Sunday, 30 September 2012

My first Christmas cake of 2012

Yes, I too have made my first Christmas cake of 2012.
Coles and Woolworths have had Christmas stock on display for about three weeks now, so I got stuck into things.
My recipe is a family secret but I will list the ingredients. It is based on 6 eggs. The cake is liberally sprinkled (frequently) with alcohol to enhance its keeping qualities, especially important in this climate.

          mixed fruit
          brown sugar
          malt extract
          vanilla essence
          self-raising flour
          plain flour
          mixed spices

Soak the fruit for a few days.

I used too high a heat for the oven at the beginning.
Use the lowest heat possible. Plan for at least 3 hours.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Police Remembrance Day service

Yesterday was Police Remembrance Day here. There was a special service held at St Mary's cathedral to remember and honour all those police officers who died in the course of their duties. Some just died, some died as a result of injuries received while doing their job.

My choir, the Darwin Chorale was asked to sing for the service. We have done this before. Last year I was there singing and thought the service was interesting and uplifting. This year it was very sombre. By the end I could not even squeak out a note. Partly it seemed very dark because of the navy uniforms.

Officers, auxiliaries and recruits were present as well as the Junior Police Rangers. A Police Auxiliary is not a full constable but can perform many tasks associated with the Police role. Yes, they may arrest someone. Yes, they investigate. But there are some differences. Because we group police fire and emergency services together here there were some fire service officers present as well. They were a very similar uniform, but a different hat.

At the beginning there was a procession through the city streets and officers of the Australian Federal Police and the Northern Territory Police marched. The beat was kept by a drum, like a funeral.

Then everyone came into the cathedral. There were many important guests, including representatives of the various military services and political parties. The cathedral was full.
Afterwards, when only the flowers were left.

A colour party brought in the flags.

There were many addresses, including passages from the Bible, poems, and a couple of speeches. We sang.

Single red roses were laid, one for each for fallen comrade from the last year. Lists of names were read out. It was horrible actually. People had been attacked during their work, and ended up dead. How is that right?

Wreathes were laid from the various organisations associated with the Police. At least that was a little more cheerful.

After the ceremony a morning tea was provided in pavilions in the garden.

Dignitaries, officers, and the crowd after the ceremony.
You can read a little more about the Northern Territory Police Force here on this website.
Police here are usually rather good people. Kind. Highly skilled. Active and strong. Well-intentioned. They visit schools and run activities for young people. They use discretion in how they apply their skills. I have never had a problem with NT Police . Of course every now and again things go wrong. It is a very stressful lifestyle. Always recruiting.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Happy people happy places happy goannas

Are you happy? Happy enough?  Never happy?

I have to work at happiness and cheerfulness. Thank goodness for self hypnosis tapes, I say.

I saw this article on the internet and found it interesting. Quality of life is measured in some ways that seem odd to me. Yes, Aussies are usually a happy bunch, but there are a lot of worried people who do not admit their concerns. Or is it that the survey was poorly constructed?

There are some unhappy folk sobbing over cereal because they are a tad annoyed the great NRL matches are being played in Melbourne. Well, Melbourne does have many great sporting facilities and events and that's why our tourist dollars increase annually down here making us a very happy State in that respect.
Look at some great news that probably escaped everyone's attention on 23rd May this year. I reckon it should have been front page news and it was in some places, just not in Melbourne.
There it was, a news report stating that the OEDC has declared that Australia and its people are the "happiest nation in the world". Hey; we beat the usual fun countries such as the USA, Norway, Italy and others, and also we ranked number one in their survey of rich nations. Part of their report also says our life expectancy is 82 years, two years higher than any other country.
That's really great news for everyone Downunder, and I now understand why we are a happy country when I see folk on the road and in our caravan parks giving out hugs. Yes, everyone is happy in the happiest country in the world Downunder, and if this photo sent to me by WUD fan Bill Davies is any indication, it's not just us humans handing out hugs on the road.
What more can we say  except "GOANNA HAVE A HAPPY DAY"!

Goannas in the car park. Might be lace monitors, but not sure. They seem a bit small.
How on earth could a photo of goannas be viewed as evidence of happiness? Do people hug as a sign of happiness or as a social convention replacing the handshake?

Is this photo evidence of happiness simply because the two people are physically close?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Teacher, teacher, what are you thinking?

In another life I was a teacher. A colleague sent me the following. He is in his seventies now but still lectures at a university part time.

