Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Road trip along the Midland Highway

We tend to go up to our bush block after Christmas, but this year we're taking the long way around. It's a micro mini version of the "grey nomad" trip around Australia we'll take when we're retired - just getting in some practice!


The Midland Highway goes to within a 5 minute drive of our block, through Castlemaine and on up to Bendigo. That much we knew for years. But a couple of years ago we were driving up the Hume Freeway in northeast Victoria and passed an overpass labelled "Midland Highway". The very same Midland Highway that passed through Castlemaine? Yes indeed, and looking at the map we saw it went from Geelong at the far end of Port Phillip Bay, following a huge arc, winding up in Mansfield in the high country. From then on it was our goal to one day do a road trip the entire length of the Midland Highway, just stopping where we liked, for as long as we liked. The name highway may be misleading as the parts of it we know, and from what we know of the towns it passes through, it is often a two-lane country road, so it will be life in the slow lane. Perfect!

This time we're covering only part of the route, starting out in Geelong on Dec 27th where we'll stay a couple of nights and do day trips in the area, then gradually find our way to Bendigo where we're spending New Year's Eve. Depending on how we go, we'll be stopping at our place near Castlemaine once or twice.

Internet access will be non existent until the beginning of January, so this will most likely be the last post of the year. Happy New Year to all, and take care on the roads. And don't get road rage if you're stuck driving behind a couple of old farts just trundling along - it might be us!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Turkey - first time in 35 years!

Turkey has been a no no in our household for more than 35 years. The man who cooks, not having grown up with it in the Australia of mid 20th century, was just not that enamored of it. So we've "made do" with duck, poussin and other yummy representatives of the poultry world, and not to forget the humble chicken for which there are so many ways to prepare in a tasty and interesting manner.

But this year a recipe by a trusted chef was spotted in the newspaper's weekend magazine, and we've decided to give it a go. It has a Middle Eastern flavor, with a spice combination (baharat), which I will have to make myself. That holds no terrors for me as I'm used to roasting and grinding Indian spices. The recipe also calls for dried cranberries (so there's a bit of tradition there) to soak in orange juice to make the sauce. Now where would you get dried cranberries? It appears that it is marketed here as "craisins", which I've picked up from the ever reliable Leo's Supermarket.

I used to hate going grocery shopping until I discovered Leo's. The muzak alone was enough to set the teeth on edge as soon as I entered a Safeway or Coles supermarket. But at Leo's you're treated to interesting real music, often Latin American, so that I've had to stop myself from salsa-ing down the aisles. Aside from that, they have so many unusual food products, a great cheese section, in addition to the usual grocery items. So now I don't mind going grocery shopping if I can go to Leo's.

I'm off now to prepare the big bird (it's already Christmas morning here in Australia as I write this). I wish everyone a calm, safe and happy Christmas!

Here's the little beastie (not me, the turkey!) before covering in foil and putting in the oven. Photo taken earlier this morning. It's now almost 1 p.m. and I've taken the foil off for browning, another 90 minutes to go, I hope. The house is smelling wonderful!

Nice and brown (and didn't need another 90 minutes after all)

Drinks in front of our Christmas "tree"

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Reading other blogs

Over the last few weeks I have been pulled deeper into the blogger world, having a few I regularly read (more of that later), and then occasionally following a few links from those blogs. The number of blogs read is compounded by reading others' comments and then going to THEIR blogs. Where do you stop? Answer: when you suddenly become aware that the house has become very quiet, even sons are in bed, and that the computer clock says it's midnight! I must not forget that there is another world out there.

It is so easy to find people who share interests on the internet, and it's also gratifying to find that you are not alone in ranting on about mobile phone usage in previously quiet zones (e.g. cinemas and LIBRARIES), and other pet hates. And yesterday I happened onto one lovely site run by two brothers living in different countries, and they share their childhood memories of upstate New York online for each other to read, as a kind of mutual memory jog. What a beautiful thing to do.

Because I haven't decided where I'm going to put them in my somewhat cluttered left column, I'm listing the blogs I read almost daily here, and will put them in a more permanent place when I have time to grapple with the template.

