Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I like this mossy tree in my street. The moss goes all the way up to the branches. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Jack White live, Open House, Embiggen

I went to see Jack White last Wednesday. I would have mentioned it leading up to the show, but I kept forgetting about it! At one stage I had a mild panic thinking I'd actually missed it. Phew!

Aussie retro songstress Lanie Lane was Jack's support act, which was a nice bonus. It took me a while to warm to her music, but I eventually bought her album and now count myself as a fan. I like her even more after seeing her perform live. 

One of her band members was playing the double bass. Is it just my imagination or has the double bass made a comeback? Quite a few bands I've been to see in the last couple of years have had one in their line up. I like it. 

But anyway, back to Jack. I hadn't been too psyched about the show on the day because I felt physically and mentally exhausted and couldn't wait to crawl back into bed that night. But when he came on stage and started playing one of my favourite White Stripes songs, I got a little choked up! OMG! It's him! I'm here! And he's got the lady band with him! 

Being his usual kooky self, Jack's touring with a man band and a lady band, and he doesn't decide until that day which one he's going to take on stage. I'd hoped for the lady band, just because it's unusual to see a man backed by an all-female band. The women all had powder blue dresses, and Jack was dressed in black, with light blue suspenders. 

Jack played a few of my favourite White Stripes songs (Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, Ball & Biscuit and Doorbell), but my favourite of the night was the White Stripes' song Hotel Yorba.  I loved the fiddle solo, which isn't in the recorded version. Yeeehaw! 

He played quite a long set and encore. It was great...but I was very glad to get home and into bed. 

Oh, I forgot to mention I got asked for ID at the door to the venue (it was an over 18 event). So did Luke. They were probably checking IDs for everyone who looked under 30, just to be on the safe side, but even so, I JUST TURNED 40! 

Open House    

This weekend was the annual Melbourne Open House event, when dozens of culturally, historically and architecturally significant buildings throw open their doors for the public to come and have a stickybeak. 

We were late to get started, but we managed three buildings - the Harry Brooks Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at Melbourne University, the State Library and the Myer Mural Hall. 

The anatomy museum is used for training medical students and is rarely open to the public (unlike quite a few of the other buildings taking part). It contains anatomical models, and four plaster death masks (including those of infamous bushrangers Ned Kelly and Mad Dog Morgan), but the majority of the collection is human material - most of it diseased or otherwise unhealthy. Some of the models and specimens date back to the 1800s. It was fascinating, but also confronting. It's not every day you see dissected human body parts. What a amazingly selfless act it is to donate your entire body to science. 

Next up was the State Library. This year the tour included the Elephant Lift, the Pendulum Staircase and the catacombs. Catacombs! How intriguing! These areas are normally off limits to the public.

While we waited for our turn, we visited the La Trobe Reading Room, which is one of my favourite places in all of Melbourne. There were quite a a few people studying and this guy having a study break. Heehee.


I had hoped the Elephant Lift (the oldest operating lift in the vast building) was so named because they used it to move around stuffed elephants and other big exhibits back in the days when the building also housed the Museum of Victoria. But no; they think the name comes from the name for very large books - elephant folio. 

The pendulum rose in the floor of the stairwell

The white marble Pendulum Staircase is named because it once housed a Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the rotation of the earth. It was removed partly because pesky children were too fond of swinging on it, and now no one knows where it is. 

The catacombs are a series of underground corridors and rooms, which are used for storage, quarantine and conservation. The name sounds intriguing, but we saw a lot of broken chairs and dusty old office equipment! 

We did see the library's old card catalogue (above) which is now digitised, but library staff do still refer to it sometimes to check something in the digital records. This was my favourite thing about the catacomb tour: 

Sadly I didn't have time to look up any of the books about odd fish. 

They also still have an old catalogue from the 1880s, some of which was handwritten. 

The catacombs were used for storage, among other things, by the museum when it was housed there. During the move to its new premises in the Carlton Gardens in the 1990s, museum workers found two bird specimens with tags handwritten by Charles Darwin. Perhaps one day the pendulum will be discovered in much the same way...

Our final stop was at the Myer Mural Hall on level 6 of the Myer Department store. It's named after the 10 large murals by Napier Waller that adorn the walls, some of which depict prominent women through the ages. I've seen photos of the murals before, but have never been in the room. It was built in the early 1930s for use as a ballroom, but it's now a posh function room. 

