Tuesday, 26 December 2017

On the second day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas, we continue feasting. And shopping. And writing those thank you letters.
Today is Boxing Day. Huge sales events in every city. Yes, I'll be looking for something special too. Online research today in preparation for the attack tomorrow.

We certainly feasted yesterday. Turkey, stuffing, roasted vegetables, mince pies, pastries, stone fruit, Christmas cake, wonderful coffee, and a sparkling wine. And more! It was a bit tricky preparing the food with so much tinsel on the kitchen bench, but we coped. That was not a Weight Watchers day at all.

Today our daughter and son-in-law will come for a cold lunch. This will be the sort of Christmas dinner I knew as a child. I was an adult before I learned that some people in Australia had hot food for Christmas dinner. I had thought that was just a fairy story.

Last June Camilla and Kevin got married and now a baby is expected. Yes, I am the enthusiastic mother-in-law from that other place. Interfering rather than supportive, probably. I searched through the suitcases of old baby clothes. I found the baby cutlery from thirty years ago. I found the crocheted baby blankets.

And  ...  I made a quilt. Camilla loves horses and rode for years. This quilt has horses. No matter if Baby is a boy or a girl, able-bodied or otherwise, active or indoorsy, this quilt will be just right I think. I was extra careful with my free-motion quilting this time. Actually, it was not free-motion because I drew lines. I was a bit disappointed because I bought wadding that was supposed to have adhesive on both sides. That didn't work at all. Then when I rinsed the quilt to remove my marking lines, the wadding shrank. I'll steer clear of that stuff in the future. However, Baby has a quilt that I made and it will be serviceable.

One of my students is a coptic Christian from Egypt and her family will not celebrate Christmas until 7th January. I think the other orthodox Christians around town celebrate two Christmases. That's a good idea - one social and one religious. I like Christmas for its social and political focus, although I love Christmas music. Customs from around the world make this time of year really special. Peace and harmony, giving and receiving, feasting and shopping. What could be better?

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

It's in the mail

At last the baby quilt is in the mail and off to Perth.

I was annoyed with myself because the free-motion quilting was very untidy. In the end, I decided that no matter what happened I could not do any better just now, so if the new owner does not like it they can just turn it over. The quilting does not look so obvious on the reverse side. Nobody wins all the time.

The quilt top was partially made some years ago (maybe 15 years) when I took some lessons. It was all completely overwhelming at the time and more lessons did not help in the slightest.

So now both twin boys get a small quilt for playing or snuggling or camping or something.

My message to myself? Learn how to do that quilting with rulers. I know they are sold at the local quilt shop and somewhere on YouTube will be some examples of use. And, And, And ... I found out that there are some proper lessons scheduled for February with a club that I simply must join. A New Year resolution well before the new year arrives. Or should I be trendy and call it a personal goal?

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Three Wise Carollers

The crowd was fiddling with phones of course.
Three of my friends sang Christmas carols to entertain the shoppers and workers at our biggest shopping centre last weekend.
They worked all day and moved from shop to shop.
At first, I thought the centre was playing recorded music, but no, it was Nora, Ambrose and Erin. No accompaniment was necessary.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Dance to the music

Last weekend I went to a free concert by the Arafura Wind Ensemble. Some of my friends play with them and my choir has had the pleasure of performing under the same conductor. There were eleven clarinets! The concert was called War is Over and commemorated Armistice Day. I wore my red poppy and so did others.

The music was a selection from the time of the two world wars and the venue was the foyer of the Supreme Court Building, where the acoustics are wonderful.

No, this woman does not have an arm growing out of her back.
That arm belongs to the conductor who is obscured.
I will never win prizes for photography.
Military marches, songs, dances, and some more classical pieces. Of course, it included Colonel Bogey and On the Quarterdeck. I loved the way they did American Patrol. There was a great medley from La La Land too which did not exactly match the theme but made for more fun.

Some dancers from Northern Tango put on quite a show while the orchestra played tango music from the forties. Marvellous. Out came lots of phones to take photos, but it was tricky to get decent shots because of all the movement.

The concert was quite well attended and extra seats had to be found from other parts of the building. Even the children were spellbound.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Sewing again

I have been sewing again.

