Guest Post by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Is Cranky Ladies of History going to be a SF anthology, a fantasy anthology or a historical anthology? I’m hoping all three. Historical fiction is a lot closer to SF/F than you might think – that delicate balance between research/accuracy/realism and imagination/wonder/liberty-taking. My recent obsession with historical romance author Courtney Milan took on a whole different angle when I read this review which pointed out that the heroine discovers the chromosome much earlier than in recorded history – which makes it science fiction, right?
Science fiction has a long history of allowing the alternative history and even more adventurous, the secret history, to “count” as part of the genre. Mary Gentle’s Ash is a brilliant example of this, a novel that looks and feels exactly like real history – as the reader you desperately want it to be real – but feels like fantasy and science fiction too. It’s too close and too far away at the same time – the uncanny valley of historical fiction, and thus it’s ours.
Then there’s that odd tradition we have in the SF genre of allowing historical fiction to “count” if it’s by an author we claim as our own. Karen Joy Fowler’s fiction often works that way, hitting the SF awards shortlists and causing controversy as fans and critics alike argue, does it count? Is it real?
Nicola Griffith’s excellent Hild, a meticulous historical novel based around the young woman who would become St Hildegard of Bergen, was nominated for a Nebula, and critics are already divided on whether it’s science fictional or fantastical enough to “count.”
The truth is that, while we only tend to let the barriers fall for those authors who are seen as “one of us,” most historical fiction is also science fiction, or fantasy. And not just in that ‘all fiction is speculative’ way.
I spent most of my twenties immersed in Roman history, a period so full of gaps and lacunae and great gaping missing bits that you practically have to become a historical novelist to make sense of it all, especially if you want to talk about anything other than the handful of men in power who wrote things down.
And yes, when I did start writing fiction about the Romans, I added werewolves, because honestly they make more sense that way.
All Arthurian novels are closer to fantasy than history – even if they do ignore the blatant magic that runs through so many of the stories. But Marion Zimmer Bradley created a different kind of fantasy in which women had a greater importance and significance to the politics and religion of the day than had previously been assumed. The Mists of Avalon asked really important questions – like who the Lady of the Lake actually was, and why Guinevere and Lancelot didn’t just quietly run away together, and why a mysterious enchantress would even want to capture Merlin inside a tree.
She asked the same questions that social historians have to ask, all the time - what were the women doing, while all the history was being written about their husbands and sons?
One of my favourite historical novels of all time is The Course of Honour, by Lindsey Davis. Antonia Caenis, the former slave who became the beloved mistress of the Emperor Vespasian, was only mentioned twice in the history books. Davis, who famously brought the Flavian period to life in her Roman detective series featuring the informer Marcus Didius Falco, did a great job of fleshing out a romance between the coin-counting Emperor and the whip-smart woman who could never marry him, which fitted with the few facts we knew about Caenis and the many facts we knew about Vespasian.
My life was also substantially changed by the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough – which I read through my teens and which sparked my first interest in Roman women. Her research was meticulous and thorough, though again it was often based on imagining lives of women based on sparse details.
I always skimmed over the chapters on politics and war, to get back to the womenfolk. And I was a little devastated to discover that, while Marius undoubtedly married the Julia who was the aunt to *our* Julius Caesar, it was a complete fabrication that she had a troubled, self-destructive younger sister who married Sulla.
Kerry Greenwood’s Medea, on the other hand, plays with the notion that we know the end of the story, only to sock it to us at the end with the revelation both through fiction and a historical end note, that actually it was Euripides who was playing the alternative history game, and the real Medea (if she existed) was almost certainly framed for her terrible crime.
It’s one thing to think of alternative history as being the craft of changing the past, but what if you are using your story to bring it back closer to the historical truth? That’s the game that all historical writers play with us – the tease that this version is real, even if it contains magical islands and manticores, alien invasions or characters who never even made it into the footnotes of history.
Kate Forsyth, known in Australia as a successful writer of epic fantasy for adults and children, had an international breakout success a couple of years ago with Bitter Greens, a novel which takes fairy tales, fantasy and women’s history and turns them into a marvellous cocktail of can’t-stop-reading.
The real live Cranky Lady of the story is Charlotte-Rose De La Force, one of the many ladies-who-salon of 17th century France, an author of fairy tales at a time when the genre was at its absolute hottest.
Kate didn’t just write a straight biography of Charlotte-Rose – though she immersed herself in her history even to the point of researching and translating some of her writings which had never before been translated into English – but tangled that story in with the fairy tale of Rapunzel, and an imagined history of the original witch of that tale. From the scandalous affairs of the French court to Italian courtesans, lovers and plague, and into the magical possibilities of fairy tales and witchcraft, the novel never quite lets up as to which layer is fantasy and which is history.
It’s all just wonderful.
I have no idea what we’re going to get for Cranky Ladies of History – you never do until the stories themselves roll in. I am hoping for fiction which illuminates historical women I know quite well, and others I have never heard of. I’m hoping for new perspectives, for stories that bring history to life as Lindsey Davis did for Caenis, and Kate Forsyth did for Charlotte-Rose.
But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m also rather hoping that a few witches and manticores and robot doubles slide into the stories too.
This post is written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support the FableCroft Publishing Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world.
A Roundup of all the other posts for this campaign can be found at FableCroft.
Tags: cranky ladies of history
, Tansy Rayner Roberts
, tehani wessely
I have the sad, sorry withdrawal come down that follows a birthday weekend. Luckily for me, I’m going out for a work session this afternoon which means I get to to try out another cafe (I’m behind on those posts too). Course, the come down means I had a great time!
I wasn’t really sure what was happening with my birthday this year. I didn’t organise anything. It’s kinda sad how the older you get, the less shiny and exciting your birthday becomes. I knew that there was a family dinner organised for the Friday night but C kept telling me that my present would be given to me then, not on the day, and in the calendar, he had a mysterious note “Tell Wife a Secret”. No matter what I tried, he refused to give away any hints! I had a meeting with Julia over Skype late Wednesday night and as soon as I hopped off, it was Thursday, and my birthday and he revealed the secret: he’d taken a day of annual leave to give me a day off. He’d remembered that I had a philosophy of not working on my birthday – something I picked up from the crew back in my Wetlands days. We’d all take annual leave on the day and frankly, if you can do that, it’s a really nice thing to say to yourself – I give me the day off! So C gave me the day after off and stayed home to look after the baby on Friday and sent me off “wherever”.