Time Goes By
Texas Trifles
Takoma Gardener
My Mom's Blog
Long-Toothed Hinterland Dweller
Pavlov's Cat

There are SO MANY more I have enjoyed reading, and even forgot to bookmark. But one thing I've found is that when you like what someone writes about and/or how they write, somehow you will often find your way back to those other blogs eventually.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Escape to the country (more Christmas-avoiding)

There is nothing like going out to the country to get away from it all. There is no electricity and needless to say no internet access. Even a mobile phone does not reach to behind our dam and there are no distractions. So this weekend it was a slothful settling in to book reading, afternoon tea, more reading, dinner of smoked chicken, and more reading. We are getting in practice for the break at Christmas when we can really indulge, and I've collected a number of books from the local library as well as the university library where I work. I always have to have a mini library on hand to choose from.

In the southern hemisphere there is a happy coincidence of Christmas and the long summer break. About November a couple of the better bookshops publish nicely illustrated catalogues of books that are being published in time for Christmas, and there are always helpful blurbs to tell you about the books. Every year I mark the ones I want to read and try to read as many as I can throughout the year. There's a steady supply of books to look forward to, my idea of heaven.

And the other side of the coin - a nightmare scenario for a reader: an episode from the old Twilight Zone series from the 50s, I still remember this one clearly. There's the hen-pecked bookworm who works in a bank, and he often goes into the bank vault to read, as at least there he's undisturbed. One day while he's in the vault a nuclear bomb is dropped (I did say it was the 50s), and he is the sole survivor. He realises that now he can read to his heart's content and he gets some books from the library (which is amazingly undamaged, but that's the power of books for you). BUT as he's going down the steps of the library he trips and falls, and in the process breaks his reading glasses. All those books, all that peaceful uninterrupted time, but he will never be able to read again. That episode has haunted me all those years.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dust to dust

In a comment on my post about Christmas trees, Jude said...
Now that's efficiency! I'm wondering about dust though. Do you not have to wipe over each of those little bulbs at some stage during the year?

Dust?? What's that? It's something I have conveniently overlooked over the years, and with advancing years and less sharp eyes, it is even easier to just not notice. Yet another advantage of getting older!

Though I did flick around the dust cloth the other day as things had got so bad that even I noticed it. Funny how different people pick up on different things. My husband will notice (and might mention ever so gently) that there's some dust around (what an understatement!), but he will leave things lying around that are so obviously THERE. This is especially true of the kitchen bench (counter to some of you) which has always been his favorite dumping ground. In all the houses we've lived in, the kitchen bench has collected unkitchenly items: wrenches and screwdrivers, paint brushes soaking in turps, packets of seed and plant food, you name it. Sometimes I have tried to not touch them, to see how long it will take for him to put them away, but I can never wait that long! Arrrgh! Oh, and his second favorite dumping ground is right at the front door. It's like he's leaving little shrines around the place.

But one last word on dust: I am living proof that dust does not kill!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Quick & easy, environment-friendly Christmas tree

Our household is not totally sans holiday decorations. Two years ago this month we suffered a horrendous flood with water knee-deep throughout the house. It took us 6 months to get everything back in order again. Needless to say, that year we did not have much of a Christmas, and a tree was just not on the agenda. However, we have one of those nice folding, 3-panel bamboo screens between our dining and living room areas. I looked at that screen and thought that by stringing one set of lights on it and hanging a few decorations we could simulate a Christmas tree. It looked very jolly, and last year we did the same thing.

This year the job is even easier because I decided last January that I was NOT going to struggle with getting those damn lights back into the required contorted configuration, enabling the lights to all fit into their ridiculously small box. So, I....just....left....them....up. Yes, all year they have been draped over the screen, fairly invisible in their unlit state. All I need to do when the time comes is to hang up a dozen or so ornaments and then flick the switch. No needles dropping, no needing to water the tree, and it can even be moved to another spot if necessary.

And it's also useful for other special occasions throughout the year...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Keeping a low profile for Christmas

Ok, are you keeping it low key?

  • Not going near malls?
  • Not using precious fuel to get to malls?
  • Not buying useless presents?
  • Not buying a tree?
  • Not buying?

Then you will

  • Have more time to enjoy being with your family.
  • Have time to cook dinner and bake from scratch.
  • Help fight the consumerist/greed culture.
If you are honest with yourself and really don't enjoy this season as it has become these days, think about getting back to basics and cutting the crap.