Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year!

We're off to country Victoria to celebrate New Year's, like we did last year. Bendigo is large enough to provide a party atmosphere but without the crushing crowds of Melbourne. The best thing is that our motel, the restaurant and the fireworks are all within a couple of streets of each other, so no need to drive anywhere. There's also the Wine Bank (a converted 19th century bank) where you can get a mean martini. Fortunately the restaurant is only a few doors downhill from there.

Cheers! And see you in 2007!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A summing up of 2006, holiday greetings etc

Yes, I know, some of you thought I was lost to blogging forever, and it is very possible that I will not return to the level of commitment I had before I left for my 6 week holiday in the U.S. But I do not want to cut my ties totally with the wonderful world of blogging, and especially not lose contact with my blogger buddies. I have been checking up on your blogs and note that I am not the only one who is losing momentum at this time of year.

But what a year it's been! From the time I decided to retire in March, then finishing work in June to start taking 6 months of accumulated leave, to now when I am only days away from official retirement (have already received my final pay cheque - gulp!), it has been a steady diet of exhilaration. I just love being retired, and couldn't have chosen a better time to do it. I was SO ready for a life with fewer demands on my time, and a comparison of my 2006 and 2007 diaries illustrates this well.

The one on the left is your heavy duty A4 size diary, with every workday divided up into half hour timeslots, one week per view. On the right is my handmade diary for next year, small, light and soft to the touch, with lovely beads as decoration, and it's 2 months per view. Click to enlarge and see the lovely texture on the handmade paper.

If you look carefully you can see the footy games already pencilled in for June and July.

My U.S. holiday was one highlight of my new life this year, but another, totally unexpected highlight was that I was recently awarded the Chancellor's Medal for my "outstanding contributions to the University"! I had to read the letter a number of times before I could comprehend. A formal presentation will be made next year, and there will be photos (promises, promises). What a way to finish a career, doing something I loved doing, and then being so honoured by the academics who were such a joy to work with.

So a summing up of my 2006 would have to be a very positive one, without forgetting that I have been extremely fortunate in many ways: good health, a wonderful husband and family, and a network of friends around blogger world. And also not forgetting that there are many who have not been so fortunate, for whom I wish a 1000% better 2007. And to everyone, I wish you a very happy holiday season and a fulfilling new year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Now where was I??

Yes, I've returned from the U.S. and I am 110% OK. Sincere thanks to all for sending greetings via comments and email, despite my shameful neglect of you all. It is indeed wonderful to be missed.

After a fabulous 6 weeks away I have found it difficult to get back into blogging. I have been lurking in blogs occasionally and leaving comments only rarely. I am not yet ready to resume blogging but thought it was high time that I let people know I'm still around and that I haven't forgotten you. I have replied to individual commenters if I had their email addresses. In one of those emails I wrote:

I have got
my bookbinding-related purchases sorted out and put away. I bought some nice papers, a number of stamps and stickers, etc. Have made my own diary for next year, small enough to put in my bag, unlike the official A4 size I needed to buy every year with a timeslot for each half hour to schedule all my appointments. Ha! Don’t need that any more. Exult! Exult!

So that might tell you something about my current emotional state: even 4 months after retiring I am still appreciating my new freedom.

I will try to post again soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Disaster narrowly averted!

Yesterday I rang Qantas to check on my baggage allowance, and prefaced my question with "I'm flying on Qantas flight 4 tomorrow night..." at which the passenger agent said "But QF4 leaves in the morning! That flight always used to leave around that time at night but it was changed a few years ago." Gulp! Imagine turning up in the evening, only to find that the flight left 12 hours before.

I'm now packed, ready to go out for my breakfast, and will be picked up by the shuttle at 7.45. All's well, but it could have gone so horribly wrong!

Tip to self: read tickets carefully, remember 24 hour clock and don't jump to conclusions!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


This holiday just keeps keeping on! Things were looking grim for standby to Australia tomorrow, so I started to think about Plan B. What about flying to Oz from Hawaii?? What about it indeed? So now Dad and I are flying to Hawaii tomorrow (standby, but the prospects are better), and I have a frequent flyer ticket on Qantas to Melbourne on Tuesday the 14th (***).

BTW, when searching for alternatives, I searched Hawaiian Airlines, which fairly recently started flights from Hawaii to Sydney. Next week on Tuesday and Thursday the tickets (one way) are going for only $316, when normally they are listed as $1200 (for one way?). Go figure! There really does seem to be some bargains out there if you're flexible. But if I hadn't had frequent flyer points to fall back on, I certainly would have gone with that.

So all up I will have been away for just over 6 weeks. Not bad! And the weather throughout that time has been so absolutely beautiful (mentioned in Sue's comment yesterday). It's been unbelievably warm and clear. Yesterday my brother and I went into San Francisco to see the Titanic artifacts exhibition, and it was so warm that we were able to sit outside when having lunch.

The exhibition btw was really interesting, if a bit pricey. I'd forget paying extra for the audio set, if you're thinking of going, there's enough information on the signs throughout the exhibition.

