Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Post-Christmas Blog Post...

[Our super pretty Xmas Tree]

In true 2011 fashion, the past week has flittered by and I've barely noticed its passing.

Where does the time go?

I'm on leave from work until next week. During this time I'd planned to achieve a many wonderous thing, but already it is Thursday and I've not yet done even half of what I'd planned.

[Xmas cards decorate the dining room mantel]

Xmas Day was a warm one in our sunny, windy, thunderstormy part of Australia. It reached 36*C in our little town, and due to the thunderstorms brewing it was humid all day until around 9pm in the evening when we had a quick patter of rain followed by a cool change. So, the day after Xmas was wonderfully pleasant, as have been the days that have followed it, although tomorrow is supposed to be back into the high-30s, and it is possible that we'll have temperatures in the 40s for the next week or so.

[Useful Xmas gift #1: Don Burke's Organic Gardening]

But back to Xmas Day: A BBQ breakfast, followed by a feast of a midday meal, followed by a feast of an evening meal left us feeling quite gluttonous!

I love to give useful, practical Xmas gifts, and I tried to do that again this year, but I also received some wonderful useful gifts in return. I've already put Don Burke's Organic Gardening book to use and planted seeds for the next lot of planting, as well as having planned my vegie patch for autumn.

[Useful Xmas gift #2: Homemade preserves and dukkah]

And this morning for breakfast I had quinoa bread spread with a generous serving of homemade pear and vanilla jam, which my sister made. I didn't know she was quite so clever in the kitchen and it was delicious!

Now I'm spending this warm afternoon writing some letters, watching a bit of TV, cooking (in the slow cooker), and reading. I've four full days left free from the confines of paid employment and I intend to get myself back on track with all that I have planned...

Tomorrow I think I'll made some nachos. Gosh, it's been years since I've had those! I'll have to share the recipe...

How are you spending your holidays?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris.

Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3)Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric looked down at me. He seemed to have a hickey on his neck. I opened my mouth, and then shut it again. Better not to comment.
"I don't like having feelings." Eric said coldly, and he left.
That was a tough exit line to top.

Club Dead is the third instalment in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. You remember Sookie, right? The Bon Temps barmaid with the telepathic abilities and the Vampire boyfriend named Bill? Yes? Good.

This novel begins innocently enough, with Sookie enjoying semi-domestic bliss (as domestic and blissful as it could be with a Vampire, I suppose) with Bill in Bon Temps. Bill has discovered computers and the internet, and Sookie's worried that he's turning into a bit of a geek.

As it turns out, that is the least of her worries.

Bill is under strict, secret instructions from the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, and not even the Vampire boss of Area 5, Eric Northman, knows of it. When Bill leaves town for a few days but then suddenly disappears, Eric seeks Sookie's help in locating him amongst the undead underworld of Mississippi, which sees her risking her life to save her boyfriend from an untimely demise. Not only is danger present at every turn, but Sookie also finds herself having to grapple with the development of romantic feelings for her charming guide Alcide (a Were); the almost-unwanted attentions of Eric the Vampire; and the heartwrenching truth of her boyfriend Bill's betrayal.

Each novel in this series builds on the personalities, perspectives and histories of the characters, and whatever the situation in the previous two books, it is not necessarily the case in the third. Things are changing at a dramatic pace, and Sookie's world is quickly turned on its head, giving the otherwise perky Bon Temps barmaid a hell of a lot to think about - and her readers in turn. It is through the encounters that Sookie has with the Vampire Eric that the author hints at there being more to this character than what meets the eye (the never-judge-a-book-by-its-cover scenario).

For me, Club Dead is the novel that sees this series turn from a fun pastime into a major bookish obsession. Characters that once appeared simple and satisfying have become far more complicated than I originally anticipated they could be, which is an intriguing turn of events of which Sookie too is fast becoming aware. In Club Dead, Sookie can no longer hide behind innocence and naivety, being forced to make very adult decisions when faced with some nasty truths about the world in which she finds herself.

FYI: Team Eric. Totally.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex.

