String Quartet Theory

I’m partial to a good cover version, as you’ll find on a guest post I did a while ago at the blog of the very talented and musically inclined Stephanie Kuehnert (‘I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone’ – MTV  Books). So I was excited to discover a 2004 release of Duran Duran songs covered by the Vitamin String Quartet. This is most excellent for three reasons. One, it contains some of my favourite DD tunes (like Save a Prayer, Planet Earth; LOVE the intro to Hungry Like the Wolf). Two, I can write and listen at the same time, which is usually difficult because I get distracted by the lyrics if there’s a vocal track. Three, I love me a string quartet.

Downsides? Obviously, they lack Simon Le Bon’s dulcet tones and Nick Rhodes’s delicious synths. And the temptation to sing along is strong because I know every word. But if you’re a DD fan and you’re looking to diversify your writing playlist, you can find The String Quartet Tribute to Duran Duran and its eerily familiar album cover on iTunes.

This is Pinklepurr, who is deathly afraid of wolves, so he welcomes the instrumental version of 'Hungry Like the Wolf'.

This is Pinklepurr, who is deathly afraid of wolves*
and runs away if you even say the ‘W’ word.
He welcomes the instrumental version of ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’.

*See this post for the full explanation.

Other noteworthy cover versions I’m listening to now (with vocals!):

  • Suzi Quatro’s cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Into You, which my hubby intro’d me to recently.
  • Luna’s cover of Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses.
  • And if I could find Kirsten Vigard’s version of God Give Me Strength that was mimed brilliantly by Illeana Douglas in the underrated 1996 movie Grace of My Heart, I would be sooooo happy. The version in the film is sublime but there’s no recording of it available anywhere. The soundtrack contains a version by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, who wrote the song. Confused? Perplexed? Ah, well, just watch this performance:


Save or Delete?

Day two of the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival! I’m trying to re-write the first 50 pages of my current book. I’ve written and trashed three versions of the first four opening pages already. Maybe it’s just time to cut my losses and move on to another part of the book that needs attention. Believe me, there are a lot of other trouble spots to choose from!

“Pat me now or I’ll delete your whole book!”


“Just joking, Mum. That last paragraph was, um…interesting. I’ll press ‘save’.”

By the way, did you know my cats have a blog? Who knows how they manage to find time to work on it. Astonishing, really. Anyway, they’d love to get a cyber pat  — I promise they won’t bite, scratch or hiss at you, and there’s no need to take allergy medication. You may be overwhelmed by their cuteness, though. I don’t think there’s a cure for that. Head to P & P Furball Factory and see what the cats are up to today.

Winter Wonderland

Some of you know I’m actually in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s the middle of summer and it’s so hot that people’s flip-flops are melting. (We call those things thongs here.) But on the northern end of the planet, it’s the middle of winter, and we at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood are about to kick off our third annual Winter Writing Festival — on January 10 (US time), in fact.

Join us for 50 days of writing, revising, plotting demises and happily-ever-afters — whatever needs to be done to get our manuscripts in shape. Set your own goal, work at your own pace, and you could win prizes (books, gift cards, chockies, etc) for your trouble. We also run a chat room and hold sprints, so you’re not doing this on your own. Register at the dedicated RSSWWF site. Everything you need to know about how the festival works can be found here.

It was 41C (107F) yesterday. My cat wasn’t totally impressed by the ice cube I tried to feed her.
I think she wanted me to build her an igloo instead.

Mascarpone and Me

We had some friends over for brunch this morning, and this gave me the chance to use them as guinea pigs for two recipes I found yesterday:

This is the crushed biscuit/almond meal base and the mascarpone and cream filling. Honestly, I wasn’t going to put the base mixture on the sides of the dish because I didn’t think it’d stick…but it did! Cookery miracle right there, everyone.

And this is the finished product — a topping of peaches, strawberries, raspberries and a tiny bit of mint.

