Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Door in the Wall

A good friend recently lent me The Door in the Wall to read. I finished reading it last night, whilst curled up like a cat in front of the heater. *Sighs with contentment*. . . there's nothing like a good book and a cosy corner to ward away the cold of winter.

Anyway, about the book: it is a charming little book about a little boy named Robin. The son of a noble, Robin lives in mediaeval London with his mother and father, until his father goes to fight in the Scottish Wars and his mother is summoned by the Queen to be Her Majesty's lady in waiting. London is at this time in the throes of the Black Death. Robin becomes afflicted by a fever: it isn't the plague but it ends up leaving his legs useless, "[Like] two sausages. Bent ones".

Marguerite de Angeli is a wonderful wordsmith. The characters and setting all become very real, and the 'mediaeval' English dialogue seems natural, not awkward or affected as it is in some other historical books. Also the 'history' in historical isn't constantly jammed down the readers throat! One comes to grow fond of the characters themselves; the historical setting is of secondary importance, as it should be.

De Angeli is a talented artist with drawing as well as words - the book is full of gorgeous illustrations. But above all, she is a gifted storyteller, and indeed this is an engaging, heartwarming story. The ending had me in tears!

The Door in the Wall is a lovely book, highly recommended for children, and for adults who hide a whimsical, fun-loving little boy or girl beneath their sensible, grown-up exterior.

If you want to buy it cheap eBay would be the way to go, or if you're not an eBay person, The Book Depository has it for a good price (+ no postage!).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Castles on TV

To all Australian readers who (like me) have a penchant for castles, this week's episode of Buildings that Shaped Britain is all about castles and monasteries! I've missed all of this series so far (I didn't know that it was on :-( ) but I'll be watching it this week.

It's on ABC1 Thursday 31st July at 6:10 pm. Many thanks to my wonderful Granny who let me know about this!

You can click here for more information.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Wounded Cavalier

The Wounded Cavalier, by William Shakespeare Burton. Click here to view full-size image. Sorry this isn't a great reproduction, go to your library and borrow some books on the Pre-Raphaelites for a better picture! More on this later...

William Shakespeare Burton was born in London in 1824, the son of an (guess!) actor. He seems to have been a very sensitive, high-strung man, easily hurt by the criticism of others. So much so that he pretty much stopped painting in later life.

The Wounded Cavalier, painted in 1856, was by far his most popular painting, the masterpiece that made him his reputation as an artist. It caused a great stir when it was first exhibited because of its incredible attention to detail.

It truly is a most beautiful painting, one of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite paintings. We see three figures in a clearing in a forest: a badly wounded soldier, a young Quaker girl tending him, and the girl's lover, holding a massive Bible and looking upon the pair with some measure of dubiousness (perhaps jealousy?) in his face.

Standing between us and this intriguing little threesome is a tree with a broken sword stuck fast in its trunk. This is presumably how the young cavalier got wounded - his weapon stuck in the tree and broke, hence he was unable to defend himself from his attacker. Delicately poised on the edge of the blade is a butterfly. Why did the artist put the butterfly there? What is it supposed to signify? Maybe we will never know for certain.

The historical setting for this painting is supposed to be around 1650, the time of the British Civil War, but it holds a sort of timeless appeal. It is a scene that belongs not in any specific time period, but rather in an ageless world of fairy tales and myths. This is one reasons why PRB paintings are still so appealing to us today: they may at first seem to be old-fashioned, but eventually they draw us into their magical, Arthurian world. Through them we can escape to a place where there is chivalry, romance, and beauty in abundance - three things sorely missing in modern society. The Pre-Raphaelites felt that the Victorian world in which they lived was almost totally devoid of these qualities, yet how much worse is the situation today in the 21st century!

Although this is the only Pre-Raphaelite painting Burton ever produced, it manages to bring together everything the PRB stood for. It is, as I said earlier, one of my favourite paintings to have sprung from the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Scripture of the Week

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28
Photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Silly, but fun

Haha! Art fans, Star Wars fans, or just anyone with a quirky sense of humour, check out the latest post on Theresa's blog. Too funny! Do follow the link from her page and have a look at the other images, too.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Have a look at this website. I think I must have added it to my bookmarks months ago, and then completely forgotten about it! I 'rediscovered' it this morning. There's some interesting stuff on there - lots of photographs of historical costumes, as well as numerous reproductions of paintings showcasing the fashions of eras past. You can even buy some of the costumes - if you've money to spend. They seem to be based in Germany, so there would be a lot of shipping to pay too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Italian Breads

At our last trip to the library, I picked up a couple of great recipe books: The Italian Cook, by Kate Whiteman; and A Little Taste of Morocco.

