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.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Have doona, will travel

Heading up to Central Victoria right after the football game today, doona already in the car THIS TIME. I'll be back in touch in a couple of days. Have a good weekend (weekend?, what's that?, asks retiree Val).

Meanwhile, you might want to catch up on all the innovative solutions people have suggested in their comments on my previous post about our bat problem. Interesting reading! Thanks, everyone!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Val goes batty

We've discovered that 2 or 3 bats (flying foxes) are roosting in one of our trees. They make a terrible mess and are stripping the tree of berries and foliage. If we can't scare them away their buddies may join them and then there's a real problem. There were thousands in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens a few years ago and almost destroyed a whole section, making it off limits to visitors. Efforts were made to relocate them elsewhere but the damn things are choosing their own places. The crazy thing is, these creatures are protected, even though the population has expanded rapidly, and they're not even Victorians! (Thanks, Queenslanders!) So instead of getting rid of them when they were all in the one spot, the do-gooders called for protective measures and now the bats are spreading their evil presence all over and we are not allowed to get an exterminator. We are not amused.

So what to do? One of the techniques used to dislodge them from the Botanical Gardens was to create a noise at frequent intervals that would scare them off. I've been out there clapping my hands which does cause them to fly around for a while, but I thought of another weapon in my arsenal which might be more effective. I am using the "hand clacker" I bought for when I go to the footy, to keep from hurting my hands when celebrating a Carlton goal. (For those of you who want to make snide comments about Carlton goals, just remember that Fev is leading the competition in goalkicking). It's got a really powerful sound (as those sitting near me can attest), and the bats will hopefully get the message and NOT that I'm celebrating any of their antics. But I do look slightly batty.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My doona jacket

Now that you've all been educated as to what a doona is here in Australia, you'll know what I mean when you see my "doona jacket". That's my description of it anyway. The MWC brought it back from one of his business trips to China. It's a quilted jacket that is so-o-o-o cosy and warm, I wear it for most of the winter, indoors and out. Millions of Chinese women wear them, and I know why!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Queen of the Pantry!

Jude over at the long-toothed hinterland dweller has named me the Queen of the Pantry based on the responses to my photos in the Bloggy Tour of Homes. I like it! Through touring other people's homes in bloggerland I got some good ideas, including one day having a laptop in the pantry, with a folding chair . Then I can keep an eye on dinner (rather than forgetting about it altogether) while still blogging. Although someone wrote back and said that that wouldn't necessarily help: she has been known to keep blogging while dinner burned only a few feet away.

I have tried to make a 180º view of my pantry heaven, but this is the best I can do. Also tried to make a "movie" as some others have done, but much of each photo gets left out. I also tried powerpoint for a slideshow, but figured some people might not have the necessary software. This will have to suffice, starting from the righthand side:
This is the middle.
Lefthand side

Also thanks to Jude I have corrected a HUGE mistake in the Greek yoghurt, honey and orange syrup cake recipe I posted recently. I had left off a vital 2 in the amount of self raising flour. It should be 2 ½ instead of ½ cups - BIG difference! But because of that I looked up how to type fractions nicely ½ as opposed to 1\2. Hold down the alt key and press 0189 on your number keypad. For ¼ it's 0188 and for ¾ it's 0190.