vases of home grown flowers, to sleeping on a friend's sofa in Oxford. Quite obviously my brain has decided that 20 hours of up-time (which is about four more than my nanna-esque usual) isn't enough for me today.

This evening I finished reading Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - a story about love... as you may expect.

For those who haven't read it, the short of it is that Florentino Ariza falls in love with Fermina Daza when they are both in the blossom of youth. She spurns him and later marries another, but he spends the next 50 years as a bachelor, waiting for her husband to die so that they can finally be together.

Now, I'm not going to write a review - the last time I did that was too long ago to remember, but I found myself torn between cheering on Florentino with passion and hope, supporting whole-heartedly his determination to be with the woman he loved no matter how heart-wrenching it was to watch her live her life happily with someone else, and sneering at him with disgust for his utter foolishness and the willful waste of his own life.

The reason for my personal debate, I realised, was based on two opposing views on love. The first, ingrained since childhood and supported utterly by my many, many viewings of The Princess Bride, is that true love is the greatest thing in the world (except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich), and is therefore worth fighting and waiting for above all else. The second, more modern view, being that there is no magical true love and that one could find happiness with any number of people (as the odds of finding 'the one' out of the entire population of this lovely planet is so ridiculously, well, ridiculous)... it just comes down to settling on one of them.

The older I get, the more I realise it's hard being a romantic nowadays. Romantic tales generally end with the couple overcoming a few hardships (such as being kidnapped by pirates or attacked by rodents of unusual size), before they tootle off to live happily ever after somewhere in our imaginations. Real life seems to mimic this less and less - I believe the problem lies in a shortage of pirates.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Lovely Garden Party

After such a gloriously lazy day yesterday, it was incredibly hard to be at work today. I found my thoughts kept drifting to this beautiful photo shoot by Jessica Claire which has served as inspiration for my last twenty-something birthday.

Thanks to Jessica, I have now wrapped my arms tightly around the notion of an elegant and timeless garden party, and I'm not letting go! The commencement of my 30th year shall be filled with beautiful flowers in eclectic vases, paper-heart cut outs, home baked delicacies worthy of the most gourmet picnic ever thrown, and women in flowery frocks with curls in their hair, accompanied by dapper looking men. In my customary excitable and impetuous state, out-of-town guests have already been informed of my plans and have been asked if they could make it, and although it's still a good three months away, I have already begun imagining the smell of the delicious apple and rhubarb pies and the three cheese tarts that may be on the menu.
Seriously, could anything be more perfect?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Languidness Abounds

It is well into the lunch hour and I find myself still lazing in bed, my hair tied up messily in plaits, my nightdress and the bed sheets enjoying thoroughly their prolonged employment, and little Miss Muffin Head taking full advantage of the situation by dozing quietly by my feet.

That's not to say today hasn't been productive.

On my beloved Etsy I found three beautiful pieces that I just had to have. Making it's way to me from Tasmania is a beautiful feather brooch made out of Tasmanian Myrtle by That Vintage. Love! I can't wait to sit on a rug under a shady tree on a hill top, feeling breezy and drinking champagne with my new feather brooch pinned to my summer frock.

With a much shorter journey to make, I am also looking forward to receiving a gorgeous snowy owl necklace, along with the much coveted Vice brooch, both made by local Perth artist Osier. I first spotted the Vice brooch on Frankie a wee while ago and have been debating whether to treat myself ever since. The owl I fell in love with today and it just seemed wrong not to buy it since the brooch was already coming to me anyway, and would have been so incredibly lonesome all on its own...

This lazy Sunday has also allowed me to enjoy the rare but joyous opportunity of meandering slowly through a world of creatively inspirational blogs. There really are some amazingly talented women out there, so to browse through their ideas and creations is both soothing and exciting!

One (of my two) resolutions for 2010 is to be more creative. I am creating HTR so that I can write, I have enrolled in a series of short courses run by the Fremantle Arts Centre so that I can learn how to draw, and I also have a photographic project in the wings which I'm calling '12noon Saturday'. There's nothing much to say about it now, but I'm sure I'll bring it up again later in the year.

For now though, I will go back to contemplating whether today would be best spent entirely in bed, or if I should perhaps move to the lounge.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dueling Urges

At the beginning of December I applied for British citizenship - something I have wanted to do for many, many years.

The whole process is set to cost me just over $1,000 - one of the reasons it's taken me this long to do it. If my father had been the British citizen instead of my mother, or if I had been born just a few years later, I would have been eligible to hold British citizenship from birth as a natural right. However, because I am of a slightly finer vintage, and because my mother is the one with the geographically advantageous heritage, I need to pay for the right to eat peas with my fish and chips.

Ahead of me is a "three to six month" wait to see if the decision makers in Liverpool will allow me to call England home. The excitement of the prospect of living overseas almost overwhelms me every time I see scones with jam and cream on a menu, and I have already begun investigating job and accommodation options in London.

So, I'm making a solid point of enjoying my last Australian summer, and my last few months in Perth (hopefully!) for quite some time. Sub zero Christmas' and weekend trips to Italy, here I come!

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