Saturday, 31 December 2016

Looking Forward

Hope. The looking forward of things to come, the belief that good things will happen, the trust that "better" awaits. The gentle wind that can lift our spirits and move us forward.

 "Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, 
and sings the words without the tune and never stops at all."

(Emily Dickinson)

As we look ahead to a new year, many resolutions will be shaped. Yours (if you make them) and mine (if I make them). Perhaps, they will just be whispered silently within our own thoughts, maybe they'll take the form of words written down in a journal, on a refined piece of paper or the back of an old envelope. Maybe, they'll be displayed as pictures on a vision board (like Sherri's) or we'll see them only when we close our eyes. I think, at the core of every resolution, every promise we make ourselves, is hope. 

So it is with much hope, at the start of this new year just a midnight away, that I am looking forward to:


*spending time with those I love & holding them close*


*growing food & flowers in my little garden*


*crafting beautiful & useful things with my own hands*

*learning some new skills & refining a few others*


*walking regularly with the warm sun on my shoulders & sand between my toes*

* continuing to simplify my life & letting go of more that is unnecessary*

*exploring the natural world & taking purposeful steps to care for our Earth*

*reading many, many books*

*returning to beautiful Straddie
(Just under a year away now but who's counting!)

*watching the sun rise on the new days I am blessed to live*

A new day dawns, one of my 16, 263 days lived...so far!


As this new day dawns, and a new year beckons, I hope that you have much to look forward to. May 2017 be a year of hopefulness and happiness for you.

Meg




























Saturday, 24 December 2016

Tomorrow's Eve

On the sandy edge of a little local road, on the island where we spend our holidays, we came upon this quirky Christmas tree. This native grass tree, dressed up in all its shiny finery, may not be your traditional conifer, but it is just as much a show-stopper. I'm sure we weren't the only ones to ask it for a photo! I'm certain too that we weren't the only ones it brought a smile to:)



On the eve of tomorrow, for many a tomorrow that will be Christmas Day, I hope you find much that gladdens your heart and that makes you smile. 

Merry Christmas!

Meg






Friday, 23 December 2016

Making Merry: Handmade Gifts for Christmas

Wrapped up in handmade gifts is the time, the love and the well-wishes of the crafter. Little handmade gifts have been slowly taking shape here over the last few months as I've endeavoured to finish projects for our dear ones. I wanted to make sweet and beautiful things, useful things, things which speak of nature and of caring for our Earth. 

A creamy knitted washcloth and a sweet bird stitched on a little drawstring bag.
(Bird design by the talented Melissa Wastney of tiny happy.)

A little hand-rolled beeswax candle that smells of honey.
(Beeswax sheets from Happy Flame.)

Hand stitched and home-sewn reusable Christmas sacks. A little  gift tag too!
(Repurposed cotton and calico bags, old salvaged doilies and last year's Christmas cards.)

Beside me in this merry making has been our boy. He's happily rolled beeswax sheets into candles, written words on bags for me to stitch over, repurposed used Christmas cards into gift tags and added all the extra sparkles needed with a good sprinkling of glitter! (Apparently, one can never have too much glitter!)

There is now only a little merry-making left to do. Today, we'll bake some lemon myrtle shortbreads using fragrant fresh leaves. We'll wrap and tie with ribbon the little gingery Christmas cakes we have made for our lovely neighbours and we'll hand-dip macadamia nuts in melted white chocolate for a Daddy who loves them.  We will honestly try not to sample too many of these goodies while making merry in the kitchen. It is important to taste test though, isn't it?

Meg











Thursday, 22 December 2016

It's Beginning to Feel a Little Like Christmas

It's beginning to feel a little like Christmas here in our home. Just a little! While away on holiday, I felt far removed from the Christmas rush, from extra busy shopping centres, long lines at the post office and piped in carols at the supermarket. Instead, there was just the quiet peace of a beautiful island. That quietness seeped into my soul and I haven't really wanted to lose it by rushing into Christmas preparations upon arrival home. 

We did take one special Christmas tradition with us on holiday though.  Each year, since he was very small indeed, we have used a simple felt advent calendar for our boy to count down the days until Christmas Day. In each pocket, we place a beautiful little ornament and each morning, it is collected with delight and placed upon our Christmas tree. At first, these ornaments tended to be clustered around the lowest branches of our tree but as our boy has grown they have been promoted to higher up! This year, with no tree to hang them from, they were instead placed in a special box ready for decorating the tree when we arrived home.

A sweet snowman waiting in the pocket our our advent calendar.

That same sweet snowman on our Christmas tree.