I am not sure I agree with all of it, but it certainly set me thinking.
Tell me what you think.

Nineteen thoughts about teaching. The twentieth has no words.

1.            Even when students do not do what a teacher plans for them it does not mean the students are worthless and unable.
2.            Aristotle: ‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is not educating.’ I call it "white collar vocational training" or "credentialing." In other words, there are a moral roles and functions that should be inseparably woven in with the material missions. It is often ignored--except in eloquent and empty mission statements. Yet, it is the moral compass that should provide the guiding spirit of an education. Mastery of the subject means nothing if we don't help students acquire a mastery of themselves.
3.            If you think technology is the magic bullet, the panacea, I would remind you when Lewis Waterman invented the fountain pen, people did not suddenly become Shakespearean writers.
4.            How many students think their first name is "wrong" or their nickname is "you can't?"
5.            Nothing makes a student more able and capable than being helped to believe she or he is able and capable.
6.            If we're spending all our time transmitting and stuffing in, how can we call forth? If we're doing so much talking, when do we listen?
7.            A presumption or generalization or stereotype about students is nothing more than someone being tired of seeing, listening, feeling, and thinking.
8.            The character of a teacher is revealed on the third or fourth or even fifth second chance.
9.            Lectures, tests, grades? Abraham Maslow said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
10.         Show me someone who says he can teach in his sleep and I will show you someone who walks into the classroom in his sleep and who puts people to sleep.
11.         I wish people would listen to Heraclitus and realize they never step into the same class twice. Each day you have to start over in each class with each person.
12.         We should teach to transform, not teach to a test.
13.         My authority in the classroom does not come from my tenure, title, and/or resume; it comes from my unconditional caring, empathy for, commitment to, respect for, my belief in, faith in, hope for, and love for each person in that classroom. In the spirit of Lao Tzu, when students are sincerely cared about, when they feel they are loved, when they know someone has faith and belief in them, they have a better chance of finding their inner strength and courage. If you judge a student, when do you have time to believe in, have faith in, have hope for, and love her or him.

14.         Tenure is not synonymous with backbone. Fear does not make for connection or community; instead, it breeds strangeness and aloneness; it widens the chasm.
15.         As a gardener, I can bear witness that as long as you weed out, some part of you, your efforts and your time cannot nurture.
16.         Into the classroom came those weak in self-esteem, lacking in confidence, shy, the haughty and arrogant. Seeing them as the "they're letting anyone in," the professor cried out, "They're unprepared; they don't belong here. Oh God, how is that You, a loving creator, can see such things, let them happen, and yet do nothing to help them?" The professor then heard a voice saying, "I did do something. I sent you."
17.         You cannot help a student "become" unless you accept where she or he is.
18.         I wish a lot of us would stop searching for the pot of gold in the classroom and be the pot of gold.
19.         And finally, Buddha says that a thousand candles can be lit from one candle. So, all I want is for people to say of me is, "He touched one student and changed the world."
These pictures are from the internet, Google Images. 
I am using them by assuming they are available through creative commons.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Frugal, thrifty, stingy.

Can I go a day or even a week without spending money?
Spending on clothes?
Spending on anything my heart desires?
Spending on food?

Aaaagh! The choices! The decisions!

I need to be financially careful. Our little family already has a plan for our utilities, such as body corporate, insurances, water and electricity. But I need to shop for food items regularly. I need to buy petrol. How can I manage the rest of our spending effectively?
Is the answer a little kitchen budget separate from the household budget?
A daily budget?
No-spend days?
Alcohol-free days?

Firstly, I will try making a fortnight's menu.
          One day rice.
                    One day pasta.
                              One day eggs.
Mince that becomes spag bol, followed by chilli con carne, followed by a pie.

There are heaps of blogs and web sites about eating economically, but those writers do not live in my city where prices are high. Yesterday I paid $1 each for tomatoes. Yes, they were $14 per kilo, and that was the cheap ones. My home is small and I have very little storage space. This means that I need to shop regularly for milk, fresh vegetables and fruit.

Secondly, I need to examine the reasons for my spending patterns.
Am I expecting too much from Life? Am I neglecting to take the opportunities around me? Could it be that my wasteful ways are the result of listening to advertising rather than walking my own path? Am I happy enough right now, and simply greedy for something unnecessary? Is greed not need my present mantra?

