Monday, 23 December 2013

a little tipple

My son came home from hospital a few days ago in this patient Transport Ambulance.  The surgeon required this so he could lie down on a stretcher for the hour's drive.  Unfortunately, it was more than an hour.  The ambulance had been ordered for 10:00 am but didn't arrive till 4:30 pm.  On the way home, they detoured to another hospital to pick someone else up.  By that time the main road west out of Sydney was packed with peak hour traffic.  He was very glad to get home, and has been improving every  day.  A bit of TLC and home cooking will do that.

He sounds great and is taking things slowly but is happy to be pain free in his back and almost that way for his stomach.

He had post-op visit to the surgeon today who is very pleased with  the result of the operation.  He has a plan for rehab to cover the next few weeks before another checkup.

I've always been able to tell how he feels by listening to his voice, even over the phone.  He can't hide tiredness, pain, drug haze from painkillers etc.  It's just lovely to hear him sounding so alert when we speak on the phone.  He probably won't make the Boxing Day meal at his brother's on Central Coast. Too much time sitting in the car is not a good idea.  Last year, he had an impromptu gathering at his big house in Stanmore and youngest son felt it was the Christmas gathering he  had missed out on.  With middle son in a nasty situation, youngest son is returning the favour at his new place with the jetty and great view over the bay.  I am sure DIL needs some professional help.  She's never been easy to get along with and members of the family can tell tales of her attitude.  However, right now, venom and bile just ooze from her.

My sister gave me this  tiny cask made of strong cardboard as  part of my Christmas present.  She made some remark about taking it on a picnic.  I thought it might perhaps have contained a wine glass full of liquid.

When I turned it over, I saw it's not wine  at all, but olive oil from this year's pressing at an olive grove in Goulburn, NSW.  She bought it on her travels this year.  It tastes really good and is fresh and light.  It's now being used at home and I am  enjoying it.  What is also good is that the tap is very good, allowing absolutely no drips to escape.  The cask holds 250 ml and is a rather neat marketing idea for the growers.

I have other pictures I could show but most of them show a very deep, nasty cut which I inflicted on myself several days ago.  I was aware that the knife  could slip but thought I had taken enough care and had positioned my fingers out of harm's way.  Not so, I have a very deep cut running diagonally on top of my left index finger and covering the middle joint.

Of course I was home by myself.  It took me about half an hour to stem the bleeding and when I looked at it I quickly put a  bandaid around it and rang my St John friend who would have happily come over to dress it for me.  Phone didn't answer and he didn't reply to an SMS for some hours.  My son arrived and went straight to the pharmacist where he bought non-stick dressing bandaids, with the same material as the old Telfa wound dressings.  It's healing, but is sore and I suspect went almost to the bone.

 When he had finished cleaning it up, he made us each a gin and tonic, possibly my first or second one this year, even at the end of December.  We both needed it.  He's doing OK, but DiL is being very unpleasant.  She keeps putting his stuff on the porch and telling him by text to pick it up or  she will dump it.  She knows this place is small.

As my mother would have said, it's stinking hot here today.  A southerly is due soon, I hope.  I've been following the drop in temperatures up the coast and for me, it  can't get here quickly enough.  Heavy cloud and humidity.  This is the second day like this and last night was almost unbearable.  Friday was the same and I could not avoid going out.  I had a doctor's appointment.  I was fortunate enough to score a seat under the air con outlet in the waiting room.  I had quite a wait.  He's the principal in the practice and was complaining of being very short staffed.  I decided to catch a cab home.  It's actually walkable distance from here, but in that heat there was no way I was walking.  My guess is that it's probably about 45 minutes to walk on a good day.  Unfortunately, every man and his dog wanted a cab and I had a long wait.

I hope you all have a good time at Christmas and enjoy any holiday break.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

dunking biscuits in the Hawkesbury

Last weekend saw our family gathering for Christmas.  We went again to my niece's weekend property on the Hawkesbury river north of Sydney.  About 90 minutes drive from my place.

We were there last year and loved the place.  There was a lot of tension around and just as we sat down to lunch there was a huge thunderstorm.  We were right down near the river and had to bring everything back to the house and try to settle.

This time my niece had set up two large tables in the back section of the house, open to the breezes and the view.  It was good to all be at the same table and this time we had insisted on shared food rather than brought  for individual groups.  It was not entirely a happy gathering.  My son was there with my grandchildren but DIL did not attend.  However, everyone made an enormous effort for support for them and the day was generally very good.

The house is old and has been added to in fits and starts but the big trees give a lot of shade and the grounds were green as they can irrigate from the river which is pumped up to a holding tank and which also gradually fills a well.  The grandchildren had a great time on the quad bikes before lunch.  It was all the two youngest remembered from last year.

Lunch was pleasant, some BBQ, several of Mum's fondly remembered salad dishes, the famous noodle salad which is well known down here.  Ham and other meats.  One son made her chicken in curry creamy sauce with mangos and cashew.  Another cashew and sultana recipe of hers was popular.

The photos are not mine.  I forgot the camera and with a sore shoulder did not feel like hopping up and down with just my phone.  Top photo shows the rather ramshackle area we were in but it was a good size for us all and for a few extra hangers on who were drawn to the lunch.

More treats after lunch.  A big 4WD backed a boat down the boat ramp, lifejackets were found for the kids to share and they went for rides up and down the river.  Not long each time, it's about ten minutes by boat upstream towards Windsor from Wisemans Ferry and about half an hour around the side of a the mountain on a windy, dirt track.

They each had multiple turns being towed behind the boat on what was called a biscuit.  It looked to me like a softer version of the boogie boards young kids skate around on in the shallows at the beach.  The boat was driven fairly slowly and they all had a ball.  Every one of  them came off it several times but they weren't fussed by that.  They stayed still in the deep river  for the boat to turn around and come back for them.  I think they'll remember this treat all year.  Even Master Eight had a ball and he's not a strong swimmer.

Had I realised this was being taken I probably would not have been too happy.  The shoulder strapping raised lots of questions.  It has been a help, not a cure but it has made things easier by preventing the shoulder joint from moving much.  This stops a lot, not all, of the crunching and grinding.  It's not attractive but I don't think about that at all.  Comfort is more important.

Eldest son is on his way home from the hospital.  Back patients travel by Patient Transport Ambulance, not private cars or taxis.  The surgeon is very happy with the result on the back and the stomach is recovering from the indignities inflicted on it.  Now for rehab and I know he'll work hard at that.

Part of my sister's present to me is this knitted nativity set.  Terrible photo with lots of things  contributing to that.  It's been stabilised but the textures can be seen.  I somehow doubt the amount of gilt there.  It seems to me as if the sheep  near the manger is on steroids.  It's huge.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

it never rains but it pours

What a time over the last two or three weeks.

