December 31, 2009

Roll on 2010!

I can’t say I’m sad to see the back of 2009. Some great things have happened this year (including receiving a copy of Freia in the post this week – it’s a real book, weeeeeeeee!), but there has also been some not-so-great stuff, and some downright-shitty stuff that’s made appreciate the great stuff more but I’m also keen to move on from.

Inspired (as I so often am) by the fantabulous Crazy Aunt Purl, my resolutions for making 2010 a better year are:
  • Worry less – especially about things that a) I have no control over, or b) may never happen. In 2009 my anxiousness about things reached an anxiety-inducing peak. Hopefully what I learnt from crawling back down that mountain will make for a less stressful 2010.
  • Take (smart) chances – I’m a very cautious person by nature (largely related to my anxiety about making a wrong decision), which is all well and good if someone’s telling you to jump off a cliff, but can also stop you from doing the fun, what-have-I-got-to-lose stuff. The biggest chance I’m taking in 2010 is going back to full-time study and relying on freelance work to pay the bills for 18 months. It’s terrifying but I’m also excited and optimistic, and even though the list of cons (giving up a comfortable, well-paying job working with great people in an organisation whose goals I heartily believe in) is far longer than the list of pros, on balance the pros outweigh them. So I’m taking a chance.
  • Grow more – vegies, that is. Between Mr Fantapants’s new ‘grow your own food’ book and the Organic Gardener 2010 Annual, we’re revved up and ready to plant. If only I could get rid of my phobia about slugs and snails (actually, invertebrates in general).
  • Keep up my physio exercises – they take 45 minutes out of every day, but after two years in chiro and physio my back is finally painfree, for the main part, so it’s worth it.
  • Write more – including this here blog which hasn’t received the attention I’d have liked it to in 2009 because of all the aforementioned shitty stuff taking up way too much of my brain. Also, the manuscript for my second book is due in May, so, y’know, I really, really have to...
Here’s to a happier, easier, brighter 2010 for all of us.


(Yes, my eyes are closed in this photo. I like to think it's because I'm smiling so hard.)

December 14, 2009

Why Up brought me down

On Saturday night Mr Fantapants and I did something we've never done before: we watched a movie on the laptop. In bed. Quite a novelty (and yes, this is a sign that we do need more novelty in our lives!).

The movie was Up, lent to us by one of Mr F's colleagues. I remembered hearing at the time it was showing in cinemas that it was a little sad in places, but I figured that was just in comparison to other animated movies, of the all-happy all-the-time mould.

Well, the reviews were right and I was wrong. Not that it wasn't a good movie (although it won't make my top 10 for the year), but there were so many sad elements to it:
  • the old man struggling with his loneliness after his wife's death
  • the fact that they couldn't ahve the children they dreamed of in the clouds
  • the little boy whose dad doesn't have time for him
  • the explorer driven mad because he's been accused of lying about his discovery
  • the dog bullied by his pack...
...I'm emotionally exhausted again just thinking about it. And even though there were some funny moments, and even though I loved Doug the dog and the little kid was cute and the old guy looked a bit like Mr F's dad, and even though the ending was nominally happy, on the whole it was a downer.

Luckily on Saturday I scored a bumper crop of books at the library, including the last in the Georgia Nicholson series, Are these my basoomas I see before me, which provided great antidote bedtime reading. Phew!

November 23, 2009

Too much yarn, too little time

I know that I'm insanely lucky to a) have a contract to write a second book (how awesome is Walker Books Australia for having faith in new authors?!) and b) work for an organisation that respects this work/life balance bizzo enough to let me purchase a day a week to write said second book.

But there is a downside. Any spare time I have, I feel like I should spend writing (ahem, not least because I'm only halfway through the first draft and it's due in May), which means there's not much time left for sewing or knitting or making things in general. Unfortunately, my evil, craft-stash obsessed alter ego is in denial about this fact and keeps purchasing more yarn and more fabric and downloading more patterns for ridonkulously cute things to make. Which means I'm surrounded by teetering piles of lovely, lovely stuff, all calling me ('Aimee, Aimee, I could be that perfectly fitting, unbelievably flattering dress you've spent five years looking for but never found in the shops', etc, etc).

Which doesn't help my procrastination alter ego (the one that reckons writing day should start with a blog entry, rather than facing chapter 12 and a half). It's gotten so bad that on writing days I have to work on my laptop in the kitchen, because the PC is in the room with all the craft supplies (and it's hooked up to the interwebs, which leads to all sorts of 'I'll just see if someone's uploaded a tutorial for how to make the perfect dress' timewasting). And the fact that I've wasted thirty minutes writing this entry (5 mins actual writing, 25 mins browsing craft sites on the cunning pretext that I should provide examples of the projects I'm delaying), is exactly why I'm pulling the plug and going offline NOW.

November 18, 2009

How does my garden grow?

Our little vegie garden is starting to show signs of, um, vegetables. And it's exciting!

So far only the lettuces, silverbeet and herbs have been big enough to pick, but last night I couldn't resist snipping off a few tiny yellow zucchinis. They were barely bigger than my little finger, so not exactly a meal in themselves, but I stuffed their little (too little for stuffing, if I'm being honest) flowers with a ricotta and basil mixture and simmered them in a tomato sauce (which also contained liberal amounts of homegrown silverbeet). We had them with pasta. Delish.

It's so satisfying going out to the garden and picking bits and pieces to add to our meals. I've found myself studying the vegie patch every time I pass it, to see if I can spot any changes. Every morning on our way out and every afternoon on my way in, I stop and check everything. Most exciting of all is when there are noticeable changes between one check and the next. (The potatoes and zucchini are particularly satisfying on this front.) We also have the obligatory 'What's growing there?', 'I don't think we planted that', 'Hmmm, maybe it's sprouted from something in the compost' mystery plant.

