Out of the house

Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs

A little while ago, I was fortunate enough to enjoy Jonette George and Daniele Wilton’s Flavours of Melbourne and Produce to Platter: Mornington Peninsula. Both were beautifully compiled and have now been followed up by the equally impressive Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs (Smudge Publishing).

I practically leapt at the chance to review this guide, mainly due to the fact that I LOVE this region! The Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs will always hold a special significance for me, it’s where Matt and I spent our honeymoon fourteen years ago, this week.

Matt and I have returned to the region many times since, the most recent visit being only a fortnight ago. This guide only works to make me want to visit again and again, they’ve include so much to tempt me.

“Drive along the highways and bi-ways of the Yarra Valley to discover a unique cosmos of regional vignerons, wine-makers and chefs making use of the bounty of local produce supplied from farm gates, small shop-fronts, artisan craftsmen and boutique enterprises.

Full-colour photography showcases this food and wine region to its stunning best – and stories about the vineyards, restaurants and producers take you behind the scenes to discover the secrets of the locals.”

It’s a visitors guide to one Victoria’s finest wine regions, as well as offering plenty of ‘take-home’ treats, recipes from some of the region’s most inspired chefs. There’s Parmesan gnocchi with zucchini flowers from De Bortolli’s chef Heath Dumesny, followed up by Duck confit with spinach pancakes from Margaret Van Der Meulen from Seville Estate. To finish, something sweet from Jam Lady Jam with Richard Hauptmann’s Brioche Loaf.

As well as beautiful photography and descriptions of places I remember fondly, such as De Bortoli, St Huberts and The Yarra Valley Grand Hotel, Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs includes many wineries, restaurants and farms I’ve not yet visited. Inspired, my next visit will be sure to include stops at Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley Gourmet Foods and Sticks Yarra Valley.

“Set on a bucolic 90 acres at the base of the Christmas Hills, the winery [Sticks Yarra Valley] provides guests with a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy their visit as well as a memorable view of the Yarra Valley.”

This stunning book will not only serve as a travel guide (in paperback, it’d easily fit in your luggage to accompany you on your journey) it is also a gorgeous book to have sitting on your coffee table or in any kitchen. Its wonderful photography (by Charlie Brown) has captured the spirit of the valley and the hills in its lush green Spring months and its brown and orange autumnal glory.

I can tell you now, my copy is going to get well used, and I’m sure that yours would too.

You can check out more about Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs at Smudge Publishing.

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More writers, more reading: Debute Mondays

A nice, quick post today to report back on the wonderful Wheeler Centre event that I snuck away to see last night. As usual, it took a bit of organising to get out of the house and into the city, but thanks to my lovely Mum and my understanding kids I made it to Debute Monday at The Moat, just in time.

Debute Mondays, run once a month, are an opportunity to hear new fiction straight from authors. In cozy surrounds, in an atmospherically lit corner, four emerging authors kindly shared their words…

Firstly, we heard from Jessie Cole, author of Darkness on the Edge of Town (HarperCollins). Her choice of scene was interesting, a scene in which main character burley Vincent, finds himself in his bathroom assisting a near-stranger manage burning mastitis. It was a perfect example of the starkly practical yet teasingly erotic tone of her novel. My favourite phrase of the evening… “…All bedraggled and broken”

Darkness on the Edge of Town is our TBYL Book Club book for November. You can buy a copy of the book here…

Next we heard a short story from Melbourne-based writer and student Robyn Denison. Her story, Ketchup was bizarre, evocative and beautifully visual. Again, the theme of practical, everyday objects being transformed into something much more was worked in skilfully within this surreal piece of writing. Nearing the end of the piece, Denison’s line “The movement is soothing and the leaving is pure” struck me as quite beautiful.

Next, a change of pace with Zane Lovitt. Sharing a story entitled Comedy is Dead from his crime novel The Midnight Promise (Text Publishing) and narrated by Private Investigator John Dorn, Zane had us squirming in our chairs, a little unsure where to look. His story, set in an adult entertainment store, complete with fake orgasms and associated paraphernalia was funny, irreverant and very noir. Left on a cliff-hanger, the reading left the audience wanting more…

Lastly, the evening was rounded off by the multi-talented, Melbourne-based Edwina Preston who shared a reading from her new novel The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer (UQP). I was completely captivated by the opening description of Canyon, as the type of town that did not yet understand that “large words could contain small meanings.” Even in this short snap-shot, the story was rich with characters – cartoonish but darkly so, their descriptions and roles literal and larger than life. Fascinatingly circus, and a little bit ‘carny,’ this scene brought to mind a strange blend of Nick Cave’s work and Andrew Nicolls’ If You’re Reading this I’m Already Dead.

