Friday, December 26, 2008

One last Christmas Tradition

Dad actually broke with Tradition this year and had his nap before the food as well as after. Must have been all the excitement of receiving a copy of The Mountain Muse from his favourite daughter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

100 posts and the Christmas menu is decided

Well - what a suprise - I went to create my post and what do you know - it's my 100th post! Just popping in to say that the Christmas countdown has begun. The present shopping is done, the food shopping is done - even the booze is bought and stashed away!

So - Christmas meal (it's never lunch or dinner - it's somewhere in the middle) is decided. We will nibble on Bar-Bits (see left) along with slices of fresh bread and Mum's bringing her chicken pate (receipe from The Old House at Wickham circa 1972) - then it's boneless roast chicken with waterchestnut stuffing, Nigella's couscous with pomegranate (which my sister-in-law served up on Sunday and it was YUM) and a spinach and walnut salad. Oh and we have to have crispy potatoes with sea-salt and rosemary because Emily said so.
Trad. Christmas Pudding (courtesy of Mum again)with mandatory Hard Sauce and then a cornucopia of sweet things to pick at till we all feel like throwing up - Christmas Cake (made by me - we'll be making it tommorrow), rumballs (ditto) and Crostoli (from Harris Farm) and Magenbrot and other little lebekuchen from Aldi. Oh - and cherries, white peaches and mangoes for anyone who thinks that eating some fruit will make them feel virtuous. Drinks will be Champagne cocktails for me, Mum and Kylie (my sister) to start and then either a white or fruity red according to how people feel - me I think I'll stick to the Champagne! Dad and Steven will no doubt start with a beer and join us at the wine. One of the good things about hosting Christmas is - no worries about drink driving!

Receipes are as follows:

Bar-Bits

1 box of Cheerios
1 box of Kelloggs Shredded mini wheat
1 box Kelloggs Crispix
pretzels
bag of mixed nuts
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon onion salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt
250g butter

Put all the dry cereal, nuts and pretzels into a large baking dish. Cut up the butter into small pats and spread around the dish. Sprinkle the different salts over the top. Bake in a slow oven (150 C) for 1/2 hour or until toasted - stir every 10 minutes or so to bake evenly.

Chicken Liver Pate from The Old House at Wickham

Ingredients
1 lb chicken liver
1/4 lb chicken breast OR pork fillet
4oz smoked bacon
3 cloves garlic
1 chopped onion
Thyme
Parsley
Salt and Pepper
1/4 pint of cream
1 glass of sherry or brandy
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon water

Method: Toss the meats and them toss in hot butter. In a separate pan sweat the onions and garlic till translucent. Chop the meats and retain any juices (for a smoother pate you might want to process half or so in the wizz). Put mixture in a large bowl with herbs and seasonings. Mix the eggs, cream and sherry separately. Mix the cornflour and water. Combine the whole. Line a greased casserole dish with the bacon. Fill with mixture and cover with more bacon. Cook in a bain marie for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 300F or 150C

Boneless Chicken with Waterchestnut Stuffing

4 rashers bacon
1 clove garlic
90g butter
2 small red capsicums (that's bell peppers for those in the US)
Salt and pepper
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2.5 cm piece (1 inch) piece of green ginger (or a big dollop from a jar if you can't get fresh)
6 shallots (that's spring onions if you are English and scallions if your American)
2 sticks celery
250g can waterchestnuts (see asian food aisle in the supermarket)
2 eggs
1 large chicken (or turkey) or 2 smaller chickens

Cut down the backbone of the chook making sure not to go all the way through the carcass. Use a paring knife to remove all the bones except for the wings and the drumsticks. (Bones make great stock by the way!)
Heat the butter in the pan and add the peeled and chopped onions, crushed garlic, peeled and grated ginger, seaded and chopped capsicums, chopped celery and chopped bacon. Saute gently until onion is tender and remove from heat. Place in a bowl breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, chopped shallots, drained and chopped waterchestnuts, lightly beaten eggs and sauted mixture with any of the fat from the pan and mix well. Stuff the carcass of the chicken - sewing it up with needle and thread as you go (use a bright colour it's easier to find) Sew it up completely - turn it up so that the sewn side is facing down in the pan and truss the wings and legs if needed to further keep its shape. Stuffing is enough for a 3kg (6lb) turkey. To serve - let it stand for 15 minutes covered in foil. Prior to serving pull out the cotton thread (make sure you got all of it!) Serving is as easy as cutting into quarters and putting onto the plate. Each chicken generously serves 4.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rumballs - or would you like to smell my Grandma?

