Monday, September 29, 2008

A promise. . .

33 He changes rivers into deserts,
and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.

34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.

35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
the dry land into springs of water.

36 He brings the hungry to settle there
and to build their cities.

37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
and harvest their bumper crops.

38 How he blesses them!
They raise large families there,
and their herds of livestock increase.

Psalm 107 NLT

Something for Australians to reflect on and take comfort in during the drought currently ravaging our country.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Finding Feminine Inspiration Part VII

Woman in a Black Hat (portrait of Irma Brunner), by Manet
This pastel is a stunning symphony of colours. The pink-apricot of the young lady’s dress, her black hat, her white complexion, and her scarlet lips.They all blend together so well. The whole picture seems to convey a sense of class and elegance.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I'm currently reading Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen, by Alison Powden. It's a fascinating book, tracing the tragic tale of a young girl who was made a victim of power-hungry men during the political and religious mess that was Tudor England.

It's very well-written. The author presents a fair, sympathetic view of all the characters who played a part in this real-life drama. The Duke of Northumberland is portrayed as more than a ruthless villain, and Jane herself, rather than being placed on a pedestal, is shown to be an ordinary teenage girl with her fair share of flaws.

As I reach the end of the book, I'm being drawn into the story of Mary Tudor (perhaps better known as "Bloody Mary"). I had a look through our local library's online catalogue, but they don't seem to have any biographies of Mary Tudor. And I've just resolved not to spend any more money on books for a while, so I'm not at liberty to buy any Tudor biographies!
  • What are some of your favourite biographies?
  • Who are some people with inspiring life stories that you enjoy reading about?


Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT

God created humans in such a way that we work best when we're working with others, as a team. That's the way He made us, even from the very beginning when God saw Adam alone in the Garden of Eden and saw that it was "not good" for him to be alone. (Gen 2:18).

But I'm not just talking about the marriage relationship here. This basic principle applies to families and communities, too. Every person in the world was made to live and function as part of a family. When we're cut off from other people, something goes desperately wrong inside of us. There's this innate need in each of us to connect with other people - it's the way we were created.

I believe this is partly why God commands us so many times in the Bible to care for widows, for the orphaned and outcast. Everyone was meant to live as part of a family.

The world in which we live is broken - it's shattered into about 6.942 billion pieces. We're all disconnected from one another, and disconnected from God. But whenever you do something to reach out to someone else, you become a part of the solution. It makes a difference in this world, no matter how small your action may seem to you.

This is something I struggle with a lot. It's not always easy for someone who (like me)isn't naturally extroverted and outgoing to crawl outside my shell - just approaching someone to say a friendly "hello" can be very scary sometimes.

Definitely one area in which I need to challenge myself. Even if I don't have the guts to 'challenge myself', I'm sure God will still provide plenty of challenges - He seems to have a knack of putting me into situations that I find very awkward and uncomfortable for the sake of character building and personal growth! ;-)

Image courtesy of

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Old-Fashioned Girl

A couple of weeks ago I read and reviewed two Louisa May Alcott books - Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom, both of which I enjoyed so much that I bought a copy of each book for myself. I also bought another of Alcott's books - An Old-Fashioned Girl. I hadn't read it, but I had heard it recommended somewhere, and, being one of Alcott's books, chances were it would be worth reading.

I finished reading it a couple of days ago. It was worth reading.

An Old-Fashioned Girl is a town-mouse-country-mouse story about a little girl by the name of Polly Milton. Fourteen-year-old Polly leaves her poor but loving family for a few weeks to visit her well-to-do friends in the city, the Shaws. (Just in retrospect, I managed to pack a lot of hyphens into that last sentence!) In spite of their fine house and fashionable lifestyle, the Shaws are family of unhappy, dissatisfied people, largely unconnected to one another. Polly, with her simple, unaffected ways and her bright demeanor manages to bring a little bit of sunshine into the lonely house.

Six years after her first visit to the big city, the story picks up again. Polly is now an independent young lady, hoping to strike out on her own and establish herself as a music teacher.

It's an engaging little story, even though it doesn't have quite the same emotional impact for me as Little Women or Rose in Bloom.

