Monday, 31 March 2008
Saturday, 29 March 2008
Why not join in, wherever in the world you are. Perhaps light some candles and enjoy a candlelit dinner, take a long, candlelit bath, or go to bed early with that special someone. There are lots of creative ways to spend an hour of darkness!
I have decided to pass this award onto some relatively new blog friends, some of who are also fairly new bloggers. The people I am passing this award onto are (dum-de-dah):
Joyce, The Secret Gardener
Tracy at Sunny Corner Farm
Tracy at Beyond My Picket Fence
Missy at Chloe's Corner and More
Emma at It's a Mum's Life
Thursday, 27 March 2008
While my afternoon was spent in my grubbiest gardening gear, my morning was spent at the hairdresser with my 11 year old daughter.
I love going to the hairdresser. My hairdresser has chairs with little moving massage buttons for when we get our hair washed. My daughter and I sit, side by side, having our heads massaged, washed and otherwise anointed, while our backs are soothed by those delightful, reclining chairs. My hairdresser also has a cappuccino machine, and lots of lovely, gossipy magazines to read.
As I don't colour my hair (it's a natural dark red) I don't have to visit my hairdresser very often, but when I do I wish I did have more reasons to visit. I never need to tell her what to do either; I let the magnificent Maria decide and she unfailingly does a great job. Today I had my shoulder length hair cut into a short bob with a little layering. Tres chic!
Oh, before I forget, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing The Other Boleyn Girl, and recommend it. The lead performances and sets were wonderful. My only criticism is that the film barely acknowledges the wider political and historical events taking place at the time. For example, Anne Boleyn, I understand, had spent some years at the French court and was instrumental in smoothing Anglo-French relations once she became queen, yet none of that is mentioned. I am sure that Henry the Eighth had more on his mind (at least some of the time) than his latest, err, conquest.
images are from www.allposters.com
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
I feel the same way, not because of snow, but because of the drought that has turned my front lawn into dust. Watering grass is banned in Melbourne, so it is rare to see the lush expanses of green that you can find in Australia's more northern cities.
However, last night it rained, and I believe more is to come, so I spent my morning digging up grass runners that have been spreading into the garden beds in my backyard, and planting them out in the dirt-that-is-the-lawn in our front yard.
Before I go, I'd like to share the recipe for "Leeks and Rice" that I mentioned on Easter Sunday. The recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and it is absolutely delicious. It is a lovely, lighter alternative to a risotto, and makes an excellent side dish. It is also a good choice if you are feeding vegans as it is dairy, egg and meat free.
This is what it looks like, served with grilled salmon and some of my homegrown tomatoes.
And here is the recipe
Leeks with Rice
1/2 cup Italian risotto or any medium grain rice
1/2 cup (120 ml, 4 fl oz) olive oil
1- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a wide pot, combine the leeks and 3 cups of water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the leeks are tender. Add the rice, oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and another ½ cup (4 fl oz) of boiling water. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring now and then for another 15 minutes, or until the rice is just tender. Serve hot. Serves 4.
image of lawn mower is from www.allposters.com
Sunday, 23 March 2008
This morning, my husband and I were awakened to the sound of very excited voices downstairs. For while we were asleep, or so it seems, packages had appeared on our kitchen table. As a centrepiece there was a large basket filled with wrapped Easter gifts from my mother. Moreover, in each bowl (the table was set for breakfast), there were some smaller packages, and Easter eggs in several different sizes. Each child received one of these sweet ceramic eggcups, although as you can see, most of the chocolate eggs that were in them have disappeared.
My youngest son is convinced that the Easter bunny has been, while the older ones keep mum (largely because their mouths are full of chocolate).
I was given this dark chocolate Easter bilby by my sweet husband, who knows dark chocolate is my favourite. Bilbies are an endangered native Australian marsupial and a few years ago some clever person had the idea of marketing chocolate bilbies at Easter to raise money for the Save The Bilby Fund. My bilby came with some extra little eggs, though of course bilbies don't lay eggs (unlike our platypuses and echidnas).
During the service a young girl of 18 was baptised by full immersion. She was given her baptismal certificate by an elderly gentleman who was baptised on Easter Sunday 1943. Beautiful and so lovely to see traditions continuing.
I had to stagger upstairs for a siesta after eating all of this food, but it was worth it!
Friday, 21 March 2008
For me, Good Friday is the saddest day of the year, as I remember the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
true public holiday, like Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, when almost all businesses shut including the big shopping centres (an increasing rarity).
Many people who don't usually go to church will attend a service on Good Friday, and many will also choose to eat fish for their evening meal. Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday) is one of the busiest days of the year for fishmongers.
