Thursday, 30 January 2014

Holiday in Tasmania

Last week Mr Macska and I went down to Tasmania for his parents' wedding anniversary and a little holiday. It was a lovely refreshing break from all the hot weather in Melbourne. I'm terrible at remembering to take photos when I'm out and about, but I did manage to snap a few. So here are some of the highlights of our trip:

Sailing a yacht under the Hobart Bridge. Yes, that's me at the tiller! Mr Macska's very good friend James took us out on his 40 ft yacht, and despite getting rather seasick I had a fantastic time. We even got to put the sail up.

Playing the pokies for the first time in my life and winning! I'm not really the gambling type, but when we happened to end up in a pokies pub for half-an-hour I thought why not? I put $1 into an Elvis-themed machine and won $9. I promptly collected my winnings and that was the end of that.

Catching the Striborg gig at MONA. Striborg is a one-man ambient black metal band from Tasmania, which sounds a bit like Burzum. He happened to be playing as part of MONA FOMA while we were there, so we caught the show, which was pretty cool, and I took a terrible photo in the dark!

One of the best things about the show was it was held next to the amazing new chapel at MONA which is by Wim Delvoye. It's a seven-sided Gothic-inspired structure made of rusted iron lacework with seven stained glass windows set into the central room. 

Of course because this is MONA the stained-glass windows depict the museum's main themes - sex and death. Some of the windows had giant maggots in leadlight, while these ones had x-rays of people engaged in...ahem... intimate acts.

The next day we headed up to Launceston for Mr Macska's parents' 40th wedding anniversary party. They owned a fabric shop for years, and I couldn't resist taking a photo of this amazing quilt that Mr Macska's dad made. It's almost three-dimensional, each little square sits up off the circle it's on. Beautiful work.

Gorgeous flowers at my mother's place, brightening up the day every time I walked past them.

Eating homemade profiteroles off my mother's amazing 1930s tea set. The pattern is "Carnival" by Royal Doulton, and it seems to be quite a rare colourway.

This lovely stretch sateen with roses on it that I didn't buy (curses!) in a fabric shop in Launceston. I did get some grey, black and white very large check silk to make a skirt thought.

And of course going through the old family photos. Me as a little child, my father called my ears "paper ears" because they were so soft and bendy.

Thursday, 16 January 2014



You may have heard that Melbourne is experiencing a heatwave this week. Temperatures have been over 40 degrees from Monday onwards - today is going to reach 44 C (111 F). What can you wear on a day like that? 

This is my outfit today: my Edgeley Lenore dress from the SS 2012/13 collection. It's made out of 4 panels of silk, tied at the waist with a silk sash. I have a matching red silk slip to wear underneath because the side panels are quite sheer.

Here it is from the Edgeley webshop.

I'm also wearing my Edgeley Tassel Earrings, which were a present from my cousin Bella. They go with everything and  I love the feeling as they brush against my neck! 

I bought a few pairs of espadrilles at the beginning of summer from the Espadrille Store, and these are my favourites. They are silk, lined with canvas. I wish I had bought a black pair too.

Monday, 13 January 2014

My First Knitting Project of 2014: Cropped Jacket from 1954

2013 was not a very good year for knitting. I started the Cherry Cardigan, but I ended up abandoning it because I decided it would probably gape at the buttons across the bust. Also, knitting all that ribbing was really really dull. But I've determined to do some more knitting this year, and I've already started my first project. Behold the Cropped Jacket Cardigan.

This cardigan (or maybe it's bolero as it doesn't actually have any fastenings?) is from Housewife magazine November 1954, and I found it on Vintage Chic. The instructions are fairly minimal but perfectly succinct as long as you have some experience in knitting. It's knitted in moss stitch with a garter stitch border (that's seed stitch with a stockinette border for those of you in the U.S.) and the best thing is that it's knitted in 12 ply on 6.5mm kneedles so it knits up tremendously fast.

Moss stitch uses a lot of yarn and I had calculated the it would cost about $95 in Patons 12 ply to make the cardigan, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend. Luckily a fellow librarian told me about the Bendigo Woollen Mills. They are based in Bendigo, an historic gold-mining town not that far from Melbourne, and their yarn is made from Australian wool. Best of all, if you send them an email, they will send you all their shade cards for free!

