Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the sixth day of Christmas ...

... we visited Heide.

I've visited Heide quite frequently over the last 25 years or so. Originally only the 'new house' (Heide 2) housed exhibitions. My favourite part of the estate was always the kitchen garden just down the hill from Heide 2, on the way to the river.

These days the kitchen garden is looking rather unkempt but the restored vegetable gardens and orchards around Heide 1 (the original farmhouse) almost compensate. I was delighted to discover that the garden supplies herbs and vegetables to the café, so I took a photograph of the rocket bed that may have contributed to my lunch.

For my birthday my sister gave me Sunday's kitchen: food and living at Heide. The library in Heide 1 holds a shelf of cookbooks owned by Sunday Reed. The books range from health food cookery to French and Indian cuisine, including the little known Indian cookery by E.D. Veerasawmy. It seemed appropriate that we celebrated my birthday (again) with dinner at an Indian restaurant that night.

On the fifth day of Christmas ...

... I attended a High Church Anglican funeral service at St John the Evangelist, Soldiers Hill, Ballarat. The requiem Eucharist was to celebrate the life of Rosalie Bonighton, a composer of liturgical organ and choral music of great renown in the region and beyond.

In the words of David Oulton's homily:

"Her music was like the symphony of her life, complex, rich, exacting, encompassing a wide range of style and sparkle. It was beautiful, enchanting, heady, clever."

The music at the funeral service (which included Bonighton's Melbourne Mass) was sung by Vox and the Ballarat Grammar Chamber Choir and was just beautiful. The Eucharist was almost identical to a Catholic Mass but with enough extra prayers and readings thrown in to extend it by a good country mile.

After the service the congregation gathered silently in the church grounds listening to the tolling of the newly installed automatic bell.

Later we enjoyed a few moments of quiet contemplation on the shores of Lake Wendouree before driving back to Melbourne to continue the next days of Christmas.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On the fourth day of Christmas ...

... I hit the highway (specifically: CityLink, the Westgate Freeway, the Western Ring Road and the Western Highway) and after a quite relaxing drive through the green and pleasant land that is Victoria this year, arrived in the sunny and majestic city of Ballarat.

Ballarat in my childhood was the city that broke up the journey between Geelong and Ararat and, later, Melbourne and Ararat. We may have stopped for petrol or a loaf of bread, but never to stroll around the streets and admire the magnificent Victorian architecture or to marvel at the picturesque railway crossing with its signal box (now rather decrepit) and impressive signal gantry.

We certainly never stopped for a Ballarat Bitter at Craig's Royal Hotel, even in the cricket season. And we could never have contemplated sitting on a couch in the bar at that hotel, writing a blog post on an iPad while watching Mr Cricket steer Australia through to stumps.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On the third day of Christmas ....

... I went to the cricket: day two of the supposedly traditional Boxing Day test. This year's ABC cricket magazine (one of the many periodicals which is the bane of the serial cataloguer's life, having changed its title from the perfectly respectable ABC cricket book and still popularly known as such) points out that the Melbourne Boxing Day test has been an annual event only since 1990.

During the tea break I dropped into the MCC Library as a change from visiting the Hugh Trumble courtyard bar. The library has a superb collection of sporting books, free fact sheets, the Yorker magazine and stunning views across Jolimont towards the city. It even has a special display of ABC cricket books.

Amidst all the noise and confusion of the Boxing Day test crowd, the MCC Library provides a place for reflection, contemplation and serenity - before the inevitable return to the Hugh Trumble.

On the second day of Christmas ...

... I cooked zucchini slice. Inspired by my aunty's legendary zucchini slice which is an all time favourite at the traditional Christmas night get-together, and armed with one of the 'smaller' zucchini grown by my cousin (not the same one who gave me the brick), tonight I attempted to recreate the famous dish.

For something so simple there are so many recipes, but one of the best is found in the charming, practical and sustainable book Homemade: the Handmade Help recipe book, which consists of recipes donated by home cooks and well known cooks such as Greg Malouf. This book is the brainchild of my former colleague Beverley Laing and others who gathered the recipes and distributed the book as a gift to the Victorian communities affected by the bushfires of 2009. Funds raised from sales of the book are donated to the Salvation Army.

I hope the contributor of the zucchini slice recipe in this book does not object to my leaving out the bacon. Even my aunty never cooks zucchini slice with bacon anymore. Instead she serves a small dish of finely diced bacon sprinkles alongside for those who must, and vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike are happy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

On the first day of Christmas ...

... my cousin gave to me: an early birthday present. Being in a reckless kind of mood I decided to open it straight away rather than wait three days.

The bag felt very heavy - rather as though it contained a brick. On opening the bag I discovered that my cousin had indeed given me a brick for a birthday present. But not just any brick: it was an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland brick from Daryl Fitzgerald's Light Reading collection.

The weathered Glen Iris brick from 1956, complete with Olympic rings, is imprinted on its 'spine' with the title, author and artist's mark.

Absolutely the perfect gift for a librarian who lives quite near Glen Iris and loves her sport.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 7: The newsagent

On the way home from the supermarket, post office, fruit shop and bakery, I dropped into my local newsagency, which I have not needed to visit much since I got the iPad. The owners still remember me and greet me by name even though it is years since I had the paper delivered. They even remember where I live: "Are you really going to walk down there with all that shopping?"

