Mysterious Lemon Pudding

Bush lemons in the balance © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

TRADITIONAL

“Mysterious Pudding”

Wintertime in Brisbane, Australia, and my thoughts turn to hot food, preferably sweet. This old recipe brought back childhood memories!

Ingredients:

50g (2 ozs) Butter
50g (2 ozs) Sugar
1 tablespoon grated Lemon Rind 
2 Eggs – separate yolks
125g (4 ozs) Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Marmalade or Plum Jam

Method:

First grease a basin or pudding bowl and put jam in the bottom. Cream butter and sugar, add rind and egg yolks, beat well. Fold in stiffly-beaten egg whites. Sift and fold in flour and baking powder. Cover bowl with foil and steam for 1½ (one and a half hours). See BBC website for steaming technique.

Serving:

Carefully remove bowl and tip Mysterious Pudding onto serving platter. Serve portions hot with extra jam, cream or custard sauce.

Note:

Due to hot steam, not suitable for children to cook.
This recipe is from 1978 edition of Edmonds Cookery Book, New Zealand. Another lemon recipe Sweet Pastry Lemon Meringue Pie.

Stay warm and cosy 😀

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Reading Wales and Eating Pikelets

Breakfast budgerigars by Anna Blatman Artworks © image Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

The origin of the word pikelet stems from the Welsh bara pyglyd or pitchy bread, which was a dark, sticky bread. The word spread into England and was anglicised to Pikelet.

Very easy to prepare and cook, pikelets are traditionally small yet a similar version to pancakes.

Gradually the basic pikelet recipe travelled far and wide through the world, adapting to different ingredients and varying from family to family.

Australian Pikelets

1 egg
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
One drop vanilla essence – optional

First beat the egg then add flour, sugar, milk, vanilla essence.
Combine all ingredients and mix lightly and evenly.
More ingredients can be added to batter for preferred consistency.
Tablespoon mixture onto a greased, heated frying pan or griddle.
Cook until pikelets rise and turn light brown, flip once.

Pikelets are cooked plain then served with a topping while hot and fresh.

My photograph shows a rather lavish topping needing a knife and fork.
Pikelets are normally finger food topped with jam and cream, or buttered, or a squeeze of lemon and dusting of icing sugar.

Children have been known to colour the batter with food dye for a holiday event.

Study Reading Wales #Dewithon22 Reading List—eat, read, enjoy!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Small Lives Living Large Before the Flood

Small snail on a dragon’s wing © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

As we gardeners in the other half of the world, the southern hemisphere, bid a fond farewell to summer, I thought about some of the natural highlights around me.

The coffee bean tree is laden down with green berries. The agapanthus flowered abundantly for the first time in four years. The lawns are lush, the weeds are going feral. Every garden is flourishing, flowers and green foliage abound. Shrubs, hedges and trees are taller and their leaves are broader. Insects are so noisy the sound gets inside your head.

It has been a smorgasbord of a summer for the plant, animal, bird, reptile and insect domains in my suburb. Oh, and I just found out that snails are from the phylum Mollusca family. I am loathe to mention the toads but they relish the dampness at night courtesy of La Niña.

The Orchard Butterfly is our biggest and today I spied a huge one drying its wings during a brief respite between showers before fluttering free from the mandarin tree.

Scrub turkeys are getting bolder, scratching garden beds and terrorising cats. Birds generally are spoilt for choice when it comes to food and where to build a nest. But like homemakers everywhere, they have to make a good decision. The eagle-eyed hunters are watching, waiting, taking their time. Even the possums are walking more leisurely across our roof.

Actually the agapanthus have already been and gone. There was a sea of them in the back paddock but due to a computer malfunction those early photographs are not available – c’est la vie.

GOODBYE SUMMER

Birds sing at 5am,
grasshoppers hop,
lawnmowers til noon,
cold drinks and ice-cream for arvo tea,
pray for a cool breeze,
clothes stick to skin,
a quick swim,
a light dinner,
air-con fades away,
windows open to humidity,
can’t sleep,
hoping no holes in the flyscreen,
late summer storm rattles the house,
memories rattle through my mind.

GBW 2022

Summertime sundown © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

As the Australian pop rock band GANGgajang so lyrically sang:

“Out on the patio we’d sit, And the humidity we’d breathe, We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields. Laugh and think, this is Australia.”