A decorated Christmas tree, with shiny red tinsel that catches the sunlight, real pine cones collected from under a stand of pines and a collection of sweet ornaments carefully placed by a growing boy.  

The few remaining "empty" pockets of our advent calendar tell me that Christmas Day is almost here and now, with a tree dressed in all its Christmas finery, it is beginning to feel a little like Christmas time to me.

Meg














Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Under an Island's Spell

When I think of my deep attachment to the island we visit for holidays each year, and from where we've just returned, I am reminded of these beautiful words:

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
                                                                                                       ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau


There is so much more, besides the deep blue sea, that keeps me under this island's spell. 

... long stretches of soft sand underfoot ...

... rocky cliffs that have been scultped and shaped over time ... 

... leg-achingly steep sand dunes to climb ...

... spectacular views from on high ...


... deep freshwater lakes for scooping up tadpoles and tiny fish ...

... warm rockpools to explore ...

... wild creatures to quietly observe ...
(Kangaroos grazing on the headland.)

... abundant sea life under the waves ...
(Manta Rays just under the surface.)

... soaring birds that take off from the cliffs ...
(Brahminy Kite)

... wide and beautiful sunset skies  ...

It is nature that keeps me coming back to this place. While other adventures may beckon, it is this island that calls me back and has done so now for over twenty years. It is simply woven into my heart.

Meg























Friday, 2 December 2016

Away

Tomorrow (I can't wait until tomorrow) we will make the journey over to the island we love.  It's been a whole year since we were there and I have missed it so. 

A long stretch of beautiful beach.

We'll cross the bay on one of the barges and I know, as soon as we dock and drive off, that I will feel that first sense of peace that will deepen as we drive out, seeing familiar roads and turn-offs and trees. There'll come a point along that road where the first glimpse of the blue ocean we'll be beside for the next few weeks will come into view. A sliver of sea-blue happiness!


Blue waving rolling in to the shore.


In our old ute will be everything we need for the next couple of weeks.  The rest will be far away. Too far to swim back for! My blog will be back here too, waiting for me to wash off the sand, hang up my beach towel and share a little more of this most beautiful place with you. 

Take care.

Meg













Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Just Before Summer Comes

The cool of the early morning and the shade of the late afternoon are the best times now to work and enjoy the garden. The heat chases me inside in between times! Topping up the sugar cane and lucerne mulches on our garden beds has been a priority this past few weeks, as we strive to retain moisture in the soil for plants over the coming Summer. 

There are many flowers, blooming in our garden, ready to greet the new season:

Star-shaped Jasmine lines a fence! Inhale deeply when passing!

Little blue star-shaped Borage flowers. Bees love them!

Deep yellow zucchini flowers.  Zucchinis to eat soon!

Blue and White Agapanthus.  Front fence flowers!

A fancy, ruffled Cosmos flower.  The most delicate of pinks!

 The  creamy, waxy flowers of  Stephanotis. Sublime perfume!

Periwinkles (vincas) in bloom. Simple and sweet!

 A cluster of tiny Cherry Pie (Heliotrope) flowers. The scent of vanilla!

Little yellow Marigolds. The colour of the Summer sun!

Pretty Society Garlic flowers. Edible and garlicky!

Native Ginger Flower spike. Blue berries soon!

All that work in the garden has its rewards, doesn't it! 

Meg
















Monday, 28 November 2016

Changing Seasons

Just a few more days of Spring left, according to the traditional European seasonal calendar, but the weather is already changed here.  Perhaps this November, with its bursts of very hot days in the low to mid 30Cs and its thunderstorms, really reflects a uniquely Australian season (for areas to the south of Brisbane). A season, called Sprummer, that is more in tune with our climate and the behaviour of native plants where we live.

In his book, Sprinter and Sprummer: Australia's Changing Seasons, Dr. Tim Entwisle argues that the traditional four seasons we're all familiar with and that all 'change' with the turning of a calendar page, could be extended to these five seasons:  Sprinter, Sprummer, Summer, Autumn, Winter.  You can read more about his seasonal thoughts here.

I feel Entwisle's 'new' seasons help me to think, in a different way, about what is happening both in my local area, which features much bushland and native plantings, and in my garden. Sprinter, which Entwisle describes as an early Spring in August and September, is when flowers in native bushland and in our gardens burst into flower. I remember the fluffy yellow wattle coming into bloom along the paths where we stroll in the afternoons, a native blossoming Entwisle links to his/our Sprinter season.  

 Wattle in bloom.