Dracula in LoveDracula in Love by Karen Essex

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dracula in Love claims to be a retelling of the Mina-Dracula relationship from Bram Stoker's classic novel, Dracula. However, the story told by Essex is at best misleading and at worse implausible and annoying. Here's why:

1. The characters are inconsistent. Their personalities were all over the place, not a single one of them constant.

Jonathan Harker was a good man, then a bad man, then a good man. Morris Quince was a rotten scoundrel who wasn't.

The doctors from the lunatic asylum who treated women for sexual promiscuity were insane sexual deviates. The irony is lossed on no one, I'm sure. I'm still trying to figure out how this fits into the story as a whole, though.

But let us not forget the supposed "heroine" of the story, Mina Murray Harker, who has this unenviable ability to change her mind in the most drastic and dramatic fashion. I found it impossible to like her.

2. The connection between the characters was difficult to fathom, on so many levels. Many of the events that took place in Dracula in Love simply do not make sense when considered in light of the story as a whole. At the time, I quite enjoyed Essex's descriptions of the asylum, but in retrospect I struggle with understanding its purpose.

3. Despite the title, the Dark Prince himself (that is, Dracula) is almost completely absent for most of the book. He turns up for the last quarter, but then his role in the story is annoyingly and frustratingly told predominantly through dialogue. I couldn't help but feel that the author was in a hurry to finish, either to meet a deadline or simply because she could no longer be bothered with the story. A pity.

4. The reincarnated Sidhe concept had potential: It was a neat idea, but poorly executed. I think Essex could have achieved more with this storyline had she not waffled on and got distracted by other things earlier on in the piece. This portion of the story felt rushed and confusing. I think it was supposed to be that awe-inspiring supernatural twist to the story, but the author's inability to think it through ensured it completely fell flat.

5. The author seems to be lacking focus as the book has far too much filler, making the plot and characters seem inconsistent and undeveloped, especially at the end. Half the time I wasn't even sure I knew what she was talking about! Not even the ending was redeeming: Like most of the story, it was simply confusing and implausible.

6. I had expected a supernatural love story set during one of my favourite periods in history (Victorian England), but what I got instead was nothing more than misleading erotica: Dracula in Love contained a whole lot of lust, but little Dracula and absolutely no love whatsoever.

A disappointing read overall.


View all my reviews

Monday, December 19, 2011

About the House: Second Bedroom Renovations.

No Monday Mail Out today, due to the fact that the house is in a slight state of chaos at the moment since we started plastering the walls in the second bedroom on the weekend.

I'm not entirely sure where I've put the camera and my laptop is under the bed. These photos are from my iPhone. I have pictures on the camera to use for a Monday Mail Out post, but I guess it'll have to wait until another time. We've pulled all the furniture out of the room, along with all the stuff in the built-in-robe, which is now scattered around the rest of the house. Pretty much wherever it fits and won't be a tripping hazard.

This is how the room looks at the moment. We're hopeful of having everything back in the room by Saturday evening. Our schedule for the week is as follows:

Monday: Sanding and final top coat.
Tuesday: Finish ceiling inside built-in-robe and sanding.
Wednesday: Undercoat and no-more-gaps.
Thursday: Probably more no-more-gapsing around the architraves and skirtings, but hopefully will get the first coat of paint on the walls.
Friday: Finish painting walls and architraves.
Saturday: Move everything back in.

All in time for Xmas...?

Friday, December 16, 2011

On My Mind: Books, Books, Books...

I have books on my mind today: Trying to decide what should take priority over the Xmas/New Year break, especially considering that I have a number of books still sitting unread in my bookshelf. Wolf Hall has been tempting me for months, but it's really rather huge and I haven't felt like lugging it around with me.

I'm also trying to decide whether or not to participate in any online reading challenges next year. I only took part in two this year, but I didn't quite get through all the books I'd planned to, mostly because I got distracted by other books. This year I will have read more than 30 books in 12 months for the first time. I would normally plan my reading lists months in advance, but this year I have quite enjoyed the freedom of reading whatever I want, as the mood takes.

E-books have played a major part in the tally too, since they can be read anywhere. I've been reading quite a lot on my iPhone: It is far more convenient to carry them around this way! I still have quite a large number of those to read, too (at the moment I'm addicted to the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris ~ they are so easy to read and a lot of mindless fun).

