Time to Sleep – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2017

Well, that was a ride and a half!

I’ve just submitted an 1800 word short story and 500 word exegesis for my Speculative Fiction assignment and I feel like I could sleep for a week. Unfortunately, there isn’t time for that!

Tomorrow (Friday here in the southern hemisphere) is the day I get to play music with The Superstars at Oak Tasmania, and we’re deep into preparation for a private function we’re performing at next weekend. These men and women are simply fantastic and I’m truly blessed to be able to write and perform with them ❤

Maybe I’ll be able to post some photos next week of our performance – I always love action shots 🙂

Meanwhile, there’s lots of gardening that needs doing over the weekend, a jam session at a friend’s place to go to and lots of new movies to see. I’m particularly keen to check out the Kenneth Branagh Murder on the Orient Express, Killing of a Sacred Deer, Loving Vincent and Jungle. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these films, I always like to hear other people’s opinions 🙂

I’ll leave you with a wonderful discovery I made in the greenhouse yesterday – the first Rocoto chilli flower for the season ❤

A Sunday Sidestep – Day 12 NaBloPoMo 2017

I’m coming down to the pointy end of another unit of online study, so this is going to be a brief blog post today.

This unit has concentrated on genre fiction, specifically Gothic and speculative fiction and despite being behind now with weekly work, I’ve really enjoyed it enormously. Starting with Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) we moved on to Charlaine Harris’ Dead Until Dark (2001) for a taste of contemporary American Gothic. (I honestly found it an intensely disappointing experience.)

Leaving vampire fiction, we moved on to speculative works and Jean Rhys’ stunning post-colonial Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), one of my favourite novels. The thread of our study, looking at how Gothic fiction was melded into more speculative themes reminded me of that other retelling of the Jane Eyre story, Wild Island (2016) by Jennifer Livett, which was just as good to read the second time around.

Then, the course came to Margaret Atwood’s brilliant and disturbing The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and I confess I spent way too long re-reading it and watching the recent television series. But Atwood’s prose is wonderful and I find this book inspires me both as a writer and as a feminist.

Now, in the final weeks, as I’m writing my own piece of speculative fiction, we are reading and discussing Paolo Bacigalupi’s short story “Pump Six” from Pump Six and Other Stories (2008). The main threads of  Bacigalupi’s fiction are speculations on the future of humankind, based on many current and often divisive environmental and socio-political concerns. He paints a realistically grim picture of the future which I’ve found stays in my mind long after I’ve read it. I’ve started but never finished his novel The Windup Girl (2009) and I wonder if subconsciously found it too scary. But I plan to go back and read it as soon as I’m able.

So, the rest of today I’m playing catch up with academic readings and responses, trying to add a little more to my own fiction and scoping out an accompanying exegesis. For the most part it’s been a really wonderful few months living with these works and I’d recommend all of them to you – except for the Charlaine Harris – but at least I know and can articulate why I don’t like that kind of fiction.

What do you like to read? I love to hear your thoughts and recommendations so please leave me a comment below. Take care everyone and see you tomorrow 😀

A Fool for April – Muesli Recipe

Chestnuts!

Happy April Fool’s Day! Well, there’s been a notable shift in the weather here, summer is clearly over and autumn is finally properly with us. I think this is my favourite time of the year, with generally lower overnight temperatures, crisp mornings and calm, often sunny days – perfect for gardening!

Soil temperatures are still quite warm – there’s a lot of growing still happening! – and I’ll be picking zucchini and especially tomatoes for bottling for a little while yet.

Salad from yesterday – kale, mustard, endive, rocket, silverbeet, red orach and tomatoes.

In the meantime, I’m madly preparing beds for kale, broccoli and garlic, which I’m planting in the coming weeks (later than usual for me), so it’s still very busy. Boudica Bunny is making a nest and should birth her kits (the first with Bernard Black) in the next week, the chestnut crop is still to come as you can see from the photo above, and the chickens are beginning to moult too so the egg supply is gradually slowing down. Having a mixed flock means that there’s usually someone laying and I rarely have to buy eggs except in the very middle of winter when day length is shortest.