Sections of some of the murals

We then visited Embiggen Books, a newish bookshop near the State Library. I think it's a silly name ('embiggen' is a word made up by a writer of The Simpsons), but it's a very nice bookshop - not large, but with lots of dark timber. It feels like you're in a library. One of the first books I saw was The Etymologicon, basking in the sun on a table in the window. My heart leapt a little. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Slow cooked...and the origin of boob

I turned on my slow cooker loaded up with lamb and vegetables before I left for work this morning. I was half-expecting to come home and find it still uncooked because there was no light to indicate that the thing was actually turned on.

But when I walked through the door tonight I was met with the aroma of cooking lamb. Yay! The meat fell off the bone when I served it. It was tasty, but not as delicious as the slow-cooked lamb shoulder I ate at Society. I'll keep working on it (perhaps I have set my standards too high...).

I have started reading The Superior Person's Second Book of Words. It's also very amusing and enjoyable and, like The Etymologicon (Oh, glorious Etymologicon! I miss you!), it's terribly English, but I suppose that's fitting for a book about English words. I'll write a post with my favourite words when I'm finished it, but one of my favourites from last night's chapter was 'booboisie' (pronounced like bourgeoisie), a word coined by H L Mencken to refer to the "stupid masses". 

I wonder how 'boob' came to refer to a breast, but also to a foolish person? I wonder which came first? Dictionary.com suggests boob in the foolish person sense dates back to around 1600 as "pooby" (hee!) - "apparently [a] blend of poop - to befool (now obsolete) - and baby".  Booby for breast is, however, an Americanism which emerged in the 1930s (possibly from "bubby") and then was shortened to boob in the 1940s. Don't say my blog is not educational. 

I also have to write a post about the wonders of The Etymologicon, but as there was something that tickled my brain on nearly every page, I'm not sure how to condense it down to a blog post. But I'll try. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

It is all secret, mystery and marvel

I'm still going to the gym. That must be about two months now. Going on past experience, I'm hesitant to declare that I've (re)created a habit, but I'm pleased with my stickability so far. 

My new weights program is hard, which is good, but by the time I get to my cardio workout my energy is rather depleted. But I persist and do what I can. I remind myself of this quote I found via Pinterest: 
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch
I also think of this quote from Voltaire: 
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
I think of this quote quite often - it's a good mantra for life, I reckon.  Sometimes good is enough. Ease up on yourself. 

While I'm reciting quotes, one of my Twitter friends tweeted this quote by Santiago Ramon y Cajal last week. I think it's apt for this blog.  
It is strange to see how the populace, which nourishes its imagination with tales of witches or saints*, mysterious events and extraordinary occurrences, disdains the world around it as commonplace, monotonous and prosaic, without suspecting that at bottom it is all secret, mystery and marvel.
 *This was written in 1937. Today it would  say "vampires and celebrities". 

Another Pinterest find: check out these spectacular photos of rare and fantastical clouds. Mother Nature is amazing.

I forgot to mention I bought a slow cooker on Saturday. I'm just about to go and load it up with a lamb shoulder and vegies in preparation for dinner tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to coming home to the aroma of lamb. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Signs from all over, old photos, weird words

I went to Collingwood and Brunswick today. I saw more old signs. 

Wholesale (bottom centre). Smith Street, Collingwood

 Tescosa Suits, Wellington Street, Collingwood

 Suzanne's, Smith Street

 Lavec Ind 51. Off Gertrude Street

Opposite the sign above - H Brooks. There were several buildings
 in this area with Brooks Buildings on their facades

Johnstons Furniture, Gertrude Street

I love these Commit No Nuisance signs. This is the first I've seen 
outside the CBD - in a laneway off Gertrude Street  (stupid shadow)

Speaking of old signs, here is a blog called Preserve, which features old signs mostly in New Zealand, but also some in Australia, and a few other places. 

There's also some great signage in this collection of fantastic old photos of New York from the New York City Municipal Archives  - and this one too.  

For those of you who love peculiar and amusing words as I do, here is a collection with quirky illustrations.  An example: tarantism is a condition characterised by an uncontrollable urge to dance. 

I have finished reading The Etymologicon. I feel a little bereft now. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bread, bare, bird

I remembered to go to Morris Jones in Windsor for their fig and walnut banana bread today. How could I forget? I've been thinking about it all week!  It was served with cinnamon spiced ricotta and honey on the side. It was nice...but I think my expectations were very high.

It wasn't as well done around the edges as it looks!

Morris Jones is a fairly new restaurant and bar set up in a building that was a warehouse and furniture store  trading under the name H Morris Jones & Co from 1887 to 1910. The facade of the building still bears the name H Morris Jones & Co,  and the I love that the owners took it as the name of their business. They even restored the original facade. I'm not sure how much of the interior of the building is original, but I like the exposed timber beams and the way they've sanded back the paint on the wall to expose the brickwork.