Most of their yarns come in several plys, and I went with the Rustic 12 ply because it felt quite soft. The prices are incredibly reasonable, $11.50 for a 200g ball (that's 4 times the size of a normal ball of wool) and I think with postage the whole thing cost me $40. The shade I chose is a new one, Cinder Fleck. It is black with flecks of white and camel through it, which I thought would be a bit more interesting than just a plain black yarn. So far it's knitting up really quickly and the yarn soft while still having a lot of body. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Books of 2013

"Woman Reading" by Torajiro Kojima.

I was a bit disappointed that I only managed to read 49 books in 2013, missing my goal of 52 books (one books a week) by only 3! Each year I try to read some books from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, this year I managed 12. According to the Goodreads stats page I read 14,226 pages which is rather a lot when you put it like that!

I keep a notebook of the books I read, with the details of the title and author, a brief description of the book (so I remember what it's about), my comments, and a rating out of five stars. 2013 was a fairly good year and I read some really interesting books. These were the five star books:

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)
I do love historical fiction, and this is it at its finest. The sequel to 2009's Wolf Hall, this again has Thomas Cromwell as the main character. Henry VIII, tiring of his second wife Anne Boleyn and desperate for an heir, has Cromwell bring her down at any cost. The writing is superb.

Embassytown by China Miéville (2011)
Only China Miéville could make linguistics cool. As usual this novel isn't just escapist sci-fi - you really have to stretch your mind to grasp some of the ideas here. Interstellar colonialism and aliens who's language doesn't allow them to lie. It's brilliant stuff.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault (1958)
My father said that it's much easier to remember historical dates and events if you read a novel about them, as the story helps them stick in your mind. I find the same with myths and legends. For someone who studied Classics at university, I'm pretty shaky on a lot of the ancient Greek myths, but after reading The King Must Die I'll never get mixed up with the story of the Greek hero Theseus again. Mary Renault tells the story of Thesesus' early Cretan adventures as if he were a real historical figure, adding in details from archaeological findings to give a wonderfully evocative sense of time and place. 

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
I put off reading this for ages because it looked like such a mushy, romantic book. Judging by the reviews on Goodreads this is a book you will either love or hate. Personally I really loved it and found it incredibly moving and bittersweet. The time-travel is possibly a little flawed if you really dig into it, but it worked for me.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960)
Set in 1959, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom can't bear the constraints of his ordinary life anymore and suddenly leaves his pregnant wife and young son. The writing is incredibly fresh and vivid, with a beautiful poetry to the descriptions.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
A young girl, orphaned and working as a ladies companion on a trip to the South of France, meets the brooding Max de Winter, an older, handsome widower. Stunned and flattered by his proposal of marriage, the couple return to his ancestral home of Manderley in England. But the new Mrs de Winter becomes obsessed with her husband's former wife, who's memory is kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper Mrs Danvers. The sense of slowly growing tension is quite masterful, and your heart just aches for the young, shy girl trying to please her aloof husband and the disdainful servants.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest (2004)
Two Victorian stage magicians begin a rivalry that soon turns into a bitter feud, with each trying desperately to discover the secrets of the other's signature trick. It's a real page-turner and even if you have seen the film (which I had) it's significantly different and so much more detailed that it's worth the read. Gripping.

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean (2000)
An absolutely fascinating book about obsessions. In 1994 John Laroche and a group of Seminole Indians were arrested for poaching rare orchids in a nature preserve in Florida. Orlean meets and interviews Laroche, who wanted to clone the elusive and highly sought-after Ghost Orchid, thinking he could make his fortune. Along the way, she also looks at the history of orchid collecting and meets other orchid enthusiasts, and finds that something about orchids brings out incredible obsessions in some people. They will do literally anything to get their hands on particular rare specimens and orchid collecting becomes their whole life. Orleans' writing is so skillful and interesting that even if you have no particular interest in orchids, you can't help but be intrigued.

In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language by Arika Okrent (2009)
Most people have heard of Esperanto and Klingon, but did you know that since the 17th century people have invented hundreds of languages, almost all which have faded into complete obscurity over the centuries? Me neither until I read this wonderful book. The passion that these people had, and the certainty that their language was so much better than the natural languages that had evolved with all their messy grammar is amazing. Even today, people are somehow driven to keep inventing "better" and "more logical" languages. One for all you language nerds out there.

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (2008)
A wonderfully fresh look at life in England during the 14th century. Mortimer advises the reader as if they were able to time-travel back into that period and the focus is mostly on the daily life of the different social classes. What I found really interesting was the way he looks at the way medieval people thought as well as acted. The way people thought about the geography of a place before maps were widely used is entirely different from the way we think today. 

Did you have any particularly good books you read last year?