In reading news, I found lots of good stuff on my last trip to the library:
  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (brilliant, as usual)
  • Liberty Belle, I love You, Goodbye by Amber Deckers
  • Tomorrow All Will be Beautiful by Brigid Lowry
Have promised myself I won't borrow any more books until I've tackled the to-read pile on my bookshelf. So many books, so little reading time :\

October 26, 2009

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside*

Last week Mr Fantapants and I left the Big Orange Cat in safe hands and headed down the Great Ocean Road (GOR) for a few days' R&R (reading and (w)riting). We were very lucky to be staying at the family holiday house of a colleague of mine, five minutes from a gorgeous beach (not that it was warm enough to do anything very beachy) and surrounded by bushland.

The GOR holds very fond memories for me and Mr F. It was the high point of our first trip to Victoria (indeed, our first major trip together) when we drove down from Sydney in 1998, mainly to see whether Mr F's 1968 MGB was capable of making the trip. It was September and, in typical Vic. style, a freezing early spring, but Mr F had dreams of driving the GOR with the top down on the car. Every morning I'd put on my thermals and my jumper and my other jumper and my big coat, and then we'd get into the car and I'd wrap the rubber-backed picnic rug round myself for insulation and we'd set off. And even though there were many scenic stops where I saw nothing but the scrub around the carpark because it was simply too hard to manouvre my Michelin Man padding out of the car and then rug up again to move on, it was a fabulous trip and the beginning of our realisation that we liked Vic. very, very much and might like to live down here.

Although the main point of last week's trip was the aforementioned R&R (deadline for Book2 is looming and the plot refuses to bend to my will, chiz), we did take a day to drive to the 12 Apostles. A lot has changed since 1998. Where we had pulled up beside the Apostles and gone for a quick trot out onto one of the nearby cliffs for a gander, now you are corralled into a huge parking lot, with adjacent visitor centre (closed for renovaton the day we were there, but undoubtedly home to an overpriced 'cafe' and 'gift' shop) and you have to walk through landscaped 'bush' to get to some very strict walking paths and look at the view from behind a high fence. All very safe and wotnot, but definitely lacking a feeling of a) adventure or b) being close to nature, but, given that the Apostles seem to be eroding and collapsing at an alarming rate (there are 7 left), it was good to see them while we could.

Highlights of our week away included:
  • feeding the very tame, very sweet king parrots who arrived every morning and afternoon at our house
  • feeding the gangs of cockatoos who hung around all day, not being tame or sweet but providing plenty of slapstick moments
  • seeing an echidna in the reserve at the 12 Apostles, nosing around for lunch and completely oblivious to the crowd of tourists gathered on all sides of it
  • reading Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams (truly faboo and worthy of a post of its own soon) and Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl, which was a lot more memoir than foodie than I expected but still a jolly good read
  • staying up late and sleeping in (well sleeping until the cockys started jumping up and down on the corrugated iron roof demanding breakfast)
  • fresh oysters and prawns from the Lorne fish shop (not local, sadly, but freshfreshfresh)
  • hanging out with Mr F, natch.
Of course, the only bad thing about holidays is that they have to end, and I now have a terrible case of work-itis. Ho hum.

*With a nod to Ms Boyle, my primary school librarian who led a choreographically-challenged group, including myself, in a performance to this ditty somewhere in the early 80s...

October 12, 2009

The vegies are in!

After months of panning and preparing our raised garden bed in the front yard (sorry neighbours), and making endless wishlists about what we might grow, our little vegie plot is finally in! We made the pilgrimage to Bunnings' gardening section on Saturday morning and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the seedlings until we'd narrowed it down to stuff we both eat (sadly that means no broad beans or asparagus for me), and then spent the afternoon planting, with some expert help.

We now have little rows of:
  • roly poly carrots
  • leeks
  • silverbeet
  • assorted lettuces
  • red onions
  • green beans
  • honeypod peas
  • assorted capsicums
plus, a yellow zucchini (in a pot - I've heard the zukes overtake entire beds if they're given half a chance) and a pot full of sebago potatoes, as well as some new herbs.

Now all we have to do is wait patiently for 4-6 weeks until they're big enough to pick, and hope that the slugs don't beat us to it .

October 5, 2009

Rites (and wrongs) of spring

Sigh. In Melbourne, the end of the footy season signals the beginning of the horse racing season, which has very little to do with horses and a lot to do with 'fashions on the field'. Now, I can appreciate that some people really love having an occasion to dress up for - don't we all - but the sight of so many goose-pimpled women braving a not-very-warm Saturday with nothing more but a thick layer of fake tan to keep their bare arms and legs warm makes me shiver. And not in a good way.

Of course, there are a lot of young men who enjoy all this dressing to the nines, too. Luckily for them suits come with jackets and long trousers, so at least they're warm. Unluckily, said suits are too often paired with  a lavender shirt/tie combo and white leather slip-on shoes with turny-up toes. Shudder.

Of course, at the end of a long day at the races looks no longer matter, as the barely dressed fillies slip out of their stilettoes and into their Havianas for the long walk to the pub, coccooned in the suit jacket of a guy who's just relieved himself in the members' carpark, and we remember that the racing carnival is a rite of spring after all.

