Saturday, 2 December 2017

And Away We Go ...

The Christmas tree is up and dressed in all its finery. Parcels for far-away family have all been posted. Our boy has finished school for the year. Our old ute is partially packed and the dog is out-of-sorts because he knows something's afoot. He's right too ... we are about to head off on holiday!  Straddie here we come!

A glimpse of beautiful Straddie.

We're not going far, just across the bay to the island we love and visit every year. On clear days, we can catch glimpses of this special place out on the horizon but it's raining here this morning and that view is obscured by cloud. Hopefully, it will break and be fine and clear for the trip across on the barge later today.

One of the barges that ferries folk to and from the island.

We're set to arrive late this afternoon. I can't wait! As soon as we get there, and unpack the essentials, we'll walk across to the beach. We'll dip our toes in the water, feel the afternoon sea breeze on our shoulders, write our names in the sand. Perhaps, we'll stay until the sun goes down. 

The golden light of sunset on Straddie.

Our days will be filled with the beach and ocean, with long walks on the sand, with exploring rockpools and watching for wildlife. There'll be board games and beach cricket and lazy hours spent reading books under shady trees. There might be a little knitting and stitching too:) There'll be the sound of happy laughter and those contented sighs at bedtime after our sun-drenched days. 

I'll catch up with you all again when we get back home in a few weeks time. Take Care!

Meg

Thursday, 30 November 2017

A Grand Home's Gardens

A grand home needs grand gardens, don't you think?  The picturesque grounds of  "Vaucluse House" in Sydney are certainly magnificent. From the wisteria that wends and winds its way along the house verandah to green, grassy lawns and huge, mature trees. From a "Pleasure Garden" of botanical delights to a Victorian kitchen garden bursting with freshly grown food. There's so much to explore!

Let's begin our stroll at the beautiful, 1860s fountain on the front lawn. Surrounded by a bed of colourful flowers, it trickles gently into its circular pond. Beyond is more of the Pleasure Garden where we'll wander the paths for a while ...


 The fountain and its bed of pretty flowers.

An archway of roses invites you in to wander the Pleasure Garden's paths.

Just one of the beautiful roses in bloom.

Spires of purplish-blue bells.

Dozens of the tiniest pink flowers make a gorgeous cluster.

Flowering shrubs abound in this garden.

I could amble happily along the gravelly paths of the Pleasure Garden for hours, looking closely at every flower, breathing in their heady scents, but there's more delights further on. Come along! We'll walk around toward the back of the house now, past the stables and little farmyard and under the Jacarandas in all their purple glory.

 The old stables. Look at the S on top!


Some of the stalls inside the stables.


A little goat resting on the hay in the farmyard. 

Happy chickens too! 

 Shall we go along the path and through the gate?  After you!


Through that little gate, turn right and not far along is my favourite part of this whole historic estate. While Vaucluse House itself is impressive and the Pleasure Garden offered so many flowery delights, it is the kitchen garden that coloured me "green" with envy. Oh, to have such a veggie patch at my place!  Follow me!

 Lush growth in the kitchen garden.


An abundance of food!


Fresh fruit forming on a tree.

Bee hives for honey too!

And perhaps a rabbit fond of digging holes?

There is, of course, much more to explore but we'll make our way back towards the house now, past the old water pump that's just a stone's throw from the kitchen. Imagine! 

A reminder of times gone by.

I'll leave you here not far from the back door. I'm going back inside but perhaps you'll want to explore more of the grounds, turn left back at that little gate and wander happily. I hope you enjoyed our rambling walk!

Meg













Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Historic Sydney Home

After a very indulgent high tea, in the 1930s tearooms of Vaucluse House, a long and leisurely stroll through the rather grand main house and around its peaceful grounds offers a peek back into a long ago past. 



Views of Vaucluse House.


Vaucluse House is one of very few historic homes in Sydney that is still surrounded by its original gardens and grounds. The house began as a single storey stone cottage built in 1805 but William Charles Wentworth, a politician, journalist and explorer, and his wife, Sarah, had a much grander vision for the house and land he acquired in 1827. Although that vision was never fully realised, it is a very stately home.



Today, as one of Sydney's Living Museums, Vaucluse House has been refurbished to reflect the times when it was the Wentworth family's home. Dark, heavy timbers and deep jewelled colours feature in the formal rooms. Any visitor would have been most impressed by such opulence. While the scale of such rooms was indeed grand, my favourite rooms were the scullery and kitchen. I loved the shelves of pots, pans, bottles and jelly moulds. The warm fire burning in the hearth. The bundles of herbs hanging from the ceiling. Far less formal with fewer airs and graces!

 A warm fire burning in the kitchen.

 Milky white old bottles.

Just one of many jelly moulds.

 An old wooden butter churn.

 Dried herbs hanging from the ceiling.

 Rows of pots and pans hanging on a kitchen dresser.

Vaucluse House is surrounded by magnificent gardens and expansive grounds which are a peaceful and green oasis in what is now the the modern and bustling city of Sydney.  We'll take a stroll through its beautiful gardens tomorrow ... 

