Bubble bubble, toil and reward

I’ve got a hankering this year I’ve not had for a while. I want to make preserves, bottle some fruit and I especially want to try my hand at Onion Jam. Apparently, according to a greengrocer I was chatting with, the stonefruits are late this year, so I am awaiting bounteous apricots, peaches and plums anytime now, fragrant and gorgeous.

I’ll get out my preserving pan – I can’t believe I actually have one, and I’ll get slicing, weighing and stirring. The warm sweet smells will fill the house and imagine I will be briefly transported back in time.

I have wonderful childhood memories of helping both my grandmothers and my mother in the kitchen at this time of year. Nothing beats a slice of really soft bread with butter and still warm raspberry jam slathered on top! Seeing all the jars of various hues all lined up in the cupboard afterwards is also both satisfying and a joy to behold.

There’s a great selection of jam and preserve books  throughout the libraries, if you lurk about in the 641.852 area of the non-fiction section of any of our libraries, you will find recipes and advice for the classics, such as raspberry jam or orange marmalade, through to the more exotic, such as pink pickled ginger or peach and passionfruit preserve.

Do you have a favourite recipe for jam, preserves, a pickle or sauce, care to share. Maybe a book you find invaluable?

Why I would never have got a job in Victorian England

Times Digital Archive  has recently been updated giving us access up to 2006 instead of the previous end date of 1985. I have to confess the joy of this resource for me does not lie in its more recent editions.  I ended up absorbed in the job vacancy section of Victorian England!

I am not sure I am of “undeniable character”? Certainly the language my mother uses during aftershocks and in heavy traffic would prevent me from saying that I am even from a “respectable  family”.

I am also short on the required skills – needlepoint, French, a dab hand at “preserves and jams”. I am not sure I know about “children management” nor the management of “house and table”. I think I could make it as a “clerk” but  I seem to be missing the appropriate body parts as they all seek “young men” – I don’t think at this point that was open to debate either. The language and belief systems make me want to seek out a Bronte novel and give a collective hug to the feminist movement all at the same time.

Family historians foam at the mouth when they come across this resource, but this is not just for those seeking an elusive death notice, it for anyone with idle hands and a curious mind.

This full text archive of the longest circulating daily newspaper in continuous publication spans from Doctor Livingstone’s reports on the exploration and discovery of Africa up until the fall of the World Trade Towers and the execution of Saddam Hussein. Do explore this resource – it really is a goldmine of all things interesting!

Classical sparks

Classical Sparks is now a Christchurch institution. As a celebration of summer and the joy of living in Christchurch it’s hard to beat. The coming together of people from all walks of life in a relaxed atmosphere, sitting or lying on the grass with picnics and children and enjoying the music – it has a charm all of its own. This is our community at its best (like shovelling liquefaction for your neighbours, but more fun).

This year it takes place on Sunday 5 February. They’re featuring some great music with a programme featuring top Australian opera singers Jud Arthur and Virgilio Marino and it includes, to name a just a few favourites:

First half (with links to the music in Naxos Music Library)

Second half

It should be a lovely evening of music, so see you there.

Fritz Kreisler, boy wonder

CoverToday is the 75th anniversary of the death of Fritz Kreisler, violinist and Viennese boy wonder. He made his debut at age 7 and was accepted into the Vienna Conservatory at the same age. All of three years later he graduated with a gold medal and went on to study in Paris and then Rome. A detour through the study of  medicine, then a year in the army, led back to a second debut, which was wildly successful and he never looked back. He toured America during 1901-1903 and very soon he was world famous.

Known for his remarkable technique, expressiveness and beautiful rich tone, Kreisler came to be the dominant violinist of his day. Elgar wrote his violin concerto for him, he toured extensively and performed with many famous musicians including Enrico Caruso, Pablo Casals and Rachmaninoff. He is thought to be the first person to record an entire violin concerto, and was famous for his interpretation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in particular.

He collected rare musical manuscripts, although some of these turned out to have been written by himself, but passed off as works by famous composers. This eventual revelation outraged the critics, but the public didn’t care. In fact some of these beautiful compositions are still considered part of the core repertoire for the violin today.

Part of the explanation for this curious behaviour rests in Kreisler’s unassuming character. Harriet Kreisler’s strong presence in her husband’s career  is said to have saved it. Left to himself Kreisler had surprisingly little confidence. The humility went with a kind heart and according to one of the entries for him in Biography in Context

During World War I, he assumed financial responsibility for the children of many soldiers who died in battle–not only the children of other Austrian soldiers like himself, but also the children of Russian and Serbian soldiers who died in the field hospital where his wife Harriet was a volunteer.

Naxos Music and Music Online both have many lovely recordings of his compositions and some of Kreisler himself playing. Try him playing the Beethoven violin concerto or his own short composition Liebesfreud (from Music Online.)

Summertimes – and the entertainment is easy to find

Inaugural New Zealand Sandcastle CompetitionEvery year early in the summer, I pore through the Summertimes catalogue excitedly, even exclaiming out loud to anyone within earshot about all the exciting things that are coming up to see and do over the warmer days.

Every year I only seem to see a fraction of what I want and in particular there is one event I just miss every year! The Chinese Lantern Festival is something that I have tried to go to for years and years, ever since they started having one. I imagine that it will remind me of the time I spent living in Hong Kong, not only the lanterns, but the food. For too many years, even if I put in on my calendar, I forget until the week after, and last year, earthquakes conspired to prevent it even happening. I also forget the Kite Day, most of The Breeze Lazy Sunday Concertsand I must have not only been under a rock but a large pile of sand to have missed the Sandcastles this year!

