Friday, December 31, 2010

Running into 2011

Happy New Year!

I have just spent two hours sorting through cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting and other craft paraphernalia - and have culled a little, filed a lot and am feeling confident that I am all set to start a lovely Easter project! Yippee! Or, to be more exact, finish an Easter project that I barely started about ten years ago. Better late than never ... Can you tell that I am in New Year Resolution mode?

Anyway - it's a pattern that I bought in the Eva Rosentand shop in Copenhagen about 15 years ago, when I was there with Eva and Antonia (I love you guys). The pattern is for a "loper" [in Dutch] – you know, the long table-cloth strip you hardly ever use to decorate the table for special occasions. The English word is "runner", which sounds more energetic than the Dutch loper, which means walker! 
The design isn’t the Eva Rosenstand one shown here, but it gives you a bit of an idea ... Mine is more simple and less old-fashioned. It has a little yellow chick, a bright red Easter egg, a tulip and three tall yellow daffodils. I think the design is by Clara Wæver; it is numbered CW 2-3778.  I was reading about her on the Eva Rosentand website, and she was a pretty inspirational woman. She had a “great talent” for embroidery, worked in an embroidery shop and taught women the various techniques.  Later, with her sister Augusta, Clara then opened her own shop when she was 40 - in 1890. This gives me GREAT hope, as I turn 40 this year! The sisters sold embroidery materials and produced patterns. They also taught young women how to embroider in the old Danish 'white embroideries' style, as well as training brides in decorative techniques for their "marriage portion".  Hmmm, makes you wonder how times have changed, and what makes up a marriage portion? Must be like a dowry?

Anyway - Clara apparently always looked for new designs and was known for buying original drawings by several Danish artists for inspiration. Almost 20 years later, in 1917, the sisters handed over their shop to N.C.Dyrlund, who continued their tradition. In 1930, when she was 75, Clara Wæver died. There is a lot more to the shop's history, with the Danish company Carl J. Permin A/S - Permin of Copenhagen - taking over the Eva Rosenstand / Clara Wæver shop in 2003, which ensured that the company remains in Danish hands.

Anyway – it seems that my modest little pattern must be at least 85 years old! I can't get the printer to scan my little pattern, sorry, and I can't find it online, so you will have to wait to see the final pic of my finished work! Let's hope I get to finish it this time!

Also some other exciting news:  some Mums and I are setting up a monthly Stitching session, so I can make sure to spend at least several hours on it every month!

In the meantime, I will post a pic of the actual pattern (which is the size of a postage stamp) as soon as I can scan it - where is a computer tech when I need one?!

Happy New Year again, let's make sure we are all feeding our souls!

Ike
xxx

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A proud first liner

Sorry it has been so long!

I keep on meaning to blog, and I keep on being taken over by work, calls, doing the washing or the washing up, cleaning, the boys' activities, etc. The list goes on. Anyway, when I had the chance to read some of the paper last weekend, I was delighted to come across someone's (sorry, can't remember who - Maggie Alderson, I think!) list of favourite books.

You know how I love a good first line of a book. Well, you would know if you have been reading this blog! Anyway, Maggie (or whoever it was, sorry, I did not tear that bit off because at the time I thought I would remember!) listed Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen as one of the books that she most enjoyed. And here's why:


"I'd heard of this book, which I picked up one dull Sunday afternoon in the playroom of my family home when I was about 11, but didn't really know what it was about. That legendary first sentence fizzed in my brain like a soluble aspirin in water and as the meaning of it became clear, I realised that this was a grown-up book that I could read and understand and enjoy. Finishing it - and adoring it - gave me the confidence to embark on a great adventure of devouring classics."

I have read this book too - many years ago, and needless to say am about to rush off to the book case (which I meant to do last week when I tore this section out of the newspaper) to find that opening liner! Hang on a sec, while I go and find it!

