Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DD2 becomes a home-owner...

Earlier this month my younger daughter took possession of the town house she had bought after much consideration and of course, much saving. In her previous moves to a number of rental properties, she always needed help in moving. This time she had things all organised so that family help wasn't required much to the relief of DH's back! So that we could have a look at her new place, I rang up and asked when it would be alright for us to come over. We got invited for dinner last Sunday night. I was to bring dessert...her favourite cake, my version of Black Forest Cake'.

The house is in a complex but it is not a gated community. It's still in Brisbane, but is a more northerly suburb to our place...probably about a 20 min-30 min drive for us. I had checked out if there was anything in particular she would like for her house and she gave us 2 suggestions...we bought her the slow cooker. It had to be white to match the other appliances in the kitchen.

Some wrapped gifts for DD2's 2 friends who have recently had babies :-)

It's a lovely modern little compact house. It has 2 good-sized bedrooms upstairs with a large bathroom and separate toilet. Both bedrooms have large built in robes. Downstairs is an open plan living and dining area that leads into a small kitchen. The laundry is a tiny room off the kitchen. There is a small courtyard as well at the back. The single garage is at the front. Thre is also a 'cloakroom' (loo and basin) near the internal door to the garage. After our tour of the house, we had a lovely meal and an enjoyable evening.
Boyfriend Phil was in charge of the roast beef!
The dining area opens on to the courtyard

Her house is set back behind the garages, giving some privacy in the complex

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The wonder of nature...

I've been really enjoying getting into some serious work in the garden, since I retired. We've had good rain over the last week but before that I was concerned about the level of water in the tanks was getting a bit low. In that situation, I don't use the hose with the tank water, I use a watering can . So for quite a few weeks I've been trudging up the rise from where the tanks are to the veggie garden at the back of the house...good exercise every morning.

Our tanks nestled in under the front veranda

The results of that effort means that the veggie seedlings are doing well, especially the lettuce crop, the rocket and the herbs. The potato plants are doing well...above ground any way at the moment and the tomato seedlings have trebled in size. When I was working, I would leave home just after 6.30am and get home around 4.30-5; often I would be too tired to water the garden, especially with a watering can, at that time, so the garden got a bit neglected.

Some of our homegrown salad leaves being washed

I learned from my father (a keen gardner and former farmer/orchardist) to not presume a plant was dead just because it looked that way! These days we also have things like 'Seasol' that help distressed plants. About 6 weeks ago one of my potted geraniums 'did battle' with the whippersnipper. When I found it, the leaves were all gone and there was just stem and that didn't look too flash either. A non gardener like DH would have despatched it to the bin but I watered it with a weak solution of 'Seasol' and left it in a safer place. For a few weeks, nothing...and then a week or so later , some little green shoots. Now it's looking pretty good and ready to be potted on shortly.

Tiny green shoots appear on the still ravaged stem

The potato crop #1 patch

Another plant that looked like it was a 'goner' was a potted hippeastrum which had been forgotten when overgrown by a camellia. When I uncovered it, most of its leaves were gone with only one limp one slowly decaying away. The 'hippies' are due to start flowering next month so I was a bit loath to re-pot this one so used the seasol solution treatment. The other week I noticed flower 'buds' already shooting, so it'll be fine. Repotting can happen at a later stage. I discovered after reading a US blog that hippeastrums are known as amaryllis there.

The flower bud/stalks that have formed
Being almost spring means 'lots of things are happening' in the garden at the moment and i'm enjoying being 'in the thick of it'! lol

Monday, August 29, 2011


Once again this year, my self-sown passionfruit vines produced quite a few fruit. A number of passionfruit were 'taken' by possums and maybe fruit bats perhaps? but some of the fruit lower down survived intact. I've made a few batches of passionfruit icing but I was determined to have a go at making passionfruit butter. There are lots and lots of recipes on the internet and eventually I chose one that didn't have a lot of sugar in it and not 6-8 egg yolks but used the whole egg.