In short, I’ve now got more books for the reading pile!

If you have a chance, I’d really encourage you to get along to one of the Wheeler Centre’s Debute Mondays. They’re a great way to support new Australian writers and to discover amazing new literature.

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Tuesday bites…

I’m in the city today, in day-job mode, but I thought I’d sneak a little blogging in over lunch time. Here’s a couple of bites to brighten up your Tuesday afternoon…

1. Have you checked out this great little video from National Year of Reading 2012? It’s now been converted to cinema format… let me know if you spot it?!

2. It’s Spring, and I’ve been hit by the Spring cleaning bug worse than ever before. Planning my approach, I thought that my workspace might be a pretty great place to start, and these tips from Mum’s Business should give me just the kick-start I need.

3. Do you think I could sneak off to Brisbane this week? Okay, perhaps not, but those of you in sunny Queensland might like to check out the Brisbane Writers Festival. It starts tomorrow!

4. Lastly, if you’ve not already done so, why don’t you pop on over and meet our two new TBYL Reviewers? I can’t wait to bring you lots of reviews from the lovely Tam and Kathy!

What’s your afternoon shaping up like?

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My wordy weekend

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Melbourne Writers Festival is the highlight of my literary year. Never am I happier than when I’m listening the wonderful words of people like Carrie Tiffany, Gillian Mears, Jenny Hocking…

It wasn’t easy to fit the festival in this year, I’m not sure how we got so busy this month, but I worked hard to carve out a little time over the weekend to get to a couple of sessions.

Saturday, I revisited my own rural childhood through the works of Carrie Tiffany, Rachael Treasure and Paddy O’Reilly. Three talented authors, all of whom in their novels, have captured the essence of country, the hardship of the outback and the beauty of the rural way of life. In this wonderfully relaxed session, Carrie, Rachael and Paddy helped us to get a little closer to their characters, and also told us something of why writing rural is so important to them.

As is often the case with these sessions, we were also really lucky to be able to get a glimpse of the writing process. Carrie describing her writing as a little like creating a colleague, a collection of “found objects”, whilst Rachael revealed her desire to affect, to support a “paradigm shift of some kind” helping people to understand through fiction the importance of soil health and smart operation in the production of our food and the care of our land. In turn, Paddy recalled a need to explore the paths people carve for themselves, especially in small towns; “they follow the same tracks, go to the same places, see the same people.” The effect that this has on small town folk is captured wonderfully in her novel, The Colour of Rust. 

I was incredibly grateful to these authors, as they’ve encouraged me to revisit my own small rural background, after many years of hurriedly moving away from it.

On Sunday, I had a little more time in at Federation Square and made it to two sessions.

Firstly I heard from the inspiring and poetic Gillian Mears, the author of The Age Book of the Year, Foal’s Bread. A sold-out session, the BMW Edge was filled with dedicated fans of Gillian’s work, most of whom could be seen reacting with a real appreciation and tenderness for the work of this talented author.

Again, the session itself afforded us an opportunity to hear more about how this book was written, including a little on why it’s taken so long to be published. The answer to this often asked question is that it was as a result of consideration for an older sister with her own story to tell. Eventually though, Gillian admitted, this novel had to see the light, with the Narcarrow’s story aching to be told.

Gillian’s love of horses, riding and jumping was evident from the outset of this conversation – she spoke of horses in poems, rich with sensory details; their smell, their shine, their silkiness. In turn, her grief at her illness and the restrictions that it has placed on her riding and writing was palpable. She was open and generous in her discussion of MS, and the significant effect that it has had, and continues to have on her life.

If you’ve not already read the award-winning Foal’s Bread, I’d strongly recommend it. You can read my review here.

After this moving conversation, I was up for something a little more political, and attended a fascinating session Labor in Vain. The panel, featuring Maxine McKew, Steve Bracks and biographer, Jenny Hocking, discussed the question of whether or not the Labor Party could be said to be ‘in crisis’ and if they are, what they should do about it.

The session was very revealing, and raised many important questions about party dynamics, the importance of the ‘party line’, and the role of the media and opinion polls. I could have happily heard more, and one hour hardly seemed to do justice to this important topic.