Would you believe it? I have Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility, but not Pride and Prejudice!! Incredible. I will buy a copy tomorrow if I get the chance ... in the meantime, thanks to the WWW I have tracked down the opening few paras for us to enjoy!
Dreaming on, as ever,

Ike
x

Chapter One – Pride and Prejudice

IT is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”

Bingley.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a
year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? How can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”
I only hope that times have changed, and people marry for love!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sweet teas


It has been a while, and I have been gagging to share lots of bits (with all seven of you, ha, ha), so thought I would start with a recent discovery I made!

Thanks to a great blog called The Design Files, I have been enjoying some brilliant insights and sneak peeks into Australian-based artists and their homes. The most recent profile was a tour of illustrator Paula Mills’ Melbourne home. This very talented artist manages to juggle motherhood - three young daughters - wifedom and creativity with writing and creating for two blogs and managing online sales of her wonderful work. Not to mention creating a cosy, lovely home for her family.

Needless to say, reading through the blog post on Paula Mills, I was innocently led astray to her ‘illustration’ blog - which made me greedy for more, so I visited her online Etsy shop. Sigh. Heaven, as Gus would say! I had to click on every item in her online shop to take a better look. What can I say … Paula Mills is one gifted woman!

Together with her Wellington-based sister (Shelley Gardner), these creative sisters “love to make, draw, sew and collect lots of lovely, sweet things”. Join the club! I wish I had even half the talent they do!

Paula’s Sweet William blog, which she co-writes with Shelley, is really lovely as well (and half of the title of my blog post today is named after it). It can be found here. Personally, my favourite is the first blog, which showcases her designs and sweet descriptions of how she was inspired for each.

ANYWAY, like I said I also ended up taking a look at Paula’s online Etsy shop, which inevitably made me think that, possibly, maybe, she might make a great illustrator for my (as yet unwritten) children’s book?! I have been keeping a look out for potential collaborators to help make my dream of writing a book for every year that the boys are at school a reality. Mostly talking about their adventures, ups and downs. When it mentioned on Paula’s website that she is open to commissions, I got just a tad excited and a bit more focused on my idea of writing something dedicated to our little men. So, watch this space!  Please note: you may be watching for a while!
  
To sum up: I just love Paula's work. Here, take a look at a really small sample. 

Tea 1


A digital print of an original pen and ink drawing Paula made of one of the many tea cups she likes collect. The drawing was scanned and digitally enhanced, printed using high quality archival inks on Epson A4 matte heavyweight - bright white card (signed and numbered). Measures 6 x 8 inches.

Tea 2


On Etsy, Paula talks about how she loves pattern. Her small collection of delicate tea cups in blue willow is one of her favorites and featured here. She loves the intricate drawings and the simple rich colour they depict. So do I! Again, available as digital print of an original pen and ink drawing which was then collaged, scanned and digitally enhanced by Paula. 7 x 7 inches in size.

Tea 3


Another digital print of an original pen and ink drawing Paula made of one of her many tea cups. “This could make up a set of three tea cups”. No kidding. Come on over and see mine when they arrive in a few days’ time! He he ...

Camille sailing


“This is Camille - a very special girl who has the power to do many things - she is able to climb any mountain, fly with angels and dance with the wind, wouldn't you like to sail away with her in her little teacup and explore the seas?”.

Wow. Maybe she could co-write my children’s book?!  Like the other three tea designs, this is a digital print of an original pen and ink drawing done my Paula. I managed to resist buying Camille. Too many to choose from!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these as much as I hope to, for a long time to come!

Shower and bed are calling. Sweet dreams.

IL
x

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Barbara opening liner

OK, better late than never!


Here is the opening line to one of Barbara Pym's novels, No Fond Return of Love, which I read a few years ago. It's in keeping with my current Paris 'fin de ciecle' and American 1920s infatuation ...