Thursday, my actual birthday, I had breakfast with my sister and mum and then hung out at my parents for the afternoon. I madly rang around local day spa places near my home to see if somewhere could fit me in. I had no idea what to do on my sudden day off and I didn’t want to waste it.
The Urban Day Spa in Rockingham could fit me in at 10am and I got to sleep in (after doing the 6am baby feed!) and then roll out of bed and head out for a full body massage. Hidden upstairs in the cafe strip on the foreshore, it’s a very lovely day spa. The massage was excellent – I was so sore from baby lifting etc – and the mood was dim lights and music and so relaxing. And then afterwards, they served refreshments on a balcony overlooking the ocean. I was still so very sore but definitely more relaxed.
Afterwards, I headed to the Kent St Deli, a street back, and my favourite local place, to have a couple of uninterrupted hot coffees. It was very busy and not the most pleasant place to hang and the service wasn’t really as good as it’s been before, nor the coffee. But nonetheless, I hung out for about 2 hours, drank coffee and juice and ate lunch and worked on my PhD quietly. And even though technically that’s working, it’s been such a long time since I could sit for two hours and just work without stopping, following through processes, jotting down notes and actually developing a methodology for my stats collecting. And not being able to do such things had been stressing me out. I had a really great time working on my PhD.
I was still sore and still had time to spare so I headed home to have a long luxurious bath (this particular bath bomb made the bath look like the pee of someone who needed to badly rehydrate!). I listened to Norah Jones and read a book. Divine!
And then! I still had some time before we had to leave for dinner, so I finally sat down and tackled the stumbling block on my quilt project. I’d stalled back when I was pregnant due to pregnancy brain meaning I could no longer fussy cut without stuffing up and my carpal tunnel eventually stopped me crafting altogether. It’s taken me this long but I finally got back to it. I had to recut one template and then fussy cut those 8 diamonds and then a bit of sewing over the weekend and voila! Done!
Then it was time to head up to family dinner. Everyone came along and they had all pooled my birthday money to get me one giant day spa package omigosh! You know the kind that has EVERYTHING and you have to be there for like half a day! Oh yeah! Now to decide when that day is going to be! I cannot wait! And we had dinner. And Cake:
Because it was a public holiday on Monday, we got a long weekend as well! We checked my post box on the way to dinner and I discovered my swift had finally arrived! So Saturday, I managed to work it, and wind up yarn!
This should keep me going for a while:
That’s a couple of balls of sock yarn for the year of sock knitting, one scarf and the TPP pink shall be a shawl.
Serendipity is the strangest thing. Yesterday I was having this long talk with Ben about combating negativity and personal attacks – reconciling the hateful things people say about you or to you with how you see yourself. Today, I’m sitting here watching an interview that Oprah did with Sheryl Sandberg which aired on Jan 21st but I’ve been putting off watching. She’s talking about her book Lean In, which I vaguely recall got some negative press when it was published but I forget what.
Anyway, they’re talking about the bullshit labels/pressure people put on women – eg “having it all” and “work life balance”. Noone ever really asks successful men how they manage to have it all or balance work and life (they have wives for that, right?). And work life balance is a privilege that not everyone gets to contemplate anyhow.
Then they get on to the “imposter syndrome” and I start nodding my head. And realising how much this ties into yesterday’s conversation. Sandberg says that whilst some men do suffer from it, more women than men do. And when you ask a woman and a man about their success, a man more often than not will own his success, that it’s from what *he did*, from what he knows and his skills. Whereas a woman will “attribute her success to luck, help from other people and working hard, and not from her own skills. And even if you’re confident enough to own your own success, the world will attribute her success to luck and working hard and not from her own skills.” And then she says, “we do it to ourselves and the world does it *to* us.”
Wow. I have to sit with that for a while. But just Yes. What an interesting discussion to come past me just when I was thinking these things through only yesterday. So many passing snide remarks in my direction over time- it’s my friends who all voted for me, I sucked my way onto that list (I’m very tired now), editing collections is so much easier than anthologies cause they are all the one writer’s work (and I guess I just put the staple on the pages and hand it in with my name on it?), who is she? I’ve never heard of her, I don’t understand why these female run small presses are doing so well. And on and on.
It’s interesting to deconstruct. Isn’t it very telling to assume that working well with others or working hard are the parts of success that hold no value? Imagine having all the skills in the world but never actually applying them. Or not applying them consistently or with perseverance. Imagine having all the skills in the world but being a totally foul person who makes teamwork intolerable. Actually, I don’t have to imagine these two examples at all.
The Olympics are over for another 4/2 years and I must confess to having watched a lot more of it than I thought I would. I was working on an arts grant during the first week of them and pulled a good few late nights (working til 2am and then getting up for the baby’s next feed, that is *awesome* I must say, but it showed me that I *can* get clear, lucid and creative thought when I need to, phew!)
This was the first Olympics that I was home and about enough to actually participate in what used to be called the Knitting Olympics and is now called the Ravellenics. I didn’t sign up for anything official though. I just challenged myself to knit to finish as much as I could in the set time. Since I hadn’t been knitting at all, anything would be an achievement. But I hoped to start and finish a pair of socks, which would be my first pair knit in my knitting challenge for the year. I cast on during the opening ceremony, knit far into the night before going to bed and waking up in the morning to hate the pattern I’d picked. And so it goes! I had to unpick and start over! I also tried knitting two socks together for the first time.
And so, how did I do? Behold the knitting I completed over the fortnight:
That would be: 1 hotwater bottle cover (in my November yarn from KnitCrate, I opted not to go with the boot warmers pattern that they came with), 1 cloche hat (my January yarn from KnitCrate – Zen Yarns Garden – and just needing a button to finish) and a pair of socks in Watermelon by Claudia Handpainted.