Youngest son has moved house.  He's sharing with a friend who has his fifteen year old son with him permanently.  A big two level house with five bedrooms, looking over a jetty and a bay on the central coast.  Two flights of stairs down to the jetty and a comfortable bench.  Master Eight is convinced he will supply lots of fish for the household.  I suppose it's possible but I somehow doubt it.  My grandmother was experienced at fishing and the different conditions for different  fish but even she was not always lucky.

There is a decent size kitchen with lots of bench space and plenty of cupboards.  Most of the floors are polished or are tiles so cleaning will be easy.  The best part is a huge covered verandah overlooking the water with plenty of room for a couple of tables and chairs and BBQ.

Last night he rang to  say Miss Thirteen wants to live with him.  She does not get on well with her mother and has no respect for her.  Of course, respect has to be earned and I must  say her mum has not done much there in the last year.  So she moved in last night.  Her best friend lives just down the road and I also suspect the space of the new house has also attracted her.

Middle son is still living with me.  I see any reconciliation as very drawn out.  I feel heartbroken for the children.  Having someone, even a son, land unannounced on my doorstep has been a bit hard to cope with at times.  No problems between us and he knows I will support him despite anything he may have done.  It's just a shock to the system.

One good thing has come out of it.  We cleared the enormous wardrobe in the second bedroom and made him some space.  He found my ball winder which I have not seen for a year.  It is now just where I know it will be when I want it.

Eldest son with the terrible back problems has suddenly had another operation yesterday.  The disc operated on two years ago was degenerating and he was back on the massive morphine derivatives and other painkillers.  Everything lined up yesterday for an operation, otherwise it may have been February.  He hates the drugs so went in to a private hospital.  He has a different surgeon with an excellent reputation.  Today he was up and walking around supported by DIL.  He looks amazingly well for such a huge operation, much better than last time.  He's not impressed with the food he can have, basically jelly and custard.  The operation was done through the front of the body and stomach and gut had to be moved out to allow access to the spine.  A new disc is fitted and the very lowest part of spine has been fused.  The surgeon is very pleased with the result and says he will be taller as spine was collapsing.  He's 6'5".

That leaves me.  I have not done much knitting because of the bad shoulder.  GP sent me for x-rays and ultrasound as he thought it was frozen.  Haha!  Two tendons, one about 2.5 cm across, are ripped right across the tendon and through its depth.  There are problems with the nerve.  Cartilage is destroyed and the ball joint is impacted into the socket.  There are places of very severe inflammation and just severe inflammation in other spots.  And more. And more.  Even I can see that it is in a very bad way.

He says I really need a replacement joint.  I do have a close trusted friend who is  an amazing physiotherapist who lectures overseas several times a year.  She will try gentle exercise  first as she says that can sometimes help enormously.  I remember Spike Milligan's epitaph, "I told you I was sick."  I feel like saying, "I told you it was more than just aches and pains.."

I have knitted very little as it makes  shoulder sore.

Son was pining for Christmas decorations so I fished mine out.  I have the Art Deco nativity scene but there are six different interpretations of Christmas trees through the place now.

These are the small knitted pines in Grignasco Bambi with vintage button trims.  I should have opened the front door for more light.  They are just inside and the wall is brilliantly white, not the mauve it shows as here.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

ave atque vale

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

A truly great man now gone, but what a legacy for us all.  As he left Robben Island where he had been imprisoned for twenty seven years, he said he realised he had to forgive those who had imprisoned him or they would still have power over him.    The essence of forgiveness.

It is difficult for  most of us to understand just what apartheid meant to  those in South Africa and what an evil construct it was.  Those who  spoke against it at the time were punished.  I remember a lecturer in the English Department at Sydney Uni in the 1960s who thanked the South African Government for giving him time to write a book on Shakespeare.  He had written it in prison where he, a white man, was being punished for speaking out against apartheid.  The book was smuggled out for publication.

Ave atque vale.  Hail and farewell.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

yarn bombing

I went to the doctor on Friday and saw this.  Croydon is an old suburb, probably 150 years old but the Post Office is now 100 years old.  The building is still the PO but the inside is split between PO and a pharmacist.  Not an improvement, actually. The site is in a prominent position on top of a hill at the junction of three roads.

The yarn bombing is both knit and crochet.  The part to the right of the pillar and behind is crochet and the birthday card is done in intarsia, not duplicate stitch.

The doctor I see is behind the PO in an imposing two storey building which was once the home of the Postmaster.  No perks like that these days.

I had saved a list of several things to see the doctor about.  I see the principal of the practice who is very thorough.  However, there are normally four doctors there.  On Friday there were two and he was running very late.  His manner is not affected by this and I know I had his full attention, but the wait was a  bit much.

My blood pressure was fine but he changed the script to something he thinks will suit me better and I will have it checked in two weeks.  I was given several small sample packs of the new tablet to save me buying some.

I spent quite a while discussing the arthritis flare and now have stuff for that.  However, I also need a scan and x-ray of my shoulder as he is sure it's frozen.  It's certainly extremely painful and I don't knit at the moment for more than a few minutes.  I came away from the pharmacist with multiple packs of pills.

Family problems here and I'm not sure what will happen.  Middle son arrived with a suitcase at 11:00 pm on Friday night.  I think we are all hoping for a good resolution of this.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

summer time and the living is easy

Summer time and the  living is  easy.  Certainly lunch was easy.  A roll from the freezer, some cold beef and some salad and some summer fruit.

In my delivery this week were rockmelon, mango, peaches and nectarines.  I probably would not buy them till a bit later in the season, but they looked wonderful.  The peaches and the nectarines were firm but have now ripened.  The nectarines are  not at their best yet, but were a welcome change.

I enjoy apples but find them boring and I look forward to eating lots of summer fruit..  I have been eating small Pink Lady apples which have had a good year, but I was pleased to see a  change in the variety of fruit in the order.

It was my friend's actual birthday, the same big one as mine was, and he came for lunch.  I kept my present till yesterday instead of giving it to him last Saturday so he received it on the day itself.  I bought him a new leather passport holder from   Belmore Bootmakers. It was a good choice, he said, as his current holder is getting very tatty.  Have a look at  the beautiful boots which they make in an old factory near me, but sit down before you look at the prices.

I made him Thai beef salad, a favourite, and while it was not as spicy as the one I had made myself a couple of weeks  ago, it was good.  I think the chillies were milder than I had used.  I made a tiny dessert  each of a small meringue nest, a dollop of Gippsland thick cream and some banana and passionfruit.  He brought a bottle of Brown Bros Ruby Moscato which goes well with spices and curries.  It was a pleasant meal and afternoon.

Passionfruit?  I remembered Dad's wonderful passionfruit vines wherever he was living.  All bore prolifically and we would pick several at a time as a snack.  The two I used yesterday were $1.50 each.