Full lyrics https://www.lyrics.com/artist/GANGgajang/212403

Our cat JoJo is a respectful blue-tongue lizard watcher and a keen rodent catcher. However, I am worried about a white ant termite nest beside the house. Never seen one before but I know they are voracious eaters, chomping through wood at a great rate. The pest control people are swamped with work at this time of year. Fortunately cats and termites are not the least bit interested in each other.

Australian summertime will soon hand over the weather to autumnal March. Cooler maybe, my advice is still wear a hat and sunscreen. Speaking from experience, I personally would not participate in a fun run unless it ends at the local swimming pool. Afterwards I would never ever eat greasy takeaway food. Ah, but those hot chips with salt and vinegar…

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

** NEWSFLASH ** As I proof-read this post the city was already soaking from heavy rain and now the wet weather has continued in earnest. Day and night torrential rain has fallen, flooding large parts of Brisbane and South East Queensland causing major havoc to housing, business, roads, rivers and creeks. Sadly lives have been lost. About an hour ago we had a power failure. It is drenching, pounding rain, the air is humid, the sky dull grey. From overflowing guttering to washing away bridges, fast flowing flood waters are powerful and dangerous, carrying a multitude of unseen debris. Stay dry, stay safe. As the saying goes “If it’s flooded, forget it”. GBW 2022

Walk in Fear or Safety

Early morning walk © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

The suburban street is quiet.

A safe city skyline in the distance.

No choking clouds of black smoke.

No artillery fire, no jet fighters roaring overhead.

Around the bend I will not be stopped by a military checkpoint.

I will not see people waiting in line for food, faces with helpless hopeless eyes.

No muttering, no crying, only the sound of bird calls and the breeze ruffling leaves.

No chants for freedom, no skirmish over the ownership of an abandoned vehicle, weapon, passport, shoes.

A woman cradling a sick child – no, she is carrying her small dog.

A cyclist whizzes by, a delivery truck rolls around the bend.

I keep walking, steadily, evenly, calmly. There is nothing to ruffle my early morning walk.

And I am grateful.

Very grateful.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.

Eric Hoffer

A New Wall Calendar Every Year

Machu Picchu Citadel, Aguas Calientes, Peru + Photographed for Bartel Calendars The Last Diary Company, Mascot NSW Australia – www.bartelpublications.com.au

It’s usually five or six new wall calendars every year. Or more if they are a seasonal gift. They hang in various rooms in our home, sometimes two at a time and used constantly. Some are intensely written on, e.g. appointments, special events, new recipe, etc, while others are purely decoration.

As the new month is flipped over, there is always much comment on artistic merit. Some are better than others. Purchased early in December is better; the mundane scenery ones (even beach scenes can wear thin) are the last on the newsagent’s display rack.

“Hey, what is the meaning of the Andes Mountains Machu Picchu Citadel photograph?” you ask.

Well, as the year draws to a close, I looked at this final entry and thought “Wow, that camera is very good!” I looked closely and saw what every single tourist is doing, frozen in time! I could even see two people on top of a nearby mountain, perhaps the ones who photographed this shot using an aerial drone?

Young backpackers, trip-of-a-lifetimers, honeymoon couples, students and many nationalities. Guides and guards seem to be at various points. Did they know where their image would end up?

I hope you can see what each tourist is doing. My reproduction resolution may not be clear enough so let me explain a few:

Posing for photos, taking photos, taking off jackets, chatting, fixing hair, climbing with apparent degrees of speed up the ancient stone steps, the rocky terraces, the top platform. A young woman presses into a wall niche. At the pinnacle there is a man with his arms and legs spread as though shouting “Here I am, I made it.”

This mysterious, ancient citadel seems to be well treated and well preserved and hopefully will still be standing into another millennium or two.

Just to bore you, listed below are calendars hanging around here waiting to be removed from their wall-hooks to make way for the 2022 intake. No movies, no sport, no cars, but I am willing to bet you have had at least one of these in your home at some time or another:

  • Birds
  • Lighthouses
  • Anime
  • Cat calendar
  • Dog calendar
  • World cities
  • Tropical islands
  • Indigenous art
  • Birthday calendar

Remember Snoopy, Garfield and Gary Larson’s “The Far Side”? And what about Australia’s own Red Tractor Designs. I love their country calendars!

I like the ritual of changing a calendar over every month. It’s not a chore, it’s not a device, it’s not generated automatically, it doesn’t need recharging, it doesn’t make a noise. Except the lovely sound of rustling paper.

Real calendars give me back some masterly (mistressly?) control over my daily routine. No programming or click-tap-swiping, just me and a pen. In fact, that pen often doodles. Seeing as Christmas is coming, I have sketched a couple of jolly holly sprigs on my calendar entries. No doubt I will do a spray of fireworks for New Year’s Eve.