My husband is part of a large and loving Catholic family. Twin boys, the grandsons of one of his cousins, live in Perth. The boys are my husband's first cousins twice removed. Or our children's second cousins once removed. How's that for degrees of separation and family connections?

So back to the machine for two little quilts. One is finished. The top of the other quilt is waiting for me. Ha! Emphasise waiting.

I tried to be a bit more creative with the quilting this time, but it is still all in straight lines. The quilt has remained flat with no wobbly ends, thankfully. I learned that too much parallel quilting causes that problem.

I accidentally discovered that more than a few of the family members are quite competitive in quilting. And some of them are extremely smart! With the help of YouTube and various blogs, I hope to keep up. I am not naturally competitive about the usual things, so I'll be supportive. It's about effort and love. My husband counted that I have sewn 22 baby quilts now. He is competitive, I suspect.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Walking and looking

I walked again this morning, but only 6km. Many people were doing the same, although I guess the ones I saw were not going to work as I didn't even start until after breakfast. It was lovely this morning - only 26 degrees C, but the humidity was high at 96%. I was happy to finish before the day warmed up.

I stopped for a drink and saw these lovely flowers peeping through the fence of the Deckchair Cinema. Made me smile.

Locally, these flowers are called Parrots' Beaks, but the correct name is Heliconia Rostrata. I looked on the internet and was amazed at the prices nurseries expect customers to pay for them. Homeowners here chop them out and throw them in the bin. It's a bit tricky to display the flowers in a vase. Leave them in the garden. These plants grow quickly and thickly. Partial shade, plenty of food and drink.

How big are the flowers? These today would have been about 30 - 40 cm long but I have seen them much longer if the gardener takes a lot of care.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Native gingers in bloom

Lately, I have been walking in the mornings in a desperate effort to become a little healthier. I was using the treadmill but it is difficult to sustain the activity for the length of time required to make a significant difference. So, outside I go.

A little rain and magic happens. I saw these pretty native gingers one morning this week. When the sun is very bright, they are sparkly pink. When the weather is overcast, the colour becomes more purplish.

I know these have been planted by the local council, but I have seen the same plant growing wild in Litchfield National Park.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


We are home again after a trip to the Blue Mountains. It was a bitter-sweet occasion. One sweet moment was seeing these lovely violets in a Lithgow garden.

A much-loved brother-in-law died and the family gathered for the funeral. Don had done a lot of voluntary work for the St Vincent de Paul Society. So many people had memories to share of his good deeds - his family had no knowledge of most of that. Such a good and private man.

It was marvellous to see once again so many family members. The children had grown. The adults had such a lot to say. We had a wonderful time talking, talking, remembering, and getting to know one another again. Don had lived in the same house for more than fifty years. There are so many photos, books, letters, and so forth. Happiness mingled with grief.

Peter, the oldest son, returned a few years ago to live with his parents, a loving choice to make. After his mother died Peter took on the extra responsibilities involved. Now Peter has lost his father, his housemate, his sounding board, and will lose his home. Bittersweet.

We had the new-for-us experience of staying in an AirBnB house in the mountains. That was a shock! The house itself was architecturally very nice indeed, but the management left a lot to be desired. At least the beds were comfy. but The bins were overflowing and had obviously not been emptied for at least three months. The cutlery and plates had been put away dirty in spite of there being a dishwasher. Lights were broken. One bathroom was a rust party. There was no exhaust fan over the stove. The oven was filthy. And the wooden walkway through the garden was rotten and broken. What a disaster! I do not know how AirBnB regulates the places it advertises, but this one was a shocker.

Now we are home again. I admit that these recent events have changed my outlook on life. Housework and home maintenance have a higher priority thanks to AirBnB. I am changed by the knowledge of Don's voluntary efforts in his community. Isn't it strange that we can be lifted by a sad event? Love is so complicated.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Mary Poppins cooks

I saw this post on Pineapple Princess and really wanted to share it.
Mary Poppins fascinates me, probably because of my long association with little children - too long probably for my personality.