***This is a big birthday for the Man Who Cooks, which I will miss.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Time marches on

I have been here for 5 weeks now, and am due to start back home on Wednesday. It has been a wonderful trip. I have kept a travel diary and will gradually post snippets and of course photos when I get home and over the jet lag. The last time I looked at the stats on my digital camera I had 233 photos but I will be very selective about what I upload.

One of the main highlights of my trip was the chance to catch up with people I have known from decades ago. In addition to my wonderful friend Connie from university days, who I see on every trip, this time I managed to see a high school friend, and students from the high school where I taught in the early 70s in California. Through Robert, I re-established contact with Annette and John, who were unaware that they were living within a half hour of each other. I flew up to Portland, Oregon to see them, and spent wonderful days together. Annette has given me the address of another former student who is living up in Alaska, and on my next trip we hope to all get together. That will be fun!

Portland and Vancouver (just over the Columbia River in Washington) are lovely places to visit, and there's much more to see than I could manage in 5 days. Annette drove me to see the spectacular Mt St. Helens, which blew its top in 1980. On the day we went it was very clear, and we could see a thin plume of steam coming from the volcano. John took me to the famous Japanese Garden in Portland, as well as the Classical Chinese Garden, both different from each other and beautiful in their own ways.

Instead of flying back I took the overnight train, about 16 hours, had my own roomette, and at night I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the train whistle up ahead and the gentle clickety clack of the wheels on the tracks. I have always wanted to do a train trip like that - it was a dream come true. Such a civilised way of traveling, much different from the chaos of airports these days. I plan to do more train trips on my next visit here.

In addition to visits with people from the past, including Pat, another student who happened to be in the area last weekend, I also caught up with some blogger buddies by phone: Sue, Kerri and Ann. I am thinking it might be a good idea to post a sound file of our voices just to let people know what we sound like. What do you think?

But first I will have a big job of catching up with all your blogs. I appreciate the comments that have come in despite my meagre postings over the last month, and hope to re-establish contact with you in the not too distant future! Hope you've all been well!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A question of time...

I've just noticed the date of my post yesterday. I posted that on Friday, California time, yet Blogger "remembers" that I live in Australia and has used the date and time there. I'll go back and change that and will have to remember to change the date and time each time I post while I'm here. Or I could change the settings to West Coast time, but that might change all of my previous posts too. Hmm, better not to fool around with that.

I am not spending much time on blogging (as if you couldn't tell!) as although now I have access to Dad's computer, he has one of those ergonomic keyboards that causes pain in my arm and shoulder! So I'm keeping my time at the computer to a minimum and haven't been visiting many of your blogs. I'm sure you understand, but expect me to be back in full swing sometime in November. I don't have a set date for my return because I.................


retired!!! Yippee! Still exulting!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friends across distance and time

Yesterday and today were important milestones in communicating with old and new friends.

Yesterday I met up with a woman I had been friends with in high school and had not seen since graduating in 1963. I had tried to find her on the internet a couple of times over the years, but only found her last year through a web page associated with her place of employment. We started corresponding, and when my plans for a visit to the U.S. were firming up, we made plans to meet. Laurie drove 4 hours to meet me and yesterday was the day! We had a long lunch, with lots of talking, with more emphasis on what we'd been doing since graduation than reminiscing about our high school years. I took that as a healthy sign of where we're at, and it was a thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable time together.

Today I had my first blogger buddy phone call. Sue lives 15 hours' flight time from where I live, but when we started talking it was like (warning: cliche coming up) we had known each other for years. I am not one for long phone calls usually but we would have talked for about 40 minutes. I could picture her face when talking to her, was happy to hear that her hubby has recovered so well from his op, and knew that when we had to end the call and I looked at my watch that, yep, she needed to pick up the grandkids. Our blogs let us share the little things in life and feel, as Sue put it, the "connection".

Long live the internet!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A MIL story

It was such a wrench seeing the MWC and MIL drive off yesterday (in addition to worrying about them finding their way across the Bay Bridge and to the airport - the MWC does NOT have a sense of direction!). They are both such good companions and I think we made a jolly threesome.

MIL is really amazing for her 84 years, she is very outward-looking, interested in other people and places, and is especially interested in history. It's so easy to have conversations with her as she's always interested in what other people have to say as well as being able to tell a good story herself.

I have to tell one MIL story now, it became our theme for the rest of our trip together. Last Friday night we decided to go to Nob Hill to a couple of the fancy hotels for drinks and then dinner. Started at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and went to their bar "Top of the Mark" which has the most superb views of the city. MIL wanted to try a different cocktail from her usual gin and tonic, and she rather fancied the one with gin AND vodka, garnished with berries. But it was the name that was the decider: it was called The Hanky Panky. We had a bit of a giggle about this, especially when ordering it from the waiter. It turned out to be delicious, according to MIL, and had rather an impact on her. So when we started talking about where we were going to go for dinner, we were considering a few places at the Fairmont Hotel, just across the street. At this point, the MWC came up with a statement that was rather ordinary ("Well they're sure to have at least a very nice coffee shop"), at which MIL and I looked aghast. But MIL indignantly said "After having a hanky panky I'm NOT going to any bloody coffee shop!!" This tickled us no end, and of course we did not eat in a coffee shop but in a very nice restaurant in the sumptuously restored Fairmont Hotel. I may go back to try a hanky panky myself, but it just wouldn't be the same without MIL and the MWC.

