23 December 2016

Holiday reading

Thank you for helping us welcome amazing Gracie into our lives. She's quite mischievous but utterly adorable, a giant personality in a tiny package.

This will be the last post of the year. It's been a tough year for me and I'll be pleased to see the end of it. I'll be back in January with new posts about cooking and baking, living a good life, cutting back, budgeting and the work we all do in our homes. Thank you so much for your visits and comments during the year. Your comments convince me that even after almost 10 years writing here, there are still things to say and connections to be made with readers all around the world. Thank you for being part of my day and adding your voice to a growing number of people who realise that our world has changed and we have to change with it.

I hope you have a wonderful time over the holidays and that you rest and take time to put your feet up and read a good book. If you're travelling, be careful, I want you to be here with me next year.  ♥︎ 🐾 ♥︎

Recycling in Sweden
Beginners Sewing Course - Day 1 - The Basics - you tube
Happiness in Australia
Happiness depends on health and friends, not money, says new study
Those who hate cleaning their oven will love this trick - you tube
Hanukkah recipes - 24 December
Christmas recipes - 25 December
Christmas leftover recipes
The lives they lived and the rooms they left behind. American readers will most likely know most of these people but even if you don't know them, this is interesting.
Eight things you need to do right now to protect yourself online
Is This the Top-Secret KFC Recipe?
The grief of losing a pet is traumatic and universal. So why don't we talk about it?
Arctic ice melt 'already affecting weather patterns where you live right now'
Science confirms turmeric as effective as 14 drugs



21 December 2016

Travelling around and coming home

I visited my dear friend Rose in her home town over the weekend. It was a long drive so I had a lot of time to think about Rose, my family, my online family, my home, little Gracie and what I want to do next year. I need to be alone when I think about important and complex issues and it takes me a long time to sort out how I feel and what I should be doing. But the end result for me is that I go forward with a clear plan in mind and, usually, the belief that I'm doing the right thing.

A nurse took a photo of us and when Rose looked at it she asked me to share it with you.

The afternoon I spent with Rose was a delight. She didn't know I was coming so when I walked in she was surprised. We talked all afternoon, we laughed and read some threads on the forum, Rose's mother, Mavis, and husband, Tony, came in for a short visit and we carried on chatting.  Rose is in a good room. It has a balcony and it overlooks the Pacific Ocean and although she is confined to bed she can look out onto the wide blue yonder.

A country pub in Queensland.

Many people have said that it was a long drive for such a short time but I don't look at my trip that way.  I believe that good friendships and family relationships need help to survive and flourish and when that happens, especially during difficult times, it strengthens the ties that bind more than anything else. I don't care how long it took, how difficult it was, how much it cost, it was worth it to be with Rose when she needed another friend at her side. I believe it was time well spent and that our friendship and the physical demonstration of it, will help her in coming days. It will help me too.

Rambling along the backroads is such an interesting way of travelling. You see people, animals and places you never see along busy highways. The interaction of people in and with their home towns is an inspiration to me. As you know, I often stay at home for weeks at a time so it is important for me to get out occasionally and experience community life as it unfolds. Driving through small towns and sometimes stopping to have a break or a cup of tea, gives me valuable time to observe ordinary folk like me going about their days. Seeing people out and about, sitting on verandahs, at the farm gate, shopping, gardening or playing with children in the yard confirms my belief that it is strong families who make a country strong and resilient. And as I travel onwards, it reminds me that home is the most important place for all of us and that returning home is an important and significant part of every journey.

And when I returned home, Hanno and Jamie were here and when Gracie saw me she ran around with her ears down and tail up, making funny noises and not really knowing what to do next.  I slept well that night. I've spent time with a good friend, looked around this great country of ours and had many hours to think of today and tomorrow.  What had been unclear in my mind about the coming months is now clear, I have a firm plan for the coming year and I feel enthusiastic and primed for what's ahead.


14 December 2016

Sewing, baking and travelling

Hello my friends. I've had a busy week here working on Christmas sewing, mending, gardening and ripping out most of our tomato bushes, tidying up my workroom, cooking and baking. The main event though is preparing to drive to Wollongong to visit my dear friend Rose who is very ill.  Hanno will stay at home with Jamie and Gracie. Consequently, there will be no Weekend Reading this week because I haven't had time to do much reading. This will be my last post until mid next week.

A little bunny in sundress and undies for someone special.

I thought I'd share a very simple but versatile recipe with you today. It's something I whipped up during the week and it fed us for three meals.  It's a pastry-free quiche.  