Wishing you safe, interesting and happy times ahead.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Photo Gretchen Bernet-Ward + Cat photo http://www.trio.bildarchiv.de/ + Christmas baubles https://www.petbarn.com.au/

Camel Milk Pancake Recipe

Pancake Recipe from 1984 ‘Country Hospitality’ Cookery Book

This is an straightforward recipe, you can juggle amounts and type of ingredients to suit. I use whatever is available in the fridge. When you are hungry, you cannot afford to be too serious with pancake-making batter. My secret ingredient is camel milk.

PANCAKES

Ingredients

1 cup self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

1 egg

1 cup camel milk (or other)

1 tablespoon butter (or other)

1 lemon

I have tried different milks, e.g. cow milk, soy milk, almond milk, goat milk (considered sheep milk) to versatile camel milk.  The Summer Land camel milk makes consistently fluffy pancakes which keep well (if you have any left over) and they take a variety of spreads or toppings.

Method

Sift the flour and salt; make a hole in the flour and break the egg into it, gradually stirring in as much flour as the egg will take;

Add half the milk by degrees and continue stirring until all the flour is absorbed;

Continue beating until bubbles rise, then stir in the rest of the milk gradually and stand batter aside for at least half an hour (I never do);

Take a small piece of butter and melt into the frying pan. Pour butter out and wipe the pan with paper (not necessary with non-stick pans) then put another piece of butter in, and when it has melted pour in a little of the batter and fry till it is light brown and tiny bubbles form;

Turn with a spatula, and when cooked on both sides, slip pancake onto a piece of paper.  Continue in the same way until all the batter is used. 

Serve

The ICPA serving suggestion is “sprinkle with castor sugar, roll up.  Serve hot, garnished with slices of lemon.”  However, I love them spread with soy margarine, honey and slices of banana.  Try seasonal fruit, peanut butter, savoury mince or a soft square of camel fetta.

Note: Summer Land camel milk (1 litre bottle) available at organics grocery stores, and also in milk powder formula. Use it with your own favourite recipe!

Thanks

This recipe is courtesy of Mrs L Nicholas of Solferino, Clermont, Queensland Australia.  Recipe published in ‘Country Hospitality’ compiled by Clermont Branch of the Isolated Children’s Parents Association 1984 with illustrations by Branch member Margaret Finger of Redrock, Clermont, Queensland Australia.  Metric conversions are approximate.

Bon appétit !

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exercise Makes You More Attractive

Quotation from My Health for Life Program www.myhealthforlife.com.au Photograph © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

My Health for Life is a free lifestyle program funded by the Queensland Government and designed and delivered by the Healthier Queensland Alliance. The Alliance is a group of non-Government organisations working in partnership with the Government and Health and Wellbeing Queensland to improve the health of Queenslanders.

The organisations involved are:

  • Diabetes Queensland
  • Stroke Foundation
  • National Heart Foundation of Australia
  • Queensland Primary Health Networks (PHN)
  • Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland ECCQ)
  • Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC)

The following are thanked for their counsel and support:

  • Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld)
  • Queensland Health
  • Brisbane South Primary Health Network Positive Impact Program
  • Victoria Life! Program
  • Network of providers and coaches
  • The people of Caboolture who helped develop this program.

I am currently participating in a free fortnightly My Health for Life Program and after just three group sessions (with a physiotherapist, alternating exercises indoors and out in the park) I feel positive about ‘tweaking’ my lifestyle and eating habits for the better, e.g. increased movement and decreased intake of tea and bikkies.

Also, I was given a Group Coaching Program workbook which is filled out each session to keep my healthy eating on-track and planning for success. A Wellbeing Book, or Guide to Good Health, is included in the pack (in an environmentally friendly carry bag) which offers support, tips on motivation, monitoring your progress, etc, as well as overcoming challenges.

NATURALLY THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT EXERCISE WILL MAKE YOU MORE ATTRACTIVE

THAT’S JUST MY TAKE ON FEELING GOOD INSIDE AND OUT!

If you are interested, there is a free health check on the My Health for Life website. Give it a go. In my group there are couples, an asthmatic, a diabetic and a man who has had heart surgery. You’ve got a lot of life to live.

My suggestion—sign up and step away from the screen—do it now!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exercise, eat, sleep like a cat © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Leisure Time Filled With Books?

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Never won a prize but I enjoy puzzles © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Contrary to what my friends, bloggers and book club think, my leisure time is not totally filled with book reading, instead I puzzle over crossword puzzles.