The third step is thinking about the potential results after changing the habits I have developed.
When I do spend less, will my future look brighter? Will I feel that I am giving more to the future generations? Will I feel greater joy each day?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Card making again

I love getting letters. I love sending letters. The thrill of receiving is equal to the thrill of writing.

My parents were keen letter writers and saw that as love in action. I do too. Each week I write at least one letter to a family member. To make my letters more interesting I write most of them on homemade cards.

I love making my cards. These cards should really be called notelets because only the front is decorated and the inside is for my letter. Sometimes I attach extra pages inside so that I make more effort to talk to my friends and family.

Not all my cards are this elaborate. Some have simply a photo on the front or some magazine pictures. Cards for men need to be suited to the personality of the recipient.

Here are two cards I made this weekend. One is deliberately made for the babies who are getting the quilts. The other could be a birthday card or a get well card for someone else at some time.

These cards are similar and reasonably simple to make.

Step 1. Cut and fold some light card. I use one A4 sheet to make two cards. My envelopes fit this size. It is hard to get the cut exactly in the middle so some trimming might be needed.

Step 2. Cut a panel to highlight the front. I used card from my stash. It is recycled and had printing on the back. This panel has the work on it and is attached to the real card at the end.

Step 3. I made a cardboard template of a heart. I clipped it to the back of the panel and used a pin to prick holes around the edge. Then I used the same template to cut out heart shapes that were used to fill the heart on the front. I had some scraps of hand made paper in my stash for this. I saved the template for future use.

Step 4. I glued the coloured hearts inside the outline on the front of the panel.

Step 5. I used some silk ribbon to embroider the hearts. The holes made this easier. Each card used a different silk ribbon embroidery stitch. Any threads on the back are held firmly in place with sticky tape. One card, the bubbly one, uses variegated blue ribbon and gold thread to couch it in place. The plainer card uses blue ribbon stitching and white ribbon intertwined along the surface. The lines are white. There is room on this card for a name across the heart.

Step 6. Extra touches were added to create some balance. Bows. Lines. Paper flower and bead.

Step 7. Finally each panel is attached to the folded card using double sided sticky tape.

Any tips? Ironing the ribbon first would have been a good idea.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Finally finished

Hurrah! Hurrah! The two quilts are completely finished and ready to go.

Little Ned and Alby are too tiny to go home yet and so are enjoying the hospital special care nursery for a while longer. These sweet babies were each less than 2 kilos when born. Such risks and dangers for small babies. I hope they will soon be able to lie on these quilts and kick their legs.

I have met the mother once I think, and possibly the father. My husband volunteers two days a week at the workplace of the mother and they know each other well. The family is a rather romantic tale. Two scientists meet at work and fall in love. They married last year. He transferred to a different workplace. This year babies appeared. All so conservative and traditional.
The size of the quilts was determined by some art gallery fabric we already had. It was marbled at an Aboriginal Centre near our old house. We simply split it in half.

This is the fabric on the back of both quilts.
Only the quilting itself is different.
The first quilt was an attempt at a jelly roll quilt. I freely admit that many things went wrong. I chose the fabrics and cut the strips but forgot to allow for the joins coinciding. It would have been better to make random lengths too. Somehow I ended up with a diagonal pattern, but it does not match exactly. From a distance this hardly matters. Some fabric is patterned and some is plain. And the first strip I sewed is square at the end. I did a quilt-as-you-go method so this one did not actually take long, except for the anguish over the lines.

For the second one I made the quilt top separately and then sandwiched everything together with some simple lines. This allowed me to learn how to use some new sewing gadgets. That was fun.

All these fabrics are patterned but two have direction.
I am not too terrific at measuring so not all columns contain squares.
The front had to fit the backing fabric.
When it is all said and done little boys are going to make a mess on these. These quilts will be washed often. They will take some hard wear and tear. Play mats. Change mats. Bed and cot quilts. Travelling blankets. Camping blankets. I hope they are quilted enough to take the use. 

I am happy with the colours, even though they are appallingly traditional. I am happy with the simple no-fuss designs. I am happy with the size. And it was a great activity for me to learn more about quilting.

Quilting can be a bit expensive in money and time. I hope the parents value the love and effort that has gone into this gift.