On Good Friday each year I make a double batch of Hot Cross buns to last us over the Easter weekend. They take a few hours, on and off, to make, but I enjoy the meditative slowness on this, the most sacred of days.
Here is the recipe I used today, which is a combination of three other recipes. These quantities make 12.
These buns are delicious toasted once they are a day or two old.
Hot Cross Buns
4 cups plain flour
2 x 7g (1/4 oz) sachets dried yeast or 30g (1 oz) fresh yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 t cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (a commercial blend or any combination of candied citron, raisins, currants, glace cherries and sultanas)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain flour
4 to 5 tablespoons water
1/3 cup water
1 t gelatine
2 tablespoons sugar
Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spices, salt and dried fruit in a large bowl. Heat milk for 1 minute, or until lukewarm. Add warm milk and eggs to currant mixture and mix with a wooden spoon, finishing with your hands to make a soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
Grease a large baking tray. Punch dough down to its original size and knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even portions and form each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with a damp tea towel. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Preheat oven to 190°C (380 F).
To make flour paste, mix flour and water in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Using a piping bag or platic bag with one corner snipped off, pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until buns are golden brown.
To make glaze: Place water, gelatine and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Brush warm glaze over hot buns.
This is what they look like straight out of the oven with their glossy glaze.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
I have dried beans from the garden in a saucer on my kitchen bench. They are scarlet runner beans and I think they are the prettiest of beans with their purple and black splodges.
My little boy and I even spent some time this morning frolicking amongst the autumn leaves on the footpath outside our house.
Monday, 17 March 2008
Today is going to be another scorcher. The weather bureau predicts 39 degrees C (102 F).
Last night I was grumpy and miserable. I was just so tired of the heat, and angry that my garden is dying through lack of rain and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
Self-pity is not a productive emotion, is it? I gave myself a good, hard shake and told myself that I have to look at the heat as an opportunity and even a blessing, not the soul-destroying monster I usually regard it as.
So, this morning I rose early with the intention of washing all the household bedlinen and towels, and especially those things that normally take a long time to dry. It is 10 am and two loads are already out on the line, with a third on its way. (By the way, if you currently use a clothes dryer and would like to learn how to hang your washing outside, here is a tutorial I wrote last year.)
I also think I might take the opportunity to cut some of the lavender that has dried naturally on the bushes along our driveway, and turn them into some lavender sachets.
By 3 pm I am sure I will feel like screaming at the heat again, but at least the day will have been productive!
Just thought I'd show you the first Queensland Blue pumpkin I have harvested. I grew it from seed having had no success in previous years from seedlings. There are plenty more where this baby came from, and I also have all the Grey pumpkins I have harvested over the past few weeks. If only it were cool enough to cook anything with them!
Missy at Chloe's Corner and More has asked for pictures of our chickens (or choockens as my youngest calls them).
Here is Miss Honey
and here is Feather Brown. They are just about to celebrate their first birthday, except I don't know exactly what day they were born as we bought them at six weeks of age. Imagine having to wear those thick feather coats in all this heat!
Finally, early this morning I made a nice big batch of chocolate blancmange. This lovely, gooey, chocolate, custardy pudding is a perfect way to end a meal on a hot day. I often package it up in little containers for my children to take to school. It is very similar to pre-packaged kiddie snacks such as Yogo that can be bought at the supermarket. And with home-made at least you know what the ingredients are.
1 L (2 US pints, 35 fl. oz) milk
1 C sugar
3/4 C cornflour (cornstarch)
1/3-1/2 C unsweetened cocoa (depending on how chocolatey you like it)
1 t vanilla
Blend cornflour with a little of the milk in a small bowl or cup. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk continuously until mixture turns thick and starts to bubble (it will look like bubbling lava). Remove immediately from heat and pour into one large bowl or individual serving dishes. Chill. Delicious with a little whipped cream on top.
Tip: To avoid a skin developing on top of the cooling blancmange, cover with plastic wrap with the wrap touching the blancmange.
This recipe links to Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes
Sunday, 16 March 2008
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Friday, 14 March 2008
Yesterday was just as hot, and the heat wave apparently has several days left in it. Yikes!
My poor little bantams are wandering around the backyard panting. I hate it when chickens pant. I have put bowls of water in all their favourite shady spots but mostly they are too dopey to drink. Even when I refresh the water. They just like panting, I guess.
Today is also my eldest son's 14th birthday. Yes, I know, three birthdays in less that two weeks. Does your family have a run of birthdays like that, then nothing for ages? Our next birthday is in September, 6 months away.
