A Day In The A Blue Mountains.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I welcome you to take your time and browse , visiting my bush garden and discovering the wonders of my city within a national park; Blue Mountains National Park. Via my blog you will travel with me through the successes, trials and tribulations of gardening on a bush block. I share with you my patchwork & quilting, knitting, paper crafts, cooking and life in general.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Winter Hibernation ...

...means a good book or three to read as one snuggles on the couch, wrapped in a scarf and blanket.  
I've been coping with the cold by staying indoors as much as possible. 
As a result the garden has been neglected but I've managed to catch up on some reading.
Just like my post here I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've never read To Kill A Mocking Bird (Lee Harper).  I cannot explain why this is the case, except to say that I have been curious about the novel when it has come up in conversation in the past. 
But with all the hype about Lee Harper's new novel Go Set A Watchman my curiosity got the better of me and I became determined to read for myself what all the fuss was and is about.
Can you imagine my delight when, (on the 15th July) I happened upon a charity shop in Katoomba as I made my way to a function at the Paragon Cafe where I would meet with my Best Friend Ever. As I walked past the shop I made a mental note to pop in and a have a look after lunch.

The Paragon Cafe itself is a treasure trove of memorabilia.









 We indulged in a 50's themed Christmas in July Lunch on a bitterly cold day and as we were returning to my car My Friend, being a vintage clothes junkie, couldn't resist the Steven Walter Children Cancer Foundation - Op Shop (which has been described as a 'boutique-style charity shop') and as I'd already forgotten my mental note, I would not realise how appreciative of my friend I would be until my later find.

The store is a treasure trove...there is indeed a select array of the finest vintage items. Some may even be classed as antique but I'm not qualified to say.  We found room after room of nicely displayed collections of furniture, china, clothing, toys, and...books.

On spotting the books I began scanning the shelves for Lee Harper's first novel but quickly gave up as I couldn't really work the system employed by the staff to file their books (it definitely isn't the Dewey system!).
A staff member was stacking more books from a trolley so I approached her and asked if they happened to have To Kill A Mocking Bird and when I saw the look on her face I hoped she didn't think I was mocking her!  I could see her brain ticking over and I wondered to myself what retort she may be thinking up but after a few seconds her gaze, along with her mind I imagined, cleared and she uttered the words (or similar):  Yes we do, I've just put one up on the shelf here.
Then to my amazement she walked over to a rattan shelf and she reached up to the top most shelf and from atop the top most book, she took down a forlorn paperback copy of the book I had requested. (I would never have looked there.) Seek and ye shall find.  It is as simple as that.  I paid three dollars for it. 
Then two weeks or so later, at my local bookshop I paid $45 for a hardcover edition of Go Set a Watchman.  Oh well. (And no, it's not a first edition, as far as I can work out.)


To Kill A Mocking Bird

As a first time reader of the first novel written by Lee Harper I found myself drawn in by the character of Scout Finch and even though the setting is in a different continent and a different time to my own childhood the many similarities astounded me.  Perhaps both Scout and I commit, perhaps unconsciously, to existentialism.  
The most innocuous is what at times connects (for example) generations, or cultures. Besides, this narrative most certainly continues to relate to contemporary issues in my own homeland, and I imagine, many parts of the western world. 
Although reviews have described To Kill A Mocking Bird as a series of flashbacks in Jean Louise Finch’s life, I found them to be cohesive enough to not come across as a retelling of past events but rather, an unfolding of events in a troubling time as experienced by a young child, who perhaps is more open than most children to the impact of the behaviour of various adults and social groups in their life; as well as the conditions imposed on the children she associated  with (or didn’t)  as she grew up in Maycomb County, southern Alabama.
The questions it will trigger in the reader are as relevant today as they were back in the 1930s.   



Go Set A Watchman

This novel has a definite beginning, middle and end. It questions life issues more directly, I think, than To Kill A Mocking Bird.
The beginning was slow, reminisces a lot about Jean Louise/ Scout's childhood , and written in a much shriller voice than that of the deep and worrisome chesty tones of To Kill a Mocking Bird.  Perhaps it’s the inconsistent tone of the writing that left me feeling uneasy in the beginning. 
As a result, I found the start of the book sedate and irritating, especially since I read it immediately after Lee Harper’s first book. 
But it’s not long before Scout’s questioning of and refusal to accept the norms of her isolated and close knit community comes to the fore and once more I became enthralled and swept up by her thoughts and reasoning.
It’s been some years since Scout left Maycomb and this narrative is set during her annual visit to her childhood home. 
Go Set A Watchman, in the twenty first century, has just as much relevance as it would have in the 1950s, but perhaps we as humans have evolved enough to process the message more readily.  Whether we accept the challenge or not remains to be seen. 