I actually looked Barbara Pym up a few years ago when Alexander McCall Smith mentioned in an interview that she was one of his inspirations. I can see why, because they both enjoy making light of everyday and sometimes seriously awkward situations; and they both are the type of authors best enjoyed with a cuppa at the ready, and a smile on your face:

Chapter One:

"THERE are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the most unusual."

As a bonus, I will include the next line too, because it gives a great taste of the whole book!:

"When Dulcie Mainwaring realized that her fiance did not want to marry her after all - or that he was not worthy of her love, as he put it - she endured several months of quiet misery before she felt able to rouse herself from this state."

She makes a great and likeable heroine and I highly recommend the read! Only 254 pages, with a satisfying ending to boot!

Night night,

Ike

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

1920s, Flappers, John Held Jr & Dorothy Parker

Good morning, loyal 6 (he, he!),

I was very busy imagining and dreaming last night (no doubt heavily influenced by two hours of addictive googling) about my still mild infatuation with 1890s' Paris, Toulouse Lautrec and the Moulin Rouge - all of which I have loved since my teens - as well as the 1920s' Flappers and, as it turns out, John Held Jr (Jan 1889 - March 1958) illustrations!


John Held Jr - more on him later, just teasing at this stage - was a fantastic illustrator with a wicked, clever sense of humour. At the age of 15, he sold his first one to Life Magazine, which proved to be the beginning of a long front cover partnership. What I wanted to share was: his drawings are whimsical and insightful, and the colours he used were, simply, FANTASTIC! Not to mention the clever headlines, like the "She Left Home Under a Cloud" below. His Life Magazine covers, Broadway posters and Flapper illustrations actually made me think a little bit of Alexander McCall Smith, E.F. Benson and Barbara Pym - a lot to take in, I know! They all have one thing in common: taking a really close look at society, the impressions people make, and how they interact. Again, more on these great authors, later!

Anyway - wanted to satisfy part of my urge to blog about these inspirational people this morning - it even got me out of bed quick smart!

Here are just a few John Held Jr illustrations, a Dorothy Parker poem (and trust me, I don't particularly like poems, but this one really appealed to me) and, to top it all off, an opening line from a Barbara Pym novel ... 

My ramblings probably don't make (much) sense to most, but am putting finger to keyboard, all the same!

Take a look at these beauties - don't worry, I will post them all soon, there are lots more where these come from, thanks to the clever WWW! These particular images were copied from Magazine Art's website and a few different blogs, thank you! 


Mobile Sheiks and Shebas, or, The Jazz Age (1925)

'Hold Em', Football number
November 10, 1925
Source: Rich Doty, collector of John Held, Jr. art


Source: Mark Forer

Originally updated by Gatochy

And last but not least (I must get the kids ready for school!), here is Dorothy Parker's Flapper poem ... Barbara Pym will have to wait until a bit later, sorry!

"The Flapper", Dorothy Parker:

The playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.

She’s not what Grandma used to be,
You might say, au contraire.

Her girlish ways make quite a stir,
Her manners cause a scene,

But there is no harm in her
Than in a submarine.

She nightly knocks for many a goal
The usual dancing men.

Her speed is great, but her control
Is something else again.

All spotlights focus on her pranks.
All tongues her prowess herald.

For which she may well render thanks
To God and Scott Fitzgerald.

Her golden rule is plain enough –
Just get them young and treat them rough.

Some web sources imply that she criticised the flapper fad, but you can still see her sense of poking fun at these remarkable women! And I'll let you in on the F. Scott Fitzgerald reference later, too.

Have a great day!

Ike

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prints Charming

Just a quickie. An all important embroidery update! For the blokes out there, I am sure you will find this really riveting. For the girlies - especially Lisa B - enjoy!

Firstly, must APOLOGISE for the picture quality - I am still using my blackberry and not editing anything.  Promise to improve, once I find a user-friendly camera/downloading system! I know that this comes with blogging territory!

