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Friday, December 31, 2010

A new family member has arrived!

Today my nephew Stuart and his wife became parents for the first time with the birth of Harper Eve. She was born 12.04pm and weighed 3.275 kg. DH and I now have had 4 great nieces born in 2010! And we are so thrilled !!

Proud dad, Stu with his baby daughter, Harper!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I learn a lot from blogging...

I've learned a lot recently from reading other people's blogs. I've got new recipes to try, heaps of sewing and knitting ideas, discovered just how cold it can get in the US, got ideas for gardening, found about Charley Harper and have discovered that the plants we call  'hippeastrums' here in Australia are also known as Amaryllis in the US! (And those are just a few of the things I've learned)

These 2 photos show some hippeastrums which were on display and for sale in Holland at some gardens known as Keukenhof. They were all magnificent specimums but I resisted temptation to buy any as I would have had no chance of bringing them back into Australia.

This is a view of a small part of the gardens at Keukenhof which is outside Amsterdam. The gardens are only open for 6 weeks in the year; obviously when the tulips and other flowers are in bloom.

Closer to home than the Netherlands here are some other gardens we have visited.

This photo shows some of the garden beds at Floriade 2009 in Canberra. This amazing festival is held annually (Sept/Oct ) and I had always dreamed of seeing it first hand and last year DH made the dream come true. I wasn't disappointed! The gardens cover acres/hectares of Centennial Park and none of the photos we took do it justice.

Even closer to home, the photo above is of part of the gardens in Toowoomba's annual Carnival of Flowers, held every September.
One day I plan to sort through all the photos we've taken and make a calendar of the gardens we have visited. We took photos of a number of other gardens when we went to the UK and Europe in 2008, as well as some in NZ and Norfolk Island.

De-cluttering continues...

Yesterday I found a large plastic box on the bottom shelf of the built ins in my sewing room which was full of school 'stuff' left after I sorted out 4 boxes of school related items about 4-5 years ago. This time I decided to throw out the worksheets for assorted year levels that I had kept. This resulted in a small 'mountain' of now empty plastic sleeves as I decided that I would only throw out the sheets inside the plastic. I made another pile which contained items that my neighbour's grandson may like, art projects, books, stickers etc. Another pile was made of books for the charity bin and another pile was things I would keep. (thankfully very very small!) Another pile was my 'throw out' pile. Now my 'keeping' pile has been placed in a box which has already been packed with items that I brought home from my classroom, soooo... I now have a whole shelf which is empty in my sewing room which means I can put away some of the clutter on my sewing table!

So that means I have decluttered 3 'areas' and that is a good start. Early this year, I colour coded my yarns and fabrics and put them into zippered sweater bags and sorted my sewing accessories and put them into various containers. At that time (January 2010) we knew that we needed to 'free up' another bedroom as one daughter was coming back from the UK and even though she had lived with her mother before she worked OS, that was no longer possible. The room was absolutely shocking because, as well as my sewing equipment being on a table in there, the room had become a dumping ground for all members of the family. I spent hours and hours sorting out things and eventually cleared enough to have a made up bed ready but really very little or no space for Meg to put her own belongings. Then her sister moved out and we had a large bedroom spare but it was quickly occupied by another daughter who had come home for some TLC after a particularly trying time in her personal life. DH and I are at present on our own and will continue to de-clutter our 'stuff'!

Today I also did some scanning of some magazine pages today as the mags were from the library and are due back tomorrow. The use of the photocopier at work I'll really miss as the scanner takes a lot longer and there is no A3 size on it. So I've copied a knitting pattern or two and 2 quilting ideas.