Lyndon Goff, who wrote as P.L. Travers, grew up near where I lived as a child. She lived at Allora for quite a while. She went on to write many books for a wide cross-section of the community.

I wonder if you ever ate pineapple fritters. I assure you I did, and I made them too. They were an essential part of a dish called Chicken Maryland. If someone wanted to impress others, they cooked Chicken Maryland - a nice big piece of chicken a banana fritter, and a pineapple fritter. Ah, youth.

Pineapple Princesses: Mary Poppins and the children cook pineapple fritt...: Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story, P. L. Travers and Maurice Moore-Betty (culinary consultant), illustrated by Mary...

Friday, 29 September 2017

Surprising find!

I was driving along the street, glanced towards the op shop, and was surprised, most surprised.

On the verandah were a wooden desk and a wooden stool. Hmm. Better stop for a look.
Quick as a flash, I pulled into a handy parking spot.
Yes, there they stood. Dusty. Unwanted. Lovely. Solid teak.

Of course, I bought them both.
 I paid a low but fair price. New, they would have been double what the op shop wanted. And the money goes to a good cause. Win, win.

A little cleaning and attention with teak oil and now I have these charming additions to our already overcrowded flat.

Both pieces of furniture are made of recycled timber from fishing boats. How do I know this? I have a cupboard that bears similar signs of re-use. They are great. Solid timber, no chipboard or plywood. Handmade, with occasional rough bits. Well made. The stool has been repaired but it is still functional.
Perhaps they came from a divorce settlement. Perhaps someone was moving to a new house and changing their lifestyle. Now they have a new life with us.
And my husband has a special spot for doing his Indonesian studies.

I am so lucky. It was a most surprising find.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Quilt Exhibition

I went to the Territory Quilts 2017 exhibition. Many quilts were entered in the competitions but some were for display only. Some quilts were suitable for use and some were artworks.
I had never before been to one of these exhibitions and this was more accessible for me than those of previous years.

I was very impressed by the quality of some of the quilting. That was definitely inspiring. With perseverance, I can get closer to that level of skill. Perseverance. Lots of perseverance.

Some of the patchwork was excellent too. I always enjoy Bargello in all its forms and there were some patchwork examples of that too.My photo of a bargello quilt does not show that quilt at its best.

Quite a few of the quilts were the end products of a workshop that the local club had run. Hmm. Eight quilts almost the same is not inspiring. Some were not exhibition ready either. While that does show the public how quilts are made, the quilts in question were very large and that display did not appeal to me.

Some quilts were straight from a book. Several were made from a block-of-the-month scheme. I think that is fine for domestic use, but not really for public exhibition and competition. Perhaps if the people had used some different colours it may have given a different impression; but paint-by-numbers is not creative, only a display of a few technical skills.
Maybe I am just too old-fashioned in this regard, but I would have thought that originality and art should play a huge role in selecting entries for a competition with some generous and high profile sponsors. I wonder what other people think.

Some quilts were made of recycled fabrics. I like that idea and have plans for a quilt like that myself. Maybe one day I could enter that section. Maybe, no promises.

One quilt really grabbed my attention because of its colours. It was made completely from indigenous prints. Possibly it was a group project, but I do not really know. Unfortunately, the layout was a little crooked and that detracted slightly from its points, but the artist has obvious artistic talents. Just a technical glitch.

Most of the applique was that type that is glued to the top and then machine stitched in place. I admit I can rarely do that well. Some quilts had felt appliques and hand stitching.

I thought it was odd that some quilts were made by two people. One had done the patchwork and the other had done the quilting. I wonder if this is a common practice for competitions.

Would I go again? Yes.

Would I suggest other people go to a quilt exhibition? That depends on how much you know about the techniques. A quilt is a big project, even a small quilt. I go to galleries and look at paintings and sculptures but I definitely have specific likes and dislikes. I like fabrics and fibre art in general. An enthusiast would get more than their money's worth from such a show, but a newbie might find it dull. My suggestion is to be prepared to work up to a good appreciation of the works and be prepared to grow intellectually from seeing the exhibits.

Sunday, 3 September 2017


Today is Fathers Day. I am remembering my father.

