Australia · garden flowers · gardening · in my garden · mangoes · Mount Warning · native Australian birds · palm trees · pets · photography · recipe · spring · Tweed Valley

A Day Spent in the Garden

There is a hazy film hanging around the valley today. Apparently, a blustery storm travelled across the state from west to east – so to the New South Wales coast – yesterday, kicking up dust as it went. My guess is that this is the tail-end of the dust, and we haven’t had any rain to wash it away.

Tonight my body aches from head to foot, but I’ve had the most wonderful and productive day in the garden. I’ve done a lot of pruning with the garden shears today, so even my hands hurt! By 3 pm I decided to call it a day, but paused to look over what I’d accomplished. Up in the pecan tree I could see several Figbirds, so zoomed in on them with the camera to get a close shot. The light, or rather lack of light, wasn’t in my favour, so it’s not the best photo. If you look closely though, you might notice the ring around the eye of the bird in the fork of the tree – that’s the male, and the other bird higher up the tree is a female.

Those cheeky birds were pinching my mulberries! I went down to have a look at the tree, and some of the fruit are looking pretty scraggly now, as you can see.

I decided to go right down the back and see how the orchard is going. We’ve done a lot of clearing down there during winter. The whole area had been taken over by gamba grass, which is classified as a weed in our area, but we’ve got rid of most of it now. We have to keep a lookout for any new shoots coming through though.

My poor grapefruit tree looked pretty dismal when we found it amid the grass, but look at it now! It’s covered in flowers, and I’m so pleased to see it looking so incredibly healthy. It’s quite an old tree, I think we planted it about twenty-five years ago, and every year up until now it ends up covered in huge grapefruits. It looks like it will be the same this year too.

As you can see, the whole valley has the smoky-haze appearance today. If you look closely at this photo though, on the right there’s a bare-branched tree with more figbirds in it! I think it might be a Jacarada tree, so I’ll keep an eye on it and get some photos when it flowers.

And here are the figbirds closer up! I wonder, are they all after my mulberries?

Another tree in flower is my Pomegranate. This is a fairly new addition to the orchard, but it had some beautiful big pomegranates on it during summer. There’s quite a few flowers on the tree now, so I could be in luck again this year.

Our lovely old Mango is preparing for summer fruit too! I had a great time last summer making Green Mango Chutney with freshly picked fruit from the tree and the next day my eyes were puffy and I had blisters on my face, hands and arms. It turned out to be a reaction to a poisonous substance in the sap of the mango tree that I had an allergic reaction to! But the chutney was great. 😉

While I did my gardening, my son’s dog Forrest – who lives permanently at my house now because it’s the only place she’s settled – and my Labrador, Bronte, followed me everywhere. They are good company, but it’s very difficult to get them to sit still long enough to get a photo of them. This photo of Forrest is a tad blurry, but the best I could get.

The Figbirds often sit atop these bunches of palm tree berries and I’ve often taken photos of them, from a distance,  munching away on them. They were too busy with my mulberries today and seemed to have forgotten the berries, so I got a much closer photo of them on my way back to the house.

This is a Prince of Orange in my pool area.

And these pretty Daylilies are in the pool area too.

I absolutely love Evening Primrose flowers. They are such easy plants to grow, they are basically the plant-and-forget variety. And every summer the plants multiply, so I get even more flowers.

I love the closeup detail too, the veins through the petals and the dainty yellow carpel and stigma in the centre. (I think that’s what they are called, so correct me if I’m wrong.)

The only way I could get a photo of Bronte today was when she was on the other side of the pool fence. Every time I pointed the camera in her direction, she would run to me for a pat, so you’ll have to excuse the shadow of the fence across her fur. Actually, I’m surprised the sun shone long enough to form a shadow, it’s been such a dull day. It’s been very warm though, I think about 27 degrees Celsius, so around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a high temperature for a spring day, but cooler weather is predicted in a few days.

So that was my day today, a wander around the garden after I finished my chores there, and it was a wonderful change from sitting at my desk. I’ll have to get back into uni tomorrow, but I think I’ll feel better doing so after having a break. 🙂

Australia · cooking · recipe · traditions

ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them”. ~ The Ode.

Yesterday was a public holiday here in Australia, in honour of ANZAC Day.

ANZAC Day originated for Australia on April 25th, 1915, during World War I, when Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed in Gallipoli. By the end of 1915, eight thousand Australian and New Zealand soldiers had lost their lives, which had a huge impact on those back home in Australia.