Talking of work, last night I finally did a task that I've been putting off for my teacher registration! Normally you just pay the fees but this year they (the Queensland College of teachers) are tying registration to professional development completed. Full-timers have to do 30 hours per year. As a .6 I had to do 18 hours. The QCT had been sending us letters and emails discussing this PD etc and I was of the opinion that it would be complicated to re-register. I have to re-register as technically I'm on leave not retired. Time was running out to register so last night I made my reluctant self re-read all the letters etc and I went online. The site wouldn't accept my password, and even though the site indicated my password had been emailed to me after my request it did not arrive. No panic! remember I'm more laidback now that I'm almost retired but it would cost extra $$ if I couldn't register by 31st. Luckily I found in one of the letters that they had reassigned me a new password. So when I finally got into the site, it took me just over 5 minutes, including a redirection to pay the fees! No justification or filling out forms regarding my PD just the somewhat gentle threat of a possible audit of my paperwork showing what training I'd completed. All that procrastination!!! I could have done the re-registering before Nov 15 and have been in the draw for an iPad for heaven's sake!!!! lol

Waiting for the water taxi to head over to St Marco Square. We were amazed by the obvious complete lack of O.H. and S!!!
DH and I went out today to the movies. We saw 'The Tourist'. I loved every minute of it...pure escapism with the added bonus of beautiful Venice being the setting!
The characters in the movie tended to use the faster water taxis! DH and I (in the aqua hat) enjoying a gondola ride with others on our tour.

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp's characters went to a function at the Dogue's palace; we just had a tour!

The scenery in the movie was delightful and I couldn't resist turning on the portable hard drive and looking back at our photos of Venice. Great memories!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Playing with my new 'toys'...

Another lovely, leisurely day planned for today!
This morning I decided to use my new knitting swift and wool winder. I have been finding it quite tiring in my shoulders winding skeins of yarn into balls so was thrilled when Gabrielle from a local yarnstore had swifts and wool winders in stock. Her prices were extremely reasonable compared to some of the online knitting shops I'd looked at. DH was thrilled as he then wanted to buy me these two items for Christmas, as he had been stumped at what to buy me.

At first my ball of yarn looked a bit wonky!

As I got the 'rhythm' right, the shape of the ball improved

This lovely yarn came in a skein that was nearly 2' or 60cm wide! A big job by hand!

Six months ago I'd never heard of a 'swift'! This one worked a treat and rotates easily, letting out more yarn to wind.
 I used all 100grams of yarn to make one ball. In hindsight probably 2x 50gram balls would have been better. I'll see how I go with using the ball; if it unravels too quickly I'll make the smaller balls in future. It was great fun and certainly less taxing on my shoulders and arms! I have lots of skeins waiting to be wound into balls!

It hasn't rained today so DH was out cleaning the boot of his car. It was getting very musty due to putting muddy and wet golf equipment in the boot. If I ever use that car you can guarantee that the boot(trunk) is full of grass and grains of dirt and sand and it doesn't have to have been raining so you can imagine how it would be after the rain we've had. One load of washing is out on the clothesline but the load I did late last night is still hanging on the drying frame which is in our family room at the moment. This sort of weather at this time of year, is just so similar to the weather conditions I can remember from my childhood. Parts of our state  are experiencing really bad flooding; the likes of which haven't been seen for 60 years or more. (no I don't personally remember back that far! lol)

These are the 2 boxes which contain the gifts I buy at any time thoughout the year but especially when we travel. All organised and inventoried for the new year. I have actually taken out something to wrap up and post to a former sister in law who is having a birthday.

I am so fortunate...

It's a lovely part of the year now...things have slowed right down and we're very relaxed and enjoying each day as it comes.
It has been raining here for just over a week now. Perfect weather for tidying up, sorting out, reading, crafts and just general daydreaming about up and coming craft projects and activities. I tend to buy gifts throughout the year and these gifts are kept in 2 big plastic storage tubs- one for general gifts and one for baby gifts. I've spent time over the past 2 days, sorting out items in these tubs and despite wrapping many up for gift giving in 2010, there were still many left. I have written a more up to date inventory for each box so the next time I need a present I'll know straight away if I already have something suitable. There were items in both boxes (they are about 94 litre size boxes) that I had forgotten I had. Realistically I don't really need to spend money buying much for quite a while. I have already made a vow that I would make more gifts from now on too!

A knitted 'washer' I made to go with Meg's set of towels her father and I bought her for christmas.