Although the heroine of the book is supposedly Polly Milton, An Old-Fashioned Girl is really the story of the Shaw family, with the rise and fall of the family's fortunes. The dysfunctional relationships, the superficial, pretentious way of life with all the stress of keeping up appearances, and the general unhappiness of the Shaws. . . it all reminded me a little of the Bertrams, from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. Mr. Shaw, the overbearing father, bore some resemblance to Sir Thomas Bertram, and the indolent mother Mrs. Shaw was a little like Lady Bertram; but here I think the similarities to Mansfield Park end. Unlike MP, An Old-Fashioned Girl is a charming story with a highly satisfactory happily-ever-after ending. It's also chock-a-block full of excellent moral principles. . .

It should be said that this book won't appeal to everyone (if the title turns you off, chances are you won't like the book). Polly seemed a little too saccharine at first, but as I got to know her better, I realised that she was in fact a slightly stubborn, very human girl, all the more likable for her not being Pollyanna-esque-ly perfect to the core.

Personally, I think it's a lovely book, with a sweet little romance to finish things up nicely at the end. Here's a classic quote from the final chapter of the book:

. . . I now yield to the amiable desire of satisfaction, and . . . intend to pair off everybody I can lay my hands on.

. . . which Alcott does, extremely well!!

Summing up: if you, like me, are an old-fashioned girl who enjoys sweet, simple, old-fashioned stories, I think you'll like An Old-Fashioned Girl, and you'll probably find a kindred spirit in Polly Milton.

You can buy it from Amazon, or read it for free at Project Gutenberg.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's happening in our corner of the globe

Study for The Flowerpicker, by John William Waterhouse, courtesy of

1. Springtime has arrived! This past week or so, the weather has started to warm up in earnest. The nights are growing balmy, and some days are almost too warm already. The pink jasmine is in full bloom, the wisteria starting to bloom, there are flower buds on the avocado tree, and tiny leaves on the big old frangipani. My tomato seedlings are growing, and there's a little bunch of bananas downstairs that will hopefully start to ripen soon. . .

My energetic younger siblings have braved the freezing waters of our swimming pool - at least I think it's freezing, they assure me that it's "actually quite warm once you get used to it," - I'm happy to just take their word for it.

With the warmer weather comes thunderstorms - destructive ones, sometimes. We had a hailstorm a few days ago. Thankfully there was no major damage other than the hundreds of tiny dimples on our family vehicle. . . :-(

2. There's been a flurry of parcel deliveries to our house this week - most of them mine. . . one DVD (Fishpond), two music Cds (eBay), three books and another music Cd (Fishpond again), a brand new set of fantastic Sennheiser headphones - yippee! (eBay again), another music Cd (you guessed it - eBay), and today another book from eBay. I'm determined to have a break now and save for a while - no more eBaying for you, young lady!

The biggest parcel is yet to arrive. . . It's a laptop! For me! I can't believe it. . . I'm so thrilled. . .

3. My sister entered a colouring in competition, and ended up winning a family pass to go see WALL - E, the latest film from Pixar. You can imagine the excitement at our place when we first heard the news. . . Well done little sister! I'm so proud of you! :-) ;-)

4. Baby actually has two teeth! She's so adorable - we all love her to pieces, I don't know how she manages to put up with all the hugs and kisses and general smothering that she gets from us.

5. I have two new tops for summer. One is a cotton crinkle top, in a green-grey-brown pattern, which might sound rather drab, but it suits me very well. (Hope that doesn't mean I'm drab or boring! I'm sure there are other people around who love the colour grey - a nice, silvery grey can be very beautiful.) The other top is a very pretty, very comfortable black t-shirt.

6. The Western Bulldogs play against Geelong in the first preliminary final tomorrow night. If the Bulldogs win, they'll go through to the grand final, for the first time in since 1961. GO BULLDOGS!!!

7. We've spotted many interesting birds from our backyard recently. Earlier today there was a big flock of black cockatoos flying through the neighbourhood, making their odd piercing calls. We've also seen several flocks of corellas, which we don't normally see much of around here. Also, this afternoon there was a Collared Sparrowhawk sitting on the lawn in our neighbour's backyard eating a pigeon. . . charming, I know.

So you see, life is never boring around here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Finding Feminine Inspiration Part VI

The Balcony, by Manet
This is an extraordinary painting, one of Manet's masterpieces, but it's usually singled for commentary because the painterly genius and psychological messages expressed within it, not because of the beautiful dresses worn by the two ladies! Nonetheless. . .
The dress worn by Berthe Morisot (sitting at left) in this painting is simply gorgeous. I especially like the sleeves...
The wedding dress of my dreams, while not an exact replica of this dress, would certainly bear several similarities to it.