September 28, 2009

Footy finals fever

You know you really call Melbourne home when you care about the AFL grand final. Saturday marked the third grand final since we moved here, and the first time I a) knew who was playing or b) had an opinion about who won. And it was completely un-me (a friend who was visiting from Sydney accused me of having the 'taint'), but I kind of liked the fact that I felt compelled to watch the last half of the game and that I was cheering, groaning and holding my breath along with the fans in the crowd. Go Cats! Still, I'm also pleased footy season's over for another year. Maybe now we'll get some news headlines that don't have to do with players disgracing themselves (I'm talking to you, Brendan Fevola).

In other news, I'm loving:
  • the cover art for my book (it's all getting so real now it's a bit scary!)
  • reading Alexander McCall Smith's The Dog Who Came in From the Cold in daily instalments
  • eating spring veg: asparagus, broad beans and artichokes ahoy!
  • sending knitted gifts overseas, including this wee owl brooch made from a pattern by the lovely Ysolda
  • the backlash against the 'new' Vegemite.

September 21, 2009

What she saw: An Education

Yesterday Mr Fantapants and I went to a preview of An Education (read the IMDB synopsis if you want one, I won't repeat it here). Having won the tickets online, I didn't kow anything about it other than that it was set in London in 1961 and the screenplay was written by Nick Hornby. Reason enough to go, in my books. (That and my innate cheapness - I'll see/read/eat pretty much anything if it's free.)
It didn't disappoint, in fact I loved it. Partly because I'm a sucker for London in the sixties, partly because of the excellent cast (hello, Peter Saarsgard, I'm beginning to see the attraction to you), partly because I lurve a coming-of-age story, and largely because of Hornby's excellent script. (Although how much credit for that should go to Lynn Barber, on whose memoir the script is based, I'm not sure.)
I loved the way the film captured the feeling of being 16 and feeling torn between doing the sensible thing and following your yearning for a life less ordinary, and also the way we justify making decisions that we don't feel quite right about.
All up, a highly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Am going to see if I can track down Lynn Barber's book to see how true the script was to her experience.

September 7, 2009

This week I am:
  • recovering from Saturday night's fondue
  • preparing for a weekend of Spanish delights in Adelaide
  • sewing up the seams on a very small, very stripey cardigan
  • watching the third series of Skins (ep. 1 was a bit disappointing but I loved the first two so much that I'll hang in there for a couple more before giving up on it)
  • finishing second revisions and gazing lovingly at the prototype cover art for Freia - unfortunately there's been way too much of the latter and not enough of the former, so am disconnecting the interwebs now to get down to it!

August 31, 2009

Waiting for spring

We're having very dreary weather for the last day of winter, even by Melbourne standards. Hopefully it'll make it easier for me to stay head down and bum up working on the next round of revisions for Book 1 (which now seems to be called Finding Freia Lockhart).

I've been letting my editor's suggestions simmer in the back of my mind for the last few days, but must admit I haven't been brave enough to open the annotated manuscript yet. I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying the editing and revising process, but there's definitely an element of 'how can I make that work without completely rewriting the book?' and 'so you want 10 new scenes but I can't increase the word count?' dread to it.

Luckily a very dear friend came to stay for the weekend, so I was able to avoid addressing any of those questions for the last few days. We went here, and shopped here and here, and ate delicious food here and here. Needless to say, I overindulged in everything and spent yesterday moping around the house instead of writing :\

August 17, 2009

Review: Love is a Many Trousered Thing, Louise Rennison

LIAMTT is the 8th in Rennie's hugely successul Georgia Nicholson series (a series that seems to be heading for completion at book #10, if the plot progression towards what must be its natural conclusion is anything to go by).

I enjoyed LIAMTT, but I agree with many of the reviews on Goodreads that Georgia's diaries are getting to be a bit like reading the same book again and again. Not that that book's not funny enough to keep your attention for a few hours, but there is a certain ho hum-ness to the neverending Viking jokes, nunga nunga references and G's complete inability to see what's right under her nose. I'd also agree that while Georgia's self obsession can be vair vair amusant, it makes her hard to like at times (okay, almost all of the time), and impossible for me to feel any sympathy for her, and I do wonder why her 'best friend' Jas still hangs around her after so many years of being used and abused. That said, reading LIAMTT was a bit like catching up with an old friend after many years and slipping easily back into each other's company - very comfortable.

One thing I really admire about Rennison as a YA writer is that she doesn't shy away from her characters' (especially her female characters) sexual urges (aka red bottomosity and having the horn). Rennison treats horniness as a normal part of being a teenager, as it should be. (What's not so normal to me is that 8 books on the Ace gang are still only acting on these urges to the point of a long term boyfriend sticking his hand up their top, but I guess for mass market appeal/exposure lines must be drawn.)

Other things I love about this series are:

  • Georgia's psychotic but very loving little sister, Libby
  • Georgia's mutti and vati's adeptness at not buying into her self obsession
  • erlack, ditherspazz, nervy b and other great Georgia-isms that sneak into my vocabulary.

And even though I can already take a pretty solid guess at what's going to happen in book 9 (more Viking love traditions, another silly disco dance, a couple of Stiff Dylans gigs, and of course much dithering about whether to follow her heart), I know that I'll read it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy, and it'll make me laugh my pantaloonies off.

August 10, 2009

Everything I need to know I learnt from a John Hughes movie

Like so many people, especially those who were teenagers in the mid to late 80s, I was very sad to hear that John Hughes died last week. Even though my most recent re-viewing of Sixteen Candles made me feel a little less adoration for him (and since his death I've had to get over my guilt for feeling anything negative about the man who is being remembered as a the titan of teen angst), many of his movies hold a very special place in my heart.