The big ball of Bernat knitting cotton
To me, Christmas is more about the 'giving' rather than gloating over a big booty of gifts. I feel very privileged when I think about the gifts that my family gave me. Each person obviously thought about my interests and organised gifts that reflect this thoughtfulness. I now have a wool winder and a swift which I am very grateful for as many of the yarns I buy these days are in skeins rather than balls. I also have a new book of knitting patterns with a wide range of projects. I plan to do some of the smaller projects as 'hot weather' knitting activities. I love the old 'Noah's Ark ' story and one of my daughters bought me a fabric panel of this old story. (She also bought me the sweetest set of N.A. cookie cutters and some seeds of old fashioned plants of my childhood) I love watching or reading 'Who done its' and one of our girls gave me two novels of that genre which also include knitting in the setting and plot.

My swift, wool winder, knitting book and 2 novels

The Noah's Ark fabric panel

We have had a lot of rain this year and I'm a keen gardener who's had a lot of weeding and pruning to do as a result. A few years ago my 2 daughters gave me a pair of purple 'crocs' which I had to promise them I would never wear in public (because they would be so embarassed! lol) places so I have always worn them as my 'yard shoes'. With the extra rain this year, the ground became extremely soggy and mud and water would get inside the crocs. So one of my step-daughters gave me a pair of gumboots. They are magnificent, as the photo below shows and they are my new 'yard shoes' when we've had lots of rain.
My new gumboots
So as you can see, I'm well and truly blessed with these thoughtful gifts and all will be so helpful in all my creative pursuits in the future, both craft wise and garden wise.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas

We have a family meal at our place on Christmas Eve. This allows family members to then meet up with friends and other family members on Christmas Day. This year was the smallest gathering we've had in ages but that worked out well, as since starting the medication the doctor prescribed, nearly a week ago, I've felt quite unwell. The family were brilliant as each brought a contribution to the meal. An unexpected last minute drop out was my brother's girlfriend. Her older male dog had taken ill and had to be rushed to the vet. My brother came on his own two hours late but it was relief to know that he and Myra were ok as I had started to worry that they had been in a car accident in the heavy rain driving down from Mt Nebo. Still sad news about the dog. I must try to find out the latest but the dog wasn't expected to last sad!!!
 The food is all prepared and DH and I are enjoying a drink on the veranda. We had a hot roast dinner this year as the weather has been quite mild with all this rain. The entree was prawns but these were delayed as they were H's contribution. So we had them as a second course I guess. Some of us managed to have dessert which was a fruit platter, plum pudding/custard/icecream . Truffles and mini Christmas puds were offered but there were very few takers.
My poor frazzled brother enjoying a late dinner.

My daughter Liz brought the spinach dip in the was very popular!

Liz and Jen

 Nikki took lots of photos for me
Present unwrapping; lots of lovely thoughtful gifts were given

The presents under the tree. This year it was my brother's turn to hand out the presents.

On Christmas Day we went to DH's brother and sister in law's place for lunch. The photo above shows some of Mary's decorations. It was a larger gathering of the  family including David's children and their children and Meg and Liz also attended.

Another little great-niece, little 6 week old Ashleigh celebrating her first Christmas.

Someone thought all his Christmases had come at once. Obviously the pantry door was left ajar and the lid on the dry cat food container was easy to get off.
We didn't even hear a noise of the cannister falling but even Eduardo knows when he's had enough; he stopped voluntarily!!! lol

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Busy, busy, busy...

The rain eased today but is predicted to be back for the next few days. DH and I did some tidying up and vacuuming today in readiness for the family dinner tomorrow night. One daughter has moved out so naturally my boxes of 'school stuff' went into that room. I tidied up the veranda and started putting some decorations in the lounge room, veranda and family room.
I had promised myself that I would make some mini Christmas puddings out of some dark fruit cake. Last night I crumbled the cake and poured some brandy over it. Then rolled it into balls. Left them in the fridge overnight, then today put spoonfuls of melted white chocolate on the top of each one and put cut up green and red glace cherries on top to represent a sprig of holly. The results are pictures below.