In addition to the sessions themselves, one of the real highlights of the MWF for me was the opportunity to have a book signed and to share a quick word with the authors. I’m really pleased to have been able to add to my book collection, two more signed copies…

I’ve one more event to attend on Thursday. I’m very excited about this keynote address by Germaine Greer, who’ll be discussing our language and its use… “in an oration that will make you think seriously about our place in the world and the role that language plays in putting us there.” Stay tuned for my review of this session, or if you’d like to come along, you can book here.

Have you been able to get to any MWF sessions this year? You can check out their program here…

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Booked in, now out of my way!

When I started That Book You Like… 18 months ago, I did so with the aim of reading differently. My goal of reading widely and outside my comfort zone has led me to meet a most incredible range of new authors and readers, and most enjoyably, to share them with a fantastic community of bookish people.

I’m pretty sure that this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival will allow for many more such meetings, and I’m thrilled! Enquire Within promises to be a fabulous gathering of wonderful minds from across the world; authors, intellects, commentators and of course, readers.

Here in Melbourne, we are incredibly spoilt for choice. Scarcely a week goes by that there’s not an author event or a big idea on stage, presented by The Wheeler Centre or the many fabulous bookstores and libraries around the state. To me, Enquire Within, Melbourne’s 2012 Writers Festival (running from the 23 August until 2 September) is the delicious icing on the cake of twelve months of amazing literary adventures.

The program promises to not only be entertaining, but also rich with insight, analysis and review:

“Our program addresses questions about liberty and responsibility; it takes inspiration from beautifully told stories; it listens to startling newcomers and intellectual heavyweights; it revels in literary coups and writerly gossip; and it celebrates words and language and hence, life.”

Opening with words from Simon Callow, on Dickens, the festival starts on a high note. This leads a program rich with authors and commentators from across Australia and the world.

The full program is available now, from the Enquire Within website. But here’s a little heads up on what I’ll be attending and reviewing…

Outback Lives, Saturday 25 August
Does rural fiction have an agenda? Is the bush a setting or the reason for the story? Rachael Treasure (The Girl and the Ghost-Grey Mare), Paddy O’Reilly (The Fine Colour of Rust), and Carrie Tiffany (Mateship with Birds) discuss why they are drawn to tales of life on the land. I’m particularly excited about this one after having chatted to Carrie earlier this year.

In Conversation with Gillian Mears, Sunday 26 August
Her first novel in 16 years, the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Foal’s Bread, has immediately returned Gillian Mears to the literary spotlight. The award-winning author of Ride a Cock HorseThe Mint Lawn and The Grass Sister talks with Ramona Koval about her life, living with MS, and her love of northern NSW, so often the setting for her writing. You can read my review of Foal’s Bread here.

Labor in Vain, Sunday 26 August
As its state governments are blasted from office and its federal fate seems sealed, is the Labor Party in crisis or experiencing hiccups? Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks, Whitlam and Lionel Murphy biographer Jenny Hocking, and former member for Bennelong Maxine McKew, discuss Labor’s present predicaments and its future. Hosted by Laura Tingle.

Speaking Australian with Germaine Greer, Thursday 30 August
To define us is to negate us. Those who are trying to impose a standard English on all the varieties of Australian speech are not simply wasting their time; they are applying an inappropriate notion of standardisation that would crush the life out of the living language. Australians contribute to literary culture all over the English-speaking world. Are they bilingual? Are they secure enough to distinguish between – and enjoy – different kinds of Australian, or are they hamstrung by spurious notions of correctness? In this keynote address Germaine Greer will discuss our language and its use, in an oration that will make you think seriously about our place in the world and the role that language plays in putting us there. Proudly supported by Queen Victoria Women’s Centre.

Are you going to anything at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival?

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Arts, plus books…

As you know, I love art and, to state the obvious, I love books. But rarely do the two come together quite like this…

Last week, I attended the opening of a unique and intimate art exhibition called Ex Libris, on now at the Firestation Print Studio in Malvern:

“Ex Libris” or bookplates are decorative seals inserted within the opening pages of a book to celebrate possession.

“Ex Libris” is a Latin term meaning “from the books”. Bookplates first came into use in 15th century Germany after the invention of the printing press. The prestige associated with “Ex Libris” saw them spread throughout Europe to the United States of America and later Australia… Text by Carmen Roche

If this exhibition is anything to judge by, I think the practice of bookplates should see a resurgence!

The show consists of a collection of printed bookplates, skilfully curated by Trudy Rice and produced by Australian artists, and all inspired by a book of their own choice.