Some excellent adjectives

. . . Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Phillipians 4:8 NLT
Photo courtesy of

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Miss Potter

Several friends had spoken very highly to me of the film Miss Potter, and last week I finally bought it - on eBay! (I didn't get to catch it when it was out at the movies.) It arrived a couple of days ago. We all sat down together to watch it.

Now, I knew that it would be very good, but even so, Miss Potter managed to surpass all my expectations. It's a simply delightful film!

Based on the story of the life of Beatrix Potter, author of the Peter Rabbit books, the movie begins in London in 1902. Beatrix (played by Renee Zellweger) is working hard to get her children's picture book published. She has always loved drawing and telling stories.

Defying the expectations of the Edwardian society in which she lived, Beatrix has never married; and now, at the ripe old age of two-and-thirty, her mother has despaired of ever marrying her daughter off! But being single has allowed Beatrix to concentrate fully on her work; and besides none of the "suitable" prospective husbands presented to her by her mother have taken Beatrix's fancy.

That is until she meets Mr Warne (Ewan McGregor), the the man who has been given the charge of getting her book published by his firm. Friendship blossoms into love even as Beatrix's literary career flourishes.

Then a major blow hits, threatening to pull her life apart.

As I said before, Miss Potter is a delightful movie. On every count - acting, musical score, script, costumes, artistic values. . . it scores very well.
Renee Zellweger did a nice job handling the lead role - most of the time. I do think that she smiled to much, particularly in the first half of the film - but so what, she managed to inject real feeling and grit into her character. Lucy Boynton, too, does very well playing the young Beatrix Potter - Boynton also plays Margaret Dashwood in the BBC's recent adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

This isn't just a charming little story about a charming little woman who wrote charming little picture books and lived happily ever after. There is heartbreak and disappointment, but ultimately Miss Potter is inspiring and uplifting, and immensely satisfying.

for anyone who enjoys a good story well told. If you're looking for action, and epic adventure with people being blown to bits, etc., you won't find it here. What you will find is an absolute gem of a film about one woman's quest to find purpose in life and leave a legacy to the world.
Trailer below. . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I just found out about the movie Fireproof, from the creators of Facing the Giants. Hmmm, wonder if the Pillar song "Fireproof" features on the soundtrack. . .

At work, inside burning buildings, Capt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. At home, in the cooling embers of his marriage, he lives by his own rules.

Growing up, Catherine Holt always dreamed of marrying a loving, brave firefighter...just like her daddy. Now, after seven years of marriage, Catherine wonders when she stopped being "good enough" for her husband. Regular arguments over jobs, finances, housework, and outside interests have readied them both to move on to something with more sparks.

As the couple prepares to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's father challenges his son to commit to a 40-day experiment: "The Love Dare." Wondering if it's even worth the effort, Caleb agrees-for his father's sake more than for his marriage. When Caleb discovers the book's daily challenges are tied into his parents' newfound faith, his already limited interest is further dampened.

While trying to stay true to his promise, Caleb becomes frustrated time and again. He finally asks his father, "How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?"When his father explains that this is the love Christ shows to us, Caleb makes a life-changing commitment to love God. And with God's help he begins to understand what it means to truly love his wife. But is it too late to fireproof his marriage? His job is to rescue others. Now Caleb Holt is ready to face his toughest job ever ... rescuing his wife's heart.

(From the official Fireproof website.)
Sounds like a great movie! Hopefully it will be shown in cinemas here - if not, I guess I'll just have to wait for it to come out on DVD. :-(

Click here to view the IMDB page for Fireproof.

Here's the official trailer:

Abortion bill - UPDATE

Here's another update on the bill currently being passed in the Victorian Parliament.
"The dignity of human life is not a tradeable commodity," he [Sports Minister
James Merlino] later told
Parliament. "Since when did bringing about a death
become socially

Click here to read the full article from The Age.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Finding Feminine Inspiration Part V

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, by Sir Peter Lely

I’m looking at a black-and-white reproduction of this painting. It’s a beautiful dress... if only I knew what colour it was. (Ten minutes later) - I’ve just looked at it on the internet, and it’s GOLD! Ugh! Too much gold in a painting is rather overpowering. But I still like the overall design of the dress. I’d have it in a much more demure (you could say boring) colour. But then again... that gold is growing on me. If I were a duchess, sitting to have my portrait painted by one of the most renowned portraitists in England, I probably would wear something dazzlingly fabulous - fabulously dazzling. But gold isn’t for everyday wear. Another thing - gold paint was very expensive, so if your portrait had a lot of gold in it, it would have been something of a status symbol.