Early in the afternoon we took another daughter and her partner to the airport. They are spending Christmas in New Zealand with Karl's family. Naturally, being so close to the Airport DFO, we went there to have a look at the outlet shops. I bought some gifts, DH bought a pair of running shoes and a DVD (hard drive)player/recorder. When we got home he spent ages trying to get it to work. He came to the conclusion that he needed a particular cable so after dinner tonight we went to the local shops and while I bought groceries, he bought this cable and a mobile broadband 'thing' to use with my elderly laptop. (which he is using for this contract that he's currently working on) I think everything is working fine now as I can't hear any complaints from the next room! lol
I've a few more things I want to do tonight in readiness for tomorrow night. Then hopefully a good night's sleep and up early to get everything ready. I'll relax about half past midnight tomorrow night as I volunteered to serve at our church's 11.30 pm service tomorrow night. It's always a beautiful service but I'm usually very tired...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Monday night DH and I went for a drive after dinner to look at some of the Christmas lights displays in our local area. The photo above is of the Baptist church where Pamela and I go (as customers) to some excellent craft markets the first Saturday of the month. It's always been a church noted for its ministry, including a lot of work with refugee groups. The photo doesn't do justice to the magnificent display. There were crowds of people there looking at the lights, lining up to file past all the life-size 'dioramas' of the Christmas story, sitting having food from the sausage sizzle or the coffee shop, watching the puppet show, looking at the model railways' display or buying from the craft and cake stalls. It all engendered feelings of times past for me and I found my self overwhelmed by emotions as I gazed at the Nativity scene. We also looked at the lights at St Gerard Majella Catholic parish church as well as some private homes with displays in the area. 
Next morning, I was up early to wrap up some more gifts as well as package some homemade goodies in my decorated 'lunchboxes' I had previously bought at 'Packaging Direct'. I met 2 friends for coffee and a good old 'catch up chat' early mid morning! Then I took a box of my 'homemades' to my hairdresser as a thank you for all the homecooked goodies she has sent me this year via her son who was in my class this year. Antonietta then worked on my hair and gave me a new colour and new style to celebrate finishing work. She generously deducted the price of the haircut from my bill as a 'retirement present' generous of this lovely woman!

I've had the tree up for a few weeks now but have been very slow putting out other little Christmas 'touches'. Above is my beloved knitted Nativity. Note the angel on the lefthand background. The Archangel didn't come with the original figures and a dear friend Thelma, knitted an angel for me! Below is my little village which has lights that change colour. I could watch it for hours! lol

Below are 2 shots of a Christmas card I received from my friend Lee and her husband Alf. Every year Alf makes the cards himself. I loved his sense of humour this year regarding their beautiful cat Sabrina Maud.

On Monday afternoon, a GP whom I had consulted just under 2 weeks ago rang me back to tell me some swab tests she had organised had come back and I needed to come down to the surgery as there were some infections involved. Amazing! I had been suffering a lot of discomfort in the 'nether' regions and put it down to 'my age'... and vaguely thought I'd have to see the 'gynae' at some stage soon. I have a viral and a bacterial infection so now have some medications. I am thankful to the  thorough, caring and active listening female GP!!! So that explains the unwell feeling as well as the acute discomfort of the last week of term and the holidays so far. I'm feeling really good about Christmas now as my energy is coming back, even as I type!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My name is Maria and I am an Ebay addict...

It was DH who first bought something on Ebay. This was about 3 years ago now, and I thought I might have a little look. I remember I decided to use DH's account to bid on some knitting yarn which I/he won! I think I bought one other thing around that time and then didn't look at Ebay again for ages. A year later I decided to get my own Ebay account and started looking more seriously at what was on offer. Hmmm.... to a 'stash builder' Ebay was like an Aladdin's Cave!!!! A fat quarter here, 1/2 metre there, 10 balls of Patons fashion Mohair, 12ply, 8ply, baby yarn,... it's a real treasurehouse! Then I discovered a lady who sold lace trims, another who sold sewing and patchwork patterns, out of print books, dvds etc, but it was the variety of knitting yarns that drove me to bid and buy! I guess I was hooked!!! lol
 These 2 bags contain my mohair Ebay treasures
Behind this wardrobe door is more of my stashes (yeah...fabrics and yarns)

I knew I may be starting to have a problem when the surly mail contractor said to my neighbour who was graciously signing for one of my Ebay parcels as I was at work, 'This woman (he meant me!) gets so many parcels, I reckon she sends stuff to herself'! Well!!!