Also, I’m pleased to say the jam melons are starting to get bigger – I haven’t grown these since I was a kid in South Australia and it’s exciting! I’ll keep you all up to date with what I end up doing with them, but I’m thinking Melon & Lemon Jam 🙂

Jam Melon sizing up at last

Recently, I made my version of toasted muesli, something I love this time of year, after the summer and autumn fruit drying is mostly over. Many recipes call for added oil, honey, corn or golden syrup and even peanut butter, but this is completely unadulterated. For me, the dried fruit provides enough sweetness and means the muesli keeps well in an airtight jar. If you need it you can always add a little honey, syrup or even a spoon of jam when serving. Personally, I love this with just a dollop of home made yogurt. Here’s the recipe:

Deb’s Sugar-free Muesli 

4 cups rolled oats (ordinary oats, not the “instant type”)

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower kernels

1/4 cup wheatgerm (optional)

1/2 cup coconut (I prefer flakes for this)

* 1/2 cup chopped nuts (use what you have on hand, for me it was almonds this time and see the note below)

1 tab fresh lemon zest or 1/2 tab dried lemon zest (optional)

1-1/2 cups of chopped dried fruit (again, use what you prefer or have on hand!)

Method:

Pre-heat an oven to 160 C/325 F. In a large bowl, mix the oats, seeds, wheatgerm (if using) and coconut. Chop the nuts fairly roughly and add to the oat mix.

I love lemon zest and the sherbet-like flavour it brings to my breakfast muesli (I keep a jar of dried zest in my pantry cupboard just for recipes like this) but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Try just a little if you’re uncertain.

If you use dried lemon zest, you can mix the chopped fruit thoroughly with the oats/seeds/nuts now, bypassing the toasting step and put the muesli in an airtight jar but I really think the toasting is so worth it for bringing out the flavours of the the seeds and nuts.

Lay the oats/seeds/nuts/fresh lemon zest evenly on a baking sheet or roasting pan and toast, turning every 10-15 minutes with a broad spatula. It’s fiddly but really worth it as you can determine exactly how toasted you want your muesli to be. I use coconut flakes that brown quite significantly and are my best indicator. Now for the dried fruit – the real star of this recipe – and where you can make it truly your own, with seemingly endless combinations of sweet, luscious, fruity goodness! Chop the larger pieces of dried fruit to a size that you prefer (I like mine fairly small, about sultana size). For this batch, I had a lonely piece of apricot fruit leather that needed using, plus this year’s prunes and dried nectarines. Kitchen scissors worked really well and I find them much easier than a knife for this job.

When the oat mix looks the right shade of toastiness, allow it to cool completely, mix in the chopped dried fruit very thoroughly and put into an airtight jar. It should keep well for ages but mine usually gets eaten in a couple of months.

Finished toasted muesli

*A note on the nuts. If you don’t like/can’t eat particular things or want a nut-free muesli, be bold and take them out of the recipe! Substitute nuts with more seeds and fruit – it’s entirely up to you and I encourage you to try different things. For instance, my muesli usually has linseeds but I didn’t have any in the house when I made this (sad face). Next time, I should have dried apples and some walnuts to add as well as my beloved linseeds and I might add a touch of ground cinnamon for a slightly different combo 😀

Apricot Fruit Leather, Prunes and Dried Nectarines for the muesli

In other news, The Superstars and Callum are playing at MONA next Saturday (8th April), which is huge news and I’ll do a separate post about that soon. Uni study is relentless but rewarding, and I’m loving my current unit CWR211 Writing Crime & Contemporary Romance, though romance literature isn’t my strength or preference. Nevertheless, I managed a very high mark for my first assessment and I was frankly, surprised and thrilled.