Scripture of the Week

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 35:18 NLT
Photo courtesy of

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lovely clothes

Photo from

I recently finished reading Stacy McDonald's Raising Maidens of Virtue (which is an extremely good book by the way, I was very blessed by it) and in the back of the book there's a big list of websites that sell lovely, feminine (and modest) clothes. The book was published several years ago, and some of the sites listed are no longer up and running. Of the websites that remain, many of them don't ship international orders! *Sobs*. . . You residents of the U.S.A. are very lucky! But nonetheless, I enjoyed looking, and was inspired by some of the beautiful gowns they had for sale.

Some of my favourites were: Bedford Fair Lifestyles, Hannah Lise, Willow Ridge, J. Marco, and also Bakerlane (dressmaking patterns).

Another website listed was Sense and Sensibility, run by Jennie Chancey. I already knew about this website, but every time I go back to look I am inspired. S & S sells dressmaking patterns for historical clothes - they're more than just costumes, they are clothes - from various time periods, from the regency era (think Jane Austen) right up until the early 20th century (Titanic era clothing). Some of the dresses are so beautiful! It's enough to make a girl want to learn to sew!

One more website that I'll mention - this one wasn't in the list from Raising Maidens of Virtue, but it's fascinating nonetheless - is Dressing History.

Happy browsing!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lorna Doone

After waiting for months, my Lorna Doone DVD finally arrived! I watched it earlier this week. It was kind of funny in a way - you see, on Sunday I watched the last of The Return of the King, then on Monday I watched the first half hour or so of Lorna Doone. Talk about deja vu! At first it felt like I was watching The Lord of the Rings all over again! The big beefy guys in black leather riding on horseback, the mountainous landscapes, the rustic buildings. . . in defence of the BBC, Lorna Doone was filmed a year before The Fellowship of the Ring was released, so they weren't consciously trying to imitate the look of LotR. Nonetheless, I think Lorna Doone would have appeared in a much more favourable light had I not watched LotR the day before! The battle scenes and 'epic-ness' of Lorna Doone fell pretty flat after the hugeness of The Return of the King.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the plot of Lorna Doone: it's set in Exmoor, the 'Wild West' of England, in the late 17th century. The Doones are a band of thieves and marauders, the terror of all Exmoor. They kill the father of twelve-year-old John Ridd, leaving young John to care for his mother and sisters and tend the family's farm. One day, John is out catching fish for his mother, when he is dragged away be the strong current. He is thrown down a treacherous waterslide, before falling onto the rocks below. . . when he regains consciousness, the first thing he sees is a little girl with curly black hair looking back at him. The little girl's name is Lorna. In fact, John has unknowingly found a secret way into the valley of the Doones!

Eventually some of the Doones come in search of Lorna, and John has to leave, but the chance encounter stays in the memory of both. Many years later, they happen to meet again at the exact same spot, and promptly fall fathoms deep in love. ( I have to say, this was one of the things that I didn't like so much about the plot. I'm not a great believer in love at first site, and in this case everything happens so quickly - blink and you'll miss it!)

After several more dangerous journeys by John into the Doone Valley, the pair decide to get married. There are, however some major obstacles in the way of the young lovers. Lorna is betrothed against her will to her violent, maniacal cousin Carver Doone, who is 14 years her senior. When Carver's grandfather Sir Ensor Doone dies, and Carver takes his place as leader of the clan, he decides to force Lorna to marry him. As a result John is forced to take action to rescue his sweetheart.

The acting was pretty good - particularly Martin Clunes as Captain Jeremy Stickles. Also keep an eye out for James McAvoy (Becoming Jane, Narnia) in one of his first ever on-screen roles. And Irish actor Aiden Gillen was wonderfully horrible as the villainous Carver Doone. He was soooo slimy. . . but at the same time, he portrayed his character in such a way that it you can't simply dismiss him as the 'bad guy' - you're forced to stop and ponder what might have been if his heart hadn't grown so dark and twisted. He had enormous potential within him, he was a born leader - there were so many "what ifs" and "if onlys" that I was left to wrestle with after the movie was finished.

It's a tale full of adventure and romance, set in a very wild and romantic corner of the globe. (The film was actually shot in Wales, not Exmoor, but it still looks great.) There's plenty of eye candy on show - the stunning landscapes, the youthful cast, not to mention the exquisite soundtrack. All things considered, the BBC really did a good job with their limited resources. Remember, this is a made-for-tv movie!

