Monday, August 31, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and REMEDIOS VARO

If you feel your imagination needs a mega shot of inspiration then explore the fey, mystical artworks of Remedios Varo, one of my favourite painters when I was at art school.

Her miniature works are tiny fantastical worlds in themselves. When I'm feeling as if life has become rather grey and beige, I love to make a cup of tea and lose myself in her beautiful, intelligent and surreal creations. I highly recommend her biography Unexpected Journeys by Janet A Kaplan – Varo’s life equals her art.

And so for Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Mondays, let us explore the unlimited boundaries of creation and pay homage to the fascinating Remedios Varo!

image source:

Friday, August 28, 2009


There is a very large huntsman on the wall at my daughter's preschool. In my day at school the spider would have been killed without a moment's hesitation. These days schools are more humane and the children are taught to appreciate the spider and the work it does to keep our eco- system balanced.
One by one, excited preschoolers are led to examine the enormous spider whilst some of the mothers cower in fear and swap huntsman horror stories.
I've been sitting this week with the mothers from the preschool, like a group of spiders spinning our webs. In this case we're knitting jumpers for babies in the colder mountain regions of Bali, attempting to give back to the community in this small way. I even (shock, horror) gave up writing time for this exercise. We wanted to show our children giving in action.
The children are fascinated by our knitting. The boys in particular all attempt to use the needles. Children were once taught to knit in schools as a matter of course.
Schools have changed so much since I was a child! I've been touring them recently looking for the school to place my daughter in next year. I have a dilemma between choosing a fabulous traditional school and a truly fabulous creative school. Both have impressive reputations in their different areas.
I spent a pleasant hour yesterday with the creative school's headmaster. His guitar was on the desk in his office. He was filled with enthusiasm for his job. His handsome young face glowed as he described the achievements the children had attained. When we toured the classrooms, the students all ran to him eagerly to show him their artwork, "Excellent! Rock on!" he said to his adoring students.
I felt like enrolling myself over my daughter by the time I had finished our interview.
Have a fabbo weekend.

image source: flickr

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chit-chat Wednesday - NEVER TRUST

Never trust the stepmother who suggests a gentle stroll through the woods. The lover who tells you that of course you haven't put on weight. The Botox inspired cosmetic company who states their product will make you young. Tin men who claim they don't have hearts and lions who growl that they have no courage.

Never trust yourself when eating Green and Blacks milk chocolate. Look with suspicious eyes upon all politicians and banks. Always carry breadcrumbs upon your person to find the path home again.

And most of all: never trust real-estate agents. "Our" Big Brick house went for over 1.25 million...

And to add insult to injury they phoned us to gloat over the price. "Your estimate was so near!" the agent marvelled, omitting the part where they pretended it would sell in the high 800s. And the final salt rubbed in the wound: “Of course, it needs a lot of renovation,” the agent said.

image source:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and L. Frank Baum

A shy child, L. Frank Baum grew into an adult who attempted many different jobs with varying degrees of success: chicken breeder, acting, salesman, managing theatres, newspaper work, playwright. He even began a magazine on window dressing.

He was a caring, nurturing father of his own children and would spend hours a day comforting and soothing them.

Frank wrote and published his first book when he was 41. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz became one of the best-selling books for children in the 20th century.

For nearly two decades this prolific author wrote and published over 60 books and many short stories and poems. He would never write a book again with the mythical magic and sales power of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Rather than this daunting him Frank continued to write, refusing to rest on the laurels of his first book.

Librarians decreed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a dull read and flat in style. It was kept off library shelves until 1960.

In 1911 Frank declared bankruptcy. Despite his financial woes, he remained his chirpy, determined self and continued to attempt new things.

His health began to deteriorate in 1917. He suffered from gall bladder problems and spent a lot of time bedridden where he continued to write and remained optimistic until the day he died. Just before he died, he said: "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands."

L. Frank Baum is an inspiration for the way he continued to strive for his dreams despite hardships, heartbreak and disappointments. To me he epitomises that wonderful American 'can do' spirit I've always admired.

For all of us who have thrilled to the ever eternal magic of The Wizard of Oz, for those of us who still feel a thrill when we see a pair of ruby slippers or hear the words, "There's no place like home!" – let us pay homage to the Wizard of words and magical tales, L Frank Baum, on this Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday.

"When I was young I longed to write a great novel that should win me fame. Now that I am getting old my first book is written to amuse children. For, aside from my evident inability to do anything 'great,' I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp which when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward."
L. Frank Baum

image of Frank:

image of book:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fabbo Friday and HOLIDAYS

Vinegar oil splashed onto our skin to make ourselves burn and hopefully end up as brown as the Dolly magazine models.

Lying at the local country pool soaking up the sun all day with my sister and cousin.

