Tuesday, 31 August 2010

welcoming persephone

My lady Spring

My lady Spring is dressed in green
She wears a primrose crown
And little baby buds and twigs
are clinging to her gown
The sun shines if she laughs at all
And if she weeps the raindrops fall
My lady Spring My lady Spring

The seasonal table or nature table is a lovely tradition we adopted when Boy One was attending a Steiner school. Children love being involved in the set-up of the table and it encourages them not only to engage with nature but also with the turning of the seasons. Although my boys are now way too cool to even glimpse at our seasonal table I continue to honour the tradition. I know it has become an intangible yet reassuring part of their inner lives. Recently Boy One went hiking in Tasmania. He returned with a gift for me; a beautiful shell. Somehow it had survived the terrifying confines of his backpack. He handed it to me and said gruffly, 'Here's a shell for that table thing you love'. Oh yes, it was tender moment.

Spring Seasonal Table

New green and pale pink are the base colours of Spring; green reflecting new growth and pink reflecting blossom. There is gentleness here and warmth.
Your table might include;
handcrafted rabbits, lambs and child-like dolls
a bird's nest and some fleece
birds to hang in your blossom branches
Spring faeries
a beeswax candle
rose quartz
seed pods
an image of Persephone
Whatever symbolises Spring for you! x

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under the reading tree

While this is absolutely, definitely, categorically NOT a review blog (heaps of snappy Brains are already doing that), I must say that further to the lovely Kate's post at bean there, read that, here are three recent faves of mine. And yes, I freely admit I have a vested interested in Lucia, Gus and Andy, but even if I didn't I would still be loving these splendiferous picture books. Please let me know if you are loving them, too! x
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Monday, 30 August 2010

notes from the convent

Today the sun is streaming through my little studio window and I feel fine. One of the 'Clarke Street Nuns' smiled at me in a very beatific manner and I feel especially blessed. I have a deliciously clear week ahead, no commitments other than to write (and maybe cook a few meals and wash the odd black t-shirt). My editor's notes have arrived (full of marvelous insights and 'internal logic' questions that my mind fails to grasp without the benefit of a fresh eye).  I am busting to get into my rewrite. First pages for The Accidental Princess are just within reach. Wherever you may be gentle reader I hope that your day is also sunny (if only metaphorically) and doubly blessed. x
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Thursday, 26 August 2010

looks posh

This is one of those recipes that was slipped into my hand by a phantom school mum. I don't think I ever knew who Gemma was. Apparently she was Luke's mum (which leaves me even less enlightened). No matter. This cake is a total winner. I do hope you get a chance to try it. And thank you, Gemma, whoever you are. x

Gemma's Lemon Cake (Luke's mum)
1 cup SR flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 oz melted butter
1/2 cup milk
rind of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
juice of 1-2 lemons
extra sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line and grease cake tin. Combine flour, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, lemon rind, 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Beat well. Cook for 30 - 50 mins.
Syrup: Heat extra lemon juice and sugar on stove. Pour over cake just as it comes out of the oven.
Nana tip: If the chooks are laying double the recipe for a real corker of a cake.
Mama tip: The syrupy glaze and garnish make this simple cake look kind of posh. It's a great seller at school fetes.
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thursday is shopping day

Is has been brutally, coweringly cold in my shire this week...but there are still plenty of pretty things to look at. And I swear to God I have found the best chai in The Whole World. It's at Foxy Brown in Northcote. I could have cheefully licked the plunger but my instincts tell this is bad manners. Saw lots of vintage lovelies and quirkies in Lost and Found, Smith Street, Collingwood. See the beads? Oh, how I love beads. I wish I could show them to you in 3D. Stay warm. Stay snug. Keep out of the wind. x

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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

them bones...

Word on (or in) the ground is that Haggis McGregor is winning hearts. And why wouldn't he? A cross between Groundskeeper Willy and Braveheart he literally held me hostage until I wrote his story. Apparently the really wee kiddies are digging Haggis for different reasons. Not for his charm or his rugged, romantic allure. It's his skeleton horse that has them intrigued. Disgruntled mums are being forced to draw the family dog 'from the inside, please!'

