Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Death of Books is nigh?

Here is some text from an interview given earlier this year by an American, Jason Merkoski (who previously worked for Amazon and on the Kindle) on his thoughts on books and their future, or lack thereof...
I go back to it and read it every time I want to make myself a little bit angry.
Don't get me wrong, I think Jason Merkoski has some interesting points to make - he is challenging lots of preconceived ideas about technology and our usage of it, and that can be a very good thing. It's more his statements of fact about books that riles me somewhat. 
Jason Merkoski commenting on the great advantages of e-books:
In 20 years, the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs. You’ll still be able to find them in artsy hipster stores, but that’s about it. So the great advantage of e-books is also their curse; e-books will be the only game in town if you want to read a book. It’s sobering, and a bit sad. That said, e-books can do what print books can’t. They’ll allow you to fit an entire library into the space of one book. They’ll allow you to search for anything in an instant, save your thoughts forever, share them with the world, and connect with other readers right there, inside the book. The book of the future will live and breathe.
Oh look! What's this? It is my home library.
Will it have disappeared in twenty years to be replaced by a Kindle?
Will my living room morph into an eerie empty space with bare white walls? And with me, perched on a ghost chair next to a ghost table with an electronic device as my cosy companion?
Glory be.
I hope not! (I'm sure that ghost furniture shows up fingerprints. That would have to be SOOOO annoying!)
Anyway, it turns out I have been busy buying quite a number of books in the last week. Maybe that's made me a little extra sensitive. Maybe I'm yearning for a bit of justification for spending money on what, apparently, is soon to be an outmoded product?
But therein lies the problem I have with Jason Merkoski's bland pronouncements.
He treats books as mere products.
Books (and I apologise, sort of, for shouting here) are NOT PRODUCTS!!!   They are FAR MORE than that.
Books are friends. They are gifts that represent the givers. They are bright and touchable. They can be pieces of your history. They bring colour and life to your life and to your home and your rooms.
I picked up this rather glorious pile in a Dymocks sale. It cost me $65. It appears to be remaindered titles (that weren't selling well or enough of, I'm guessing). Some of these titles I've been wanting for ages! They are all works of art - beautiful covers, excellent photography and rich thick paper. Were they worth their original high price tags? Maybe. Maybe not.
Would they work as e-versions?
Doubt it.
I picked up this cute pile from a local op shop. It cost me $6.50. They are all in great condition. One is the Goulburn Cookery Book, a 1973 facsimile edition of the original 1899 version. No one is going to make an electronic version of it in a hurry. I don't think there's much call for a shoulder of mutton with rice these days.
The flower fairies album is a lovely gardener's record book. Would anyone bother with an electronic version of this? Hard to imagine those committed to an excel spreadsheet feeling the need for spring fairy illustrations...
Here Jason comments on what will be lost:
I found a book at my grandmother’s house that was inscribed by my great-grandfather. I learned what his original last name was — before he changed it. That was an interesting link to my past. We’re going to lose that sort of trace of ourselves if we go all digital.
Some of my most treasured older books are signed by my great-grandparents. Or were Sunday School prizes presented to my parents. It is a direct link with their past. It is a tangible record of our family history.
I also own quite a few signed copies of favourite books. Kate Morton recently wrote in one of her titles for me: "Enjoy getting lost in the Forgotten Garden". I thought that was fantastic.
I'm taking my girls to a book signing this weekend. They are super excited and so am I. Hard to imagine us doing that if all our copies were electronic.
Oh, but on this Jason Merkoski and I are in agreement.
He admitted that “E-books aren’t ready for children yet.”
Giving children an e-book at this point might not be that much better than plunking them down in front of a TV, especially if they’re reading the e-book on a multifunction device with instant messages, games and other distractions. Better they should be outside and engaged with the world.
What are your views on e-books?
Are you ready to confidently predict the death of the paper copy?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Winter's Wrap Up

Things I'm loving during these last weeks and days of winter:
  • Our neighbourhood blossom trees are blooming. We had two aged cherry blossoms outside the front of our house, and a few weeks ago one cracked in half during a strong wind. We were sad but are determined to replace it. Meanwhile, here is the one remaining in all of its glory.

and here is a branch from the one that didn't make it.