Hot chips with sauce, chiko rolls and bags of mixed lollies from the local corner shop.

Back to the pool to splash on the coconut and vinegar oil and get some serious sunburning achieved.

When we had baked ourselves as much as we could bear, we’d leap into the pool for instant cooling in the icy water. The sunburn began to smart when the sun went down and later provided us with the glorious game of peeling the long strips of skin from each others bodies.

Picnics in the local graveyards and bush walking adventures with friends. And on the rare days that I stayed home I’d sit in the yard typing away on our antique typewriter, acting out my dream that I was a famous author. Even then tales world demand to be told.

Lovely, innocent summer days which seemed to stretch and bend forever. We had very few material possessions (I can still remember my wild excitement when my father brought home a surprise gift of Abba's Arrival album). No computers, no cinema and I barely remember watching television. Holidays were not the over-scheduled events they have become with today's children.

We lived in our swimsuits and life seemed forever summer and filled with promise and the smell of coconut tanning spray. I was young, the world was young and seemed so much bigger pre-internet. And the summer days were filled with heat and golden dreams and longings.

With thanks to Pip from Meet Me at Mikes! for inspiring this exercise.
Both images via flickr

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chit-chat Wednesday - In love with BIG BRICK!

Following on from my previous post about life in Little Brick Cottage, it must be said that on the weekend I fell in love with little Brick's big sister – Big Brick! I had resisted looking at her for a few weeks, despite the Scribe's urging, as I knew she would be out of our price range.

However, on a sunny Saturday I had some shopping to do and so I went to inspect the house the Scribe was so enthusiastic about. I've often developed crushes on houses (my current book is based around a certain real house in Tasmania) but never have I experienced falling desperately in love with a pile of bricks and mortar from the moment I walked in the door.

It felt as if the house breathed me into her very bricks, as if she was as excited to see me as I was to view her. She was truly magnificent. The Scribe had already described in loving detail all her glories and so I was prepared -but not quite ready for how perfect she really was.

She wasn't grand, there was still work to do on the old lady; she had a shabby side. She was a three-bedroom, very pretty Victorian house. She had my favourite feature (exposed brick) and a perfect wooden staircase.

The staircase made my heart sing. It was like a staircase from a children's book leading to a magical land above. And indeed the rooms above were magical for space and storage! I'm sure Narnia would fit in the lovely massive built-in wardrobe. I'm sure our Little Brick Cottage would fit in that wardrobe! Add a truly perfect series of stained glass windows and the brick kitchen even had the original servant's bells.

I wandered through her as if in a dream. I could hear the laughter and whispers of the many children who had lived and played within her walls. This was a house of friendly ghosts.

The Scribe had been so smitten when he had viewed her that he hadn't wanted to leave. He had heard many viewers complaining about 'our house' – even having the audacity to mention open-planning and modernizing her!

When I could finally tear myself away I was almost in tears. For a short time I could see my family living, loving and restoring Big Brick to what she deserved.

The real-estate agent asked me if I liked the house and, all reason long departed, I enthusiastically said I did. How much do you think she will go for?" was his next sneaky question. Still shaking like a lunatic in love, I whispered the sorrowful truth. "Over a million." He looked shocked at the honest reply. I could see he was frantically trying to work out whether this was some new mind game I was playing with him.

"Nah," he said. "I'd say mid-800s to early 900s".Previously they had told the Scribe the auction would start at the early 900s.

"We'll see," I said, resisting the temptation to push him out the door and barricade myself within. I retired to the nearby churchyard to listen to a magpie sing a doleful song about foolish girls who look at houses priced above their budget and fall in love with Big Bricks.

Fingers crossed the new moon brings some good fortune our way! As I told the Scribe – if we miss this one, there'll be something even better ahead for us! We'll attend the auction on Saturday and pray it will be passed in until we are in a position to buy her!

Have you ever had an experience like that, where you feel irrationally in love with something that wasn't a human being? A pile of bricks? Shoes? Some other item? Post and tell me if you did and share your wild irrational longing with me!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Little Brick Cottage

The very eloquent and fascinating Belette from la Belette Rouge recently invited me to guest post (my first time!) on her Blog on the topic of What Home Means To Me. This was quite an intimidating challenge as so many others had written such strong pieces (not to mention I'm in the middle of several deadlines). August is a killer month for me! It's also a very difficult topic to define as it really does continue to elude me, this whole concept of 'HOME’. However, this is my piece, together with a few photos of my cottage.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and SHAKTI GAWAIN

Long before Rhonda Byrne packaged The Secret, I was avidly devouring Shakti Gawain's Creative Visualisation. As a child I always had the feeling that if I really, really wanted something in life I would be able to have it.

