House of Fun

An interesting  building has been given a new lease of life by a friend of mine. The Big House Collective sits in Sturt Street and was a beauty spa, before falling vacant. Sitting back from the street, it looks a bit out of place between the chemist and a real estate agent’s office.

Kelly Davies, with the help of a few friends, has transformed the Big House into a eclectic mix of vintage furniture, books, homewares and clothes (oh, the clothes!).

There are plans afoot for a cafe to be installed, as well as gallery/exhibition space. The last school holidays have also seen felting classes held at the Big House, which have yielded some interesting results. They have also started offering life-drawing classes which should prove to be a hit :).

The Big House is at 614 Sturt Street, Ballarat. Pop in and say hello! They are open from Tuesday – Sunday 10am-5pm.

Miss BG pretending to be scary monster gnome at the Big House

To market, to market…

Saturday beckons, and with any luck there’s a farmer’s market to go to. We’re pretty spoilt for choice in Ballarat with the Lakeside Farmer’s Market on twice a month, the Town Hall market the first Saturday of the month, as well as the Buninyong Market. If we want to make a day of it, Talbot is about 40 minutes up the road on the 3rd Sunday of the month where the market occurs in the main streets, or Daylesford’s Sunday market!

There’s my favourite stalls- the fresh pasta (homemade gnocchi with napoletana sauce, which is Saturday dinner), the vegies, the organic tomatoes and the scrummy cheese and artisan bread. If I’m lucky, there is a fresh egg stall, but that is largely dependent on the seller having enough eggs to sell- if the free-range chooks aren’t laying, there’s no eggs.

There is even an iPhone app (I have asked about an Android app, which they assure is will be developed), designed to assist users in locating a nearby farmer’s market.

Today I picked up tomatoes, gnocchi, and 2kg pink lady apples, as well as a couple of pastries to have later for coffee. Had the rest of the family been with me, there would have been a stop at the sausage sizzle stand, and the coffee van. Sausages would have been eaten and excess bread thrown to the ducks in the lake :).

Do you have a favourite market you like to visit?

Film Review- Let me in

It’s tough when you are adapting a cult book to a cinematic format, and even tougher when you are adapting said film to an English-language version. This was the case of Let me in, which is the English (read American) language version of the Swedish film, Let the right one in, based upon the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Having said that, Let me in does very well under the weight of the expectations. The English version was made by the recently resurrected Hammer films, known for their  unique brand of horror. There was also a great deal of input into the film by Lindqvist, who had written the original screenplay.

The story is about Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) a young bullied boy, who befriends Abby (Chole Moretz), a young girl in a New Mexico town. As their friendship develops, Owen realises his friend is a vampire, with her ‘father’ being her source of procuring blood.

The setting  of early-1980s Reagan America, with its rhetoric of the ‘evil empire’ (The Soviet Union), which definitely enhances the story. The presence of evil is never far away in the form of Owen’s schoolboy bullies, but there is also the presence of Abby, who lends an ambiguous air of being neither wholly innocent nor wholly evil, and forever on the cusp of adolescence.

There are subtle differences between the two films. Apart from changing the location and names, the story of how Abby’s adult minder,’The Father’, comes to be her companion is alluded to. In the English version, he met Abby as a boy and grew up to be her procurer. By remaining as true as possible to the original movie and the original literary source, it has retained what is really a great horror story.

I think what made it harder for me to be objective about this was that I had read the book and seen the original movie. My past experience of being devoted to a book and seeing its film adaptation have made me somewhat leery of adaptations (I can never really like Bridget Jones Diary, and High Fidelity was saved by Jon Cusack and Jack Black’s performance), but this is exceptional.

Sagas, schmagas

One of the jobs I used to do in my first library job was editing the monthly new books list which was printed and displayed at the Reader’s Advisory Desk.  I’d check for spelling errors and typos as well as populate the list with the details such as title, author and a brief outline of the story. The brief outlines obviously whetted my appetite for Twitter, as I could write an outline of a story in 1-2 lines. Mainly along the lines of “Heartwarming saga set in [Insert period] [Insert Geographic location]…” well, you get the drift.

I do enjoy a good saga- the only problem is they’re the proverbial brick. The only place I really read is on the train and it’s not easy lugging around 800 pages. But such is my devotion to Ken Follett that I gave it a go.

So that’s another of my guilty secrets which have come out- I love Ken Follett. Pillars of the Earth and World without End were great and one of the first books I remember reading when I was a teenager was The Key to Rebecca. If I were to give an outline of his latest book Fall of Giants it would be “a sweeping saga spread across 3 continents covering the tumultuous years of World War One, the Russian Revolution and the 1920s”.