Secondly, these Christmas decorations are incomplete; I still need to stitch the backing on (someone want to lend me a sewing machine?!), cut around them and "stuff 'em proper"!

So, here is the first little cab off the rank, on unbleached linen imported from Russia with love:




You can see that I have tried to use all the stitches I learned at the Prints Charming workshop - chain, running, whipped running, long, back, that filling-in one, and the list goes on! The hardest, for me, is achieving the perfect French Knot! Those bobbles above the heart. Little buggers! I like them quite chunky, but they get loose, won't spin beautifully ... To keep them secure on this one, I actually added some little white beads, forcing the twirls to stay together. Realised that I quite liked the look and idea of the little beads, so added some at the top too - the red diamond shaped ones - as well as teeny, tiny turquoise beads at the very, very top (almost impersonating perfect French Knots!). I had lots of fun with this design - the whole process is so, so addictive!

Second cabbie:


This is the dove I started in the actual workshop at Prints Charming, and I finished her off (not literally, or she would not be happily pictured above) this weekend. Again, embellished the design with a little add-on. A wee, red button for an eye, this time. She still needs to be backed, turned inside-out and stuffed, too. I can feel an afternoon of sewing and stuffing coming on!

What I really love about all this is that you can play with colour themes as you go, add things, practice different stitches and techniques. I may even make some stuff up! And I love the look of blanket stitches, so will figure out a way to learn and use those, too.

I'll find the time to make some more and complete them for some lovely Christmas decorations!

Thanks again to Cath Derksema and Kirsten Junor, for the lovely embroidery lesson a fortnight ago! You certainly made what I fondly refer to as 'my granny activities' fun and memorable!

Night all, am off to bed with Anna K., again! Have a feeling I will be sleeping with her for a while yet! She has just returned to St Petersburg from Moscow, and being spoken about behind her back ... Vronsky, her Moscow admirer, is causing a noticeable stir amongst her circle of friends - he has followed her and keeps on popping up in her social circles. Her "friends' are all gossiping about Anna's new shadow (said Vronsky). She has not even deceived her husband yet, but the thought seems to have entered her head! Delicious!

Night all,

Ike
x

Monday, October 4, 2010

Melbourne Mums

Well, our visit to Melbourne was lovely. Mum and I walked, shopped, enjoyed the exhibition and ended our day with a wonderful meal at Cafe E Cucina on Chapel Street. Allesandro, our waiter, flirted with Mum and she was in heaven!


Ealier, at the European Masters exhibition at the NGV - the main purpose of our flying visit - I saw a Monet I had never seen before! The highlight of my day! It was a painting of lop-sided traditional Dutch homes nestled on the river in Zaandam. The painting was acquired by the Städel Museum in 1904 and the pic below does not do the colours justice. I loved the roof lines, the clever reflection in the water and the green colours. Very Impressionistic, and oh, so Monet!




After the exhibition we wondered over to Gertrude Street – thanks Kate B, for that recommendation! - where we came across some lovely shops and boutiques. The street itself was filled with a few dodgy looking characters, but the range of shops and their originality made the trip very worthwhile. The most memorable were, in no particular order:


Vixen: http://www.vixenaustralia.com/. Not only was the sales assistance absolutely lovely, the colours and lay out of the shop were so, so nice. So lush! Lots of pinks, reds, fuchsias and little things to look at every time you took a step deeper into the shop. I bought this Chinese bowl, which I think is beautiful. It sits on a bit of a stand, like a mini cake stand. It appears to be hand-painted (I am no expert!), with its design slightly off-centre (a bit like Monet's houses ...) and has wonderful colours. I particularly love the yellow flower in the middle ... I served tomatoes on it tonight, so I could enjoy the colour contrasts.