The word ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is still to this day a name held in high esteem, especially on April 25th each year, when the battle of the original ANZAC’s is commemorated throughout the country.

During World War I, sixty thousand Australian soldiers lost their lives. This number increased during World War II and the Vietnam War, and on April 25th, the country joins together with great pride and respect, in remembrance of the men who fought for this country.

Memorial services and marches are held throughout the country, beginning at dawn and continuing throughout the morning. Major marches held in the capital cities are televised and it is deeply moving to watch the old “diggers” marching through the streets, many needing assistance, with faces displaying the emotions they are feeling as they remember their fallen mates.

Another ANZAC tradition is eating, or baking and eating, ANZAC biscuits. The recipe for these biscuits was devised through the necessity of women at home, caring for the Australian soldiers fighting overseas, and sent to the soldiers as a part of their care packages.

The recipe purposely does not include eggs, to prevent the biscuits from spoiling if left uneaten over a long period of time. Many variations of the original recipes are available, with the basic ingredients being oats, flour, coconut, butter, sugar and golden syrup.

For the batch of biscuits I baked yesterday I followed a Country Women’s Association recipe, and the biscuits turned out crunchy and delicious, just the way they should!

Don’t wait for ANZAC Day to bake these biscuits, they can be enjoyed at any time of the year, and if you prefer to use an alternative name, try calling them Crunchy Oat Biscuits. They will be just as mouth watering, given either name. 😉

ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup plain flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup coconut

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup caster sugar

Grated rind of 1 lemon (optional)

125 g butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup or treacle

1 teaspoon bi-carb soda

1 tablespoon boiling water

Gently melt butter and golden syrup in a pan. Add to a large bowl containing the flour, oats, coconut, sugars and lemon rind, along with the bi-carb soda which has been dissolved in the boiling water.

Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly.

Place teaspoons of mixture onto a well greased baking tray, allowing plenty of room for spreading, and flatten with a fork.

Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown.

Cool slightly on the tray before transferring biscuits to a cooling rack.

The Country Women’s Association recommend enjoying these biscuits with a cup of tea. 🙂

Australia · desserts · recipe · summer · traditions

Time to Repost ~ Ice-Cream Christmas Pudding

Christmas is coming...

Christmas is only just over one week away (really?…what happened to 2011 !!) and with that in mind, I will be making my family favourite Ice Cream Christmas Pudding this week.

I first posted this recipe here way back in December, 2009, when my blog was a brand new baby, just starting out in the Big Wide World of the Web. In fact, it was the sixth post ever added!

Over the last two to three weeks, this post has been up there at the top of the list of most viewed posts. Time for a repost….

“Living in a warm climate at Christmas time can have some definite disadvantages, the most obvious for me being that I have never experienced a white Christmas!

However, on the bonus side, how many people  in the northern hemisphere would have ever have had the inclination to experience the pure joy of finishing off their Christmas dinner with a sumptuously divine Ice-Cream Christmas Pudding? This is but one of advantages of life in Australia!

It was only about ten years ago that I first made this summer Christmas pudding. It has become such a tradition since then that Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it. (Mind you, I also make a traditional pudding, which can be eaten with hot custard).”

Ice-Cream Christmas Pudding

Ice Cream Christmas Pudding

1/2 cup chopped raisins

1/2 cup sultanas

1/2 cup currants

1/4 cup glacé cherries, chopped or whole

1/4 cup mixed peel

1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup brandy, rum or fruit juice

1 litre softened chocolate ice-cream

1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted & chopped

1/2 cup cream

Thickened cream to serve

Combine all the dried fruits in a bowl, add the brandy, rum or fruit juice. Stir the liquid through the fruit & leave to stand, covered, over night. (Don’t be tempted to add extra alcohol as the pudding will not freeze successfully with any addition to the specified amount!)

The next day, mix together the soaked fruit, softened ice-cream, almonds & cream. Stir well to combine, and pour into a 5 litre pudding bowl. Cover & freeze overnight, or until required.

To remove the pudding from the bowl, immerse the bowl for a few seconds in some hot water. Turn the bowl over onto a serving plate. Serve with thickened cream or cold custard.

daughter · recipe

A Day of Stationary, Parrots, Eggs and Movies

Yesterday was a long day.

