Weird and Wonderful

As we return to Term 3, I am always grateful that we are able to get away from work – both at home and school. It always seems that school work is like house work – sometimes appreciated, greatly needed and never done!

Having returned from visiting my mother in Brisbane and planned and prepared my lessons for the next few days, I have a little time to indulge in my thoughts. Our short stay in the northern sun rendered its benefits, both physically and emotionally. As promised I now share with you some of our wacky sights.

Houses on stilts
Queensland homes are renowned for being perched on stilts. This not only provides much needed ventilation but also a safe, high aspect during floods! However, this poor house is awaiting its much needed renovation.

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World Expo ’88
Often referred to as Brisbane’s “coming of age” event. It was 184 days of spectacular, multi-national events. The following statistics are courtesy of http://www.foundationexpo88.org/trivia.html and the newly refurbished Brisbane City Council Museum.

Did you know that…..

19,000 meals were served every hour every Expo day, including…

Over 16 million scoops of ice-cream
17 million hamburgers
1.4 million hot dogs
5 million chicken nuggets
8 million buckets of hot chips
340 trawler loads of seafood
90,000 kgs of spaghetti
the equivalent of 650 family swimming pools of beer

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Some of the wacky street entertainment, above.

The Banyan Tree
More commonly known as the Moreton Bay Fig, it casts an eerie sight on the road side.

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I have to end on my favourite topics at the moment – letter boxes. See my post A Lively Letter
We enjoyed our few days, especially visiting the Queensland Art Gallery and Antiques centre and of course, chatting with mum and visiting “old” friends.

We are now back home on the Mount and preparing for some brisk weather after our soirée in the sun. To all my northern hemisphere readers – indulge in your brilliant summer!

Tea Cups and Kisses

There are times when distance certainly makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. For the women in our family, we are separated by many kilometres up and down the eastern coast. Daughter Number One in regional South East Queensland and Daughter Number Two in Sydney. As for my own mum, she is in Brisbane and still living in the house in which I grew up.

We are all busy living our lives. However, I know that we often miss being able to just come together and chat over a cup of tea or go for a shop or simply take a quiet walk in the garden.

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The month of May is traditionally the month when we commemorate our mothers or significant women in our lives. The month of May for me has become a reflective month. On Mothers’ Day it will not be possible for me to spend the day with any of them. I am grateful, however, that I will spend it with other mothers.

The month of May is also the month of my own grandmother’s birth. We had a very close relationship and she was a great source of home grown advice. Her cooking and baking accomplishments are still vivid in my mind. I recall her poppy seed cakes, the traditional palacinke and the plum gnocchi – north east Italian specialties – a legacy of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. The kitchen utensils she brought with her from Fiume hang in my kitchen as a constant reminder of our connectedness.

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One of her favourite pots was the aluminium jug she lined with brown paper to fill with squid and chips! Cleaning squid in the kitchen sink became a much talked about event usually eliciting shrieks of horror as we watched her poke out the eyes of the squid with her sewing scissors! The old, yellow sink would turn a deep purple from the accidentally punctured ink sac. After much rinsing, the tentacles and the translucent tubes would be coated in white flour and shallow fried – only a few at a time! I can still hear her cautionary words! I was delighted when Daughter Number One completed the same nifty feat in my kitchen sink last Christmas! This time, adding salt and pepper instead and, thankfully, no squid ink in sight!

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My own mother, now in her eighties, would always be counted on to assist when one of us were ill or in need of a last minute baby sitter. She and daughter number one were particularly close those many years ago.

The month of May is also my little granddaughter’s birthday. There is much to miss. In our technological world where we can Skye and talk and use fantastic APPs on our I-Pads we cannot touch, we cannot bake together, we cannot share a cup of tea or feel the gentle kiss of a child.

The month of May is also dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Whether or not you believe it adds depth to a month which is set aside to commemorate the mother.