The Italian book has some fantastic recipes in it, and each one of the recipes is written in a step-by-step, easy to understand format. I've had fun trying out a couple of bread recipes this week, one of them for Foccacia, flat bread; and the other for Grissini, bread sticks.

The Foccacia was delicious, sort of like a really nice, crusty pizza base, sprinkled with fresh rosemary, salt, and olive oil. While it was cooking, the aroma coming out of the oven was heavenly. It is rather oily - the oven tray is well-greased with olive oil, and then the top of the bread is brushed with two more tablespoons of oil... but it's extra virgin olive oil, that's good oil, right? It's not butter or margarine. Anyway, oily or not, it was delicious. It was a hit with all of the family, in fact. I don't think I can post the recipes on here, I'm afraid that might be breaking copyright laws. I would if I could!

I made Grissini today, with help from several little sisters. They were also nice, with a sort of salty, garlicky flavour. Somewhat surprising, as there isn't any garlic in them! It's been a nice day for baking, very cold and drizzly, with a maximum of just 14 degrees C. Not really that cold I guess, but cold for us.

I haven't actually tried any of the recipes from the Moroccan cookery book yet, but I'd like to. It's quite a beautiful book to look at, full of photographs of Moroccan markets, cafes, streets, and food, of course.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rome Fashion Week

Wow! Have a look at this gallery at The Age! Some of those dresses are gorgeous. Keep an eye out for knitted and crocheted items, too. I don't make any attempt to follow fashion, and most fashion these days is immodest - sometimes just plain disgusting! But every so often I'll come across a certain colour or texture from the catwalks that fascinates me. As someone who enjoys knitting/crochet I'm thrilled that chunky, textured knits have come back into fashion these last few years.

Current Reads Part 2

Lives of the Artists: Leonardo da Vinci, by Antony Mason

This provides a good, brief overview of Leonardo's life and works, and it features some nice big reproductions of his paintings and sketches - a lot of books similar to this one don't.                                         

Yesterday's Paper: Collecting Ephemera in Australia, by Vivienne O'Neill

I found this to be a fascinating book. I love to look at my grandmother's fifty-year-old women's magazines. When I'm browsing through them I often find the advertisements to be just as (if not more) interesting than the articles themselves! So, as you may well imagine, I very much enjoyed looking through this book.

Yesterday's Paper is an enjoyable read, full of nostalgic little bits and pieces, from paper dolls to greeting cards.

Romanticism, by David Blayney Brown

This gives a detailed, comprehensive look at Romanticism. The author also shows us how artists who one wouldn't normally consider to be romanticists (such as Goya and Ingres) in fact influenced (and were influenced by) Romanticism as a movement.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Tomorrow there will be some council workers coming to cut down several trees in our backyard. It's unavoidable really - they need to access some sewage pipes that run underground near our back fence.

I went down with my baby sister this afternoon to say goodbye. We'd been sitting down together on the lounge for a while. She kept looking past me, through the window at the trees bending in the breeze. So I carried her out to the garden. We went to the biggest tree first - she touched the rough brown bark and we looked up at the mighty branches above us. Then the neighbour's dogs started yapping at us, so we moved on. We both smelled the fragrant mandarin leaves, then baby looked up at the lovely frangipani tree with her big blue eyes. Its branches are bare and silvery and smooth at this time of the year. When she is older she won't remember the trees - she won't remember the way our garden looks now.

It's hard saying goodbye, but it is also beautiful in a way. I'm so sad to lose them. I wish no living things had to die, but it seems we are all destined to die - people, trees, animals large and small.

The big tree was already starting to die, the frangipani was getting older, and the mandarin tree never bore much fruit. But ultimately, it didn't matter whether or not they were fruitful and functional and did just what we wanted them to do. Their purpose was to bring glory to their Maker: to say "Look at me - I am unique, I am special - I have my own distinct personality, I am beautiful in my own way, and I am a reflection of the might and beauty of my Maker." If any tree inspires someone - even if it be only one person - to turn his or her thoughts towards our Lord, then its life was not wasted.

For everything there is a purpose - even trees.

Scripture of the Week

   Psalm 27

 1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 
 2When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 
 3Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 
 4One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.  . . .

 11Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. 
 12Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. 
 13I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 
 14Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

KJV Public Domain

I had been going to write some comments on these verses, but that seems pointless now. When you read these great passages from the Bible, you realise that there is nothing left to be said - it has already been written down in God's Word!

Photo courtesy of 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Extremely Unhealthy Brownies

Over at the Rebelution forums, there's a thread going about baking/sharing recipes, so I thought I'd share another recipe here. Remember I said something about Extremely Unhealthy (but delicious) Brownies in my first post? Well, here's the recipe! These are very rich, full of sugar and butter and cocoa, but they're nice to have as a treat now and then for afternoon tea. They can also be served with cream or ice cream and eaten as a dessert.