In downtime, my relaxing go-to fillers can be television, radio, YouTube, walking, things on my iPad, things on my phone, even talking to a real person, anything that comes under the banner of time-out.

But my big love is crossword puzzles. I have been doing them in newspapers and magazines for years.  When I was a young girl sick in bed, my mother taught me how to solve a crossword in the Australian Women’s Weekly and I was hooked.

A favourite puzzle is the one with only numbers as clues.  Yet my long abiding dislike is Sudoku which is numbers.

“There seems to be two main types of people in the world,
crosswords and sudokus”
or discuss with 
The Everyday Behaviour Analyst
or perhaps InsideHook
https://www.insidehook.com/article/games/crossword-puzzles-print-media-new-yorker

Poetry Clipart 13Not so long ago I tried puzzles online.
It didn’t suit my hand-eye co-ordination.

There are hundreds of crossword puzzle books but I discovered Take 5 Puzzler booklet.

I will try most challenges and styles so I am in seventh heaven with a recent January edition of the Take 5 Mega Puzzler with 130+ puzzles, some I have not seen before — of course, Alphabet Sleuth is the best!

Taxing — yes
Good for my brain — yes
Fun — yes!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Morning and Evening Trees

This is the view from my window of the morning sunlight on the flame tree and evening sunset on the umbrella tree – Spring 2020. 

Note: These images appeared at different times on my regular Home page ‘Photo of the Week’.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Morning Flame Tree © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

 

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Evening Umbrella Tree © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

Unstoppable Springtime

Plants and flowers come and go in the garden according to the seasons but Spring seems to be the best time for Nature to attract my attention.

Here is a tiny sample of what’s happening now in a suburban backyard in Brisbane…

Protect the natural environment, recycle, reuse, conserve water, and remember social distancing doesn't apply to plants. 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Taste Testing Old Tea

Back when the century had ticked over into another millennium, I was given seven canisters of China Tea.  These dragon-covered tins languished on a high kitchen shelf, unopened and forgotten in favour of Queensland-grown black tea from the Russell family.

Eventually it was decided that the pantry shelves had to be Covid Cleaned, e.g. needing a serious going-over.  Various items were inspected and sorted into good and bad piles but the tea, packed in Hong Kong and imported to Australia, remained in a different category.

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The dragon artwork proved a lure and inquisitiveness won.

Although the tin lids were dust coated and faded, it was decided to open all seven of them, brew the contents—in cup and pot—and drink regardless of aroma.  Flavour was another matter.  To add to the excitement, one tin had lost its label and the large tin was Earl Grey teabags.

‘Hmm, not for me thanks’ I said, but the intrepid Dot B was up for it.

The lid seals had perished but once the canisters were ‘prised’ open, the interiors were pristine clean.  I only sniffed the contents and did not taste it, nevertheless considering its age the Jasmine Tea was still beautifully aromatic.

Subjective comments as recorded by Dot B, daredevil tea taster.

  •  Luk On:  Drying but pleasant after tones, would drink again.
  •  Oolong:  Smooth but common.  A nice cuppa.
  •  Earl Grey Tea Bags:  Tastes like a boring black tea.  Smells funny without lemon.
  •  Shou Mei:  Bit of nothing taste-wise but smells nice.  Slight metal aftertaste.
  •  Jasmine:  PHWOAR smells like FLOWERS and tastes like tangy FLOWERS.
  •  Pu Li:  Tastes like hot wee, smells like hot wee.  Not recommended.
  •  Mystery Tea:  Smells like tanbark and tastes … kind of Green?

Pro tip—don’t eat pickles after tea tasting.

Dot B Tea Tasting Reviews 2020
Dot B is a part-time tea critic and full-time dragon lover.

Put the kettle on and brew a pot of tea—milk and sugar optional—sweet treat essential.  Or check out my earlier post regarding the ubiquitous Afternoon Tea ritual https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/03/11/afternoon-tea-and-fancy-food/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward    


Postscript

Queensland’s Nerada Tea blog is packed with wonderful things, from the tea plantation to recipes and tree kangaroos https://www.neradatea.com.au/blog

Winter in the Subtropics

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Cold and frosty morning 2020 © Gretchen Bernet-Ward

In the depths of a July winter here in Brisbane, Queensland, I am sitting with a cold nose and knees, contemplating warmer weather.  Our winters probably seems mild to those countries with ice and snow.  We have misty mornings then clear blue skies and by lunchtime some clothing layers can be removed for a couple of hours before the cold creeps in again.

