"an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shopping - love it, hate it

Haven't been here for a while, haven't had much to write about. Study and long service leave conspire to keep me around home a lot, which I don't mind. Especially as I'll be travelling soon enough, visiting friends in Singapore and my family in Germany over Christmas. Which means I need to organise my Christmas shopping, card writing, and general preparations RIGHT NOW!
So, armed with my little list, I headed off to Highpoint shopping centre yesterday, expecting to find at least half a dozen items on my list. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. And now I understand why people have changed their shopping habits so much in the recent years.
I was trying to find a particular DVD, and was confident I would find it in the ABC Shop, the DVD being a BBC production. Wrong. So I tootled off to JB Hifi, again, no luck. Ok, onto the next item. I was looking for a (branded) Tshirt. I had spotted them in a local shop, but was sure I could find one at a better price in one of the bigger stores. More stores, more competition, better prices, right? Wrong. The particular brand of tees was quite expensive, and I didn't see the point of paying $$$ for something mass produced in China, of flimsy material, just because it boasts a 'name'. So, tick that one off. The next item, not exactly on my list, were a pair of trousers. The shop didn't have the right colour in my size, "but we'll get them in later this week." Well, goodo, that's another trip into town. And so it went on. In the end, after about 3 hours of traipsing around, I returned home with one item.
I got onto the net, and within 1/2 hour had purchased most of the items I had been looking for, at reasonable prices, with no outlay on petrol, no frustration, no mind-numbing walking around a crowded shopping centre. So, now I understand why retailers who are not online will just not 'make the cut' in the future. Admittedly, some items will always be tricky to buy online, but I'm definitely a convert to internet shopping!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Night moves

Yesterday, we celebrated 29 years of wedded bliss. Well, wedded something...lol! Still, not a bad effort in this age of disposable relationships. I actually found a new German word that reflects a different attitude to the whole wedded bliss thing - you don't have a husband, wife, spouse, you have a "Lebensabschnittspartner" (ha! - pronounce that!). Roughly translated, you marry a "life stage partner", implying that once that particular stage is over, so is the relationship. The concept must have been invented by divorce lawyers as a revenue raiser.
Never mind, we decided to mark the happy occasion with a night in town, starting with dinner at the Left Bank restaurant, situated between Southgate and the casino. Lovely food, awesome cocktail list - yes, I did indulge in a mojito - and beautiful surroundings. The night was surprisingly balmy, spring has certainly sprung. We hadn't been in town after dark for a very long time, and I enjoyed the different appeal of the city at night. Walking along the river with the crowds, we watched art being made by the chalk painter, listened to an ageing busker play the saxophone - expertly, 'oooh-ed' and 'aahhh-ed' at the casino flues bursting into fire, and heard the thump-thump of the music in the bars. This is a time of change and renovation at Southgate, one of Melbourne's entertainment precincts. There are a number of new restaurants at Crown casino, and many of the shops have closed. It struck me that the new restaurants, Nobu, Spice Temple, Guillaume, and others, are virtually closed off from view. Now, for my part, I like to see what I'm getting into, and would much prefer to see an inviting dining space instead of a menu and closed doors. Is that their idea of exclusivity? Not for me, I'm afraid.
We're not into gambling, but took a shortcut through the casino, which was packed. So many people sitting alone in front of machines, looking bored or sad! The casino itself is looking more like a tired old dame these days, only sustained by clever lighting and delusions of self-importance. We agreed that the whole complex is actually quite boring! On the way back, we passed some more drinking holes, with groups of young folk hanging out. We stopped for a while, just watching people go by, and admiring the cityscape by night. Flinders Station glowed in the dark, the golden bee on the Eureka Tower cast a baleful eye at us, a small child allowed up past her bedtime was blowing bubbles, the river sparkled, and an evidently vision-impaired 30-something wavedat me, shouting "Hello gorgeous!", much to DH's amusement.
Yes, I felt at home in my city at night.