I shall mention, only in passing, that I am also terribly behind in my book reviews. I have five to write at the moment. Naughty me!

Do you have holiday reading planned?


This is a Friday photo feature from Down to Earth that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to Down to Earth. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, go to Down to Earth and add a comment , with a link to your blog photo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris.

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"I stared up at the night and wondered, not too curiously, what the hell they were talking about. It's not like I was Russia, to be parceled out to the strongest dictator".

Romance, mystery, adventure, vampires and other supernatural beings: Welcome to the world of Sookie Stackhouse, Bon Temps barmaid and telepath! Her boss is a shifter named Sam, and her boyfriend the local vampire, Bill Compton. In Living Dead in Dallas, the second novel in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, Sookie is sent to Dallas with boyfriend Bill as her bodyguard. On the orders of Eric Northman, Vampire Sherriff of Area 5, she is to use her telepathic ability to help find the whereabouts of a missing vampire, believed to have been abducted by the Fellowship (a crazy-scary Christian-ish human cult determined to rid the world of vampires).

In this novel Sookie also begins to extend her acquaintances with the supernatural world, having both exhilerating and scary encounters with shifters and Weres in Dallas and a Maenad in Bon Temps.

More importantly, however, Living Dead in Dallas sets the scene for a change in Sookie's relationship with her vampire, Bill, as a result of Vampire Eric becoming a frequent part of her life. The distinct, constrasting personalities of Vampire Bill and Vampire Eric (one seriously dark and secretive, the other hiliarously bright and honest) brings about a shift in the Sookie-Bill-Eric-Sookie dynamic that by the end of the book leaves the reader desperate to find out what will happen next...

FYI: Still on Team Bill. For the moment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

About the House: Painting the hallway...

SJ and I (with the help of Bailey-dog) spent all day Saturday finishing the painting work required in our hallway.
The walls had been finished back in July, but with SJ starting unemployment in August we decided to leave the rest until we could spare the cash. 

So, for the past two weekends we have been busy no-more-gapsing, sanding, undercoating and painting the architraves, doors and skirting. It was an easy task, since the hard work had been completed months ago.

This week we start work on the second bedroom, which currently looks like this:

And is far more daunting!
The walls need to plastered.
The ceiling in the built-in-robe isn't finished.
Sanding is yet to begin (I'm trying not to think too much about the dust that it will create), and only then will we be able to paint...

All in time for Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Mail Out: Xmas Mail...

Has it been a week already? I have certainly been kept busy, what with all the shopping online in my pyjamas.

Got to love the internet!

This impressive pile of parcels was waiting for me when I got home from work today. I just love this time of year, even if the the goodies inside aren't actually for me. Sure, they're addressed to me, but the most of what came today are Christmas presents for other people.

The one right on top is for me, though: A letter from Nicola (it was her birthday today, by the way).

A day that brings a letter is a good day indeed.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Mail Out: Accessorising, postal style.

French Post themed iPhone cover from LinasStitch.
Arrived in the post on Friday, and I'm totally in love with it. 

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunny Sunday strolls around the veggie patch...

The veggie patch, wonderfully lush and green...

There's no such thing as too many tomatoes, right?

Silverbeet has a lovely earthy taste, which when picked fresh is really great in a salad with vinegarette dressing.

I didn't realise nasturtiums would be as big as the capsicums when I planted them...A wonderful bug repellent, though.

Corn. Corn corn corn!

I don't remember planting that many carrot seeds...

Cauliflower gratin. Deep fried battered cauliflower. Curried cauliflower. Cauliflower soup. Steamed cauliflower...

Of course Bailey-dog comes for a stroll too, but he's there for the lizards and the butterflies, neither of which he ever catches, yet he remains persistent!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Absence of a Quiet Mind...

A Quiet Mind by Thomas Vaux

"When all is done and said,
In the end thus shall you find,
He most of all doth bathe in bliss
That hath a quiet mind:
And, clear from worldly cares,
To deem can be content,
The sweetest time in all his life
In thinking to be spent. 

The body subject is
To fickle Fortune's power,
And to a million of mishaps
Is casual every hour;
And death in time doth change
It to a clod of clay;
Whereas the mind, which is divine,
Runs never to decay.