The basic recipe is a mixture of: 
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  • 250ml (one cup) cream
  • crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper
Into that mix add whatever vegetables you have on hand that you like the taste of or need to use.  I had some asparagus that sat on top of the egg mix. In the egg mixture, pre-cooked in a frying pan, were:
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • parsley, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
but the choice of vegetables depends on what you have on hand. It will work with most vegies. Pour the mixture into an oven-proof container and bake in a 170C oven until it's golden brown on top and still has a slight wobble.

I also like to use cooked sweet potato or potato with a scattering of peas. It's delicious hot but I prefer it on the following days, cold from the fridge.  It would be an excellent lunch box meal because it travels well.  

Above is a photo of the last ginger syrup I made. I made an interesting discovery with this syrup. I left it on the stove top, covered in a saucepan, for 48 hours instead of the 24 hours I usually leave it. They were warm days. When I poured the liquid into the storage bottle I noticed a few bubbles and was pleased that it had started to ferment. After two days in the cupboard, there were more bubbles so I released the gasses in the glass bottle and moved it into the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. I always use plastic bottles when I make ginger beer. When I made it up and tasted it, it was delicious! It was smooth with a more complex, slightly alcoholic flavour than the ginger syrup I usually make. Now I have two bottles - one my usual syrup and one that has natural fermentation. I think I'll put in some more work on the next batch of ginger syrup and see where that takes me.

And finally, I realised a couple of days ago though that the second instalment of the Great British Sewing Bee wasn't shown here last Saturday, so I wrote to the TV channel and asked why.  Email back today says it continues this Saturday at 7pm. It will be followed by the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. If you live in Australia, was it on where you live?

Don't forget, I'll be away for a week. I'll see you next Wednesday.


9 December 2016

Weekend reading

Gracie with her favourite toy - a piece of linen.

I'm looking forward to my talk at the Caboolture Library today. There's a big crowd booked in and I hope that if you come along you introduce yourself. While I'm out I'll go into the mall πŸ˜³ to buy a couple of books. It's the only Christmas shopping I'll do in a shop. I'm hoping the rain stays away and it's not too humid so that I survive the shops and arrive at the library looking reasonable.

Thanks for your visits and comments this week. It is one of my weekly pleasures to read them all. ♥︎ 

The beauty of knitting
Pet sounds: why birds have much in common with humans
Dutch spiced biscuits (speculaas)

7 December 2016

Foxes and chickens

This is a cautionary tale about being over confident about providing a safe place in the backyard where chickens and pets live. I've always known that the most fundamental part of keeping animals is proving a safe place for them. We live in a small rural town at the end of a dead end street so we don't have a lot of passing traffic. The main threat here are the wild things that come into our yard or fly overhead.
We have a large backyard and that strip of trees along the back are growing on the side of a creek. That is where the foxes travel.  The lattice on the left, right near the house, was where Patrick was attacked.

As you know, we have a flock of chickens here that keep us in rich golden yolked eggs most of the year.  I've fallen into the habit of thinking the chooks need the most protection during the night. And we do get a lot of night visitors but most of them are harmless. I hear them out there most nights. They're looking for water, something to eat or a place to rest and I'm happy for them to find all of that here.

Patrick, our warrior chook.

A couple of days ago, Hanno and Gracie were sitting on the back verandah, I'd just let the chickens out to free range in the back yard and all was right in our world.  I came inside, Hanno yelled "FOX!" and in a few seconds, our beautiful Plymouth Rock hen, Patrick, was gone. The fox was gone too and the only thing left there was a spray of Patrick's feathers. Patrick was our fearless warrior chook. She was always the first one out the gate, she was always the first at the food trough, and she didn't flinch when I was convinced she was a he and named her Patrick.  πŸ˜‡

I called the local council and reported the fox attack to the Feral Animal Response Team, got some advice, requested the team visit our home to see if we could do anything else to deter foxes and started to think about living life without Patrick. The following morning, I let the chickens out later than normal to avoid having them roaming free when the fox did an early patrol. I checked the chicken run for signs of the fox and slowly opened the gate to the coop. The first chook out was Patrick!  She had a bite mark on the back, was missing a lot of feathers, but she was there, safe and almost sound. She must have escaped and run into a clump of close-growing palms and hid there until she felt safe enough to run back to the coop. Hanno didn't see her when he herded the flock in for the night.

The egg stealing goanna climbing over the old coop fence. Modifications were made after this.