Sprummer, a season for October and November, is described as a time of changing weather and a second flush of flowering. As I think of Sprummer now, I think of the the high temperatures we've had, the welcome thunderstorms that have brought rain and the lilly pilly hedge just over our back fence that is now covered in little creamy puff-ball blooms.

Lilly pilly blossoms.

As for the Summer that's on it's way, a four-month season that stretches from December to the end of March according to Entwisle, I distinctly remember last year feeling that Summer would never end. I have that same feeling now too, that Summer will be long and hot here where I live. Perhaps it is that extra month Entwisle added in!

How do you view the seasons where you live now?  What signals changes in the seasons for you? 

Meg

















Friday, 25 November 2016

White Chocolate, Macadamia and Cranberry Rocky Road

A sweet jumble of marshmallows, macadamia nuts, dried cranberries and coconut all held together with white chocolate makes a delicious Rocky Road.

 A sweet white chocolate treat!

This is the original recipe that I adjusted to suit the ingredients and time I had to make this white chocolate treat. 

White Chocolate, Macadamia and Cranberry Rocky Road
* This recipe is not suitable for those with a nut allergy.*

Ingredients:

200g white mini marshmallows
60g dried cranberries
100 g macadamia nuts
50 g dessicated coconut
225g white chocolate buttons (e.g. Cadbury "Melts" or similar)

Method:

1.  Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

2.  Blitz dried cranberries and macadamia nuts in food processor until nuts are coarsely 
     chopped.

3.  Mix mini marshmallows, nuts, cranberries and coconut together in a bowl.

4.  Carefully melt white chocolate buttons in microwave, according to instructions on 
      packet.

5.  Carefully pour melted white chocolate over marshmallow mix in the bowl.

6.  Stir until marshmallow mix is coated with white chocolate.

7.  Transfer chocolate-coated mixture into cake tin. Spread out and compact mixture with
      back of a wooden spoon.

8.  Cover and refrigerate until set.

9.  Slice into small sweet squares.

This version of Rocky Road would be a lovely Christmas sweet. It's very easy to make with ingredients that are readily available. It sets quickly in the fridge so is perfect for last minute preparations. And, it would look very festive on a Christmas table or wrapped and tied with a glittery ribbon.

Do you have a favourite version of Rocky Road that you make as a treat or for gifts?

Meg













Monday, 21 November 2016

Yellow Clivia Lily

Almost hidden, growing in shade behind a thriving Magnolia Little Gem, in the further most corner of my garden, is this shy and beautiful lily. 

The beautiful yellow Clivia Lily.

This is the yellow flowering Clivia Lily. I love its strappy green leaves.  I love its clusters of soft yellow flowers. I love that it loves shade! Originally, I had planted two of these lilies. One became infested with lily borers and I had thought that I might lose this one to the same fate. But, look at this strappy green growth and these little pale buds that promise beautiful flowers.

 Pale and delicate buds form...

...and the softest yellow flowers open.

This pale yellow form is my favourite but there are orange-flowering ones too. Originating in South Africa, these lilies like our warm climate. They thrive in shade as too much sun can "burn" their leaves. Once established, Clivias are quite hardy and don't require a great deal of water, especially in the cooler months. 

I hope, over time, that a mass of these lovely lilies will gradually fill in the shade under and around the tree. After flowering, a healthy clump can be divided so more little and free lilies can be planted out. This is wonderful because to buy a yellow-flowering form can be expensive. 

It might take some time but I can imagine how pretty lots of these lovely lily flowers will be in the further most corner of my garden.

Meg














Thursday, 17 November 2016

Little Lemon and Almond Ricotta Biscuits

Fancy a biscuit? These lovely, light and lemony ones are perfect for afternoon tea. They are quick and easy to make, moist and delicious and lend themselves to a sweet, white chocolate dollop on top.

 Afternoon Tea Time Treat!

I love finding new recipes that are well received by the biscuit connoisseurs in my family. I discovered this recipe by following one of the "crumbs" (links) that Rhonda Hetzel left in one of her Down-to-Earth Weekend Reading posts. 

The "trail" led me to this recipe but, as seems to be my habit, I tinkered with it...just slightly!  I substituted white spelt flour for the plain flour. Instead of 3/4cup of sugar, I only used 1/2 cup and correspondingly increased to 3/4cup almond meal. I also added approximately two tablespoons of lemon juice in addition to the lemon rind. I mixed the juice in a little at a time after beating the ricotta, sugar and butter and before adding the egg. 

