Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The stillness of after Christmas

I love the stillness that washes over the world (well, my world anyway) once the hustle and bustle of Christmas day is over.

In keeping with my new outlook on life I have foregone the Boxing Day sales. It's not easy, I confess. I really wanted to go and get more solar Christmas lights for next year, but we won't be needing to put any up so it's kind of a waste of time.

I normally buy wrapping paper and cards, paper plates, napkins etc after Christmas for the following year, but I won't need them either. Cards I did buy, though, a few days before Christmas day. The Princess and Little Man always give their school friends cards, so I bought a couple of packs of 24 for 50c a pack. The best I've ever managed was a pack of 24 cards in February at Target for 5c a pack! If the stores were discounting Christmas stock before Christmas was over by 50%, then I wonder if they'd discount them further still once Christmas was over?

I must say, the scenes on television about the post-Christmas shopping has me a bit sad. Why can't people just spend time at home with their families? Or go to the movies? Read books or have a picnic? Family is meant to be there for life; the latest handbag or designer shirt won't.

Christmas was just the four of us this year. I like it that way. Our cold lunch of meats, salads and fruits was changed at the very last minute to hot roast chicken and pork, roast vegetables and baked bread, followed by ice cream and topping. Why? It rained and rained and rained for days on end. I even had to put a cardigan on over my nightie when we got up at 6.30am to open presents!
On Christmas morning I checked the rain gauge and there was 110mls in there. We had another 90-odd mls fall by the end of the day. By Boxing day morning there was another 30-odd mls in the gauge. Yesterday we only had 7mls in the gauge when I checked in the morning. I haven't checked at all today. I think we're free of rain for a little while now that all of the monsoonal trough has headed south. Hopefully it will give the paddocks time to dry out a bit so we can mow again. At least all of this rain has given us a chance to watch and learn where the ground flows, holds water or flows the wrong way. I just wish we had the money to buy the rainwater tanks we've been wanting to get! And to put guttering on the roof!

I've read two books so far since Christmas Eve. I got The Black Echo by Michael Connelly as a Bookcrossing book left at the library. It's a police drama novel. It was really good. Then The Groom read it. I haven't decided where to leave it now we've finished with it. Yesterday I finished The Mango Tree by Australian author, Ronald McKie. It was so lovely. I bought it a couple of years ago at a second-hand book fair and can't believe it's taken me this long to get to it (but then again, if you only saw the amount of books we bought you wouldn't be surprised!). Now I'm back to a book (that I started months and months ago) by Marianne Fredriksson called According to Mary Magdalene, another book fair book. It's an interesting novel as "told" through the perspective of Mary Magdalene before, during and after meeting Jesus.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and enjoyed what they made of it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


It's raining here at the moment.

It's been raining every day for the past couple of weeks at some stage.

Sometimes it's heavy, constant rain. Other times it's just light steady rain.

Sometimes there's lightning, thunder, sun showers with rainbows.

At times it's so quiet I can smell it before I can hear it. There are times when it's raining so heavily I can't hear the television for the rain hammering on the tin roof.

This morning it started raining at 1.45am. Big fat, steady drops of rain. I'd fallen asleep watching tv and had woken up to put the dogs out when it started raining. I felt sorry for them and let them back in again.

I got up at 6.15am and it wasn't raining so let the dogs out again. Shortly after, it rained again. Lovely light, soaking rain. The stuff you don't mind walking around in without an umbrella.

I love the smell of rain. It smells even better when it falls on freshly mown grass. Which won't happen here soon if it doesn't give the grass time to dry out between showers. If I mow now, the blades will only tear up the long grass, and it's only been a week since I mowed the paddocks.

I don't even care that the mattress protector has been on the line for 3 days now, whenever it's almost dried out, along comes another shower or rain. I really should spin it back in the washing machine and hang it on my under-cover line on the verandah, but it doesn't matter.

It's cyclone season here. The wet season. It's always raining at this time of year.

Once it stops raining, things get steamy and uncomfortable.

Thank heavens we have wide verandahs here so the windows can stay open all of the time. I love the smell of the rain the breeze brings into the house.

The frogs get excited by the rain. No matter how little falls, there they are, out in the garden chirping or croaking along merrily.