Meg












Monday, 27 November 2017

An Indulgent High Tea for Three

In the expansive grounds of the historic Sydney home, Vaucluse House, there are lovely tearooms where one can enjoy an old-world "high tea" just perfect for special occasions. Spending time with two of my oldest and closest friends on a weekend get-together in Sydney, a rare occasion and a treasured time, was all the excuse we three needed to indulge ourselves. 

Together with glasses of bubbles, to toast our long-lasting friendship (of course;)  and pots of warming teas, we relaxed and reminisced as we sampled each tiny treat of our high tea. One of everything and two scones!

Tiers of indulgent treats for our special high tea.


The tearooms were built in the 1930s.

 Beautifully laid tables inside the tearooms.

The tempting menu and a pretty teacup.

Something savoury ... a tiny & perfect pumpkin tart.
(My favourite!)

Somethings sweet!
(I would recommend the little doughnuts with elderflower cheesecake filling.)

We oohed and aahed as we tried each little treat from our tiered cake stand. Unhurried and happy! My friends expressed similar delight at their pots of spiced and flowery teas. While I am not normally a tea drinker, I sipped a marsala chai and quite liked its cinnamony notes. 

Just a few crumbs left!

After such a delicious time, a long walk was in order, if for no other reason than to assuage the surprise at having eaten so much. Hence, we set off for a long and leisurely stroll around Vaucluse House and its beautiful grounds. Those photos another time ...

Meg



Friday, 24 November 2017

Sydney's Harbour

The hustle and bustle, car-lined streets and expense of our largest city, Sydney, is not for me but its beautiful harbour & bays, historic homes, gorgeous gardens and coastline walks made for a wonderful weekend away.

I flew down to Sydney last weekend to spend time with two of my dearest and closest friends. We explored pockets of the city together and had such fun, our laughter just like it was during our university days well over twenty years ago now. Our first day together was spent exploring the harbour. We wandered through the Botanic Gardens to Circular Quay, crossed the harbour on a ferry out to Watson's Bay and walked further on to the candy-striped Hornby Lighthouse at South Head. Takeaway fish and chips, from the famous Doyles restaurant, back on the beach, made for delicious end to that circuit. We sailed back across the harbour again windswept and happy!

While I managed to lose many of the photos from this first day, a few survived or were sent by my beautiful friends. I would have loved to have shown you some of the interesting plants growing in the Botanic Gardens, Harry's Cafe de Wheels (which I first walked past with my then new husband while on our honeymoon), and the close up shot I took of the tiles on the Opera House but they've disappeared ... perhaps they are at the bottom of the harbour! Here's just a glimpse then of the scenery and the history around a little of Sydney's Harbour:

 Our iconic & distinctive Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sandstone along Sydney Harbour foreshore.

We three close friends posing at Mrs. Macquarie's Chair.

 Camp Cove from the Watson's Bay Walk.

 The red and white stripes of the Hornby Lighthouse.

 A little bit of history above the door.

 The lighthouse keeper's little cottage. 

An historic gun emplacement atop South Head.

A long ago date on one of the gun emplacements.

 A wide and blustery entrance to a very beautiful harbour.

While we spent much of this first day exploring Sydney's beautiful harbour, we spent the second one indulging in a rather fancy high tea at a historic Sydney home. I'll show you those photos next time.

Meg













Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Beautiful Baked Ricotta Slice

On the weekend, I bought two tubs of discounted and delicious biodynamic ricotta, made with creamy milk from the cows that graze on the lush green grasses of "home". This fresh, soft cheese is produced by a family-owned dairy, in a little town called Millaa Millaa on the Atherton Tablelands, a shortish drive from where I grew up and from where my Mum still lives. I think what I really bought, besides two tubs of ricotta, were memories!

One of those tubs of ricotta, save for a small amount leftover, became this beautiful baked slice. It has a crumbly base, a creamy filling that's not too sweet, the sharpness of raspberries or sweet bursts of dark chocolate chips and then an extra crumble on top! All made in next to no time in a food processor. Simple!

A sublime slice!

The recipe belongs to Linda, from her inspiring blog, The Witches Kitchen. It's one of the many delicious recipes featured on her blog that really champions fresh, wholesome food. All I did was substitute raspberries for blueberries, coconut sugar for brown sugar. I also experimented with some dark chocolate chips in half of the topping. Here's how it came together in my own kitchen:

 A simple baked base of wholemeal spelt flour, coconut sugar and butter. 
All whizzed up & baked while the creamy topping is made.

Blended ricotta, yoghurt, eggs, lemon juice & coconut sugar forms the creamy topping.
Almost cheesecake!

Little dark chocolate chips & tangy frozen raspberries ...
... dotted into the creamy topping.

Sprinkle crumble (reserved mixture from the base) over the top before baking. 
Next time, I plan on adding some coconut!

Bake & leave in the tin to cool.
 Cut into squares & refrigerate in air-tight container...after you've sampled a piece!

This sublime slice is crumbly and creamy and cheesecake-y. The perfect way to use up some of that beautiful ricotta. It's lovely ... like a little slice of home!

Meg