Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Another letter from Sarah



In the spirit of experimentation, I've decided on a hiatus from SCP - and to write a weekly TinyLetter instead. Lately I've been enjoying receiving pretty great emails, and when I am keen on things, I want to EMULATE. Stat.

I started this blog a long time ago now, strictly in the vein of a Live Journal - and it's swung from the very personal to a strange hybrid that I'm not entirely in love with. I'd like a change and the space to start fresh.

So: my plan is to send out a letter once a week on a Friday. I'm hoping that it will be chatty and fabulous and that it will give me some scope to be a bit more personal, but I foresee that it will also include things that I've eaten/read/heard/watched and loved, and ideas about money and saving.

So. This is your subscribe link. I'm not creating an online archive but I guess if I write something super amazing I could regurgitate it here.

I'm excited to see you in your inbox x

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Something I saw today


Here is a sweater I knitted for my mum's dog. #t

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Books, re-reading, and finding something to be anxious about

Pile of books
books, by Pimthida.

I am an avid reader, if not always particularly discerning. Voracious might be the best term. I’ll consume pretty much anything, especially if I’m over-anxious, sitting in the sun, or sick.

This year, I’ve set myself the goal of reading fifty books. So far I’ve read 12 and they run the gamut - from the sublimely silly to the truly fabulous.

Recently I read a piece in the Guardian about choosing your books carefully - the theory being, that there is a limit to how many books you can possibly read in your life so you'd better make them Worth Your While (insert panic here). The conclusion being: life is too short - too short to read Ayn Rand (agreed), Infinite Jest, and maybe anything by Virginia Woolf. The writer doesn’t pan the Lite and Silly outright, doesn’t condemn reading YA books as an adult - and the commenters appear mostly concerned with defending Virginia Woolf, rather than making their own lists of unworthy books.

This made me think Many Things - or rather, worry about things. Worry that I was wasting my time re-reading books (too many books in the world!), or reading infinitely disposable books. I mean - I just completed some research into the Zeitgeist (ahem) by reading all three of the Fifty Shades books. I probably could have finished Middlemarch by now.

But the thing is, I think that I mostly read books for atmosphere. For the feeling that a book gives me while I dip in and out on the bus or at lunchtime, or the feeling I get when I read a book in one sitting, fully immersed and outside on a summer’s day. So does it matter if I’m not sublimely well-read in terms of 'high literature' or the canon? I don’t think it does terribly much - especially given that essential reading changes from place to place, and person to person. I have my own categories of books good, bad and indifferent, and I guess you do to.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I wrote some of my categories down:

  • The kind that is best to read when you're sick with glandular fever. The protagonist will be southern and the prose will be badly written; you'll discover that you're deliriously desperate for all characters to get married, no matter how minor.
    Examples: any Sookie Stackhouse book, The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch.
  • The kind that you initially read as a child or a teenager and really enjoyed, especially for their portrayal of historical times. Later re-reading will destroy your earlier opinions as the books prove to be horribly full of violence against women and otherwise deeply problematic.
    Example: The Sonne in Splendour by Sharon Penman.
  • The kind described as "cult" that was recommended to you by an apparently well-read but overbearing man while you were drunk and insecure at a party aged 25. Sex will be described in ways that will recur to you in flashbacks throughout the rest of your life, all the female characters are hollow and hateful projections.
    Examples: anything by Henry Miller, Last Exit to Brooklyn, On the Road.
  • The kind you know are very clever, and possibly too clever for you - so you claim you will read them twice, the first time for the plot and the second time for the cleverness. You never read them the second time.
    Examples: anything by Umberto Eco, The Luminaries.
Conclusions? I have none. I just have a head filled with irritating Anastasia Steele lines, and bookshelf of good intentions.
 
But, you - do you have categories? What are they? Does the thought you can only read, say 2500 books in your life, freak you out as much as it does me?

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Sunday Film Fest: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Have you seen this whimsical guy? I am awfully fond of him. And part three is a recent(ish) release!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Friday, February 06, 2015

What is making me happy: The Power of Exercise and homemade ice blocks

Children's running race
Christmas party at works, 18/12/1937 by Sam Hood. From the Collection of the State Library of New South Wales.

While most of January has passed in a whirlwind of balmy days, salty swims and delicious summer food, I was afflicted by a pretty severe case of post-holiday blues after I returned to work - and it took three weeks to resolve it! I was grumpy, I was short-tempered, I suffered near-daily life-crises.

Things didn’t start to improve until last week, due to the amazing weather we were having, and my decision to start running again.

So. Running. I don’t enjoy the act of running terribly much, but I do love the effects of running. That is: increased smugness, and the ability to cope a little better with the world around me. While I haven’t found an exercise that I love since my rollerskating days, running is free(!) and encourages me to take advantage of the beach and parks near my house.

It is a total cliché to state that exercise is good for mental health, but the difference between the grumpiness of sedentary Sarah and the coping skills of exercising Sarah is marked. For me, its a good decision.

ALSO: as of this Wednesday, I started my four day work weeks - with the fifth day devoted to my own projects and hopefully drumming up a bit of copy- or web writing work. Hit me up if you like my kool style and are in need of such skills - you can contact me through my website (sarahjanemiller.co.nz).

More things

COOKING: Lately I’ve been trying really hard to perfect the Beef Rendang recipe in Slowcooked. My first attempt was delicious but too saucy, my second an improvement but still on the saucy side I think.

I am confused by the instruction to reduce the curry in the slow cooker. In my experience, that’s just not possible as in, the whole point of a slow cooker is to lock in the heat and moisture. Perhaps if I fiddled with the lid less, I’d reach the desired outcome?

Because of the heat, I’ve also been making homemade ice block. I made some lemon manuka honey yoghurt ice blocks based on a recipe for Creamy Lime Honey popsicles which were crazy delicious, and freestyled some soy iced coffee ice blocks using cold brew coffee as the base. If I can get a good photo I’ll share a recipe which will include some tips on how to avoid getting coffee grinds in the finished product (which I can attest is pretty disgusting).

READING: I spent most of Sunday with my face glued to my eReader, demolishing Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. It’s silly, but I’m loving it - it has a great pace, and it’s pretty fun. The evil characters are very mustache-twirly, the good characters have just enough flaws to make them likeable but not so many flaws that they are challenging to think about.

FAVOURITE PODCAST EPISODE: As always, I am enamoured with podcasts with lots of primary sources and little narration. The Radio Diaries podcast The View from the 79th Floor, about a 1945 bomber crash into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building, had some great interviews with eyewitnesses, primary audio material from a dictation machine, and media reports from the time.

KNITTING: Always I am knitting this Featherweight, but I have almost finished the body, and I’m much happier with this size than the abortively tiny one that resulted from my previous attempt.

I have only used one skein of the five ridiculously expensive skeins that I bought. I might use another half skein, but still, it’s looking as though I could knit something else out of the yarn.

SEWING: I am actually struggling a little with the excessive number of clothes I have. I think that it would be a good idea to have a bit of a purge before I start making anything else.

LISTENING: I splashed out and bought a bunch of albums when I arrived back at work, and I currently have Sylvan Esso’s album on high rotation. I particularly love the opening track which seems to be the Mary Poppins of pop music - Practically Perfect in Every Way. When it opens it reminds me of Polka Dot Dot Dot to the extent I had to Google and make sure that it didn’t actually feature anybody from the group.

Also: very excited for a new Marina and the Diamonds album. 

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