Spring night

Clouds drifting apart

reveal diamantine skies.

Frog symphonies surge.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Haiku fun

My friend Jean sent me this haiku. Thought it was quite clever -

Haikus are great fun
But sometimes they don't make sense

Apparently it was on a t-shirt. I must search for a few more fun haikus. It's a serious art form, but who says one can't have a little fun!
In the meantime, if you see any good ones, keep sending them in (remember to attribute them to the author)!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Shivering crimson,

liquidambar leaves resist

bleak winter landscapes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Good Vintage!

Spent a pleasant afternoon at the Melbourne inaugural "Love Vintage" show at the Royal Showgrounds yesterday. I saw the ad a couple of weeks ago and thought it might be a good place to see some fashion from my favourite period, the Art Deco era (approx. 1920s-1930s). Remember the Mrs. Bradley Mysteries on BBC? Well, Diana Rigg (of former 'Avengers' fame) embodied the style magnificently. As did the girls from 'The House of Elliott'!
Although I did see some nice pieces from that era, much of the period fashion available was really from the 1950s and 1960s, and I got the feeling quite a lot of it was more or less 'Op Shop Chic'. I wouldn't have been seen dead in some of the clobber in the 1950s either!
On a more positive note, the fashion show highlighted some of the better samples, especially some of the 'flapper' style dresses, which were often made of sheer fabric and heavily embroidered. They're really museum pieces and need to be treated with respect and care, so fragile are some of them. Looking through the racks, I did see some amazing fabrics, even if the dresses weren't all that stylish. There were lots of other paraphernalia, such as shoes, hats, gloves (actual kid gloves!), scarves, handbags, and jewellery. A couple of antique shops specialising in 'vintage' items had some exquisite pieces on show. I was glad to see a good assortment of Leah Stein brooches, even though they were somewhat overpriced. These very distinct Art Deco style brooches are made of a bakelite material, and are very collectable. I didn't have the money to spend on one, but I got myself a little black cat brooch which is in similar style.
One activity I really enjoyed watching was the 'vintage' hairdressing. Two hairdressers turned visitors into screen godesses before our eyes! Remember those elaborate hairdos of the 40s, with chignons, rolls, and piled-up curls? Some of the show's visitors had dressed up in period style, and the hairstyle just added that final touch! Even little girls, with long tresses, were turned into little 1940s poppets!
While rummaging through the garments, I noticed that most of them were for very small sizes; I guess not many people had much to eat after the wars, with rationing and all, and were of small build. Today's average women's size is a 14, in those days it looked more like a 10 to 12.
I had to restrain myself at one of the stands; they were selling a stack of 24 original 1930s hand pieced quilt blocks, enough to make up a queen-sized bed spread! Very tempting, but I remembered just in time the number of UFOs languishing on my sewing table! Instead, I found this adorable little Art Deco Dachshund, which, after taking its coat off, turns into a pocket comb!
And it was made in England!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tut, Tut