Artist: Carmel O’Connor

It showcases both the art of print-making, and the beauty of the book as an object.

Artist: Lisa Sewards

The space itself is worth a visit. An old firehouse, the Firestation Print Studio is a fantastic facility…

Plus I was able to take home some of the work, in the form of reproduced, sticker bookplates. Perfect for keeping track of my favourite books, particularly those that are often borrowed by friends.

Each set of bookplates sells for $20, and all funds go to supporting this amazing community-run art studio.

Ex Libris runs until the 2 September, and for full details visit the Firestation Print Studio’s website.

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Resourceful rabbits and helpful owls

Hopefully this weekend you went shopping…

Specifically, book shopping. Hopefully you paid a lovely little bookshop a visit to help them celebrate National Bookshop Day.

Oscar and I did, and we had a wonderful day. It involved a trip into the city on the train and a short stroll in the unseasonal sun, after which we were able to hang out with some delightfully resourceful rabbits and terribly helpful owls.

There were lots of different bookish events going on on Saturday, all as part of National Bookshop Day. It was hard to decide which to go to, but in the end we chose to visit the Hill of Content bookshop in Bourke Street. Partly because it’s one of my favourite stores, but also because I was pretty sure that Oscar would enjoy meeting their special guests, Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles, the authors of the beautiful Owl Know How (Thames and Hudson).

The girls were lovely, and read their story to a spell-bound crowd of little kids, cozy on cushions…

We had a chance to have a look at the hand-made sets used to make the book. Oscar and I were equally fascinated by this…

We even had a chance to get a book signed for a special friend of ours…

And as a wonderful bonus I finally had the chance to meet the lovely Jackie from one of my favourite blogs, My Little Bookcase, and a new friend Lou from We Heart Books. So nice to put faces to these virtual voices.

We topped off the day with chips and apple juice and somewhat reluctantly made the trip back home, with book and poster in hand and huge smile on our faces. These special days out with my boys are what memories are made of, and all up, it was a fabulous day.

Did you do anything for National Bookshop Day?

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Longing for the weekend: Produce to Platter

Last month, I was really lucky to be able to offer copies of Produce to Platter, by Jonette George and Daniele Wilton (Smudge Publishing) to two lucky readers of TBYL News: All Things Bookish…

It’s a stunning book, featuring the most choice treats to be found on the Victorian Mornington Peninsula:

Friends, families, vignerons and producers welcome you to the Mornington Peninsula.

You will find a treasure trove of gourmet delights and indulgent wines as you travel the back lanes and the country biways throughout this region.

Local chefs share their favourite recipes and open their doors for a peek. Vignerons welcome you to taste their lovingly prepared wines, distinctive of the terroir of their soil and this region…

Produce to Platter is quite the ‘triple threat’. It’s a practical guide exposing incredible hidden treasures, it’s a recipe book sharing favourites from an amazing range of regional cooking luminaries and thirdly, it’s a beautiful collection of photography.

Images are from Charlie Brown and a range of talented local photographers, the collation offers an true sense of the region’s landscape, produce and people.

My copy is a coffee table book, and it’s always being picked up and flicked through. It distracts me from my work and makes me long for lazy weekends spent shopping, eating and drinking in regional Victoria. You can also pick up a copy in softcover, perfect to take with you as you explore the Peninsula, it’ll help you not to miss a thing.

You can find out more about this gorgeous book at the Smudge Publishing website.

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Dark, cold, dragony night

I really like going out with my kids, it’s one of my favourite things.

I’ll admit that Oscar can still be a little bit of a handful, but he’s a showman, so what can you expect? Evan on the other hand is pretty much at the perfect hanging out age – good company, old enough to be really interested in what we’re doing, but still just young enough not to be (too) embarrassed to be seen with his daggy old Mum.

I’m making the most of it, because I know it probably wont last for very much longer, and so when I saw that Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon series (Random House) was coming to Melbourne I thought it would be the perfect night out for Evan and I. Presented by the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the Wheelers Centre it promised to be a fun-filled, fan-filled evening and despite the cold, dark, wet, wintery night, it delivered.

I’ve got to say that I’ve not read any of the Eragon series myself. Sorry. But Evan has read the first three, and is half way through the forth (and final?) in the ‘four part triology’. And, although I’ve not read them myself, I do understand their appeal. They’ve got it all, heros, villains, dwarven languages, battles and journeys and of course lots of dragons. This combination of elements has seen an army of dedicated, extremely loyal fans build around the Inheritance Cycle. Standing in line for the book signing, with hundreds of readers with arms ladened with multiple copies of the four huge tomes, you could be left in no doubt that these people where committed – to the story, and to whatever this inspiring author was ready to do next.