The two weeks away together were such a success that we've planning another trip soon, but not traveling so far! We're thinking about Tasmania or New Zealand when it gets warmer.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hubby and MIL are on their way back to OZ...

...sniff! I'm feeling a bit lost. It was so much fun, and I will eventually get around to posting about it, as well as making a slideshow. We had the most wonderful weather, saw so many things, ATE SO MUCH! In fact, I'm now off to do a walk with my brother to work off some of the calories.

Thanks to everyone who has looked in at my blog and commented. I was feeling quite cut off from my blogger buddies but will now have better access to the internet, now that I'm staying at my parents' place. I'll catch up eventually!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

San Francisco update

Hi everyone! I'm using an internet cafe for the first time, and it's a nice walk from where we're staying. We are having a wonderful time, the weather has been beautiful, and the accommodation... well, have a look at that photo from the previous post, and it doesn't do it justice. It is so comfy and convenient and beautiful. I've been keeping a diary of what we've been doing every day, but I think if I do put it online I'll have a separate blog for it, with numerous photos, or maybe do one of those slideshows. But that'll have to wait until I get back, I think.

I hope you are all well!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Going offline for a while

Tomorrow my husband, MIL and I are off to San Francisco for a holiday. Tuesday, October 3rd is our 35th wedding anniversary, and we plan to go to the spot in the hills above Berkeley where we were married.

We are renting the bottom floor of one of those gorgeous Victorian houses (click on this link to see more photos and info) on a hill in San Francisco for two weeks. Hubby and MIL will return to Melbourne then but I will stay on for another 2 or 3 weeks. It will be a new experience, not having to be back by a certain date to go back to work. Oh, how I am enjoying being retired!

I don't know when I'll be posting again as I won't have much access to the internet, especially during the first two weeks of October, but do please visit my blog again in November. Hopefully though I'll be able to get in a post in the second half of October - we'll see.

Take care, everyone!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Two good "newses"

Within 2 seconds of each other I have received, just by sitting here in front of my pc, two pieces of good news (one as yet unconfirmed though). First I get the "new mail" signal - uh oh, it's from Carlton. What more bad news can there be? Our absolute rock in the backline, Bret Thornton, has been having trouble with getting a new contract from Carlton, and the thought of him NOT being there next year has been a real downer. But now the club is making noises that contract problems are all media speculation, and that the club is making every effort to contract T-bird to continue at Carlton.

Just as I finish reading this, my youngest, Techie Son, announces that he's just got an email to say he's been accepted as an exchange student to the University of California at Berkeley for one semester next year. UC Berkeley is where I met the Man Who Cooks in 1969, so this has much significance for the Forbes family. Number One Son and I immediately think of the ramifications of not having Techie Son around to sort out all our various computer problems - we will have to cope!

On the other hand, I look around at Techie Son's room and think what a perfect craft room it would make - I could set up my own mini bookbindery there. Mwahahahahah!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some of my latest book creations

This is a book before it is sewn together. The text papers (middle) have been bound in two places. This is the inner binding which is not visible once the book is sewn together but ensures that the text will not fall apart if disaster strikes and the binding threads break.

The finished book, with three decorative wooden beads incorporated into the stitching.

Inside the book (forgot to turn it!).

Now for the results of the weekend's bookbinding course. We ran out of time so there are still things to finish, but this is a book case, held together with two toggles which you can just see at the front. That's a fabric covering, which first needed to be backed with paper and dried before pasting onto the bookboards.

Book case from the top.

I've propped the lid open so you can see the toggles better.

The book case open. The end papers still need to be attached to go over the white areas, but I'm first hoping to be able to create a book BOX which would have a head and tail at the middle section. This was what we were supposed to make during the class but we ran out of time.

One of the three books we made in class that are meant to go in the book box. The cover and text papers are all handmade, with the most wonderful soft feel to them. I will probably wear out the book just touching it all the time. (I have just confessed to Pea in an email that I also love the sound the book makes when I touch it. Is that too weird?) The stitching is the 4-hole hemp leaf stitch often used in traditional Japanese bookbinding.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Stacking dishes - is it only me?

Does anyone else get infuriated about finding every last inch of kitchen surface cluttered with dishes, glasses, cutlery, etc which would take up a fraction of the footprint it they were stacked (this is prior to putting them into the dishwasher, which of course rarely gets emptied if unprompted)? Or is it just me? Sometimes it seems like there's a contest going on: watch out, points taken off for letting a bit of kitchen surface show! Even the Man Who Cooks is guilty!