Pretty in Pink will always be my #1 favourite because Andy is smart and she sews (let's forget the heinous prom dress for a moment), and Duckie is the sweetest crusher a teenage girl could hope for, and back in the day I thought Blaine was the most perfect boyfriend material ever (these days, Andrew McCarthy looks too much like one of my exes - rather takes the shine off). And also the soundtrack is fantastic. And there's a Smiths poster on the wall in the record store.

Of course, I also loveloveloved The Breakfast Club, in which I identified with Ally Sheedy's nymphomaniac/pathological liar character a little too much. I remember there was a huge buzz when TBC was released and it became the movie of the summer of year 10. So much so, that a casual fling decided that he'd go for the Judd Nelson look, dyed his (almost white-blond) hair black, ripped up a perfectly good flannelette shirt and took to wearing a leather fingerless glove. Needless to say, he looked nothing like Judd Nelson.

Sixteen Candles I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and I do still love it even though some of its veneer has been rubbed away for me. Interestingly, I didn't see SC until I was in my 20s, so the whole Jake Ryan fascination passed me by the first time around. Maybe not having any teenage memories attached to the film is also how I'm able to be critical about it?

And finally, an unexpected (to me) JH film that I love dearly is Uncle Buck. I went to see it at Hoyts on George St with my then boyfriend and a mate of ours who'd taken to playing gooseberry. It was this mate's idea to see UB and to be honest I really wasn't keen; I didn't think John Candy was funny and, at 16, fancied myself as more arthouse than 'family' in the movie stakes. But I loved it, and it made me want an Uncle Buck of my own.

Vale John Hughes, a man who really knew hs way around teen angst.

August 3, 2009

Grumpy old woman rant of the week

I've been thinking quite a lot about the Kyle Sandilands/Jackie O lie detector debacle last week, and the more I think the angrier I get. Not only with KS, who is a known tosspot, and his 'don't be mean about me, I'm the nice one' sidekick, but also about the show's producers, who surely must have some say in the program's 'stunts', and the radio station management that endorses public humiliation of young people as entertainment.


According to this morning's news, the Kyle and Jackie O show has been suspended indefinitely. Not because someone at Austereo came to their senses and realised that it had gone too far and should be terminated, but because poor, sensitive Kyle is 'unable to perform his on-air duties at this time'. My heart bleeds.


It will be interesting to see whether Channel 10 allows someone with such blatant disrespect for young people, and disregard for their wellbeing, continue to front Australian Idol. If they do, I hope Australia's youth vote with their viewing figures and switch off in droves.


/end grumpy old woman rant of the week


Inbetween being angry, this week I've also:


  • finished reading City of Glass, the final instalment of the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare (yay for non-shiny vampires, werewolves and kickass shadowhunters with sexy scars)
  • sewn cushion covers for the couch with fabfric leftover from making the wardrobe curtain
  • cut out the fabric to make Lotta Jansdotter's everyday tote
  • finished knitting the little-hat-that-was-meant-to-be-a-cloche-but-ended-up-being-a-bit-too-floppy, but oh well it's quite cute anyway
  • watched season 3 of The Mighty Boosh (and have had Bouncy Bouncy stuck in my head ever since).

July 27, 2009

Jake Ryan vs. The Geek

Last night Mr Fantapants decided to humour me and sit through Sixteen Candles. Again.

It's no Pretty in Pink, but it has all the hallmarks of a John Hughes teen movie classic (uh, that'd be Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and John and Joan Cusack, plus a large dose of angst), including a hunky love interest in the form of Jake Ryan, who became a symbol of teen boyfriend perfection. Apparently girls who saw Sixteen Candles became so enamoured with Jake that 'real' guys failed to meet their standards forever more. This condition has a name: the Jake Ryan Effect. (Slightly wary hat tip to writer Hank Steuver who brought this phenomenon to people's attention in a 2004 article in the Washington Post and seems eversoslightly peeved that people are still interested in it.)

Anyway, I was watching the movie last night with the Jake Ryan Effect in mind, possibly expecting to experience it a bit myself. In fact, having actually paid attention to the character instead of being sucked into the hot-guys-can-fall-for-flat-chested-girls soft focus storyline, I came away realising that Jake is actually a bit of a dickhead, as evidenced by:

  1. him having no conscience about lusting after Samantha when he is seeing someone who's thick but totally devoted to him
  2. him telling The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall's character - seriously, only hunks get names) that aforementioned gf is passed out upstairs and wouldn't notice if he 'violoated her in five different ways'
  3. him basically giving aforementioned gf to The Geek and telling him to do what he wants with her
  4. him driving a wankmobile sports car
  5. him being rude to Sam's grandparents on the phone

Okay, am starting to clutch at straws here, but Exhibits 1-3 are enough in my book to make Jake Ryan totally not great boyfriend material. Of course, being a John Hughes film (and John, I do love your work but you really have some screwed up ideas about portraying young women as objects), Sam is too busy being grateful to Jake for getting her undies back to notice.

Forget the Jake Ryan effect, I'll take The Geek any day.

July 20, 2009

Layer upon layer upon layer

On Saturday we finally started making our lasagna garden. First we had to make the inevitable trip to Bunnings to scope out the options for materials. We had a feeling hardwood would be too expensive, and a pain to cut into the right shape since the longest side of the bed is curved. And we were right . In the end we settled for sturdy six-inch plastic lawn edging tape, surrounded by a wire fence to keep out the cats who've decided our front garden is the local kitten pissoir.

We cleared the area, replanting the few daisy bushes, nasturtiums and violets that we wanted to keep and cutting down the two trees that were struggling to survive (and were completely inappropriate for a tiny suburban front yard - what were the last owners thinking?!).