But I can assure you I don't just collect, I do use my Ebay treasures. Below is an 'Ebay Throw' knitted entirely with lovely mohair yarns bought on Ebay. I always check what the value of the yarns is and factor in postage. I don't bid beyond a certain point...well sometimes if I really lust after a particular yarn. There is a seller on Ebay (who lives in the next suburb from me) who calls herself  'achronicyarnaholic'. Her real name is Rose and I tell you, she's a real temptress... the yarns she has for sale are incredible. She states on her site that she has bought all these yarns for her own use over the years and now she is downsizing...yeah right. She's been selling for quite a while and must have a warehouse sized shed in her backyard!!! She obviously has a bigger stash than me and I reckon if my stash was all knitted up it would cover my suburb!!!

The 'Ebay Throw'
I know I have plenty of yarn to keep making my throws, not only as gifts but also for charities to raffle or to give to someone in need. So there will be lots more 'Ebay Throws' to come. But it's not just yarns and fabrics I've bought. We had a wedding to go to in October this year and it was a masquerade theme...DH and I needed masks and Ebay was where we got them from. He had a Zorro type and I had a lovely purple and black one. For that same wedding my older daughter bought her dress, shoes, handbag and mask on Ebay; it was all colour co-ordinated and she looked beautiful! I don't think I'd do that though. Too risky buying a dress as sizes can vary so much!
My younger daughter always admired our hallstand and we searched unsuccessfully in stacks of shops looking for one we could buy her for her birthday. DH found a few that 'fitted the bill' on Ebay; one of which he won. She loved it! When the grandkids come, guess where I'm buying the equipment for their visits? Yep Ebay.
I've sort of banned myself from buying yarn on Ebay now but I will certainly enjoy knitting up the yarns I have, especially the gorgeous mohairs. But gee it's hard. I keep thinking, 'what if I miss a really lovely bargain???? Be strong Maria!!! lol

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Treats

Last night I started preparations for my chocolate, brandy truffles. In the food processor I crumbed a packet of choc chip cookies and a packet of arrowroot biscuits. (cookies) Then I liberally poured brandy and cointreau over the crumb mixture and mixed it  until all the crumbs were damp. Then I covered the bowl and put it into the fridge for the night.

This morning when I took the lid off the mixture, the unmistakeable aroma of brandy hit me! Then I added the other ingredients; 2 Cadbury flake bars crumbled, a tin of condensed milk, 3 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder and about a cup of coconut. (If the mix is too moist I add more coconut, too dry...well more brandy of course!lol) Mix it all together and then roll into balls. Then roll these in coconut or chocolate sprinkles etc.
I put some truffles into a small cellophane bag

Because my friend has a 'blue-themed' Christmas, I put the bag into a little blue box.
This evening we are gathering at my friend Pamela's (and her DH Garry) place for a family Christmas celebration. She was already my best friend of 30 years when we became relatives because I married her cousin! Some of our daughters can make it tonight but it is very hard to get everyone together these days as they are all leading their own busy lives. We all contribute to the meal which will be a cold buffet but with hot plum pudding for dessert. Yum! (That sort of food ie plum pudding with so much dried fruit is supposedly off limits in my diet but I'll have just a little bit! lol)

This is the gift 'tub' I've made for our host and hostess this evening. I'm making another one (red) for my brother and his partner for Christmas Eve. Lots of fun! Note the little fluffy blue and white snowflake headband for Pamela. She can put her old reindeer one aside for this evening!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On my mind...'s been said by my brother that, 'I could worry for Australia'. For those of you who are new to the dryness of Aussie humour, it means that I've been known to worry about things a lot. My mother (who was also a champion worrier) used to say, 'Don't worry it might not happen' when discussing something that I was worrying about but which hadn't actually happened. In the 8 1/2 years I've been with DH he's taught me to be 'kinder to myself' and most importantly, 'don't worry about things over which you have no control'!
So what am I revving up to worry about now? On Tuesday my neighbour and I chatted across the side fence. I admired her beautiful baby daughter playing on a rug on the soft grass and she told me that the house (which she and her husband rent) has been sold to a DEVELOPER!
 In my street there has been lots of noise, disruption, heavy cement trucks, crane trucks and trademen's utes parked everywhere for most of the last 2 years. Yes there is always a 'development' on the go despite the GFC. Single house lots become multiple dwellings housing many times the number of people at present. I know that this is 'progress' as it is predicted that that another 20000 residents will move into this area in the present plan and I guess these new residents will need homes.
I guess I'm being selfish. I want to keep the views, I want to keep the large amount of sunshine my garden gets so my veggies thrive...I don't want to hear other peoples' TV and sound systems blaring. I want my visitors to be able to park outside my home. I want to sit in my garden without being overlooked by people enjoying the view on their balconies.
Now after all that tirade of what I don't want...the developer may not get the funds he needs, his plans may be rejected or any number of things could happen. Given the developer's best case scenario, building wouldn't start for at least 12 months; maybe even longer as I know the house there at present contains asbestos. So the aforementioned homilies of my mother and DH are very appropriate for this situation.
A view of the not too distant mountain range I can see at present from my sewing room.