I’m glad I persevered with it, even though my right shoulder will have a permanent droop to it from lugging it around in my book bag. This has made me all the more determined to get an e-book reader, for this is something they would be perfect, not to mention the number of titles they could carry and the settings to make it easier for vision-impaired.
Of course half the fun is in investigating- Kindle or Sony? In the purpose of research, here is a poll. Which one should I get, according to you! I have also added iPad, but I’m still not entirely sure about its functionality as an e-reader.

Slow-cooked goodness

This was going to be a post about a farmer’s market, but @acivillibrarian mentioned in her blog post the need for recipes for her slow cooker.

Going through my recipe books, I felt I was greeting half-forgotten friends. I saw a few recipes that I thought ‘must try now the weather’s colder!’, a couple that sparked off memories of very good, or very strange dinners, and way too many recipes for cake :).

However the half-forgotten recipe for slow cooked lamb shanks failed to pop out and greet me. I did find a recipe for slow-roasted lamb shanks which is essentially this:

Brown trimmed lamb shanks in a pan, then place in baking dish. Add 2 trimmed and sliced leeks, 6 cloves of garlic, sliced onion, thyme and oregano to pan to cook. Add 2 tbsp plain flour to pan to cook for a minute, then add 1 litre beef stock and 2 cups of red wine. Brink to the boil, then pour over the shanks. Cover and bung in a preheated 180-degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, turning the shanks every half hour. Serve it with mash (I like green beans and broccoli, but never brussel sprouts :)), and red wine (my favourite is shiraz).

If you do want a recipe for slow cooked spaghetti Bolognaise, you could try this recipe from Nicole Avery’s blog Planning with Kids. I thoroughly endorse it!

A politician walks into a bar…

The words, deeds and actions of  Members of Parliament will always come back to haunt them. Television soundbites, press mentions, inappropriate tweets and email exchanges with a constituent can be retrieved, reviewed and rehashed for perpetuity.

Before the electronic age, there was Hansard, an official record of the politician’s speeches and utterances within the legislative chambers. Named after  Thomas Curson Hansard, an early publisher of parliamentary transcripts, it is now produced in most Westminster democracies, including the state and Commonwealth Parliaments in Australia.

It may not have the catchy soundbites of a doorstop interview, but Hansards are useful for tracking down the rationale of legislation through second reading speeches, reviewing the inaugural or maiden speech of a new Member of Parliament, or reviewing circus question time with the likes of Paul Keating, who certainly had a way with words :).

The Australian Commonwealth Parliament has just finished digitising its Hansards and now date back to the first sitting day of 1901. This is certainly a laudable project, to ensure that this body of work is available to the public. The only problem is, is that it’s not exactly easy to find…

Actually I have to rephrase that. It is easy to find from the home page of the Parliament Website, and it is easily browseable, if you know what you are looking for. If you are searching for a speech in Hansard, you have to do this through ParlInfo, and this is not entirely evident from the site, unless you click on a generic ‘find’ link.

Hansard is only a small part of the huge body of information which is generated by the Commonwealth Parliament and form part of a larger database called ParlInfo Search . ParlInfo Search contains over a million records all relating to Parliament business and was launched in 2008 as a federated search facility.

Your advanced search screen looks like this

There is no native Hansard search interface. While the guided search provides a narrower focus and  is more suited to searching Hansard, I found the Advanced Search yielded more results.

The people who use this on a day to day basis are familiar with the interface and embraced it. These users include

Non-profit groups such as Open Australia, Getup, legal firms,accounting firms, educational institutes, libraries and other parliaments…

All aboard ParlInfo Search: the journey towards integrated access to bibliographic and full text information from the Parliament of Australia Accessed 1 June 2011

However it is through OpenAustralia, that the most usable way to access Hansard has been developed. Their aim is to help people keep tabs on their elected representatives by monitoring what they’re saying in Parliament.

I understand that both sites have different user groups, with OpenAustralia aimed at the more general public, hence the difference in the search interface. However, there is a question which still niggles me- why couldn’t the Australian Parliament have done this in the first place, rather than rely on a third party to filter their info into a useable format?

At any rate, whatever way you wish to view them, those pollies can certainly talk, and talk and talk and talk…

Weeding and Wardrobes

Every six months or so, I go through my wardrobe and weed it, cull out, do a chuck out, call it what you will. I throw out what doesn’t fit me, what I haven’t worn for a while and what is a bit on the tatty side. This also include my undies drawer and my pyjama collection, which given my love of bras and knickers and my living in a cold climate, is quite sizeable.

It’s a cathartic exercise, the local opshops get some clothes, my drawers and shelves are tidy again and I feel at peace with myself. Yet there are some pieces of clothing with which I cannot bear to part. They have survived the regular culls despite ticking all the criteria. And the reason for this is largely sentimentality. It’s the feelings associated with having purchased it, worn it and feeling that by giving it away, I would be abandoning a family member.