Of course, since we're very much trying to build this garden on the cheap, luxuries like mulch and soil were beyond the budget. We had no trouble covering the area with old newspapers, but when we got to the rest of the 'brown' layer we substituted peat for the square foot of compost we've managed to make since getting the compost bin in january and some dried leaves from previous pruning days. And the 'green' layer was comprised of the stuff from the top of the compost bin that hadn't yet rotted down and the lawn clipping from our tiny patch of grass.

So far the lasagna layers are only about 1 inch deep. We need at least 6 decent inches before we plant in spring, so there's still a lot to do, but it's a start.

July 15, 2009

Home remedies

As I write this I am sitting with a cotton pad doused in hydrogen peroxide bandaid-ed to my top lip (take a moment to picture it, guffaw, move on) in a desparate attempt to kill the cold sore that started appearing yesterday.


Having already had what I consider to be my annual coldie in New York (and it having been so big'n'bad'n'nasty that even a pharmacist felt sorry for me, I a) really wasn't expecting another one, especially so soon and b) am mightily pissed off!


Having suffered (and I do mean suffered) with way-worse-than-average cold sores since I was sixteen (curse you first-ever boyfriend who told me that the blister on his lips was from licking the salt off the rims of cocktail glasses), I know that there is no way to get rid of a sore overnight; that it must develop, burst and scab (I do hope you're not reading this over lunch) before it begins to heal; that there is no point making it feel more important than it is (all hail King Coldie).


But I still spent over an hour this morning searching for a cure. And I'm still hopeful/gullible/desparate enough to try some of the more promising sounding ones. Of course, some of these 'remedies' were just plain bodgy, ergo, I will not be:

  • rubbing earwax on it
  • rubbing the oil from behind my ears (ears!) on it
  • soaking it in urine
  • rubbing it with salt until the entire blister has been rubbed off (along with about 10 layers of skin, I suspect).
That said, I am:
  • putting ice on it
  • soaking it in hydrogen peroxide
  • soothing it with a cammomile teabag
  • tempted to try putting a paste of garlic on it.

Of course, getting rid of the coldie is now a full time job. Thank god it's my day off work.

July 6, 2009

Now I'm really a Victorian

Today I gave up my last vestige of NSW-ness and finally got a Victorian driver's licence. The photo is, of course, hideous, but I reckon in 10 years' time I'll look at it and think I look young and carefree, rather than unstylish and disheveled. There was nothing behind the 3-year wait to make the switch except my own cheapskatery. The upside of being a non-driver with a licence is that as a reward for not having any demerit points (hard to rack up if you don't drive), I got a 10-year licence for $119. Double bargain!

Today is also my first work-free Monday. Yay! I had planned to work Very Hard on Book 2 today, but I'm only just getting back into it after neglecting it for a few months, and looking at it afresh is making me reconsider the plot that I thought was finalised...ho hum and chiz.

In other news, I've been:
  • reading: How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier - the first book I've read by JL, purchased on a training trip to Bairnsdale, decision to pay full price based on how much I enjoy her blog. HTDYF is a rollicking good read, despite the fact that Charlie, the protagonist, is a sports nerd (and a cricket nerd, at that). At first I found it jarring that JL made up a slang for the world she created in New Avalon, but in the days since I finished reading it I've caught myself thinking 'shut up, doxhead' and wanting to tell Mr F he looks 'vastly pulchy'...
  • eating: far too much good Spanish food, in the name of research (not mine).
  • watching: roller derby - I still don't understand the rules, but for sport it's highly entertaining (and unlike AFL matches, they sell full-strength beer).
  • making: small knitted things for imminent new arrivals in Sydney and Melbourne.
  • planning: a lasagna garden for the front yard so that Mr F and I can live out our Good Life fantasies come spring (I'll play Felicity Kendall, natch).

June 8, 2009

Revising, revising, revising (or how to lose 17,000 words from your first draft)

So, when my editor said that the word count for my book was way too long, I wasn't precious about it. That's her job, after all, let her edit to her heart's content. Except it turns out it's me who has to choose those 17,000 words.


The first 10,000 were surprisingly easy. So many sloppy, longwinded or just plain unnecessary scenes. But after shortening, changing and just plain deleting all of those, I've still got 7000 words to go, and that means it's time to start making some hard decisions.


I know the book will be better for losing its flab, but I've reached the point where it's getting personal - anything I chop now is going to hurt a bit. Will I have to lose a character (the nice, quiet librarian with a secret penchant for punk? the bad-joke cracking Scottish maths teacher?)? Or cut a sub plot? Is there part of the back story we don't need to know? And why am I procrastinating here instead of working on it??


ETA - got the *(%&#^#$ thing down to 60,600 words before I had to admit defeat and send it back to my editor. Hopefully she'll be able to suggest some ruthless slashing and burning...

Every day is like Sunday

It's been so long between posts that I was tempted to delete everything to cover the trail of my blogging failure and start afresh.

It's not that anything terribly exciting's been keeping me away, either. In fact, quite the opposite: life has been so ho-hum that there hasn't really been anything worth writing about. But if I keep waiting for the excitement to happen I'll possibly never write another word again, so, for a little while at least, this blog will be a celebration of mundanity.

Unexciting things I've enjoyed lately:
  • Mr Fantapants's pumpkin scones
  • seeing photos of paintings from a friend's upcoming exhibition
  • knitting little jumpers and cardigans for small people I know (so quick, esp. w/ a chunkier yarn - almost instant gratification!)
  • snuggling up in front of the toasty heater on cold nights
  • getting back to the book (actually, that's been a little bit exciting).

