Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Australian Christmas Wreath
Our beautiful Crimson Rosellas & King Parrots
Photo: Matthew Watt

Merry Christmas, Much Love & Best Wishes for 2010!!
Hearty wishes to all of the wonderful bloggers I've met since my first post on 19th December 2008! From the very beginning I had so much encouragement from a handful of 'seasoned bloggers' and that grew, although slowly, with more like-minded people following my journal of bits and pieces that interested me and, I thought, might be of interest to others.

I've so enjoyed working in this wonderful medium that has brought the world and many lovely people into my home, virtually! Sharing my little speck on the globe with you and being welcomed so warmly into yours has enriched my life in so many ways; I've learnt so much about the world through research, been introduced to many great artists and poets and laughed and cried reading your posts.

I'm going to take a break for a while and trace my Mother's family tree; something that I've always wanted to do. I have my Father's side and my paternal Grandmother's, with a lot of work by my cousin and now is the time to complete the picture.

I'll be reading your posts each morning with my coffee, toast and vegemite! Festive greetings to you all and blessings for 2010 and beyond.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spare a Thought

The Poor Actress's Christmas Dinner
Artist: Robert Braithwaite Martineau

Within and Without
A London Lyric


The winds are bitter; the skies are wild;
From the roof comes plunging the drowning rain:
Without, - in tatters, the world's poor child
Sobbeth abroad her grief, her pain!
No one heareth her, no one heedeth her:
But Hunger, her friend, with his bony hand,
Grasps her throat, whispering huskily -
"What dost Thou in a Christian land?"


The skies are wild, and the blast is cold;
Yet riot and luxury brawl within:
Slaves are waiting, in crimson and gold,
Waiting the nod of a child of sin.
The fire is crackling, wine is bubbling
Up in each glass to its beaded brim:
The jesters are laughing, the parasites quaffing
"Happiness," - honour," - and all for him!


She who is slain in the winter weather,
Ah! she once had a village fame;
Listened to love on the moonlit heather;
Had gentleness - vanity - maiden shame:
Now, her allies are the Tempest howling;
Prodigal's curses; self-disdain;
Poverty; misery: Well, - no matter;
There is an end unto every pain!

The harlot's fame was her doom to-day,
Disdain, - despair: by to-morrow's light
The ragged boards and the pauper's pall;
And so she'll be given to dusty night!
... Without a tear or a human sigh,
She's gone, - poor life and its "fever" o'er!
So, let her in calm oblivion lie;
While the world runs merry as heretofore!


He who yon lordly feast enjoyeth,
He who doth rest on his couch of down,
He it was, who threw the forsaken
Under the feet of the trampling town:
Liar - betrayer, - false as cruel,
What is the doom for his dastard sin?
His peers, they scorn? - high dames, they shun him?
- Unbar yon palace, and gaze within.

There, - yet his deeds are all trumpet-sounded,
There, upon silken seats recline
Maidens as fair as the summer morning,
Watching him rise from the sparklingwine.
Mothers all proffer their stainless daughters;
Men of high honour salute him "friend",
Skies! oh, where are your cleansing waters?

World! oh, where do thy wonders end?

Barry Cornwall (Bryan Walter Procter) 1787-1874

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coconut-shell carrying octopus

In this December 10 photograph taken near Indonesia
and released by Museum Victoria, a veined octopus hides
in a coconut shell. Melbourne scientists have filmed the
octopus collecting coconut shells for shelter.
Picture: AP Source: AP

I had to share this with you. The article was in the Melbourne Herald/Sun today and the following text from the newspaper and website. As the scientists, I find it absolutely gobsmacking!

Melbourne scientists discover octopus that carries and hides in coconuts

The bizarre antics of a coconut-shell carrying octopus have been caught on film by Melbourne researchers in a startling world first. Watch how this octopus uses a coconut shell to get up and running.

VIDEO: Coconut-shell carrying octopus

Scientists from the Museum of Victoria couldn't believe their eyes when they saw the creatures using coconut shells as tools in the waters off Indonesia.

"The first time I saw it I just about drowned," research biologist Dr Julian Finn said. "This was the first recorded tool use by an invertebrate and what it shows is that it's not a skill just limited to humans and apes.

"These animals were collecting shells for use later when it would put two halves together. That shows anticipation from a creature and it's exciting stuff for us."

Dr Finn and research partner Mark Norman spent more than 500 hours diving in remote Indonesian waters to observe and film the animals between 1999 and 2008.

Their findings were included in the journal Current Biology released for the first time yesterday. As part of the project, the pair witnessed octopuses dig out coconut shells from the ocean floor, empty the shells of mud using jets of water, stack two empty shells hollow-side up and carry the shells underneath their body in a unique lumbering gait they call "stilt-walking.".

The octopus antics are the most complex ever recorded.

Dr Finn said while many octopuses used available objects like shells or rocks for shelter, the veined octopus (also known as the Amphioctopus marginatus), went a step further by preparing, arranging and carrying pairs of coconut shells up to 20 metres to reassemble as a shelter.

The research and accompanying video footage has sparked a huge response from world-wide media outlets with the two scientists fielding interview requests today from as far as the UK, France and Japan.