Therefore, for the month of May, may I wish for

Many memories of good times together
United by those invisible bonds only mothers and their children have
May my daughters love as profoundly as they have been loved

Whether you can be together or not – Happy Mothers Day !

Thanks for all your gifts, love and kisses – from a distance. How do you commemorate your mother?

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Sign of the Times

I have always been a little concerned that we in Australia don’t really make a big deal of Easter. Aside from buying copious amounts of cheap chocolate we don’t afford the time leading up to Easter Sunday and indeed the Sunday itself the ritualistic treatment that we give Christmas. In European traditions and Christian traditions, Easter is in fact the most important time in the liturgical calendar. It is a time to review and renew; a time to tend to community obligations and a time to prepare that special gathering meal or give up meat products as a sign of respect for the Cross.

When my grandparents were alive they insisted that their Central European traditions were kept. Having arrived in Australia in 1949 at a time when “ethnic” was a word much maligned, they only had their memories and food traditions to keep them united. So, just before Good Friday, Nonno would pack his fishing basket and rods or crab pots and spend the night out fishing. He would often wake us in the middle of the night and cook the still live crabs. We would feast on them and make a huge mess in the little kitchen. That evening we would eat fried fish. On Easter Sunday they insisted on another special meal. More on this at a later post. The symbol of the Cross was always centre-most even in the food they prepared.

This week, one of my Year 10 classes made simple wooden crosses. They were very creative each adding their own special touch using wire or wool and painting each to reflect their own ideas.

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Later, they were asked to give this cross to someone they knew who needed some support or a kind word. Some kept them for themselves or took them home to their families. It led me to think of what we do as a community to support one another. Do we simply buy a a chocolate egg or bunny and give it over? Inspired by my neighbours – Alex and Naomi’s – endless generosity toward us – and wanting to prepare food to share which had a symbolic meaning, I set out this morning to make Hot Cross Buns.

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I’ve never made them but was willing to give them a go. (Sorry daughters for never giving them a go when you were little!) The Recipe I found was in my trusty Margaret Fulton cook book, circa 1978.

20130329-145742.jpg Mixing the flours, I used one cup spelt flour to three cups plain white flour, crumbling 50g butter into it and the adding warm milk and water with some dried yeast. Colin provided some of the kneading power – a good way to de-stress from a busy Term.

20130329-150025.jpg Then letting the dough to rise followed by the exciting shaping into balls and letting rise again.

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The recipe then require this dough to be rolled out into a half inch rectangle, cut into sixteen and then shaped into balls.

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It was at this point when it suddenly occurred to me that I would need to pipe a cross on each as the recipe required. A cross. “
Make a slight indentation in the shape of a cross on the top of each bun with a sharp knife”
instructed the recipe. A sharp knife.

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Is this what it felt like, the nails, the sword?

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All those mass produced buns that we consume without ever thinking of their symbolic meaning. Good Friday is the right day to reflect on what we do, the abundance we consume – a sign of the times, as they say.

Fifteen minutes in a hot oven and they were done. Glazed with some sugar syrup, they looked the part and tasted even better!

The process of preparing these had no short cuts. There are never any short cuts when it comes to tradition or to life itself. It is the giving to others which resonates at this time. While we were baking this morning both my neighbours popped in to say hello. Naomi with a very special fish pie – I need to get that recipe and Alex with an invitation to share baklava this afternoon. It is in the simple sharing of food that we honour each other; it is in the recognition of each other and the individual and often hidden “crosses” which we all have to bear which makes us truly alive.

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How is your Easter long week end going to be and what are your traditions at this time?

Sydney’s Inner West

A 7:30am flight and in less than 100 minutes, I am in Sydney with Daughter Number Two for the weekend. Luckily, I packed my pink umbrella as the heavens unleashed a torrent as the plane taxied in. A short drive and we find ourselves in Sydney’s Inner West, only five kilometres from the busy city heart. Today’s humid, wet and slippery conditions did not dampen this precincts eclectic mix of fashion, novelty craft stores, tree lined streets, turn of the century cottages and alternative cafes and restaurants.