Finally, I’m sorry to say that Felicity lost her battle with cancer earlier this last week. While her death was entirely expected, it was still utterly heartbreaking and my thoughts go out to all her fabulous friends, family and especially her husband Dave. I plan to buy a shrub or small tree in the coming weeks to plant in her honour – a “Felicitree” ❤

Meanwhile, take care good people, be gentle to each other, this beautiful planet and never be afraid to tell the people that matter to you that you love them ❤

Headaches and Happiness – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2016

Well, I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

After yesterday’s long day gardening in the sunshine, all I’ve really done today is use my brain. And I must confess I don’t feel like there’s much of that left now!

This morning I double checked my assignment, made sure the format was correct and uploaded the beast into the ether!

After a celebratory lunch it was back to the grind. With one enrolled unit left for 2016, what units do I choose to study next year?

People have been asking me about what I’m studying so here’s the story.

Although I live in Tasmania, the southernmost state of Australia, my university is Griffith, which is based in Queensland. I’ve been studying online, one or occasionally two units at  a time since November 2013, so it’s been a long slog. And consistent. Unlike being on a physical campus, the year is broken up into four study periods (SP’s) of 12 or 13 weeks and they go all year round. So I haven’t had a real break from study for three years.

I’m enrolled in an undergraduate degree course, (Bachelor of Communications) and I’m on track for a double major in Creative Writing and Screen Studies. After discussing it at length with folks online, and working out what was available in which study period, I’ve opted for my last 2nd year elective in SP1 Writing Crime and Contemporary Romance which starts in late February, and although I love pulp noir fiction, I’m not a chick lit fan.

Then in SP2 it’s the start of third year subjects and a Screen Studies unit, Media Audiences, which I’m really looking forward to. It looks at the theory and methodology around audience studies as well as constructing and interpreting qualitative and quantitative research and how it is applied to media policy and content. (Yeah, I know – it’s pretty dry but I like that kind of thing!)

SP3 is back to creative writing with Writing Gothic and Speculative Fiction an area I’m very interested in learning about and I finish 2017 with a cross over unit which applies to both Screen Studies and Creative Writing, Documentary Scriptwriting. This is going to be a fascinating and intense finish to the year with assessment work to research, furnish a proposal, write a draft and revised script. I already have an idea brewing for this!

Meanwhile, it’s late, I’ve got a headache and all I want to do is sleep. But it’s really hot tonight (24.2 C at 10:20pm!) and I have a whole week off before I start SP4 and Writing Poetry, my last unit for 2016.

I wonder how much gardening I can get done in a week?

img_20161120_115846

Sunshine at Last! – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2016

I’m really tired tonight.

Last night I went out and celebrated Meraki Management’s 1st birthday, had a drink (yes, only one!), listened to some wonderful local, original music and caught up with lots of friends – it was lovely! There’s a fabulous vibe in Hobart at the moment valuing live music, which in many ways is bucking against the global trend. Long may it prosper!

This morning I slogged away at more weeding and prepared another area for tomatoes. It was overcast but very muggy, and as the morning progressed, the cloud burned away and it ended up being a really lovely day. But tomorrow is forecast to be increasingly windy and 29 C (84 F), well above average for this time of year.

I hope all my baby beans survive but this is perfect for the raspberry bed, which is looking like a wonderful (and early) crop this season.

With overnight temperatures only predicted to go down to 11 C (52 F) and no rain likely until next Tuesday, I’ll probably be up early and out watering everything before it gets too hot. Although I live close to central Hobart and have mains water, I like to use rainwater out in the yard. I’ve plumbed a gravity feed line down the the back corner and the greenhouse and I have a small electric pump that provides mains pressure. It’s a good system but I’m continually tweaking it. Over the coming months, I’m planning to set out extra lines off the gravity feed with soaker hoses that I can turn on and off as needed. It’s a big job and quite fiddly, so I’m happy to take it one bed at a time.