250g butter or margarine (unsalted is best)
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter in large saucepan. Stir in cocoa and sugar, cool. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in flour, salt, and vanilla. Pour into 28 by 18cm slice tin, bake in moderate (180 degrees C) oven for 25 minutes.

These freeze very well - I actually prefer to eat them frozen!

When I figure out how to post photos on here you might even get to see a photo of them. ;-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hemyock Castle

Hemyock Castle, located in Devon, is a small, compact castle. Built by Sir William Asthorpe, during the reign of King Richard II, it was partly demolished during the English Civil War, leaving only ruins. However, many parts of the castle still remain, including some of the castle walls and moat. It is today privately owned, but is occasionally open to visitors.

See here, here, and here for more information.

I've got bit of a thing for castles, and so you'll probably be hearing a lot more about many other castles in the future . . .

Current Reads Part 1

The Mystery of Love: Saints in art through the centuries, by Sister Wendy Beckett

Sister Wendy does it again. This is another great book by popular and prolific author Sister Wendy Beckett. This time she looks at pictures with a predominately Christian theme, particularly the saints as she examines their love and devotion to Christ. Sister Wendy is a Carmelite nun, and her faith shows through in this book; but whether you're Catholic or not I can recommend this book for anyone with an interest in art. The art reproductions are good, and and the comments made by Sister Wendy are thoughtful and insightful.

A History of Fashion in the 20th Century, by Gertrud Lehnert

Don't let the so-so cover put you off - it looks a lot better on the inside! As they say, never judge a book by it's cover. It's published by Konemann, a German brand that makes very good quality books. (This book was originally published in German.) It provides a good overview of fashion in the 20th century and is informative and interesting (if you like clothes!).

 Henry VIII: A European Court in England, edited by David Starkey

This is an excellent book about Henry VIII's reign; it's a manageable size and has plenty of pictures to keep the reader engaged. Even if you don't take the time to read all of the text (I haven't. . . *blushes* I'll have to renew my loan from the library so I can finish reading it) you'll still glean a lot just by studying the illustrations, which include photographs of many different artefacts connected with Henry VIII - jewellery, manuscripts, paintings, and polyhedral sundials, whatever those are.

Dress in Detail From Around the World, by Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, and Verity Wilson.

This is a magnificent book, packed with pictures of costumes from around the world, some of which are hundreds of years old. My only quibble is you don't get to see photographs of each garment as a whole - you only see details, similar to what's on the cover. Only a little bit of the cuff or hem or the buttons or tassels, which makes it difficult to visualise the whole garment. Never mind. It really is a beautiful book to look at. Some of the traditional lace and embroidery shown is just gorgeous.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Madonna of the Meadow

Click here to view full-size image.

This is an exquisitely beautiful painting by Bellini, one of the great masters of Venetian light and colour.

We see Mary sitting in a field with baby Jesus asleep on her lap. She gazes reverently at his sleeping face. Her blue cloak has been arranged in such a way that it makes a large triangle, dominating the picture. It's a happy coincidence for me that the traditional colour of the Virgin Mary is blue - my favourite colour! Whenever we see Mary in a renaissance painting, she is usually wearing a cloak of stunning ultramarine blue. Ultramarine was also one of the most expensive pigments to obtain, so if you see a painting with a lot of blue in it, chances are it was painted for a wealthy patron.

The other aspect of this painting that I love is the beautiful landscape in the background, which appears to have been painted very realistically - even the clouds have been very convincingly done. We see cattle and someone who appears to be a cattle-herd lazing about on the ground, craggy blue peaks in the distance, a city and - my favourite - a castle.

A very lovely picture by a man who, like Titian (or more recently, Renoir) was blessed with the ability to make colours sing.

Wives and Daughters

Yaaay! My new book finally arrived! I ordered the Wives and Daughters book and the DVD a couple of weeks ago. The DVD set arrived last week, and for the last few days I've been waiting for the book to get here. I've read North and South by Mrs Gaskell, and I'm looking forward to reading another classic from this all-but-forgotten writing genius. I'll have to post a review on here when I finish reading it . . .

You can buy the W & D DVD set here, or buy the book here.

I can highly recommend Penguin Classics editions for all the classics. They're very good quality paperbacks, and they will usually include a well-written introduction as well as notes throughout the text. 


Hello! A big welcome to all readers and a big welcome to me, The Editrix. This is my first foray into the blogosphere, so bear with as I make my first fumbling attempts at blogging over the next few months.

I hope to incorporate such diverse topics as Mr Henry Tilney, Freckles Bunte Lettuce, The Master Correggio, Castello di Strassoldo, and Extremely Unhealthy (but delicious) Brownies into the posts to come, as well as many other weird and wonderful people and things.