The response has been enormous," Dr Finn said.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ultimate Christmas

We ordered some wine for Christmas; red, white and bubbly and with the delivery came this lovely gift. It is filled with delectable fare. Do you like stuffing, or 'seasoning', as we call it? I love it, DMJ is not fussed but I'll bet he'll love the Pork, Cranberry & Herb Stuffing!

1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for oiling
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
450g/1lb pork sausage meat
50g/1 3/4oz fresh white or wholemeal breadcrumbs
50g/1 3/4oz dried cranberries
70g/2 1/2oz fresh cranberries
1tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 large egg, beaten
salt and pepper

* Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until the onion is transparent and soft.

* Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Break up the sausage meat in a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, dried and fresh cranberries and the herbs and mix together well. Add the cooked onion and celery, then the egg. Season well with salt and pepper and mix together thoroughly.

* Form the stuffing into balls, place on an oiled baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Alternatively, spoon into 2 foil tins, level the surface and bake for 45 minutes.

* This stuffing can be made in advance and frozen, as long as the sausage meat has not previously been frozen. Thaw thoroughly before cooking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Graceful Gleditsia

Gleditsia triacanthos 'Sunburst' - Honey Locust

Before the advent of shampoo, the ancient, wealthy Chinese used Gleditsia fruit, or grifola, to wash hair. Spices were usually added, giving the hair an intense aroma. It has also been used in China for 2000 years as a detergent.

The Latin name commemorates Gottlieb Gleditsch, director of the Berlin Botanical Gardens, who died in 1786.

G. sinensis is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in Chinese herbology, where it is called zao jiao and is used for the following complaints. It is considered toxic.

1. Dispels phlegm.
2. Opens the orifices, revives the spirit.
3. Dissipates clumps, reduces swelling.
4. Unblocks the bowels, expels roundworms.

Too much information?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Opening Minutes of a Film

I look at you
like the opening minutes of a film,
when you don't yet know
what to focus on.

In the long corridor on the way to the station
you are walking away from me
against the adverts in the subway

I must be following you.
You are a long shot that never recedes.

I want you to look at me.
You look back, maybe to see
if we're going in the same direction.

You slow down so much
your hair seems liquid.

I don't know where we're going
I want to touch the side of your neck,
this slows you in the electric light.

We both know something is about to happen.
I don't want to talk.

Keep walking, but look back
So we know we are together.

Gabeba Baderoon

Photo: Matt O'Sullivan

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Take Me Home!!!!!

Taj went on "holiday" too. He's so well looked after by Jacky; when the fires were bearing down on her property in February, she packed all the animals up and made several trips with them into the vets in the township, where we found our little dog safe and well. Thankfully her patch was saved, although severely scorched around the border.

There he is, waiting patiently with
his little friend, tail wagging madly.

And a special treat for being so good.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lost in New York City

A typical Little Neck street

I wondered where we'd start once we hit the streets of New York, alone together in this huge city. We caught the train down from Little Neck where we were spending a few nights with a friend and disembarked at Penn Station.

After a hearty, late breakfast in a corner restaurant opposite, we set off looking for Times Square, which went completely out of our heads when we found Macy's. It was a sale day and claustrophobic, so we went back to the fresh air and started looking for the Empire State; Times Square forgotten. We were overwhelmed.

We found the Empire State but didn't go to the top as I wanted to go to the Top of the Rock instead. We had a tiny map on a brochure handed to us on the street and decided to hoof it up Fifth Avenue to the Rockefeller Plaza. Of course the map was way out of scale, so much, much later we finally reached our destination and went to the top. It was a nice day and the view was fantastic. I bought a little shot glass as a souvenir and now have a new hobby! Methinks I won't gather too many as I loathe plane travel. I don't mind five or six hours but when it comes to 22, it's dreadful. It took us 30 hours to get to Rome!

We decided to walk back to Penn Station. I popped in to Sephora and Saks on the way back for a browse. At 4pm we took a wrong turn into 34th Street and I knew we were lost when we ended up on Broadway, so we headed back the way we'd come, back to Fifth. A cab pulled up next to us, we jumped in and arrived safely at Penn Station a few minutes later. By the time we got back to Little Neck, it was dark. We decided that night that we were 'New Yorked out'. We spent a pleasant time at Roosevelt Field Mall, Garden City the next day.

Penn Station

On Friday our friend drove us up to Somerset in New Jersey for the Fly Tying Symposium being held on the weekend. DMJ was the only participant from Australia. Despite the great weather (a lot would think about going fishing), the attendance at the show was excellent.

We stayed on another three days; one spent at Bridgewater Commons Mall, the second at the factory outlets at Newark Airport and the third, making our way back down to NY (in a Lincoln Continental limo!) to fly home the next day.

JFK Airport is over there to the right

We flew out at 6:30pm Thanksgiving Day and arrived in Melbourne on Saturday at 12:30pm, losing Friday somewhere near the International Date Line!! What a long drag; we got to our daughter's place and she said, "Your hair's a bit flat, Mum".

There was 40mm in the rain gauge; we'd had good rains! Fantastic! But the grass was about 1ft long and the weeds in the garden!! So you all know what I've been doing the past few days; washing, mowing and weeding! It's great to be home.