I found a website yesterday that has photos and sounds of frogs in the area. I'm being driven to distraction by our 'window' frog, littoria rubella. We call him the window frog because he lives in the window/screen frame behind our bed, as such, his call is amplified. He's very loud!

But I like him and his little friends. Shame he has such a dreadful name, rubella.

The rain brings out other frogs, too. We have a frog that lives in the downpipe on the front verandah, we call him Timothy. There are also the 'clunking' frogs, the 'sheep' frogs and the 'creek' frogs. I like the 'window sill' frogs the best, as well as the 'barra' frogs.

There are so many frogs here that at times it can be deafening - and I'm yet to identify all of those I hear.

Then there are the birds, but that's another story!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Slow cooked lamb shanks on creamy mash

I love slow cooked lamb shanks.

Here's a recipe I found in a newspaper.

I cooked it in the slow cooker and it was beautiful.

It's really a 'winter' recipe, but who cares when you eat it!

6 lamb shanks - frenched
1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 tspn ground coriander
1 tspn ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large parsnip, finely chopped
1/3 cup pearl barley (or a can of chickpeas if preferred, rinsed and drained)
2 tspn chopped fresh rosemary
2 tspn chopped fresh thyme
2 cups vegetable stock
1 x 420g can crushed tomatoes

1. combine the flour, coriander and cumin in a plastic bag or on an plate. coat shanks with seasoned flour and shake off any excess.
2. heat oil in a saucepan, add lamb and cook until well browned on all sides. remove lamb to a waiting plate.
3. drain excess oil from the pan, leaning a splash for remaining ingredients. add onions and garlic, cook while stirring, until soft.
4. add vegetable, barley and herbs. cook for 5-10 minutes until vegetables are just softening. add stock and tomatoes.

Conventional cooking:
1. place shanks on top of vegetable mixture, gently immersing shanks.
2. cover and cook for 2-3 hours, turning lamb once or twice.

Slow cooked method:
1. place vegetable mix into the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. position lamb shanks evenly on top of vegetables.
3. pour stock over all ingredients.
4. cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Serve shanks on mashed potato, mashed with plenty of butter and pepper, and a ladle or two of vegetables and gravy on top.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Gifts

This is the season for giving.

Giving doesn't have to necessarily be about 'stuff' that can be wrapped or unwrapped.
Giving can also include those gifts that money cannot buy; consideration, time, love, hugs, laughter.

As a family, we have always donated something at Christmas time, be it under the Mayor's Christmas tree, the K-Mart or Target tree or the like, The Smith Family. I try not to donate money if I can because I find it detracts from the message I'm trying to send to my children.

I take them to choose a gift or make something if we can. Then we wrap it and deliver it to wherever it needs to go.

This year we donated excess produce from our vegetable garden. Hopefully this way, more than one person can benefit.

I would love to volunteer our time one year to the Salvation Army in preparing and serving a Christmas Day meal to their clients. That is something that I cannot do I feel until the children are older, I can't supervise them and devote my attention to the task of meals at the same time. That is something we'll do later, together.
I love Sew Mama Sew's blog and came across this challenge. I love the idea but we don't gift to anyone really outside of the children or to one niece (it's a long story) at Christmas. But I can do this for my random gifts that I like to do. I hope you like the challenge and be inspired to follow along. I know I shall, I love making bags.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A few of my favourite things...

My handsome 5 month old boy.

This is our second boy dog; we were given a 5 year old Wolfhound cross earlier this year. He was a big, hairy, dopey fellow, but sadly he died after being bitten by a snake. This new little fellow loves nothing more than wrestling with the girls and carrying around shoes and anything else he can get his mouth on to!

He is already as big as our 'middle' girl, who is 1 and who we got from the pound last year

I love picnics in the park, especially in a North Queensland winter.

The animals we find around our property are things we would never have likely come across in the 'burbs.

We found this poor soul floating in the dogs' water bucket. She had swallowed heaps of water and after an overnight stay at the vet, we brought her back home to discover she'd laid an egg on the drive back.

Unfortunately, I had the box upside down and the lid fell open as I was carrying her out to a lilly-pilly bush to release her close to an old nest.

I love sewing.

I love this tablecloth I made.

The colors are so pretty and brightens up our otherwise dark house. I can't wait until we repaint everything off-white.

Such pretty fabric.

