Australian authors – thoughts and memories

The first book I read cover-to-cover in one sitting was ‘Pinquo’ by Colin Thiele. I sat awkwardly perched on a dining room chair, hungrily turning the pages, and putting everything else on hold. There were no breaks, no timeouts for food, and no pauses to indulge in idle family chit chat. It was impossible for me to put the book down until the story of that incredible little fairy penguin was complete. While it brought many tears to my eyes, Pinquo was my first book love and I therefore recall only the very fondest of memories of that intense reading session.

The day Colin Thiele visited my primary school on a promotional tour, was the happiest day of my then short-lived life. In typical fashion I had forgotten to bring my copy of Pinquo to school for him to sign, and so instead I bought a copy of ‘February Dragon’ (the only book of his that I had yet to read). I was probably too shy and awestruck to say anything beyond a quiet ‘thank you’ when he signed my book, and in any case I probably wouldn’t have been able to express exactly what his books meant to me.

Favourite authors ... old and new

Not too distant from that event, for my birthday one of my uncles gifted me a beautiful hardcopy edition of ‘Playing Beattie Bow’ by Ruth Park. Here then was another story to fall in love with. With a plot set in Sydney, a young girl as the main character, and time-travelling elements of the fantastical, it was a book I connected with in many different ways. I was smitten.

Recent Australian reads ... both of which I'd recommend.

I’m sharing these memories because I’d always thought that I’ve never been much of a reader or supporter of Australian writers, but of course as it turns out that’s not at all true. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many works by other local authors such as David Malouf, Joan Lindsay, Markus Zusak, John Marsden, John Birmingham and Geraldine Brooks. More recently I caught up with Kate Morton’s novels, and I’ve just finished reading Anna Funder’s ‘All That I Am’, and ‘Foal’s Bread’ by Gillian Mears (both of which I enjoyed).

Just last week I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Kate Morton’s upcoming novel ‘The Secret Keeper’. It’s next on my ‘to read’ list and I’m so looking forward to continuing my love affair with her words. What a happy occurrence this is, to be reading the latest work of a Brisbane author, given that it is currently ‘Queensland Writer’s Week‘. The only downside is that it’s quite a weighty tome to carry on my daily commute, but when it comes to books I’ll happily sacrifice personal comfort for a good story.

Do you remember your first book love?

Book therapy

So this week I had one of those days where for no particular reason I felt a bit down. Actually it was probably caused by a combination of things like not getting enough sleep (staying up late watching Le Tour), not doing my usual exercise (I’ve had to take a break from running recently), and receiving a writing submission rejection the day before (you win some, you lose some).

I was out and about going about my usual day, when somewhere between searching for engine coolant and posting some letters I found myself ‘just having a look’ through the book store. I should know by now that putting myself in the path of new books when I’m feeling a bit vulnerable will make resistance practically impossible.

New books

So this is what happens when I should be doing other things … I buy books. I’d been meaning to read ‘All That I Am’ by Anna Funder for a while now, so when I spotted it on the shelves, well I couldn’t really say no. Even though I should have finished there, I couldn’t stop my eyes from wandering further along the stack of fiction titles. That’s how I found ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ by Tea Obreht … I’m not really sure why it caught my eye, but when I read the blurb on the back I thought it may prove to be interesting.

Jones likes books too.

After a long period of not really reading much fiction, it feels good to be making time for it again. Books provide such comfort to me, and especially when the weather outside is cold and grey there’s really little better than curling up and escaping into those pages for a while (particularly if those books are kitty approved). And just like that I don’t feel so down any more…

The Comfort of Cookbooks

It’s funny don’t you think, how we move from one obsession to another? One minute it’s all about a certain colour (mustard yellow for me), then it’s a desperate need to visit a certain place (Europe would be nice), and before you know it you find yourself on a cookbook-buying bender … or perhaps that’s just me?

First I ordered myself a copy of ‘martha goes green‘ (a book I’ve been meaning to buy for ages), then a beautiful book dedicated to all things wickedly sweet (it had me at lemon curd tart), and finally a book filled with healthier (more sensible) main meal recipes. So far only the first book has arrived, and it has already proved itself to be a welcome addition.

Martha Goes Green ... my latest cookbook purchase

There’s much to love about ‘martha goes green‘. The recipes are wonderful and homely, with a good mix of vegan and vegetarian options (although I was sold on this book when I saw it contained a recipe for chocolate mousse – it’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed a vegetarian-friendly version). The other bonus of this book is that it comes with its own drawstring pouch, so it can hang around instead of taking up precious shelf space.