  •  Instagram! I'm not brilliant at it, but I think I'm improving..
  • Cold days to rug up under a faux fur rug while reading in the sun. Sipping a hot cup of tea just completes the ecstasy.
  • Favourite winter wardrobe items including black knee-high boots (love wearing them with skirts) and scarves (I'm alternating between a hot pink stripey one my brother bought me in Italy and a lighter weight white with silver streaks I found in a discount bin at an Oroton outlet.
  • We're into our third week of having NO TELEVISION on in the afternoons. So far so good. With the sun shining till 4.30pm we get an hour for playing/lying around/reading/games and homework - till bath time. Mim has become excellent at choosing music for us to listen to (mostly jazz for its non-jarring qualities).
  • Kids playing Take 2 on sunny afternoons (for those not initiated into Take 2, it is like Scrabble without the board. Everyone starts with 7 pieces and once they have made them all into joining words, they say take two and everyone has to take two..on it goes..may end in uncontrollable screaming on non-winner's part)

and snuggling bubbas (with their sniffy blankies) who are too "wittle" for playing word games...

  • Some great op shopping finds, like this precious Cornucopia china photo frame by Wedgwood ($5 - a travesty!). I initially intended to put it aside for Father's Day, but was too excited and gave it to J already with the kids' passport sized school photos stuck in.

And this lovely oval Johnston Bros plate, intriguingly titled Dream Town. Really? Not sure about the dead tree in the foreground. I love that it is black and white, which is slightly unusual and large enough for serving afternoon tea. Nice.

  • Sweet treats on cold nights (Yes, I realise the exercise regime for summer needs to be implemented ASAP). J brought me home this French vanilla tart on the weekend, and it was super yum, even if I did have to share it..

  • Gardening! After three years of doing very little in the way of landscaping our yard (that's what happens when you marry an ex-landscape architect..Don't get me started..) we have suddenly become motivated to remove the things we don't like and beautify our surrounds. The kids are getting to be regulars at the nurseries, and yes, when they stop complaining they even enjoy it a little bit.

Hoping for quite a few more sunny wintery days...but also looking forward to Spring!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Cakes & Slices

Like most people these days (unless you've gone totally paperless) I have a pretty good collection of snazzy recipe books. Jamie, Nigella, Bill, Tessa, Hugh, Delia and Donna adorn my shelves...
And I love them all, I really do.
But when I feel like whipping up a cake from ingredients I already have in the cupboard, or want something easy and quick for the kids to have in their lunch boxes, um tomorrow morning and it's already 10.15pm -- I keep coming back to the trusty Australian Women's Weekly Cakes & Slices Cookbook.

Photo: Source
I think it was first published in 1990. Which doesn't seem all that long ago to me... Except that the visual evidence begs to differ. The cover of my book says: $5.98 Recommended and Maximum Price only.
Can you imagine Donna or Jamie or Bill putting that on one of their books?
Also I have to say it, the pictures in the WW Cakes & Slices book are, to 21st century eyes, ugly.  It's the reason I have never been brave enough to delve into the FRUIT chapter.  The two-page photo spread of the "Delectably Rich Fruit Cake" is the stuff of food nightmares. The Marciano cherries on top glisten like evil, slimy, red golf balls. Eeek!!! Get them away from me!
...all that orange!
But with those offensive pages stuck together, I know I can turn safely and happily to the Whole-Orange Syrup Cake on page 30 (Syrup chapter) and make the best orange cake, ever. I love the fact that it uses the whole orange (juiced and then pulverised in the food processor) and is quick and easy (warning: over repetition of these words is unavoidable)! I saw a similar looking recipe in one of my snazzy books, which called for the orange to be boiled for eight hours prior to baking the cake. EIGHT HOURS! No, I'm sorry people, that will just NOT DO!! I'd have passed out under the kitchen table from hunger and sorrow way before then!
Then there's the totally fabulous Pumpkin, Cinnamon and Wholemeal Bread recipe on page 36 (Vegetable chapter) that is equally good with kumara or whatever you find buried in the bottom of the vege drawer. It is cooked and steaming on your bench in under an hour, ready to be downed with multiple cups of hot tea. Fabulous. I blogged once too about the equally delectable Potato Ginger Cake and gave the recipe if you're interested.
I do go through phases. I remember years ago using the gorgeous Moist Coconut Cake with Coconut Ice Frosting on page 47 (Coconut chapter) as my fail safe birthday cake recipe. These days it seems overly sweet. I guess my metabolism was better in the 90s.
The Ginger and Sour Cream Surprise Cake was also a past favourite. The sour cream is drizzled along the top of the cake mix but comes out of the oven as a heavenly caramelised soft centre amongst the steaming firm ginger surrounds. Oh yum, may have to go and make that right now.
As for slices, there is a chapter on cooked and another on uncooked versions. There's something for every pantry staple and every stray packet of left-over uneaten breakfast cereal. I've just made a cooked version with cornflakes and last week it was Weet-Bix.
Cornflake Slice - oh look, a mouse has nibbled it already..
It may be aesthetically challenging, but this book puts the happy OO(h) into cOOking for my kids (and me).
Do you have a favourite but dated cookbook that you still use?
Tell me what it is, I'd love to know...
Will try to put some of the best recipes on a PAGE on this blog - as soon as I can...