Well, naturally I blame Gus Gordon for that. x
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Monday, 23 August 2010

pleased to meet you

I love this guy. I found him when, for some reason or other, I was researching antique puppets. This guy has definitely wheedled his way into my next story.
He's a doll... x
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Sunday, 22 August 2010

ode to the eighties

Confession: I live in a Tupperware container where fashion trends are concerned. But lately I have discovered to my inexpressible dismay that the eighties are making some kind of comeback. Surely not? I will never, ever wear high-waisted stonewash again. Or purple lipstick and mauve eyeshadow. And bronze shoes? I laugh in their general direction. Still, I guess I don't mind those oversized 'Talking Heads' type jackets (and if you've read my post on Dianne Wiest, well...). Oh yeah and I've never thrown out my Wayfarers (even though my nose is barely strong enough to support their weight—and let me add, my nose is no shrinking violet). But onwards and upwards. My salute to the eighties, my Ode to the Eighties, is not in the form of shoes or sunglasses or stonewash . It's Poppy Seed Cake. The height of foodie fashion in the eighties, this homely dessert has not been off my menu since. So here it is in all it's sophisticated simplicity. I do hope there are others out there who are still serving it; still woofing it down with strawberries and cream. Some things should never go out of fashion...and it's kind of cool to be trendy. x

Poppy Seed Cake

1/3 cup poppy seeds
3/4 cup milk
185 g butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup castor sugar
3 eggs
2 cups SR flour

Pre-heat oven 180 degrees. Grease and line loaf tin.
Combine poppy seeds and milk in mixing bowl and stand for one hour.
Add all other ingredients to poppy seed mixture. Beat slowly until combined, then on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until mixture has changed colour.
Bake for about an hour. Stand 5 minutes before turning out on wire rack to cool.
Serve with whipped cream and strawberries.

Nana tip: Add a little vanilla essence to your whipped cream. Everyone will love you.
Mama tip: This is a good cake for school lunches. Just butter a slab and wrap it in greaseproof paper.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

idol (idle) thoughts...

I have been thinking about Dianne Wiest. I love Dianne Wiest. We have a lot in common. For example, she has been in a string of films and I love them all. Some of these films include (in no particular order), Hannah and Her Sisters, Lost Boys, Edward Scissorhands and Parenthood. In a perfect world DW would be my sister. And I would own Holly's entire wardrobe (Holly was the manic, coke-snorting writer/actor/caterer in Hannah and Her Sisters). In the eighties no-one was quite so stylish as Holly. I like to call her style 'preppy boho' (but there's probably a proper name for it). At any rate, Holly married Mickey at the end of Hannah and Her Sisters but I have forgiven her. I love Dianne Wiest. I really do.
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Saturday, 14 August 2010

a cover story

There was much discussion around who would illustrate the cover of Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children. For some time I had hoped it would be Irena Sibley. I met Irena through a mutual friend who like Irena is also a talented artist. Irena and I chatted and she kindly read the great, unwieldy first draft. She loved it and was keen to do the cover. But Irena was ill at the time and already struggling with a heavy workload. I dreaded putting her under more pressure. Still, her enthusiasm and incredibly strong will were undeniable and her scraperboard work and linocuts had a gorgeous sort of ‘fairytale gothic’ feel. My publisher, Lisa, also liked them and was at that time considering a black and white theme. I kept my fingers crossed. Sadly, however, it was not to be. Irena passed away before my book was even at first pages. I still wonder what wonderfully dark image she would have created and grieve the passing of someone so special. If you would like to know more about this remarkable woman please read her autobiography, Self Portrait of The Artist’s Wife. It is a beautiful book, full of wonderful insights into the Australian art world and into Irena’s fearless, quirky life. Published by The Lytlewood Press.

In the meantime, Lisa had been keeping an eye on the work of
Sonia Kretschmar. Sonia had done two covers for another Penguin author, Cassandra Golds (whose work I am in awe of) and Lisa believed Sonia would create something striking for Tensy. Lisa wasn’t wrong. The central image is totally captivating; the finished product way beyond my expectations. Soon after publication a man even e-mailed me and asked if he could put the image on his t-shirt (yep, for himself). I kindly referred him to Sonia. Ahem...