The recipe I chose also was cooked on the stove, not in the microwave. At the last tupperware party I went to, the demonstrator made lemon butter in the microwave and there are recipes for microwave passionfruit butter as well. As I stood there stirring the mixture in the heatproof bowl, I wondered whether I should have opted for a microwave recipe...and then the 'magic' happened after about 10 minutes...the mixture thickened. I was surprised how much passionfruit butter the recipe yielded...the recipe said to have a jar steralised ready for the 1 cup of passionfruit butter...I actually got 500mls.
DH and I have had crepes (homemade of course) rolled up with a generous dollop of the butter inside, topped with another dollop of cream and dusted with icing sugar. Next we'll probably have some more of the butter in little pastry shells. A friend suggested that using passionfruit butter instead of jam in jamdrops is delicious.

Here's the recipe I used:- (taken from Australian and New Zealand Food)

  • 1/2 cup of passionfruit pulp
  • 2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of castor (berry) sugar
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) butter
  • 4 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Special equipment: Sterilized Airtight jar for 1 cup of passionfruit butter
  1. Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water. Bring water to the boil over a medium heat.
  2. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add butter and sugar to bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to melt and combine.
  3. Mix together passionfruit pulp, lemon juice and eggs in a small mixing bowl. Add to butter/sugar mixture and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. This should take about 10-12 minutes over a medium-low heat.
  4. Once thickened, remove bowl from heat and allow butter to cool completely before storing in sterilized airtight jar.
  5. Refrigerate to store.
A friend mentioned that she made some passionfruit melting moments....I've asked her for the recipe as I have 4 fruit left! lol

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The bindis' story continues...

In a previous post here, I commented on the lawn weed, bindi, which have become my nemesis, as I struggle to eradicate this pest from our yard. The other occasional weeds in the lawn don't bother me, just the bindis with their awful prickles. For some reason the bindis are thriving; I'm sure there are more here now than when I moved here 9 years ago. This year I was trying out something I read in a gardening magazine, that is watering the bindis with a solution of iron sulphate. That has appeared to have worked quite well but it used a lot of my precious tank water.
bettsylyn left a comment on my blog post telling me of the method her mother used to get rid of bindis on their acre block. It involves putting some needle-nosed pliers into the stem of the bindi underneath the leaves, and then pulling it up. It is a long and slow process but I have been weeding a small section of lawn for a few days now. I had a break today because of the rather heavy showers but when the weather clears, I'll be out there again. The rain actually makes them easier to pull out I've discovered!

Eduardo, my little helper

Some of the bindis I've pulled out

There's one thing that has puzzled me though...for a number of years, I used chemical poisons such as 'Bin-die' to kill off the plants before they set the prickles. And the plants did die...but the next year they came back up again. This suggests that under the ground, maybe the roots remain alive ready to shoot up in the next year???

Friday, August 26, 2011

On my mind...the craft group, Sisters Of Stitch...

Today, being Friday, means that I'm joining in with Rhonda Jean's  here Friday feature, "On my mind'

On my mind today is the group, ‘Sisters of Stitch’ which I joined in February this year.  On Thursday, Rhonda wrote about a Craft afternoon at the local neighbourhood centre that she would be conducting.
 Rhonda wrote, ‘Craft is such a wonderful way to bring people together. It can be a bridge between older and younger women who want to learn various needle crafts, it is the vehicle that transports the household crafts our great grandmas used to decorate their homes and clothe their families to us to use in a modern way, and it brings people together to teach and learn in a way few other activities can.

I have been intending to write a post about SOS for ages and Rhonda’s post is a great ‘springboard’ for that. Our group meets every second Wednesday at the Chermside library from 1.30 to 4 pm. This is a great venue as so many bus routes stop nearby and many of the older women don’t drive so depend on public transport.
The woman who co-ordinates the group, Judi, does a great job of making everyone feel welcome. We were both having a treatment at a small private hospital also in Chermside way back in February and recognised each other as former workmates at a north-side school. Judi was tatting, to while away the hours of her treatment and she told me it was a newish skill for her which she learned from an older lady.
Early birds. We have a large area for our session; actually 2 rooms with a wall pushed back
 She told me about the group and invited me along to the next meeting. She explained the group as being a place to take whatever craft you are happening to be working on, and enjoy a natter and a sharing of ideas at the same time.  Some of the ladies make items for charities and other groups, such as Memory Quilts for babies who die before, during or just after birth, quilts for Project Linus, and since I’ve been a member there have been challenges to collect items for flood victims.