There are certain family traditions that are handed on from year to year. Every year my grandma would make rum balls. I make them every year - mainly because the smell of them is a sense memory that makes it feel like she's in the room. Is it possible to have a tear in your eye and and a smile on your face at the same time? I think so!

Now there are many ways to make rumballs - left over Christmas Cake is one of them - this receipe uses wheat-bix (or for the English - weeta-bix and in the US - not sure what you call them but I'm sure you have them on the supermarket shelves). So - if you make them up think of my grandma who's been gone for 20 years this year - but lives on in happy memories like this one.





Rumballs

1 Tin of Condensed Milk
1 cup dessicated coconut
8 wheat bix (crushed)
1 cup finely chopped mixed fruit
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 generous (!) tablespoons of dark rum

Mix altogether - leave in the fridge for a few hours. Take small balls and roll in coconut or chocolate sprinkes to finish. Store in the fridge if you live in the southern hempisphere!

Favourite Christmas Carol

Well thanks to Erica for nominating "The Nightmare Before Christmas" - I'd thought about that one and then promptly forgot - we own it on video and it usually gets an outing. Have to say I like Tim Burton - he's favourite movie of mine is "Big Fish" which I thought was very charming.

Now all time favourite Christmas carol? Well hands down for me is "O Holy Night" - having searched You Tube for appropriate renditions - I can't really go past Celine Dion. Not usually a fan of Celine - but her voice does it justice in this version and the diva voice theatricals are kept to a bare minimum. There is a version that I sometimes hear being played in the shops - I have a sneaking suspicion it's Mariah Carey - it reduces me to tears for all the wrong reasons - there are so many trills and vocal aeronauticals it is truly appalling. Anyhoo - here's my all time favourite Christmas Carol - what's yours?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Wreaths

Cruising through the stores feeling pretty good because I've mostly done the Christmas shopping - went past the dreaded Lincraft - they already have their Christmas decorations at 50% off. They these wreaths for $4.99 each and the box of balls or $6.00 or $7.00.
I'd been wanting to get a new wreath for the front door - maybe even two as it's a double door. I used some beautiful Vandoros ribbon from Idyll Pleasures (how convenient to shop there (lol)) and created these beauties. Even my 15 year old was impressed! "I'm not going to lie to you Mum - they are seriously impressive."

So - what do you think?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's Your Favourite Christmas Movie?

Every Christmas we (ok well - I) head up to the local video store and rent an armful of Christmas Classics to get everyone in the mood.

My personal all time favourite is a movie that came out in 1983 when I was living in New York. I think it went straight to cable (which is where I saw it) but I loved it then and I love it now (I even bought the video when MGM released it a few years ago). It is called "A Christmas Story" and is a charming tale about a young boy living in the 1940's whose greatest Christmas aspiration is to own a Red Rider BB Gun. He is thwarted at every turn by his mother, teacher and even Santa who tell him - "You'll shoot your eye out!"





This movie has given us a family saying "Quickly - I whipped up some tears".

I love this movie - it's narrated in the style of "The Wonder Years" if you remember that tv show from a few years back. Funny scenes include the dad winning a truly atrocious leg lamp, a boy getting his tongue stuck to a frozen lamp post and my personal favourite the "Oh Fudge!" scene where Ralphie helps his dad change a tyre (in the freezing snow) only to drop all the lug nuts and drop the "Queen Mother of all swear words".





So what's your favourite? Others naturally include It's a Wonderful Life




or maybe the Grinch?









Miracle on 34th street - the Natalie Wood version

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and also the modern one with Mara Wilson (aka "Matilda")





what about the Little Drummer Boy ?



or maybe Frosty The Snowman?



or Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer?



Or maybe A Christmas Carol?



