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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Year of Reading Backwards...

Image via

I'm not a re-reader. I could actually count on one hand the books I've ever re-read (well certainly no more than two hands). Life has always seemed too short to be going over old ground when there are so many new books being published every day. Of course, it's totally unrealistic to think that anyone could ever keep up with this deluge of books yet I still feel a niggling pressure to somehow keep on top of major new releases (a legacy from my bookshop days, no doubt ,where 'keeping up' was part of the job description).

There are many inherent dangers in only reading 'new releases'. The most obvious is that you're often reading ahead of reviews and have to wade through a lot of very bad books to find the gems and, let's face it, life's definately too short for that. How short I hear you ask? Well, I recently found 3000 Books which helped me crunch the numbers. If I read 30 books a year and live to the average life-expectancy of an Australian female (83) then I only have time to read another 1200 books before I shuffle off this mortal coil! Now, that really pulled me up and stiffened my resolve to stop wasting time on books that really don't deserve my attention.

So this year I'm approaching my reading from a completely different perspective.

I'm going to join Anglea over at Literary Minded in reading 20 classic, modern classic or cult books in 2011 (I've never read any Henry James, Evelyn Waugh or George Orwell)

I'm going to read things that have been waiting patiently on my shelves for many years (I'm looking at you Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy and Pat Barker's Ghost Road) and...

I'm going to re-read some of my favourite books (like The English Patient, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Middlemarch)

That doesn't mean that I won't sneak in the odd new release or thriller but I like the idea of having a little project to guide me. Perhaps you'd like to join me? If you're looking for a little inspiration you might like to check out the new range of specially priced Vintage Classics at the official site here or here where you can see more books per page.

Are you a re-reader? Are you in the grip of the 'new release'? Do you have any good classics you'd like to recommend?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Berry Nice...

Originally uploaded to Flickr by D Sharon Pruitt

Summer has been a bit of a fizzer here so far - a few ridiculously hot days but most days barely making it out of the 20s (I've got longsleeves and jeans on today). Having said that, the berries have been great this season (we've even had a handful of bramble berries from a rose that's gone wild in our front garden!). The raspberries are particularly good - red, juicy and velvety and while I'd happily just eat them straight out of the punnet (and quite often do) I've also been enjoying them in these two incredibly simple recipes.

I first came across this Hands-Free Raspberry Jam recipe in Nigella Lawson's 'How To Be A Kitchen Goddess' but I think the original source is probably Elizabeth David's 'Summer Cooking'. If you've never made jam before you really must try this one - if you have you may never go back to the old way. Basically you just heat an equal weight of white sugar and fresh raspberries in two separate pie plates in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. Remove both dishes from the oven, add the sugar to the raspberries, stir et voila, you have the most delicious raspberry jam in the world. Because the jam has not been boiled you will need to keep it in the fridge rather than in the cupboard but it will keep in sterilised jams for some months.

The other thing I've been making with gay abandon is Jamie Oliver's 1 Minute Berry Icecream. I really love this recipe. It is equally good served immediately as a kind of 'soft-serve' or the next day when it has had a chance to harden in the freezer. Normally I'd leave the mint out of a recipe like this one (I always worry the kids won't like it) but it really does add another dimension to the finished dessert so be brave.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Busy, busy, busy...

School holidays have been over for nearly two weeks and I still can't seem to get back into the daily routine. The days just seem to whizz by. Here's how I've been spending them..

Reading the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I'm a bit late on the bandwagon but they've been worth the wait.

Listening to lots of classical music. Henry has discovered classical music in a big way. He listens to it when he's going to sleep, in the car and anywhere else there's a player. He's especially in love with anything by Bach but also likes Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.5 and Mozart's 'Jupiter' symphony. He said to me the other day, 'Mum, I've gone crazy for this music, I can't stop listening to it and it won't get out of my head!'. Bless (keep in my he's only 4).

Making this Lucy's Tomato, Walnut and Pomegranate Molasses Salad (with our own tomatoes and the pomegranate syrup Deb sent me - thanks Deb!) and this Lucy's Apricot Almond Chews. Delicious...