Companion none is like
Unto the mind alone;
For many have been harmed by speech,
Through thinking few or none.
Fear oftentimes restraineth words,
But makes not thought to cease;
And he speaks best, that hath the skill
When for to hold his peace.


Our wealth leaves us at death;
Our kinsmen at the grave;
But virtues of the mind unto
The heavens with us we have.
Wherefore, for virtue's sake,
I can be well content,
The sweetest time in all my life
To deem in thinking spent."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Mail Out: The Christmas Post.

[Christmas greetings ready to be posted]

What a busy time of year Christmas must be for the post! Perhaps the only time that many people send snail mail wishes.

The postal service always seems to rise to challenge, though, with the delivery of mail being much faster at Christmas time than at any other.

I always look forward to this time of year and the arrival of cards to decorate the mantel: A kind of snail mail shrine.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meeting the Other Crowd by Eddie Lenihan

Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden IrelandMeeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland by Eddie Lenihan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame".
~ William Butler Yeats

I'd like to start this review by making it clear how much I absolutely L-O-V-E-D this book!

Meeting the Other Crowd is made up of faerie (Sidhe) stories collected by traditional Irish seanchai, Eddie Lenihan. The stories focus on the interactions between humans and the faeries, and many are not as old as you might expect: Many Sidhe encounters recorded in this book have taken place within the last 100 - 150 years.

This book examines common themes about what faerie contact might mean for a human; why the faeries either seek human contact or do not wish for it; faerie traditions; human superstitions; how the church has influenced the current understanding of the faerie world; and why, with the increasing influences of the modern world, the instances of faerie encounters appear to be dwindling.

Every story in this book held me spellbound: From faerie Kings and Queens, to changelings and the mysterious existence of vessels such as Biddy Early, it was almost impossible to put down. Well-written and easy to understand, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Irish folk and faerie lore. It is a topic I am eager to learn more about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An appreciation for simple things...

[Mail out: 3 letters, 1 postcard, & a book]

No mail went out yesterday. Can you believe it? I still cannot comprehend how I managed to go through the day and not make it to the post office. I'm blaming it on a morning appointment that ran overtime. By a lot. And an evening meeting at work that took longer than expected.

But of course I spent a portion of my weekend writing mail: It wouldn't have been a weekend without it! The mail just had to go with this morning's post instead.

[Bailey-dog chasing geckos - Entertainment for hours!]

After a hot week, closing with a scorcher on Friday (41*C), it was such a relief to wake Saturday morning to the sound of rain. Rain, might I add, that hung around all day and gave the garden a good soaking. It never ceases to amaze me how much plants prefer rain water to the stuff from the bore.

[Laundry on the line]

The weekend also included a Christmas dinner with my work colleagues: An hilariously fun evening packed with good food and good company, a great way to start the festive season.

[Chopped veg ready for a casserole]

But most of all the cool change was a great opportunity to enjoy the simple things: Spending time outside with Bailey-dog, the birds and the lizards; tending to the garden; doing the household chores; writing mail; and utilising the oven for some hearty, home cooked meals.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mail Out: Partial to parchments...

[Gentleman note paper from LaPapierre]

"What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp".  (Author Unknown)

My stationery orders from Etsy arrived on Friday, so of course I wanted to write a bundle of letters over the weekend using my new stock of pretty, pretty writing paper. But then Sunday afternoon was spent babysitting my nephew (he is 8 years old), so only one letter went out in today's post. I don't mind, though: My nephew, SJ and myself had a wonderful afternoon of playing cards ~ games such as Go Fish!, Snap!, and Sausage (SJ and I not having played Sausage before had to learn from my nephew: It was quite the hoot!).

[Handmade stationery sets from Lizzlebugg]

With this morning's mail I also sent a First Day of Issue MaxiCard to Brittan. I hope she likes it!

I have another MaxiCard here for StoneZebra, but am unable to contact them, so StoneZebra, if you're reading this, please drop me an email: sorcha (dot) sidhe (at) gmail (dot) com, and I will get it in the post for you straight away!

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the Garden: Post-tempest.