Today I went to a shop/warehouse in the next suburb as I'd seen their ad in the local paper which claimed they had all the packaging ideas needed to handle Christmas. As I'm planning to give some homecooked gifts this year, I was thrilled to find some very cute cardboard boxes and some cellophane bags. I bought 2 boxes which were very 'Christmassy' and a pack of 10 plain white boxes with little clear windows. I'm going to decorate the plain ones with some Christmas stickers I later bought at one of 'the cheap shops' (Bargain City) I also bought some Christmas ribbons with which to tie up the boxes when they are filled with brandy truffles, choc nut slice, fruit slice, old English matrimonials etc. I have never ever made shortbread and it's a traditional Xmas thing...I keep thinking it's difficult but people tell me otherwise. Maybe I need to find a recipe and 'have a go'.

Well anyway, on the way home from buying these boxes and other things I started thinking about the 'boxes' of my childhood...wooden fruit boxes! My dad worked as a fruiterer and my godparents had a stone fruit orchard and a vineyard...we were surrounded by boxes! There seemed to be 2 sizes that I can remember and the smaller one was probably about 2foot 6in by about 10inches and probably about 12 inches high. We had lots of this size at home and I used them to make dolls' houses, cubby houses , play tables and seats, storage bins etc. The larger cases were wider and higher and my parents made a makeshift storage cupboard in the old laundry under the house, by nailing some of these larger boxes together on their side. A quick search on the internet before revealed that those old fruit boxes are now worth money being sought after by collectors of all things old. Fruit has been packed in cardboard boxes for years now and I'm wondering whether some time in the future these boxes will become collectables too! It would mean some new packaging would have to come in.

Each year my family would go to the seaside for 2 weeks holiday. The cat would come too in his 'pet carrier'. You guessed it! he travelled in one of the larger fruit boxes. There were flat strips of timber which were the top of these boxes. To remove the fruit these slats would be levered up. When the cat was put in the empty box, the slats would be nailed into place for the short journey, and then the top would be levered off again.

My dad was a keen fisherman as well and often went fishing with friends who had boats. He carried his fishing gear in an old wooden box which had originally had bottles of brandy packed in it. (I don't think my dad got the box until it was empty!lol) His friends had fancy cane fishing tackle baskets but dad loved the box as it did the job. When my parents bought my childhood home it had some furniture left in it. One item was like a stool which had a padded seat with fabric gathered around the seat which went to the floor. Years later, we took the fabric off and what should be underneath...? a wooden brandy box!!
When my husband and I sometimes talk about our childhoods when people were frugal and quite ingenious at re-using and recycling my husband usually reminds me that most people did not have much money; it just wasn't our parents who struggled...and I think he is right.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I have always loved cooking...

I'm so old that when I was at school we did 'Domestic Science', just in Grade 8. Later the subject was revamped and renamed, Home Economics. Only girls did Domestic Science, just like it was only Grade 9 girls who did the 'Mothercraft' course. They were the times (1950s1960s) I suppose; girls were expected to only work until marriage and then spend the rest of their lives being 'domestic goddesses' or some such thing! lol
I remember in that Grade 8 year I made some shapeless articles of clothing (which were not fashionable) and cooked a variety of dishes that lacked interesting flavours. At home I ate Italian style food as my dad was from Sicily and wasn't too keen on the typical Aussie diet of those times, meat and 3 overcooked vegetables. One of the dishes I cooked at school and brought home for dinner that night was called Shepherd's Pie. Traditionally this dish was made with leftover roast lamb minced up but we used beef mince. (ground beef) It had grated carrot and onion, salt and pepper, was thickened with cornflour and water and then topped with mashed potato. My darling dad ate his way through it proclaiming it was 'wonderful darling!'