In the end, it's a great drama, and you might find yourself picking up a bit of history on the way. England was rife with political and religious turbulence during this period. Many of the characters are drawn into the Monmouth Rebellion, and we become acquainted with several political figures of the time, including Judge Jeffreys - "The Hanging Judge", as he later came to be known.

There is inevitably a good bit of violence. Some of it was pretty full-on - well, it was for me, anyway. But that's just me. If someone scrapes knee or busts a toenail I have to look away. . . which makes it all the more remarkable that I was able to sit through all of The Lord of the Rings without flinching or feeling sick! I had read the books, so I knew when the "scary bits" were coming up, maybe that helped a bit. But I'm going off-track: as I was saying, Lorna Doone isn't really suitable for younger children, but teens and adults will enjoy it.

This is one of those rare instances where I actually like the movie almost as much - if not better - than the book! Hmmm, no doubt hardcore Lorna fans will forsake me forever after that last statement. I'm just being honest! I think that in this adaption, the hero is less macho and the villain less one-dimensional than they are in the book.

There was another BBC version of Lorna Doone done back in 1990 which I wouldn't mind seeing sometime. I'm not sure that I want to fork out the money to buy it - from what I've read, it's pretty average compared to the 2000 adaption that I bought. But the 1990 one has Sean Bean as Carver! I guess that's the real reason why I want to see it. I've seen pictures of Mr Bean as Carver Doone, and he's got a big blond mullet - he looks so daggy! Click here to see what I mean. . . *Groans* only in 1990. . .

You can watch Lorna Doone online at Youtube, but let me recommend that you buy the DVD - it's worth it.

To find out more, have a look at, the only (as far as I know) Lorna Doone fansite on the net. It has lots of photo galleries - I tried to include some photos in this post but it didn't work for me. . .

EDIT: The Youtube link that I gave no longer works. Instead, click here to watch Lorna Doone on YT, or here to watch it at Youku. (I like Youtube better!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Muesli bars and "sloppy icing"

On Monday I tried out a couple of new recipes, including Low-fat, Low-sugar Muesli Bars - my mum had come across the recipe while browsing online. They were very nice - chewy, and not too sweet. Here's the recipe:

Low fat, Low sugar Muesli Bars

2 cups rolled oats
6 crushed Weet Bix
1/2 cup sultanas
60g dried apricots, chopped
1 cup 100% orange juice
1/3 cup honey
2 egg whites

1. Combine orange juice and honey in a small saucepan, and simmer over medium heat for around 10 minutes, until it thickens and forms a thin syrup.
2. Combine oats, Weet Bix, sultanas and apricots in a bowl. Add syrup and stir to combine. Add egg whites and mix.
3. Preheat oven to 180'C. Press mixture into a lined 18 x 28cm tin, and bake 20-25 minutes until golden.
4. Cool in tin, turn out and cut into bars.

The recipe is from Simple Cooking - do have a look, there are some great recipes on there!

Another favourite in our family is Spicy Raisin Squares. It's definitely not as healthy as the muesli bars :-) but it tastes delicious! I made it this morning with my brother. (It's my brother's favourite slice. He says he like it because of the "sloppy icing". . .) We used plain flour instead of self-raising flour by accident! I'm not sure exactly how it happened. Never mind, it was still edible.

Spicy Raisin Squares

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

125g butter

1 cup raisins
1/3 cup stewed apple
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180'C. Line a 28 x 18cm tin with nonstick baking paper. Place flour and both sugars in large bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Spread into prepared tin. Bake for approx. 25 minutes. (I find it usually takes longer in our oven; see how you go.) Cool in tin. Ice with cinnamon icing (recipe below).

Cinnamon Icing

3 tablespoons (50g) soft butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter till light. Add icing sugar a little at a time, beat until light and fluffy. Add cinnamon and vanilla. Add enough milk to make mixture spreadable. Spread over cooled slice, cut into squares. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Finding Feminine Inspiration Part IV

Young Girls at the Piano, by Renoir
This is perhaps one of Renoir’s best known paintings, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s something so sweet and eternally appealing in this picture of two girls, with their long hair and lovely dresses.
I love those dresses! The lace, the bows, the three-quarter length sleeves - so simple but so beautiful.

Monday, September 1, 2008

An unknown voice. . .

. . .I heard an unknown voice that said, "Now I will relieve your shoulder of its burden; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks. You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud. . .

Psalm 81:5-7 NLT
Image courtesy of, photographer Ian Britton