Back to normal?

So, the last 6+ weeks have been all about our trip to India and Malaysia. The planning, doing and the posting of photos and memories. But I’ve been back at work a week now and it’s time to take stock and think about the year ahead.

At a glance it’s like most years: It all starts with summer, Roo’s Birthday, Australia Day, Anniversary, The Tour Down Under and Big Day Out.  That’s just January.  But wait, there’s more.

February brings cousin Giulia from La Bella Italia! The Adelaide Fringe opens (yay), and the Turner exhibition commences at the Art Gallery of SA. Alongside the Fringe is always the Garden of Unearthly Delights. The Fringe and the Garden span into the first half of March.

March brings the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, which features some ‘out there’ stuff this year.  Looking forward to seeing some of the free stuff as well as paid performances. Free includes opening night with Paul Kelly and Neil Finn and on my to see list of paid things is Laurie Anderson with Kronos Quartet!  And the late night club at the Festival, Barrio must be visited this year. Oh, and did I mention Womadelaide?  Clearly Adelaide’s March Madness is in no danger of going away. Refer my past post on this subject.

So maybe the first quarter of the year is not a good example of ‘normal’.  But it’s the best time to be in Adelaide.  I’m sure glad to be home for a spell.

Another one bites the dust…book that is

So, in my last post I had a book in progress, A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones.  The same author wrote The Last Chinese Chef, which I read back in 2007 and found interesting on a few levels; plot, characters and the wonderful descriptions of the food and its preparation and place in Chinese culture and society.

A Cup of Light on the other hand, was not as enjoyable for me. I liked learning about the different styles of porcelain and the underworld of the fake trade and the people who inhabit that world. I liked the main character Lia’s strength and aptitude at her job as an assessor of porcelain.  But the inevitable love story did not quite gel for me.

The book’s formula was similar to that of The Last Chinese Chef. But it was just not that satisfying. I am a food lover though, and read The Last Chinese Chef soon after a 6 week adventure in China that introduced me to some delicious food.  Perhaps that coloured my opinion.

I have Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines on my nightstand to read.  It’s a small book and I have already read 20 or so pages, but it may take a while to finish.  My Italian classes have recommenced for the year and I now have a fair bit of reading and preparation to do in my spare time. The Festival and Fringe are also still on here in Adelaide and life is very busy for another few weeks. So don’t hold your breath for a review!

My book list – Three and a half so far

I’ve never counted how many books I read in a year. But the other day I realised that I’ve read three already and am on the way to a fourth.

I don’t want the fact that I am making a list to influence how many I ultimately read. Not sure how I’m going to deal with that, but I have a feeling that now that the festival season is on in Adelaide and my Italian class recommences in a week (and of course there’s always the day job at the ‘documentation factory’) my list will grow more slowly.

So here’s the list so far:

Three read:

  • Breath by Tim Winton
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • American Journeys by Don Watson

One in progress:

  • A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones

Stay tuned for updates…

But wait, there’s more…(books on my night-stand)

Two more books to add to the night-stand reading list.

I was waiting for Tim Winton’s Breath to come out in paperback and Roo has now bought it for me.  The shop assistant could not find the last copy in stock so Roo left  thinking he’d find it at another bookshop. The assistant found it and came running down Rundle Mall with it for him! Well done.

And after the fabulous read that was Middlesex, I was keen to read The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I kept seeing it mentioned online and in print. Thanks to buddy Katrina, I now have my very own copy. Yay.

It’s going to be a challenge to get through all of these books but one I am going to enjoy enormously!

More lovely books to read!

Annual year-end review of books on the night stand

Another year is nearly over and the rotating door for books that is my night stand is sporting a lovely and mostly new crop.  A few of them are travel guides recently borrowed from the library and some of them were on the night stand last year, but are at least started. Some from last year’s list were never read but instead moved to the ‘maybe next year’ pile on the bookshelf. And others still are purely for reference and have ben returned to their place in the cabinet.

Those in the ‘maybe next year’ pile have no inherent faults. It’s just that some books need to be saved for the right occasion, like reading on long airplane trips.  Such books need to be not too big to carry around on a trip of 4 or more weeks, but big enough to last the holiday. If, like me, you like to catch up on the year’s films while on a long flight, a moderately long book is sufficient even for the gruelling 12 and 14 hour trips from Australia to North America or Europe. And if, like me again,  you don’t have holidays where you sit around by the pool in a lounge chair reading books, but instead walk for several hours a day and just want to close your eyes and put your feet up when you get back at night, you’ll know that outside of planes and airports, not a lot of leisure reading actually gets done. My on-ground reading tends to be of the travel boos and local information guide variety.