And! I cast on and knit to the heels on these:
Mediumweight Socks That Rock by Blue Moon Fibre Arts in a Mill End. These are socks pair number 2 for 2014 and are a gift …
Tags: finished projects
, socks 2014
One of my favourite TV shows is Dragons Den. A panel of multi-millionaire entrepreneurs (or businesses in marketing, branding and so on) sit in judgment as they get pitched business ideas, mostly for inventions. Some contestants have done prototypes and small-scale production runs. All are looking for cash investment and mentoring in marketing, branding and taking a start up to a fully fledged viable business. My favourite bit is when one of the Dragons decides there is a good idea that they think they could make fly and then they offer X cash to buy in to the company for Y percentage partnership. Almost without fail, the person will reject the offer of lots of money because the deal is for more than 50% ownership of the company.
Their thinking being that an idea is worth equal or more than its execution. Or that having an awesome idea is enough alone to make it successful. The Dragons usually smile serenely. To them, it’s easy come, easy go. They know that an idea is not enough. That there are more ideas in the world than can be developed. The negotiation also tells them a lot about what that partnership might be like. Are they going to be overly possessive and territorial? Are they going to be open to mentorship? Are they going to step aside to let others with experience handle things like packaging, branding, marketing, promotion and access to delivery channels? Where will they decide the line is between “mine” and “ours”?
I think a lot about this show as I watch the narratives about the evolving models of publishing. Publishing is (as always) in a state of flux, in a reinvention of sorts. Small press models don’t look anything like they did when I started my press back in 2007. And it’s not a risk to say it will look markedly different in five years time. I’m very passionate about speculative fiction and about writers. As a small press, we sit very decidedly outside mainstream/big publishing and our role is very distinct. We try to offer the best and fairest deals we can when we acquire manuscripts and we try to offer a value addition of personal care and interest beyond the publication date. I like to think there is a very clear narrative that runs through the books I acquire that embody the ethos, direction, and yes, branding, of Twelfth Planet Press. I’m gradually building an argument, a response, a discussion point and when I read submissions, I’m looking for pieces that will expand, broaden, deepen or emphasise that narrative.
Of course, the other aspect that I look for at acquisitions is whether I think a work is likely, or has the potential, to sell to break even, or, you know, one day, make profit. I’m running a business after all. So far, I’m still waiting for the long tail to kick in and kick back most of my investment dollars. The thing about the old skool publishing model is that it works across all the titles bought in a year – some you win (make profit), some you lose (make losses) and across the board you cross your fingers and hope you come out ahead. This approach is what enables publishers to invest in books they know won’t ever earn out or end up in the black but that they believe should exist.
It’s a different model to self publishing. And like self publishing, it works for some cases, and not others. But I saw a t-shirt the other day that said “What part of 70% royalties do you not understand?” and it took me back a bit. Sure, there is an element out there with a pretty strong hate on for publishers but it strikes me as a bit naive or deliberately simplistic. It comes back to the Dragons Den and the idea that the only person who works to create a book is the writer. And that the only costs are paying said writer. Or that the writing might be the most expensive/only part of creating a book.
I’ve run the maths of going to digital only publishing to play with the business model. I’ve also tried to look at offering our ebooks at that $0.99 or $1.99 price point. I really hope we don’t see this flux in the business model end up with books only costing 99 cents. It’s such a huge undervaluation of what it costs to produce the product. To think that you deserve 70% royalties means you think that the cover artist, the book designer, the layout, the editors, the proofers, the marketers and promoters, the promotion material including launch events, and overheads like electricity, software, website management, bank charges, fees for online sales transactions and so many other costs, as well as publisher reputation and branding should somehow be covered by that 30%. That’s one helluva turnover of book sales. It also suggests that all those people take almost no role in the success of your book. I mean, as we all know, no book of excellent quality has ever been overlooked or failed to succeed, since cream always rises to the top, all on its own.
Which is not to say that 70% isn’t a great deal. I don’t have anything against self publishing. It’s the obvious choice in some situations. But when considering all those choices, that 70% really needs to be viewed honestly – what costs will also need to be covered by that? Editing costs? Proofing? Ebook conversion? Buying a cover? Spending time learning layout and publicity? Advertising and promotion? How much time will be required to be invested in product awareness? There are outdated aspects of the publishing business model. And the changes we are currently experiencing will force that hand. But the changes that will happen, and need to, will happen within the realm of economics and viability.
, publishing industry
On Saturday we had reason to look for somewhere to camp for a while. The baby and I were hanging out in the CBD whilst C was off doing things for about 2 hours. I had in mind a couple of cafes I wanted to hang out in but most of them were closed. Looks like the Milligan end of Hay St is for work hours and not so much a Saturday at lunchtime.
We ended up at the Dome cafe right on the corner of Milligan and Hay St. Dome is an old faithful. It’s not my favourite cup of coffee but it’s fine. The menu feels like it could really use a freshen up. But again, it’s fine. The best bit I guess is there is lots of space to sit for a while and noone really seems to mind.
The aisles are wide and there enough room to maneuver. The staff were affable and very attentive to the baby. However, once you’ve ordered, you really have no interaction with the staff again. Someone brings out your order but must be trained not to catch your eye. I noticed tables being cleared but not once did I see one wiped over. In fact, my table was gross (I sat there because it had a lot of room for the baby and the chair was comfy) and needed a wipe over that never had an opportunity to happen and I worked off my lap rather than the table.
The baby was a bit grizzly in the first hour but the place was reasonably empty and didn’t seem to bother anyone. She slept for the second hour and again, wasn’t really bothered by anyone. Wide aisles meant people could move past her without issue. And I really dug the jazz music.
- Comfy seats
- Generous cups of coffee
- I like the music
- Comfortable working space
- Ordinary service – good luck getting offered a second cup of coffee, I had to go up to the counter pushing pram in one hand, holding my laptop, wallet and phone in the other to order myself a second cup.
- I’m bored of the menu
- C said his lunch was not made with love. his serving of squid rings did look awfully meagre and his side salad was simply lettuce (my Mediterranean roasted vegetable wrap was fine; was hot and seemed fresh)
I actually managed to get a lot of work done – it might have only been 20 to 40 minutes or so due to the baby not really settling but it was pretty focussed. I was left alone and the space was comfy, reasonably quiet, airconned on a warm day. I liked the funky music for getting in the mood for working. I would probably work in a Dome again and this one was a good Saturday in the city option.
