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.


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!


Monday, 13 November 2017

Here & Now 17

Our days here of late have been punctuated by showers and the odd thunderstorm; all bringing beautiful rain. The soil is moist to a decent depth and the water tanks are full, ready for the hot Summer weather that I'm sure will come. For now, I am relishing these milder days, overcast skies and the lush growth and blossoming in the garden after rain. 

A little pink puffball on Bees Ruby (Armeria).

 Simple & sweet homemade shortbread.

A vintage doily sewn onto a re-purposed bag

My favourite grevillea in bloom.

Loving //  All the native flowers that are out in bloom now. Grevilleas are a favourite!

Eating //  Our own crunchy  cucumbers. So fresh!  Homemade shortbread too. So yummy!

Drinking //  Lots & lots of water!

Feeling //  Content after a day working in our garden.

Making //  Simple things like wrap skirts & little  bags with lovely fabrics & vintage linens.

Thinking //  How wonderful this cool & rainy weather is!

Dreaming //  Of  being in Sydney soon with two of my oldest & closest friends.  

Sarah, over at Say, Little Hen, hosts this lovely little link-up beginning on the 10th of each month. Whenever I see each of her new Here & Now posts, I find myself wondering how it's been a whole month since the last one. It seems time flies!

I hope the early days of your November has been a happy ones.



Monday, 6 November 2017

Strawberries and Roses Bag

In quieter moments last week, I made a special gift for a lovely girl having a birthday.  A re-usable calico bag, a pretty vintage doily, some soft lace and a fabric printed with little red strawberries sewed up into this  sweet project bag:

A little love heart button. 💗

 Cross-stitch roses.

Sweet strawberries.

A pink ribbon for a drawstring.

The crafting book & a little bundle of supplies to put inside.

I made this bag in the same way I have made others using the calico bags I sometimes buy my flours in. It's a very simple way to re-purpose a bag. It can then be reused over and over again as a project bag that holds a little craft or knitting project OR it can be passed on many times over as a gift bag.

Inside this particular bag, we put a wonderful craft book with many project ideas very suitable for a young girl learning embroidery and a little bundle of craft supplies to get her started. I can't wait to see what she makes! I hope too that her special bag will hold many craft projects over the years to come.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

October Observations in the Garden

If you wandered very slowly through your garden, on its worn paths and to its edges, what would you notice? What would be the same and what would be different? What would be struggling and what would be thriving  in current conditions? What would be finishing, what would be ready to harvest and what would be just emerging? 

A lovely day lily in bloom. 

Since attending an Introduction to Permaculture course last year, I have continued to read and to learn more and to think...a lot! One book I have on loan from my local library at the moment is Rosemary Morrow's "Earth User's Guide to Permaculture (2nd ed.).  I have really enjoyed sections of this book which has been a bit easier to understand than the few other books I've managed to find. 

There is an emphasis on observation in this book with it identified as a key skill to develop in order to define problems, see possibilities, recognise patterns and consider relationships. So, what did I observe in the garden during the October that's just gone by? 

  • sweet peas are finished flowering and pods are forming
  • day lilies are coming in to bloom 
  • rose geranium growing too close to entrance of native bee hive
  • tiny zinnia seedlings have emerged in areas where I sprinkled them - less than one week to germinate 
  • self-seeded lettuce under mandarin
  • new growth on avocado tree
  • last two homegrown beetroots ready to harvest
  • cherry tomato plant in 3rd barrel smaller than the other two
  • plane tree branches covered in spring growth, branches spreading out near Grevillea Lollypop closest to the house
  • ripe blueberries in clusters mysteriously disappeared overnight
  • first Lebanese cucumbers are ready to pick
 A much smaller cherry tomato bush in the barrel on the right. Hmmm...

Zinnia seedlings germinated very quickly. 

Plane tree branches are crowding this grevillea. 

Garden Jobs:  collect sweet pea seeds when brown & dry, cut back rose geranium from hive entrance, thin out zinnias as needed, check soil in the 3rd wicking barrel and top up water if dry, cut back branches of plane trees on our side of fence, net the blueberries!

I need to net the blueberries!

  • native bees in rocket flowers, honey bees in salvia, both in alyssium
  • crow brought stick down to backyard birdbath, put it in the water there while it had a drink, picked it up again and flew off!
  • cockatoo with rocket seed pod up on verandah railing, using beak to rip open pod and eat seeds inside
  • Bluey (our resident blue-tongue) just peeking out from under boards at edge of front verandah garden, first sighting!
  • King Parrots and Pale-headed Rosellas feeding on flowers of larger red-flowering grevillea outside our bedroom. Unusual to see both these types of birds.
  • aphids on the roses
Garden Jobs:  lightly prune grevillea when finished flowering, allow rocket to self-seed in the garden so more grows for bees & cockatoos, squish aphids!

A photo of "Bluey", our resident Blue-tongue Lizard.
(This photo was taken a couple of years ago but he's still around...or one of his relatives is!)

We had quite a few storms and lots of lovely rain this past month but I can't tell you how much exactly because we don't have a rain gauge set up in the garden. Must remedy that! The rain and storms we've had made such a difference to the garden, seems as though everything grows a foot overnight after a good drenching. 

Good growth on these Canna Lilies.

  • More and different birds came into the garden because it was really dry, before we had good rain. 
  • Lettuce self seeds under the mandarin tree because it provides some shade and protection from afternoon sun.
  • Aphids are attracted to new growth & rosebuds because they have lots of juicy sap that these little insects feed on.
  • Rain and storms triggered more vigorous growth in many of the plants in the garden. Here's a good explanation of why storms are good for plants.

First cucumbers and other delights from the garden!

Observing like this, as I wander around my garden, really focuses my attention, has me pondering things a bit more and looking for connections. It helps me to identify what needs doing, like squishing those aphids before they do any real damage to the roses or netting those blueberries so we actually get to eat some!

I wonder what my November observations will tell me?