Martha Goes Green ... hanging in the kitchen

Of course it’s always nice to add to your cookbook collection, but my recent purchases had me wondering whether cookbooks hold more than just the promise of good food or a new favourite recipe. It took me a while, but I finally realised that beautiful cookbooks not only provide the opportunity to try new recipes and experiment with different ingredients – those pages offer a most satisfying blend of comfort.

I’m reminded of a quote from Nigella Lawson, ‘When I can’t sleep I start ordering cookbooks. And I comfort myself twice over by telling myself how useful they are, how they really help my work‘. Well I can’t claim that ordering cookbooks helps my work in any way, but they do provide lovely respite from the troubles and stresses of modern life.

Sure, there is always happiness within a rich chocolate dessert or a tasty savoury dish, but it’s rather wonderful that food-related comfort can be found without entering the kitchen or taking a single bite. By simply turning the page from one recipe to the next, the world becomes a little calmer, a little kinder, and a whole lot more wonderful. Do your cookbooks comfort you too?

PS. On a related, yet slightly different note … am I the only one who never starts a cookbook at the first recipe?

(New Recipe) Hunting and Gathering

What sort of cook are you? Perhaps you don’t cook at all? … I like to experiment in the kitchen – trying out new recipes, ingredients and techniques whenever I can. The only trouble is that experimentation often takes a little longer than the ‘tried and tested’. With life feeling busier than ever, it can be really hard to find the motivation for either myself or the Mr to cook up something new and exciting for dinner. Do you ever get a bit that way too?

The other complication is that by the time we get home from work we’re often super hungry, so falling back on one of our usual meal ideas is often the quickest and safest option. I say ‘safest’ because when I’m hungry I can tend to get cranky, so the sooner I’m fed, the better!

New recipe books!

Anyway, in an effort to break ourselves of old and lazy meal habits, I recently invested in a couple of new cook books – ‘Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights’ and ‘Breakfast Lunch Tea (Rose Bakery)’.

As a vegetarian I have a love-hate relationship with purely vegetarian cookbooks. Sometimes they can be, well … how shall I put this? … a little too vegetarian. I know that probably doesn’t make much sense, perhaps it’s something fellow vegetarians can understand? Sometimes pure vegetarian / vegan cookbooks use too-hard-to-get ingredients, are overly complicated, and (I know it may be a little shallow to say) they aren’t always pleasing to the eye – I like (and need) lots of photos. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an equal and opposite love-hate relationship with ordinary cookbooks too … when reading those you’ll often find me bemoaning the lack of vegetarian or easy-to-convert-to-vegetarian recipes … Gosh, I’m hard to please aren’t I?

While we’re yet to try out any recipes from the Rose Bakery book (I’ve mostly been drooling over the delicious pastry recipes), we’ve had lots of success with some of Sophie Dahl’s delicious recipes … here’s hoping these new recipe experiments will become part of our regular routine. Do you have any cookbooks or recipes you swear by for those challenging, time-pressured weekday meals?

New magazine edition … additions.

Are you a maximalist or a minimalist? I think ideally I’d like to live my life maximally but surround myself with a minimum of things … it’s perhaps a tall order and a long way off, but it’s something to aim for. With the whole ‘minimal’ approach to stuff, I’ve been doing my best to not buy too many books, skirts, necklaces … well, much of anything really. All in all I think I’ve done pretty well with curbing my spending and shopping habits, especially when it comes to my weakness for printed materials …

But then, every once in a little while and despite my very best of efforts, a magazine (or two … or three) comes along to sweep me off my feet. Given that I’m more of a ‘lead with the heart than the head’ kind of person, I tend to follow my instincts. Is that an adequate justification for more magazine purchases? … I don’t honestly know, so let’s just look at my most recent lovelies instead of pondering further:

New magazine edition additions

Granted, I’ve had my eye on a couple of these magazines for a while … but they are all new additions to my household. Do you read any of these lovely publications? Or perhaps I can lead you into printed temptation too? … Here’s a little about what drew me to each:

  • Uppercase – A dog wearing a bow-tie. That was enough for me. But if you need to know a little more, it’s filled to the brim with all sorts of interesting people who are working on all sorts of creative things. It has me feeling two-thirds inspired and one-third jealous. Oh, and it’s printed on lovely matte paper.
  • Anthology – While it shares similarities with Uppercase, I think Anthology covers more of a whole-of-life angle (working, eating, travelling, decorating and gifting), whereas Uppercase is more tightly focussed on creative work pursuits. They make a nice couple I think.
  • the lab magazine – One evening while killing time at a local late-night newsagent (as you do), I spotted this magazine with Sam Rockwell on the cover. Given that I’m a little bit in love with him, it instantly drew my attention. In flicking open the cover I discovered that other intriguing folk like Vincent Cassel, Devendra Banhart, and The Kills were also included on its pages. While I can’t really explain it, I’m also a fan of slightly oversized magazines, of which this is one.