Needless to say, I bought some beautiful Vixen-made lavender filled silk coin purses - I think I bought about 15, I was becoming a tad obsessed - for our wardrobes and a lovely silk brooch. See pic below, taken on the bedroom carpet! I must get a proper camera and stop relying on my blackberry ... but you get the idea!
Couldn't stop there, when I saw the purses, all neatly lined up in the wooden wall cupboard. I bought one by Australian designer Belinda Pieris. It's dark licorice in colour, with a lovely turquoise green patterns stitched over the top ...


Cottage Industry:  cottageindustrystore.blogspot.com. This was a great find, and one of the fist shops on Gertrude we entered. The owner, Penelope, is a prolific crafter and has created just about everything in the shop. She turns old vintage tea towels and turns them into cushions, knits lots of great hot water bottle covers ... I bought a really cute match box, filled with vintage buttons and ribbons. They only sell them sealed, so it was a great a surprise to unpack on the tram, on the way back. Can't find it right now (shame on me!) as I hid it from the boys … Will post a pic soon, I promise!! [added 13/10: seriously frustrated so have ordered two more and apparently they will be put in the post today. Hopefully I will end up with three little treasures instead of none!!]


Sankofa:  http://www.sankofa.com.au/ - this is another great shop, filled with fair trade and African goodies. I loved (and resisted to buy, because I was going a bit nuts) the dragonfly ornaments in the window but bought some small recycled glass decorations, for Christmas,. or maybe to wear as a necklace ...








Anyway, on returning to the heart of Melbourne we went to a few shops in the Royal and Block Arcades. Again, did some damage and bought some gorgeous jewelry in one and a Babuskha doll in Babushkas (they also have a shop in Darling Harbour, Sydney!). The shop was filled with dolls in every shape and size and mine's a little beauty. She is holding three red strawberries and has six smaller dolls inside her . . . Look at those rose apple cheeks!



Above:  Mine holds three strawberries



Above:  I didn't buy these, just drooled!

With that, I must stop. Heidi is hosting one of my favourite shows - Project Runway!

Sweet dreams,

Ike
xx

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love on a platter

Love on a platter …



I ventured over to Vintage by the Sea, Shabby Chic Market last month (every third Sunday on 43 The Kingsway, Cronulla) and found a treasure trove of doilies (heaven!) at several stalls, some buttons, two lovely flower pots, a hand embroidered little girl’s singlet with French knots and using the blanket stitch, and, as I reluctantly walked out, saw this tea-stained oval plate.

It’s so romantic! It shows a young man on bended knee (with a terrible hair do, those curls, honestly!), wooing a lass (with a slightly better ‘do) wearing a pink dress. She's seated under a tree, whose canopy frames the upper half of the whole plate. In the far distance on the other side of the lake, you can see a little temple structure surrounded by grey (ie, very far, far away!) trees and lots of bushes.

Anyway, he’s playing the lute and is singing to her. I'm guessing it’s a love song, or words to inspire a loving response from her. She’s just sitting there, prettily, looking down, admiring him and is supposedly enchanted. Clearly, a fairy tale romance. I hope that they lived happily ever after!

The fact that the plate has tea stains all over it didn't put me off. It was obviously well loved by a previous tea-loving owner.

Anyway – I turned the plate over, while thinking how lucky it was that the tea stains don’t really disrupt the romantic scene, and à la Antiques Roadshow, gave a thought to its heritage. I found the outline of a star with six points, with the following words below:

PARAGON
FINE BONE
CHINA
MADE IN
ENGLAND
Gainsborough
Reg.

There was also an outline of what looks like a row of green numbers, hastily stamped above these words.

Google search response to Paragon (heavily edited by me):  Paragon China was introduced by the Star China Co. in 1903, became part of Royal Doulton in 1972, and continued to produce china until 1991. By 1989, the name and patterns had been absorbed into Royal Albert and by 1992, the Paragon name was discontinued (at 89 years old, not bad!). 

Clearly, all very irresistible for only $4!

Thank you Robyn, I loved your stall!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An inspiring Thursday ...

What a wonderful day I had today!