I totted up the snacks after school at that price.  Ridiculous.

Still no knitting.  My left shoulder has been very painful and I have been very careful with my posture not to put pressure on it.  My right hand is swollen and puffy and today I can almost not move the thumb and other joints are painful to touch.  I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and will have a discussion with him about medication.  This seems like a real flare of it, not  just the usual aches and pains from time to time.

Monday, 18 November 2013

birthdays, rain and not parsley

My Amazon voucher  for my birthday just keeps on giving!  I ordered this some time ago and it has just arrived.  Amazon or US Post or both, are very slow.  It's a poor picture, but the weather here is grey, very grey.  My son has returned my camera and I think he has changed  some of my settings  too, so I need to have a fiddle with it.

This is a lovely book, well set out.  Information on knitting Shetland lace, some background to it.  Various projects using it.  Pages of small photos  grouped together so various good combinations of patterns can be seen.  On that page, each small picture has a reference to  elsewhere in the book where there are written instructions and oh joy, charted instructions as well.  That's one thing I miss about the book of motifs which I have been using.  No charts.  I resisted charts for years and years and finally made myself buckle down and learn how to use them.  Now I prefer them to written instructions.

Of my very generous Amazon voucher, I still have almost $60 left.  I have bought several books, some for the Kindle and others which needed posting.  The postage also came out of the voucher, so you can see it was a generous gift indeed.

My friend had a birthday, the same milestone as mine from last August.  He had a party in a club local to him for lunch on  Saturday.  Fortunately there was  not as much rain that day until later in the afternoon.  I was diffident about the club, although I go there often with him for a lunch.  A diverse group from  some of the many areas of his life, but the service was good and people mingled.  Most of my grandchildren were there except for one with a chest infection.  Their dads have known my friend since they were at school.  He gets on well with the grandchildren and really is a surrogate grandfather to the youngest.  Their genetic grandfather has little to do with them, often forgets to even ring on birthdays and sees them about once a year.  I can't understand it, nor can anyone else.  Still, that's the way it is.  My friend has long philosophical conversations with Finn, sits and does Lego with him, exchanges  dreadful jokes  etc.

The club overlooks Wolli Creek which is a conservation area of heritage bushland.  Pronunciation is Woll-eye.  Not that you'd know it is heritage listed and protected in some parts where it is  smothered in weeds and rubbish, but regeneration work is slowly taking place.  All the grandchildren went down to the creek after lunch as someone mentioned tortoises and frogs.  None to be found.  They must have heard my grandchildren coming!

It's been quite cold and today is wet and windy with thick fine rain blowing over every fifteen minutes or so.  I have long trousers on, a long sleeve top and just before lunch, I put on a woollen cardigan too. I am pleasantly cosy but not hot at all.  I made a single serve of potato and pancetta soup for lunch which suited the day well.

The other day, similar weather , saw me wondering  about lunch.  I had potatoes from  my order.  I don't eat many at all.  I grated a medium  one, squeezed out handfuls to get rid of the moisture.  Added some dried chilli flakes, an egg and stirred in some  flour to make a thickish consistency.  I fried spoonfuls of this and served with some salad.  It really did not take long  to make and they were nice.  If you do this, be careful not to cook them too quickly or they will burn on outside and be glue like sludge inside.  I know.  This is the voice of experience speaking.

I now have several herbs growing outside.  I enjoy them.  I bought  some parsley and basil in Coles a week or so ago  and planted them. The small pots encased in a cellophane sleeve.  Most of the basil succumbed to the heat but one or two stalks are slowly coming back to life.  I have kept them moist and I may yet get something from  them.  The parsley was marked as flat leaf when I bought it.  I picked some  today and started to chop it.  It's coriander!  Now I like coriander but really wanted  parsley.  You can just see a solitary green stalk at the other end of the box.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

O Tannenbaum finale

I spent one of the hot mornings recently quietly stitching the red Heirloom baby wool around the eight little trees I had knitted.

My fingers didn't like it much and cramped up so I rested them a bit each time I finished a tree.

I enjoyed picking out the vintage buttons from a box given me by a friend.  I had many hundreds more I could have chosen from, but found enough in the ones which had been added to a plastic container. My guess is that the old bag they had been in had broken and I had just dumped them in with some other stuff.

The stars at the top of each tree are mother of pearl which I bought from the the Crewel Gobelin in Marian Street, Killara when I lived there.  I used to walk past it twice a day and many purchases were spur of the moment when I was tempted by the window display.   I bought several designs of mother of pearl buttons  and have now just about used them up.

I had been planning on crocheting a chain of the red Heirloom yarn, but in my hunt for buttons, I found the cord, part of some bought as a drawstring tie some years ago.

The only outlay on these little trees has been time.  All the materials have come from stash and I guess is that some of the  buttons are quite old.  Some are fairly utilitarian, some are shirt buttons, but some are definitely old.  The cord will go across my door with a slight curve and I'm looking forward to putting them up.  They've been a fun project.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter!

These are not quite the words I've always known.  Treu is often translated loyal and refers to the fact that the pine is an evergreen, keeping its leaves year round. I learnt the song with the words

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie grün sind deine Blätter!

where grün is green.

Do you like  my miniature pine forest?  They come from  the book of motifs I bought a few  weeks ago.

The arthritis in my right hand has receded  a bit and I can knit for a few minutes at a time.  I have been doing so as therapy for the hands.  Each tree takes about 20-25 minutes depending on my level of concentration on increases and decreases.  Then I give the hands a rest.

The trees when decorated are bunting for decorations for Christmas.  The pattern calls  for 8 ply yarn but I have used Grignasco  Bambi, a 4 ply and 2.5 mm bamboo needles.  I had forgotten just how lovely  this yarn is to knit and to wear.  The ball I had  was a leftover  from an Aestlight shawl I made as a gift  for a friend.  I have some bright red Heirloom baby yarn in merino which will trim  the trees.  That came from a jumper I made my youngest grandson before he was born.  He was eight a few months ago.  So the trees have cost me nothing except time.

They are to be strung on a cord made by casting on several hundred stitches and kitting a couple of rows.  I think I will crochet the cord and measure as I go for  what I want.  I really don't fancy the long knitted cord at all.  The book has a pattern in it for ordinary bunting  too, which looks like  fun.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

saturday sky redux, or , where there's smoke there's fire

Some years ago, probably around eight years, I took part in a series called Saturday Sky.  It was interesting picking different skies to photograph and finding frames for the photo as well as externally applied frames.  I look back through my photos and remember taking some of them especially for the Saturday Sky series.