Friday, 21 September 2012


I have been busy lately making two small patchwork quilts for a set of twin boys. Will be finished tomorrow I hope. I admit that at least half my reasons for doing these quilts are about learning to use the quilting features on my new sewing machine. Any excuse.
Found this picture on Facebook. Does not look quite like Beatrix Potter. 
Not quite as picturesque as this illustration, but the thought is the same.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Great Southern Land

We are singing this song in our concert this week at the Darwin Entertainment Centre. We do a good job of it.

This was written by Iva Davies. He has accomplished much and has been interviewed recently on ABC radio. There is an mp3 file and a short script at this site.

Here is his biography from Wikipedia.

Many Aussies can sing parts of this famous song; it is almost an anthem.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Is this ethical?

I saw this video and am still reeling.
Why would anyone do this?
What is the market for this product and why?
Where do the crabs come from? How is the environment protected? What is the future for the population?

This is one response to the ethical dilemma we associate with USA pet shop protocols which have spread to other countries. Another issue is subtly addressed. Well worth your time.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Not roses

These photos were taken just a short drive from my home. In the city area. East Point Reserve. I do not know all the names.
No Dorothy you are not in Kansas any more.

Fruit does grow on the trunk of some plants. The tropics is not all bananas you know.

These flowers stayed really tight like this. The dead ones on the ground looked the same.
 Maybe they were missing some nutrient that helps them open. Maybe they had a disease.


Friday, 14 September 2012

What a mistake!!

We all make mistakes. Sad but true. Part of being human. Mistakes have been describes as the dandruff of daily life. Without this, how do you know you are actually alive? Is it real, a wig or a façade? Does it matter? Is this minor in the general scheme of things?

Found on facebook.

My biggest mistakes lately seem to be around employment. I would like a little more, not too much though. Referees, resumes, employment records, asking for help, applications, ... The list continues. So many opportunities to make mistakes. So many failures.
Picking myself up from the floor and trying again is hard.
How do other people manage this?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Run and quilt

A while back I found an embroidered piece of cloth in an op shop. Maybe it had been a curtain. Maybe. The embroidery ran along one side only. And, joy of joys, there was a beautiful hand crocheted trim. Good condition.

Now it is a quilted runner.

The hand crocheted trim has been carefully set aside for something wonderful one day. Nearly 3 metres long and 4cm wide in a shell design. Handmade lace is a treasure to be handled with care and this is very well made.

The embroidery was not perfectly straight, but that could be because the grain of the fabric was originally out of alignment. It happens. Luckily for me the embroidery is all in cross stitch. I am hopeless at cross stitch no matter how hard I try.

Chop chop. I cut the fabric smaller. The finished runner will fit my chest of drawers and protect the timber from strong sunlight and accidental damage.

I used it as a practice piece to learn some of the tricks on my new sewing machine. You can see where I tried different settings. I had never before used a walking foot or lowered the feed dogs. I used bamboo wadding. My quilting is amateurish, but learning. This was my first big attempt at free motion quilting.

Happy with the result.

Yep, showing off again!!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Are you well?

I was sent this on facebook and have no idea of its origins. Plenty to think about.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Adam Lindsay Gordon and me

My father never completed primary school yet acquired a very good education.
He enjoyed early Australian poetry and could recite long passages.
He wrote the following in my autograph book in the 1950s. I have since seen this short piece many times and the appeal never fades.

                  Man's Testament

        Question not, but live and labour
        Till yon goal be won,
        Helping every feeble neighbour,
        Seeking help from none;
        Life is mostly froth and bubble,
        Two things stand like stone,
        Kindness in another's trouble,
        Courage in your own.

                        Adam Lindsay Gordon

Gordon was one of the Houses at my primary school - they were all named after famous Australian poets.

I found some information about Gordon at

Adam Lindsay Gordon was born in 1835 in Faval in the Azores the son of an ex-cavalryman Captain Adam Durnford Gordon. The family returned to England to live. Young Adam had interesting school years attending many different schools, being a lively lad indeed. Gordon began to lead a wild and aimless life, contracted debts, and was a great anxiety to his family, who at last decided that this young man should go to Australia in 1853 to join the mounted police. He was 20.

Gordon quickly gained a reputation as a sportsman, a boxer and an excellent, though often reckless horseman. He competed in and won many district races despite the fact that he was extremely near sighted and more often than not, had to trust to his mount to judge a jump whilst he hung on for his very life.

In 1862 he married Margaret Park, then just 17.
In 1864 Gordon bought a cottage, Dingley Dell, near Port MacDonnell.