As for the icing, I just quickly melted some white chocolate buttons and dolloped that on top when the biscuits were cool. A sprinkle of coconut and they were ready to be sampled by aforementioned biscuit connoisseurs. One exclaimed, "Oh, yum!" and the other didn't lick the "icing" off first (as he's been known to do). Another drooled slobberishly while watching his human companions gobble up "his" afternoon tea. 

All that was left was an empty plate. A sure signal to make these again soon.

Meg










Monday, 14 November 2016

The Very Hungry Caterpillars

Look who I found helping themselves to a free lunch of delicious Pentas leaves in my garden.   Hmmm!

Nibble!  Nibble!

Munch! Munch!

 Free Lunch!

These three caterpillars, and a few more of their butterfly-to-be buddies, have stripped many leaves from these usually lush Pentas plants. All in a matter of days. Fast eaters!

Before.

After.

So, what to do? It would be a lot easier if caterpillars feasted on chocolate cake and lollipops and sausage like the fictional one in the classic children's story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  (If you haven't read this delightful story, then here is a You-tube animation of it.)  Alas, though, these caterpillars are real so no amount of chocolate cake will help:(

Instead, I decided to prune the Pentas because they typically respond well to a good 'haircut'. I carefully pruned each plant, removing stems, leaves and caterpillars. In doing so, the Pentas has a chance to recover and rebound with lush, thick growth. The caterpillars can continue feasting on the leaves of the prunings (and fresh supplements from the Pentas they hadn't quite started munching on) while they 'holiday' in an old fishtank. Through the glass of the tank we hope to be able to observe the rest of their life cycle unfold. 

I wonder what butterfly (or moth) will emerge in the end?

Meg













Friday, 11 November 2016

Here & Now 7

Busy days have governed my Here & Now of late but there is always the long, contented sigh of home. Our place here, atop a hill, that looks out over rooftops and trees and toward a very distant horizon where, on a clear day, a sliver of sea sparkles and an island beckons. I have leaned, my elbows resting upon blue railing, and gazed at that view often of late. I've lost myself watching tree tops sway, birds take flight and clouds drift across the blue sky. This looking out has reminded me that there's often a wider view to all that is in front of me.


Pretty pink Springtime blossoms in my garden.

 Lovely little Lemon and Ricotta biscuits.

Under the umbels of the delicate Queen Anne's Lace.

Loving //   The build up of thundery, grey clouds before afternoon storms and the scent 
                      of rain that those storms leave in the air.

Eating //    Healthy, energy-boosting salads! My favourite being this delicious and easy 
                      Beetroot and Carrot Salad with Pomegranate Dressing.

Drinking //  Cool, refreshing drinks with many ice cubes tinkling in my glass.

Feeling //  Like Summer has come too early with temperatures in the mid 30Cs.

Making //  Sweet little ricotta and lemon biscuits. Mmm...

Thinking //  There is still much to do before Christmas and I absolutely can't miss the 
                          post before we leave for our holiday in early December!

Dreaming //  Of  island time with my family that is now just three short weeks away...

I hope you will have time to watch the clouds, in the skies above you, drift by sometime soon. Have a lovely weekend.


Meg

 




















Monday, 7 November 2016

Butterflies and a Book

Butterflies are such captivating creatures. Flashes of colour from beautiful wings that beat rapidly yet make no sound or vibration that we can hear or feel. A life cycle that involves a metamorphisis of such magical change that it leaves children and adults alike enchanted. Their brief lifetimes that serve to remind us, should we contemplate it, of the shortness and impermanence of our own lives.

 The butterfly counts not months, but moments, and has time enough.
                              
                                                                                                                                ~ Tagore

This Spring, we have had many beautiful butterflies visiting our garden. From large-winged Orchard Swallowtails coming to lay their eggs on our Mandarin tree to pesky Cabbage Whites stopping in at the last of the kale. And yesterday, these two sweet little butterflies flittered and fluttered here for a while and stopped, just long enough, for me to take their photographs (after cheekily flying away again and again whenever I approached with my camera).

 A pretty butterfly among pretty pink blossoms. 

 A resting butterfly on the leaves of lettuce.

Matching my photographs to the much more professional ones of Densey Clyne, in our favourite butterfly book, Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden, we found out that these two winged beauties are the Caper White (Belonois java teutonia) and the Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) respectively. 

A useful and informative book filled with clear photos and profiles of many butterflies.

We have found that books like these, with clear photographs and easy-to-understand profiles, have been perfect for sharing with our boy and for learning more together about many of the amazing creatures that visit our garden or call it home. 

Out in the garden, in the early morning sun of yesterday, it was lovely to be in the company of butterflies.

Meg