Many times in my life things I wanted didn't come to me, but lots of things I've actively been working on manifesting came to be - albeit not always in the way I expected! Three, off the top of my head - my little brick cottage, my writing agent and my beloved Scribe.

There were a few books in this genre I read and loved even at a very young age: The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr Norman Vincent Peale, Three Magic Words by US Andersen - and then along came Shakti.

She may not have had the panache of Ms Byrne, but she was hip for the '70s in her kaftans, living in communes in India and walking the talk of her beliefs.

Unlike The Secret which emphasises that money, fame and success can be yours, Creative Visualisation is more about honouring creative inspiration and intuition and appreciating the prosperity already in your life.

Creative Visaulisation is a slim little book but it has a wealth of wisdom within. And so let’s start the New Moon week off with the good vibes of Shakti Gawain. May we release what is holding us back from achieving our creative potential and get those visualisation boards out to actively start bringing into our lives the dreams and goals that may have been eluding us.

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or other people's models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
Shakti Gawain

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fabbo Friday and A GIFT TO SHARE

This was a surprise gift that the Scribe picked up along King Street, for Daisy and I to share during the week. He knows we are both huge Enid Blyton fans and this is an old record of Noddy stories read by none other than Enid herself.

Daisy loves it and has listened to it several times already. It was such a lovely surprise treat but I can foresee a time when Daisy and I are going to have quite a wrangle over whose Enid Blyton books and toys belong to who! The Scribe has already predicted Daisy will outgrow it all before I do, so we will see...

Busy, busy, busy in Little Brick cottage. I have a couple of writing deadlines. This weekend is quite a literary one for me as I have Jack Heath's book launch to attend on Friday I have also been busy organizing a craft group in inner-city Sydney. We are modelling ourselves after Pip Lincolne's fabbo Brown Owls in Melbourne.

If you live near the Newtown area and would like to join in then give me an email. We are looking at local Newtown places for our meet up. If you're a beginner, don't panic. I am totally pants at it all but dead keen to learn. We will be doing crochet, knitting, sewing and whatever your crafty heart pants after.

Enjoy your weekend and hope it filled with sublime, ordinary moments, relaxation and loads of fabbo colourful stories!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chit-Chat Wednesday - CARBS WIN FOR COMFORT

If Agatha Christie is the comfort food of books for me, albeit in a sinister type of way… that got me thinking about my favourite comfort food. On a rainy day in Sydney this week I felt as if my spirits needed elevating - what better to achieve this than a big hit of carbs?

I think my ultimate comfort food meal is spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread followed by apple crumble. Divine! Just the smell is enough to make me feel chirpy about life with the basil, oregano, and garlic wafting through the house. Followed by piping hot cinnamon spiced apple with a dollop of yoghurt. Total perfection, non?

Daisy also loves it, purely I suspect because she can make such a mess with the spaghetti and sauce. There always ends up more on the floor and her face than in her mouth.

What is your favourite comfort food? Is it carbs like mine or do you hanker for more sophisticated fare? Do you like the sugar hit? Are you a Green & Blacks person or do you go for cheese? Do tell!

Do you know the lovely whimsical literary blog Her Library Adventures? It's Sophie's blog and well worth a visit as Sophie is having a fabbo give-away to celebrate her Etsy store reopening. Throw your hat in the ring with Sophie, leave a comment and you might win one of her goodies! Sophie is a self-described little-bit-50s housewife, a touch Alice In Wonderland and a smidge 60s lovechild. My kind of gal indeed! Her blog is vintage inspired, filled with beauty, literary and crafty type lovelies. She also has a truly impressive vintage typewriter collection. Love her! I always find Her Library Adventures a most inspiring place to be.

Enjoy your week and hope whatever food you do crave it nourishes your soul and is burnt up quickly in ferocious creative energy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and AGATHA CHRISTIE

I can still remember the first Agatha Christie book I ever borrowed from the library, a graphic paperback with a woman's head bashed in with lurid, vivid detail. Here began an intense love affair with the Queen of Crime and her creations. Her covers may have softened over the years, reflecting a more retro, softer image, but to me that early cover reflects the true darkness in the series of webs that Agatha, the deadly and clever black spider, spun so well for us.

People are not often what they seem; she's reported to have said and in her books the world of gentle English chocolate-box prettiness is definitely not what it seems. Many of her diabolical plot ideas kept me awake at nights: And Then There Were None, Murder On The Orient Express, Murder Is Easy, Endless Night and so on. Many times the killer was often the last person you truly did expect. Agatha didn't balk at using child killers or old lady killers and she revolutionized the Golden Age of Detective Fiction when she boldly used the narrator as killer.

Agatha has been often derided by literary minds, but I'm now in good company in my Agatha worship as writers such as Kate Mosse and Val McDermid are vocal in their praises of her.