Kath, the lady in pink, I already knew because she was a stallholder at the Stafford Heights markets.

Carin, the lady in the red top is another knitter; she knits garments but appreciates my throws. We are a mutual admiration society I guess! lol
There is a ‘show and tell’ session each meeting with lots of ‘oohs and aahs’ when we see such beautiful items.

Judi, holding my friend Cheryl's little embroidered bag, during 'Show and tell.

People come and go in the group; some familiar faces are there each Wednesday, others we only see occasionally. There is a wonderful camaraderie in the group and lots of sharing of ideas and techniques.  Some of the crafts which people do at SOS include, embroidery, petit point, red work, patchwork and quilting, cross stitch, various types of appliqué, knitting, crocheting and tatting.

Cheryl, wearing her crocheted cardi; the first garment she has ever crocheted! :-)

The all important afternoon tea trolleys; we take turns bringing in 'goodies' for afternoon tea.
I really enjoy being part of this group and I try to make sure I don't 'double-book' myself; I keep those Wednesday afternoons free!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I've been a bad girl...

Earlier this month, I joined a challenge on the Simple Savings forum page where I agreed to not spend any money in the month of August on fabrics and yarns. A few days before that, I had bought a pack of 'Amelia' charm squares from a lady called Perri who has a website and blog, here, but has an even better Ebay store here. It was from Ebay that I bought my charm squares. So any way, because this pack was purchased before I signed up for the challenge, it didn't count, right?

A week later I 'fell off the wagon', but only a little bit. Went out for coffee with my SIL, June, at a cafe in Toombul Shoppingtown. June mentioned that Lincraft was in the I thought I'd just take a look seeing I was in that part of town. I bought some balls of yarn; they were on special; and they would be useful for crocheting around all those K4BN squares that I'm slowing turning into blankets/throws. Er...I also bought 2 remnants out of the remnant basket...thought the polar fleece piece would be good for 'raggy quilt' squares and the other piece was just so pretty.

I won't discuss a quick trip to the Spotlight sale last week.. Spotlight is less than 500metres from my place...They had a big sellout of yarns; this sellout won't last until September!

Then last weekend, I wondered how much it would cost to buy an 'Amelia' jelly roll. Online shops here in Australia that I found  had prices that ranged from $43 to $49, plus postage. US prices were better but postage of just under USD$14 meant it wasn't worth it. I found an Aussie site  here but the price of $30 seemed ridiculously low compared to the other sites. DH has an old saying, 'If it seems to good to be probably is'. The next day I emailed the site asking if the prices quoted had been a mistake. An email came back saying that was the price but that there were some rolls on sale for $25. I visited the lady's (Jane) blog  here and reading through it realised she was from Brisbane. Just in case she didn't have many of the Amelia jelly rolls left, I thought that maybe I wouldn't wait until September to buy I ordered it on Tuesday night. Got it today. And it is beautiful. I'm sure I'll find a great quilt pattern I can make with my jellyroll and charm squares.

My lovely Moda fabrics

Now about the SS challenge... I can see I have a few options. Firstly I can work on my self control and do better at keeping my word. Another option of course is not not sign up for any challenges in the future! Hmmm...speaking of challenges, have I told you about the one on the Patchwork Pumpkin site. It's a friendship medallion quilt and the pattern is free. When you sign up you are sent the first part's pattern and the rules. The rules are :-

1. You cannot buy any fabric, the aim is to use your stash!
2. You can swap fabric with friends

3. Email a photo of your finished centre to get the instructions for the next step.
Well we'll just have to see how I go with this challenge. I plan to give it my best shot! And that's despite the first part requiring lots of 1.5 inch squares...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A lovely send off...

Earlier in the month I was privileged to attend a Farewell Afternoon Tea at my former workplace. The food was delicious and the company was wonderful. There were lots of surprises for me when former workmates, who had moved on, returned especially for the celebrations for my retirement. Allan, gave the most beautiful speech as he talked about my years at the school.