The issue is home heating.  Of course, I am not talking about the hermetically sealed grey boxes of the millennium.  This older house is built like thousands of others—for the heat.  We don’t have a fireplace, we don’t have insulation, we don’t have ducted heating, but we do have reverse cycle air-conditioning.  Problem is the unit swirls the air around at the edges so it never feels warm enough.

Brrr!  This is where an old three-bar radiator and a portable column oil heater come in handy for three months of the year.

So saying, we human beings are a contrary lot—I enjoy the wintertime.

Winter is more conducive to a brisk walk before settling down to writing.  Cold weather calls for cosy pursuits.  In a hot, humid summer, it’s more a case of lying around gasping after foolishly thinking some physical exercise like gardening was a good idea.  The lush, rampant growth of a subtropical summer is a sight to behold but right now the garden lacks happy vegetation; the leaves are brown, the grass is sparse, the earth is hard and dry.

This morning the temperature is currently 8 degrees Celsius, the sun is shining but the air is freezing.  Well, maybe not.  We don’t really do freezing, more on the chilly side.  I am going to make a hot beverage and pull on an extra pair of socks.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Cold winter, warm room © Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Pumpkin Chia Mini Muffins

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Pumpkin Chia Mini Muffins 2020

Following on from our large home-grown pumpkin and Grandma’s Pumpkin Scone Recipe, every cookery book containing a pumpkin formulation now comes under scrutiny.  Our most recent addition is Pumpkin Chia Mini Muffins.

Here’s the recipe if you feel like something tasty for lunch – with or without an accompaniment – and you can make them any size you wish!

Pumpkin Chia Mini Muffins

I N G R E D I E N T S 

80g ( ⅓ cup) Butter

1 Spring Onion, thinly sliced

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed

250g (1 cup) Pumpkin, peeled, seeded, coarsely grated

375g (2 ½ cups) Self-Raising Flour

½ tsp Salt

120g (1 cup) Cheddar Cheese, coarsely grated

2 tbs Chia Seeds

1 Egg, lightly whisked

310ml (1 ¼ cups) Buttermilk

Chia Seeds, to sprinkle

Butter/Condiment, to serve

M E T H O D 

Preheat oven to 190°C  (374° F)

Grease a 12-hole (80ml) Muffin Pan (or 2 x 12-hole Mini Muffin Pans)

Heat 1 tbs of butter in a medium flying pan over medium heat.

Add spring onion and garlic and cook, stirring 3 mins until spring onion softens.

Add pumpkin and cook, stirring 5 mins or until pumpkin softens.

Set aside to cool.

Melt remaining butter into a saucepan over medium heat.

Combine flour and salt in a bowl.

Stir in cheddar cheese and chia seeds.

Whisk egg, buttermilk and melted butter in a bowl.

Season with salt.

Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture.

Add pumpkin mixture.

Use a large spoon to stir until just combined.

Spoon mixture into prepared pans.

Sprinkle with extra chia seeds on top.

Bake approx 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven.

Insert skewer to check, should come out clean.

Cool muffins in pan for 5 mins before turning onto wire rack.

N O T A T I O N S

Eat Pumpkin Chia Mini Muffins with soup, plain or with savoury topping.

Can be baked in muffin pans or paper patty pans for children.

Next time I would add corn or diced capsicum or chopped green herbs.

Using buttermilk seemed to make a difference.

Chia seeds taste is not very noticeable, but apparently is very good for you.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Draw-a-Soup Bowl
Pumpkin Soup

Winter Pumpkin Scone Recipe

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Home-grown Kent Jap Pumpkin ready for cooking – June 2020

Pumpkin scones are a traditional morning tea favourite in Queensland.  Unsophisticated yet delicious, these golden scones were much-loved by the late Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen, politician and wife of former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and she often baked them for public occasions.

Seen as tea-time treats, they are available by the half dozen in bakeries and displayed in the cookery section of annual shows and exhibitions.  For home cooking, pumpkin scones have stood the test of time due to their quick preparation and adaptability.  They can be eaten sweet with strawberry jam and whipped cream, or savoury with cheddar cheese and chutney.

For full flavour, pumpkin scones are best eaten warm from the oven, but they store well and a quick turn in the microwave gives them a boost on a chilly morning.