Let me introduce you to the older members of my wardrobe family:

My wedding dress(2001)- I’ve had it 10 years, and it no longer fits me- in fact it swims on me. I’m toying with the idea of having it taken in and shortened into a cocktail dress. I also have the matching pair of shoes which also no longer fit me, as I’m about half a size bigger in my feet!

Thai silk dressing gown (1997)- This was a present from my sister Fizz who brought it home as a souvenir from a trip she took to Thailand in 1997. It’s faded, but it has a beautiful silky feel to it. It’s been with me to hospital for the little BGs’ births and great to throw on over your nightie in summer or pyjamas in the winter.

Chinese style top(1994-5)- Myer would give staff a 25% discount off black and white clothing and this was worn to work, and worn out to dinner over the years. It’s showing its age and it’s too big for me, but I love its style and I can’t bear to part with it.

Cure T-shirt (1992) There was actually another Tshirt which I wanted, but they didn’t have my size, so I settled for this one. I remember having the best time at the Cure who played at what is now Rod Laver Arena on a cold August night in 1992. It was  their ‘Wish’ tour, and their last song of the night was ‘A Forest’, which was mind-blowingly awesome. We went back to a friend’s house and spent the night shivering in my sleeping bag, wondering if I could steal a blanket from the others who were camped in the room. In the end, I just switched on the heater. I’ve worn this countless times, mainly to the gym, so it’s very frayed around the collar.

Are there any items in your wardrobe that you can’t bear to part with?

Strike a pose #blogjune

Strike a pose by bookgrrl99
Strike a pose, a photo by bookgrrl99 on Flickr.

A beautiful sunny day in South Gippsland. Two children decide to act like homeboys, or perhaps they’re channelling Madonna in this pose? Mind you, I don’t think Madonna would never consider eating a sausage in bread…
Miss and Master BG enjoyed their mini-break, in which they played to their hearts’ content in a new playground, caught up with their aunties and cousins and got to sleep in their cousin’s new house.
These two little people will no doubt feature in several of my Blog Every Day of June posts, which starts today, on another sunny day…


Bouquets by Sunfox source: Flickr

Thank you.

It was wonderful to read all the well wishes from you all when I recently expressed the desire to step back. While the thought of hibernating under my very warm doona and taking to my bed appeals to me strongly, the show must go on.

I’ve made a couple of small changes in my life- I’ve joined a new gym, reviewed my RSS feeds (that sounds so nerdy!) and my attention to the various social networks of which I am a part (ie I no longer incessantly check my Facebook feed, amongst others :)). I am leaving my lovely smartphone in another room, so I am no longer playing with it, and I am reading more. I am drinking more green tea and water, and while this is making me feel less hungry, my second home at work and home is the loo!

There is one small thing though I did not want to get out of- the Blog Every Day of June. My goodness, how time flies! I don’t know what I’ll write about- I know there’s a few posts in draft form which will see the light of day, there will be posts on libraries, there will be photos, memes and inspiration drawn from fellow bloggers. I look forward to reading and commenting and being part of a great network of library bloggers.

Stay tuned for more bloggy goodness!


Frock! Frock! Frock!

Today I felt I had died and entered vintage frock heaven. Well, it would have been heaven if all the clothes could actually fit me :).

I was a very lucky grrl when I attended the inaugural Melbourne Vintage Clothing Jewellery and Textiles Show– I was sans famille and able to peruse the 60 or so exhibitors at a leisurely pace without having to look for giggling children hiding under racks, or be mindful of an extremely patient man lurking nearby who would be silently wishing for it all to be over.

The show was held at the Showgrounds right next door to the Australian Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Expo. Let’s just say the crowds were mutually exclusive- well-dressed ladies and dapper gentlemen on the left, blokes with moustaches, Harleys and hoodies on the right.

I am serious- there were some beautifully dressed people, either as exhibitors, models or the devoted vintage fashionistas. It was a cross between the Sullivans, Happy Days and Mad Men- mainly 40s-inspired, with some 50s petticoats, and a smattering of pencil skirts, high heels and hosiery. I had never seen so many seamed stockings in the one place ever.

There were demonstrations from the Lindy Charm School on applying makeup and styling your hair vintage style- the secret is long hair, a lot of bobby pins and hair spray. There was also a fashion parade of vintage fashion from the 1930s to the 1970s from the collection of Nicole Jenkins the owner of Circa Vintage Clothing in Fitzroy, which was amazing. The models  were gorgeous, stylish and very va va va voom!

I picked up a copy of the OpShop Guide (Victoria) which was launched at the show- it will be a welcome addition to my bedtime reading pile. I also purchased a green polyester polo top for Mr BG, and came away with something for myself- a green 60s coat.

The Vintage Show finishes up tomorrow, so if you want to frock up or simply soak up some vintage vibes, hotfoot down to the Showgrounds.

A brilliant day, topped off with a stop in Bacchus Marsh to pick up some goodies for the little BGs, who were very happy to see me :).