Then there are Christmas scenes in movies like "Little Women"



So what about you - what are your favourites?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Cake Part 2

Carla asked an interesting question about wrapping the cake - you do it when it's cool and I generally leave it in the tin or at least leave the greaseproof and brown paper wrappings on it - no worries then about contamination from the newsprint. I've also update the receipe to give US equivalents for the flour - anyone in the UK will be familiar with plain flour and Self-raising flour. Not sure what they do in Canada?
Found this handy website for those who want to make US/British conversions for receipes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas Cake

Remember last year when I was ready for Christmas in January? Well -now I am footloose and fancy free I've got my Christmas mojo happening a bit earlier than normal. Today I put my fruit down to soak ("macerate" is the technical term). I've been making this Christmas Cake since 1978 - I was 13 at the time! Mum discovered the receipe in The Australian Women's Weekly. We were attracted to the fact that it said it made a nice moist cake and was suitable for those who need to make a cake at the last minute.

Well - there's nothing worse than dry fruit cake (you know the ones that look promising but need a large cup of tea to wash it down?) and Mum is not one of those highly organised people who puts her fruit down to soak on the 1st July (suprisingly - either am I!).


So - we made the cake. It was brilliant. So brilliant - we've made it ever since. I even made it for my wedding cake. I've never tasted a better Christmas cake and don't think I'd even be tempted to try a different receipe. So - if your own Christmas cake is a little disappointing - try this one. I think the secret is the glace fruit and the grated apple. Make sure you use a good brandy. VSOP is great - "Very Safe for Old People" as my grandma use to say.


Christmas Cake - Australian Women's Weekly 1978.


375g (12oz) sultanas

375g (12oz) raisins

125g (4oz) dates (chopped and stoned)

125g (4oz) currants

60g (2oz) mixed peel

125g (4oz) prunes (chopped and stoned)

60g (2oz) glace pineapple

60g (20z) glace apricots

125g (4oz) glace cherries

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup brandy

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 apple - peeled and grated

250g (8oz) butter

1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups plain flour (American equivalent is all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup self-raising flour (American equivalent 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup of brandy (optional - but not if you belong to my family)


Chop fruit and put into a bowl and add orange juice and brandy, lemon juice, rinds and peeled grated apple - mix well.

Cover and leave stand 1 or 2 days (or a month or two if you're organised). Use an 8" cake tin, greased and lined with 1 brown paper and 2 greaseproof paper linings. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and beat in well until the mixture is smooth again. Add in sifted flours and various spices. Mix in and add fruits. Bake in a low/moderate oven until cooked. (I place a piece of brown paper over the top of the tin for the first hour - it helps stop the top from burning). When cooked remove from oven and pur 1/4 cup of brandy over the cake. Wrap the cake in newspaper (when cool) and store upsidedown until you wish to ice it. Storing it upsidedown helps to give a flat surface to work on. Carla asked about wrapping it in newspaper (the brown paper and greaseproof is still around the cake when you wrap it (I also usually leave it in the tin to help it keep a good shape) - see - someone always asks a question you didn't think of!)


Enjoy - you won't be disappointed !

What I've been up to recently

Well - not much happening on the craft front although I have made a doll (the basic pattern from Patti Culea's Cloth Doll Making Book) which is going to be in a round robin with a bunch of friends (this will start in January - scary thought). It's so long since I made a doll she's got blow outs in the finger and neck as well as being a bit lumpy in the stuffing department - I am really out of practice!

Hmm - also knitted a bag in fluffy yarn and also made some button necklaces (quick and easy - thanks to Kellee for showing us how).

My major project has been to start a blog about my great great grandfather - William Robertson. He started writing poetry and stories in his 70s - very fascinating. I've been helping my dad on his family tree.

He didn't really know his own father (long story) so finding family and making connections has been something of a journey of discovery and I think he is secretly chuffed to find out his great grandfather was a writer (as was his grandfather). As he said, "well it explains the poetic gene" - to which I wittly replied, "oh - good on you fat head!"

But my dad has always been good at writing (he's not talkative - too introverted for that). He wrote to my (maternal) grandfather to ask permission to marry Mum (because Dad was at sea and wasn't able to do it in person).