Last week, we braved the weather and the crowds to see the Tut-ankh-amun exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. I was very much looking forward to this, having had an interest in this 'nerdy' sort of stuff since I was a kid in school. Archaeology has always fascinated me, and after a brief childhood period of wanting to be a nurse (whatever possessed me?), my career plans were firmly on the path to archeology, until a history teacher nearly bored me to death. I remember reading about Howard Carter's great discovery, read his correspondence with his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, and wondered about "the curse of the pharaohs"! I quickly got the archaeology bug out of my system, thank goodness, but the interest in Egyptology remained.
Our encounter with the boy king started with a 15-minute 3D movie about mummies, embalming, culture, and religion in 1300 BCE. I'm just a fan of 3D and it ended all too quickly! Then we stood in line for a while to enter the exhibition, with hundreds of others, including school classes. I'd never seen the museum so crowded! They did a good job with crowd control though, and let about 30 people at a time through the doors. Armed with audio equipment, we made our way into the dimly lit space, listening to Omar Sharif's dulcet voice explaining the exhibits. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but as soon as you walk in, the atmosphere becomes hushed. There's definitely a sense of awe and wonder as you walk around, slowly taking in the statues, jewellery, and artifacts. The craftsmanship is sublime, and I could weep for not being able to take photos. It's amazing how well preserved some of these items are, considering their age (over 3ooo years) and the way archeology was conducted back in the 1930s.
It struck me that the statues all had a timeless look about them, and I wondered, from an artistic point of view, how this was achieved. I noticed that they all looked straight ahead, the head at a 90degree angle. Usually, artists mark eyes with a small white dot, which makes the eye come alive. The eyes on the Egyptian artifacts were black, and had a large iris. The upper 1/3 of the iris was under the eyelid, leaving a small area of white above the lower lid. This makes the statue appear to look above or beyond the viewer, and, apart from their antiquity, appears to give them a timeless look.
Some of the items on display were quite whimsical, such as a beautifully worked dog collar. Obviously, Egyptians loved their dogs. The other items I liked were the little 'tool boxes', that accompanied the pharaoh's shabtis or helpers in the afterlife. There were some magnificent pieces on display, however, I would have loved to see the famous gold and blue mask of Tut-ankh-amun. Alas, it's in New York, so unless I get to the Cairo Museum, I doubt I'll get to see it in real life.
The museum did a great job with this exhibition, and since it's on until October, I might even go see it again.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Senor! The man and the legend

'Going to a rock concert' ist such a baby boomer thing to do! There we were, with a few thousand others of our generation, making our way to see a legend of rock music, Bob Dylan. I say rock music, but one could never really classify his music in any definite way. Blues, country, rock, ballads, his style would not be pinned down. Of course he's in my musical memory from way back in the 60s and 70s, with songs such as "Lay Lady Lay", "Hurricane", and "Blowing in the wind" popping into my head at random.
The warm-up act was Paul Kelly, with a young chap on guitar. Surprisingly, Paul sounded more like the quintessential Bob Dylan than the man himself! I hadn't seen Paul in concert, and enjoyed his powerful voice and the guitars. Paul entertained us for an hour, and then the excitement level went up noticeably, when Dylan's band came on stage.
When Dylan entered, the arena went wild, and I had a powerful flashback to the rock concerts of my youth; the whistles, screams, and atmosphere were electric, and I felt goosebumps! Dylan and the band launched into their program without further ado; three electric guitars, a drummer and a chap on keyboards, plus the main man singing, playing the keyboard, guitar, and harmonica. At 70, he's got enough energy to keep going with no more than a brief 5-minute break.
The band was spectacular; they played with a precision that was awe-inspiring, and the Rod Laver Arena sound system did them full justice. It was a visceral experience, the bass rattling my bones, and the guitars waaAAIIiiling, all the while with Dylan's raspy voice belting out the lyrics. The second song was the old 'Senor' (Tales of Yankee Power), and for me the highlight of the evening. Dylan's voice was just searing, a fierce new take on the old ballad. He sang a few new songs I hadn't heard before, and some old ones, some of which I had trouble recognising at first. I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with his voice and new arrangements of some old songs. Much of the time, he used a raspy, gravelly, staccato voice, which became artificial and repetitive. Occasionally, his 'real' voice broke through for a while, and the old Dylan was there again. He's used a kind of 'speaking song' (a bit like Leonhard Cohen) from way back, but he does have a wonderful voice when he chooses to use it, only too rarely.
There were some great tunes, including a couple of blues, country, and even swing numbers, and he had us all rockin' along happily, until it all came to a sudden stop, after 2 hours of play.
As always, Dylan will have the critics in a tizz. For me, the music was brilliant, the man still a legend, and say what you may, GenY, the Lady Gaga's, Pinks and Katys won't still be inspiring a generation when they're 70!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our new housemate