He was born in 1905 in Brisbane. Dad did not have the opportunities many of us take for granted today in Australia. He had only four years of school, but that did not ever stop him. He had a wide knowledge of Australian Colonial poetry and one of my best memories is of him reciting works by Paterson and Gordon. Dad had a gift for languages and when he was a POW  he taught French to the other Australians in Changi. He also spoke Arabic, Indonesian and some dialects of Chinese.

I am also thinking about all the fathers whose children have died. Broken hearts never mend completely and such a scar is horrible to live with.

I know I was not a very good daughter, but I am trying to make up for it now. Age helps us understand other people.

This evening we will go to our daughter's home for a meal to celebrate this special day. Luckily, she inherited the cooking gene from my father.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Noble Tom Prosser

My photo is not very clear.
You can see the water being pumped out so the ship will sink lower.
The white pillars are at the back of the ship.
If I stand on my verandah and look at the harbour, I see an oil rig. It's called the Noble Tom Prosser and belongs to the Noble Drilling Corporation. It was built in 2014 in Singapore and is described as a jack-up rig.

The rig is working with PTTEP and hiring it costs $US130 000 per day. PTTEP is a Thai company involved in the oil and gas industry. I think at those prices I would not like it standing idle, but then again I do not work in big business.

This rig is designed to drill in water 120 metres deep and go down 10 000 metres into the seabed.

When the oil rig arrived in the harbour, it was piggy-backed on a semi-submersible ship. That was interesting enough. Those are the ships that sink down until the deck is under the water to load and unload, and then come up again. They manage this by pumping water in and out of the ballast tanks. I have seen this done a few times, but it is always amazing.

The big red ship, the semi-submersible heavy lift ship, is the Zhen Hua 33 from China. It is also staying in the harbour so it can be used for the next part of the journey.

Now everyone waits while the rig is commissioned for the job ahead. The oil rig is not drilling in the harbour but will be taken out to the Timor Sea. You may have heard about the oil and gas field between Timor and Australia. The costs and profits cause a bit of political tension.

This photo from the NT News website shows the oil rig sitting on the semi-submersible heavy lift ship.
Justin Kennedy is the photographer.

Here it is starting to move off the Zhen Hua 33.
This photo is from the Darwin Port Authority website.

My blurry photo.
The red ship in front of the oil rig is big.
The towers on the rig would easily be as tall as a 20-storey building.
You might be able to make out the scaffold-like structures that the rig is standing on.

I know my photography skills are not good. On top of that, I have cropped my photos, which does not help at all.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Do you want a job outdoors?

Not the best photo. 
Last year we had an earthquake that damaged our building.
Rain came in the cracks, railings came loose, and a few other little details.

The engineers visited. The insurers visited.

Finally, repairs are well underway.

It's a tricky job but luckily it has not been windy.

I looked out the window and snapped a photo.

Do you want a job in the great outdoors? Fresh air and sunshine. This could be just right!

Here you can see the roof of a hotel across the street. The brown roof is more than 20 floors below us, and again across the street. The man is not sitting on that slatted window shade; he is hanging a few metres above it.

A crew of three, two men and a woman, have been abseiling up and down, this wall and then that. Ropes galore. It's a big building, 28 floors and about the footprint of a city block. No mistakes. Do not drop anything. Drilling. Cutting. Filling. Patching. Risking their necks. Very careful.

Not so long ago some politicians who have lovely inside jobs remarked that workers should not retire until the age of 70 or 75. Somehow I doubt these workers will last that long in such a high-risk occupation. I don't expect they will fall, but I do expect that other factors will encourage them to change jobs after a while.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Another baby quilt

Another baby girl is due in the family so I made a quilt. My husband's cousin John will soon be a grandfather. Carly and Ryan have wanted a child for years.

I mixed a little blue into the top so that it could be used for a boy later, and then backed it with pink just in case. This quilt might be used for another child, but then again maybe not. The mix is mainly turquoise, purple, and yellow.

It is definitely time to use a different patchwork design.

I was quite happy with the quilt top but not so happy with my quilting. It definitely became frilly at the ends of the rows when I did the quilting. This should not have happened, and previous quilts have been more successful. I also had trouble with the tension as I stitched.