Today there is another example.  Much of Sydney and the Central Coast has been blanketed in smoke today, much of it from  backburning before a forecast very hot day tomorrow.  The fires are contained but are not extinguished.  They could burn for weeks in deep mountain valleys unless we get substantial rain.  Then,  if wind  and temperature combine as fires need, they roar up with little warning in a different area and the nasty cycle begins again.

This photo which can be enlarged by clicking on it, shows what the sky was like here just after lunch.  The closest suburb here is about ten minutes' walk away if I were capable of walking that far.  I'm not at the moment.  I can barely see it.  The next suburb is obliterated by smoke and the harbour bridge and city skyline of major buildings is just totally hidden.  I've been inside most of the day with the doors and windows closed.  I've sneezed many times.  I don't want to think about those who really have respiratory and related problems.  According to the Ambulance Service they have been rushed off their feet attending to severe asthma attacks and other problems caused by the smoke.

I've been doing socks for a while now in a KAL in a Rav group.  I at first said I would do one pair.  I'm now on my sixth and others have done many more.  I don't usually put expectations on myself as I find it a  sure way to disappoint myself.  However, the socks have been started and finished in a reasonable manner.

The second sock in the sixth pair was to have been finished by the end of October to fit in with my calculations.  The arthritis has flared again, see comment about walking above.  My thumb on right hand often is swollen and can not be bent much off the perpendicular. That happened last week but worse was the swelling of the ring finger on the same hand.

It was so painful that scraping it on mattress as I turned in bed woke me up.  The knuckle was bruised from the swelling and the whole of the joint closest to my hand was very swollen.  I've been rubbing cream into it several times a day and it's a bit better now.  However, knitting was totally out of the question, so the second sock is still only about 30% finished.

The photo shows the swelling in the one joint.  The joints above the swollen one are fairly normal.  My right ankle is also swollen.  When the osteoarthritis was first diagnosed years ago, the doctor prescribed tablets to be taken all summer.  I don't want that, I hate the effect on stomach, but I need to get something to have in the house.  I have to get a repeat script for another medication so will raise this matter when I go.

I did not realise just how difficult it would be to get a photo of this.  Son still has my Nikon and I had to use my left hand and phone to take this.  Clumsy, very clumsy and awkward.

I just had to  edit this photo.  I realised my brother's name was clearly visible  in the inbox on the left.  A very private solicitor, holding top government positions, he would have been horrified to see his full name there.  Once I realised it, I couldn't leave it, although I doubt anyone who knew him would ever have seen it.  I've edited the photo.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

the sentinels at the gates

The sentinels at the gates.  This sounds as if it should be something from perhaps the The Lord of the Rings or even something from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, along the lines of the chapter headed "the piper at the gates of dawn."

Not so.  These are the beginnings of my bird defences.  I get quite a bit of breeze on my balcony and these spin merrily around.  They cost $1 from KMart and I'm on the lookout for a couple of rubber snakes to add as well.

I love birds out in the wild.  I can cope with birds in cages although I don't like to see them.  I cannot cope at all with birds on the loose flapping around me.  I would not say I'm scared, I just hate the flapping and the flutter.

When I first moved here, there were lots of horrible mynahs, commandos as my mother would call them.  There are very few lately and they haven't bothered me.  I think the cockatoos have conducted a war of attrition with the mynahs although they do not compete for food.

There has been a young pigeon several times on my balcony lately.  Even when the door was shut, it would come to the glass and peer in, sometimes several times in five minutes.  A couple of days ago, I cleaned the doors with window cleaner and a paper towel.  The smears had been bothering me for some time.  As the weather was cooler, I left the door open  about 12-15 cm.  I left the room and when I returned, there was a pigeon on the kitchen floor.  It certainly looked like the one  from earlier.   It took off to fly out.  However, it had hopped in through the barely open door and couldn't find its way out.  It kept flying at the glass and was getting quite frantic.

I retreated a bit and it landed on a knitting book on my table.  Fortunately that was all it did.

I edged past and slid the door open wide and then retreated.  I waved my arms and it took off again, this time escaping.  I don't want the doors closed all the time so have been thinking what to do.  There should be a screen on the door but there has never been one.  Insects are not a problem and I really don't want to spend quite a bit on a custom made screen door.  I see there are other apartments with no screen.

I was in KMart yesterday and saw these, so the first line of defence has gone up.  As I mentioned, I think several rubber snakes moved around frequently on the balcony may help too.  I have to find those.  The pot plant holding one of the wheels is salad burnet which I was given.  It's a pretty plant, light and feathery.  I don't find the leaves anything I would bother with normally, but I add them to salads, a vague cucumber flavour.

You can see the queer light.  It's the sun through  smoke.  I can only just make out the shapes of the city buildings.  More back burning is being done today to help contain one of the fire fronts. I am utterly amazed at the those who go deep into the mountain valleys with a pack, some firefighting rakes, drinking water and chainsaws and not much else.  They work on spot fires and also on burning ahead of fires.

My eldest son works at a very high level in a government department.  I know how high it is by the names he mentions for meetings, regardless of the colour of the government.  Often one day a week at the office, then other days as he is able at home with the bad back and bone infection.  He was in Springwood  the other day on the mountains, setting up an office to arrange  emergency accommodation for fire victims.  I assumed he would be home the next day at his MIL's place which has had several more scares from grass fires.

He had been catapulted into an extremely responsible, behind the scenes, admin type position with responsibility over-arching over several groups of fire connected entities.  He's working at the headquarters where the heavy work is done at Regentville, near Penrith, making sure they work together and don't pull in any group's direction.  I know more but really can't say publicly.  I asked him how he felt.  He said he would not have chosen the role but was selected because of both his IT knowledge and his managerial experience, along  with the connections over a wide area which he could bring in to help.  "Someone had to do it, and I can, and will do the job properly," was his comment.

Further to my comment about The Wind in the Willows...  I turned the TV on one afternoon for an update on the fires.  I happened to catch some of the show that terrible Eddie McGuire hosts.  (I wish someone would go over strange word and names with him before the show starts.  He has no idea of pronunciation of many names and makes a fool of himself, unknowingly and all too often.)  One question had four choices for the author of that book.  All known names, well certainly to me.  The contestant, a man in his 30s, ummed and aahed, scratched his head, pulled an ear and more.  He had heard of no names and did not know of the book.

My sister still has Mum's copy which I had probably read ten times before high school.  Then I realised how many questions I could answer from that show, basically because I read and have always read and I pick up much information that way.  Modern pop music questions stump me, but I get most of the others.

Clicking on picture will enlarge it and the feathery salad burnet leaves can be easily seen.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

a most unpleasant week that was

I haven't posted for a week.  It seems very trite to berate myself for having done only about twenty rows of the second Madeleine Tosh ruby sock when many people have lost everything in the bushfires around Sydney.  These fires are still burning and will burn in mountain valleys for weeks unless we get substantial rain, which does not appear likely.  Fire fronts cover hundreds of kilometres and thousands and thousands of hectares have been burnt.