You're probably over reading about our new kitty, so you'll have to wait for the next post for something hopefully more interesting! For those who don't mind an update about our new feline housemate, read on.
We've already got a pet who's in our face 24/7 (Claude), and now Pretzel is shaping up as another one! The Pretzelator loves nothing more than attention, and being told he's the prince of cats, the most handsome, intelligent, sweetest, most interesting cat in the world... and he likes to be told about every five minutes, while being cuddled and patted. If he goes without attention for too long, boy, does he let you know! I've never had such a talkative cat, and worry sometimes if something's wrong, but the vet was happy with him. I've never heard such noises coming out of a cat! Especially in the evening, he starts what I call his 'cat song'. He likes to 'sing' in the bathroom - his voice reverberates so nicely in there! It reminds me of my father-in-law, who said he had a great voice, just a rough passage! Well, Pretzel might be the Pavarotti of cats, but his repertoire is quite limited. He and Mitzi are on howling terms at the moment. They've had two close encounters, I think Mitzi won the first, Pretzel the second. We still keep them apart to some degree; I'm happy if there are no fights. Noisy conversations are par for the course.
Pretzel walks quite nicely on a lead; we go for walks at least once a day. Half the time he sits and takes it all in, or winds around my legs, or watches Claude do silly dog things, but the little devil sure knows where the road and the fence are! I steer him away from that particular temptation, but I'm sure he'd hit the road in a flash if left unrestrained. I feel sorry for him being an indoor cat, but then he's safe, loved, and cared for, so it has its compensations. And he won't bother the wildlife! Claude likes his new little mate, he's very excited when he comes on cat-walks with us. Of course, Pretzel completely ignores him - the natural order of things...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crossing the miles

I've found a new amusement: postcards! In fact, an old amusement, since I've collected postcards from way back. When I moved to Australia, I had to leave my old collection behind, and gave them to people who wanted them for the stamps. I started collecting again a while ago, and have just recently joined 'Postcrossings'. This is a website that arranges postcard swaps. You register and request an address, to which you send your card. The recipient, upon receipt of your card, registers it and can upload the picture. Once your card is registered, your address is given to someone else, who will send you a card. You can specify the kind of card you want or what your interests are via a profile page.
So far, I have sent 5 cards, and received 3. What I like about it is that I learn things from doing this. For example, I received my first postcard from Taiwan, and was told about an area famous for its hot springs and witches! Baffled, I googled it and apparently a local legend exists that the steam rising from the hot springs led people to believe they were witches' cauldrons boiling! I also learned that the state animal of Oregon is the American beaver, and about Jill Mansell, the author.
People are having all kinds of fun with this, such as the Postcrossings Postcard Art group, that specialises in arty postcards. I am going to turn some of my photos into postcards, and send them around the world. One of my addressees liked handmade postcards, so I quilted him one!
I think I shall have some fun with this.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Friends, cats and disasters

Everything always comes at once - great happiness and sadness, minor and major disasters, bills, and blessings true and mixed. This was one of those weeks! Right on top of the floods, Queensland is again hammered, this time by cyclone "Yasi". Followed by more floods, this time in Victoria, and fires, over in Western Australia. And not to forget the snowstorm wreaking havoc in the USA. Extreme can be fun, but extreme weather isn't, especially if it doesn't stop sometime!
This week, a friend had to evacuate after the unrelenting rain dumped nearly 200mm of rain in 2 days. It had invaded her house, and neither sandbagging nor pumping was able to stop the encroaching waters. Taking dog, cats, birds, and husband, she moved in with family, to wait until the water had receded. Now for the cleanup! I wish I lived closer, so that I could help her in this crazy time. My thoughts and love are with you, Chris!
While families are surveying what remains of their once beautiful homes, all over the country, some silly and naive souls are finding pleasure in the wet surroundings, digging out surfboards and blow-up lilos to play in the churning waters. Even though it's a pretty stupid thing to do, especially when rescue services are stretched to the max already, another part of me understands that impulse. Who can say they've surfed down the main street of XXX, when XXX is 400km away from the nearest surf beach?! However, some of them must be candidates for the Darwin Award, like the idiots riding jet skis all the way into the back of other cars....enough said!
Amidst all the mayhem, a cat found its way into our lives - seconds from being roadkill, her curiosity about a stranger (me) meant she was whisked into my car and to safety. Not that she appreciated it, in fact, she protested loudly! And has continued to do so. Now, this is not your average moggy, this is a pedigree chocolate-point Birman. At $750 a pop, these cats are not designed to be outdoors, on the loose. At the very least, one would expect her to have a micro-chip for identification. But no, whoever her owners were, they didn't bother to chip their pet. So, if nobody claims her within 8 days, she's ours. I'm afraid we're hers already. After another friends suggestion, we'll probably name her Yasi, after the cyclone. She blew in and wreaked havoc....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Storm at Sea