My dad died when I was 15 so he didn't ever get to try the recipe which eventually evolved for Shepherd's pie cooked 'my way'! Now my pie has beef mince flavoured with onion, carrot, mixed herbs, worcestershire sauce, ground pepper, finely diced bacon. The mashed potatoes have 1/2 cup of grated tasty cheeses mixed through and another 1/2 cup sprinkled on top! Sometimes my kids take containers of the frozen meat mixture home to turn into a Shepherd's pie at home! The 2 of my step-daughters who lived with us also didn't mind it either, although I know they loved the Moussaka I make! if you think about it, Moussaka has similarities to Shepherd's pie but it's heaps more tastier than that original pie I made at school!

My dad wouldn't recognise Australia now. The acceptance of nonBritish style foods is amazing and the variety of ethnic ingredients available as well as the huge numbers of eateries selling so many styles of food/cooking. I used to be ashamed of the food we ate at home when I was growing up...silly really!
So why have I been raving on about cooking? Many of the blogs I follow discuss home cooking and cooking from scratch. Even though I hated the cooking lessons at school (the teacher was a sour-faced bully) once I learned the basics I cooked all the time as a teenager and of course as a wife and mother. DH is so appreciative of everything I cook and the best thing is, that he insists on doing the cleaning up and stacking the dishwasher and washing up the big items. Now how good is that? Didn't happen in my first marriage.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nurturing Friendships

Today I had lunch with a former colleague who left teaching 3 years ago when the government offered $50000 re-training allowances if people would leave. The time frame for departure was 2 weeks. I was interested but baulked at that timeframe. J didn't! She secretly filled out the forms, lodged them and was successful, so off she went! She has, in the time since, worked on and off  as an insurance assessor in New Zealand and worked on contracts in a number of private schools. The insurance job is taking all her time for most of this year as, sadly. NZ has had a number of disasters, especially the earthquakes and J said that there are 160 000 claims that have to be processed!

School holidays have always been busy for me in the 'lunching' scene. Every school I 've taught at, I've naturally made friends so as the years go by there are more friends that I'm trying to stay in touch with. The PE teacher at S. Heights has taught with me at a number of schools and she once said that she noticed how I 'nurtured' my friendships and how she thought it was lovely how I stayed in touch with people including some people she also knew. But she wasn't prepared to put in the effort needed to stay in touch. I've never really thought it a great effort to ring or text people occasionally to see how they are. Or send cards for significant birthdays. FaceBook makes it quite easy to do those sorts of things. But it's a 2 way street. Those old friendships are worth nurturing and there is nothing better than to reminicence with old friends or to 'bathe' in the warmth of their friendship when things go wrong in my life.

We lunched at Zarraffa's at Arana Hills today
I plan to have more of the 'catch ups' here at my place as I love to cook. In fact originally we did go to each others houses but gradually by the early 90s we always met in coffee shops and cafes. Maybe it's time to turn back the clock!
I'll finish this post with something completely friend who has some relatives in the US went to post the usual homecooked Plum Pudding to her aunt in California. Australia Post now has imposed a $9 surcharge on all parcels going to the US. That's ridiculous! I like to send little surprises to my friend in Oregon, that $9 will make postage/shipping prohibitive! Bah humbug! I was also planning to get involved with swaps through certain forums and blogs; I guess I'll have to stick with Aussie swap partners!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