My grandpa was Police Commissioner in New Guinea after the war and he summoned my mother to come and see him. He had a great sense of humour and so he said very sternly to my mother, "this man is not a seaman at all." Mum got worried thinking he was about to tell her he'd had her fiance investigated and found some dark secret about him! My grandpa went on, "no - he most definitely is not. He's a bloody poet!"

Funny! Anyway - Dad's great grandfather William self published two books of poetry called "The Mountain Muse" and "Echoes of the Mountain Muse" - I have started blogging the stories and poems and adding additional information in on the topics and research and so on. It's right up my genealogical/ history alley! Take a look here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A new character

Here's the little fellow I whipped up on Saturday in preparation for the class yesterday.

He's actually cuter than he looks in this pic - couldn't quite get my photo mojo happening.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Back from the Dead













Sashi commented on my last post which was made a million years ago (thanks Sashi). I was gone so long I wonder if everyone thought I'd died?

Someone who did almost die was my cat Rumple. She was ravished by a randy chocolate siamese cat who bit her on her beautiful fluffy tail (where I couldn't see it). Long story short she developed an abscess on her tail and then had pus forming on her chest. If she'd been any closer to death - she'd have been dead! So an oxygen tank, drip, intravenous antibiotics an X-ray and a chest tap later - she survived but definitely used up all of her nine lives. Probably my most favourite bit (not) was when she came home and I had to give her not one, not two but three different pills twice a day. Lord have mercy!

So apart from feline near death experiences what else have I been up to? Enjoying the freedom of not owning a shop anymore, catching up with girlfriends and lots of veging out which has to stop really. I've also been working as a volunteer with a refugee family which has been an eye opening and interesting experience.

Tommorrow I am teaching a needlefelting class to a group of wet felters - dry felting and three dimensional techniques will be new to them - so that's exciting.
I've also got a gig next Saturday with a Spinning and Weaving group too up in the Gosford area. This has motivated me to get the needles out and add a few new samples to my repertoire - so watch this space!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Will I ever get ahead? (Pun intended)


Well a month and a bit has gone past. The move went well (even though it was raining) and we are mostly out of boxes. I have painted precisely one wall (in the breakfast room - because I swore I was not going to unpack and repack the buffet and hutch containing the "good china" one more time). Anyway - the colour (Clotted Cream - Dulux) is better than the poo brown that was there - so I am inspired to continue (even though my legs ache from climbing up and down on the chair to paint - who needs a stairmaster?)

I am debating painting the skirting boards because they are all stained at the moment. I want to - but if I start I won't be able to change my mind - so need to know I'll see it through to the end. I can't seem to make my mind up about anything at the moment. I quite like the slate - colours are fantastic in it when the sun hits the floor - but it doesn't quite gel with the pale look I was aspiring to. But it does hide the dirt wonderfully well which is another tick in it's favour. Hmm. More cogitating on the whole question really.

The other great question is drawers for the bedrooms. You wouldn't think it was so ruddy hard to find decent drawers - the only alternatives seem to be crappy MDF or thick chunky pine. I am hoping the antique fairies will help me find some - but people don't seem to relinquish chests of drawers and tallboys like they do other items of furniture. Plus I need lots (three kids and husband).

I have had a chance to do something creative - I recently took a class with Bobbi Oliver (who by mysterious happenstance was featured in the same Patchwork and Stitching magazine that had my Picket Fence quilt on the cover). She is a doll artist who works in Super Sculpey. We made two heads - one a half face to make a pin with (or similar) and the other a full head. Mine turned out quite well - a bit of a character. I took Mum to the class too as a bit of a mother's day present (couldn't think what else to give her) and she had a great time. She makes porcelain dolls with Lis Jones - so doing a sculpt was a bit of fun for her I think. The next day (Sunday) was Mother's Day. My eldest sister was down from Queensland (unbeknownst to Mum) - so we had lunch at my place and Mum got a big suprise to see her there. I made homemade mini lemon meringue pies (bought the pie casings thinking I might lash out and make Neenish tarts again - but then came to my senses). They turned out a treat and I should have taken a photo - but the Robertson family (ably assisted by the Butel mutations) are not shy of a good feed - and they all went too fast for me to photograph anything other than a few measly crumbs. But trust me - they tasted good!!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Open the Duir



I totally fell in love with this site when I first saw it and its lovely "movie". The movie is available on youtube but you might also like to watch the higher resolution version on their own website. The music is by a Norwegian musician called Martine Lund Hoel. Isn't the world wide web a wonderful thing some days?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What Is Art?