Here are some other bits and pieces that make up this cover story...

Rachael Carmichael, oil on silk. This dainty image beckoned across the wide expanses of an art show at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton. Himself and I spotted it at the same time and simultaneously exclaimed, ‘It’s Tensy!’ We hurriedly scraped together our pennies (imagining everyone at the exhibition would be after it) and rushed to make our purchase. It has enjoyed pride of place above our fireplace ever since.

Little faceless Tensy. A felt doll purchased at a Steiner School fair.
An example of Irena’s scraperboard work.

Tony’s (the designer’s) mock-up.
By this stage we were all getting a tad squeally.
I’m so proud that our book won the APA Design Award. I love the collaborative stage of writing; cover discussions, editorial meetings, pouring over first pages, tis a fine, fine thing. Somehow it really does make all those months, nay years in isolation seem worth it. x
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Monday, 9 August 2010

cozy colours

I have been click, clacking this blanket for nigh on two years. Last night I finished the final square... to a round of weary applause from my boys. For me knitting is like reading, I've always done it and I don't remember ever learning. I used to knit jumpers and stuff with intentional holes but now I just knit easy, no pattern, no shaping, 'look no hands' type stuff. As I started pinning the squares together it occurred to me, will my blanket end up in an op shop one day? Will someone think it's quaint and toss it artfully across their sofa? Maybe someone will use it for a dog's blanket? If they do, I hope it's for an Russian Wolfhound. Or one of those moody curs that 'haunt the recesses' of Wuthering Heights. Now that would be super. I shall post another pic when the sewing and crocheting is finished... x
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Sunday, 8 August 2010

hot bread

Himself made Priest’s Bread today. My Lord it was lovely. During Ireland’s dark Penal times when Catholicism was outlawed, Mass became a rather cloak ‘n dagger affair. Renegade priests often said Mass in the woods or secretly in people’s homes. The women of the house would rise at dawn to light fires, bake breads, churn butter and prepare the breakfast feast. With the swish of a starched linen cloth the kitchen table became an altar. As part of the celebrations and in addition to the homemade fare, special ‘shop bread’ or ‘priest’s bread’ was purchased from the local bakery.
This morning in our little urban cottage we ate priest’s bread fresh from the oven. We complimented it with salty butter, golden syrup and cups of piping tea. I recently bought a fabulous woollen pencil skirt from the op shirt. I feel I may have to pick out the waistband and allow for a little expansion. To be sure, to be sure. Blessings from Baxter Street. x

Ref, Irish Traditional Cooking, Darina Allen
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Saturday, 7 August 2010

borders revamp

The new look Borders in Carlton is totally snazzy. The very lovely Kate Constable and myself took part in a Q and A and book signing there this morning. We have both been shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards and we have of late been travelling in tandem. It's reassuring to have a buddy on such occasions...

Amanda, the Children's Specialist at Borders, is passionate and knowledgeable and she has cool tattoos. We gas bagged for ages after the gig. And now I am thinking about You've Got Mail. I love this film. I want to live in Kathleen Kelly's (aka Meg Ryan's) 'small life'. I want to own the Little Shop Around the Corner and wear charcoal tunics and shop at Zabars and drape twinkling fairy lights around my bookcases. Thank you Nora Ephron for this pretty, stylish, bookish rom com. And thank you to all those marvellous booksellers, the biggies and the indies, who genuinely care about kids' books. x
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Friday, 6 August 2010

lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy

Today I did a Cafe Crawl at the Convent. It began in Cam’s Community store (which is where the ‘c’ words end) moved to the bakery and rounded off at Handsome Steve’s House of Refreshment. It was a kind of mobile business meeting. I talked the whole time. My new project involves a lot of talking. It’s a good thing I am partial to talking. That said, I can’t talk about the details of my new project just yet. Suffice to say alice is coming and she is not a book; she is even more exciting than that. alice is now, then, always and I can’t wait to share her with you. x
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