[Corn & Cauli]

[Tomatoes on their new trellis: SJ is full of surprises!]

[Where the Wild Peach tree once stood]

[Agapanthus still standing tall in the flowerbed]

Despite Mother Nature giving us a nasty whipping these past two days, there has been no major damage to house or garden, aside from the loss of one Wild Peach tree (thankfully the other 4 are fine).

I was prepared to be devestated, so can hardly believe our luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, #2)Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string". - Anne Shirley, Anne of Avonlea

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery was first published in 1909, and is the second book in the author's Anne of Green Gables series. It continues the story of Anne Shirley, the fiesty, redheaded orphan, now aged 16 and schoolma'am of the local Avonlea School. It also sees the return of characters from the first book, including her adoptive mother Marilla, Mrs Lynde, her best friend Diana, and school chum Gilbert, as well as a host of new ones: Mr Anderson, the twins Davy and Dora, Paul Irving, and the endearingly charming Miss Lavendar.

Anne is of the age that bridges childhood and adulthood: Not as short-tempered and silly as she once was, she is still curious and imaginative and maintains her love of the make-believe. There are many new adventures on the horizon for Anne, with surprising new priorities and emotions, and the very adult task of making life-determining decisions. The period of Anne's life covered in Anne of Avonlea reveals to the reader an Anne that is constantly growing and changing as she steps into her adult self. It is a wonderfully easy novel to read; a story of the enjoyment to be found in the simple things, and of the surprising new beginnings brought about through life's experiences.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Mail Out: A Postal Disappointment & a Giveaway!

[First Day of Issue MaxiCards]

"A Letter is a Joy of Earth -
It is denied the Gods".
~Emily Dickinson, 1885

There was no Monday Mail Out last week as I didn't write any letters. Yes, it's true! Such a rare event, I must admit, and completely out of routine!

It was SJ's 31st birthday, and the quick getaway we took to the beach was in celebration of it, and there was simply no time for letters when I was flat-chat busy sitting on the beach with a book in my hand eating cake, and doing a whole lot of nothing (often referred to as "relaxing" - or so I am told).

Therefore I felt I needed to be extra diligent the weekend just passed, ensuring I returned to my usual routine and write three letters, all of which were to be posted this morning. But as "Monday Luck" would have it, they're still sitting on the mantel piece in our dining room. Of course I realise that no one can read their letters if they are sitting above our fireplace, so I'll have to make a special trip to the post office this evening instead.

I have been writing letters for more than half my life (seriously, I started when I was 7yo), and during that time I've have the odd correspondent disappear off the radar, either by choice or just through a bit of bad luck, but I've never probed for reasons and so have never been told. Despite this disappointment, letter-writing as a whole has been a wonderful experience that I still enjoy immensely, and I honestly could not imagine my life without it. I am constantly learning about the world and the people in it, have met some truly amazing people, and have made many long-lasting, irreplaceable friendships as a result.

However, one of the letters I spent a significant amount of time writing over the weekend will not be going out at all, as when I got into work this morning and checked my emails I had a message from its intended receiver explaining that she was "taking a break" from letters and could no longer write me, which has roused in me a ponderment:

How does one respond to being "dumped" as a correspondent? Should I be angry and hurt, or sympathetic and understanding? Do I take it personally and wonder if I am boring and unlikeable, or do I fob it off as just "one of those things"?

I figured I needed cheering up. So, I toddled off down to the post office in search of some postal goodies, and ended up deciding on the First Day of Issue MaxiCards pictured above, the price of which includes postage to anywhere in the world. I take this to be a sign that I should send them to people, so I will: If you'd like to receive one of these cards with a little note from myself on the back, please leave a comment. I will send one card to the first 3 people who leave a comment, regardless of location.

I'm feeling better about myself already!

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Beach.

[Jedi Master Bailey-dog]

[Sunset Gold]

[Calm before the storm]


[The Coast]


"Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll. Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain. Man marks the earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore". ~ Lord Byron

Two days at the beach: A small escape.

Time spent watching the waves roll in; breathing the clean, salty air; of waking in time to see the sunrise and admiring it as it set each evening; spying dolphins and seals in the surf, and of getting sand in absolutely everything.