I love Lesley Riley's blog - she posted this link today - really made me laugh.



You should check out the other Creature Comfort videos there too.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I need a really good sleep.......

Well the packing up continues - I am about to box 70 or there abouts (I've lost count really!)
Still recovering from a rather horrible cough and totally wiped out every day from working and doing the rest of life you know - the whole wife/mummy gig? I am sick of waiting to move - I now want it over and done with.

I found this totally fabulous bed at www.brocadehome.com - isn't it divinity? I love it - and I also love the venetian glass mirror behind it too (and the chandelier for that matter). It's an American website - so won't be ordering one any time soon unfortunately - although I reckon I could get a really big jar of Lumiere paint and transform an old bed somehow??

Oh well - a girl can dream!

I do have a silver dream that turned into reality - my new Mazda 3 Neo Sports. I chose silver (has an black trim inside). After 13 years tootling round in my previous one - it's nice to have an updated car - with CD player, ipod dock, electric windows and central locking (yay!) - better not fall asleep in it!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A crash, visitors and mozilla

Well my laptop crashed on Wednesday - so far as I can figure out I've lost everything (and no - I didn't do backups). My own silly fault I suppose but I have been so underwhelmed by the tech support from HP. The basic problem is that the computer gets to the Windows part of the boot and falls over and restarts again and goes round and round and round in this continuous loop. The helpful email support sent me a microsoft page telling me how to fix the problem - all very interesting but as I commented - I don't even have a way to get to the DOS prompt let alone do anything else. When I emailed this back the ever helpful 'Sam' told me how to get to the DOS prompt. Apparently you click on the "Start" button, click on Run and ....... Well yes Sam, that would be terrific but if the computer actually got to the windows screen with the Start button - I WOULDN'T HAVE A BLOODY PROBLEM!

Oh - that Sam-I-Am, that Sam-I-Am. I do not like that Sam-I-Am.

Haven't heard from Sam since I pointed that one out. The resolution appears that the only way to fix the problem is to wipe the whole computer and lose all my data which is not a very acceptable result to me. They do this really clever thing now where they partition the hard disk and set aside a portion that allows you to recover if your PC fails. This is very clever and saves the fifty cents it would cost them to provide you with the software ON DISK. The problem is when you are in a position such as the one I am in - you have to wipe out the entire PC to get it to work again because you don't have any disks to boot from. Brilliant!

Did I mention I hate that Sam-I-Am?

So now I am on my husband's old laptop which runs Mozilla Firefox. I use to use Microsoft Internet Explorer (call me a weird but I actually quite like using it as I've had problems with Mozilla Firefox).

I am now horrified to learn that my blog is a great big mess when I look at it in Firefox with things all over the place. Quelle horreur! I shall attempt to fix it up - but if you are looking at it in Explorer and it goes haywire in that let me know won't you - you know like you'd tell someone that their skirt is tucked up in their undies before they leave the ladies restroom?

So it's been a fun couple of days - I've lost every photo from my PC (family ones - the kids - argh) although fortunately I have a few on this blog so I will have to screen scrape them off even though they will be low res).

Had a couple of virtual visitors to the new house - Judi and Erica (friends from the doll world although I do also know Erica in "real" life) and Jodi who has a wonderful blog called Cote de Texas. She is an uber doyenne of stylish decorating with fab taste in everything. I left a comment on a post in her blog - so she popped in for a visit. Kind of wish she'd waited till I'd done something about the brick walls, pink paint and green carpet - feeling like a bit of an Aussie dag (which I am but - well - you know).

