Friday flowers

img_7179 Image: Su Leslie 2020

It hasn’t been a great week, one way or another.

I’ve broken a tooth; inflicted a ridiculously painful-for-its-size cut on my finger tip; been for a mammogram (routine but always stressful); had a massive wasps’ nest removed from the ceiling cavity directly above where I sleep, and wasted far too much time trying to buy a tripod in camera shops that seem to employ the sort of men (where are the women in camera shops?) who should only exist in fiction (I’m thinking here of  “Hi-honey-I’m-home” 1950s sitcoms).

Worst of all; I feel bad for feeling bad. Apart from the broken tooth — and the possibilities inherent in the mammogram — it’s all pretty minor stuff. In a world of people doing it really tough right now, I’m not even on the scale.

That didn’t stop me buying flowers to cheer myself up though.

On the plus side, I bought them from a small, local florist who had only been in business a few months before Covid 19.

On the minus side, they’re out of season cut flowers with a carbon footprint I don’t even want to think about.

On the plus side, photographing them has provided me with shots for #fridayflowers.

On the minus, I’ve learned that flowers which look great in a vase don’t necessarily photograph well.

On the plus side, I’m going to shut up now, pour myself a glass of wine, and try not to think of reasons to get stressed about that.

Film Friday: Only Lovers Left Alive

CP58948 OnlyLovers.pdf.pdf

Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch, 2012. Advertising poster.

I was in my twenties when I fell in love with Jim Jarmusch. In the beginning it was Stranger Than Paradise (1984), but we traveled Down By Law (1986), and on to Mystery Train (1989) until that final Night on Earth (1991).

Like many youthful romances, it didn’t last; I grew tired of the road (1), we drifted apart and before long completely lost touch.

I tried to reconnect over Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), but it just didn’t work. I was resigned to reliving my memories of that early magic on borrowed DVDs.

Then in 2013, I saw a glimmer of hope. Another chance. This time the attraction wasn’t really my former auteur-crush, but his new film’s stars; Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and John Hurt. Based on past experience, I’d pay to watch them watching paint dry.

And that is how Only Lovers Left Alive comes to be on my list of great, watch-again-and-again-and-never-get-bored movies.

Have I mentioned that it’s a vampire movie? No? Well that surprised me too. According to my usual “will I enjoy this film” checklist, if any of the actors are sporting overly long canines, the answer is probably “no.” If the aforementioned canines are bloodied, it’s a resounding “thanks, but no thanks.”

Let’s just say, I’m rewriting the checklist.

Only Lovers Left Alive IS a vampire movie, but it’s also so much more. It’s a really tender love story, a (very dark) comedy, a celebration of art and creativity, and a cautionary tale for our sickening world. It’s packed full of musical and literary references (spoiler alert: Christopher Marlowe DID write the works of Shakespeare — and he was a vampire), haunting cinematography, and a luscious soundtrack.

I hadn’t really expected there to be much chemistry between Swinton and Hiddleston (playing a couple married for over 500 years), but somehow it works. I’d probably have suggested he get a haircut, but that’s quibbling.

Here’s the trailer, and if you haven’t seen this quirky gem — add it to your lockdown list.

Oh, and as for me and Jim. I wasn’t crazy about his next film Paterson. I haven’t seen his  latest, The Dead Don’t Die, but it’s a “zombie comedy.” Not really my favourite genre, but I loved Shaun of the Dead, so who knows.



About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting the latest post by Darren and Sarah.









“Through the trouble of this world there still runs a thin stream of serenity for those who seek it.”


Entrance to cottage garden at Bason Botanic Gardens, Whanganui. The title of this post repeats the words on the sculpture. Image; Su Leslie 2019

I’m still trawling the archive for Friday Flowers posts, and today we are returning to one of my favourite places — Bason Botanic Gardens in Whanganui, NZ.

I’ve written about Bason Gardens before — and used the quote in a post title — but Stanley Bason’s words resonate with me now as much as ever.

“Through the trouble of this world there still runs a thin stream of serenity for those who seek it.” Stanley Bason (1900-1976: farmer, gardener, philanthropist and visionary)

Today’s photos were taken last December, when the Big T and I visited Whanganui for an early Christmas with my dad and step-mother. T had never been to Bason Gardens before and I felt real pleasure in introducing him to this special place. It helped that we visited late in the day and practically had the 25 hectare park to ourselves.

That we got caught in a massive downpour was a bit of a bummer, but great for the photos.