Worked ‘til four, drove up the coast with my eldest daughter to buy stationary, called in at the supermarket for a few bits and pieces on the way home, made dinner with youngest daughter, watched a movie, checked the time to find it was 11.30 pm and I hadn’t written my blog post for postaday2011, attended to the post, had a shower and fell asleep as my head hit the pillow!

What is it about stationary shopping that makes it so much fun? I would rather shop for pens and notebooks any day, in preference to clothes or shoes!

Does that classify me as odd? Hmm…If it does, then my daughters are odd along with me! Neither of them would pass up an opportunity to browse through a stationary shop. I suspect they actually enjoy clothes and shoe shopping, so perhaps they are more normal than their mum!

Right next door to the stationary shop is a pet store. We popped in for a quick look around, leaving perhaps an hour later! Well, we did get chatting to a very friendly shop assistant, as you do, which eventually became a full-on conversation regarding the taming of parrots!

At home, my younger daughter and I tried out a new recipe that we liked the look of, burritos with spicy pork and pineapple with avocado sauce. Yum! We’ll remember to make that recipe again. Delicious!

We found the recipe in a cookbook that my older daughter recently discovered, chock full of healthy, weight conscious recipes. There’s a vegetarian section, along with healthy versions of meat recipes. They even suggest that eggs are a healthy choice in meal!

That just goes to show you how the wheel turns. When I was a child, eggs were regarded as healthy food, containing all known vitamins to man, except vitamin C. Those were the days when a healthy breakfast consisted of toast, egg and a glass of orange juice. The juice supplied the vitamin C that the egg was lacking!

Next thing, eggs were a no-no; too much cholesterol and said to add weight, not a healthy option for the health or weight conscious person.

Many years have passed and now the wheel has turned full circle. Eggs are back in vogue!

By 8.30 pm I had myself comfortably curled up in my favourite lounge chair, eagerly awaiting the beginning of one of my all time favourite movies…”To Kill a Mockingbird” on Fox Classics.

My family regards the movie as boring. I could watch it over and over again! It would have to be one of the most simply plotted stories, with the beginning of the movie set in 1932, and following through the events in the lives over the next couple of years of the Finch family; father Atticus, his son Jem and daughter, Scout.

Their mysterious neighbour, Boo Radley, features throughout, although we do not meet him until the very end of the movie.

My heart goes out to the genteelly mannered Tom Robinson, the victim of racial prejudice and wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit.

Before seeing the movie for the first time I had read the book, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, who based her novel upon events she had witnessed in her own home town, which took place in 1936.

The novel was published in 1960 and became an instant success, winning the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Immediately following “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Fox Classics decided to tempt me to remain in my chair even longer, with “The Way We Were”.

I first saw “The Way We Were” at the cinemas in Coolangatta, Queensland, many, many, moons ago! It was after seeing the movie for the first time that I became a fan of both Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand.

How could I resist taking just a quick peek at the movie? Just watch some of the beginning, not for too long, just to remind me of how much I love, love, love that movie!

It did not disappoint. The magic is still there. Mind you, I could watch it any time I wish. I have the DVD!!!

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a love story. 🙂

cakes · chocolate · cooking · recipe

Chocolate Cake ~ Vegan Style

These days, more and more people are changing their eating habits, as part of their search for a healthier lifestyle.

My own personal preference is to grow as many fruit vegetables as I can in my own back garden. So far, I have shied away from keeping my own chooks for the eggs, only because I hate the thought of the poor little hens being terrorised by snakes…we get quite a few here during the summer!

My daughter found this recipe so we would have a vegan alternative to our regular chocolate cake recipes. We do want to make our vegan and vegetarian guests feel welcome in our home!

We discovered that this cake is so delicious, there is no need at all to be a vegan to enjoy it. It’s light and fluffy and oh-so-chocolaty!

125g soft vegan margarine

1 cup castor sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

½ cup cocoa

½ cup hot water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 cup soya milk

1 ¾ cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Cream margarine, sugar and vanilla essence until light and fluffy. Blend the cocoa in the hot water and gradually add to the margarine and sugar mixture.

Add the lemon juice to the milk to sour it.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and add it to the creamed mixture alternately with the soured milk. Mix thoroughly.

Spoon the cake mixture into a greased and paper lined 8″ cake pan and bake in a moderate oven, 180 deg. C for 30-40 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out. Allow to cool before icing.

Decorate as desired…enjoy! 🙂