Sunday, April 30, 2006

Val gets crafty

I have never been good at arts and crafts, but I have long wanted to do the weekend course on "simple oriental bookbinding" offered by the Council of Adult Education. The inclusion of the word "simple" gave me a bit of hope that I'd at least be able to make some of the books.

Well, it was the most fabulous class: lovely people, great teacher, and I was actually able to produce beautiful books over the two days. I can't wait to visit the specialty paper shops that import the most exquisite paper from Japan and elsewhere. Apparently I'll have to take out a loan to afford them, but I actually already have a supply of oriental handmade paper. A few years ago when the Man Who Cooks was still travelling to Asia, he bought large sheets of handmade paper to cover parts of the walls in our studies. We wound up using shojii blinds instead, and just stored the paper and forgot about it. Turns out that stuff is a mini goldmine for bookbinding. I can see a new obsession coming up. Hope I'll remember to blog now and then.

Tortoise shell sewn binding

Embossed paper, accordion book (see photo in next row)

Two signature ledger book with origami figure

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The sad lone duck

Twice a year we get a visit from migrating ducks, around about now, and again in August. Usually they appear in pairs, but last week this one was on its own. Rather sad, as ducks mate for life. Alice had a similar post about a cockatoo losing its mate recently. I'm hoping that maybe the ducks just landed in different pools in the neighborhood and later caught up with each other again.

It is always a delight to see them in the pool, and their arrival is quite dramatic too, if you happen to be watching: our garden is surrounded by tall trees, and the ducks zoom in, descending sharply in tandem and at great speed, just clearing the roof line (lucky we have a flat roof!) and straight into the pool. The sound of them landing in the water is distinctive, so if we haven't seen them land, the sound alerts us to their presence. They can sometimes stay for an hour.

Years ago our male cat Tintin was surprised by this intrusion into his territory, and spent a good part of an hour stalking them. We were ready to rush out if he got too close, but those ducks really were on top of the situation, it was as if they were teasing that cat. They'd even get out of the pool and wait at the edge until at the last moment they'd jump into the pool and out of Tintin's reach. This happened over and over again that morning. Now he just ignores them, I think that must have been a learning experience for him.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hedgely Dene Gardens revisited

Today was just too beautiful to stay indoors, even though it was a rare opportunity to have the house to myself. I was going to visit a garden in the Dandenongs which has beautiful specimen trees, but the cost of petrol made me think twice about driving all the way up there on my own. I decided to go back to the much closer Hedgely Dene Gardens to see how autumn (on the left) was changing them from when I saw them in summer (on the right).

A nice quiet spot

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rugged up for breakfast

Are we out of our minds? Leaving our centrally heated home in Melbourne to have breakfast (and all other meals) out of doors, needing to put on layers of clothing? Crazy we may be, but happy. It was a wonderful three days in the country. Posted by Picasa

Assault on Mt Alexander

Mt. Alexander - the goal. We have been gradually walking the Great Dividing Trail over the past few years. Our total enjoyment of this concept has often been marred by a lack of signage. This walk was another case in point. Fortunately we had the TV tower to aim for. This was going to be the saving grace for us.

Beautiful gum tree, just in front of the Coliban water channel. Until this point, the walk was along an old vehicle track that a 4WD could navigate.

This is where we start to lose the track, but we've got the towers to aim for.

Really lost now, decide to go straight up

View from the top. Signs saying: Warning: steep drops - duh - been there, done that.

Victorian countryside - how lovely it is. By enlarging the photo you can just make out an old stone cottage on the farm.

Kyneton Air Show

Typical air show audience - and we were so lucky with the weather.

One of these days I'll go for a ride in a Tiger Moth!

Tractor pull - does this type of competition exist anywhere in the world outside country Australia?? The tank is full of water, and tractors compete to see how far they can drag it on a dirt track.

The man who cooks loves old cars, so there was something there for him as well.

A beautiful Mustang - Techie Son would have loved this. But no: going to the country is not cool - no computers or TV.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Typical Saturday afternoon during the footy season

If Carlton isn't playing a Saturday afternoon game, I can be found in my ironing nook, listening to Rex Hunt's footy commentary - doesn't matter what game it is, which team is playing. I love listening to this guy's hilarious description of what is happening on the field. He has his own names for all the players in the competition, so to follow his commentary you have to have a good idea of who everyone is, and what they look like (e.g. any bald/shaved headed players are apt to be called "The Cranium" or lately it's "The Brazilian"), and these names will be used and embellished throughout the season. Rex is one of the game's great characters, and listening to him makes a week's ironing go by in a flash. Here I am, ironing the last of a dozen shirts, preceded by tablecloths and napkins etc.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Four things meme (tagged by Susie's Space)