 Eduardo on the left      Lina on the right

Rhonda Jean from 'Down...' blog wrote today about her pets. More specifically she wrote about caring for elderly pets. My 2 cats are not classed as elderly; Eduardo Felipe is 9, (aka Eddy) and Paolina Melody (aka, Lina or Leenie) is 13. Eddie really belongs to my daughter J but he's lived with me for most of his life. Lina stayed with my first husband when I moved out of the family home in 2000 as he (Husband #1) wouldn't let me take her. In 2003 I got her back as H#1 was going interstate and didn't want her. DH, who was 'The boyfriend' then insisted that she come and live with us as there was no way he could bear to see her 'put down'. He said this despite having 2 cats and a dog here already. (I certainly knew then that he was a 'keeper'!!!) Sadly Merlin the cat and Ozzie the dog have 'gone to live in Jesus' garden' since then. (That's where I told my children when they were little, the pets went when they died)

In my childhood we always had a cat as my mum loved cats. The first one lived to a ripe old age of 21. We had got him when I was 1 and he was 6 and needed  a new home which my mother did provide of course. I grew up as an only child so that cat became my confidante etc . When I married at 21, I continued to keep cats as pets. One particular cat stands out for her love and devotion to our family...Holly Victoria, a beautiful calico and white. She died at 17. Another beloved cat, Linus Charles, was a stray who we nursed back to health and he grew to be a very big cat, grumpy with adults but brilliant with children. He lived with us for 19 years and the vet felt he was about 3 when we rescued him. WWe called him Linus because he sucked blankets!
It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I got my first dog. She was a Lhasa Apso which came from a litter that a friend had bred. My first husband got 'custody' of her and she went with him interstate. So when I met 'DH to be' I was able to share his dog Ozzie with him! She was diagnosed with heart disease a few years ago and died suddenly this last Easter. Like in Rhonda Jean's blog we had made adjustments to make our elderly dog's life more comfortable. It is extremely sad when they die but the joy they bring throughout their life I think makes up for it. Both the cats I have now do not really like being cuddled but every now and then they tolerate a cuddle. Eddie runs to meet me when I get out of the car. He is a very 'talkative' cat. If my daughter came and said she could take him now it would be very hard indeed to let him go...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I love those rainy days...

So far the wild stormy weather of yesterday has not repeated, as was predicted by the weather bureau. Instead, in the afternoon we had some gentle showers which made a soft pitter patter on the metal roof of the veranda. perfect weather for knitting and reading. I got some great books on knitting at the library yesterday as well as my usual patchwork and quilting magazines. One of the books, 'Module Magic' was so interesting that I bought my own copy online this afternoon from the Book Depository. People who know me well, know that I don't often buy books, preferring to keep borrowing from the library or dare I say it ...? photocopying ideas. The Book depository which is based in the UK, has amazing prices on most books but the best thing of all is that it's free postage!
In the photo you can see my huge 12 oz (340gram) ball of Bernat cotton which I bought from Gabrille at the American Yarn shop a few weeks ago. here
The plan was to make some cotton dishcloths and that's what I started on today. I'm using a simple design similar to basketweave. I had this crazy thought as I was knitting, that the colours remind me of the egg and lettuce sandwiches my mother used to make for me...I guess the young people in my life would say that that connection is 'random'!

Talking of food, below is a photo of the tomato puree I made yesterday. It's now in the freezer ready for a pasta or meatball meal .

Last night for dinner, I wanted something simple to make and light on the digestive tract. DH loves my seafood mornay, so that's what I made. It's my version of the seafood mornay I have when we go to the Manly Fish Cafe in Sydney. (not on a regular basis mind you as we do live in Brisbane!)
Firstly I make the topping:- 1/2 cup mascapone cheese, 1 cup of homemade cheese sauce, 2 tabs of grated parmesan cheese and 4 anchovies chopped up really finely. Mix all the ingredients together.
Next I poach some seafood, you could use a marinara mix but I use chopped up pieces of white fish (any variety), scallops and prawns. I use white wine, water and 2 bayleaves in my poaching liquid. Just simmer the seafood till it changes colour, then drain.
Then I put the cooked seafood into greased individual mornay dishes or ramekins and top with the cheese mixture.
Finally I put the dishes under the grill until the topping browns and bubbles! (The topping ingredients are enough for 2 mornay dishes of seafood)
DH and I sat on our veranda last evening with a glass of white wine each, some salad, some crusty bread and our seafood mornays. With the rain pattering on the roof, it was bliss!!! lol