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.