Tags: cafe reviews
In which 2014 is officially a thing.
Who saw that coming?
How did you spend your summer? (yes, we know some of you spent it having winter, but honestly, is that our fault?)
Galactic Suburbia returns for a fresh new year of culture consumed, awards commentary, feminist snark and adorable baby gurgles.
Alex: On the Steel Breeze, Alastair Reynolds; Riddick; The Deep: Here be Dragons; Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales (ed Paula Guran)
Alisa: Haven S1 and S2; Star Trek; Kaleidoscope submissions (PhD)
Terry Pratchett: The Witches (board game), The Hour Season 1, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan; When we Wake
; Courtney Milan romance novels.
Pet subject: Gearing Up for Hugo Nominations – what we’ve read, what we recommend, and what we still plan to get to before the deadline.
Alisa: Reading – Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black
Alex: Saga; Ancillary Justice; Iron Man 3; still to watch Game of Thrones s3
Still to read: Hild by Nicola Griffith, The Red by Linda Nagata, some novellas. Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with Monsters (Best Related Work or fan writer? Why doesn’t the Hugo have an Atheling?) Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: Contains Small Parts
. Supurbia (Graphic Story); The World’s End.
Galactic Suburbia Award!!
for activism and/or communication that advances the feminist conversation in the field of speculative fiction
Send us your suggestions and thoughts on who we should be looking at for the year that was 2013: blog posts, podcasts, GOH speeches and other awesome people talking about feminist stuff in interesting ways.
Please send feedback to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!
Tags: Galactic Suburbia
, galactic suburbia award
I just really enjoyed listening to the Skiffy and Fanty Show (Shaun and Julia) talk with Marianne de Pierres and Tansy Roberts about Australian speculative fiction.
Small press gets a really thorough recommendation and they say lovely things about Twelfth Planet Press. Also some really great reading lists for Australian fiction and authors, big press and small.
Well worth a listen – here! Or just check out the Show Notes.
The World SF Tour are also raising money to go to Worldcon.
Tags: australian small press
, marianne de pierres
, tansy rayner robers
, twelfth planet
I’ve been working on writing this blog post for over a week now. But as it turns out, the process of pulling what I wanted to say together, and doing a few other things, ended up bringing me a few understandings that have changed what I wanted to write entirely.
You see, it was worrying me how much I could relate to and understand how people end up on the show Hoarders. On an episode recently, there was a sweet old lady whose house wasn’t dirty or gross but it was jam packing in with plastic boxes stacked to the ceiling filled with perfectly good craft things – books, tools, materials and so on. The probably was that everything was perfectly usable and not able to be thrown out. One of the doctors on the show said that a problem with hoarders in general was the intent, things there were going to get to or do, at some point. So of course, this woman had a problem with cleaning out her house – how could you thrown that stuff out? And in doing so, it would have involved admitted and coming to peace with the fact that she couldn’t possibly *do* all those things she intended to. David Allen describes that emotion as grief – at letting yourself and your commitments to yourself down. He also says that in taking audit and then keeping track of all your projects and commitments, you will suddenly discover the word “No”.
So all of this has had me thinking a lot about my sock yarn stash. It is this major brick wall of both guilt and of scheduled future time. If I’m actually going to knit it all. That means I’ve already decided a whole lot (and I mean a *whole lot*) of crafting I am going to do. At some point in time. And that kinda actually takes some of the fun out of it. It also means I can’t justify buying more yarn when I have so much . The problem though is that your tastes gradually change over time and what you liked 5 or 10 years ago may no longer be your thing. And horrifyingly, I think I have been stashing some of this stuff that long now.
And I’m *still* buying yarn! Despite deciding I need to reduce my stash, I bought this pile in the latest Black Friday sales (of yarn I have be lusting after for years – Lorna Laces in Bittersweet, Claudia Handpainted in Watermelon, Handmaiden sea silk, ooh and a madeleintosh which I’ve only ever heard about never seen and in TPP colour!)
And I signed up for a bimonthly (every other month) subscription to KnitCrate. Here are the yarns in the January stash (Blue Sky Alpaca and Zen Yarn Gardens. Also, miniskeins which I have crocheted up already, see top picture).
I decided that I would spend this year knitting up as many pairs of socks as possible. Just to see how many I could knit. And I’ve got a couple of subprojects relating to that to work on over the year. And to that end, I thought I would cast on during the Opening Ceremony (ala the Ravellenics – the old knitters tradition of picking something ambitious in a tight timeframe and going above and beyond as the Olympic spirit to get it done by the Closing Ceremony. It’s a knitting thing). To that, I needed to figure out the first project and then wind up the skeins into balls to get going.
Easy, right? Wellllll …. I *thought* I had attachment issues relating to my skein collection. That handpainted yarn looks so gorgeous as skeins that I couldn’t bear to ball it up for use. And that that was my problem with this whole stashing thing. Yeah, I think not so much. I mean, I do enjoy admitting the whole colour play thing but, yarn cakes are also very nice. And so is actually working with the yarn – watching the colour work into a textile.
The first projects selection (shocked how little impact this made on my stash but you gotta start somewhere.
I went to take before and after shots of some yarn skeins into cakes viz:
And I discovered a horrible truth! The true reason most of my stash is in skeins is not because I love to admire it in such form, it’s because a long time a go, I cut corners on getting all the tools and I skimped on getting a Swift – this is the thing that you hook the skein onto so it doesn’t get tied into knots as you wind it it into the ball on the ball winder (see photo above). I think I thought I could wing it without this device and have never put it together that I hate winding up the balls because it always takes ages and I spend a lot of time undoing the knots. I really have no idea why I can’t commit to a new hobby or interest and buy all the required tools. I really don’t know why I insist on doing it half-arsed and get annoyed and never really execute things properly. I was worried all this time I was a yarn collector and not a knitter. Turns out I just forgot why I was procrastinating.
So I bought a swift online, which is still coming, and in the meanwhile, I wound these two balls up by hand to cast on during the Opening Ceremony. I’m having a go knitting two socks at the same time:
And, confession, after lusting after this yarn colourway for literally years, and then admiring it for months in skein form, knitting it up, it doesn’t really look how I thought it would. And I’m a little disappointed. It’s Claudia Handpainted in Watermelon. I thought the striping would be a bit different, more solid.