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Packed and ready for visiting family – June 2020

Grandma’s Pumpkin Scones

3 cups self raising flour

pinch salt

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup mashed pumpkin – cooled

1 egg

milk

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg, add mashed pumpkin.  Sift in flour alternately with enough milk to make soft, light dough.  Pat out or roll on floured board to desired thickness.  Cut with round cutter.  Place on tray and brush with milk or lightly dust with flour.  Bake in a hot oven.  Serve warm; plain or with topping.

Above recipe is adapted from Jenny Purvis, “Kilmarnock” Clermont, Queensland.
Courtesy of “Country Hospitality: A Comprehensive Cookery Book” compiled by the Clermont Branch of Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association 1984 edition.

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Plain, buttered, chutney or jam topping?

A prayer follows the foreword by former Executive Officer, Queensland Council ICPA, Mr E C Powne MBE, and reprinted below:

My Kitchen Prayer

Bless my little kitchen, Lord,
I love its every nook,
And bless me as I do my work,
Wash pots and pans and cook.

May the meals that I prepare,
Be seasoned from above,
With thy blessing and thy grace,
But most of – thy Love.

As we partake of earthly food,
T
hy table Thou has spread,
We’ll not forget to thank thee, Lord,
For all our daily bread.

So bless my little kitchen, Lord,
And those who enter in,
May they find nought but joy and peace,
And happiness therein.          Amen.

 

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Nature’s winter bounty brightens our day – June 2020

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


ADDENDUMKent pumpkin (also known as Jap pumpkin) has ribbed, grey-green mottled skin and golden yellow flesh.  This pumpkin is of the sweeter variety, perfect for pumpkin scones, salads and baked dishes.  Great mashed, roasted or steamed and mixed with a variety of sweet or savoury foods.  Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene and contains dietary fibre, potassium, and vitamins C and E for good health.

Shells and Summer Days

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I started to add tags to my photo and realised that most things associated with the beach start with the letter ‘S’ and I’d barely scratched the surface.  Sand, sea, swimming, shells.  I paused at shells because a sunbeam tinged my glass bowl of seashells which holds countless memories.

… I drifted away… the smell of sunscreen and the feel of sand sifting through my fingers… one day I will take those shells back to the ocean…

In case you missed my front page Photo Of The Week, below I have reproduced the wording which accompanied a close-up photo of my shell collection.  More scientific than personal but nonetheless I found it fascinating:


SHELLS are made of calcium carbonate, in the mineral form of calcite or aragonite.  Animals build their shells by extracting the necessary ingredients—dissolved calcium and bicarbonate—from their environment.  As the animal grows, its home—the protective shell that surrounds it—must get bigger, and so they grow their shells layer upon layer, creating ‘growth-bands’, or growth increments, within the shell.

“Some of these growth increments are visible on the external surface of the shell, while others are only visible in the internal structure.  But the interesting thing about the growth increments is that their width, or thickness, is affected by environmental conditions, like temperature.  Some growth increments are a reflection of tidal cycles, some show annual periodicity.

“So the series of growth increments within a shell are essentially a record of the animal’s lifetime and, similar to the study of tree-rings, some scientists study them to make interpretations about the environment where that animal lived and grew.  The oldest known individual animal lived in a shell—a specimen of the shellfish Arctica islandica has been documented to be 507 years old.”

For colours, shapes, biodiversity visit Academy of Science
https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/sea-shells

FOSSIL collector, dealer and palaeontologist Mary Anning (1799 –1847) was the inspiration for the tongue twister “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” from the original song written in 1908 by Terry Sullivan relating to Mary Anning’s beach-combing lifestyle.  Anning is known for the important finds she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis in the county of Dorset in Southwest England.

The fascinating truth behind the old tongue twister
https://www.littlethings.com/she-sells-seashells-meaning

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Shortbread Surprise in Self-Isolation

When you are stuck at home for weeks on end, the stuff and junk around your home can become unbearable.

It does at my place.

Shelves seem crowded, cupboards appear to bulge, clothes hang on available doorknobs, and too many cardboard boxes hold bits and pieces of my memories.

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During my Covid-inspired clean-up, I unearthed one particular item decades old.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE, MAESTRO…

 

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McKENZIE’S RICE FLOUR SHORTBREAD RECIPE

225g plain flour
1 pinch salt
115g rice flour
115g castor sugar
225g butter

Sieve flour, rice flour, sugar into basin, rub in butter and knead until smooth paste formed.  Turn on to floured board, make shape or shapes as desired, prick with a fork.  Place on cold greased slide, cook in a slow oven ¾ hour to an hour, until a pale brown.