I dropped the kids off at school/kindy and headed straight over to Prints Charming in Annandale for an embroidery workshop, hosted by co-founders Kirsten and Cath. Our group of grateful women learned how to embroider a range of stitches on a selection of Prints Charming designs which were printed on unbleached linen from Russia (with love). The threads we used were made of beautiful colours - pinks, yellows, reds and more. Needless to say, I had a BALL and promise to write a proper blog entry on this experience soon. I highly recommend anyone interested in craft or embriodery to get in quick, so you can make some thoughtful Christmas presents!



Also, I had a lovely second half of the day - which involved getting lost in order to finally find a lovely graphic designer and print maker, who I interviewed on behalf of Extra Curricular. I was not only delighted to meet this talented designer, and talk about her inspirations and process of taking an idea and converting this into handmade designs, I was really excited to be able to contribute to this wonderful New Zealand publication. Thank you to Ellie of Extra Curricular - for happily accepting my offer (plea) of help, and for selecting such a great interviewee. I look forward to seeing the final interview included in issue 4, due out in mid November. I bought my issue 3 from Lark, a divine online and actual shop in Daylesford, Victoria. Lark sells some truly gorgeous, whimsical things and I am tempted, sorely, repeatedly. I highly recommend a visit.

Then, at school pick-up, I was chatting with my friend Lisa who mentioned that she had an advent calendar pattern from Permin of Copenhagen which she had been meaning to start, and suggested that we may make it together, with an aim to finish in time for next Christmas! Gorgeous! I can't wait to see the pattern and get started (and hopefully finished) within the next 12 months and spend more time with Lisa.

Last but not least, I am about to pack for a mini break to Melbourne with my Mum (belated birthday present for me, thank you Mum!) to see the European Masters exhibition at the NGV. Again, I promise a proper blog about this visit, soon.



There you have it - lots of inspirational reasons for my fabulous Thursday!

Have a great sleep, off to bed for happy dreams.

IL
xx

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Christmas Visit

Early morning, mid September ...

I enjoyed my date with Anna K.  last night - she herself has not entered the story yet; I am just reading about the stout Prince and his surprise that his wife - whom he no longer loves and is the mother of his five (alive) and two (dead) children - is upset that he had an affair with a recent governess. She refuses to live under the same roof as him and the whole household is in disarray ... members of the house staff have already resigned and he is a little worried about the inconvenience of his 'harmless' indiscretion.

In the meantime, I thought I would share my latest cross-stitch project with you. It is so  traditional, I love it! The design is from The Prairie Schooler, is dated 1994 and features seven different Christmas tree decorations. The one that I am starting with is a father Christmas who is holding a lantern, shoulder bag, is framed by holly and is (of course) decked in his Christmas colours:



So far, I have stitched part of his coat and his head, and am about to include his eyes and mouth, to be followed by the rest of his olive overcoat.

Every year, The Prairie Schooler releases a new Santa pattern and they have just released their 27th in the series! I have the pattern cards of a few previous ones, but think I may need to buy them all, at only a few US dollars a pop! I hope my sons will appreciate all these hand-stitched treasures one day!

I'll post a copy of the final designed cross-stitch once I've finished it. I am thinking completing the decoration with some of the vintage floral linen cut offs I bought from Patchwork Plus Miranda last week. For example, this beautiful olive floral design:
  

Anyway, I'd better get the boys organised for school and kindy!

xx

In bed with Anna ...

Mid September, 2010
"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Leo Tolstoy's opening line to his 1875-1878 novel, Anna Karenina.

As you can see, I have taken Alexander McCall Smith's advice about opening lines - and their importance - seriously! It looks like Anna Karenina may well be an intriguing read! I certainly have HIGH expectations.

And yes, we've finally done it! Our book club has chosen Anna Karenina as its next book - and we have given each other six weeks or so (I think it is 46 days from today, actually) to read her 963 pages. That’s roughly 160 pages per week. Or 23 pages per day. Almost a page an hour! Yikes!