My son and his wife are now living with her mother in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.  Above them on the lower mountains around two hundred homes were obliterated.  They actually live in what in normal times would be called a suburban area.

With the unseasonable heat, the extra dry conditions and the the appalling winds we have had, there is no such thing as safe suburbia.  Look at the 40 destroyed cars with another 37 badly damaged, in the car park of the Olympic Aquatic Centre.  That's a car park I have parked in dozens of times, about ten minutes from here.

This picture was taken from her backyard a few days ago and there is another fire in the area tonight.  That is far too close for comfort.  They have spent today installing a more elaborate sprinkler system in preparation for another three days of heat and high winds before a possible cooler change and hopefully some rain on Wednesday.  There has been almost no rain here since June.

I have friends on both roads leading over the mountains.  They have lived there for years and have experienced  fire before but this seems different to them.  The mountains are like a home to me.  I feel very much at home there and would love to live there.  Mum and Dad grew up in Lithgow.  Dad was a history buff who knew many little bits of mountain history and could go to many places the tourists  would not see.  I think I have inherited his love of the place.  Even Mum who had a deep fear of snakes and spiders would tell of picnics in almost inaccessible places around the mountains at the back of Lithgow.   As children, we were taken to many of these places and my sons have inherited my love of them.  The ZigZag railway, due to reopen in a few days has been wiped out with rolling stock and parts for renovations destroyed.  My grandchildren walked those tracks only a few weeks go and ere amazed at the engineering.

Dad grew up at Oakey Park at Lithgow.  Much of that was burnt a few days ago.  What annoyed me then was the poor reporting of this.  I think the Sydney Morning Herald has dumped most of its subeditors over the last few months and spelling and grammar standards have fallen badly.  Oakey Park has an E in it.  Today the Herald had something like,"there was over a hundred fires burning."  Something like this is in almost every edition.

So not much knitting and lots of heart ache even though I don't think I know anyone who has actually lost anything yet.

I found a  recipe for Turkish gozleme on a blog.  I've seen it several times lated and can't remember just where it was.  I'm sure a search would turn up something.  I like this dish and living in Sydney's inner west with a cosmopolitan population there is a variety of food available.  Gozleme turns up at markets and garmers' markets around here.  Usually with two Turkish women slaving away making and cooking and one old man keeping an eye on them

It was make.  Mix one cup of Greek yoghurt, a pinch of salt and 250 gm flour together.  I put on a disposable rubber glove and did it by hand.  It took a few minutes to all come together.  Then I kneaded it a bit and covered till I was ready to use it.  I often forget yoghurt in the fridge so I bought the smallest Greek yoghurt I could find, 200 gm.  It needed a couple of tablespoons of milk to make it up to a cup measure.

Divide into eight portions and roll out as thinly as possible on a floured surface.  This was quite easy as the dough was pliable.

Place in a pan with a bit of oil or spray.  On half of it put baby spinach or silverbeet and some cheese.  I used feta but I guess something soft would also work.  Fold the other half of the dough over and press down all round.  Cook till one side is brown and the flip to do other side.

The darker one here has spinach and feta in it, the lighter spinach and some shaved ham.  I think a mince mix could be nice too.  Serve with a wedge of lemon.  I did two and now have six small balls of dough frozen waiting for another time.  Two this size was almost too much.

Friday, 11 October 2013

two squares and a square

I've been making squares from  the book of motifs a couple of posts down.  Just something to do with leftover 8 ply yarn.  I would like to try most of the patterns but am not pushing myself.

This one needs some serious blocking to make it square.  The pattern was easy and quick.  I would like to see charts and not just words in the book, but I guess this would probably involve paying more money for it.  The square here is lacy leaf.

I was reading  Rosered's blog over here.  She has just finished a beautiful blanket as a gift for her nephew and his bride.  She just scraped in at the deadline to have it all assembled.  I remarked to her that my mind seems to have blocked that bit out.  I can see the squares and I can envisage them assembled.  I don't see the bit in between.  I suppose I'll face that hurdle when I  get to that point.  Scroll down Jane's blogpost and you will see see she is working on another big project with a deadline finish.  Congratulations are in order there.

This square is full of butterflies resting lightly on the yarn.  Another easy pattern to do.  The yarn for both was some leftover Cleckheaton Country and I'm using 4 mm needles.

I did this as I sat on the balcony in a cool breeze after lunch a few days ago.

No cool breeze yesterday  when the thermometer climbed to 37° C here.  I actually found it quite comfortable.  It's far too hot for October but I closed everything on the northern side of my place very early in the morning.  Blinds and windows.  The house stayed very comfortable.  I guess that's because while it was very hot outside, we haven't had a run of hot days to heat the bricks to act as a heat sink.

Daylight saving adjustment seems to have knocked my sleep schedule around quite a bit.  I get one great night and then several progressively worse.  I suppose things will sort themselves out in time.

Tomorrow is my monthly outing to the Southern Highlands.  I made this salmon pie to take and also some salad.  Dressing is separate in a jar and tomorrow morning, all I have  to do is transfer three containers from fridge to insulated bag and add two freezer blocks.  This salmon pie is my third square this week.

The recipe comes from the mother of one of my DILs.  I haven't made it for ages and then thought it was easy, tasty and should be fine to transport.

J. made herself and the family a recipe book about fifteen years ago and the recipe is in there.  Here it is.

Salmon Quiche

Half pack of Jatz biscuits, crushed and spread over a 23 cm pie plate.

Whisk lightly together,

three large eggs
quarter cup plain flour
half teaspoon baking powder
half cup grated, tasty cheese
half cup milk
large drained tin salmon, flaked and bones removed
60 gm melted butter
handful of chopped dill

Pour the mix carefully over the crushed biscuits in pie plate and bake in moderately hot oven for 35 minutes.  I cooked it at 190° although the recipe suggested 210°.  I also cooked some leeks in the butter and cooled them before adding to the mix and used a fourth egg as my square dish here is bigger than the pie dish suggested.

I wonder how much the producer is getting for  these baby cos lettuce.  The pack says product of Australia.  They were very fresh and crunchy and I'm making a salad to accompany the salmon.  Two firm, crunchy baby cos lettuce cost me $1.50.  Labour, packing, and other associated costs won't return much to the grower.

The salad dressing is unusual.  A couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar, the zest and juice of a lemon, half a cup of good oil and three tablespoons chopped capers and finally a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard..  I used about half that many capers. Put in screwtop jar, tighten lid  and shake well.

Friday, 4 October 2013


I've decided that the afterthought heel is not really an after thought at all.  It requires planning, marking, undoing yarn, picking up stitches, knitting heel.  Not much in the way of afterthought there.