And in all this process, I had a second revelation. All this time, like seriously, for 15 years or something, I thought I could only monogamously craft – that I could either knit or quilt and would do so obsessively, but that I couldn’t do both at once and that I certainly couldn’t bounce back and forward between them. I thought I could either do one for like 6 months and then switch out. As in, that is how it’s always been. But in all this faffing around with the knitting, I’ve been quietly also progressing my most current quilting project. And the reason for that is because all the pieces have been cut and the blocks I’m working on all have the next pieces pinned in place. So it’s just a matter of picking the next piece off the pile and sewing it. There is no thinking needed about it at all. Which is the GTD philosophy in action – do all your thinking in one go and figure out the next action so that you can just crank the widgets in the moment.
And so my revelation – the reason I usually switch from one craft to the other is that I get stuck on a project and don’t know how to move forward (or I have to unpick whatever it was I had just done) and it all feels too hard so I go and pick up the other craft. And that craft has all these exciting next actions ready to go and away I plunge until I hit a wall there. None of it had anything to do with being in one head space or the other. It just was a matter of never leaving anything without knowing what the next action for progressing it should be.
I feel really weird with all these breakthroughs. Must be time to lie down. Or buy more yarn.
 Which is also not necessarily a bad thing given I’m a student again but there are so many yarns out there yet to try and somehow I got stuck at Blue Moon Fibre Arts!
 Also not necessarily a bad thing.
This cafe visit was purely leisure as I met up with my sister for lunch last week. It was a very hot day and the baby and I had had an *interesting*, shall we say, morning.
Cantina, on Beautfort St, is a lil’ bit fancy and I’m never really sure about it. It’s a bit pricey but the coffee is really good. The service is very attentive and obliging but you can’t alter anything on the menu, which was problematic for me when pregnant as their only vegetarian dishes weren’t pregnancy friendly.
- Good coffee
- Excellent table service
- Very clean toilets
- Nice range of seating options including booths (good for allowing the baby to spread out) and out of the way tables with ramp for access.
- My pram was technically in the way of traffic but noone really minded
- We sat for quite a while and the staff were happy to offer more coffee and refills of free water
- The food is good – I ordered the gnocchi which I both ordered at the cafe I reviewed last week and the last time I was at this cafe. I like gnocchi. Also, vegetarian.
- No Wifi.
- It’s pricey
- The coffee is served in itty bitty cups. It felt like 3 mouthfuls of flat white. Delicious but not really enough for if you want to sit over a cup of coffee. Also … expensive for what you get.
- We sat outside on the warm day which was warm
Overall, the coffee is very good and the service makes the visit enjoyable. It’s a nice spot to catch up with friends, I’m a semi regular there. But I don’t think it will be on our working space list.
Tags: cafe reviews
It’s funny how synchronicity works. How you only suddenly notice that different aspects of your life keep throwing up the same lesson to you and that you know, you could acknowledge it now or acknowledge it later but either way, it seems to be the lesson you’re learning right now.
For me, this year, I feel like “organise” is it. When a baby comes along, I think you start to drown without organisation. In the beginning I was all winging it and stuff but the only real way I’m finding I’m able to feel less overwhelmed and get some air is to be organised. The only way I can get out the door remotely close to the planned time in the morning is if I’ve packed the baby bag the night before. And it only takes a couple of times of having to soothe a screaming-the-house-down upset baby whilst the bottles are in the steriliser and then in the freezer to cool down enough before you clue up to the fact that you should be ahead of the game. Now, no matter what happens, I’m making up at least 12 hours worth of bottles before I go to bed. I’ve even leapt out of bed at close to 1am when I realised I didn’t have enough bottles as back up and stayed up boiling kettles and prepping. Because, then, no matter how much hits the wall in the day ahead of you, at least you have bottles. And there have been a day or two when we’ve gone through what I thought would be 12 hours worth of bottles before lunch. I didn’t realise what people meant when they said you need to organise with a baby. I didn’t really get that it meant you have to organise everything else around the baby, not the actual baby herself.
I started the February round of the 12WBT today. And one of the things Michelle really drums into your head is the need to be organised to get this done. The very first round we did (ooh was that 2012 now??) we were organised and it really worked out. And then I found in subsequent rounds, if I hadn’t really worked out how things would go at the beginning of the week, well, it didn’t really happen. Because when all hell breaks loose, you drop the things you haven’t really thought through properly. Thinking just complicates things when you’re in put out the fire mode. This time, I actually sat down and planned out this week – when we might need to cook things days ahead, when exactly (as in what timeslot) I would do which workouts (she gives you what you will do for the day ahead of time) and I thought through properly what I actually need to do, with mini milestones, towards reaching my goals. I’d like to be running 5km by the end of this gig. That means I need to be running say 2.5 km by the end of 6 weeks etc. We get the shopping lists on a Thursday so you have all the ingredients you need at the beginning of the week. And that really makes such a difference. Today, I was rushing with lots of things on and a very unsettled baby. It would have been easy to eat something less than optimum if I didn’t already have most of it preassembled (thanks to C) in the fridge. Grabbing the healthy option then became as fast as any other.
David Allen really emphasises the need to be organised in GTD, obviously. And one of the elements of the weekly review – the look ahead at the week to come – is becoming more and more glaringly obvious how important that is. Michelle Bridges calls it red flag days, where you know you will have issues either with following your nutrition plan (say you have a lunch or dinner out or your day is filled with appointments that makes getting your exercise in difficult). Allen talks about how you put something near the front door so you don’t forget to leave the house with it as an example of looking for things before they show up and blow up. I’m not always good at getting to this part of the weekly review but damn it’s annoying when I haven’t and hugely gratifying when I have, and have put in place the things I need to have done so things don’t blow up. The other day, we calmly walked out of the house at 8.30, within 5 minutes of deciding to leave because I’d done all the preparation the night before. Because I knew that would be hard for me to do so I did all the hard work ahead of time. Allen calls it the “ick factor” when you do things not because they are good for you – like brushing your teeth – but because you can’t stand the ick. After it not bothering me for ever so long, I now can’t stand leaving the kitchen with mess. I don’t like going to bed without clean benches. It just icks me now, in a way it didn’t before. I wonder what other new habits I might pick up inadvertently due to ick.