So that's it for now - autumn has come to Sydney early -it's cool and crisp today - beautiful and sunny - that terrible February humidity didn't come for once (yay!) No doubt we'll get a couple more hot ones in the mix - but it's kind of exciting to know that summer's over.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some more of the new house

Ok - so last post was about the backyard - you might notice that we have a pool (yay) - the girl's will really enjoy it in the summer (I think it's got solar heating too which is good!)
Here's another shot across the deck - you can see all the bushland we own - it's nice and peaceful and yes - we'll be repainting the railings!
There are lots of birds that live in the gum trees - so it will be nice to sit out and enjoy the privacy (or as Claire calls it Privatsy).
The kids are looking forward to having their own rumpus room (complete with bar - won't be hiding the booze down there!) It should be easy enough to run water into the space to make it a wet bar - maybe even a kitchenette! The vertical blinds and the brick walls are another thing that will be going - I hate both with an equal passion - can't stand that Australian colonial look with brick walls, pine furniture or brown leather couches - brown, brown, brown and drab, drab, drab. (Sorry - getting a bit passionate there!) Here's the family room and the peach walls, vertical drapes and the tiffany light shades are going as is the slate tile. It's going to be so much brighter and paler!
Here's the formal lounge - yes the pink walls and green carpet will take a bullet as well as those very unattractive light fittings and curtains. I am tempted to put built in display/bookshelves on either sides of the open fire - not sure if there is enough depth there - I'd like to use the power to the unattractive sconces to have illuminated cabinets.
Sitting above the formal lounge is the master bedroom with equally tasteful light fittings and curtains and paint and carpet with the addition of a wallpaper dado. See - this makes it easy - you just think - bullet - it's a no brainer. I do like the double doors though I'll be painting the wood stained door trims white too.
Last but not least - the kitchen. In it's day I'd say that it was the top-of the line on offer - look at the granite benchtop - it's at least 2 inches thick. It's a bit heavy looking and ultimately I think I'll install a new kitchen based around my choice of appliances (I loathe Smeg with a passion - anyone with me on that?) I think the current oven is a Westinghouse - so I might actually be able to cook with it. In the interim I may well paint the cupboard doors white to lighten the mood a little and maybe change the doorknobs. The slate floor may stay till I decide exactly what I am doing in this space. There is a breakfast room and the family room in a straight line from this kitchen - if possible I'd like to take out the walls and open it up into one large communal space - but that will largely depend on whether the walls are supporting walls or not and implications of beams etc. to span the space.
Well that's it for now folks - my life will shortly be about nothing else but packing boxes.

Home Sweet Home

Ok - so the good news is we sold the house - for $6000 more than the asking price in two and a half weeks. How good is that? The unfortunate downside is that of course the rest of the family has gone into anti-keep-the-house-clean-for-potential buyers (grrrrrr........)
Just to add to the general merriment - we also bought the new house last week - here it is from the front. The tree ferns will be the first thing to go as they block the light into the front windows - I shall either sell them or move them into the bush at the back. We will also get the roof restored - repointed, cleaned, sealed and re-sprayed an get a soft wash and high pressure hose done on the driveway (we were so impressed by what a difference it made to our house!) I am also thinking of repainting the bluewall and trims - but can't decide on a colour - so it may stay the same for a while as I contemplate!
Here's around the back - it's a big block - 1910m2 but mostly it's bush - no garden to take care of which I am feeling slightly ambivalent about. Part of me wanted to buy an acreage and put in some totally splendiferous garden (probably had something to do with seeing a show on the ABC about Sissinghurst - but in reality I am not an upper-class English heiress with a husband interested in garden design - so I am probably having myself on - (you know - just a bit). However - I do have a genetic predisposition for gardening - my grandmother's grandfather was a self educated man who worked at various times as either a groom or a gardner. Apparently he use to go around the Botanic Gardens and point out all the incorrect classifications on the various plants to the gardeners.
Dad's side of the family has an even more impressive gardening history - his great grandfather was head gardener at several big estates in Scotland - he even worked at the Archbishop's Palace in Armagh, Northern Ireland. This is pretty funny as Dad's gardening ambitions have only ever stretched as far as mowing the lawns (and then having a nice refreshing beer soon after).
I remember one time when the grass was about knee high and Mum begged him to at least mow a path to the washing line. Which is exactly what he did - once around the Hills Hoist and back again. She was not amused.
We of course thought it was hysterical - until I saw Muriel's Wedding some years later (which is the most poignant and tragic comedy ever). Remember the scene where the mother had asked and asked for someone to mow the backyard so she could hang the washing out? She ends up committing suicide and when Muriel returns home the backyard is a smoking ruin as her mother set fire to it - evidently she was not amused either.
OK - wow that went off on a tangent didn't it? So I will do another post showing the rest of the new house and I will jot down other notes to myself about things I want to change.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Compassion

I haven't tried uploading video before so this may or may not work (or may well crash the computer!)