March 25, 2009

Dance me to the end of love

One thing about having friends who are late bloomers in the marriage-and-kids department is that even at the grand old age of 35 you still get invited to quite a lot of weddings.

Now, I'm not the world's biggest fan of weddings (hence my choice not to get married), but I take a Jean Brodie-ish attitude of 'For those who like that sort of thing, that is what they like', and try not to shake my head to visibly during the bits of the ceremony that really bother me (anything to do with having children for Jesus' sake, generally) or during the invariably lame speeches. All that said, we went to a lovely wedding last weekend which restored a little bit of my faith in why people bother to put themselves through it.

So many weddings we've been to have had a formulaic feel, mainly because they are based on the venue's 'wedding package', but this one felt exactly like something the friends in question would do, from the bride taking off her shoes as soon as the ceremony was over, to the tables laid with red-checked tablecloths and simple cutlery.

I've never been at a wedding where the bride and groom have been so relaxed and actually had the time and opportunity to not only talk to all of their guests, but to actually sit down and have a real conversation with them about non-wedding related topics (instead of everyone just smiling and agreeing that it was a lovely ceremony while the bride scouts over your shoulder trying to spot who she's missed having this scintillating conversation with).

Of course, it wasn't perfect - the groom's dad made a hideous addendum to an already not great speech, about squeaky bunks and vomit-y sheets, and only half the lunch table was shaded, so the rest of us ended up with sunburn - but by the time we stumbled back to our B&B ten hours later, I really felt like we had shared something special with our friends.

March 18, 2009

Inhospitable

Until last year, I was one of the few people my age I knew who could say they'd never had a filling. Then I had to have five. Until last Sunday, I was one of the few people my age I knew who could say they'd never been admitted to hospital. Then I had to go to Emergency.

Having not stayed in hospital before, my associations of them are mainly from visiting my grandparents on their numerous admissions as they got older. It always seemed like a pretty okay way to spend a few days: helpful nurses, nice tea ladies, nothing to do but lie around reading or watching TV and lapping up the sympathy from visitors. But if you have to spend more than an hour in the place (and especially if you're stuck on a drip that means you can't move more than a metre away from a powerpoint), you realise that the nurses are too harassed to actually pay a second's more attention to you than they absolutely have to; that doctors think visiting wards and actually talking to patients is below them, so they'll make you wait three hours before they deign to grace you with their presence; and that hospital food is actually as bad as everyone makes out.

Thankfully (in all senses) I only had to stay in for 24 hours and am now recovering at home with my furry ginger nurse. The pain relief may not be as good, but the food makes up for it!

March 9, 2009

Ho hum

It's been a bit of a shite time lately, topped off yesterday when I finally sat down to do some writing and discovered half of chapter 1 has become corrupted on my usb stick and is not recoverable. In a way I know it''s probably for the best - the first draft is rarely the best, it was only half a chapter, and I can't say there was anything so amazing about it that I have lost a snippet of genius. But it is a pain and it puts me even further back in my progress, which has been pathetic to start with. Ho hum.

One good thing that happened last week was that I finally got around to reading Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell. Fantastic book. She just nails her characters so well. I read a review in The Age when the book first came out that said something along the lines of EB being a book for drug-taking adolescent scrags, to which I can only say the reviewer either grew up at a place like Spirit Ranch or was never a teenager themself. Howell's tremendous skill, to me, is showing how normal it is for young peole to be getting drunk, taking drugs and having sex, without those things becoming the focus of the book. It's a subtlety I hope to master myself some day.

February 12, 2009

Come together, right now

This week has been all about the bushfires. They are apparently the worst in Australia's history; there have been more lives lost than in any other disaster in Australia. There is a town where residents cannot return until the forensics experts have been through and cleared out all the dead bodies because they estimate that 1 in 5 of the townspeople died there.

There are no words to say how awful this is. How guilty and useless those of us not directly affected by the fires feel. What is interesting to me is how this makes people react: a friend is holding a sausage sizzle for his car club tomorrow night; the craft community is collecting donations of handmade goods for survivors, donating income from sales, holding fundraising auctions. There has been an outpouring of community spirit, many tales of everyday heroes, inspiring stories of survival.

What a shame it takes something so awful to inspire people to look after each other.

February 4, 2009

An open letter to the office fridge patrol

Dear fridge patrollers

It's not that I don't appreciate your efforts to stop our communal fridge from being declared a contamination zone. I do, I really do. I remember with shuddering vividness the chickpea salad that festered on the top shelf for 3 months, the avocado half that started to sprout from the seed, the leftovers that bubbles out from their container menacingly. So I applaud your diligence in keeping a watchful eye over things and making good on the threat in your clip art-laden poster to throw out anything that looks dangerous.

What I'm not so keen on is the criteria you seem to apply to decide what stays and what goes. Imagine my surprise when i went to get out my tub of homemade hummus, desposited in the fridge only that morning, to find it was gone. GONE! And imagine my even greater surprise to spot it in the rubbish bin, nestled among some mouldy noodles.

At first, I thought it was just a case of you being overly thorough. But then I noticed that mine was the only container that had been thrown in the bin. The kitchen counter was piled high with coloured tupperware and lunchboxes that had been emptied of their festering remains and left to be claimed by their owners, but my trusty little non-glamourous container obviously hadn't made the grade. I don't think you even opened it to see what was in there (for surely if you'd gotten a whiff of my deliciously fresh hummus you would have immediately known the error of your assumptions).

So my message to you is this, fridge patrol, don't judge me by the quality of my lunchbox. And keep your hands off my lunch.