It was a beautiful day today. We walked into the city in the afternoon and it was warm enough to bare my arms to the sunshine. In the middle of winter!

We saw the white-faced heron hunting in the reeds near the river bank on the way home. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reunion, shanks, bonk!

I caught up with friends from my old job tonight. It was a farewell dinner for one of the secretaries who finished up today. I got a lovely surprise when the woman who used to be my cubicle buddy walked through the door. I haven't seen her since I left and didn't know she was coming.  It was great to see her. She's about my mum's age, and lots of fun and very cheeky. We had a good laugh. We all did. 

I ordered lamb for dinner - this time braised lamb shanks, which were delicious, but still not quite as spectacular as the lamb shoulder I had at Society recently. I really must buy that slow cooker. 

I'm not sure what this says about my sense of humour, but this photo of a panda falling head-first off a slide makes me guffaw. It's even funnier if you imagine a 'BONK!' sound effect like you'd hear on funniest Home Videos. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

That's how I roll

Looking out the window behind my desk today. Luckily my 
co-worker pointed it out or I wouldn't have known it was there

I have rollerskates! before my birthday I tweeted that I was having trouble thinking of present ideas  - rollerskates were one of the few things I could think of that I wanted. 

I mentioned this to Luke but then pooh-poohed the idea because I thought it might be one of those things where the novelty wears off quickly, which isn't so bad for a gift that's inexpensive, but rollerskates are not inexpensive. 

But then one of my lovely Twitter friends replied to my tweet saying she had a pair of rollerskates I could have free and the size seemed about right. Yay! I got a little bit excited. 

Anyway, we arranged to meet for a hot beverage last Sunday for a handover of said skates. This was our first meeting too - I didn't even know what her real name was until we got to making arrangements for meeting! 

We had a natter over a coffee (for her) and a top-notch hot chocolate (for me) on bustling Degraves Street in the city. I do enjoy meeting my Twitter friends in the real world.  

When I got home the first thing I did was try them on and they fit! Well, I might need to wear a pair of thick socks with them, but essentially they fit. I tentatively rolled around my carpeted lounge room for a bit feeling very pleased with my new acquisition, and grateful for the kindness and generosity of  (almost) strangers. 

I mentioned on Facebook that I had some rollerskates and a friend (only a few years younger than I am) said she had bought herself white skates with the red glittery wheels last year because she had wanted, but never got them, when she was a kid. We're gonna have a skate date. Shame we don't still own a Walkman so we could be Wired for Sound a la Cliff Richard (google it, youngsters). 

It's been a long time since I have rollersktated so I'm going to need to practice...hopefully without making too much of a public spectacle of myself. Must avoid skating on the path beside the river...

Also on Sunday (man, I need to catch up), I got my nails painted again - this time black with silver glitter. As befits a 40-year-old...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Belated big birthday bloggage Part II

Birthday bouquet from Bertie and Lauren

And now for my actual birthday... I had a good day despite being at work. Or perhaps partly because I was at work. Weird

My day started early in the morning when Luke woke me with a birthday kiss and hug. It's far preferable waking up with someone you love on your birthday, even if that someone then leaves for work and you go back to sleep. 

There was a steady flow of birthday text messages and posts on my Facebook wall. There were also a few emails from work people with birthday greetings. They knew it was my birthday because the home page of the intranet has a spot to highlight staff birthdays each day, which I think is a nice touch. 

And I got birthday cards in the mail! It's such a delight to get a card in the mail these days.   

The other secretary in my group had organised mini cupcakes for morning tea. I had three...following on from the gluten-free berry muffin I had for breakfast. I got the muffin at a cafe in the Centreway Arcade, which I walk past every morning on my way to work. I always look at the tray of sugar-dusted muffins as I go past and I always resist temptation, but not on my birthday. That's for indulging, not resisting. It was delicious too - and still warm from the oven.  Yummmm.

I had lunch with Bertie and Lauren from my old work and when I arrived back at my desk there was a beautiful bunch of flowers from them waiting for me, as well as some yellow tulips from my boss, which was a lovely surprise. I got a bouquet of flowers from some cousins at my birthday lunch the Saturday before too, so my flat has been looking a little like a florist's shop. I think I'll start buying myself flowers once a week. It's such a cheery sight.