But at least he cooks. Came home from my workshop this afternoon and there was a wonderful aroma of some long cooking meat. But that's for tomorrow night. Tonight we had grilled chicken (Turkish recipe), with fennel cooked to melt-in-the-mouth and roast potatoes. Yum.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Learned how to post a slideshow!

Ok, so I have been a bit lazy in posting lately, but then along comes Pea to tell everyone how to do those nifty slideshows and get them into Blogger. I know I've posted these photos individually before, but I just wanted to get something up and running to see if I could make this work.

These are some of the books I've made since April when I first started on my new hobby. This weekend I'll be attending another 2 day course - making 3 books and a covered box to put them in. This morning, before my aerobics class even (so I haven't been THAT lazy), I followed directions on how to make a matchbox to fit a miniature book. I'll eventually get around to decorating it and will photograph it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Weekend too far away

Last weekend, that is. I still haven't posted anything yet about our trip to Castlemaine, so here it is.

On Sunday morning we walked 3 ½ hours from Castlemaine to Maldon, following the train line. Because we were trying to make the 12.40 train back rather than wait another 3 hours for the next train, we didn't have any rest stops. Comes 12.40 and we didn't know how far we had to go, when we rounded a bend and there was the train station. Despite the hip joints feeling the effects of that steady walking we managed to break into a run and made the train. It's a steam train that runs only on weekends and public holidays. It felt so good to sit down and enjoy the scenery we had just passed through but were too intent on making the train to be able to really appreciate it.

We passed through some nice farmland.Saw a wallaby in the forest. Well hidden, but it's right there in the middle. Click to enlarge the photo.
Mel having a nice Harcourt apple in the train.After lunch in Castlemaine we drove to a lookout which looks out over town and listened to the footy, much better reception up there than at our place. The Bulldogs beat the Magpies - hahahahahahahahaha! Go Doggies!

Here's me resting my weary feet on the dashboard. We're sitting in the car at the Burke and Wills monument overlooking Castlemaine.

Rugged up having breakfast outdoors the next morning. You can see the shadow of the camera sitting on my new mini tripod at the bottom of the photo.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Exploding books

No, this is not to combat the bats, but is a fun type of book I learnt to make last week. The first photo shows the exploding book closed, on the right. The one on the left is a book made out of a CD cut in half (caution: CDs need to be heated with boiling water first before cutting to prevent pieces flying up into your eyes).

This is the exploding book opened up. You can make them out of contact sheets of photos printed out onto normal photocopy paper, or write things on them, decorate them (wish I could draw!), whatever you can dream up. They can be made in any size. I was always attracted to pop up books, even as an adult, and exploding books are a very basic kind of pop up book. Fun!

This is the CD book opened. It would be good for cards, or for decorating, writing poems in, etc.

Going to the country

We're leaving for the country this morning, so will be offline for a couple of days. We always time our drive to coincide with being in Malmsbury at lunchtime. In the cooler months they make the BEST steak and kidney pies. We usually eat at the nearby Malmsbury Botanical Gardens - so picturesque, and full of agro geese and ducks who want part of everyone's lunch! Sometimes when it's very chilly we sit in the car facing the gardens, a nice outlook, and even then the ducks and geese will come up to the car door, waiting for a handout.

I was going to post photos of my latest book creations, but Blogger isn't co-operating this morning. Will do that when we get back on Monday.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bats no match for fruit bazooka

I've remembered that some teenagers were in court not too long ago, on charges of shooting at bats. At the time I thought to myself, "Way to go, guys". Found this article about it on the internet.

Bats no match for fruit bazooka [Ka-Poom! Ka-Poom! squeak...squeak...Ka-Poom!]

From: AAP By Catherine Best
June 28, 2006

THREE mischievous teenagers used a fruit-firing bazooka in a Melbourne park, endangering a colony of protected bats, a court was told today.

The trio used the 2m homemade weapon to fire oranges at a colony of grey-headed flying foxes at Yarra Bend Park, in Melbourne's east.

But the shots were heard by a group of golfers who dobbed the young men in.

The teenagers sat sheepishly in Heidelberg Magistrates Court today as their solicitor Andrew Robinson pleaded with the magistrate to let them off lightly, saying: "Boys do what boys do."


Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) prosecutor Richard Desmond told the court the offenders made an "orange gun" using a length of PVC pipe, with a range of 10m.

The weapon, filled with butane gas from hairspray, was loaded with oranges, ignited and fired three or four times at Yarra Bend Park as a "test" on December 8 last year.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bats - possible uses for mankind

At dinner tonight the Man Who Cooks and I were lamenting the lost opportunity for eradicating the huge colony of bats in one fell swoop (apt phrasing there) when they were still roosting in the tens of thousands (endangered - yeah, right) in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. A few evenings of controlled release of deadly gases would have done the trick. But no - they were herded to a prepared site which the bats of course settled into as per plan - NOT! In reality they wound up in gardens all around Melbourne.