Timewasting with the tailor of a cat

I was supposed to be spending this afternoon doing some kind of plotting for the Second Book, which I've recently been told is due next May (which seems a long way away and scarily close all at the same time, so I figure I'd better get off my bum and start writing). But of course as soon as you (I) decide that a task must be completed it is the subconcious's cue to procrastinate. And there's nothing like the interweb to allow you to spend two hours avoiding what really has to be done. (The interweb is my enabler, I tells you.)

In my nostalgic travels through my favourites list today I:
  • remembered how much I lovelovelove Cat Prin, the tailor of a cat. Not only for its earnest Engrish ('it is fact which will become dearer than former if a cat has clothes on' - er yes, sure) and photos of pissed off cats dressed as frogs, rabbits and Anne of Green Gables, but also because the site acknowledges that cats hate being dressed up and every outfit comes with the resassurance that velcro closures mean you can get the outfits on and off FAST, before your cat shreds you, just as you have shredded its dignity.
  • wished that Tavi had been around to offer me fashion advice when I had enough time to go op shopping but came home time and time again with nothing but nasty polyester Osti shirtdresses in size 20.
  • felt even more guilty about procrastinating when I could be contributing to Handmade Help (hopefully this guilt will propel me into action soon - am thinking my scarf knitting skills could be put to goood use with the cooler weather only a couple of months away).

And now I really have to get plotting.

Bally good show, Bendigo!

We try to go away for our anniversary each year (or at least stay at a hotel for a night), so to celebrate the big one-two we headed to Bendigo last weekend.

Now I must admit that I had and ulterior motive for wanting Mr Fantapants to visit Bendigo - I fell in love with the place on a work trip late last year and ever since have been harbouring a not-very-secret desire to move there. Why?
  1. It has some beautiful buildings and houses - being established during the gold mining boom really helps a town's aesthetics, some parts of it feel almost European (if you pretend it's not 40-something degrees).
  2. It has some great places to eat and drink (not to mention great local wineries).
  3. The people are friendly, but not in a creepy I'd-like-to-eat-you way.
  4. It's big but not too big and small but not too small - less people, less traffic, less attitude, but not so cosy that everyone knows your business.
  5. It's only 90 minutes fron Melbourne, if a trip to the big smoke is in order.
Sounds perfect, right? Except that we only moved to Melbourne a few years ago, and Mr F, having none of my big city phobias, is pretty keen to stay here. Or at least he was until he too fell for Bendigo. Even the heatwave couldn't dampen (dry-en?) the city's charms.

We stopped in at the art gallery which is showing a fantastic couture exhibition from the V&A museum in London. For a sewing and textiles nerd, this was heaven. Unfortunately they have to keep the lighting low for preservation reasons, which made it hard to see some of the details of the clothing, but it was still incredible to see the skill and innovation of some of the construction techniques. Mr F did his best to look interested, but I suspect what he was most taken with was the gallery's subzero air conditioning.

We stayed at Hunter House, a beautiful Victorian mansion that's now a hotel and restaurant. Our room was spacious, with a lovely high ceiling and even a gas fireplace that I'm sure would be very cosy in the cold months. Even the en suite bathroom, which was obviously a later addition to the house, was roomy enough for two.

For dinner we went to Whirrakee, recommended to us by a friend of a friend. It's in an old bank building, overlooking Bendigo's over the top fountain. The food was great - quite innovative and with plenty of lighter choices for such a hot night - but it was the service that really made the night: friendly, welcoming and professional, such a pleasant change after having a few 'special' dinners ruined by waitstaff who really couldn't give a toss.

The next morning we had breakfast in our room and then pootled back to Melbourne at a leisurely pace. I felt so relaxed by Sunday night, it was as if we'd been away for a week instead of just a night - stark contrast to the two-week break at xmas that felt like a long weekend.

Perhaps I can convince work to let me telecommute from our Bendigo office...

January 29, 2009

Feeling hot, hot, hot

So, Melbourne is in the middle of a heatwave. And it's hot. Damn hot. Especially if you live in an uninsulated weatherboard cottage with only a 20-something year old airconditiner called Leonard to cool you down. I don't want to diss Leonard's work; considering his age he's a real trooper. But he only works for 10 minutes at a time. And someone installed him at knee height. So last night, for a blissful 10 minutes Mr Fantapants and I stood in the kitchen with our knees exposed and soaked up Leonard's cooling breeze. And then he gave his usual death shudder and shut down.

One positive thing I've noticed happens when the thermometer rises above 40C is that the heat unites people in a common hatred. My bus trip home yesterday (superfull bus due to train cancellations, only one tiny window that opened, no airconditioning) was positively convivial, with people sharing their mutual contempt for public transport, details of their own cooling systems at home, comparing the aspects that their houses face to see whose place was worse off. It was a complete whingefest, but they were talking to each other. If the weather stays like this for much longer we might actually end up with a community...

January 25, 2009

Sapped

Hmmm, the point of starting this blog was to try to stop the dayjob from sapping every creative urge I might or might not have if I wasn't thinking about other people's crap all day. This week it failed miserable (or spectacularly - whichever of those seems more dramatic).

I'm trying to remedy things a bit by at least getting some sewing done, so yesterday I cut out two dress patterns and they're ready to start on as soon as our brunch guests depart. (Note to self: brunch is a stupid meal to have people over for - not ony do you have to wake up ridiculously early to clean the house because the ginger dustbunnies are EVERYWHERE, but you also don't get to eat until very late morning, which for someone who wakes up hungry every day is not a happy thing.)

