Saturday, June 30, 2012

Senior Poems: read, laugh, sigh, share

It's great when somebody else puts into words exactly what you yourself have been experiencing, isn't it? And poetry is such a memorable way to share the pains, pangs and satisfactions of getting older.

So thinking, I have bundled my favourite poems on the topic of age into one ebook, Senior Poems.

I hope you'll read them. When you do, I hope you'll laugh and sigh and share them freely.

Senior Poems are published by Smashwords and cost the princely sum of $1.50.

Senior Poems: you know you want them
Please share your own thoughts and poems about growing older, here on the Old Lady Laughing blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three cookbooks for old ladies

Recently three great cookbooks crossed my desk, each totally different in their appeal. 
I've tried to identify how far my response depends on my great age, and whether I'd have enjoyed them all regardless. But that's impossible, because (like you) I am at least three different people in the kitchen.
Inside this city writer/businesswoman lurks a classic suburban housewife, the one who used to grow artichokes and tarragon and strawberries, and preserve quince jelly, sauerkraut and 60 jars of tomatoes every year. OK, I've moved on, although I still preserve olives from our street and eat micro-goodies from a micro-garden. 

And indeed, rural-woman syndrome is part of the psyche of thousands of other women my age, which partly explains why A Good Harvest: Recipes from the gardens of Rural Women New Zealand is proving so popular. It gives a true picture of rural women's cooking now and a nostalgic glimpse of a time when we all made raspberry jam, zucchini fritters and pickled gherkins from scratch. Awesome book, this will come into its own after the apocalypse. Meanwhile, just love it.

Cookbook number two is One Pot, One Bowl, from Kim McCosker's 4-ingredients series. The appeal is to the flat-out, no-nonsense experienced cook, which is also me and maybe you. I turn my nose up at recipes that include cans of soup or packet soups (or both) for flavouring. But I celebrate the brilliant concept that produces dish after dish with just four items, for example Blue Cheese Pork with Pears, or Leek and Potato Soup. All Come Dine With Me contestants should be given this book: no more cheese in the curry.

My daughters pounced on Pipi The Cookbook the moment it arrived, which shows this is not a book for oldies. However, we old ladies happily drool over Brian Culy's delicious photos, mouthwatering recipes by Alexandra Tylee, and story of a family-friendly family business. Then we might take a long drive to eat at Pipi restaurant, soaking up the Pipi culture but leaving Pipi cuisine to the experts. 

A Good Harvest (Random House)
One Pot One Bowl (Simon Schuster)
Pipi: the cookbook (Random House)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweet little old lady stereotype

I've been reading The Winner's Bible by multi-talented neurologist Kerry Spackman. As one of his coaching tools he recommends getting an independent, anonymous audit of your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Like everyone, I have a certain view of myself. But how do others see me? Is my self-image on target or way off the mark?

Last week two friends gave me unsolicited information on how they perceive me, and in each case, I was astonished. These are not friends who know me intimately, mind you, so I take their comments with a grain of salt.

Background: at Crows Feet Dance Collective rehearsals, we're looking at 1960s and 1970s clothes for the Grannies Dance in our August show.

Friend #1 wanted someone to help her man-handle some heavy trunks down from a high cupboard. I volunteered, and she said,

"Oh, not you! I need someone strong!"

I was most indignant: I believe I am very strong indeed, but she chose somebody taller to help her. So is weakness, absolute or relative, one of my weaknesses?

Comment #2 came when I showed a picture of myself in 1969, admittedly looking frightfully demure in a muslin top, gypsy skirt and sandals.

"You're sweet! You have always been sweet and you always will be."

Sweet, huh? This was not offensive but tremendously puzzling. What does sweet mean? Good-natured, happy, unobtrusive, a bit wishy-washy? The opposite of sour?

Add them together and I suspect I have been stereotyped as a sweet little old lady.

Photo either (c) New York Press or a stock photo: please tell me if you know.
Illustration, Joshua M Bernstein's article: Old Lady Syndrome

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Celebrating Jenny Pattrick's historical showbiz novel, Skylark

Skylark by Jenny Pattrick
Jenny Pattrick reinvented herself in mid-life as a novelist when arthritis made her delicate work as a jeweller too difficult.

Now I wouldn't wish arthritis on anyone. It's a horrible affliction and the world would be a better place if arthritis slit open its miserable belly and was swallowed by a cane toad. The planet can do without arthritis, thank you very much.

However, wonderful books have been born partly as a result of mild arthritis. (Jenny Pattrick has said she was ready for a career change regardless, after 30 years of working with metal.) 

Her first novel, Denniston Rose, was 10 years in the writing, but once published was an instant hit. Readers were hungry for tasty, well written, well researched historical novels about New Zealand, and that's what Jenny Pattrick has been feeding us ever since. Luckily she loves research, as do most writers of historical fiction.

Now her talent has flowered again in Skylark. Marvellously mingling fact and fiction, Skylark tells the story of Lily Alouette, born and bred to perform in theatres and circus rings—indeed, addicted to the life. Nineteenth century theatre comes alive in technicolour, and singers, acrobats, pirates, settlers, horse breeders and gold miners populate the pages. 

Skylark must surely be another well-deserved hit for our favourite historical novelist. She comes from a show-biz family—theatre and music have always been central to her own life. The story and characters are as wild as any she has ever written, and yet they are beyond credible: they live, breathe and turn somersaults on the pages. 

As the old lady laughing, I must point out that this New Zealand literary heroine was born in 1936. 

Thank you for your comments!

Cyclamen wilting: water me!
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Cyclamen reviving: thank you!
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