That made me think about the other times we've had sudden attacks on our chooks.  One time a stray dog wandered in and because it was a very small dog, it got in through the gate. She killed three chooks.  Twice we've found pythons in the coop. Once a hen was sitting on the nest, the top of her body was wet, she was dead and we worked out that she'd been gobbled up by the snake but was too big to swallow.  Eagles have swooped in to take small chooks. We had a goanna lizard climb the coop fence to steal eggs. All day time attacks. The main threat is not at night here, it's during the day. I've stopped thinking that extra protection is necessary at night - the chooks are locked in then and they're fairly safe. No, here we have to remain on alert during the day too and now when I hear a chicken squark, I'm out there quick smart to see what's going on.

Patrick is okay at the moment but she's not out of the woods until that bite on her back heals. Chooks can die of shock a few days after a stressful event too, so I'm looking for those signs. But she seems fine this morning.

Are your chickens at risk too?

5 December 2016

The Great British Sewing Bee

I've never watched Game of Thrones, the Kardasians or a hundred other popular TV programs, but give me The Great British Sewing Bee and I'll be sitting there, glued to the screen, until the cows come home. This wonderful show started here last Saturday night with the first series. I've watched a few episodes on YouTube over the years but I've never seen the first series and I've never watched a full series. As is my habit, I don't watch live TV. I record what I want to watch and look at it later when I can fast forward through the mindless advertising, or stop at certain places to examine what's been done and listen, again, to an explanation.

Sewing Bee is a sister program of The Great British Bake Off. That program has lured non-bakers into baking and helped with the overdue resurgence of scratch baking and cooking. And just as in the Bake Off, Sewing Bee has an elderly woman and a younger man as judges. I love seeing older women on TV or anywhere in the public domain. There is so much wisdom there to be shared, and they usually do it with grace and tender care.

On the first Sewing Bee program, contestants were asked to cut an A line skirt using a pattern, change the neckline on a shop-bought blouse and make a casual dress to fit a live model. There were explanations about why, what and how all through the show, as well as the judging of each garment. There was also an excellent tutorial on how to make a laundry bag which demonstrated the ease of the process.  Watching competent sewers choose fabric, pin and cut darts, insert invisible zippers and listen to them discuss why they do what they do, is inspiring and thought-provoking.  It was wonderful seeing the detail of the stitching, the seams and darts being constructed and the fabric patterns up close on the big screen. I also loved looking at the personal bits and pieces each sewer brought with them and how they organised their sewing spaces.

When you see expertise, creativity and work of this standard, it's so inspiring you just want to get your scissors and needles out and start a project.  I often wonder why it is so that we are often inspired and motivated to get up and work when we see others working. It must have something to do with our collective past of working in groups to survive.  Whatever it is, I hope some of the people here who don't sew watched the program, or may have watched it in the past. If ever there was a program to light the flame of sewing inspiration and see the end results of methodical creation, it is this program.

I'm comforted by shows like this. They're heartwarming, generous and valuable to those of us who aspire to live by the work we do with our own hands. They show me that what many of us are doing in our lives is becoming increasingly popular and that mindfulness, appreciation of simple things and traditional skills are needed in today's world just as much as they ever were.

Did you see it?


2 December 2016

Weekend reading

This WAS predicted by Hanno, MrHM and others πŸ˜‰ - I'll be speaking at the Caboolture Library next Friday, 9 December at 12 noon. Bookings are necessary and can be made here - the talk is free. Please come along if you can, I'd love to meet you. This WILL be the last one. I agreed to this talk because the Caboolture Library is celebrating it's fifth birthday, they have wonderful people there and I wanted to be part of the celebrations. 🎈

Here is Gracie trying to work out what I was doing with the camera. She'd been playing with her favourite toy - a three metre piece of linen that we call her "ribbon". She runs all over the place dragging it and trying to entice someone to pull on the other end.  Naturally, there are two suckers here who are happy to oblige.

Anthony Bourdain's Raw Craft on Tailoring - YouTube
If you're struggling with the Christmas season, there is a complete 28 day challenge on the forum, written by Sherri, that many members have been helped by.  It is a simple step-by-step guide to how to prepare yourself and your home for the holidays. Click here to go there.
7 alternative baking flours and how to use them
There are hundreds of small black mosquitoes here since the rain and we've got mosquito coils burning when we sit outside.  I did a bit of research and found this: Are mosquito oils making us sick?

Thank you for the beautiful and interesting comments you leave here during the week. Hanno and I enjoy reading them very much.

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