This is a video of Claire (my youngest) being interviewed after church for a video presentation at the annual dinner that kicks off the year.

video

It's a moment in time which captures her compassion for others so well. The little girl she mentions, Sophie Delezio really captured Claire's attention - I think because she has come through so much for one so young and also because of her unfailingly sweet smile despite life's difficulties. Whenever Claire has a whinge about her hair not behaving or (God help me) her thighs being too "jiggly" I ask her if she thinks Sophie whinges about the way she looks. It's snaps her out of it quick smart!

Psst - Want to buy a house?

Well - all creativity has ground to a screeching halt as we've been getting our house ready to go on the market. The only painting I've been doing has been up a ladder or on my hands and knees touching up scratches and scuffs etc. We have reached the Harbour Bridge status where you get to the end and have to begin again. The house (and garden) are looking pretty good having decluttered (all in storage at my brother-in-law's house - God Bless Him!)

Our first open for inspection was last Saturday and of course it rained constantly - at least people will know the house is water-tight! It's open today too and you guessed it - it's raining again! Despite the rain there was a good number of people who turned up for a sticky-beak and at least 8 contracts have been sent out. I am hoping that it won't take too long to sell as the whole keeping everything neat as a pin (with husband, three kids and a cat) is frankly not a whole lot of fun.

Prior to the decision to seriously put the house on the market there was some creativity happening between Christmas and school summer holidays! I was invited to be part of Patti Culea's new book - but I can't show pics of that of course!

I also made a fairy chair from Aves Apoxie Sculpt by following the instructions by Jean Bernard on the Aves site. It turned out pretty well I thought and it gets lots of comments from people passing by the shop. Here's a picture of it under construction - will take a picture of it totally finished when I can. I painted it with Lumiere Bright Gold - looks fantastic.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Cherry Tomatoes


One of the nice things about the rain we've had is that the garden is growing. Early this summer, we went and bought a bunch of seedlings. Some got eaten by the snails - but this little tomato plant has produced a punnet of tomatoes already - and boy are they sweet as sweet!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year

OK - so now I've got the Christmas thing off my chest - happy new year everybody!

2008 looks like it's going to be a big year. First off the husband wants to move house - which sounds fine if you say it really quickly but that entails:
a) getting your own house in order so that it looks somewhat more desireable than a "renovate or detonate" proposition
b) keeping your own house actually in order so that it's ready for inspection at the drop of a hat - this is hard when two parents are working and the three kids are at home - eating (plate? what's a plate?) drinking - (coaster? what's a coaster?) and going for swims (think wet cossies and towels dumped in sodden piles along with several changes of clothes a day.
c) keeping the garden in order - it's summer and a reasonably wet one at that - so all the plants (and more especially the weeds) are growing like mad to make up for the last three summers when it was so hot and so dry they weren't allowed to do anything above barely survive).
d) finding a house where one would like to live - we've found a couple but they are in a different area so would entail changing schools for all three kids. I don't even want to go there!

Maybe it would be easier to get a divorce -hmmmm.

Now you may well be thinking why not just renovate, detonate, put on an addition etc. to deliver what we want? Well - that's all very sensible but as we have had gee - I don't know - at least 1 million iterations of this question the one thing we know about ourselves is that we are not knockdown rebuilders, renovators or anything else like that - mate - we can barely maintain!

So we will search for the perfect place and hope we eventually find it. We did see this place - but someone bought it three days before Christmas. Who buys a house three days before Christmas I ask you? We're also thinking about this place - but it may well go before we get our act together.

So how did I spend my one week of the year off?

Painting.