Really big books like Barbara Kingsolver’s La Lacuna (512 pages) need to be savoured over time.  I needed to have a few days break and go back a page or two to catch up and really understand where I had left off while reading this one. It was worth the effort and a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Smaller books like the Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines (293 pages) are good for reading on the tram or bus to work as they can be chucked into the handbag or lunch box quite easily, and held with one hand while dangling from the commuter strap waiting for some young punk to give up their seat for the nice grey haired lady (fat chance). I enjoyed the writing in this book but did not get a sense of a strong narrative, rather many well written threads.

Try as I may, I still only manage 3 or 4 books a year.   So, between studying Italian, work at the documentation factory, volunteering for the Fringe and enjoying summer and the festival season, here’s the list I will work with this year (subject to change without notice).

This year's crop - some carried over from last year

Food first

Well, it looks like I am doing a pretty miserable job this year in the blogging department. I might have overdone it last year and set expectations too high gentle readers!

So I will just share with you one of the lovely vegetarian meals that we cooked and ate last weekend.

Potato bake with sour cream, leeks and swiss chard; over-roasted butternut pumpkin with chilli flakes; some big honking roasted mushrooms
Potato bake with sour cream, leeks and swiss chard; over-roasted butternut pumpkin with chilli flakes; some big honking roasted mushrooms

The potato bake was inspired by something in a recent Australian Gourmet Traveller mag. I suggested it and bought all the ingredients, but Roo and Emily did most of the work.

Looks like a monthly update is all I can handle…

There seems to be a lot going on, and little time to blog about it.  I’m thinking that perhaps I am too connected and a bit disjointed in my approach to social networking and blogging.  I have been considering only updating my Tumblr blog MLTuckerAtLarge, which feeds to my Twitter and my Facebook and just leave it at that.  More photos taken on the run, less writing.  But the whole idea of this blog was to write more. Easier said than done.

The day job at the documentation factory and my ongoing love affair with studying Italian seem to be getting in the way. Maybe it’s just that I have been busy with summer (now more or less gone) and blogging will be easier to do over the colder months (from the cozy couch). So, I am not giving up yet. This year will be the test.

But right now, I have Italian homework to do…i compiti.

Mi piace i compiti!

Geez 2011 – you have some catching up to do

Other than a photo on my bike ride home, I haven’t posted a blog since the first of the year. Oh dear, what’s going on? Last year I was quite prolific, at least for me…

It’s not that nothing is happening this year; maybe I am just adjusting to being back in Australia and back at work after my fabulous 12 weeks off, with 10 of those weeks spent in Italy (view Italy blog here).

Whatever it is, I seem to not be finding time. And now the Adelaide Fringe volunteer work I do in the lead-up to the Fringe Opening Night Parade, is upon me. Of course there’s always the day job at  ‘the documentation factory’ to keep me truly busy.

Been making ready a room for Emily, my niece who is arriving in less than 24 hours now. and it is looking pretty tidy! We are sure to have some blog-worthy adventures over the coming months…And well, maybe now that I have admitted I have a problem, I can start to work on it!  Here’s to my blog stats for 2011.

Central market Adelaide

That was the year that was – 2010

How lucky am I that last year, 2010, was one of mostly ‘highs’ for me.  Even some of the lows brought unexpected moments of bitter-sweet melancholy. And that’s a good thing in my book.  The idea that we must always be happy is such a western concept. Times of sober pensiveness are important aspects of a life lived in the real world.

So, the year is over.  Here’s how it stacked up for me:
  • I had the great fortune to spend time with an old friend who was in Adelaide for a few months to see her mother out of this world. We shared cups of tea and meals and more than a few laughs to help her through the dark times.
  • I spent 5 whole weeks with my big sister Annie in Italy where we studied Italian, spent time with our wonderful and generous relatives, consumed fabulous food and drink and made some new friends. Basically, it DID NOT SUCK at all! It has been years since we have had such a carefree time together, probably since our childhood or maybe our early 20s at a stretch.  We may never get the opportunity again given we are at opposite ends of the world, so I am going to savour that  5 weeks for a long time.
  • My husband and fellow adventurer, Roo, joined me for a second 5 weeks in Italy, mainly Naples/Amalfi Coast and 3 glorious, slow-paced weeks around Sicily. We were blessed with great weather and friendly folks at every turn. Sicily rejects the stereotype of a dark, secretive, dangerous place. And it can not be rushed.
  • On the work front I was incredibly challenged with an interactive forms design project and completed some work that a colleague and I can be quite proud of.

Some obvious highs and lows there I guess. But I can tell you that the lows were valid, important experiences that seemed insurmountably difficult at the time, and from which I learned a lot.

And now 2011 is already lining up some interesting times. Here’s hoping that I’m up to it!

Cheers!

My boys: Andrew with Speedy and Jose

This photo was taken one winter afternoon in 2009. The sun streams into our bedroom on winter afternoons and all my men love an afternoon nap on the weekend. This is also a great place to park with the Weekend Australian newspaper or a book in winter. But I think Andrew has made a bad move wearing all black with those two ginger boys’ hair everywhere. He seems oblivious. Lucky him. Lucky us.