I in no way have this “organised” thing sorted. But I’m hyperaware of how it is arising across aspects of my life and how much of a difference it makes when I am organised vs when I am not. I think somehow by the end of this year, I might see myself as a much more organised person than I do now. The thing I don’t yet understand though is how you don’t require more time somewhere in the equation to be able to both do the things you need to do today as well as spend time today preparing things ahead of time for tomorrow. Or, put another way, what was I doing with this time before? It upsets me to think that I might have been doing nothing with it. Or worse, that it might be a bit like how if you put all your things away as soon as you finish using them, you never have to put time aside in the future to tidy up. And you don’t really notice the time you took to say put your shoes back in their spot. I think most likely it all takes the same amount of finite (your whole life allotment) time but one version allows you to live it a lot more stressfree. I think I’m just in the adjustment phase towards that constant state of being. I hope.
This week we tried out Circa on Beautfort St, Mt Lawley (opposite the Astor Theatre, where Diva used to be).
I was a little wary about it because it’s a long and narrow shop and has a bunch of steps into and then through to the back of it. And I wasn’t sure it would have enough room for the pram. But I have to say, access (for a pram) was not really a problem – I did need help getting it up the stairs in but there was enough space to park it next to our booth for a good chunk of the day. Also, the staff were very helpful and understanding and I didn’t feel made to feel bad about leaving the pram there.
- Very comfy booths with large tables to work at. I never got uncomfortable sitting and the table took two electronic devices, a whole heap of baby things, big plates with food and a couple of cups of coffee.
- Love the decor of dark wood panelling and also the very pretty bar behind the counter. Very swank.
- The food was outstanding – I had panfried ricotta gnocchi on a pea puree.
- The coffee was good too.
- The service was brilliant – helpful, consistent etc.
- And chocolate mousse ( see above). We tasted the dessert As is well known, the one thing that really improves chocolate mousse is of course, chocolate mousse. This is a chocolate mousse layered on a chocolate sponge and topped with chocolate and then a caramel cream. And then a dollop of chocolate mousse on chocolate biscotti. A++
- No Wifi. In theory that should have meant it was a great work space and that would probably be true if I was by myself.
- No parent room facilities and nothing really that could be repurposed in the Ladies room (let us never speak of how I tried to get around this. I think the baby has forgotten.)
Overall, delicious, well priced food, great service, very pleasant place to hang.
I’m the sort of person who likes new things to “settle in” when I get them. I dunno why but I can’t just use up something I just got – I like to admire the yarn skein before it gets knit up, or admire the candles before I burn them etc. The trouble with that though is there’s no clear timeframe on when the settling in is up and the enjoying is on. Luckily for me, I married someone with no such philosophy. C is the kind of person who eats all the goodies out of his Xmas stocking between breakfast and lunch on Xmas day. He has no desire to save nice things for another day.
This, then, is the only reason that we have already broken out the teas from the January Monstrositea and tasted tea number 3. (I should note that I discovered a segment of ginger included in the canister for the peppermint tea and thus the hint that the teas are to be enjoyed now, when fresh and not later when the honeymoon is over.)
I’d baked a cake. I know! I can’t believe it either. I’d just whipped one up for no reason at all. I used to be that kind of person, maybe I’m her again. Anyhow, this was Wednesday night, with Blue Jasmine to watch on the TV:
I enjoyed both the movie and the tea! The tea we had was from Lupicia – a green tea with strawberries and vanilla. It was a subtle, gentle tea, perfect for midweek relaxing and accompanying my chocolate cake. The cake was light and fluffy, not too sweet. I would probably add more milk next time as it was a bit dry. I used The Road to Loving my Thermomix chocolate cake recipe and substituted lactose free chocolate milk for milk since I had one and not the other.
Well, technically I spose I didn’t actually *bake* for Bake Club since none of the recipes used the oven. Usually, I’m enthusiastic about the concept of Bake Club and might still be so whilst thinking up what I will make but by the time it comes round, I’ve tried to get too pack too many things in to my week and C has to step in and help me make my contribution. Which is lovely of him but not actually the point of Bake Club.
Here’s a revelation, since I’m not currently working full time, I have time to do things like bake. And I find myself in the mood to do so. Who knew holding down a day job and trying to juggle a small business plus all the other things would suck your energy for feeling interested in activities like baking?
I’ve been wanting to make friends with my thermomix and Bake Club was the perfect incentive to actually start. Let me just say this, a refrigerated cheesecake that took maybe 5 minutes to make (plus fiddling with the construction of base etc).
I’ve been inspired by the Road to Loving My Thermomix Facebook page and this Chewy Caramel Tim Tam Cheesecake recipe is from there. Basically cream cheese, sugar, sour cream (I substituted for cream to give it more tang), vanilla (above) and then add chopped Tim Tams:
And pour on top of a base of Tim Tams and butter, refridgerate and voila:
Since that took no time at all, I also gave these few recipes of various balls a go. I’d seen them over Xmas and thought they might be fun. Personally, I found them all a bit dry but they were super quick to make and the best bit is you don’t have to clean the thermomix bowl better batches.
First up apricot balls which as basically equal parts dried apricots and dessicated coconut plus a dash of yoghurt and then rolled in coconut:
Then I tried choc balls and milo balls (the milo ones are made just like the choc but instead of cocoa you switch for milo and coconut). Basically crushed shortbread, sweetened condensed milk plus whatever the flavouring is. She adds different things for fillings for other varieties like a frozen raspberry or a slice of mars bar etc.
The fiddly bit was the construction – rolling pieces of dough into balls and then into the coconut. In the end I was cooking for 3 hours but I didn’t notice the time cause everything was so easy.
Next Bake Club, I volunteered to bring savouries because we had Sugar Overload:
Tags: Bake Club
I’m still disproportionately excited about meeting up with Amanda last week for a study session. We had a really great catch up and then got a couple of decent hours of work in. Maybe not the most productive work session in my life but definitely one of the most productive for me in a while. It saddens me a bit to say that equals to sitting down in one stretch and writing 1000 words for my phd and reading one submission with care. But then, that’s also probably almost all the work I’ve done since then. The bub is pretty good in a cafe, much better than at home where she seems to need a lot more entertaining. She might be a bit more of a socialite than me in that regard!