Steven is a great starter ( I call him the gusher) - he is however totally crap at finishing- anything. So he started painting the laundry, the outside bathroom and the inside bathroom ceiling with great gusto. I of course finished them all - you know those boring fiddly bits where ceiling meets wall, second coats - that sort of unimportant stuff which requires going up and down the ladder a thousand times? I also repainted our bedroom and took down the curtains and washed them, stripped the bed and washed all the linen including the quilt and dusted and mopped every nook and cranny.

Basically I've come back to work for a rest.

Now apart from all the moaning the exciting thing is that lovely Patti Culea has asked me to do a project for her new book. A great honour and the timing is pretty snappy which suits me as the longer I have to procrastinate then that's exactly what I do. Mind you the inner critic is having a lovely time with me - but I think I've got an idea that will work - knowing me the overachieving perfectionist will do at least two different ones - you know - just in case.

Better go and extract my digit!

Ok - I'm ready for Christmas


Well - in true Megan fashion I feel about ready for Christmas now - even though it's the 3rd January.

Every year I tell people I'm ready for Christmas by early January and they laugh (they are usually the people who have done all their Christmas shopping in the June sales and put their fruit for the Christmas cake down to soak on the 1st July). But I kid you not - I find the rush up to Christmas and the responsibility for Christmas somewhat overwhelming - so I am not emotionally ready to kick back and relax until - well - the 3rd of January or thereabouts.

Am I alone in this feeling?

That said we actually had the tree up early this year because it was the 7 year turn to have Steven's family. I don't normally put the tree up until after Em's birthday (who wants their birthday upstaged?) But ahhh - the blessing and the curse of a large family - blessing because you only have to host the event once every seven years - curse because when it's your turn it's a very large number of people to have in your house all at once. Thankfully they have this family event well in advance of the actual day - so we don't fight about who's parents we spent last Christmas with and all that other stuff I know many people have to contend with.

I did make a gingerbread house too - because there was a gingerbread house "outreach" night at my church. Couldn't really give a tinker's cuss about the gingerbread house - just wanted to hear the speaker - Rebecca Manley Pippert. I have read all her books - and my copy of "A Heart for God" is truly well thumbed (but missing in action at the moment - may well have to get a new copy). She is truly a gifted speaker - we were very lucky that she had a cancellation on the Sunday and so was able to speak in church - you can hear that message here (you might need to scroll down to 2nd December to find it).

I also snuck out of the shop to go to the K-2 infants school concert and awards. Every kid in the class gets a certificate - so no biggie - but Claire's teacher did say that she always kind and friendly to everyone in her class - which was very heart-warming and much better than "works hard to improve at maths". It's nice to know your kids are nice to others (even if they scream like banshees to their siblings).
Emily of course finished up Year 6 - and I totally missed it because she told me it was at 3pm. Of course it was at 2.45pm - so haven't got a photo of her walking down the "tunnel of love" or anything else. Bad mummy!

My blessed father paid for us all to go out for Christmas lunch - so we didn't have the whole food shopping/cooking/serving trauma although Mum couldn't help herself and cooked a chook, a pud and a cake anyway! She said she felt funny not doing any food - I told her all I felt was relief. You might remember this photo from last Christmas - well I have to confess that was me this year - I totally conked out on Mum and Dad's bed and had a good long snooze. (No photos though - I'm not that silly!) I managed to buy Christmas presents for the children who have everything - helped along by the fact that Chris wanted a guitar and at 14 you can get away with a single expensive present.
So that was the end of 2007 - jumbled up and rushed. 2008 isn't looking very different at this point - but more on that later.

Summer is here



Ok - so this post was supposed to happen in late November/early December but...... you know - I've been a little busy!
One of the first signs that it's really summer in Sydney (well - the part where I live) is the jacarandas coming out in full bloom. I adore jacarandas and love the way they turn an area purple - both in the tree tops and carpeted beneath when the blooms start to fall. Here are two shots which look rather maudlin as they were taken in a churchyard at dusk - but I couldn't resist as the trees looked so pretty.


After the jacarandas there is more purple when the agapanthus come out.
And can't forget the christmas bush - both those things signify Christmas in Sydney for me.