I saw these baked egg cups on Pinterest yesterday and had to have a go at making (and eating them). I had an Elaine-from-Seinfeld moment, though (ie. the muffin-top episode). The recipe called for scooping out the flesh of the sourdough buns to make room for the egg. But what to do with the leftover bread? Use them to make breadcrumbs, of course!

Both recipes were easy, easy, easy. The tart was especially good because it involved no baking, which is ideal in this heat and humidity. The guinea pigs were well pleased and offered themselves up for more experimentation. But for now, it’s back to writing for me!

Where the Wild Things Grow

Happy 2013! How did you celebrate the New Year?

Piper Bubbles

A cherry tomato plant unexpectedly sprouted in our little courtyard over the holidays, so my husband was inspired to plant a potager garden around it. He added roma tomatoes, rosemary, basil, Vietnamese mint, common mint, lemon balm, a lime tree, a passionfruit vine, geraniums, capsicums, a chilli plant that we’re sure came from Hades via the local nursery, and a row of Kermit-green conifers. With everything blooming, it’s so lovely to write in the courtyard now. My current manuscript is growing as fast as the garden. Can’t say my book is looking as pretty as the geraniums, though. It contains an abundance of manure. But then, it is a first draft. I can polish and prune this thing in autumn.

Possum took exception to a premature avocado that dropped from our old tree yesterday.

An extreme close-up of gaura. We had tons of these plants when we had a much bigger plot of land in Brisbane.

‘Little Shop of Horror’-style geranium buds.

In totally unrelated news, my cats now have a Twitter account and a blog, P & P Furball Factory. I don’t know how they’ll manage to keep it up because they’re not very good typists, and one has terrible syntax. I guess that’s why they’ve decided to make the blog chiefly pictorial — mostly photos of themselves. Check them out and give them a cyber pat!

O Christmas Feast… O Christmas Feast…

Happy holidays! Or as we Dutch say, “Prettig kerstfeest!” Or…as our cats say, “Merry Catmas!”


We’re heading off soon for our traditional “waifs” Christmas feast with friends. Each year we either have lunch or dinner together — I guess it’s dunch or lunner this time, because we’re tucking in at about 3:30. I’ve made these delish pots of salted caramel sauce for our hosts:

Three Wise Jars

Three Wise Jars

Actually, um, the third jar is my Christmas present to myself. The jar on the left contains a generous splash of Frangelico liqueur. Next time I’ll try adding Cointreau. I’ve been saying forever that I’d like to make caramel sauce, since it’s one of my favourite things on earth to eat. I kept buying the ingredients for caramel-making, but I put off making a batch because I had nightmares about burning the sugar so badly I’d have to throw out my pots. However, this recipe by Stephanie at the Lick My Spoon blog was stupendously easy to follow, and the results are gorgeous. Clean-up was a cinch. No burning or crustiness whatsoever! The consistency is a little thin (it’s still cooling), but it will solidify a little more over time. It’s perfect now to drizzle over vanilla ice-cream, but I really should save room for dunch/lunner.

Hmm… Maybe a little tablespoon of caramel by itself won’t hurt…

In goes the cream... Click on the photo for the Lick My Spoon blog's recipe.

In goes the cream… Click on the photo for the Lick My Spoon blog’s recipe.

Frangelico salted caramel sauce + non-alcoholic salted caramel

Ta-da! Frangelico salted caramel sauce + non-alcoholic salted caramel

Enjoy your cooking adventures, everyone! Have a safe and happy break.

It’s Not Doomsday Per Se…

It’s December 21*, the last day of the Mayan long-count calendar. Naturally, according to some, this can only mean one thing — it’s the end of the world as we know it. At 11:11 UTC, to be precise. Alarmists predict an apocalypse. So I guess we’re talking earthquake fissures wide enough to swallow whole cities, Himalayan peaks exploding one by one in a daisy-chain formation, and/or widespread destruction that’ll leave the LOLcats to inherit the earth. If that’s not enough, we’re also set for a collision with planet Nibiru.


If you’re concerned about an imminent astronomical disaster, I have good news for you. NASA is confident Nibiru does not even exist.