I figure leaving the house with her is going to be the best bet for me in getting work done over the next little while. So I’m going to keep track of the places that work and those that don’t. What do you look for in a cafe? Any suggestions for places in Perth to get a good cup of coffee AND to work in?
My first suggestion was the Waldecks cafe in Karrinyup, mostly cause it has such a nice setting out on the decking with very cool cane couches and the vista of their plants for sale. We went on that very hot day last week and it did have a light breeze that took the edge off some of the time.
- Large comfy couches and tables outside and large tables inside to spread out and work on.
- Pretty setting to stare at whilst thinking.
- Coffee not bad.
- Reasonable access for a pram.
- Lots of space to put babies down (see photo).
- Free Wifi.
- Service is not awesome (twice I’ve been there, twice it’s not been good).
- Coffee is not great.
- Inside is pretty noisy.
- Hot on a really hot day.
Even though the pros outnumber the cons, I’m still a bit meh about this cafe. Free wifi and lots of space are pretty appealling. I’d have drunk more cups of coffee if the staff had offered me or if when I asked to order another, I wasn’t sent to the front counter to do so.
Tags: cafe reviews
, juggling work and bub
Despite my well-documented tea stashing problem (see here and here), and the fact that my constant acquisition of tea drives my husband up the wall, for Xmas, he bought me a subscription to Monstrositea. It’s a subscription based tea adventure! Every month you get 4 different teas, enough for a pot each, to try all kinds of varieties both from Australia and around the world. (You might have noticed we have a thing at our place for subscription boxes at the moment!)
The very first parcel arrived on Tuesday and here is my unboxing of it!
It arrived in a gorgeous little tin:
With instructions and descriptions of each of the teas:
And here are this month’s teas:
Since I’m still enjoying my quiet cup of teas last thing at night, I’m looking forward to quietly enjoying these. I’ll report back later!
I skipped a few posts on how I’m going with GTD. I managed to get my knickers in a knot after that first post. Even though I *wrote* about how it was ok to not be perfect and that it was better to get moving in the direction of getting things done than not, I freaked out because my system was not complete before getting it up and running. I’m still working on knowing things at the emotional level as well as at the intellectual one
After a couple of days of realising that I needed a brand new system and freaking out about that because it meant overhauling my then current, and failed, one, I finally had a chat with C about it. Because C already worked out the lifehack to me a long time ago, he pulled out his phone where he’d downloaded the mobile app version of OmniFocus ages ago when Andrew Macrae suggested it to me. We had a play around with it as I explained what I need a system to do for me. My main problem was trying to get a mindmap brainstorm of each of my large projects (TPP, PhD, Craft etc) into a list management system and also be able to have this system manage both my active Next Actions and also other actions that are sequential and therefore not the Next Action. OmniFocus works perfectly for this. And after having been frustrated for weeks with finding a tool to move to, I decided to finally buy OmniFocus. It’s not cheap at $90 for the Mac and I didn’t want to buy something if I didn’t trust that I would actually use it properly going forward.
It’s been a combination of demoralising to have to start the collection process all over again and also a bit exciting to be setting up my OmniFocus lists whilst doing so. I downloaded the hack to OmniFocus from the GTD website as it needs some configuration to work with GTD (The site says that hack is a public article so hopefully it can be read by non members). It took maybe an hour to st down and read that and get the hang of the software. And then it’s taken me two weeks to get it to where it is now.
David Allen reckons that when they do one on one coaching with people, it takes three full days to get their lives into the GTD system – three full days to mindsweep, collect all your stuff, process and organise into a system. I’ve never really had that kind of time available to me to dedicate to it and now with an infant, I certainly don’t get that many stretches of work time at the moment. I try to do a general mindsweep but my head doesn’t really tend to do a big mind dump like Allen describes in the book. I sit and do that and then I just move on and any subsequent thoughts I have from that point on, I record and throw into my in tray (or the OmniFocus inbox now). It works as a moving mind dump and enables me to at least limit the number of times I have the same thought going forward. Likewise, I’ve done a physical collection of stuff which was in my intray and I’ve noted the various other electronic places where there are collections that need processing. I’ve then just picked up one piece of “stuff” at a time and processed it into OmniFocus as time has permitted. Sometimes I get a couple of hours (I’m working til about 2am at the moment) and sometimes it’s just 1 or 2 pieces in between baby wrangling. Slowly I’ve built up my projects and subprojects and actions lists and I’ve mostly emptied my in tray and inbox and so on.
I found that I needed to also purchase the mobile app for my phone and then enable syncing between it and my laptop. Again, I’m not keen on spending so much money! But, I am often out and about and being able to enter a new thought or idea or to-do straight into the inbox for processing later makes sense in terms of limiting double handling, especially when pressed for time. The other reason I needed it on my phone is because the whole point of GTD is to be able to optimise those odd moments of time that come up in life to allow you to progress a project. You can’t do that if you find yourself unexpectedly in a shop, knowing you had things to get from it but no idea what they were.
I’ve also spent time not only getting my email inbox to zero (yay – finally glimpsed it last night before bed!) but in reconfiguring it. Peter Ball pointed out a pretty cool Gmail hack to me – Don’t Drown in Email - which I spent 15 minutes getting up and running the other night. I wasn’t sure I’d like it since it brings your two email folders – Waiting and Action – to the front page, making multiple boxes show and you get your inbox empty on the left of the screen by processing and tagging them into boxes on the right (Action, Waiting, Delegated and so on) which means they never actually go away. But it turns out this is great because it’s not out of sight out of mind, which, um ahem, might have been the case previously. After I emptied my inbox, I started reviewing the other folders, starting with the 295 emails sitting in Waiting. Yes. I’d gone numb to them due to the mix of actions and inactions due to lack of reviewage. Anyway, I like this new system even though it too is a work in process.