Tonight I had the house to myself and being tired, I decided on a very simple dinner. A piece of fresh fish, a little butter and everything else from the garden. I cooked off chopped garlic in the butter, added a sliced mushroom (from the compost bags again!) and once that had softened, I pushed it aside and put the fish in. Once I turned it, I tossed in shredded silverbeet and sliced fresh snow peas. I covered the pan for a minute or two while I got a plate and cutlery ready, serves the veggies first and put the just cooked fish on top. It was delicious!

img_20161116_194841

Tomorrow after watering, I have to finish off my last assignment for my current unit. I decided to put myself way outside my comfort zone and prepare a draft for a children’s picture book. Maybe that’s what I’ll write about tomorrow for NaBloPoMo.

Sometimes I don’t know why I do this to myself!

Goodnight friends, be well and I’ll see you tomorrow ❤

A Month of Blog Posts – Day 1 NaBloPoMo 2016

Hey everyone,

It’s that time of year again! November means my annual writing challenge – a month of daily blog posts, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo. With the year I’ve had, it would be very easy to rehash the sadness and grief but I mean to focus on the many positives that surround me.

Having said that, I’ve recently been quite seriously ill, but with support from those closest and my GP providing the right medication I’m feeling much, much better.

Also, today has started out especially wonderful. Early this morning, our new (and rather dashing) black British Giant buck arrived. He’s only 8 weeks old and impossibly cute. Like most British Giants, he’s also very affectionate and loves being held and petted, but if he gets to the size of his parents he’s going to be a handful to cuddle! In keeping with the household tradition, we wanted a “B” name for him. And given our love of the iconic comedy series Black Books there was only one thing to do.

Meet Bernard Black ❤

Bernard B Bunny

Bernard B Bunny

There’s heaps of good things happening in the garden, a bumper crop of broad beans and snow peas as well as the the usual forest of kale, silverbeet and various salad greens that produced right through winter. This is despite a very wet spring that’s kept the soil temperature quite low and of course the chickens are in full laying mode at the moment. But at the moment I’m focusing on university and my current unit, Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Because I’ve been ill, I’ve fallen behind with the work but I have a fabulous tutor and I’ve been granted an extension on a major essay. It’s not an area I feel particularly comfortable with despite teaching music to young folks as well as adults. I think it’s because I’ve never specifically thought about writing for those audiences and I tend to read so voraciously that I make little or no distinctions about genres. For example, I think of novels such as Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wind in the Willows or The Hobbit as great fiction rather than children’s books – and of course, all those titles fulfill both criteria. As a result I’ve learned a tremendous amount and found the unit quite interesting at many levels.

But I must get back to work, slaving over academic papers through the Griffith University online library and trying to make sense of my early notes. Then I can justify spending some quality time with Bernard, Boudica and Bella later this afternoon 😀

I’ll be back tomorrow, be well friends!

The Bride of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer – Book Review

As some of you are no doubt aware, I love reading as well as writing and have a Goodreads account that I’m starting to use more. Here’s a review I wrote this morning of a little pulp novel I picked up recently from my favourite bookshop, Cracked and Spineless New and Used Books. Thanks Richard 😀

The Bride of Fu ManchuThe Bride of Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I remember reading a lot of my father’s Sax Rohmer books when I was a child, so this was both a trip down memory lane and some light reading over the last week or so, nothing to do with uni study.

One of the things that I’ve always liked about Rohmer was his ability to write action and suspense and this one in particular has lots of the evil Dr, which makes for good reading. The premise of Fu Manchu developing a new insect-borne plague to unleash on the world is really quite good and inspired many other writers (including Ian Fleming) and is still a viable plot device in the 21st century.

Of course, the few women are pigeonholed into the usual stereotypes – bumbling domestic bit-player (Madam Dubonnet) femme fatale (Fah lo Suee) and the helpless heroine who constantly needs saving (Fleurette) and the men really don’t fare that much better! Alan Sterling, the narrator for this outing is about as bland as a hero can be, but how he reacts to some of his trials is quite good.

But this is a book of its time and irrespective of the incredibly dated gender politics it’s still a good pulp read.

Do you enjoy reading? What are your favourite genres/books/authors? Leave a comment – I love to hear from you! 

Previous Older Entries