Perhaps it is time to get serious and start going regularly to some stitch-and-sew sessions at the fabric shop.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Coca Cola Cake

Have you ever tasted a Coca Cola Cake?
I had noticed internet chitchat about this cake intermittently over the years.
Finally, I made one.
What was actually in it? Diabetics beware! Not a lot of soft drink, but a smattering of ingredients that are generally not really recommended as healthy. There was only one cup of coca cola, but an entire packet of small marshmallows and two cups of sugar. Let's be truthful - nobody eats cake to be healthy, ever.

The recipe said to make it as a slab, but following such advice was not on my agenda. Used a cake tin that looks a bit fancy; it filled a large tin. When making this cake, the batter is quite runny as it goes into the cake tin - surprisingly runny.
A dollop of icing and a few choc bits added finishing touches after my masterpiece had cooled.

What is the verdict?
This cake tastes fine, freezes well, and has enough preservatives to extend my life for an extra ten years. It is a firm cake; more like a mud cake than a sponge. One slice is definitely enough with a coffee.
Yes, I will make it again one day.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


My daughter Camilla married the man she loves.

A few relatives were visiting us at the time for a separate occasion, so this seemed a good time to add to everyone's happiness.

It was a No-Fuss wedding at the Registry Office. They wanted no flowers, no photographer, no white dresses, no gifts, no music, no reception, and no silly nonsense. That evening they went down to the Surf Club with their dog, and many friends congratulated them.

Her wedding ring is the engagement ring she inherited from her great-grandmother. She had it cleaned and resized. His ring is silicon because he is a mechanic and he did not want it to be caught in machinery.

I am delighted to have Kevin as a son-in-law.

Thursday, 20 July 2017


Is it possible to grow hyacinths in the tropics?
I did.
Our daytime maximum is around 30 degrees Celsius, but it is usually cooler inside because of the thermal mass of the building.

I'm not a skilled photographer so it may be a little difficult to get a true idea of how lovely the flowers were.
These flowers had a surprisingly strong perfume that did not fade away in the heat. That was an unexpected bonus.

There were three bulbs and eventually there were six flower spikes. The tallest flower reached about 25cm, that's all.
The leaf and flower stage lasted for about a month.
I have saved the bulbs for next year. Happy days in the fridge.

The hessian shape slips over an ordinary black plastic pot and looks neat but casual. An extra layer of cellophane helped with waterproofing.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017


I saw this clever cartoon on a Facebook page about grammar. I hope you are amused; obviously, Queen Victoria is not. I like simple puns and grammar jokes.

For the history purist, this cartoon does contain some inaccuracies. (The grammar nerds are busy with guidance.) The animals should all point the same direction. The skin tone should be a little darker; although I find it more engaging this way. Maybe the stool is an anachronism??

I appreciate the joke and am not really concerned with the faults. Happy smiles to you.

At the bottom of the cartoon are the source, the artist, and the date. The artist is Dan Piraro.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Keanu's quilt

Another quilt for a little baby.

Keanu has been waiting since March, but, at last, his quilt is finished.

It looks a bit better than this.  The gentle tropical breeze(!) would not cooperate and be still while my hero took the photo.

Quite a few dramas along the way. I have such a lot to learn. I am pleased that my quilting is improving. There are parallel lines, one set following the strips and one set at an angle to those but not at 45 degrees. The corners are still not as neat as I would have liked, but the important thing is that the child receives a gift made with love.

Keanu is a dear little boy, very happy and calm. I'm sure he will use this quilt for years and for many purposes.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Diffuser reeds

My sister-in-law brought back these lovely diffuser reeds from South Africa. The ornamental ends are ceramic and are attached to bamboo sticks that absorb perfumed liquid. Two proteas and one wheat.

We received three lovely reeds, but it took quite a lot of searching to find the correct perfumed oil. Only difficult, not impossible. I have tried replacing the liquid with a homemade perfumed oil a few years ago, but it was not as effective as the bought product. No faking it this time.

Perhaps some other enterprising artists should jump on this bandwagon.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Driving about

We drove down to Batchelor and Adelaide River.

