the secondhand city

my new red lampshade

On Saturday afternoon Jemima and I took an emergency trip to the $2 shop on Station Street to pick up some prizes for party games. I’d forgotten to buy any when I did the supermarket run earlier in the day. We went on our bikes.  Down Rushall Street.  I spotted a red lampshade on the side of the road, and said to Jemima,

‘Remind me to pick that up on the way home’.

And she did. And I did.  It was a little awkward to ride with, but not too bad (I am still on the lookout for a cool bike basket).

It inspired a bit of reorganising/reusing/redocorating.

I pulled out an old lamp base (which I have had forever.  Really.  I think I got it in my student days from somewhere). And added the shade to it.  I was happy enough with the combination. And when it was on the base you could see that the shade was actually in good nick. It sits straight.  The fabric is clean.  There are no underlying watermarks when the lamp is in use.  Perfect.

Then I hunted around for a home for it.   I tried it in a few places before settling on the bookshelf in the corner of our loungeroom that stores board games and videos (we still have them because we don’t scratch them) and DVDs and other bright and annoying stuff that hangs around and needs an accessible home in a house with children.


And then I moved this print by Monique Keel over the bookcase.  Because it was red too.  And I thought it would look good with the lamp shade.

It’s been in place a couple days now and I am very happy with the new arrangement.

Another corner sorted.  All thanks to a little red lampshade and a kind person who put it out on the street for someone else to use when they didn’t need it any more.

op shop beads

If you are not into rifling through other peoples old clothes (and I know that some people aren’t) then there are heaps of other things you can look out for at op shops.

One great thing is jewellery.

You never know what you will come across at the op shop in the way of beads and necklaces.

Whenever I go to the op shop with Elise she always seems to come away with necklaces that I covet. For example, she recently found this great Elk necklace at the op shop.  With a little bug on it.  It looks excellent on.

Today I have done a bit of a raid on Elise’s wardrobe to bring you some great op shop finds. And they all cost only a few dollars.

Her most recent purchase was the big cream flower necklace.  She had been admiring similar over-sized flower jewellery at the Rose Street Market in Fitzroy on a Saturday morning.

And what do you know … something just like it turns up at the op shop …

Surely this is inspiration for your next op shop visit?

my copy of the complete asian cookbook

I really love cooking, and a few years ago my sister decided to buy me ‘the best cookbooks ever’.  She looked online for a top 10 type list, found one she liked, and started buying them for me.  I have been searching online for the list she was working from, but can’t find it*.  Anyway, here we go:

I already had the snazzy hardcovers:

  • Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion
  • David Thompson’s Thai Food
  • Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest

She added to these with the paperbacks of:

  • Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food and
  • Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.

Next came:

  • Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

I LOVED these new books (more in another post), but on with the story I am telling …

She was then struggling.  She searched high and low for Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook but it was out of print. Next birthday she bought me a cookbook not on the list, and explained the drama.  Keep an eye out, she said.


The Complete Asian Cookbook

MY copy of The Complete Asian Cookbook

I found it!  … after about a year of looking in every op shop I entered (and about 6 weeks before the swanky NEW GORGEOUS HARDBACK EDITION was published).  It was at the Anglesea op shop, covered in a homemade plastic cover, and I bought it for only a couple of dollars.  I was SO excited.  What a coup!  It looked pretty tatty at first, but once I took the clear plastic cover off it was like a new book (well a new book published 30 odd years ago …).

I (and thus my family) abandoned our middle eastern/italian diet as Charmaine became my new best (cooking) friend.

That Christmas we were having a low key event (just my parents, my in-laws and Elise’s family) for dinner.  I thought ‘what a great opportunity to make Peking Duck from scratch, pancakes and all’ (thanks Clive for your help with those).

If you have attempted this you will understand why we ate dinner quite late.  The preparation went smoothly (if a tad messy with the red food dye – that stuff is lethal) the cooking was easy, but the whole ‘organisation at the end’ including the carving left a bit to be desired!  In saying this it really was super yummy, and nearly worth the effort.  I might even do it again one day (although definitely with less than 14 guests).

What I love about this cookbook though, Peking Duck included, is that it was written before every ingredient under the sun was available and so the recipes taste just as you remember when you last ate them at the chinese/malaysian/indonesian/korean restaurant, but they are made with really straight forward ingredients.

For example, the other week we had no food in the cupboard.  I looked in the freezer and there was a bag of frozen prawns and some green beans.  I proceeded to look up ‘beans’ and found ‘green, with prawns’.  Tick, tick.

That night we ate Saewoo Bokum, with rice … a great, simple, subtle and tasty Korean dish that I would highly recommend any night you only have your freezer for inspiration.

Here’s the recipe (page 448 in the 1977 edition).

Saewoo Bokum (green beans with prawns) – Serves 6

  • 500 grams small prawns
  • 500 grams green beans
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of toasted, crushed sesame seeds

Shell and de-vein prawns, chop them roughly and set aside.  Top and tail the beans, remove strings with a sharp knife, cut into thin diagonal slices [or open the bag of prepared frozen beans all ready to go].  Heat oil in wok and stir fry the onion and prawns together for 2 minutes, add beans and stir fry for 3 minutes.  Add seasoning and mix well, cover and simmer on low heat for 6-8 minutes or until beans are just tender.  They must not be overcooked.  Serve at once with rice.

Delicious.  Thanks Charmaine!

* Elise has found the link to the article she used.  See her comment or click here.