This is the Mojo sock (Rav link) which I have been doing in Madeleine Tosh sock yarn, colour Tart.

The white line is where the afterthought heel will go.  After I finished the sock, I came back, picked up stitches above and below the white yarn and knitted the heel.

It made a very odd looking sock indeed.  The rows of bumpers, five rows plain, five purl, repeated all several times totally changed the shape of the sock with the different tension introduced.

I thought I had never seen such an odd looking sock till I remembered the one I did years ago when under a fair bit of stress.  I turned two heels on the one foot.  That was odd indeed.

However, the sock is very comfortable and fits well.  Now for the second sock which is a fraternal twin.  Same yarn but different configuration of stitches.  This one is turned inside out after the  toe is complete.  The second sock is the normal stocking stitch.

Today has been pleasantly cool, unlike yesterday when the temperature dropped drastically here in the middle of the day and it was quite cold.  That was in itself a contrast to the previous days of fire bans and temperatures over 30°C with enormous gales.  To have no wind has been very restful today and I sat  on my balcony in the sun and knitted this sock this morning.  I had lunch out there too, but then the sun went and I became chilly, so came inside.

The chicken with maple syrup, mustard and rice wine vinegar which is detailed in the post below did me several meals.  It kept well and I had some both hot and cold.  I'll repeat this recipe, it was good and I enjoyed it.  I've had it with salads and with hot vegetables.  Good whichever way i served it.  Very simple, it could hardly be easier to prepare.

I bought this book as part of the Amazon voucher which was given me by one son and daughter-in-law. Book Depository has it more  cheaply but the voucher covered the  shipping too.  There are hundreds of squares inside.  I thought it might be interesting  when resting between more major projects to do a square at a time.  If done in same weight of yarn, they should(!) be the same size and could make a blanket.  That's the plan, anyhow.  There are many projects of different sizes and complexity as well.  A good resource book for the shelf.

The little mobile of bees which you can see on the bottom right looks like a fun knit to do.  There are cushions and bunting and gifts and more.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

a finished pair of socks!

At long last I have finished the socks for my sister's birthday which was two days ago.  Not only are they finished, but posted and received and she loved the denim colour.  This was in the Yummy sock yarn bought in Newtown some years ago.  I found it boring to knit as it pooled in many places.  I tried to minimise the effects of the pooling by being careful just where I put the heel  to split things a bit.

As you can see, these are hot off the needles with no blocking. I think she will make use of these where she is housesitting now.  She is south of Canberra and the district is colder than Canberra.  Tonight's minimum for Canberra is supposedly -2°C.  I made her some 8 ply socks some years ago which she wore inside until they dissolved into holes.  She should be able to wear these  with joggers to keep her feet warm.  When she's finished at this house, she has another month in a similar area but slightly more inland, so they will probably be needed there too.

Up here the maximum was over 30°C. The contrast is ridiculous for a car trip of just over three hours.  We were sweltering on Friday and she had sleet blowing horizontally in the gale.  We had the wind but had bushfires.

I have started another pair of socks.  The picture isn't bad for the poor light but the colour is really a very rich, vibrant ruby.  It's called Tart by Madeleine Tosh.

The socks are Mojo by Donyale.  I've looked at this pattern many times over several years and finally decided the time had come to do it.  I'll make a donation to the charity suggested  by her providing clean water.  The pattern is a mix of different patterns arranged within the sock stitches.  After the toe cast on, the sock was turned inside out to give the purl finish.  The other sock has stocking stitch on the toe.  I am not fond of toe up socks but have made several pairs of socks that way.  A long time ago.  These have an afterthought heel.  When I get that far, I'll consider if I diverge from the pattern to do my usual short row heel or if I'll be different for once and stick to the pattern.

Do you ever wonder what to cook for dinner?  I do.  Often.  I enjoy cooking, but just for myself it can become tedious.  I was reading a group on ravelry and found a link to this recipe.  Man pleasing chicken.  I had all the ingredients, so decided to try it.  There's no man here to please with my cooking but it certainly pleased me.  It smelt delicious, the more so because I have recently started eating the 5:2 plan and yesterday was a day of low kilojoules, just 2000 kj over two meals.  I was ready for something different tonight.

It was very easy to prepare once I had thawed the chicken thighs.  I discovered I did not have the full amount of Dijon mustard so topped it up with some grainy mustard.  This was actually a good move.  The grainy mustard made a pleasant crunchy topping on the chicken thigh.  I forgot to put the fresh rosemary on the top to serve and I think a mix of rosemary and lemon zest would be good.  The flavour was good and different.  Although I knew what was in the recipe, no one flavour predominated.

Best of all was that there were six thighs in the pack, so I have another two meals.  I think it would also be good served cold as a lunch dish with salad.  The chicken was moist and tender.  A couple of minutes to stir the rice wine vinegar, maple syrup and mustard together and then into the oven.  It could scarcely have been easier or quicker.

I had a few mushrooms and some fresh asparagus in the fridge.  I put them into a pyrex dish along with a sliced button squash.  That had some leftover garlic butter added and I put that in the oven with the chicken towards the end of the cooking time for the chicken.  A good grind of fresh pepper and dinner was done and enjoyed.

Even better is that there were four pieces of chicken leftover, another two meals all done and dusted.  I'll keep one in the fridge and freeze the other.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

ah, nostalgia

I have sometimes remarked, as has my sister, that I seem to be turning into my mother at times.  I use some of her phrases  and have recently found myself turning to some of her recipes.  Nothing wrong with that, actually.  She was a good, innovative cook who used garlic and other strange vegetables well before her peers.  I recently made a chocolate slice which still goes by the name of fudge in the family.  Not at all the gooey concoction of that name now.

The smell of it cooking brought back to mind, the times I would walk around the side path to the back door as I returned from  school.  I could smell she'd been cooking fudge from quite a distance  away.

I grew up in what was then a semi-rural suburb of Sydney.  Lots of open space, unpaved roads, no footpaths.  There were several market gardens in my street and a poultry farm which sold us freshly killed chooks for extra special occasions.  We took our billy can down every morning for rich creamy milk for breakfast and cooking.  Eggs were sent up by the farmer regularly.  The rabbitoh man drove a horse and cart around regularly selling rabbits for meals.  The ice cream man came every Sunday lunch time and there would be a rush to buy wavers, two flat, crispy pieces of icecream  cone material.  These sandwiched a wedge of icecream which was wrapped.  Sometimes we would get a block of icecream.  The freezer in our fridge was tiny, so this had to be bought as needed.  It would be served with hot, freshly made caramel sauce.  The sauce was my responsibility from about eight years of age.