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Now here’s a question for you. Do you like buttons? If you are like us we are intrigued by their shapes, colours and applications. You would love this establishment!

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Dusty, Little Dog Number Three sat quietly out of the rain. Well actually here he is at his owners’ photographic, dark room and studio. This is their second studio and was once the Department of Civil Engineering building. It’s a great space for their photographic workshops and studio.

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Returning to Newtown in the evening, we ate dinner at a nifty Japanese restaurant where we ordered our meals on an I-pad!

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Hopefully the rain will ease tomorrow – good night – see you in the morning.

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Liebster Award Nominations

Although I have only been blogging since September, I have found it one of the most rewarding outlets for my writing and thoughts on gardening, travel, pets and the every day happenings of life. So it was with much amazement that our blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award. As a newcomer, I have been buoyed by the feedback and kind words of my regular followers and visitors. My nominator was Nitty Gritty Dirt Man, whose blog I follow from the other side of the world, and one which never ceases to inspire with its heartfelt, entertaining and socially aware commentary – danke schoen to you Kevin!

Continue reading

Pecker’s Christmas Present

With Christmas well and truly out of the way, it’s back to the garden and the chicken house. Our Christmas was wonderful with family and friends gathered together. Daughter Number One came down from the sub- tropics to join us and brought with her a delightful bronze rooster. We consumed too much lunch and lots of sweets.

20121226-155139.jpg I tried my hand at gingerbread stars!

20121226-155238.jpg A selection of sweets – I have such a “sweet tooth” – Mango and Passionfruit Pavlova, Summer Pudding, Chocolate Pear Tart, fresh fruit and a delicious Plum Pudding with Brandy Custard were served. The chickens didn’t have too many of these leftovers!
One of my early gifts this Christmas was from Daughter Number Two (I am not much into gifts really) but this was a garden rooster in memory of Pecker who died six weeks ago – a Sad Day post. He is made of tin and shows off fancy tail feathers. He came wrapped in a hessian blanket – just like the one we placed over Pecker to keep him warm.

20121226-160216.jpg He now sits on my winter wood heater.

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I guess the most enjoyable part of Christmas is in the giving. I loved giving goodies from my kitchen to my neighbours…

20121226-161459.jpg I made these to celebrate each of our little houses in the bush.
I hope you had a peaceful Christmas. It can bring out the best and the worst in people but it really is a time to stop and take stock of those who are with us and those who have gone before us. This year many of us have been touched in one way or another by loss – for us it was our beloved rooster Pecker. But we cannot be untouched by the unspeakable losses in Connecticut just before Christmas. We must mourn for these poor souls and for their families. Additionally, we must also care for our animals, our elderly, our earth and our selves. Above all else let us try to reflect on what is most important to us as humans, as stewards of our earth.

20121226-164126.jpg May we use the tools of our hands to benefit others and bring joy and warmth. Pecker’s Christmas Present is for all those who commemorate the simple life and for those who have left our lives but whom we remember with much joy.

The New Chicken House

As we continue to feel sorry for our Pecker, the Plymouth Rock rooster, we have plunged ourselves into working on the new chicken house. For many years we admired our neighbour’s little cubby which was built for their young daughters’ guinea pigs. His girls are now in their twenties and the house now has a new owner with new ideas for his garden. It was with much delight that we were informed that he no longer wanted the little house.

20121106-201451.jpg A working team was assembled to remove and reconstruct.

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20121106-202749.jpg While the workers dismantled, it was clear that somebody – me – needed to provide food for these hungry builders. The day called for a hearty spinach lasagne, a large salad and perhaps a crisp white wine. The weather is warming up quite nicely but it is still cool enough at night for a substantial meal.

20121106-203357.jpg Now we have the walls and floor stacked up like dominoes and the tin roof nestled under the lilac tree. The remaining chickens scratch and scrape round it and this afternoon’s view from the back deck summons us to dinner after a hectic day’s work.

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