While I normally give my family their favourite foods all day on their birthdays, I had to draw the line today. No baking. My kitchen faces west and is a furnace, even with the outside blinds down. Our upstairs is air-conditioned but unfortunately that is not where I do my cooking. So we are having homemade burgers for the birthday dinner with some expensive ice creams (Drumsticks, currently on sale at Coles) for dessert. A good hot weather compromise, I think!
Today I've done a spot of googling, looking for recipes for Southern Iced Tea. People in the southern states of the US apparently live on the stuff over their hot summer months. And we're even further south, right? So it should be just as refreshing here. My husband really likes iced tea, so this should be a pleasant surprise for him when he arrives home from work.
I combined a few ideas I read and here is what I did.
Sweet Southern Iced Tea
3 family teabags or 5 ordinary ones (Nerada is a good, pesticide-free Aussie brand)
1 L (2 pints) water
1 C sugar
Boil the water and add teabags and sugar. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove teabags and pour into a large jug (I used a 2 litre Tupperware jug but most recipes say to use a 1 US gallon jug -- about 3.7 L) and top up with more water. Chill. Serve over ice with lemon slices and a mint garnish.
According to my reading, some iced tea makers prefer to boil their sugar into a syrup before adding it, and some add a pinch of baking (bicarb) soda to the water.
I don't pretend to be an expert at making iced tea as I am mostly a coffee drinker, so if you have any tips to improve this recipe, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.
image is from www.googleimages.com
Thursday, 13 March 2008
A couple of readers have requested that I publish in full the poem from which I quoted yesterday, "My Country", by Dorothea Mackellar.
The second second stanza is probably the most well-known piece of poetry in Australia. Most Australian children will at one time or other have to memorise and perform all or part of Mackellar's poem -- at least they did when I was at school!
"My Country" was written in 1904, when the 19 year old poetess was homesick in London. It was first published as "Core of My Heart" in the London Spectator. At that time Australian Federation was a mere three years old and most Anglo-Australians still regarded England as 'home'.
Miss Mackellar, however, was part of a new generation who saw Australia as her true and only home.
Here is the poem in its entirety, and it's enough to bring tears to the eyes of even the most jaded and cynical Aussie.
- The love of field and coppice
- Of green and shaded lanes,
- Of ordered woods and gardens
- Is running in your veins.
- Strong love of grey-blue distance,
- Brown streams and soft, dim skies
- I know, but cannot share it,
- My love is otherwise.
- I love a sunburnt country,
- A land of sweeping plains,
- Of ragged mountain ranges,
- Of droughts and flooding rains.
- I love her far horizons,
- I love her jewel-sea,
- Her beauty and her terror
- The wide brown land for me!
- The stark white ring-barked forests,
- All tragic to the moon,
- The sapphire-misted mountains,
- The hot gold hush of noon,
- Green tangle of the brushes
- Where lithe lianas coil,
- And orchids deck the tree-tops,
- And ferns the warm dark soil.
- Core of my heart, my country!
- Her pitiless blue sky,
- When, sick at heart, around us
- We see the cattle die
- But then the grey clouds gather,
- And we can bless again
- The drumming of an army,
- The steady soaking rain.
- Core of my heart, my country!
- Land of the rainbow gold,
- For flood and fire and famine
- She pays us back threefold.
- Over the thirsty paddocks,
- Watch, after many days,
- The filmy veil of greenness
- That thickens as we gaze…
- An opal-hearted country,
- A wilful, lavish land
- All you who have not loved her,
- You will not understand
- though Earth holds many splendours,
- Wherever I may die,
- I know to what brown country
- My homing thoughts will fly.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
I took these photos last week after a brief shower which gave the garden a little refreshment.
Overall, however, the whole garden is depressingly dry and ugly at the moment. Our front 'lawn' is dirt with deep cracks, and there are several dead trees that need to be removed.
We are desperate for some real rain, as we are in our twelfth straight year of drought here in Melbourne. The country people have it much, much worse, as they try to raise crops and lifestock under these conditions.
Please pray for good autumn and winter rains for the southern areas of Australia, from Perth in the west through South Australia to parts of Victoria and NSW which missed out on any significant summer rain. Many of these areas are suffering from extreme heat as well, despite it now being autumn. Our water storage levels continue to fall.
Ironically, many folks in the tropical north have suffered from devastating floods over summer. Please pray for them too as they seek to reorganise their lives.
Australia is a wonderful, wonderful country, but we do suffer from extreme weather conditions!
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
I had planned this to be a pretty post then felt I was portraying something that just isn't real, whereas the drought is very, very real and confronts us every day.