The seas and heavens have been stormy these past days, and made me think of this particular quilt block, called "Storm at sea". It is a slightly complex pattern that results in a wavy, secondary pattern in a quilt, even though there is no curved piecing (yay!). I plan to make one of these later in the year and have been collecting teal and cream fabrics for it.
As with many quilt blocks, there is some history attached to its provenance. "Storm at sea" is a biblical block, one of several used first by quilters in America. There are Old Testament blocks, e.g. Rose of Sharon, Jacob's Ladder, Joseph's Coat, and New Testament blocks, such as Crown of Thorns, Star of Bethlehem, Road to Damascus. "Storm at Sea" is a New Testament block, and is related to a verse in the bible:
"..and there arose a great storm of wind and the waves beat into the ship so that it was full." When Jesus awoke, he rebuked the wind, but he also rebuked the men for lacking faith. Why are we fearful? Mark 4: 36-41
Other interesting quilt blocks and their history can be seen on the website "Free Quilt Patterns from History" (http://www.patternsfromhistory.com/).
I for one, wouldn't mind being wrapped in a "Storm at Sea" quilt if I had to wait out a storm.
My thoughts are with the people in Queensland recovering from floods and cyclone Yasi.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Victoria 2011 (haiku)

Waters rising fast,

undercurrents of despair;

not the state to be.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Doing without

So the new year has arrived and Mother Nature once again reminds us who's boss. I feel helpless in the face of so much misery created by the floods in Queensland. I don't know which is worse, floods or fire; lives are lost in both cases, and not only human lives, but animal lives as well. At least humans can understand what is happening, and hopefully get themselves to safety, whereas animals just panic and look for their owners to rescue them. So sad.
Seeing scenes on TV, people 'rescuing' fridges, carpets etc., the current events again reminded me how much luggage we carry around throughout our lives, and I wonder how much we really need compared to what we want or have. I confess to being somewhat of a 'material girl', I like my 'stuff'. At the same time, it ties me down. I began to think what I would really need in an emergency situation, but then it occurred to me to consider what I really can't do without. So, what would I place in the car, boat or helicopter that would take me to safety?
Given that DH would look after his own emergency kit, and we would both look after the pets, we'd need some sturdy clothes/shoes to see us through the immediate emergency. Our passports, birth certificates, insurance policies. A couple of USB sticks with photos and PhD files. Medications, mobile phone & charger, wallet. What else does one really need, when all one can take needs to fit into a rucksack?
If I could take more, perhaps some food (incl. pet food), a pillow, a quilt, a book. Which book?
Hmm, something escapist, a Sheri Tepper novel perhaps. Or poetry, Walt Whitman maybe. My iPod, my fabric stash, quilts, photo albums.
Almost everything is replaceable. So, although disaster might befall me, could I do without? Of course, one must, in such circumstances. I hope my family, friends, and I are never tested in such a way, and that Mother Nature calms down again soon, so people in Queensland can start to rebuild their lives.
In the meantime, my new year's resolution is to reduce the amount of 'stuff' in my life, and recycle more. What would you put into your backpack?