 (I have read where a book seller has offered to refund buyers of the book, their money if they so wish, because they may have been led to believe it was a ‘nice summer novel’ but instead may find it to be an ‘academic insight’.  My response to that is: Hummpf. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/04/us-bookshop-offering-refunds-for-go-set-a-watchman-harper-lee.)

In the beginning this book made me laugh, in the end it brought me to tears but most importantly, in the middle, as I became absorbed by the conflicts experienced and betrayals perceived by Jean Louise, the words truly made me think and caused me to question my own views and beliefs towards people of other creeds, cultures, social standing and race.  It raises the question of the probability of how civil rights and liberties are interpreted depends on which group is doing the interpreting.  




Friday, 7 August 2015

Mufti Day

Here in Australia our schools have what is called "Mufti Day".  It is a day on which children and staff wear casual clothing, usually to raise funds for a cause. Those choosing to wear mufti on a set day may do so as long as they donate a gold coin (in Australia a one or two dollar coin) for the cause.
My Grand Daughter, Little Miss Seven (almost 8) has mufti day at her school today to raise money for Jeans for Genes Day.  She wore pink jeans to school and, as it was our turn to drive her today, she spotted the knitting I'd been making for her and asked if she could wear them to school.

This is a very simple beanie pattern where the top is drawn in with thread after knitting a rectangle.
The accessory I made from felt cut from a Bigz flower die on my Big Shot and stitched on to a brooch back so it can be removed. 

I've fallen in love with the fingerless gloves.  They look so cute.

And to finish off - a scarf.

I purchased the wool yarn from the Faulconbridge Blue Gum Rotary Markets in July specifically to make the trio for our Grand Daughter after she spotted my own set which I made last month. 


This red wool was a gift from my walking buddy who is a wool spinning enthusiasts. It's got such a lovely soft feel to it which makes it all the more wearable.
I used the same pattern to knit my Grand Daughter's set and scaled it down to fit her.
We've had such a cold winter this year that there have been days during which I've worn coat, gloves, scarf and beanie indoors in an attempt to get warm.
Tuesday just gone was the coldest August day (in NSW) since 1974. 

How have you been faring this winter/summer?



Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Consciously

After my  Consciously Frugal  post I've been thinking about ways I can 'make a difference' for others in our world that have less than many.
I am more aware of the disparity in the world, as I scan the news this past week.  What makes it more keen for me these past few weeks, is how icy cold it's been.  I have a house. So many have not, and I've felt the cold more sharply this year.  So I've been thinking how can I make a difference and have been dreaming of taking food or blankets to the homeless in Sydney. 

I felt very heartened this morning when I read this article about how pre-loved leather jackets were donated to Sydney homeless.
Click on photo for photo source.


Wow!
I must admit though, I'm a bit of a chicken when it comes to doing stuff like this on my own. So I'm wracking my brain as to how I can become involved in something similar.
Last year a friend caught the train into Sydney and bought a heap of cheese burgers and handed them out to the homeless.  How brave of her.  Perhaps I can do something the same with all the blankets I have stock-piled in my linen cupboards.
In the meantime...I am doing my little bit (while sitting in the comfort of my warm home and still feeling guilty) by purchasing these...(and I swear, no sooner had I sat down to write this post that a cheery lady drove up my drive to deliver them!  Talk about synchronicity!)


Who Give A Crap (yes really) is an organisation that donates 50% of its profits to WaterAid to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.
Read  more about WGAC* here.


The toilet rolls are individually wrapped in paper, not plastic and their facebook page encourages devotees to post ideas of how the wrapping is reused. 


I especially love the emergency rolls which come in red wrapping and instructions.
I'm certainly not one to need emergency rolls...I'm too anxious to allow my household to get to that point in toilet paper stocks so I love gifting these to people who have just moved into a new home and may be having trouble locating a roll of toilet paper.  Mostly, they have been appreciated - because they couldn't find their rolls of toilet paper.

In the meantime, I summing up enough courage to become more directly involved in helping those closer to home.

*No, I haven't received anything from WGAC, just doing my bit to assist a good cause by promoting them.



Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Upcycled And Finished

My summer quilt is now complete.
I am very happy with the end result and although I'm very tempted to keep this for myself to use as a lunch cloth I've decided that it should go and live in Western Australia and so I am gifting it to my Daughter In Law for her birthday this month.




Even though it's a very simply made quilt, I think the fabric gives it lots of personality so I do hope our DIL will like it.