I was tagged by Susie for this meme:

4 Jobs I've had in My Life

1. Insurance Office Clerk in San Francisco (me too, Susie!)
2. Dishwasher in a restaurant in Hamburg, Germany

3. German teacher in a high school (U.S. & Australia)

4. Librarian at the Goethe Institute, Melbourne (German Cultural Center)

4 Movies I Could Watch Over and Over

1. Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati)
2. Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati)

3. Blade Runner

4. Arnie movies (action packed and most are hilarious too)

4 Websites I Visit Regularly

1. (Carlton Football Club)
2. library catalogues (I'm addicted!)

3. Google, especially its image search
4. various blogs

4 Favorite Foods

1. orzo (also called rissoni - rice-shaped pasta), with any sauce or just buttered
2. roast duck
3. any desserts or cookies made with almonds, almond essence, amaretto, marzipan
4. chicken prepared in any way - I have SO many recipes for chicken, and keep collecting more

4 Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

1. Dunk Island, Queensland
2. Japanese garden in or near Kyoto, with few other visitors around
3. Japanese garden in Cowra, New South Wales (it's a beauty!)

4. in a cosy bed and breakfast in Castlemaine, just for a treat

4 Books I Could Read Over and Over

1. Tree of Man (Patrick White)
2. A Japanese Touch for your Home / for your Garden (both have excellent ideas!)
3. an atlas of Victoria, Australia
4. in my younger days, anything by Hermann Hesse

4 Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over

1. I left my heart in San Francisco
2. Midnight Rambler (Rolling Stones)

3. Prelude to a Kiss (Duke Ellington)
4. Carlton Football Club song

4 Reasons Why I Blog

1. I've "met" people with similar interests, from far and near
2. It allows me to express myself

3. It's a fun way to journal, and I don't have to worry about my worsening handwriting
4. I love the challenge of using the various features of (while wondering why they provide this great service for free!)

I will tag the Other Val in Dorset England, and Stu in Western Australia, who will appreciate and maybe steal some of my answers (he is also a Carlton supporter). These two are good examples of what I meant by my first answer to why I blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Painting a picture with window coverings

We love the look of Japanese interiors, and when we saw these shojii style blinds we knew they would be perfect for one of our living areas. The entire wall is floor to ceiling windows, looking out onto the garden. We can have some or all raised or lowered to various heights, to keep sun out, or let light and warmth in. Even when they're lowered completely they give such a nice backdrop to the room, and let in enough light so that it isn't claustrophobic. Now that the sun is getting lower in the sky and temperatures are milder, sitting in those chairs is blissful. But it's sometimes nice to have just the one blind up, framing a snapshot of the garden and highlighting the hibiscus and birch tree.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Breaking news

I decided to have a slipper day today (after going to my early morning aerobics class, of course), so we decided not to go to the Flower and Garden Show after all. It's the perfect day for staying indoors and trying out some computer scrapbooking. (Also, I wanted to be able to watch a bit of footy).

Jellyhead mentioned in her comment to my last post that as she had never seen a photo of the Bread Nazi, she pictured him as a "vague loaf-shaped figure", which drew a guffaw from me (yes, librarians do occasionally guffaw). That has given me an idea for a fun project to try with various photo-editing programs, which will probably take up an inordinate amount of my time. However, the Bread Nazi has appeared on these pages, most famously(?) as the man who cooks. Not very loaf-like, more your pretzel stick shape really, or maybe a baguette!

So sorry to all of you wanting to see photos of the garden show. That will have to wait until next year.

Saturday morning in Castlemaine

We usually aren't in Castlemaine on Saturday morning, so after going to the local fruit and vegie market (Bread Nazi very happy as a baker was selling loaves of sourdough bread there), we went our separate ways for a while: Bread Nazi stocked up on apples from our favorite apple grower in Harcourt before checking out the Hot Rod Show (Castlemaine is apparently the Hot Rod Capital of Australia). I checked into the local library for some peace and quiet, writing in my diary, and making notes from a new scrapbooking book that was on display. This was scrapbooking using your computer, which is right up my alley. One of my plans for this year is to start getting all our photos and other memorabilia in order. The scrapbooking phenomenon has really started to take off here. I just wish I weren't so inept when it comes to arts and crafts. Maybe by using a computer I can bypass that scissors and glue stuff a bit. Any readers into scrapbooking, computer or otherwise?