Elke on the left was the organiser and Allan was the speechmaker!
Firstly I was handed a beautiful bunch of flowers; the bunch consisted of Australian 'native' flowers which are just so striking in their beauty. Then I was given a retirement gift...all eyes were on me as I reached in the gift bag and drew out a small box. I opened the box and lifted out the piece of packing. Nestled in the box was the most beautiful Swarovski crystal flower my favourite colour, purple! In 2008, DH and I visited the Swarovski store in Lucerne. It was 3 floors of the most beautiful items but we didn't buy anything...just admired.

The photos don't do justice to the actual beauty of the flower

So now I have a beautiful memento of my time at Stafford Heights given to me by this lovely group of friends. Also in the bag was an IOU for a Swarovski pen as a purple one wasn't available at the time so one was ordered. So I was really spoiled! Eventually it was time to go home and as we headed through the door I had another surprise...a former colleague who had been held up because of a long staff meeting at her school, arrived. So naturally many of us  lingered around the library entrance to catch up with this latecomer...I'm so glad she decided to come.

The ladies in the running shoes are the wonderful cleaners and the other lady is Janis who was the marvellous teacher aide who worked with me and also my class of course

Chatting with Tracey, holding the beautiful bunch of flowers

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mock chicken...

This morning I received a text from DD2 asking me what the ingredients were in a dip I used to make with the rather curious name, 'Mock Chicken'. Talk about 'a blast from the past'! I hadn't even thought about it for years so I wondered what had prompted DD's question. I tried to think where a copy of the recipe might be. I had this vague recollection that it might be in a 'moth-eaten', scruffy and scraggly exercise book that was my 'Domestic science notebook' way back in 1964. It was quickly found in the 'recipe drawer' in the kitchen and leafing through the ramshackle book, I quickly found the recipe. I decided that it would be fun to scan the pages and send the copy to my daughter, complete with my untidy teenage writing.

My scruffy Domestic Science notebook; It was ok when I used it at school in 1964, but gradually fell into serious disrepair in the late 1970s

For once, Mrs Kahl didn't write 'untidy writing' on my work! lol

Very soon I got an email saying thank you and explaining how the text request came about. At morning tea at her work DD suddenly thought of 'mock chicken' and mentioned it to her workmates. Apparently it was unknown to, not only her contemporaries, but also unknown to older co-workers. I reckon it dates back many years before 1964, especially the years of austerity around the depression and war and post war years. There's no chicken in it and it doesn't even taste like chicken...but 'mock chicken' is its moniker!  DD plans to make it ASAP, possibly to share with her workmates. It's funny what offspring remember about their childhood, isn't it??

My daughter commented that she didn't recognise my handwriting. And then I remembered and shared the story behind this. Like a lot of teenage girls I developed my own style of writing; mine was straight up and down with an occasional tilt to the left. Qld cursive was supposed to slant to the right! When I was a first year student teacher (1969), my pract teacher ordered me to change my writing, not only for the blackboard, but also for my Notes of lessons' book. It used to take me ages to write up my lessons during that prac as I had to concentrate on every letter as I wrote it!
Eventually writing in the 'correct way' became second nature. Then a year or so later, my signature wasn't accepted on the CBA (my bank) withdrawal form...the teller said it was a completely different signature. My mum talked to the bank manager (we weren't adults in those days until we were 21) and I had to have an interview with Mr Baskerville, the manager. He said that my 'new' signature was quite immature compared to my old (14years old when I opened the account) signature, but he organised for me to change the one they had on record. Co-incidentally DD2 works for the Commonwealth Bank now!.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A recipe...