Monday, 20 July 2015

Consciously Frugal

The temperature has barely hovered over the 14'C mark over the past couple of weeks, even though on many days the sun has been shining its golden light over our winter-bound city.
I am beginning to understand how northern hemisphere living would encourage winter days of home detention and hours of cooking hearty meals and calorie packed cakes, biscuits and pastries (among other things).
I have been a little guilty of such activities lately and although I have by no means kept a strict diary of what I have been concocting in the kitchen, I have shared a smattering of creations on various social sites, including this one.
On Saturday just gone, our Daughter and Grand Daughter visited for dinner before they head off to southern Western Australia for a short break.  I wish I could say they are heading for warmer climes but alas, although South W.A. boasts Mediterranean-like summers,  its winters can be just as brutal as the south East Coast.
Anyway, I made Brialliant Beef Bourguignon for dinner and at the last minute decided that a Portuguese Tart style desert would be in order.  I had an ample supply of left over homemade rough puff gluten free pastry in the freezer (after I'd made Beetroot Tarte Tatin during the week for Mr HP and I) which I lined a muffin tray with and filled with cherry conserve and crème brûlée-style custard (and which were heavenly).  So now I had used up some of the leftover pastry but had two egg whites left over from the custard, which, like I always do, I stored in the fridge.
So often it happens the egg whites are forgotten and some weeks down the track I decant them into the garbage. Wasted, a missed opportunity.

How often do we think we are committed to an ideology, or practice but only in our heads?  
I have been questioning myself lately as I lament about certain events as they crop up in the news or current affairs.  I ask myself often "What Is The World Coming To?"  Perhaps I need to be asking myself "What Can I Do To Change This?"

I ponder often, lately, how can so many have so much while so many have so little?
While the egg white dilemma is not going to save or not save the needy from starvation or death it has certainly flicked a switch inside me that makes me question how committed I am to my commitments.
The answer is not a pretty one:  When it comes to commitments, well, I'm lazy.  I said of myself to a friend very recently, "I work well under pressure".   You know what that means don't you?  Yes, when push comes to shove...I move. I do. I feel guilty, and I respond, sometimes while feeling resentful.
That's why the egg white ends up in the bin two weeks down the track.  Because there is no pressure to utilise the energy giving, high protein food source originating from a living thing, a living thing just like myself.
So I'm going to take this as my first step towards being consciously frugal which in turn will encourage me to consciously perform an act that will Change Something I Don't Like in the wider world of which I belong.
So today I made Almond Macaroons...high-protein almond cakes with a generous portion of sugar.  If I partake of them in a conscious manner they will not add centimetres to my waistline.
Here is the recipe:

Almond Macaroons


Ingredients
2 egg whites
120 grams almond meal/ground almonds
225 grams caster sugar (you can reduce this a little if you wish...to no less than 160g).
2 tablespoons ground rice
1 tsp orange-flower water
15 almond halves
Egg white glaze.

Instructions
Line two baking trays with baking paper and preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
Whisk egg whites until fairly stiff.
Stir in almond meal, sugar, ground rice and orange-flower water.
Mix well.
Using slightly moistened hands to form 15 portions of the mixture into balls,place onto the baking paper. Smooth the tops down slightly and garnish with almond halves. Glaze with egg white.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, till they are pale golden. It is important to cook macaroons rather slowly, to allow them to colour evenly and to acquire a good texture.
Remove to wire racks to cool completely.




Friday, 17 July 2015

Antarctic Vortex #2


Today, 17th July, is the 50th anniversary of the big snow falls in New South Wales (1965).

So we should have known that Mother Nature would celebrate by entertaining us with a just as impressive display of snow of its own on this day.  I took the train to Blackheath to see for myself.








She didn't disappoint.

Linking To 


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Antarctic Vortex

We have had media overload these past days as the south-east of Australia geared up for a cold snap. Well the hype, I think, was a bit over the top - although some parts of our state of New South Wales did wake to a whisper-white morning this morning.
Mr HP and I, our Daughter and Grand Daughter had already arranged to pick up Youngest Son at the end of a short hiking trip he was undertaking in the Jamison Valley so we took the opportunity to drive up a bit further up the range to Mount Victoria to see if we could catch some snow.
Well, we did see it snowing, but where we were, the snow did not settle.  
So I don't have snow photos to show you. 


Even so, I have to admit that the cold has been getting me down a bit this winter.  Today's temperature didn't get above 11 'C in Springwood and the previous week didn't perform much better.  

Katoomba (where snow is more likely), it is at present less than 1 'C with a windchill factor of -5.5 'C.

So instead of a snow photo here is a shot of tonight's desert...the cold made me do it...I just needed some comfort food and I can tell you...you can't go past this Baked Rice Pudding by Donna Hay.  You can find the recipe here:  Recipe.
And there's enough leftovers for tomorrow...after all, we might need it, because the media assures us the worse of the Arctic Vortex is yet to come!

Hoping the weather isn't too extreme in your part of the world. 

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