The weather was pretty chilly, but when we arrived about 5 p.m. Friday evening we went for a walk over the hills through a forested area, and that got us warmed up. Built a fire and ate our dinner next to it. We have always enjoyed eating outdoors in all seasons. I forgot my camera this weekend, so no photos of us sitting at our card table, lit by candle and firelight. But I think you get the idea.

Despite my last post indicating that I would want water and power at any place we lived in the country, for weekends and holidays we are quite happy to rely on the basics for lighting and keeping warm, and tank water from the sheds' roofs for drinking water and for our solar shower (!), and an overflow tank for dousing the fire and watering some trees and the ornamental grapevine.

Today we are back in Melbourne, and will be going to Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. I've never been to it before, so am really looking forward to it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Heading up the Calder Highway

We're heading out to the Castlemaine area this afternoon, to get some fresh country air, see if there's any water in the dam (fat chance!), and for a change we'll be there on Saturday morning. We can go to the local vegetable market then (lots of other stuff too) and might even make it to the library before it closes. No, I just can't keep away from libraries. The Castlemaine Library is in a 19th century Mechanics Institute building, and is always a pleasure to visit. There's a link to it on my Libraries I Love web page (link in the left column).

Castlemaine is our spiritual home and one day we may even live there. My goal: small unit with own small garden, level walk to shops and library. The Bread Nazi however would like to have a garden on our 10 acres, land already ravaged by goldminers, and then cattle grazing. To show how bad the soil is, it could only feed 4 head of cattle. And of course no water, no power. Nup, not for me at the age we'll be if and when we decide to move to the country.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nothing wrong with a bit of biffo

OK, I'll have to admit that one of the things I like about the Australian Rules football code is that it is a contact sport, and players can show a bit of mongrel. You'll never get me interested in the yawnfest that is the round ball code.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Carlton's first game of 2006 tonight

Yes, I will be there, I would have to be pretty sick to miss a game if it's being played in Melbourne. Have missed maybe 3 games in the last 7 years, which have included the club's worst years. But there is always hope. It is such an unpredictable game that the most amazing upsets have occurred to surprise everyone. This is what Carlton needs to hope for this year.

I will be meeting up with my young friend Phine, who barracks for tonight's opposing team (Melbourne Demons). We can't sit together at games when our teams play each other because we each have reserved seats at home games, so we'll meet after the game for a meal at Mecca Bah. Our different football allegiances, nor our differences in age, have any bearing on our friendship. That's special.

This is a photo taken of us in 2004 for an article we wrote about our friendship for the library's staff newsletter. I have taken the liberty of embellishing it.

Dreams DO come true! Carlton won the game!

Mrs Zen in her cosy library

An update on my day in the library yesterday: What an April Fools Day that was.

We had been told that major maintenance to the university's network was going to take place Saturday morning, but all services important to the library would be back up by noon. Library opens at 1 p.m. - not a drama, right? Hah!

Get there at 12.30 to find that services are NOT back up, loans desk staff start frantically activating their backup system so they can at least issue books. But what was I going to do without a catalogue, access to databases, yea to the internet itself? Zilch, nada, nichts, zip. Before we could get a sign at the front door organised, letting people know the situation, it was opening time, students streaming in. For the next nearly two hours I would need to field phone calls from students trying to access library services from home, students in the library asking me when services will be restored. Meanwhile I can't even answer the simplest reference question: Do we have such and such a book and what is the call number. The catalogue, the key to our entire collection, is not available. Aaargh!

Despite this, people seemed to find alternative activities: some found books and journals by browsing the shelves (!), and others used the workstations to type up essays and assignments. It was with great relief when the system came back up shortly before 3 p.m. and I was able to announce this over the library's public address system.

So, zen-like was not how I would describe the first half of yesterday's shift.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

And now, for winter

Last weekend we were experiencing summer weather, but by the end of the week it has turned almost wintery. Thankfully that has been accompanied by good rain. The garden is looking refreshed.

I too am feeling refreshed, and seem to have got over the flu-like symptoms. And only 2 more weeks until the Easter break, which is a long weekend (4 days) here in Australia. For us in the library the Easter break means that the initial chaos of first semester starts to die down, the students do not have classes for a week and things get more civilised. That's the theory.

Today it's my turn for a weekend desk shift: 4 hours at the information desk from 1 - 5 p.m. But it's the perfect weather for being in the library, dark skies and rainy. I always find the library cosy on those days. Is it just me? Hopefully all the frantic students who were thronging into the library during the week will stay at home today, their research done, articles printed out, and are working on their essays. But of course the ones who will be in the library will have left it too late, trying to finish their assignments in a few hours before the Monday deadline. They will be stressed. I will try to maintain a zen-like calm.