Dad  was a teacher at the local  school and I walked there and back with him every day.  About 15 minutes it took and we did not have a car till I was 12.  Our house was one of several in the street which had been left as a shell by a builder when he went broke and just disappeared.  No floors, internal wall, ceilings, fitting etc.  Dad built the inside of the house every afternoon after school.  I have some yarn ordered which is called 1950 kitchen cupboards.  I'll post a photo when it arrives, but yes, our cupboards were painted in very similar colours to this yarn.

We had what would now be an enormous block of land, and dad lovingly planted a garden.  He had not just green thumbs but a whole host of green fingers as well.   Lots of flowers as well as fruit trees and vegetables.  Swane Bros nurseries were at the bottom of our street and when they moved, Mrs Swane let him take as many of the prize-winning  roses from the garden as he  wished.  Just beautiful, and much better than having them ripped out by a developer.  Manure for these was collected in our old pram from the paddocks around the poultry farm.

On our way home from school we would call in at Cuthbert's nursery where he would buy seedlings.  They are still there but sell a different range now.  He taught  Betty Cuthbert  who won several gold medals for sprinting at  the Olympics.  Mrs Cuthbert would make a wrap from newspaper and while Dad may have asked for a dozen lettuce seedlings, she would get them on her trowel and wrap them up.  Many more than he asked or paid for.

So what has prompted this fit of nostalgia?   I think it's spring.  My birthday herbs are thriving.  The basil I planted last Thursday, four days ago, appears to be settling in, even though the seedlings were tiny, and the radish seeds I planted at the  same time are sprouting.  All over the box of potting mix, tiny leaves are pushing through the light covering and reaching up to the light.

They are a bit difficult to see but they are definitely there.

Dad had a beautiful garden and while the flowers were beautiful, so too were the vegetables.  There were several passionfruit vines and we picked ripe passionfruit every afternoon.  Many of them never made it inside.  He had a bed devoted to strawberries about five metres by five metres.  This was great till we started to share a tiny bitser stray with the neighbours.  She liked strawberries even as a puppy  and would nose around in the bed.  She only ever took the ripe ones, but we had to be quick to get them before Annabelle did.  She also liked young beans and would eat them straight from the plant until dad planted climbing beans and we then took the high up beans.

Row after row of radishes were planted each week and I ate them straight from the plot after a quick rinse under the laundry tap.  There were bananas down the side path  and several peach trees.  Peaches picked from the tree on a summer's day and eaten warm from the sun are amazingly good.  He grew all our potatoes and most of the other vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli etc.  I picked mulberries from an enormous tree in the corner of the back yard.  The downside was I  always had purple fingers in mulberry season and I was the one who had to snip off the stems before mum cooked them.

Later in life Dad studied part time at Ryde school of horticulture and  topped the year every year.  One of my saddest memories of  him was at the beginning of the Alzheimers which eventually took him.  We sat on the back verandah of the mountain home he had built for retirement where he had made another beautiful garden from rough scrubby bush.  He complained to me that he knew the name of a shrub we could see.  He knew he knew it and had planted the shrub.  However the  name  was tantalisingly close in his brain, but he just couldn't put a name to it.  This bothered him enormously as he did not know what was wrong.

I had a great garden when the boys were small but let things go.  I think the spring feeling has me looking forward to using the herbs and certainly has me anticipating the radishes, fresh with a sprinkle of salt.

So some reminiscences prompted by my radishes on a sunny, Sunday afternoon.  I'll finish with a picture of my spring shoes.  Bright red and very cheerful.

Friday, 20 September 2013

not spanokopita

Cindy who blogs over here, has been testing recipes weekly.  Some of them are delicious and I have used them, but the one for pasties which she tried a few days ago did not really appeal to me.  She also said that the combination of both pasta and pastry was a bit much.

When I was growing up, my mum  would often make a pie.  Her true meat pies are legendary in the family and it seems as if my youngest son has inherited her mantle for making them.  Mine are given 8/10 and hers were classed by my sons as 12/10.  She made her own delicious pastry.  The meat was cooked with mushrooms and wine by the side of the wood stove for hours.

However, when I was younger, there was more  emphasis placed on economy and filling us up than on beef and burgundy pies.  She was a good cook and we ate good healthy food but occasionally she would make a pie with Tom Piper steak and vegetables which came in a tin.  I remember they smelt great but I didn't much like meat then and like the tinned stuff even less.

One rule which I picked up was that if there was pastry, then there was no mash.  I can remember early times of marriage when my husband was horrified there was no potato to eat with his pie.

Now Cindy's recipe which she posted had cooked macaroni or similar in a cheesey sauce, all encased in pastry.  A bit too heavy on the carbs for my liking.  She thought so too. A bit like potatos and pastry on the same plate.

I was thinking through the week about what could be done about it.  I remembered the Greek pie spanakopita which uses filo pastry.  I had baby spinach which needed to be used.  I had Tasmanian fetta cheese, I had a couple of rashers of bacon.  I had puff pastry, I don't buy filo for just myself as it dries out before I can use much of the packet.  I did have puff pastry.

I cooked the finely chopped bacon and some onion, along with two big cloves of garlic.  I added the baby spinach and put a lid over the pan till it was wilted down.  I usually make the spanokopita with raw spinach and sometimes it cooks down so much there is a  big space under the pastry.

Into a big bowl went this, along with quite a bit of chopped fetta and some grated tasty cheese.  Season to taste.  Feta can vary in its saltiness, so  taste  before adding any extra salt.  I didn't add beaten eggs to the mix or use ricotta as well as the recipe above suggests.  If I make spanakopita, I usually make it in a pyrex bowl so use the eggs then.

I thawed some puff pastry and cut two circles.  I could perhaps have stretched it to three pasties as I had some of the mix leftover.  Put the mix down one half of the pastry, moisten edges and fold over and crimp together.  Place on baking sheet on some baking paper.  Use a pastry brush to brush outside with beaten egg. Mine were cooked for 25 minutes at 190 degrees as my oven runs very hot and fierce.  It made a good meal with some salad, although I think I could no longer call it spanakopita.  Things had changed somewhat.  I think they would be good cold on a picnic but smaller.

Spring has sprung here and my birthday herbs are thriving.  The ginger mint is unusual.  At first it just tasted minty, but then there was a definite after taste of ginger.  I filled a foam box with potting mix two days ago and have eight basil seedlings planted, tiny at the moment.  My mind sees pesto.

Also planted some radish seeds, just a few from a packet as an experiment.  If they work, I will sow a few more at a a time.  I haven't had the cockatoos on my balcony since I moved the table near the door away from the edge of the balcony.  So I will be watching all this with interest and anticipation.

I was cutting up a few salad bits and pieces to have with a sandwich for lunch today.  Have you seen these delightful bambini mozzarella balls?  I like the cheese but usually have the baby bocconcini or even the larger.  I bought these a few weeks ago and they definitely are cute little bambini.  The taste is mild and sweet and went well with my lunch.  I think they were about $4.50 or perhaps $ 4.99 for the tub.