So there you have it. Three more things to own and read … just call me the girl who can’t resist a magazine. Is there anything that you find hard to resist?

Celebrating new paper arrivals

You know what’s a little embarrassing? Returning to the online world to say ‘hello, here I am’ … and then not really being here … oops! I’m very, very slowly catching up on everything I’ve missed in recent weeks, so my apologies if I haven’t returned properly to your world yet … I’ll be there soon with virtual chocolates and coffee in hand! Hopefully I’ll get this time management situation sorted soon … until then, thanks for sticking around.

Apart from giving me the opportunity to build my own little world, my blog has also introduced me to some truly wonderful people. The kind of people I would happily call friends. While I don’t always remember who stumbled into whose world first, I feel very fortunate to have made the introduction to these lovely humans. One such person is the talented Christine Clemmensen who writes a lovely blog and creates delightful artistic treasures. She also knows how to host a mean giveaway … just look at all of these goodies that recently came my way …

Scraps and collected pieces

Not only did I receive a copy of the book Christine co-authored, ‘Scraps: an inspirational field guide to collage’, I also received an incredible selection of treats to kickstart some collage creations of my own … thanks so much Christine, you sure know how to spoil a girl!! … and look, my lovely parcel even received the Jones seal of approval (and we all know how hard it can be to please our fussy pets).

New scraps (Jones approved)New scraps (Jones approved)

How fortunate the timing of this postal arrival is given that I recently bought myself an ‘old paper pack’ by Applehead (from Georgie Love), a sampling of which is shown below. I can see myself while away many a happy hour creating and collaging with this collection … oh what fun!

Old (new) paper scraps

It’s wonderful when the universe provides the inspiration, the tools and the raw materials to create art all at the same time … surely that is evidence of synchronicity in action?

Here’s hoping that this week I find a bit more balance in my life, work and play. I’m figuring perhaps it’s one of those times to apply a ‘Field of Dreams’ style mantra – ‘If I say it, it will happen’. Anyway enough about me, what’s been happening in your world? Perhaps something wonderful has recently come into your life too?

The Travel Almanac

Are you like me in that you enjoy achieving a sense of completeness? I like getting in on the ‘ground floor’ of something and seeing it through to the finish. Perhaps that’s one reason why it’s always a little exciting to find the first issue of a brand new publication.

Issue One. Those words signify the beginning of something unique, and they’re loaded with the potential of what may be … Provided the idea behind the new publication is intriguing, well then, the prospect is irresistible (at least to me).

Recently while wandering about online, I discovered Issue 1 of ‘The Travel Almanac’ – and it immediately caught my interest (and that’s not just because David Lynch happens to feature on the cover). While I’m not buying all that many printed books or magazines any more, it didn’t take me long to place my order for this one.

The Travel Almanac ... Issue 1

A few snippets from the editorial letter describes just what this German-produced publication is all about, ‘While strolling through a bookshop at London Heathrow Airport, in the late Summer of 2008 it struck us for the first time: There is no publication available that explores traveling and temporary habitation for an increasingly sophisticated and mobilised generation of travelers … One of our goals with this publication was not simply to focus on the current events in travelling today, but also on the timeless aspects of travelling‘.

The Travel Almanac is a lovely compact size, it is printed on beautifully textured paper and is filled with thoughts, reflections and experiences of travel. I sat down with this issue one Saturday night and read it cover to cover in one sitting … it’s wonderfully written and has an entrancing freshness about it. I particularly enjoyed the introductory reflections on how visiting a destination doesn’t necessarily mean travelling great distances to faraway places, but can be found by exploring differences much closer to home. You can buy issues or subscribe through The Travel Almanac website, or via mag nation.

One of my favourite ways to travel (without leaving my home town) is to walk near the river that runs around the city – all that swirling water seems to disconnect me from the busy world and allow my mind to wander away in very pleasant fashion. Do you ever explore difference rather than distance in your travels?