Re-organising my kitchen cupboards. Over the past fortnight I've broken two glasses, two mugs and a vase. My cupboards are so crowded that every time I open them something jumps out at me. I've been meaning to do it for a while but these recent losses spurred me into action. As a result I now have three lovely new fying pans (replacing six dreadful ones that can now be found in the local daycare centre sandpit) and room for all my many, many, many baking trays and tins.

Researching bathrooms - we need a new one.

Looking forward to the launch of two of the websites I've been working on for the past 18 months - not long to go now...

Marvelling at the Google Art Project. Have you seen this yet? Check out this post first and then go and have a play yourself - you won't be disappointed.

What have you been up to lately?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Five Daily Essentials

Do you have certain things you really must have to get through the day? Some daily essentials without which your day would just not be the same? Tracey at Quiet Paws has tagged me to share my Five Daily Essentials and after careful consideration I plumped for the following five:

1) a good strong cup of tea:- without a good strong cuppa first thing in the morning I'm useless. Coffee can come later at morning tea but first I need my tea.

2) my trusty lipstick:- I don't really wear much make-up but I rarely if ever go out without a slick of lipstick. I just feel naked without it. People are so used to seeing me with lipstick on that if I do forget to put it on I'm always being asked if I'm unwell! (I'm a bit on the pale side at the best of times).

3) a notebook:- there is absolutely nothing worse than being caught short without a notebook. I like to have one with me at all times to jot down fleeting ideas I know I'll forget otherwise, or to make a note of interesting books, websites, recipes or ideas for blog posts. I usually like fairly utilitarian notebooks rather than fancy ones which I find a bit intimidating but I've had this one languishing for years and I've decided it's time to use it.

4) a crunchy apple (preferably Pink Lady):- I really do believe there's something to the saying, 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away', so I usually have an apple or two stashed away in my bag or car.

5) a good book:- I'm one of those crazy people who always carry a book around with them even if they know that there is only a slim chance they'll have time to read it. To me a book is a security blanket, a suit of armour and a damn good companion.

So there you have it. How does that compare with your list? Don't forget to check out Tracey's post and those of the other people she's tagged. I'd also like to invite Estelle, Sandra, Manuela and Francesca to join in if they've got the time and/or inclination.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Am I reading too much into it?

Images courtesy of the ever-inspiring Maybe Next Week

School holidays are finally over so last week we spent some time ticking a few things off our 'oh, we should do that on the holidays' list. On Saturday we braved the heat and made for the cool confines of the truly amazing State Library of Victoria. It's hard to remember a time when I didn't know and love the Library. When I was small the building was shared by the Museum of Victoria and the Planetarium two of the most wonderful places on earth to a small child fascinated by history and the natural world. When I was a uni student I spent countless hours in the Library's magnificent Reading Room devouring books on everything from Etruscan archaeology to World War II in Melbourne.

I've been waiting until my own children were old enough to experience the 'wow' factor provided by the Library and the Look! The Art of Australian Picture Books Today exhibition gave me just the pretext I needed (here are just some of the 100 or so lovely images in the show). Once the kids had finished admiring the illustrations from their favourite books we strolled across the foyer for a quick browse in the Readings bookshop before indulging in a delicious brunch at Mr Tulk, the Library's very cool cafe.

Now the Reading Room was beckoning... As so often happens in life the Room was not at all as I had remembered it. It was a bright, hot day so the Room was flooded with natural light bouncing off the pristine white walls. It was spectacular in its own way, of course, but for some reason it seemed so much more clinical than I'd remembered it. When I got back home I 'googled' the Library and was reminded that before the recent renovations the dome was actually covered with copper sheets. That explained it all! The Room used to be quite dark with the green reading lights glowing softly throughout the Room. It was always crowded and you always felt a sense of history sitting at those amazing 1850s desks.

Sadly, on that bright, sunny day there were only three people there while in the Information Centre below (with no natural light and lots of computers) the place was jumping. Maybe things are different during the week and, of course, all the uni students are still on holiday but I had that strange melancholy feeling you get when you feel you may well be witnessing the end of an era...