The night in London where the Scribe and I enjoyed The Mousetrap (Agatha's play and the longest running play in theatrical history) remains a highlight of my life. I hope to take Daisy there to see it as well!

And so for Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday let us honour the spirit of the Queen of Crime, who showed us the darkness of the human spirit beneath its very respectable face and the evil lurking beneath the coziest of facades. May Agatha's cool, innovative, detached genius inspire us all in our creative efforts this week!

“The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes.”Agatha Christie

“I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest.”Agatha Christie

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fabbo Friday and JOHNNY DEPP

Last night I went with Artschool Annie to see Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp as the 1930s Depression-era gangster John Dillinger.

Artschool Annie and I aren't big gangster film fans by any means - but we are huge Johnny Depp fans and I love movies about (or from) the '30s. I had read about this movie on my friend Willow's Life at Willow Manor Blog and couldn't wait to see it.

Public Enemies is really excellent. It was so tense that I don't think I fully took a breath until it was over. Not only is it a great action movie but it's a terrific love story about two people who weren't really given anything in life, but who decided that they would have what they wanted anyway.

It's easy to see how a gangster can be formed when you consider the excessive sentence given to Dillinger after a minor early offense and his harsh childhood. Combine that with the Depression and desperate times make for desperate people. It was interesting to see the corruption in the police-force and how they blended at times with the gangsters in some very murky partnerships.

This movie offers the bonus of treating me to two of my cinematic heroes on screen - Clark Gable and Johnny!

It really is a timely film in these days when a lot of people are doing it tough and banks just seem to be getting more evil.

And let's face it, even the less attractive males in the cast look handsome in the hats and suits of that period, so Johnny is to-die-for in the wardrobe.

Plus, the Scribe actually stayed at the Hotel Congress in Tucson when he was travelling in America – the real Dillinger and his gang were arrested there in 1934

A perfect film really, and at 11pm Artschool Annie like an excited schoolgirl sent me a text: JOHNNY IS ON LETTERMAN! So in one night I got a double dose of my favourite actor of modern times. How cute was he on Letterman with that pink handkerchief hanging from his jeans?

So today, fired up with Johnny Depp fever, I bought the latest issue of US Vanity Fair which has an 11 page spread about a cruise by Francois-Marie Banier that Johnny and his group of male buddies took to his exclusive Caribbean island.

It is perfect reading, although it made the old sea dog in me totally jealous. But fascinating to read more about Johnny's creative process.

Enjoy your weekend and I hope it is filled with terrific movies, good friends, poetry, creativity and pleasant surprises.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chit-chat Wednesday and MISSING MY MAD MEN

I'm a huge fan of the TV show Mad Men. I love the fashions, the interior design, the make-up and of course the scripts. It's so clever, sly and witty. I miss it so much now the first series has finished screening on SBS. The Scribe is as addicted as I am and so we couldn't resist the chance to turn ourselves into Mad Men characters. I'm in the red dress and the Scribe is the blond character in the other scene. Those of you who know us will know the resemblance to us both is spooky.

I keep raving about Mad Men to whoever will listen to me but it's not often that I find TV shows that I really, really love. Mad Men happens to be the best American show since the glory days of the early Buffy series in my opinion. On Saturday nights the Scribe and I love to watch an old black-and-white film (hurrah for TCM) but there seems to be a lack of really great television shows. And so three cheers for Mad Men. I love Betty, Joan and Bert Cooper. Do you have any favourite TV shows that you would like to share? Are you a Mad Mad Men fan? If so, who is your favourite character?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and ISABEL ALLENDE

Yesterday was the birthday of one of the greatest storytellers of our time, the acclaimed Chilean writer Isabel Allende. Her own story reads like a great novel itself, but who could have conceived of a character and life such as Allende?

Flamboyant, beautiful, intelligent, eloquent and mystical, she weaves the world of the spirits and the material world together in her stories. Isabel has her own personal rituals for when she writes. She always begins a new book on January 8th, the day she began writing the letter to her dying grandfather - which eventually became the international bestseller The House of the Spirits.

And so for this week, let us explore our more mystical sides in our creative pursuits. Let the unconscious dictate our creative adventures. Be open to your dreams, to the sacred and irrational and to where the spirits guide you as we salute the incredible Isabel Allende!

But there is something magic in the storytelling. You tap into another world. The story becomes whole when you tap into the collective story, when other people's stories become part of the writing, and you know that it's not your story only. I have a feeling that I don't invent anything. That somehow I discover things that are in another dimension. That they are already there, and my job is to find them and bring them into the page. But I don't make them up. And in the years that I have been writing, things have happened in my life and in my writing that prove to me that everything is possible, I am open to all the mysteries.

Isabel Allende

photo of Isabel by Lori Barra