They would go well almost as a garnish on a plate of savouries.  The cucumber here is a long skinny Lebanese cucumber, so you can compare the bocconcini to the cucumber slice.  They are about as big as my little fingernail but basically sherical.  I bought them at Coles.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

so, where have I been?

An extended absence on my part, not really intended.  It just happened.

I spent some days in the southern highlands.  Last year, it was -6° C one afternoon and overnight.  This year, one day was around 30° C.  Too warm for this time of year, really.  The Highlands were beautiful.  Much of the blossom was out and trees were covered in puffy little balls of flowers of pink or white.  I didn't take my camera, so have no decent photos of it.
I went with my friend and we stayed at a different motel to the usual.  We are not looking for luxury as we rarely spend any time in the motel during the days.  Clean comfortable beds and bathrooms so we sleep well at night.  The usual abode was being renovated.  The rooms were done a couple of years ago, so I hope they did the bathrooms this time round.  Always clean, but extremely dated and tiny and cramped.

We went over the road to a Best Western motel.  Much more expensive but it seems to have spoilt us for our usual.  Lots of facilities which we suddenly found we needed.  My room had a big bath as well as a shower.  Bigger actually than the bath at home.  Free wifi, good beds dining room for breakfast.  We used to buy breakfast at a cafe as the breakfast at other place was nothing wonderful.  This was fine, cereals with lots of fruit etc and toast and good coffee or breakfast cooked to order. This time we sat in a bay window with a fountain just outside and watched the birds coming to the feeder.  They had the same order of appearance each morning.  Pretty gardens and all mod cons.

The only down side was the heating.  It had been cold and then there was a very warm stretch.  The place was centrally heated so I found I just had a sheet over me most of the night.

My friend is still having tests done to determine his chest problems which were triggered by dust etc at Royal Easter Show.  Just like last year, but this year they haven't cleared.

Son with the bad back has been told he may never be really truly recovered.  Not good news.  They sold their house where they were living along  with other real estate.  As they haven't moved to France and my guess is they won't, they had to move in with DIL's mum.  He could not help at all with packing and moving and I think the whole process has been quite emotional for them.  He had a birthday.  I was knitting a cowl for him, but it's still in the naughty corner after being ripped back three times.  At least it is now spring, not autumn as it would be in France.

He's now taken antibiotics for the bone infection in his back for six weeks.  Huge tablets.  DIL calls them horse tablets.  The first medical estimate is he will need them for six months and most say probably longer.  Then he has to work out what treatment he will accept for the unstable disk which was the subject of the first operation a year ago.

I was given some herbs and a planter for my birthday by friends.  The herbs have  taken off in the warmer weather.  I already had a  thriving lavender, but now have a variety.  The baby spinach is bursting out of the pot.  I have  tried some ginger mint which is pleasant, not strong.  The spearmint is coming on well.  The feathery plant is salad burnet which has a taste reminiscent of celery.  Two sorts of chives are springing up and I have used some in some  chicken mince for dinner tonight, along with  garlic and chilli.

I think I'll make some meatballs with it or perhaps some larger rissoles.

Friday, 30 August 2013

some like it hot

Well some like it hot and the weather is endeavouring to please them.  It is hot here today, far too hot for the time of the year, with still one day of winter to go by the calendar.  I had on a 3/4 sleeved cotton top earlier and have changed it to short sleeves with a scooped square neck.  It's beautiful, but unseasonal and it makes me shudder at the thought of summer after 46° here one day last summer.

I have also cooked something hot.  Macadamia chilli brittle with a recipe from an email from   BoxFresh,  my fruit and vegetable supplier. I have cut and pasted the recipe.  The packet of nuts was just slightly over the half cup in recipe so I used it all.

Macadamia & Chilli Brittle 
24 August 2013

Serves: 8
Preparation time: 20 Minutes


  • 1/2 cup coarsley chopped salted macadamia nuts.
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes


Preheat oven to 250°C. Lightly oil a large sheet of foil on a baking sheet, then warm in oven.

Shake the nuts in a sieve to remove any nut powder (this will create a clear brittle).
Cook sugar and water in a deep heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly
with a fork, until melted and pale golden.

Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until golden. Immediately stir in red pepper flakes
and macadamia nuts and cook, stirring, until nuts are golden, about 1 minute.
Quickly pour onto foil, tilting baking sheet to spread brittle evenly before it hardens.
(If caramel hardens too fast, put in a 250 c  oven until warm enough to spread)
Cool brittle on baking sheet on a rack until completely hardened,
then break into large pieces. Brittle may be made 3 days ahead and kept
in an airtight container at cool room temperature.

These are great to add texture to a desert, eye catching and totatlly delicious.
Perfect for parfait, Ice cream or soufflés.
My toffee is not as golden as I would have liked.  The smoke
alarms here are very finely tuned and while the sugar/water
mix was not burning, the steam set the alarm off.  It was
 going crazy.  I turned on the exhaust fan over stove
and opened doors and windows and it still went on.  So
I turned off the toffee and stirred in the nuts and chilli.  >/c>
It tastes good.
My birthday pizza evening went very well.  A constant supply of pizzas and lots of friends and family.. Two of my ex-husbands cousins gave me a birthday cake.  Flourless chocolate so it was suitable for the coeliac granddaughter.  The only word I can think of to describe it is "decadent."  Very moist, very dark, very yummy, although very difficult to serve.  I had tried to specify no presents, but no one seemsd to have paid attention to that.  A herb garden for  my balcony, some good designer jewellery, some bits and pieces my sister had bought at a tiny secondhand shop in Gladstone in the Flinders Ranges  in SA.  And more.

I've been plugging away on my sister's socks but only slowly.  Otherwise no knitting.

My sister has had bad news in that there is another spot on her lung.  It's now seventeen years since the first diagnosis of breast cancer and that has returned three times.  She had a spot on her lung removed two years ago and  it was exactly the same cancer as all the others with no mutation.  In a way this is good news as it means it is not a secondary.  She said she has never felt such pain as after that operation.    She sees specialist next week for tests only he can order.

My friend has been ill since Easter and has had many tests  done.  The latest from an immunologist have prompted even more.  To my mind they remind me of the tests mum had done when she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, CLL.  I've not mentioned this to him but will if he asks.  That disease is treatable and many live a very long time after diagnosis.  Mum started chemo at 85 and hated it so much she stopped it.  Her blood tests remained fairly normal for many years and she died of a stroke.

However, I had these two pieces of news in half an hour.  I was somewhat shell shocked most of yesterday.  I'm better today and more able to cope.  Both sets of news were unexpected.

I've turned to some basic cooking in an effort to restore normality.  Dinner tonight will be duck breast and vegetables baked with some duck fat I bought yesterday.