So in all, I think that’s good progress to report. I feel like I will never get to the end of processing all my stuff. I still have a whole heap of places on my laptop to get stuff from. And I need to go through my physical files in my office. On the other hand, I have a lot less loose paper with lists and ideas on them than I did when I first set up GTD. But the big downside is that it’s taking so long to set up my system that I’ve not yet had a chance to get to the DO stage of getting things done. Which means I don’t yet fully trust my system – things go in, but do they come out?
Look, I have a stashing problem. And I’m ok with it. But before I post about the actual problem, let me distract you with these miniskeins that just arrived last week in my Knitcrate kit for January.
These are from Zen Yarn Garden – a yarn dyer I’ve had my eye on for probably a decade but never actually bought any of their yarn to look at in person. These miniskeins (10g of yarn each) are Serenity 20 Hand Dyed Fingering Yarn in 70% Superwash Merino Wool/20% Cashmere/10% Nylon.
This is the first month that I upgraded my subscription to include the miniskein Add On of 10 miniskeins. I LOVE miniskeins – so sweet and cute and a great chance to see a bunch of different colourways. My plan when I upgraded to this option was to crochet squares from each skein to make this blanket called Bear’s Rainbow Blanket. I had started this pattern to use up some stash of mine but I thought it might be nicer in these luxury yarns.
I think I’m right:
This is the first square in the colourway Composition Storm from the Art Walk Series inspired by Kandinsky. This is exactly the purpose of subscribing to a kit like this. I’ve looked at this series for years online and not really liked it. But working with it up close, the colours are subtle and rich and just beautiful as a worked up piece. I don’t think this photo really does it justice.
I’m so excited about this project!
There’s nothing like a sleeping baby – not just because ahhhh, the silence! and the not having to be in action mode for the moment but also the complete peacefulness that sits across their face. It’s pretty hard not to fall in love all over again when gazing at my sleeping baby. But it’s made me realise the truth of the phrase “sleep like a baby”. It’s not hur hur hur, up and down every two hours crying all through the night. It’s the utter peace and innocence, the complete dissipation of any concerns or worries.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the quote by Nelson Mandela that no one is born racist. That’s such a huge responsibility looking into this completely divine face and know that she learns about the world through me. And there is something divine about her face – this lack of awareness of anything else in the world allows her to be happy or sad in the moment, no baggage from before or to take with her (at the moment) forward. She knows only of – hungry, sated, cold, warm, wet, dry, love. And mummy.
I posted before about how it breaks my heart sometimes to look into this, smiling face, and know at some point I’m going to have to explain things to her about the world. But I’ve also been thinking about the converse of Mandela’s quote – that no one is born knowing their place in the world. The baby comes in with just the id – she cries for what she needs and she knows not to be embarassed, ashamed, sorry or unworthy. The baby doesn’t know that in this world we have a hierarchy, that we decide, have decided and continue to decide who is entitled and who is not. Who is worthy and who is not. And what utterly kills me when I look at this face, this unreservedly smiling with her whole body face, is that every baby comes out into the world crying the same – for their needs to be met. And that what we do, individually or as society, is systematically squelch some people, and not others, raising some, and treading others into their place. Because … I don’t really know why.
Tags: adventures in babyland
Long time readers may recall a confession I made some time ago about my tea buying – not drinking, mind – obsession. It did not improve after that post. In fact, I might have drunk 1 or 2 cups of tea ever after that day. My tea stashing habit is so bad that I can troll my husband just by suggesting I need more tea as we walk down that aisle at the supermarket.
Since then, I have studiously worked on my coffee snobbery. I’ve scouted out all the coffee shops within a 10 to 15 minute drive from my place. I have found 2 places with actually pretty good coffee that are sort of nearby. Close to Melbourne coffee, even (with Perth prices). Eventually I realised that since I work from home now, I have time to clean an espresso machine after my first coffee in the morning. I pulled out the one we’d inherited and set it all up and it makes a very good cup of coffee too. And then I started working through the blends and single origin beans of my favourite coffee bean roaster. I go through a 250g bag in a fortnight, which I think is pretty reasonable and I’m enjoying fabulous flat whites in the comfort of my own home. And I’m drinking a lot of instant coffee too as is my way when I’m studying. (I checked, more than 5 cups a day is an issue with breastfeeding and the baby doesn’t seem to mind it as long as I keep under that.)
I like coffee. Anyone in my vicinity knows that.
I lied. I LOVE coffee.
So it was the oddest thing last night to find myself actually craving a cup of tea. And then enjoying it. And following it up with a peppermint tea. It was damn weird. Recently I’d had a conversation with my mother about not enjoying drinking tea anymore and she’d suggested I try drinking it a bunch of different ways to see how I like it. That making it like I make coffee might not be appropriate. This made sense given I adjust how I take my coffee depending on the beans and the barista. I did try a couple of cups but didn’t really have much enjoyment so to then be craving a cup of tea was downright strange.
I’ve been thinking it over all day and realised that whilst most people offer a relaxing cup of tea to calm you down in a stressful situation, I respond to tea as a reward at the end of hard work, to drink *when* relaxed. Kind of like that beer at sunset after a good hardworked day, when you sit back and reward yourself for your achievements. A drink that’s enjoyed because you already feel good about yourself. And I drink coffee when I’m working, to get myself to work, to comfort myself, to amuse myself when bored or procrastinating and to feel decadent. I think it’s the rich, velvetyness of it, like chocolate, which I find comforting. Tea is less viscous and it often goes down scalding. It’s pure and it strips away impurity.
Lately, I’ve carved time out for myself at the end of the day, very late at night (it’s nearly 2am). It’s when I clean up the kitchen, make the baby’s bottles for the next day, catch up and make headway on emails and when I’ve started eating into digging myself out of my sandpit of to do lists. It’s when I finally feel like I’ve made headway on the day. And because now, so many small things are big victories – like going to the toilet, eating lunch, taking a shower – I’ve shifted some of my expectations of myself (possibly getting my organisational systems more up to date is helping me feel optimistic about digging my way out of my work and phd backlogs). I am also seeing slow headway. So I feel like a cup of tea at the end of the day.
I’m well aware of what this says about how I’ve seen myself and my accomplishments for like the last 5 years. But anyhoo … at least I’m in therapy
And now, to bed.
Tags: life, reflections, tea