They have decided to close on Sundays soon as they have so few customers. Feeling really guilty about not buying the paper any more, I bought some cards that I didn't really need and slunk out of the shop.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 6: Friday

Oh happy Friday. The whole office seems lighter and more frivolous on Friday. A burden has been lifted. Another sunny summery day and the city is sparkling.

For the second time this week I escaped to the top end of town, this time for a late lunch at the Cricketers. Still grieving for the unfortunate withdrawal of Daniel Vettori from the New Zealand team, I didn't pay much attention to the cricket on the TV, but enjoyed my Little Creatures with chips and aioli. In the immortal words of Toby Keith 'I love this bar'. The staff here are really lovely and I was delighted to see the same barman who was so friendly to us on our previous visit last week.

Back on home territory the cicadas are going crazy, there are birds everywhere and once darkness falls the moths and tiny beetles begin their invasion. The giant lemon scented gum is starting to shed its bark and great strips of it lie across the footpath and driveway. Sumer is *definitely* icumin in.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 5: Meetings

Another beautiful sunny day in Melbourne. Another early arrival at work. A meeting with IT involving a high level analysis of reporting requirements, Bengal kittens, rhubarb and Z39.50 logging. My first ever minutes with pictures (the new way of capturing whiteboard scribbles without resorting to those old fashioned paper printouts).

Then followed a flurry of activity on Yammer which some of the staff have recently appropriated as a communications platform. After a quiet introduction it is starting to take off. In our experience to date the desktop app only tells part of the story - you have to use the web version to experience all the features.

My second meeting of the day was held over Skype with the agenda in a shared Evernote file. One day I might work out how to get the numbering and formatting right, but meanwhile the Evernote html editor presents some challenges. Skype is a reasonable substitute for meeting in person with remote staff members but there is nothing quite like real face to face contact.

At the end of the day I crossed over the road to the Sherlock Holmes to fortify myself for the trip up Collins Street to the grand Reader's Feast privileged readers night opening. I was delighted to discover that 3G access is now available in this cosy basement bar, so I was able to while away a happy half hour or so with a pint of Fat Yak and the twitterverse.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 4: The green shoes

Today I decided it was time to think about fulfilling one of my new year resolutions: to take a break from work around lunchtime each day.

Thus at 12.30 I walked up Gurners Lane and New Chancery Lane to the Queen and Bourke tram stop and before too long was trundled up to the Paris end of town. I like this end of town for three reasons: having gone to school in East Melbourne I'm very familiar with it; several years at Casselden Place made it even more familiar; and it boasts both the Cricketers Bar and one of the few op shops in central Melbourne.

Pausing just for a few moments to step into Mitty's newsagency (one of the few newsagencies in central Melbourne that supplies the Geelong Addy), I made my way to the Salvos op shop. $11.95 later, I was the proud owner of two Belgian cushion covers and a pair of green shoes.
The green shoes

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 3: Rhubarb

After a refreshing glass of rhubarb juice and a pot of Russian Caravan tea, I walked to the station earlier than usual this morning. This proved to be both a good and bad decision - bad because I had to stand all the way to Richmond, but good because there was a Flinders St train on platform 7 which meant I could avoid the trip around the loop and the long walk from Flagstaff station.

Even better, I met Christian at the Degraves St barrier when his myki failed to scan and he held up a line of impatient commuters - but finally he was through and we walked to Collins St together chatting away about javascript, xsl and a replacement for the new books program - some of my favourite conversation topics at the moment. We also discussed where and when to have my going-on-leave drinks next week, with some support for The Elms, for old times sake, but probably for expediency we will go with The Mitre.

Work was a mixture of meetings and dealing with unexpected things from left field (a pretty normal day really). I really need to set aside some clear time to work on a project proposal before the end of this week.

I also had company on the walk home as I met my neighbour at East Camberwell.

When I got home Michael made me a rhubarb juice cocktail. Now I feel ready to face the evening.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 2

Just prior to day 2 I fell asleep before Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy were united.

On the way to work this morning I decided to resume reading the e-book I recently borrowed from Melbourne Library Service - but alas the loan had expired. Fortunately only a couple of stations passed before I had successfuly re-borrowed it via the Overdrive app. It even took me back to the exact spot where I'd left off, which was pretty impressive. The book is Devil's food by Kerry Greenwood.

Flagstaff Station was mercifully quiet so the walk down the usually congested William Street was more pleasant than usual, particularly with a beautiful clear crisp Melbourne morning exerting its rare charm.

Before too long I was at work and spent the day sorting out the usual assortment of minor crises, issues, queries, problems and occasionally being productive. LibraryThing for Libraries is now live in the online catalogue after too long a delay.

Tonight I made rhubarb juice, which I'd never heard of before. Not sure if I'll actually drink any of it but it looks pretty. After about three hours pottering about I decided on a very simple dinner - marinated tofu, mushrooms, onions and red capsicum baked in a cast iron pan in the oven and served over baby spinach.

Tomorrow's task will be to choose an iPad blogging app that will allow photo uploads - BlogPress looks promising but seems to have a few issues so I think a bit more research is in order.