Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Today I wrote and posted a letter to my partner as part of A Bun Can Dance's letter writing swap. I can never say no to the prospect of writing and receiving mail, as there is nothing better than opening the letterbox at the end of the day and finding within it an envelope filled with stories and news from a friend or a family member (or sometimes even a complete stranger!).

In today's world of electronic conveniences - email, instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace + blogs, text and picture messaging with cell phones, Skype/VOIP - letter writing no longer appears to be the preferred method of correspondence. It is too slow, too time-consuming, too difficult to bother with. In addition, with postage rates always increasing, the humble letter is fast becoming an expensive past-time.

I see this as a huge shame. I love writing and receiving letters. It was my Nanna who convinced and inspired me to write my first "penpal" letter when I was about 7 years old. My "penpal" and I had met once at her grandparents' farm and we had exchanged addresses; she was the same age as I was and we shared similar interests and lifestyle. But if it had not been for my Nanna's encouragement I doubt I would have ever completed that first letter. To this day, my "first penpal" and I are still in touch; over the past 21+ years we have continued to write one another, through changing schools, towns and cities, University, and new careers. We now live, once again, in the same part of the world (the Flinders Ranges), albiet a few hours apart - plenty of distance for continuing our written correspondence.

My Nanna is a letter-writer, which probably doesnt come as much of a surprise considering that she belongs to a generation before the existence of computers and cell phones. To this day, she still makes the time and effort to write to family and friends. I, too, share correspondence with my Nanna, and this is one of my favourite treasures.

I hate the telephone. I find it interruptive and annoying. If I want to tell a friend about my day, share my news or ask after their well-being, I much prefer to do it in the form of a letter. Ideally they would be hand-written, on nice stationery, in a decorative envelope, with little surprises to fill the weight limit, to make it all the more exciting and intriguing for the receiver.

There was once a time when just about everyone wrote letters, and when the duty of the postal service was just that: To provide a postal service, not an outlet for giftwares and a place to pay the bills. No, the postal service existed solely to ensure that a piece of mail reached its destination, whether it be in wind, rain or sunshine. It may have taken days, weeks, or even months for a single letter to arrive at its destination, but its receiver would have eagerly awaited its delivery, upon which a reply would have been promptly penned.

How wonderful it would have been to belong to this time, when the written word held so much importance. A time before telephones and computers, when news from a loved-one came in the form of a little paper bundle...

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Is it something that you do often, rarely, or never? I wouldnt be surprised if there are people out there, perhaps those belonging to the generation following mine, that have never penned a real letter in all their life and used the post to send it. What a magnificently simple treat they have missed out on: The curiousity in its arrival, the anticipation of tearing open the envelope to reveal its contents, the excitement of reading a loved-one's news, the pleasure of their enquiries.

Sunday is the day I like to dedicate to letters, and today I wrote two. I hope mysterycreature, my partner for A Bun Can Dance's letter writing swap, is as excited by the prospect of receiving my mail as much as I am of hers. It will be our first correspondence, perhaps our only correspondence, which simply makes it all the more wonderful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daughter of the Forest.

Last weekend I finally finished reading Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. Due to an unfortunate busy schedule it ended up taking over a month for me to finish, which was a bit frustrating because it turned out to be an incredibly good read.

Juliet Marillier writes historical fantasy. Her novels are set during historical time periods, but she bases her novels on myths. Daughter of the Forest is set on both sides of the Irish Sea, with Sorcha being the heroine of the story (no wonder I just had to read this one, right?). Sorcha is set a seemingly impossible task by the Fair Folk (faeries) to save her six brothers from a curse that has been placed upon them by an evil enchantress.

At first I found the story a little slow; there was a lot of explanatory text and dialogue, yet I couldnt make sense of where the story was heading. However, around 200 pages in (keeping in mind this novel is over 500 pages in length) it all started to fall into place and I gradually became more and more engrossed in the story.

I became attached to the characters, so much so that whenever something bad happened I wasnt sure if I would be able to continue reading for fear of another bad thing happening. I didnt want bad things to keep happening, I wanted Sorcha to save her brothers in a timely, ordely, pain-free manner; nothing horrible was allowed to happen to anyone or anything! Of course, it probably wouldnt have been nearly as enticing and exciting without it, though. In fact, a week after having finished reading it, I still find myself gazing off into space, thinking about Sorcha, her plight, her brothers, her story...

Daughter of the Forest is the first novel of four in the Sevenwaters Series. The other three novels are Son of the Shadows, Child of the Prophecy, and Heir to Sevenwaters. These and other books by Juliet Marillier are available at Amazon for all international readers, or if you're in Australia/New Zealand/Asia I recommend checking them out at Fishpond.