But what else has mankind missed out on? What use could we put these critters to? I thought of their dreadful leathery wings - wow - that would make great material for binding books with. Durable and waterproof. Waterproof? says the MWC. Then wouldn't they make the perfect umbrellas? The ribs form the frame, you'd just need to stitch together enough sets of wings to give coverage, and attach a conventional umbrella shaft and handle. I await further suggestions from readers.

By the way, the previous post on household chores was sent to me by my mother in an email and is not some clever thing that I made up. I tried to add an explanatory note in that post, but had a devil of a time getting rid of underlining of text that was carried over from the email. Even though I got rid of the underlining of the original text, any text I wanted to add was underlined, so I gave up.

Household chores - too easy!


1. Open a new file on your computer
2. Name it "Housework"
3. Send it to the Recycle Bin
4. Empty the Recycle Bin
5. Your computer will ask you, "Are you SURE you want to delete Housework permanently?"
6. Calmly answer "Yes", and press mouse button firmly......
7. Feel better?

Works for me!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Another (final?) bat update

We are finally rid of those bats, reported on earlier (here and here). I'm not sure if it's due to the wonderful suggestion of Pea to shine light into where they're hanging out (couldn't resist), or the fact that the berry supply that had attracted them in the first place had simply run out. That was helped along by the regular appearance of a flock of birds that also took a liking to those berries, but with actually more annoying consequences than the bats. The bats stayed only from dusk and left before it got light. The birds moved in during the daytime. You might recall that I mentioned a clothes hoist near the berry-bearing tree in the photo I took. Well, those berries have a rather quick-acting and explosive effect on the innards of those birds, with the result that I'd have to rewash about 1/3 of every load of wash I put out. My solution was to get some old sheets and peg them onto the top of the clothes hoist which protected most of my wash. It worked well!

The rotary clothes hoist is very iconic in Australia, and is so practical (read more about it here). In our first house we inherited one that used to be driven by water power. A hose was hooked up to it, so after hanging up the clothes, to raise the whole thing up you just needed to turn on the water at the tap which would then push it up to catch more of a breeze. That feature had been dismantled by the time we bought the house, but I don't know if I would have been game enough to try it. I could think of all sorts of unwanted scenarios happening! I rely on muscle power to crank up the washing.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Blogging blahs

It seems to be difficult lately, getting around to visiting everyone, let alone leave comments, and then there's the issue of posting on one's own blog. If I were living in the northern hemisphere I might have the excuse of the demands of the new school year starting. But I don't even have school age kids anymore. Maybe I can put it down to Spring Fever - yes, here in the southern hemisphere Spring officially started yesterday, accompanied by a delightful 23º C (73º F). Our first tulip is out, the bird of paradise is in flower, the Japanese maple has a lovely cover of young green leaves and in general the garden is looking lovely. No, no photos, I just couldn't be bothered at the moment! And besides, you all know what tulips and maples etc look like. I think I'll head outdoors again and enjoy the predicted 24º today (before a cold front comes through tomorrow).

Now if it would only bring rain. This is becoming serious: even in normal times Australia is already the driest inhabited continent (Antarctica is the driest continent) but this winter has been the driest in a long time. On top of that El Nino is about to hit again. People in the rural areas have been doing it tough for a while (we've been in drought for a decade), and it's not going to get any easier, at least not this year. Anyone know any rain dances?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Productive day, despite mishap

Today I finished two books I started late yesterday afternoon. My work rate is gradually picking up.

The book on the right is for MIL's birthday in September. The embroidery thread I used for the stitching is from a box of embroidery thread she gave me as she no longer does close work. The colors are neatly ordered (not by me!) into 3 layers, with like colors together. Fabulous selection! It's a hard bound book, and as usual I had a bit of trouble getting the needle through all the layers. I used a thimble but also a bit too much force and the needle broke through the thimble and went into my finger. Ouch! After doing a bit of first aid I took some time out. Wouldn't want to bleed on the book after all that work. Also raided hubby's workshop and found that pliers are great for working the needle through to the other side, so I'll use that in future. When he finds out he will probably use that as an excuse to go to Bunnings and buy me my own pliers.

The other book I'll be taking to the U.S. along with others that I'll be making, to give as gifts. I've done tortoise shell stitching which I think is so pretty. The little print, which seems to be almost 3 dimensional, is just cut out from a glossy catalogue. I'm always on the lookout for such things now to use as decoration. Now I know why people into crafts are always talking about storage!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A day in the life...

...of a retiree. Today was one of those days that, pre-retirement, I had imagined would be typical of a retiree's day, but it's taken 2 months to occur.

First of all, I actually had the house to myself for a few hours. What with hubby often working from home and our sons sometimes home too, this has occurred far too seldom for my liking! I worked on my books, stopped for a cup of tea, sat in a sunny spot looking out at the garden, did some chores, had some lunch, then read a bit.