This week’s goal is to get to at least some of the Busker’s Festival. I’m keen to go inside the Le Tigre Bleu tent and see what lurks.

Shakespeare’s As You Like It at Mona Vale is a must see for me, as is The Anthony Harper Summer Series of The Complete History of Christchurch – Abridged by The Outwits. This is the last Abridged show this talented group is performing. This is one event I have been to regularly most years. We take the folding chairs, food and a little bubbly and we laugh ourselves silly.

So I challenge you all, do a better job of living in this wonderful city than I seem to, and avail yourselves of all the amazing Summertimes and other entertainment on offer until well into March.

Corsair Bay summer: Image of the week

Summer at Corsair Bay
Summer at Corsair Bay, 1964

Barrington Big Fun Day – Sunday 26 February 2012

10AFFIRMSeveral months back I went to a community fun fair in Addington which had everything a big (meaning adult) or little kid could ask for. I really felt the benefits of attending a community get together after all we have had to deal with in our EQ times. It left me feeling the importance of sticking together and the need to connect with those in community more often. Barrington Big Fun is another opportunity for this so I thought I’d  encourage you all to come out on the day. Last year saw a huge turn out of around 2000 people and an atmosphere not to missed!

Barrington Big Fun offers a very entertaining day for the whole family. In years past, more than 50 local musicians, entertainers, cultural groups, sports teams, crafts people, local businesses and non-profit organisations have pooled together with great community spirit. Christchurch City Libraries will be there running a story time session and displaying information on our fantastic services. The mix includes live performance, activities, information stalls, and of course yummy food!

Stage Line up!
It is great to see a community event drawing on local talent and offering something for everyone, a lot of different acts has been packed into the 3 hour duration of the event. Everything from classical, band music, clowns, martial arts, Irish, swing and zumba dancing; rock music and more.

FREE ‘Have-A-Go’ Activities
I still get excited at the thought of trains, kites, bouncy castles and the like. Activities include: Lil’ Puff Train, Climbing Tower, Skytes Kites, Pony Parties rides, Bouncy Castle, Face Painting, TumbleTimes (Council Gymnastics) and StoryTimes (Christchurch City Libraries).

Barrington Big Fun Day offers a good mix of healthy and local produce along with the regular treats one would expect to see at such an event: hot dogs, kebabs, cakes and candy floss. The information tent will also have free water and fruit.

Find out about more local community events in the Summertimes  Family Fun programme and their events page.

Help for frustrated music students

If you’re a student these are frustrating times. The damage to libraries in Christchurch means limited access to printed material making study just that much more difficult. Christchurch City Libraries is building online resources to help students in the Source and our latest acquisition has completed a very useful set of online resources for students of music.

Oxford Music Online has been a stalwart part of our collection for some time. Containing the venerable Grove Music, The  Oxford Companion to Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, it is a pretty comprehensive reference source just on its own.

However, when you are studying you need more than reference books, so we’ve supplemented it with the Fine arts and music collection which contains a wide range journal articles in the music field.

Now we have added the Oxford History of Western Music by musicologist Richard Taruskin, which is considered a landmark study on western music.

Then there’s Naxos Music Library which, although primarily about listening online, also provides study resources designed for both school students and children.

To supplement these specialised resources students, could also try some of  our more general online resources, as these also include music journals. Try:

Most popular stuff for adults 2011

You love me, but love Lee Child even more ...

Here’s Christchurch City Libraries’ top 100 items from last year for adults.

Factoids and observations:

  • Road Code – number 1. Essential stuff.
  • Wow –  check out the number of James Patterson titles in the list (7?)
  • Passion for Scandinavian crime is so not melting away
  • Oldies like Wilbur Smith can still cut it with the new fellas
  • Looks like people do want to know about Paul Henry, as his memoir What was I thinking is the top NZ book (after the Road Code) … but closely on its tail is The Conductor by Sarah Quigley
  • About 15 out of the 100 are New Zealand books

Any observations or surprises?

Getting the garden through a watering ban

ICover‘ve just started converting my patch of liquefaction into a garden, so I was dismayed to read in the paper that watering gardens might be completely out of bounds if the summer gets dryer. Determined not to give up my morale boosting project, I started thinking about how I could get my new garden through a watering ban.

Twenty five years of gardening on sand in Sumner have taught me a couple of things about dry gardens.

  • Water less often but more deeply. This encourages the roots to go deeper and makes them more drought resistant. This really seems to work and I am preparing my garden by doing that now.
  • Mulching really does work. I always put down dampened newspaper underneath to discourage weeds as well.
  • Get the right plant in the right place – especially if it’s a difficult spot. I have always found Roy Lancaster’s books invaluable for help with this.

A friend in Ashburton, where they have regular watering bans came up with these:

  • Attach a hose to your water outlet pipe. In true kiwi no. 8 wire fashion you can do this by using a funnel, that feeds into a hose, which feeds into a drum. My friend has bought a large water container with a tap on the side because this makes getting the water out again easier.
  • The old “bury a plastic bottle beside drought prone plants” trick. You put holes in the bottle and keep it full of water. This makes very efficient use of your water, although I don’t know if this contravenes a watering ban. I’m hoping to use this to keep my lemon tree alive.

And from the Australians

  • Apparently in Melbourne they take a bucket into the shower with them to collect excess water for the garden.

Of course we have lots of books in the library to consult on water wise gardening there are also some good water saving tips on our website. Maybe some of you have already done the research and have other ideas to contribute. If so I’d love to hear them.