I have registered my copy at BookCrossing, but am yet to decide what I should do with it next: Keep in my Permanent Collection and loan out? Start a Bookring or Bookray? RABCK? However, if this is a novel you think you might be interested in reading, let me know and we might be able to arrange something.

Spring Reading List (September - November) Progression:

1. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
2. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
4. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

By the way, I am currently hosting a giveaway at my livejournal for a brand-new copy of Jane Austen's novel Pride & Prejudice. If you'd like to go into the draw to win it, all you need to do is go here and leave a comment, even if it is just to say you want the book. Unfortunately, today is the last day to enter the draw and I will be announcing the winner over the weekend, so if you are interested, you may want to hurry on over there right away!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hamburger Connection.

"The Hamburger Connection" is a phrase coined by environmentalist Norman Myers in the early 1980s, and refers to the meat industry's involvement in the destruction of the environment. It came about as a result of the rapid growth in beef exports from Central America to fast-food chains in the USA, which, thanks to consumer demand, has since become a world-wide trend.

The mass production of animals for food has a devestating impact on the environment. Grazing and the production of grains for stock-feed has lead to the loss of rainforests and natural grasslands, as well as causing major environmental damage including soil erosion, pollution, global warming (caused by greenhouse gas emissions) and, ultimately, climate change. This issue affects every living creature on the planet.

One of the most effective ways to fight global warming and climate change is to change to a Vegetarian diet. If you want to have a greater impact on the environment than that of a hybrid car, go Vegan.

I considered making this an enormous preachy post about how eating animals causes climate change, but then I realised it is probably more worthwhile if I share some of the very informative and inspiring websites that I myself regularly refer to.

These include:

These websites contain very informative, and very relevant information about global warming and climate change, how it affects us all, and what we can do to make a difference. Please take a few moments of your time to check them out. You will be impressed, probably learn something new, and hopefully be inspired to take action.

If you're then ready to take the plunge, GoVeg provide a FREE, no-obligation Vegetarian Starter Kit for you to order or download.

So, no more excuses. Having a positive effect on the environment has never been so easy.

To view all other Blog Action Day participants, simply go here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Promoting Blog Action Day 2009

Blog Action Day this year will be taking place on 15 October, on the issue of Climate Change.

If you would like to register to take part, simply go to the Blog Action Day website and add your details, just like I did. It's quick, easy and completely free!

If you'd like to know more about Blog Action Day, go here.

You can access the list of those bloggers registered to participate here.

"One Day. One Issue. Thousands of Voices."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the Garden (06.10.2009)...

The Beginning of a "Summer" Vegetable Garden:

The Patch


The First Strawberry Blossom

Zucchini (Corgette)

Sugarsnap Peas

Patio Tomatoes (Yellow & Roma)

Sweet Grape Tomato

The last of the "Winter" Vegetable Garden:

Spinach & Onions

Sugarloaf Cabbages

Six months ago I was an absolute gardening novice. I still am, but planting a "Winter" vegetable garden taught me the following very important gardening points:

1. Location, location, location: It should have been obvious, yet my Winter vegie patch was too shaded and didnt get enough sunlight and warmth on the rare days there was some. As such, the plants grew and developed painfully slow. However, the moment Winter started turning into Spring and the weather warmed the plants quickly tripled in size. But this too had it's downfall: most of the cabbage plants and all of the cauliflowers went straight to seed. They are now composting over in the new patch and make great worm food. In the Winter garden we have two cabbages that will hopefully be ready soon (if the bugs dont get to them first!), as well as a bunch of brown and red (Spanish) onions. The spinach is super tasty and we eat a lot of it; any excess we either give away or use as worm-food.

2. Adequately prepare the soil: Dont plant before you are ready! Turn the soil correctly and put through plenty of fertilizer; for the "Summer" garden we have used cow manure and pigeon poo and the plants have done wonderfully well. We left the manure a week before planting any seedlings.

3. Continue to fertilize: I've been using fish emulsion on the vegies every two to three weeks. In the past week alone the plants have doubled in size!

4. Keep the soil moist: Moist soil promotes many big, healthy earthworms. If you let the soil dry out, the earthworms will disappear, and you need worms to maintain healthy soil. You may have to use raised beds if your soil is sandy.

5. Mulch, mulch, mulch: Helps retain moisture, and as it breaks down provides the plants and worms with food and nutrients. Is especially important in the dryer climates.

6. Follow the moon: Plant with a new moon. The water is apparently closer to the surface during the first stages of the lunar cycle, and further away at the end. I've also been told that by planting with a new moon, the plants will be big and strong enough to use the light from the full-moon to photosynthesise at night. (Although, if that's untrue, please correct me!)

If you too have a vegetable garden and have experiences and tips to share, please do! It would be most appreciated.