Tea time in the blogosphere

img_7097 Image: Su Leslie 2020

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all). I’m glad you could join me for another virtual afternoon tea.

It’s definitely feeling like autumn here in Auckland, although we are still in drought. And though the country has loosened Covid 19 lock-down restrictions to the extent that from today most shops and cafes are open again, I’m feeling no particular desire to hit the mall. In fact, I’m pretty happy staying at home trying to finish at least some of the projects that are starting to feel like Damoclean swords over me.

Luckily, baking never feels like a chore.

I’ve temporarily abandoned my attempt to discover 101 ways with dumpling wrappers, and actually made pastry. Admittedly it’s choux pastry which is pretty easy, but I am happy with the results; crisp little buns filled with herby cream cheese.

img_7096 Choux pastry, filled with cream cheese, coriander and lemon zest. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Childhood memories

A couple of tea parties ago, I made some “grown up” fairy bread, using edible flowers instead of sugar sprinkles/hundreds and thousands. It would be fair to say it wasn’t one of my more successful culinary experiments, but it did spark a conversation with Brian (Bushboy’s World) about childhood foods, and the following month, Brian made real fairy bread.

I (as you do) promised chocolate crackles — another sweet treat that was pretty much compulsory at every birthday party in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve gone a bit off piste with this childhood favourite too, but, for an adult palate, I prefer mine to the original.

img_7099 Chocolate crackles, Zimmerbitch style. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I’ve replaced the rice crispies with broken-up rice cakes (thank you for that genius idea Tracy), used melted dark chocolate and coconut oil in place of the vegetable shortening, and dumped the icing sugar all together. I’ve kept the cocoa powder and added cacao nibs for crunch; the sweetness comes from chocolate and crystalised ginger.

The Big T approves, so I will make them again and actually take note of the quantities in case anyone wants an actual recipe.

img_7098 Fig and ginger loaf. Image: Su Leslie 2020

“these are a few of my favourite things …”

It’s interesting looking back at my earlier tea party posts. Not only do I seem to have an obsession with dumpling wrappers, but cream cheese, coconut, ginger and figs also pop up in multiple offerings. What can I say? They’re all flavours I like, and I still have figs on my tree.

But we’re at the end of the fig harvest, and the fruit are smaller and less plumscious; better for baking than eating straight.

The loaf recipe is more or less from The Spruce Eats — minus the cinnamon and pecans, and with lots of grated fresh ginger. It is a bit crumbly; I’ll need to work on that before I post a recipe.

img_7095 Fig and ginger loaf. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Why a virtual tea party?

When Del (at CurlsnSkirls) and I started talking about a virtual tea party, we saw it as a fun way to share our love of food and conversation. It is that of course, but for me at least, it’s also an affirmation of how important you — my blogging whanau — are to me. Over the years you’ve shared your thoughts, stories, advice and support and I really would like to invite you all round to mine and cook for you.

But since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I hope this will do instead.

The invitation

I’d love to hear from you. What are you doing/reading/making? Your thoughts on the food, the drinks, and whatever I’m rambling about. What’s making you happy or pissing you off?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2020 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)


Janet at This, That and the Other Thing has made a cinnamon chip Danish which looks utterly delicious. And she’s serving pu-erh tea in a beautiful clay pot.

Check out Ju-Lyn’s recipe for lemon drizzle cake at All Things Bright and Beautiful — and wish her a speedy recovery from a dislocated toe. Ouch!

Little Pieces of Me joins us too, and you might want to send best wishes to her too — an injured knee is causing pain.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has made some wonderful chocolate pineapple-jam filled sponges, with jam she made too. She has included her recipe, and a really fascinating history of the pineapple, so please visit.

Lois at On Pets and Prisoners has brought some fragrant magnolia and cinnamon sticks to adorn our table.

A Wonderful Sheep has visited Veganique, a vegan bakery located in her Seoul neighbourhood, and bought a delicious banana coconut pound cake and Earl Grey Tea. Like so many small businesses, the bakery is suffering during the pandemic. You can check out their goodies on Instagram, and in these times, even social media support is helpful.

LadyLeeManila is sharing some delicious chocolate cupcakes and marbled brownies. Yum.

Sarah at Art Expedition has baked a beautiful flour-less hazelnut cake from her grandmother’s recipe. It looks delicious and is all the more special for being part of the thread that binds generations of women together.