Later in the afternoon I walked down to the local shops, a pleasant 5 minute walk, and was overwhelmed by the aroma of spring flowers in the neighborhood. On my way back I passed the cafe that always looked so inviting but hadn't stopped in before. I had often envisaged myself, after retirement, sitting there on a sunny day, having a coffee and cake, not a care in the world. Today was the day for that! I ordered an ice coffee and a most delicious orange friand, and sat at a table in the sun, reading the newspaper. I was just me, not anyone's wife or mother, just for part of an hour. It was a nice break. I took advantage of the moment.

Yes, I am very much enjoying my retirement.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What's for Sunday dinner?

Diane has a regular Sunday feature on her blog: what are you having for Sunday dinner? The last few weeks we've had just leftovers, but tonight I made what has become a Forbes Family Favorite. Again it features lamb, so you non-Aussies may not find this so attractive. But here lamb is very popular although no longer so cheap to buy. Lately I've been buying lamb chops and braising them for 1 ½ hours so they get very tender. Here's the recipe - it includes olives, so Alice, look away now!

Slow-braised Greek lamb with olives

1 kg lamb chops (forequarter or chump, or from the leg or shoulder)
4-5 tbl olive oil
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup red wine
2 tbl red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 cup tomato puree
about 1 cup beef stock (or any leftover meat juices you've saved from another meal)
½ cup pitted green olives (I've recently discovered anchovy stuffed olives, which is great with lamb)
some chopped oregano (or like I did tonight, left it out altogether)
salt and pepper

Heat oil in heavy based pan over medium heat. Brown lamb pieces, 1 minute each side. Remove to a plate. In the same pan cook garlic for 30 seconds, then add wine and vinegar and simmer 2 - 3 minutes.

Add cinnamon, bay leaves, tomato puree and stock, and bring to the boil. Return lamb to pan and reduce heat. Cover and simmer gently for about 1 hour or until lamb is very tender. Add olives and cook for 1 ½ hour longer. Season with oregano, and salt and pepper. Serves 4.

The original recipe called for preserved lemon, but I'm always hesitant about using this very strong tasting ingredient. You need to rinse off the rind to use it, and I figure, well why not just use a squeeze of lemon if you want a bit of lemon tang?

So you're thinking: 1 ½ hours to cook lamb chops??? This household goes for slow food, as opposed to fast food, and it's a microwave free zone. Currently there's a slow food festival on in Melbourne. This is to be encouraged. Unfortunately it looks like our favorite country town Castlemaine has finally succumbed its first international fast food outlet, a Subway franchise.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Star tunnel book

I made my very first star tunnel book at Barb's workshop yesterday. Ok, confession, I needed to finish it at home today, because I got a bit ambitious with the content. Anyway, it starts out as this normal looking book tied up with a ribbon, but when you open it out, it turns into a star shape with views through "windows" (tunnel).

A good overview.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

From popcorn to real food

In an email Granny asked me if I would share the recipe for Greek meatballs I mentioned in an email to her. To counteract my previous non-gourmet post on popcorn, here is said recipe, a Forbes Family Favorite clipped from the newspaper.

Greek meatballs with tomato sauce and green olives

3 slices white bread, crusts removed
¼ cup sweet wine, marsala or sherry
700g/1.5 lb ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1/2 cup plain flour
olive oil

tomato sauce

400g/¾ lb can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup hot water
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or some rosemary leaves)
¾ cup green pitted olives, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper

Soak the bread in wine for 10 minutes to soften. Preheat oven to 180 ºC/350ºF. Break up bread and combine in a bowl with ground lamb, garlic, cinnamon and egg, mixing (with hands!) until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

With damp hands, mould walnut-sized amounts into balls and set aside. Roll each ball in flour to coat.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry meatballs until golden brown (this may need to be done in 2-3 batches). Place meatballs in an oven dish and set aside.

To make sauce, combine ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meatballs. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring once to prevent sticking. Serves 6.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Popcorn - the thrill has gone

Popcorn was always one of my comfort foods. There was nothing like being at home on an overcast day with a good book or the newspaper, and a cold beer to wash down that wonderful combination of popcorn, butter and salt (representing the three major food groups, right?).

First of all, my lifelong love of beer has taken a hit, because I just can't handle more than a glass or two of beer, usually medium strength, per week. The exception to this is when Dad is here to visit, in which case it's a two-week testing of a variety of beers for quality control purposes only...

So the other day, when the overcast day came around and I still had some of the newspaper to read, I thought "Popcorn!", but without the beer. This was my first popcorn in quite a while, and it just did not do anything for me. Does this mean I am finally growing up? Or that I'm too worried about cracking a tooth on some stray unpopped kernels? Be that as it may, I can still get a kick out of sites such as the Encyclopedia of Popcorn, which is clearly aimed at primary school kids. So maybe I haven't grown up after all.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bizarre Bazaar

Elizabeth over at the Bizarre Bazaar (great name!) has a wonderful post on collecting "stuff" and what a burden it can become. I can SO relate to that, and have touched on it in previous posts, especially around Christmas time. Gift giving in this household is definitely of the "what does (s)he need" mode, and if there is no ready answer, there is no gift. The mini tripod I got for my birthday was a no-brainer present from my husband, we certainly missed having one on the numerous occasions we've taken a photo with both of us in it, while on hikes etc. He COULD have got me a new whoop-de-do camera at a good price (he works for Kodak), but hey, my old one is still working (even though I can't seem to take good night time shots outdoors). We just haven't got around to comparing the new models and make a considered decision. And that's what should be behind most purchases, a considered decision.