The lovely thing, though, is that our book club also enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery earlier in the year. We supplemented this quirky award-winning French drama with the movie based on the book, which was showing as part of the French film festival here in Sydney. I have to say, I never expect much from movies based on books. It’s too disheartening. Especially if I have read - and really enjoyed - the book. For example, I did not really like
The Kite Runner film, but loved the book. This French film, aptly named The Hedgehog, took me by surprise, though. It was actually a great interpretation - and extension - of the novel. I really, really enjoyed it. The producers took a good story, and turned it into a great film. They added a few extra dimensions to the story that enhanced it, rather than devalued it.

Anyway, I remember EXACTLY the look on the concierge's (aka the hedgehog) face, when her new Japanese tenant completed the above Anna Karenina quote back at her - after she mumbled the opening line at him under her breath ... and the look of horror and surprise on her face, when she realises that she has been caught out for being so well-read! Imagine, a 'lowly' concierge having a fetish for great books and stories, and cheekily dropping their lines in to her every-day speech. Non-one had ever taken much notice of her before, or realised whom she was quoting. She quite enjoyed entertaining herself at the oblivious cost of her previously unsuspecting, rich, less well educated tenants!

Now, I myself can look forward to an education. Reading (and hopefully enjoying) the original epic. Don't expect me to quote its lines at you any time soon, though! Well, maybe just occasionally!

So, while Elliott is in Seoul on business and my two little men are snoring, I will be taking Anna to bed with me. I only hope that I can get through this epic in time for our next book club get-together!

Has anyone else enjoyed or quoted Anna K. recently?!

xx

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

#4:
First Sunday, September 2010




Happy Father’s Day, darling! And you too, Papa. In fact, happy Father’s Day to all my friends and family members (who are fathers!). I've included the picture of our home that Zack created for El especially, which I thought was really clever! He even tried to include our house number, bless his cotton socks . . .


While Elliott is having one of his first ever sleep-ins (he’s usually the early bird at the weekend), I thought I would ask Google to find me some responses to the key words, “Father’s Day”. The very first link that popped up was the trusty (most of the time) Wikipedia, which started its definition with the following words of wisdom:


“Father's Day is a widely known celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society ….”


Most of the rest of the Wikipedia blurb was not that interesting, though it does mention that the day only became an official holiday after decades of squabbling in 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. Thanks Mr Pres.


It also says that we actually share our Australian Father’s Day with New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, but that the majority of countries seem to celebrate on the third Sunday in June ... let alone the other 25 days on the annual calendar when other countries honour their Dads! That actually means that somewhere in the world, every 14 days, a Father’s Day is being celebrated. Wow!


Last year, the Daily Telegraph in the UK featured 20 famous fathers on 19 June (not that this is on their Father’s Day), picking the best and worst. No surprise then, that Homer Simpson is included on the list. I don’t mind the Simpsons, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. Helen Brown, the author of the article, summarises how I feel about the show and Homer quite well – often silly, not laugh-out-loud enough and just a tad repetitive: “Lazy, gluttonous and stupid, the cartoon character created by Matt Groening in the late Eighties is described by Dan Castellaneta (who voices him) as “a dog trapped in a man’s body”. But this all American everyman’s every misdeed is redeemed by his chest-bursting, tail-wagging love for his family. D’oh! D’awwwww . . . Although he sometimes forgets his youngest daughter, Maggie, exists, her first word was still “Daddy”.” Hmmm.


Anyway – it is 8am and I need to re-heat the tea I brewed for El earlier, and go and look for the weekend papers again. Unluckily for me, they get chucked at the end of our very long, very windy, driveway and were nowhere to be found over an hour ago. Brrrrr. Maybe the papers are usually delivered by a Dad, who decided to be spoiled with tea in bed before venturing out to deliver the Sunday papers. Forgivable!