This is the floral and lace false pelmet I made for my daughter's muslin bedroom curtains.


I also love the sound of the water falling in the fountain on the front porch.

I love eating mint Mini-Magnums in the afternoon - just before dinner-time. Who said dessert has to come last?

I love sitting at the computer feeling the gentle breeze of the pedestal fan on my back.

I love holding The Princess's hand as we walk along.

I love hearing the telephone ring and hearing my remaining grandmother's voice on the other end when I answer. It's a link to my childhood and reminds me of freshly made scones with jam and cream.

My favourite thing of all... life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Loving this time of year...


I love Christmas.

I love the kitch-y-ness of it all; the tinsel, the lights, the corny Christmas carols wherever you go. I love bursting out into song at the drop of a hat even if I don't know all of the lyrics and sing the same verse or chorus over again. I love embarassing the Princess and Little Man by breaking out into an impromptu rendition of Frosty the Snowman in the middle of the supermarket. I really do love tinsel!

I do not like the cockatoos that keep chewing my Christmas lights to the point where I've had to admit defeat and take them off the front fence. Bah humbug to you, cockatoos!

I also do not like the fact that I've taken back two sets of solar LED lights to Big W that are faulty. The Groom does not share my passion for Christmas lights so it is up to me to put them up - and then take them down prematurely when after a couple of days in the sun they have still not charged or the lights go out after only a couple of hours of use into the night.

I've got another two sets that could be faulty. One set was working when I first set them up last week. I moved them to the other side of the front of the house (because the light emitted was way too bright to be shining into the bedroom window), but now they're not. The other set was flashing away nicely until about 9pm last night when they faded to a dull nothing-ness, before finally quitting altogether by the time I woke at midnight. It must be the Big W brand I think. I've used Mirabella ones for years without a hitch, but they've all managed to get broken or lost in the move to the new house or in storage.

This will be our first Christmas in the new house. We haven't made a lot of changes so far, other than the ensuite because the sellers 'neglected' to tell us the wetseal in the shower recess wasn't sealing and our wet carpet was the first tell-tale sign of a problem. No, we didn't get a pre-purchase inspection because we knew the sellers. It also wouldn't have shown up as the house had been vacant for 6 months anyway and any dampness would have long dried up.

I've planted some Bush Cherry's, Native Peanuts, rosellas and Tahitian Limes that were gifted to me by my lovely friends, Helen, Harry and Lou. I have also planted Black Bean, Illawarra Flame Tree, New Guinea Bottlebrush and bottlebrush and grevilleas that I've bought from fetes and markets.

We've got a lot of trees that will have to come out, too. The previous owners planted 3 poincianas metres from the front of the house about 4 metres apart from each other. Beautiful for their shade when they grow to full height, but way too close to the house for anyone's liking!

My chicken yard is still in a state of half-readiness for new occupants. If the Groom has managed to have a couple of days at home to work on re-fencing the yard, it has rained non-stop so that no work can be done on it. I've planted a bush lemon in their yard to go along with the Native Mulberry and 3 pigeon peas; there are also a number of young-ish mahogany trees in the yard, too, for shade that we built the yard around.

My vegetable garden is nothing to speak of right now. We plan to redesign and enlarge it after the wet season, so at the moment it is being left to its own devices. I donated a 20kg bucket full of Lebanese eggplant to a local Foodbank because we have more than we can eat. That bucketful was mostly from one picking! Eggplant seems to be my forte when it comes to growing vegetables, I think.

My tomatoes pretty much died off, and just as I was getting ready to dig them up, along came the start of the wet and they've all struggled back to some sort of life. Of course, I can't rip them out while there are flowers and some fruit on them now, can I. If we had the chickens I probably could. But the dogs love tomatoes, too, so every time I head over there I find myself being followed by the excited yips of 3 dogs! They've even taken to helping themselves to the cherry and tiny toms! The little sneaks.

Yep, I love this time of year. Everything is green and lush and you can almost see the grass growing. Mowing is almost a weekly occurence and heaven help you if you get behind schedule. The weather is humid and tiring, but school has finished for the year so we can just hang around under the ceiling fan and watch dvds or sit out on the back patio and watch the honeyeaters and other birds go about their day.
It is heaven. I'm so glad we left the crowded suburbs.