MY FATHER’S FAVOURITE SHORTBREAD RECIPE

Reproduced in original style from my mother’s PWMU Cookery Book 1976
Printed in Australia by Simpson Halligan Co Pty Ltd
Distributed by Jolly Book Supplies, Brisbane
Twenty-first edition revised and enlarged with over 200,000 copies issued

Mix 227g (1/2 lb) butter and 113g (1/4 lb) fine white sugar or icing sugar; add pinch salt and .45kg (1 lb) plain flour; knead all well together; roll out to the thickness of about half an inch, cut into rounds or finger lengths; prick with fork.  Note 340g (¾ lb) flour and 113g (1/4 lb) rice flour may be substituted for .45g (1 lb) flour.  Bake in slow oven about 40 minutes until fawn colour.

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Bought new rice flour

Put the kettle on

Time for a cuppa!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Tale of a Cat Refugee

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The cat stared through the screen door as though Darth Vader was chasing him.  “You are my only hope, G-Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  I doubted that, but knew in these pandemic-plagued times there are thousands of pets being abandoned just when a person-pet bond is needed the most.

The day before materialising at our back door, this grey cat had meowed in a distressed and pitiful fashion outside our house.

Like a feline Romeo, he looked up at our balcony hoping for a comforting word and perhaps a tasty treat…

I had seen him doing similar acts of desperation at other houses.  One evening when I left to buy groceries, he ran across the road in front of my car.  “That darn cat,” I muttered.

And then later, well, I leaned over and a small piece of sausage happened to hit the concrete below the balcony—it was pounced upon and disappeared immediately.

The cat licked his lips and the glint in his eye said “Foolish move, human”.

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Next morning he was waiting outside the door as I filled the kettle with water and popped bread into the toaster.

Tentatively he began to meow.  Gradually he started a high-pitched, upset-cat mewling.  As he wailed, he placed a paw on the screen door.  He started twanging on the metal mesh.

One claw at a time.  Ping, ping, ping…

The noise reverberated around the metal door frame.  I told him to cut it out or he might impale himself “Hanging by one paw won’t get you sympathy”.  Ping.  Ping.  Ping.  He timed it just right.  Every.  Time.

I gave him some cooked chicken and he practically breathed it in.

Our late lamented dog would have been disgruntled to see a cat lapping at her water bowl.  But I think she would have appreciated the irony; the ceramic pattern of dogs and bones.

It became apparent that he was desperate to come inside.  Just what I did not need.  An inside cat.  With my allergies.

He was quickly named Jo-Jo.  As we try to navigate the back door, you may recall The Beatles song and understand why this name stuck.

As befitted a homeless feline, Jo-Jo was lean with dull, dusty fur.  I visited the local pet supplies warehouse and came out with a heavy carry bag and a lighter bank balance.

Nothing fancy, I said, he’s not my cat…

One week later and Jo-Jo is still yowling at the back door and pinging the mesh screen.

But our stray is sleeker, his meow is less anxious, and his is more accepting of the morning-evening no snacking between meals timeline.  He doesn’t have the luxury of grazing because other creatures, like ants and possums, are partial to cat food.

Jo-Jo is partial to a chin-scratch.

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As I type this today, Jo-Jo is languishing on our doormat in the warm autumn sun, fur gently ruffled by the breeze, safe in the knowledge that there is a cat cubby to snuggle into when the evenings grow cooler.  Dozing, sleepy now…

Food source assured; a smile curves as he sleeps…

Yesterday was different.  I saw a mysterious lump in the grass of our backyard.  A blob of something which blowflies were finding mighty interesting.

It was a bird, a dead bird.  Minus its wings.  A murder scenario was easy to reconstruct, but hard to fathom.  It looked more like a destructive act than a burning desire for a fresh meal.  The next bird was brought to the backdoor as an offering.

A decision will have to be made on the future of Jo-Jo.  Find his owner?  Find a foster home?  Send him to the animal shelter?  Take him to the vet for a microchip scan?  Cat-proof the house…?  Time will tell.

A discovery has already been made—our stray waif is a ‘she’ not a ‘he’.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Information

RSPCA Australia COVID-19 Response

Like all of us, the RSPCA is closely monitoring the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation.  We’re very aware of the possible risk to our people and impact on animals.  It’s possible that minimising this risk may require some changes to our operations.  For helpful advice to avoid inconvenience, please check our website and social media (Facebook, Twitter) regularly.

Information on COVID-19 and Companion Animals

There is no evidence that companion animals play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick if they are exposed to the virus.  However, you should stay informed about how to minimise the effects of self-isolation or hospitalisation on your pets.  View all articles related to COVID-19 on the RSPCA Knowledgebase.