Recently I came across a battered old recipe book that I thought I had somehow lost. It was a fundraising affort of our parish back in the early 80s with parishioners contributing favourite recipes. I used it so much when my girls were little and now that I'm looking for that 'simpler life', I'm tending to bake items to take as gifts to friends. Also the groups that I've joined always include cuppa and nibblies as well as the crafts and socialising and it's expected that one brings a plate of food to share occasionally. I must admit I'm not that enamoured with the 'bought' items that some people I bake from set a good example! lol

I'm gradually recalling old recipes that I used to use and then try to find them in my small collection of recipe books. I knew a lot were in this old parish book so I was thrilled to find it! As well as recipes there are the 'people' who are 'in' this book...sadly many have passed away; others have moved away and we've lost touch. Others have grown older with me as we were young mums together. Just reading through the little book brought back so many pleasant memories. I was so pleased to have one particular recipe 'back', 'Never-Fail-All-In-Together-Cake' contributed by Isis Wilson. So what do you do if you re-discover a favourite old recipe?...make it of course. So far I've made it for my Sisters of Stitch group and yesterday I made it for the Knit and Natter group. Both times it disappeared off the plate quick smart, but best of all, it was easy to make! Because I have quite a few passionfruit, I've been indulging in making one of my favourite of all times icing...passionfruit!

Dripping with passionfruit icing! One of the ladies at K&N scraped that excess icing up...and ate it!!
Here's Isis's recipe:-
!/2 cup sugar
!/2 cup milk
125g/ 4 oz softened butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups SR (self raising) flour
teas vanilla
Beat all together. Bake in  orange cake tin  1 hour in a moderate oven. I bake it in a ring tin at 160 degrees C in a fan forced oven for 35 minutes. Best to check the booklet that came with your oven.

Ice when cool. Mixture can also be used for small/patty/fairy/cup cakes.

Knit and Natter and FNSI...

This morning I headed off to a local yarn shop for a K4BN Knit and Natter. This is only the second time I've been to the monthly Saturday session; last month DH and I were helping out at a fete. There were a lot more ladies there this time, so lots of chatting, complimenting and sharing was going on! :-) I finished the knitting of the red/black and white throw I was making for K4BN, but still have some neatening off to do. I've decided not to put a fringe on it as this could be a nuisance for a homeless person. Photos later when all is finished.

Last night was my first Friday Night Sew In  (FNSI) here , and over the days since I signed up on Heidi's blog, I put a lot of thought into what I would actually do. I thought that maybe I could do one of the 2010 Quilt Aid blocks, none of which I've touched. Or maybe one of my Gifts of the month program, from 'Faeries in my Garden'? yet again, I thought vaguely about sewing a top to go with my selection of skirts. In the end I decided on the KISS principle...keep it simple stupid!

So I decided I would work on a project that I had intended to do the first week we arrived back from the US. Hmmm...that was late April...definitely overdue. I bought little items for my neighbour's grandson when we were travelling; items he could take to school for 'Show and tell'. But I had decided that I would make a drawstring bag to put all these items in. I had bought a number of pieces of US themed fabrics as well as a 'jellyroll' of patriotic type fabrics that I found in Walmart. The hold-up in giving these things to Jay was the bag!! So that was my project last night...but I had to finish it this afternoon.

Front of the bag

The back of the bag sewn with strips from the jellyroll

A line-up of the items I bought for Jay
Items put in ziplock bags with description of contents

All the items packed in the drawstring bag ready to give to Jay!
I'm really glad that I joined in the FNSI as I feel that I've achieved something; albeit small. I've just remembered I have some US coins and a One Dollar note to put in the bag as well...

Friday, August 19, 2011

On my mind...2 books

Today, being Friday, means that I'm joining in with Rhonda Jean's (here) Friday feature, "On my mind'.

For my birthday, my friend Pamela gave me the book on the right.  The book is written by Zoe Boccabella and describes her growing up , caught between two cultures; Italian and Australian.
It's complicated, the web of relationships that meant Pamela  knew about the book and thought I would like it. P works in a state government cars' garage. One of the tow truck drivers is Santo; he is married to a cousin of Zoe's father. Santo's wife is the sister of one of my good friends, Maddalina who is also a Boccabella cousin obviously. Zoe's father taught at the high school where my DD1 and DH's 3 daughters went to school. Zoe's little sister came to some sessions at the vacation Centre I used to run in the 1990s. Finally my SIL, M and my BIL, D went to Santo's wedding years ago. Now you are completely confused aren't you?? lol

After I started reading "Mezza Italiana', Maddalina sent me Zoe's FaceBook page link. Reading that, I saw mention of the book on the left which relates the stories of Italian Immigrants in the Stanthorpe district between 1925 and 1935. Zoe's grandparents are mentioned in this book but the time frame is too early for a mention of my father and my godparents. I was able to borrow the book from the council library. It's been interesting reading about a town that was almost like a second home for me in my younger years.