One thing I did accomplish this week was to finish the first in a pair of socks knitted from the toe up. I'm not sold on the technique. For one thing, short row heels are far more complicated than in a cuff down pattern, and they don't seem nearly as sturdy. Plus, there aren't any decreases along the sides of the foot, so it's not very fitted. I'll finish the second one but I think I'll be sticking to the good old cuff downs in future, even if it does mean having to follow the kitchener stitch diagram every time I cast off a toe.

No sign of the bunny this week.

January 13, 2009

Magic bunny Monday

So, yesterday got off to a pretty crap start. My bus pulled out when I was two metres from the stop, which would normally mean a 10 minute wait, but since the bus company, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that most people take holidays from Christmas eve until Australia day, it’s running reduced services until the end of the month, so I had to sit on the chilly seat at the chilly bus stop (summer has forgotten Melbourne this year – it was about 12 degrees when I left home!) for 20 minutes until the next bus arrived. And, of course, most people are not on holidays any more, so when the bus did finally come it was chockers and I had to perch myself unsteadily on the back steps, hoping the driver had a light touch on the brakes.

By this time I was beginning to think dark thoughts about the tone being set for my working week, and how I am still a bit sickly and probably should have stayed in bed, and how much I was dreading the thought of my email inbox after being off sick on Friday, and other generally miserable-making tings.

As I was staring miserably out the window at nothing in particular, my eyes came to rest on the windowsill of the house in front of the bus stop, on which sat one of those kitsch life-size figurines of a rabbit standing on its back legs with its ears sticking straight up, and I was just thinking about what kind of person not only owns a kitschy life-size rabbit figurine, but also chooses to place it on their windowsill, facing towards the streets as if surveying the view, when the rabbit’s nose wiffles. And I literally blinked to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. And then it wiffled again, and raised one front paw as if in greeting, and swivelled its ears back and wiffled some more before turning to sit in profile.

(An aside: How did the bunny get up to the windowsill? Does it have a little bunny-size ladder? Or does its owner put it up there and then sit peeking out from behind the polyester lace curtains to see whether anyone notices it?)

I looked around the bus to see whether anyone else had noticed this incredible feat of cuteness, but everyone around me was scrolling their Blackberrys or fiddling with their iPods or sending text messages or trying to get a little more sleep. And I realised that if I hadn’t missed my bus, or even if there’d been a seat on the bus I was on, I would have missed it, too. And in what would have been no more than 10 seconds, my morning changed from being very Bad and Unlucky, to being Okay, or maybe even Pretty Good, because I and only I had witnessed the Monday morning bunny magic.

January 9, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

You know those edge-of-your-seat movie thrillers, where something happens in every scene that makes you gasp and think 'how can he possibly get himself out of this one?' (yes, James Bond/Harry Potter, I'm talking to you!)? Those books where you keep telling yourself 'I just have to make sure he gets out of this bit okay' and then suddenly it's 4 am and you've read the whole thing? Well, I don't like them - for all the reasons that a lot of people do like them:
  • they make my heart race

  • they make me anxious

  • they make me need to know what's going to happen next.
And that's just not me. I'm a planner, a plotter and a creature of habit: I don't like surprises.

So, normally, a book like Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go wouldn't be on my to-read list, but it has won so many awards and been recommended to me by so many people, that I couldn't resist.

And even though it made my heart race anxiously and I stayed up till all hours finishing it, it was worth it, not just because of Ness's tight writing, or the New World he has brought to life for this series (all of which you can read about in reviews like this one), but because he made me care about the characters.

For me, whether it's a 2-hour movie or a 400 page book, if I don't actually feel enough about the character (whether those feelings are negative or positive) to care whether they succeed or fail, then I really can't be arsed investing my time in it. I stopped feeling guilty about putting down a book at page 50 long ago - life's too short and there are too many books on my to-read list.

It's not that I particularly liked the character of the book's protagonist, Todd, and I certainly couldn't identify with him in any way, but I've thought about it a lot since finishing the book, and I think what drew me to him (and to the other characters in the book, including the one that appeared in a nightmare this morning) is that Ness made him real - not just believable, or well-rounded, but real. I feel like if I passed Todd on the street I'd recognise him just by the way he walked and the expression on his face. Now that is a skill I want to learn...

BTW, apparently there's been some hoo-ha about knives as motifs in books for young people, from the usual suspects who think that young people are sponges for evil and can't think for themselves. Patrick Ness responded to it in The Guardian.

January 2, 2009

Reading resolutions

(with thanks to Booking through Thursday, without whom I would have spent the rest of the day procrastinating about what to blog about!)

From the teetering pile of worthiness:
Oryx and Crake - I lovelovelove Margaret Atwood, so I have no idea why I haven't read this yet
Vernon God Little - must. get. past. page 12!
Sophie's World - Jostein Gaardner
Until I found you - John Irving
The art of racing in the rain - Garth Stein

On my YA to-read for fun list
Everything beautiful - Simonne Howell - I loved Notes from the teenage underground (even though I can't stand Andy Warhol), so I can't wait to read this.
Boofheads - Mo Johnson
The disreputable history of Frankie Llndau-Banks - E. Lockhart
Luuurve is a many trousered thing - Louise Rennison (guilty pleasure)

For 'research purposes'
The Twilight series - I don't enjoy vampires, even of the shiny, handsome self-controlled kind, but I am interested to see what all the fuss is about.
Tomorrow, when the war began - I don't know how/why I haven't read this absolute pillar of Aus. YA yet, but it's time I did.

That doesn't seem like many, does it? I know there are loads, loads more, but I've already managed to spend over an hour procrastinating about committing to this lot, so they'll have to wait.