Anyway, I suggest you hop over to the Bizarre Bazaar and see what Elizabeth has to say about acquiring too much stuff. And that's me done for today's post - great timesaver, that BlogThis button!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It's my birthday!

What's this funny little fellow?

It's a mini tripod for my camera which my husband gave me. It will make many shots that I do with the delayed exposure SO much easier. How many times have I had to perch the camera directly on an uneven rock, and then had to rest my face against the rock or other even less friendly surface, to set up a photo?

The teapot set was given to me by my mother in law. The teapot can rest on top of the cup to keep the tea warm. And it comes complete with a tea bag coaster.

My sons gave me a birthday card...for someone who has just turned 100!! This is their idea of a joke and is so typical of our family's silly sense of humor. I love it!

Fork In the Road

Dear readers,
Please welcome Annette to the World of Blog. She is a former student of mine from the 1970s who has recently found me on the internet. She has just started up her own blog, and her first post, to say nothing of her profile, bodes well for an interesting addition to our ranks. Please visit her blog, so aptly named Fork In the Road

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bat update

The bats don't like having a light shining on their resting place (thanks, Pea!), so have now moved to a tree in a dark corner of the garden, which also has some berries. This means we'll have to get a separate spotlight and shine it up into that corner.

The problem may not be as bad as we thought though, as the bats are not roosting there, which is where they stay in the daytime, and are only feeding off the temporary supply of berries. So when that supply dries up, hopefully they will leave.

One neat thing we discovered though is that shining our veranda light out into the garden makes it look really nice! Well, it looks nicer than my photo shows, but you get the idea. While I was out there taking photos I thought I'd go on bat patrol. I used the flash in my camera to flush out any bats in the dark corner they've moved to (there was one). The resulting photo shows the blue berries (at the right, click to enlarge) they are attracted to. I have no idea what the name of the tree is, and unfortunately it is right near my clothes hoist, which can be seen at the bottom of the photo. So far no horrid purple stains have landed on any washing.

Book Meme

Lindsay from Lindsay's Lobes has requested my participation in this, and I accepted, sight unseen. But gee, it looks hard, now that I've seen the questions! But here goes.

One book that changed my life:
I just can't select one title to fit that big bill. I guess it's more the act of reading that has shaped my life over the decades, it is truly one of the most pleasurable things in life, and books have always been a companion to me.

One book that I have read more than once:
Oh, you mean a book that I have intended to reread and not because I've forgotten that I've already read it? (Please tell me I'm not alone here). Well, I just have too many books that I have yet to read (see my answer to the last question) for that to have happened very often and, here it is again, I've forgotten which books I have reread. I do intend to reread Patrick White's The tree of man one day.

One book that made me laugh:
Elizabeth Jolley's "Mr Scobie's riddle". Elizabeth Jolley is a West Australian author who came to publishing her work late in life. I would recommend any of her books. Mr Scobie's riddle, by the way, also has some very poignant passages, as well as lol bits.

One book that made me cry:
Can I pass on this one? It has been so long since I've read a book that made me cry, I just can't remember. There are plenty of stories in the newspapers these days though that make me cry.

One book I wish I had written:
I know this is not what is intended here, but too bad. I wish I had written our family history. And with encouragement from Alice, I may yet do that.

One book I wish had never been written:
Mein Kampf

One book I am currently reading:
Well, I always have my "currently reading" in my sidebar, but that one as of today's date (Cassada by James Salter) I've just finished. However last night when I wanted to start on one of the books I have out on loan from the uni and local libraries, both of the ones I tried were not my cup of tea. I always have some backup things to read, such as the weekend papers which will of course contain more book reviews. One book my husband borrowed looks interesting, and I may read that: The evolution of useful things: how everyday artifacts - from forks and pins to paper clips and zippers - came to be as they are by Henry Petroski.

One book I've been meaning to read:
Oh my goodness me, where do I start? After years as a librarian, coming into contact with interesting titles from so many sources, including the university library catalogue which I was practically connected to by umbilical cord for 16 years, I have accumulated hundreds of printouts from the catalogue, clippings from newspaper and magazine reviews, those wonderful catalogues sent out by bookshops in time for Christmas shopping (pardon me while I wipe the drool off my chin) - I have a binder full.

But one title in particular has been recommended by one of my readers, so I'll highlight that one: Roberta Sykes' autobiographical Snakes dreaming, which is in 3 volumes (Snake cradle, Snake dancing and Snake circle).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Further to those bouncing emails

Got this message back from my ISP re some comments bouncing back to you:

Thank you for forwarding in the bounced reply. From your email it appears that the IP address used to send the email has been blocked by Spamcop. I have checked that IP address and it is not within the Netspace IP range but rather an IP address that is used by Yahoo. To have that IP address unblocked by Spamcop you will need to speak with Yahoo and inform them that their IP address has been listed in Spamcop and any emails sent will be subsequently blocked.