So, to my Elliott: Thank you for sharing the parenting journey with me. You do it very well and you are my rock. I hope our boys will one day resemble your approach to the task of fathering - including listening, encouraging, challenging, and knowing when to say “No!”.


I love you very, very much.


XX

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Winter warmer

#3:
Winter warmer

August 31st, 2010



OK, the last day of winter is nearly over. Just over three hours to go. It was the coldest (by ten years) and wettest (by three years), according to today's weather report. Hmmm. Enough about the chilly climes, what about tomorrow, the first day of Spring?

I will be going for a jog in my new joggers. Slightly embarrassingly, I had to buy mens’ in the end; the ladies’ did not go up to a large enough size. Honestly, in this day and age? It's not as if I have huge feet. Just big feet. I should be a water skier, but without the skis ... let's hope the shoes work, and make me run faster and longer! 


During Spring, I'm also going to be thinking about blog content that I want to write about. I've already started a bit of a list. I want to write about something Alexander McCall Smith mentioned at one of his literary talks he held in Sydney last year. He spoke about the importance of penning a memorable opening line to a novel. That is so true, isn’t it? A bit like meeting a potentially new friend: what you experience during the first encounter will make you want to find out more, or the exact opposite - and then the opportunity to enthrall someone is lost. For authors, it's could be the difference between high and low book sales. Alexander McCall Smith quoted one unforgettable example: "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills." Incredible. It immediately make me think of the book and the movie ... So, I am going to browse through my bookcase and pull out some of my favourite books and explore if they too have legendary first lines. Here is one: "Mary Ann Singleton was twenty-five years old when she saw San Francisco for the first time." (Tales of the City, volume I). And another: "Passing off, thought William. Spanish sparkling wine – filthy stuff, he thought, filthy – passed itself off as champagne." (that last one was Alexander McCall Smith’s - Corduroy Mansions!). As you can see, I am going to have some fun with that idea! Suggestions are of course MORE than welcome. Best one gets a prize!




Another topic I am passionate about and thought would be of interest is a one-stop-shop blog about Melbourne designer Grant Featherston. He was inducted into the Design Institute of Australia's Hall of Fame in 1996. Every time I get an eBay alert that one of his pieces is on sale, I have the (very) unrealistic hope that it might sell for - what Elliott considers to be - a reasonable amount. Dream on. I am clearly more inclined to part with lots of cashola for a masterpiece than he is ... "Eeks, it's a chair." The Eleanor is so beautiful, but more on her and other models later. I have already started researching on Google and am surprised that information about him is not that readily available. Maybe I will build the courage to approach his widow for an interview . . .


I also love nisse or tomte, the Scandinavian Christmas elves. To me, they represent very fond memories of early teenage visits to Denmark with my oldest friend Antonia and her Mum Eva to see MorMor, Eva's lovely Mum. A visit to Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen was like love at first sight!. When we met with Antonia Nick and Mabel in California two years ago for a joint holiday 'alf way', Antonia and I ventured out to Solvang to explore a town created by Danish settlers. One of the shops was dedicated entirely to Scandinavian Christmas ornaments and I had to practice some serious self control, as you can imagine . . . There were little friendly nisse everywhere, each wanting a new home in Sydney no doubt! Quite a few lucky ones made it, too! Poor Elliott ...


As you can see, I could go on forever and I am sure the list will grow and become a whole new beast with its own name!!


Anyway – am off to bed. Elliott is out with clients and I am going to tuck in with my latest book – The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (opening line to the prologue: “They gathered in the dark long before the train arrived at the small station”; and opening line to Chapter One: “In years to come, Laurence Bartram would look back and think that the event that really changed everything was not the war, nor the attack at Rosières, nor even the loss of his wife, but the return of John Emmett into his life”. Good reference back to the title, at least!


So, there you go. That was the last winter posting, to warm your night! Only 2.5 hours to go before Spring ...


Sweet dreams,

IL x x