Jo at Restless Jo is enjoying a luscious-looking carob and orange cake and a rather yummy-looking filled doughnut.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind has made a delicious platter that includes fresh fruit and some cheesy Vegemite crackers. For everyone who doesn’t know about Vegemite (or its rivalry with Marmite), you have to read the comments on Tracy’s post.

Del at Curls and Skirls has made a delicious spice cake, and is trying out a cornmeal cookie recipe. It’s wonderful,how bakers are being so inventive in the face of the flour shortages.







Old thingamajig. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I love old machinery. Wheels, cogs, bolts and rust; it’s a dream to photograph.

I love words like flywheel, crankshaft and torque. But no matter how many times well-meaning mechanically minded friends have tried to explain transmission systems and gearing ratios, it’s still all geek to me. So I fall back on a communication system that relies heavily on lots of arm-waving, pleading looks and references to “like, you know the big round thingamajig that sits on the whatsit. You know, the one with the little doodads attached.”

You understand, don’t you?


Whatsit from a doohickey. Image: Su Leslie 2020


Detail of thingamy from whatchamcallit. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Ragtag Daily Prompt | thingamajig

Film Friday: The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter


Movie poster: The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter. Image: IMBd

Revisiting Twenty Feet from Stardom for last week’s Film Friday, got me thinking about other documentaries that focus on women’s lives. And that led me to The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter , the 1980 debut film of American director Connie Field.

I first saw the film in 1986; a feminist film watched through the specific lens of my own academic work on feminist film-making. It’s also an historical documentary, so the potential for an on-going love affair with this movie was there from the beginning.

Rosie tells the story of the women who kept American manufacturing going during World War II when most of the male workforce was in the military.

When the United States joined the war in December 1941, it’s army (including the National Guard) numbered fewer than 400,000 men. By the end of WWII, over 16 million Americans had served in the military during the conflict.

The vast majority of those who either joined up or were conscripted had peacetime jobs that still needed to be done; and in addition, the war itself created massive demand in manufacturing — everything from bullets to warships.

Two and a half million women from all walks of life were persuaded by Government campaigns to take on jobs that had never before been regarded as suitable for the “fairer sex”. Nicknamed “Rosie the Riveter” or sometimes “Wanda the Welder”, they found themselves in munitions factories and shipyards working under extreme conditions, with the additional pressure of knowing that if their handiwork failed, it could mean death for servicemen overseas — including their own fathers, husbands and sons.

The clip below gives you an idea of how the government campaign was framed. The sexism is excruciating  … “after a short apprenticeship a woman can operate this press as easily as a juice extractor in her own kitchen.”

The film focuses on the experience of five “Rosie’s”; setting contemporary interviews with the now older women, alongside archive footage. The effect is both exhilarating and sad.

For many, even while they were paid around half as much as male employees, it was still an opportunity to earn far more than they ever could in traditional female occupations. And over time they grew in confidence and experienced a camaraderie and pride in their work that they would never know again.

But the film makes clear that they also faced discrimination; particularly the women of colour. This intensified when it became clear just how good the women were at their jobs. Not only that, but women workers were also expected to work long hours in a factory and still go home and do the “second shift” looking after their families.

But perhaps worst of all, they were seen as  “temps”, expected to meekly go back to low-wage sewing, waitressing and domestic service when the men came home.

As one of the Rosie’s, Lola Weixel said:

I was proud that I was in the war against Fascism, and I was very aware of that every day, every minute. As a woman, I was doing something that other women felt strange about; and some men were outraged and some were amused. I still felt very womanly. And whatever I was before, I felt that I could be strong and capable and responsible for other peoples’ lives. I was aware of that then.I thought that all this was going to continue after the war. I thought that this was just a prelude to a lifetime of productive work. It was a shock to me when I realized that that was not going to be so.


After the war, when it became clear that many women wanted or needed to remain in the jobs they had done so well, the Government propaganda machine went into overdrive, with pseudo-science its main weapon. Suddenly, women who went out to work were guilty of terrible child neglect. The country was in danger of an epidemic of delinquency — which could only be solved by women returning to their traditional nurturing role!

I’ve seen The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter a few times; though not recently. It is available to stream, so that’s likely to change soon.

My main criticism was always that the five Rosie interviewees were filmed without real context; they were such intelligent, articulate women I wanted to know more about their post-war lives.

But a film can’t do everything, and what it does do is shine a light on a really important moment in women’s lives. And it does so with compassion, intelligence, humour and some really catchy music. Cue Rosie the Riveter (1942; Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb)


About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting the latest post by Darren and Sarah.