Can anyone tell me what Yahoo has to do with it? Blogger is not Yahoo, and at least one of the "bounced" people (e.g. Alice) does not have a Yahoo connection, at least that I can tell. Why wouldn't ALL emails bounce then? And this Spamcop seems to be a bit of a buttinsky (whoa, haven't used that word for a long time). I'd appreciate any enlightenment you might have. Della, YOU might know about this!

I have lowered the level of tolerance of my anti-spam software, so hoping that will help too.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Comments and bouncing emails

A few of you have mentioned having your comments on my blog bounce back to you, but I am seeing those comments plus ones that I didn't get email notification for! Sue mentioned that something similar happened on Merle's blog. Merle and I use the same ISP, and I have emailed their support people to ask what's going on, just in case there's some "quarrel" going on between Netspace and Blogger. Please do keep commenting, though, as they do get through to my blog. Now I'm off to catch up on my own blog reading and commenting!

Monday, August 07, 2006

And the winner is...

You didn't know you were in a competition, did you? That would be the anti-bat competition I ran a few posts back. Who provided the best suggestion for getting rid of the bats?

My personal favorite has to be John Cowart's singing fish, for its sense of fun. But I just couldn't see it happening.

Alice's suggestion of playing rowdy music might make us a tad unpopular, but Diane's triple barrelled assault on unsuspecting blackbirds (firecrackers, shotguns and propane-powered noisemakers) would have to win some sort of prize, or at the very least a date with law enforcement officials.

Tanya has confirmed what we already knew (yes, the bats were evicted from the Botanical Gardens and they have now chosen our garden to visit), but her statement that they're CUTE?? This disqualifies you immediately! Ditto The Other Val who thinks they're cute (are we talking about the same animal here?), and anyway, lion poo might be a bit too difficult to collect, and would we need to throw it UP into the tree? That's pretty whiffy stuff!

Mountain Mama is starting to get close to the mark with her suggestion of a bird which might prey on bats, and Sue too mentions a bird solution. In fact, Melbourne Zoo uses fake owls in trees to keep away possums, and I might try that. And yes, you would have thought cats would go after bats, and although our male cat is a great mouser and even tackles the odd possum, I'm not sure he's interested in bats - he has better taste than that.

I appreciate those of you sympathised with our plight, and even those of you who can get their kicks thinking of me out in my garden at night in my pyjamas and clacking away with my "automatic applauder" (elegant turn of phrase, Jelly), but your amusement won't get rid of the bats.

There is one suggestion that really appeals, and that's Pea's idea to use light to get rid of them. You're right, bats don't like light, and shining a light up a tree is not as intrusive as rowdy music, firecrackers, propane-powered noisemakers, and even the gentle sounding singing fish. Right now we have our veranda light trained on the area the bats have been frequenting, and when the Man Who Cooks went out on clack patrol before, no bats flew off. Let's hope this is the solution we've been looking for. I'll keep you posted.

Oh what a weekend!

It started out with a (sounds of trumpets, drumroll, and Val swooning in ecstasy) WIN BY THE CARLTON FOOTBALL TEAM!!! Oh, happy day! Unfortunately I had forgotten my hand clacker when I really needed it (it was by the back door in readiness for bat duty), and my hands were hurting from all the clapping I did when Carlton goaled and the boys totally outfoxed the opposition. I must have been yelling louder than usual as I was almost without voice by the end. And then - glorious tradition for when your team wins - I had my team scarf flying out the car window all the way up to Kyneton (90 minute drive).

Awaiting us at Kyneton that evening was a wonderful dining experience at the old Royal George Hotel which we hadn't been to before. Fabulous food in comfortable surroundings. To top it off, we DIDN'T hit the kangaroo that insisted on jumping out on the road as we were driving on the pitch black back road up to our property. The next day brought beautiful clear skies and we did a walk around one of the goldfield areas. We followed a gully for a while and found an old humpy that someone had lived in for a while and abandoned. It was difficult to tell when it was built.

We had lunch out on the track.

Luckily we had that doona with us, as the second night we stayed, it got very cold indeed. Water in the kettle froze, as well as the liquid soap, and there was even ice on the dam. Everything was covered in frost, and we tried to get a photo of it but the cold had slowed down the battery in the camera and we had to wait until it warmed up before the lens would operate. This was the best we could do.

Still, it did NOT stop us from having breakfast outdoors on top of the dam wall, so we could be in the sun. Ahem, that's me seen through a very smokey haze. Dinner was good though! The Man Who Cooks does the campfire cooking, I do the dishes. That's the deal.

These last two photos are other ruins we found. The first is the remains of a wattle and daub hut. The wattle branches are on the collapsed bit. And the last photo shows the remains of an old stone hut in the middle of the bush.