In July 1865 Gordon performed the daring riding feat known as Gordon’s Leap on the edge of the Blue Lake. The memorial obelisk is still there.

By this time Gordon was publishing quite good poetry that captured the imagery and emotions of the people.
In 1865 Gordon ran for and was elected to the South Australian Parliament, being appointed as the member for Victoria. This lasted only two years.

He returned to the equine industry to make a living. For two years he lived in Ballarat in Victoria.

In 1867 Gordon's beloved baby daughter, Annie Lindsay Gordon died at just ten months of age. Gordon's biography records that the poet was never the same man after this loss and that whereas he had always been "Solitary, taciturn and sombre in outlook, his melancholy was certainly increased and from this time forward, its signs were plainly visible to his intimate friends."

This image is from Find-a-grave.
He sold his business and left Ballarat in 1868 and moved to Brighton in Melbourne. He had succeeded in straightening his financial affairs and was more cheerful. He made a little money out of his racing and became a member of the Yorick Club.

Throughout the year 1869 Gordon battled again with constant fits of 'melancholy' and insomnia, although he wrote in a letter to a friend that he continued to take his daily exercise, at this time, consisting of a daily, vigorous swim from Brighton Beach. He would often swim about half a mile out into the bay, which was known to be populated with sharks, before he would turn back to shore.

In March 1870 Gordon had a bad fall while riding in a steeplechase. His head was injured and he never completely recovered. Gordon continued to gain fame in the district as a horseman. He owned several race horses, one of them named Cadger, being his favourite and one of the best steeplechasers of his time. Gordon rode Cadger with a reckless abandon which it was said stemmed from the fact that Gordon harboured a secret desire to be killed in a fall.

Just one-day after his book of verse "Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes" was published, Gordon was found dead on Brighton Beach. He had shot himself with his own rifle.

His wife went back to South Australia, married Peter Low, and lived until November 1919.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Stubby holder

Where I live many people drink beer from cans or small bottles. I do live close to the Equator.
Condensation builds up on the can or stubby.
To make drinking time more comfortable we use stubby holders. Some are made of styrofoam, others of the stuff for wet suits. The stubby holder then becomes a vehicle for advertising.

New addition to my drinking collection.

Here is my latest stubby holder. It is made of poly-something, the wet suit stuff. Then a layer of fake fur has been added. A logo is appliquéd and then the entire thingo-whatchamecallit is glued together.
The brand is Fat Yak. The beer is Fat Yak. I do not have a lot of experience stroking yaks but I think this is a close encounter I can cope with.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Spring time new life

Honey eaters weave nests like little bags. This nest is about the size of my clenched fist.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Fruity Hooty

Do you like a little sculpture?

This was sent to me on Facebook. I know there are lots more food sculpture photos lurking in the depths of the internet. Once upon a time, many moons past, I saved a folder of these pictures. I can not find them now. Maybe I was a good little housekeeper and cleaned up my mess. 
But enjoy the owl.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Chocolate and Coconut Bread

I made a stunning loaf of chocolate and coconut bread. I used my bread machine. The whole event was very easy. Just put everything in, starting with the liquids. Give a little stir. Set and forget. Come back four hours later and eat.

This makes a 1kg loaf. I used the Sweet setting for my machine.

                          330ml water
                          2 tablespoons coconut milk
                          3 Tablespoons oil
                          1 teaspoon salt
                          2 Tablespoons sugar
                          4 cups bread flour
                          2 Tablespoons cocoa
                          2 tablespoons powdered milk
                          1/2 cup dessicated coconut
                          2 sachets yeast

The result is quite a tall loaf, with lots of coconut throughout. One sachet of yeast might have been enough. If you want to add glace cherries then put them in after the flour.

I taste tested, of course. Then I sliced the loaf and froze bags of two slices ready for some indulgent breakfasts with good coffee.

This photo is actually from because I do not have a photo of my bread.
My slices are about three times this size and the bread is light like bread not cakey.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Too much coffee

How much coffee?

Too much coffee?

Why do some people drink one cup of coffee and have a problem, while others swill a dozen cuppas daily and seem fine? Will it come back to haunt them in old age?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

I wonder

How do you feel about slogans on shirts? Souvenir shirts? Tight shirts? Foul old grubby shirts?

I have a collection of souvenir Tshirts that I really enjoy wearing. They may not be age appropriate.