 

Email – Aunt Jenny’s Doll

Hello M,

Attached are photos of Aunt Jenny’s doll.

I inherited Jenny’s doll.

There’s a special clause in Jenny’s will regarding said doll.

The doll must go to me.

But carrying no explanation.

Jenny’s doll is at least 60 years old.

Our cousin JR mailed the doll to me.

In pink tissue paper in a cardboard box.

I don’t remember the doll.

I don’t remember her name.

A happy childhood anecdote linked to this doll?

JR does not know details.

Just that Jenny always wanted me to have the doll.

JR does not know the doll’s name.

Her temporary name is Margaret.

The name of my childhood friend.

Gretchen and Margaret mean the same thing.

We both wore bows in our hair.

All our aunts are gone now.

Would anyone in the family know the story?

Did I spend my toddler years with this doll?

She must have been as tall as me then.

But not cool for a teenager.

Poor doll, re-wrapped in pink tissue paper.

Wearing a boring flannelette nightie.

What shall I do with her now she’s mine?

Love Gretchen


Email to My Cousin © Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Friday 3rd April 2020

Old Books – Timeless or Laughable?

It is time to attack my bookberg.  Book sorting!  Only another book lover will know this task is emotional, dusty work with frequent trips back and forth to the reject box to retrieve a volume you just can’t live without.

I did not factor in the impact of nostalgia.  As I sifted and culled, I was overwhelmed by the memories which came flooding back.

Relating to the photograph above, here’s a small sample of the tip of my bookberg:

  • Those aching muscles as I tried to emulate actress and fitness guru Jane Fonda using her inspiring 1981 ‘Workout Book’.  The less said about the front cover the better.

 

  • My 1986 major motion picture tie-in ‘Out Of Africa’ by Karen von Blixen was purchased after I saw the movie because I wanted to see how much the movie had altered the book.  Well, let’s just say it was movie mush.

 

  • ‘Finest Moments’ the hilarious 1975 antics of Norman Gunston (Australian TV comedian Garry McDonald) were clever but now make me cringe.  Gunston dared to go where no journo had gone before.  McDonald was a good scriptwriter but.

 

  • I tried and tried to read this 1984 paperback of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’.  Even now as I look at its yellowing pages (it cost me $4.50 back then) I don’t think I will ever read it.  Most of it has come true, right?

 

  • The small yet 383-page book ‘Angels & Fairies’ written 2005 by Iain Zaczek was a surprise.  A gift, seemingly unread, it contains works of art from famous British painters in 1800s Victorian era.  Such luminous illustrations, if ever there was a misnamed book, it’s this one!  Nothing cutesy about it.  A serious study for art aficionados.

 

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Need I say more? Heavy old coffee-table books, classic black and white photographs with depth and clarity, each one telling a story.

During re-reading and culling, three things struck me immediately.

  1. The smallness of the paperbacks.
  2. The density of the print.
  3. The amount of information.

I guess smaller books meant cheaper to print, easier to handle.
Because I now need reading glasses, the print looks tiny to me.
Does excessive screen time influence the way we read off screen?
We read less content, larger font and wider spaces today, because of what?

Several of my earlier paperbacks have bios, dedications, illo plates, notes, etc.
Or a pull-out page so you could fill in your details and mail to the publisher to receive the author’s complete booklist.

Fortunately the only thing which hasn’t changed is real bookshops.
They may be fewer in certain countries but they are alive and well where I live.

Getting back to those rejected books, I have cardboard boxes (ah, that smell of cardboard) to pack them in and send off to University of Queensland for their Book Fair.

I was mightily impressed with UQ book wrangling skills, particularly after I visited their Book Auction and saw frantic bidders making the value of old books rise higher and higher until the final bid, the hammer fall, the cry of delight from the successful bidder.

Blogging Image 04My three-part series of UQ Book Fair visits last year—brilliant photos—

PART ONE
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/

PART TWO
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/

PART THREE
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/

This post is pure procrastination.  But look at this book on Rome, I was a little bit in love with the professor…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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ROME OF THE CAESARS by Leonardo B. Dal Maso, Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History, Roma. An autographed copy September 1983. Bonechi-Edizioni ‘Ill Turismo’ Via dei Rustici, 5-50122 Firenze. FRONT COVER shows reconstruction model of the centre of Rome in the age of Constantine by architect Italo Gismondi. GOLDEN COIN was issued by Emperor Hadrianus. WAX STATUE personal collection.