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Why To Do Lists Suck

Since August has officially begun I thought it was time to update the TO DO LIST I so optimistically dashed off back in January. I wouldn't have given it a second thought, except that a friend happened to mention my list to me in a passing conversation... And it was only afterwards, when my red cheeks had faded and the coughing and spluttering had died down, that I
a) remembered I really had in a fit of insanity written such a list, and
b) probably should check whether anything I'd said had miraculously happened without me even knowing it.

I consoled myself (pathetic I know) that it is ONLY AUGUST for Pete's sake, and there is still heap of the year left to climb Mt Kilimanjaro or whatever stupid things I'd said I might do.. I mean that's the whole problem with TO DO Lists, or New Year's Resolutions, or whatever you choose to call them. They can hang over you, like a BIG DARK CLOUD. You are trying to live life the best way you can, remembering to dress yourself in stuff that isn't stained or see-through, eating balanced meals and treating the kids' head lice etc, and then suddenly you remember, Hey, I said I'd read War and Peace by April 1. Der. Now I'm a big failure.

Yes, well, someone should have reminded me of this when I wrote that list. Because I'm feeling like a failure (mostly on account of actually forgetting I even had such a list) before I've even remembered what was on it. Anyway, let's get the update over with. Then we'll both know why To Do Lists suck.
  • No I haven't yet learnt to use my sewing machine. I do have it in a very neat and safe place under Archie's bed - where it is waiting, ready to be pulled out and used. Just haven't quite got there yet...

  • No, I haven't entered any short story competitions - unless you count the 25 words or less competitions, of which I've entered a few, but so far unsuccessfully, so probably shouldn't count them. Doh.

  • No, I haven't re-read any of the Narnia or Harry Potter series. The new book pile beside my bed seems to grow rather than diminish even though I'm reading whenever I can, so getting back to some old favourites hasn't happened. I'm keeping a list of books I've read this year (+ reviews) on Shelfari. Can highly recommend another children's fantasy novel though, The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving was a fantastic read.

  • Have I made something crafty, that could feasibly be sold on Etsy? Well yes I have. I have made several (yes, that means way more than one) bunting sets. Using vintage Golden Book pages, I was pretty happy with the result. My friend Kat is holding a craft stall at her kid's school on Election Day to raise funds for new play equipment. Maybe my bunting will go towards a shiny new swing, or something...

  • No I haven't painted a picture to hang on our wall. I did buy some art supplies back in April I think. Hmm, maybe they're under Archie's bed? Will have to check. Here is a painting of a Tuscan village my talented Mum painted years ago that I am currently displaying. Does that count, us being related and all?

  • No, I haven't hung a collage or any pictures on our wall in the TV room. Why was this TO DO list so freaking long? Next time, someone stop me, please.

  • Yes, I did clean out the tupperware cupboard. But no pics, as I think it's probably a mess again. These things are cyclical. Right Martha?

  • No the kids aren't learning any music. Arch did pick up a recorder in the op shop we visited this morning, But he was blowing in the wrong end. The lady behind the counter took it off him and muttered something about hygiene issues and putting them out of the reach of children. See what I'm up against?!

  • Grow something in the garden? YES! Punch in the air yes! The kids and I took mattocks, shovels and dangerously pronged forks to the little garden beside the pool fence on a sunny Saturday last month. We pulled out all the old ratty stuff and replanted it with lovely new ground cover daisies and an ornamental peach tree. Exhausted but proud. Oh, the flowers on the left are just some winter flowering things I stuck in a pot at the back door. The less strenuous sort of gardening I usually prefer.

  • Now finally almost at the end at this interminable list (won't be so verbose next February, that's for sure). Yes I have been taking Arch to the park fairly regularly. The glorious winter sunshine has made it preferable to staying indoors. It's been fun. Instituting an exercise regime has not been as doable or fun, but hey, it's only August. Still four months till the end of the year people.
I'll keep you posted on my progress..or lack thereof.

Have you kept track of your New Year's Resolutions/Goals for 2013? Let me know if you have some successes to share (and I'll be happy for you, I will I promise). Let me know what isn't going so well. With the end of year still a little way off, I'll happily give you the 'buck up' speech I've been giving myself.

Who knows, it may be far more effective on you!