There’s no cause for panic. As NASA explains in the link above, just because a calendar runs out doesn’t mean it’s the end of days. The I Can Has Cheezburger calendar my cats appeared in runs out on December 31, and no-one’s running around saying we’re all gonna die because there are no pages left. Well, okay, the Model School is. (See their post-apocalyptic music video below. Buy the song here for $1!) Some would argue the Mayans actually anticipated a new beginning after Dec 21. Further to this, my favourite psychic astrologer, Jessica Adams, has given her forecast for January 2013. No mention of a world-destroying event. If that’s not proof our hearts will go on after today, then I don’t know what is.

I usually set up a playlist of 11 songs for each chapter of my work in progress. But in the spirit of things, I’ve put together a list of 21 songs that I think are doomsday-appropriate. Some are morbid, others a bit more cheerful and optimistic. Kate Miller-Heidke’s The Last Day on Earth is one of them. No apocalypse would be complete without a final listen to the Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Duran Duran’s Anyone Out There is a song I’d play on repeat as a siren call to summon survivors from all corners. The rest:

What songs are on your end-of-the-world list? Got a fave doomsday movie or book?

*in Sydney, Australia

Drink Up, Cool Down

It’s going to be a 30-degree Sunday, and I should be outside enjoying Sydney’s summer. Instead, I’m indoors and attempting to add another 2,500 words to my latest manuscript. As you can imagine, I’ll need a bit of nutritional help to reach this goal. So far today I’ve consumed a block of Lindt chocolate, had an affogato (husband’s secret recipe), and now I’m drinking this refreshing homemade beverage — my summer special:

IMG_1428Summer Special ingredients:

  • 250mL soda water or mineral water
  • 10 or so mint leaves, slightly bruised to release da flavour
  • Juice of half a lemon or to taste
  • Ice, loads of it

Mix it and drink it. Add sugar if you like, but I think it’s fine unsweetened. I just remembered I have two punnets of strawberries in the fridge and I reckon I could put a chopped-up berry in the next batch. A good splash of gin or vodka would work well too.

Speaking of all things summer, my hubby’s band recently released their latest single, Pictures of Summer. Filmmaker Alex Munt shot the film clip for them in Bondi:

The song is on my playlist for Chapter Seven of my WIP.

What’s on your summer playlist? Do you have a favourite cooling drink?

A First Time for Everything!

The lovely people at HarperCollins Publishers Australia have put together a collection of ten short stories, all with a cyber-dating theme, in ‘URL Love: From Texting to Twitter, the Hottest Online Love Stories‘. It’s out TODAY! Yay! I’m so excited, because my story, ‘The Tweetest Thing,’ is in the anthology. It’s the first time I’ve been published in fiction. You can purchase the e-book now from Amazon and iBookstore. Plus, there’s a Facebook fan page here. Check out this cute story-behind-the-story by Mel Saward, a fellow contributor to the anthology.

‘The Tweetest Thing’ was inspired by a Duran Duran concert that my boss took me to back in March. Mind you, this work is fictitious and any resemblance to events and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental!!! From 2pm AEST today at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood site, I will reveal more about the story and how a simple retweet from DD’s Simon Le Bon turned me into a grinning fool for days on end.

Speaking of Duran Duran, as I often do these days, John Taylor, arguably the world’s most photogenic bass player, has just released his memoir, In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran DuranI’m looking forward to finding out all the things about JT and the band that I was once too young to know!

It’s herrrrre!

One of the truly pitiful iPhone photos I took at the Duran Duran concert at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga, California, in August. (Yes, I saw them twice this year on two different continents!) That’s John on the left and Simon on the right. I’d used up the battery on my other camera the night before at the Chris Isaak concert, to which I had front-row seat.

Midi Matilda, Duran Duran’s two-man support act in Saratoga. They were fantastic. I listen to their songs ‘Ottawa’ and ‘Day Dreams’ every morning to put me in a good mood before work. They also connected with me on Twitter after the gig. Nice guys!

Don’t forget to visit me at the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog later today for a lil’ release-day celebration!