Santo took my book to the book launch so I would have a personally signed copy!
My father died when I was 15 and as my mother was Australian, we pretty much reverted to that lifestyle after he died. Until I read Zoe's book, I believed that I had no Italian customs but I now know otherwise. I do have similar memories to Zoe such as being fascinated by the fact that my father never ate vegetables and meat together on the same plate; always separate but I can't remember for sure which was eaten first, but I think it was the meat. I still tend to put communal bowls of food in the centre of the table...and people serve themselves...we did that at home and it's an Italian custom.
My father and godparents always preserved food, and I'm trying to recreate that custom nowadays. Another custom I'm going to continue with is taking produce from my garden as gifts to my friends and neighbour. I'm ashamed to admit that I used to be embarassed by the fact that my parents would send me to school with homegrown tomatoes for my teacher instead of flowers. She loved them but I felt awful!!!
Zoe has also written about the lavish Italian weddings; yes I have childhood memories of attending such functions for 500 people but my own personal experience of weddings with mine and my DDs' weddings is much more restrained. Racism is also dealt with in Zoe's book but I can only only remember 2 occasions where I was at the receiving end, and those were 2 particularly ignorant people. Zoe endured taunts at school which is sad.
I haven't finished either book as I have a number of items I'm reading basically at the same time. So I may find some other old memories stirred up!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just like mum used to do...

Yesterday I had morning tea with some friends of mine. We didn't meet at a cafe, instead I went to their place. I brought along a plate with some of my homemade 'Hikers' Cakes' and we sat on the back deck drinking tea ( poured from the teapot ) and chatting about 'anything and everything' for a couple of hours! When I accepted D's invitation, I warned him that I was planning to cadge cuttings of his geraniums which grow so well at his and M's place. So before I headed home, we walked around the front veranda and the front garden getting cuttings of geraniums, nasturtiums and some bromeliad 'pups'.

My 3 bags of cuttings!

Lovely coloured and large nasturtium flower

It was all so like the way my mother used to socialise with friends in the 50s and 60s when I was growing up. You went to people's places not cafes and restaurants, you took a contribution of homebaking usually, and , finally, you got cuttings and seedlings from friends' gardens to plant at home. I loved reliving that yesterday! Was it the 1990s when we started meeting in coffee shops and cafes? I honestly can't remember.

Talking about my mother...she always used to say that the appearance of ants in the house meant rain was on the way! In the last few weeks we've had ants appear on the vanity unit surface in the bathroom, the plates' cupboard in the kitchen and then yesterday in the saucepan cupboard, this is what I found when I opened the door! Just like the other infestations, the ants disappeared within 24 hours. There doesn't seem to be any food residue for example to attract them or a spill I've missed mopping up. :-0

Monday, August 15, 2011

An added Extra in the lettuce...

Last week my lettuce seedlings were too small to even pick a few leaves from so we bought a bag of leaves from the supermarket. I tipped out half the contents which were pre-washed on to a cutting board as I planned to chop the leaves a little as we were having homemade chicken fajitas for dinner. I then noticed something dark coloured had fallen out of the bag.

On closer examination, I saw that it was a 3inch (about 8cm) length of stick/wood, complete with borer holes. I decided that we would just have extra chopped avocado on the fajtas to make up for not having lettuce on the tortilla. I figured that it wasn't worth the risk of eating the leaves as who knows where the wood came from?

The next day I took the bag and stick back to Coles and got a replacement. They took my details but as yet I haven't heard anything. A friend of mine who is studying law commented and suggested I google a famous case in the UK, Donoghue v Stevenson , which has been called the 'snail in the bottle case'! And it did indeed make interesting reading. Ironically, this week the lettuce seedlings are ready to pluck a few leaves off each one.