Personally, I was fascinated by the fact that Christopher was only 15-years-old when he wrote the Eragon, the first in the series and couldn’t wait to hear more about what exactly brought that impressive feat about. In short, home schooled, living in Anchorage, Alaska and bored out of his brain, Paolini decided that the only thing to do was to get his head out of other people’s books, and bury himself in creating his own. With family support; as editors, publishers and publicists, Eragon was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s the great self-publishing success story…

Christopher was a very entertaining speaker, and Evan genuinely enjoyed every minute of the event. There were plenty of backstories, in-jokes and teasers, all of which had the audience on the edge of their seats in the hope that they might find out a secret or two about this world they’d clearly immersed  themselves in.

Further, his story is inspiring. In my opinion, it’s fantastic for kids like Evan (and grown-ups too) to hear of someone putting themselves out there, backing themselves and having great success to show for it. I hope it reinforces in Evan’s mind that anything is possible, even if it’s a little out of the ordinary.

I can’t wait until the next of these events comes up, I’m looking forward to another night out with the kid. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the calendar…

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy watching Evan enjoy reading.

 

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Sample the Flavours of Melbourne

Today’s review is very timely, for a few reasons…

(1) I’m laid-up, and need to live vicariously through others;
(2) Hubby and I really need to go on a date soon, it’s been far too long;
(3) In my opinion, winter is the perfect time to explore Melbourne, and there’s no denying that winter has arrived…

So, as I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of time lying on the couch, I’ve been flicking through the pages of Flavours of Melbourne, by Jonette George (Designed by Daniele Wilton, and published by Smudge Publishing) and I’ve been making mental lists of sophisticated outings and laneway explorations.

Flavours of Melbourne is a gorgeous coffee table book that beautifully highlights the very favourite restaurants and bars in Melbourne’s laneways and rooftops. It includes fantastic write-ups on Melbourne; its history, and its highlights and makes it abundantly clear why Melbourne is considered to be so very ‘liveable’.

Some favourite inclusions for me would have to be Cookie and Pelligrini’s in Bourke Street. Now on the list of ‘things to do’ is Madame Brussels and The Croft Institute, and although I’m painfully aware of the fact that to check out every spot that caught my eye in the book would take more weekends than I’ve got at my disposal, I’m loving having such a wonderfully long list of ideas.

It should be said that George and Winton’s book is more than just a restaurant guide, of which there are many. There are a couple of things that set it apart… firstly, they’ve included a very special range of recipes, provided by some of the top chefs working in Melbourne. For those weekends where you can’t secure a babysitter, you’ll not miss out, you can recreate the Melbourne experience in your own home. A Calamari with Chickpeas and Radicchio entree from Guy Grossi and Matteo Tine, perhaps followed by a main of Braised Pork Belly, Drunken Potatoes, Steamed Baby Bok Choy and Star Anise Caramal from Seamstress chef Anthony Humphries and then finish off your stay-in evening with a devine dessert from Nikki Smith from Punch Lane, a Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Ginger Ice Cream.

The second thing that makes this book special is the photography – it’s bold, large and original. It paints our city’s nooks and crannies in an incredibly flattering light. I particularly loved the inclusion of lots of colourful and edgy Melbourne Street Art, from front-cover and throughout. This inclusion, wonderfully presents our urban gallery in all it’s glory.

Flavours of Melbourne will be a book that sits on my coffee table for a long time yet. It’ll take me time to work through, and it’ll provide me inspiration when I get out and about again, one day very soon. I marvel at the fact that every time I pick up the book and have a flick through, I find something I’d missed before. Quite a bit like Melbourne itself really.

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I’m thrilled to be able to offer TWO readers a copy of Smudge Publishing’s Flavours of Melbourne!

All you need to do is:

1. Leave a comment on this post, or

2. Visit our Facebook page and leave a comment,

…and tell us about your favourite restaurant or bar, or your favourite recipe. I can’t wait to hear your recommendations!

I’ll draw two winners at random on Thursday 7 June 2012. As usual, you’ll have 4 days to claim your prize or I’ll redraw.

If you’d like to find out more about Jonette and Daniele’s book and their other great titles, you can visit Smudge Publishing here.

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