Tulips, cymbidium orchid, and my Abbotsford 
Convent big bird feather in between

I arrived home on my birthday to the delicious aroma of roasting lamb (my favourite). Luke had left work early to come home and put the roast in the oven. He'd roasted the vegetables with whole cloves of garlic. I can't eat garlic (dagnammit!), but the flavour had transferred to the vegies, so I got the taste without the cranky belly. 

While the roast was still cooking, Luke told me to look in the fridge. I opened the door and there, nestling on a plate with some purple grapes, were three plump purpley-green figs. FIGS! I almost squealed and I've never been the squealing kind.  

Clapping eyes on those figs was seriously one of the best bits of my birthday because I've been looking for fresh figs since Easter when I ate roasted figs in a tasty salad at the Northcote Social Club. I was looking in vain, because the fig season ended in about March. Missed it by that much! I'd resigned myself to waiting for them to come back in season again. But Luke  found some -  right under his nose at work! - no doubt from somewhere up north where it's warmer. 

We had fresh figs with vanilla yogurt for dessert that night and I roasted the others for dessert last night (after freezing them during the week so they wouldn't spoil. I'd read online that you can freeze them, but I think it ruined them. They were very mooshy). 

Still on the topic of figs, on the Saturday just gone, Luke and I had lunch on Chapel Street and when we were walking back to the car, I stopped to peruse the menu displayed in the window of a newish restaurant called Morris Jones. I zeroed straight in on the fig and walnut bread and exclaimed, "Fig and walnut bread! Yum!". A waiter walking past heard me and commented, "It's great. We make it ourselves." Sadly I was already full from lunch (another hearty and warming Hungarian lamb stew at Borsch, Vodka &Tears). But this coming Saturday, I'm gonna be all over that fig and walnut bread. 

Anyway, that was pretty much my birthday. Lots of simple pleasures. 

These are from the bouquet from my cousins. When they got droopy, 
I chopped off their heads and put them in this bowl. 
They're still going strong now, a week later. 

(I had also planned to organise a get-together with friends in Melbourne, but I didn't get my act together due to indecision about what to do and where to go. I might still do something yet.) 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Belated big birthday bloggage

So, last weekend...I left work early on Friday and Luke and I hit the road for Deniliquin, in southern New South Wales, for my 40th birthday family get-together. 

The sun was setting as we hit the outskirts of Melbourne. 

Taken from the car

On the last leg of the trip, between Echuca and Deni, the moon was rising - a huge orange orb, just above the horizon. It was quite mesmerising. I didn't get any photos of it though.

We arrived before 9.00pm, checked into our motel and then went around to my aunt and uncle's, where my mum was staying. I haven't seen mum since Christmas so it was great to see her. It's been a year since I saw my aunt and uncle, and they were their usual, slightly odd, selves. 

We had a cuppa and a natter, and I got my first lot of birthday loot, including a couple of cheques, which I have put straight into my savings account to go towards my next overseas trip (I haven't decided where I'm going yet).  

Luke and I then headed back to our motel room and the first thing I did was crank the electric blanket up to its maximum setting. I don't have an electric blanket at home because it doesn't usually get cold enough in my flat to need one, but it was freezing in Deni - actually, below freezing. Both nights the mercury dipped to around -3 degrees Celsius, which is unusually frigid for this part of the world. I do hope the inventor of the electric blanket was bestowed with some kind of Nobel prize. It was so, so cosy. 

The mornings were frosty, but the days were clear, sunny and not too cold. Perfect winter days. I did get to wear my doona-esque parka with the fur-trimmed hood for the first time this winter, which was pleasing. Sometimes I wish it was colder in Melbourne so I could wear it more often! 

My birthday do was at lunchtime on the Saturday. There were more uncles and aunts there, and cousins I haven't seen for a few years, including my first cousin Peter, who had  his one-year-old son Archie with him. That's the first time I've met the wee one. I think he was a bit scared of my hair (and he's not the first baby who has reacted that way!). 

I was spoilt with more birthday loot and then we had a nice lunch, finished off with yummy gluten-free chocolate cake made by mum, and of course a round of Happy Birthday. 

It was great to see everyone. We've not been a particularly close family over the years (geographically and otherwise), and it's never really bothered me. They're kind of a weird mob! But in the last couple of years, I've been feeling the need to be more connected with my extended family, which probably has something to do with losing my Dad.  In fact, life has been pretty hard going for all of us the past year or two, We've mostly seen each other at funerals, so I wanted us to get together for a happier occasion. 