There was a little market at Batchelor which we supported by purchasing some coffees and the ubiquitous sausage sizzle. And bought some other useless ornaments that I did not need but felt might disappear in a puff of smoke if they did not come home with me.
Thankfully my husband hauled me off to visit the local museum. Absolutely loved that. Batchelor has a long and interesting history starting with farming, branching into mining, then military stuff, mining again, and lastly education. It is a very pretty place in the middle of not-quite-nowhere.

Off to Adelaide River and the Railway museum. Loved that too.  I'm not sure why, but I really enjoy looking at old engines and things. I looked at the water tower and immediately thought of those television shows where people convert similar structures into homes. The museum has a lot of material. Some of the displays deserve better attention, but the manpower is not available.

Adelaide river has seen more prosperous times, but it hangs on. It is a popular stop for the grey nomads with their big cars and caravans. There's an amazing war cemetery. We of the Never Never country. Gold mining comes and goes.

The reservoir that originally provided water for the steam trains is gorgeous.

The Adelaide River Railway museum has quite a few buildings
and interesting bits and pieces.

Time and the tropics.

It's a bit tricky to maintain the site but the old equipment is fascinating.
This reservoir is not used now, but once supplied all the water for the steam trains and the little community.
It's big. This photo hardly does it justice.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Pacific Requiem

During the performance.
I'm in the middle row with the altos but partially obscured.
The Darwin Chorale performed Pacific Requiem last weekend as part of The Territory Remembers commemorations. It was quite challenging to learn and perform well, but the result was worth every second of all those rehearsals.

It is 75 years since war came to Australia and the Northern Territory was bombed. The Pacific Requiem, by Michael MacNeill, is a work of reconciliation. This means it is one way we can all come to feel that the war is long over and that participants should be forgiven. Those who fired the weapons were just ordinary people doing what they were told was right. They have friends and family who mourn their loss too. This requiem is for all.
MacNeill's requiem contains pieces in Latin, English, and Japanese. It is based on the traditional requiem service of the Christian church, in Latin, but supplemented with folk songs from Australia, USA, and Japan. A children's choir sings some sections.
Our performance was in the Uniting Church in Darwin. This church is itself a war memorial. We were lucky enough to have the composer present at the final rehearsal and at the performance.

Afterwards, Michael MacNeill addressed the audience.
The church was decorated with cherry blossoms, red roses, and wattle flowers. All the singers and musicians wore sprigs of those flowers too.

The following morning we sang at a church service to bless the new Peace Garden at the same church. The Fujita family sponsored that event. It was so moving that tears poured down my cheeks.

Who is Michael MacNeill? He is an Australian now, but he was born in the USA. His father had served in World War II in the Pacific as an American Marine. Michael MacNeill taught English and Drama in schools, and also developed a sound reputation for composing musicals and operas. He is no musical lightweight.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Storms and bubbles

The large bubble at the bottom is 10cm across.
Last night we had a couple of very windy storms coming from the west. The strong winds forced water and air into tiny cracks or openings in our building.

This morning I found this.

This window is completely exposed with no shade or shelter at all.

The bubbles are a combination of air and water. The force has been enough to lift the paint away from the concrete wall. I wonder who invented such strong paint.

A small amount of water had leaked in via the window fitting, but that has not caused the paint to bubble.

Our body corporate management has been notified, because if it happens in our flat then it also happens in every flat directly above and below us - 28 floors. Our building is insured for storm damage and an insurance assessor will have to inspect this. Nothing is actually broken. Let's see what happens as the monsoon continues.

During the afternoon the weather was fine, warm and sunny. The sun shines directly on this window every afternoon of the year. The bubbles decreased dramatically. I wonder if they will grow again tonight while I am dreaming.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone. May your 2017 be filled with good fortune and good health.
Not my picture. Found it on the internet, but have no idea where.
The rain stayed away yesterday afternoon and last night just long enough for everyone to have a great celebration. Fabulous fireworks.
Today the sun shone brightly and the washing cheered in its usual fashion.
Now there are refreshing breezes - otherwise known as blowing a gale.
I have one New Year resolution and it will probably last as long as all the others have done. But I will briefly feel that I tried. Optimism springs eternal, and all that.