After lunch was over, Luke and I went to the Waring Gardens, the park in the centre of town, to take some photos, but the shadows were a little long by then. I did take some of my previously posted bird photos here though, and the obligatory photo of the Simpson Band Rotunda, which is named after my grandfather, who was a fixture in the town's brass band. 

The next day Luke and I had breakfast at a sunny table at The Crossing Cafe near the banks of the Edward River. I had pancakes with mixed berry compote and yogurt. The pancakes had a dense, almost cake-like texture, but I liked it. 

Then we visited the Peppin Heritage Centre next door - a tourist information centre, gallery and museum in the old Deniliquin Public School building. One of the rooms is still set up as a classroom. I have a very vague memory of being in this classroom as a little tacker, long after it was used as a primary school.  These desks weren't there then though - just some old blue and red folding metal chairs. 

Old encyclopaedias


This is the logo on one of the old school bags. The motto amuses me, partly because it's more of a schoolmarmish admonishment than the usual encouragement to excel favoured by many schools. None of them high-falutin' Latin phrases 'round these parts. I guess Do It Now could be a plain-talking interpretation of Carpe Diem... 

It also amuses me because when I was a kid, the town's rather cheeky catchphrase was "Do it in Deni", underneath a cartoonish outline of a family of rabbits. Do it in Deni. Do it now. Haha.  (At some point, the Powers That Be must have decided Do it in Deni was too vulgar, because they got rid of it, but I'm pleased to see that it lives on as the unofficial town motto.)

The photo above is the gallery, with an old Cobb & Co sign on the back wall. The sign was found in a shed on the former site of the Cobb & Co booking office (which I think was somewhere around where my grandparents' house was). It was restored by the town's Historical Society. 

A closer view

A lot of the museum is devoted to sheep, since wool growing has long been among the Riverina district's major industries. There were photographic displays for the area's biggest and oldest sheep stations, including Calimo,  where my family lived until I was five (when we moved south to Victoria). 

There was even a photo of the tiny timber cottage we lived in. It had pressed tin ceilings and a clawfoot bath. 

This would have been taken long after we left, since there's very little garden to be seen. We were the last family to live there, so it's been empty for about 35 years. I visited Calimo on trip to Deni about four years ago and the cottage's only inhabitants then were possums. It was well on the way to ruin, which made me sad. 

Baaaa. Everywhere I go...taxidermy!

No blog post about Deni is complete without a photo of the Ute on the Pole and mention of the town's status as the Ute Capital of the World. (For non-Aussies, ute is short for 'utility vehicle'.) Here you go then: 

The town earned the title by hosting the largest gathering of utes in the world during the annual Deni Ute Muster, which is part of the Play on the Plains Festival. Other events include the World Record Blue Singlet Count (3500 people in a Bonds blue singlet is the current world record), and the Australian National Circle Work Championships (a bunch of hoons chuckin' doughies in their muscle cars). No, I'm not making this up (but I am affecting a bogan mode of speech). Basically, it's Mecca for bogans. 

I've never been to the muster and I'm thinking about going this year. As a Deni born and (partly) bred shiela, I reckon I should go at least once, even if it's insufferable. Better buy a Bonds blue singlet then...

Anyway, back to last weekend. After lunch at my aunt and uncle's, we said our goodbyes and set off for home, with a short stop at the cemetery just out of town. All of my grandparents are buried there, along with many of my ancestors. 

This is the grave of some of my ancestors, set among peppercorn trees in the old part of the cemetery. Next to it is the grave of another ancestor, Emma Riverina Lloyd. It's said she was so named because she was the first white woman born in the Riverina, but I don't think that's true. Either way, I kinda like it as a woman's name. 

We stopped again for a little while in Echuca on the Murray River. Luke had never been before and then I realised I'd never actually been there either.  I'd been through it dozens of times, but never to it. We wandered along the main street, and down to the river port, where the old (and not-so-old) paddlesteamers are moored. 

Old(ish) sign

 Old machinery 

  More old machinery

Then we hit the road again. 

The road

I haven't even got to my actual birthday yet! That will have to wait for tomorrow, as will this weekend's glee, because it's past my bedtime. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birds, birds, birds

I still don't have the energy to write about my weekend away and birthday (I am properly middle-aged now, you know). I promise to do it on the weekend. In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures of birds that I took in the Waring Gardens in Deniliquin (except the first one).

An egret in the nearly empty Mulwala Canal

 These guys look like they mean business

More - but different - duck

Chubby duck

Unattractive Ibis

How do you like them feathers, eh? Eh?

This Corella was perched on the tree branch but just 
as I lined it up to take the shot, it took flight