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.

The Very Hungry (Ugly) Caterpillar

A traumatised mandarin tree, the insect world in disarray, a true caterpillar tale with an accidental cliffhanger. 

Read what happens when two very hungry, very ugly caterpillars dine sumptuously on a modest little mandarin tree.

The long dry spell had finally broken, the tropical summer rains poured down, green vegetation burst forth and so did the insects.

Here is my report.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward Butterfly Caterpillar 01Butterfly Caterpillar 02Butterfly Caterpillar 03Butterfly Caterpillar 04Butterfly Caterpillar 05Butterfly Caterpillar 06Butterfly Caterpillar 07Butterfly Caterpillar 08Butterfly Caterpillar 09

Obviously the hatched butterfly photographs were not taken by me but never say die. GBW.

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There are five little Orchard Caterpillars on the leaves of this mandarin tree. Protection is in place so hopefully they will survive this time!

My Wall Calendar Fetish

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The master of mysterious…

Do you keep a favourite wall calendar?  Do you keep an image from a favourite wall calendar?  Do you even buy a wall calendar?  Well, I do.

Each year late in December I peruse the newsagents and stationery stores for The One.  The wall calendar with good images and good size squares to write in.  The paper is also important, not too shiny otherwise the ink smudges, and not too thin otherwise the pages tear and have a tendency to flop forward.  I then have to resort to sticky tape to hold old months out of the way of a new month.  Sometimes I use glider clips (paper clips, metal things bent to slide over paper and hold it together) or if I don’t like the calendar much, I glue the old months together.

Occasionally it annoys me where the hole is punched in some wall calendars because it can affect the hanging process on my coat-hook (in the bedroom) the nail (in the kitchen) and the picture hanger (in the study) and enlarge the hole.

One of the calendar ‘things’ which has been a major item on our Christmas list for many, many years is a Bunch-Of-Dates.  A delightful play on words (perhaps conjured up by a light-hearted printer) it consists of a shaped metal frame which goes through the two holes in a square block of paper containing 365 day leaflets plus a tiny yearly calendar and national holiday dates.  An added bonus is daily quotations from inspiring people.

This pre-internet invention sits on office desks and when the workers begin their day, they flip over yesterday’s date to reveal all the chores they have to do today.  Every job I ever worked in from 1970s onward had Bunches-of-Dates sitting on staff desks or the reception desk.  Yes, I actually still use this old-fashioned device and it is right beside me on my left-hand side.  The date at the top (see photo) with lines at the bottom.  Yesterday, Sunday 5th January 2020, it had approximately seven things written on it, e.g. shopping for a light bulb and To Do things like fill bird bath with water.

You can buy the Bunch-Of-Dates refills for a couple of dollars (a range of office calendars and diaries are printed by Collins Debden) and every year after 1st January, they are renewed across the country.

If they are not used by lazy coworkers who try to remember things and when they can’t, they blame it on you for not reminding them, their blank Bunch-Of-Dates can be used as scrap paper for note-taking.  I sometimes find some thin old wire, like a twist-tie, which I thread through the holes and firmly bind 365 unused days together.  Just the right size for cryptic notes to colleagues or wayward family members.

 

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Happy New Year 2020…

Lately I have taken to keeping the last year’s used Bunch-Of-Dates (with exclamation marks, little drawings, council reminders) because sometimes I jot down an important number and don’t transfer it over to my Contacts file.  At this point, I must mention that I have an electronic calendar.  It is most ingenious but no matter how ingenious, it still needs input.  I am very sparing with what I type into my electronic calendar otherwise a lengthy tirade will pop-up at me in the morning when I least expect it.

Another thing; I never ever put stuff on my mobile phone.  Silly, I guess, but they need to be charged and friends say ‘my battery died’ whenever they are late.  An old-school piece of paper in your pocket will never let you down.  That, and a pen, is all you need to survive in the world of words.

But, you ask, what about keeping your favourite calendar photographs?  Goodness, I don’t know where to start!

I have many beautiful scenery images, all totally scribbled on the back, all years old.  But I love them and I often remember the month that went with them.  Except for the one I framed which is three elephants and their passengers splashing down a river in a jungle.  The shallow water is jade green, as vivid as the lush tropical foliage.  There is a feeling of both pleasure and menace.

Anyway, a person in my familia has taken a shine to Polish artist Jacek Yerka’s fantasy style and I began to enjoy the ones where he puts hundreds of bookstacks in quirky settings.  I kept this one (see above) perhaps not his strangest, but I get a lot of pleasure out of it.

Every so often I have a surplus calendar, a gift or whatever, so I hammer in an extra nail and hang it up, not as prominent as those I love but I give it hanging space.

And this year?  Oh joy, this year I discovered an Australian Jumbo Big Huge calendar with gigantic squares!  It will take anything I wish to write on it and leave room for more—the down side of this extravagant calendar is no pictures.  There is a tiny strip along the top showing a beach or mountain or city but nothing else.  And one of these images is repeated, not a good look in my eyes.  Ho-hum, can’t have everything.

In the kitchen my next favourite is Chickens, not cooked, just hens displaying glorious feathers in beautiful country settings.  Pecking through, it looks like April hens are ahead of the flock photogenically.  I will have to let you know who gets preserved at the end of the year.  Just a minute, I’ll write a note on my calendar…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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This is not an advertisement, just a bit of calendar styling.

Toadstool 3-Day Lifespan

DAY ONE

My lavender plant has been struggling in the smokey, dust haze, drought conditions which Queensland faces this Christmas.  We recently had one day of light rain and next morning I went outside to see these amazing toadstools which had spring up overnight.

Here’s what my never-say-die French Lavender planter looked like on Day One.

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I did not, and still do not, know what particular type they are but I am sure from Don Burke’s description that they are definitely toadstools.  The one in the middle photo (above) has a small split.  When I touched it to see how soft it was, it split and smelled musty.

Here’s what Don Burke, our Aussie gardening guru, says—

MUSHROOM AND TOADSTOOL COMPARISON INFORMATION https://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/in-the-garden/gardening-tips-books-techniques-and-tools/mushrooms-and-toadstools/

DAY TWO

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A parasol perfect for a pixie…

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Thin stem and ridges on the cap – not a mushroom…

The cracks are showing…

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You can see they are getting a bit ragged as the afternoon wears on…

DAY THREE

Meltdown, a sad sight…

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Looks like they have deflated in the heat! 

To be fair, at one stage the temperature did reach 43 degrees Celsius – approx 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Over the next couple of days the caps and stems turned brown, rotted down, then were absorbed back into the compose and leaf-litter in the planter.

Will they rise again?

They are ordinary-looking in comparison to European toadstools.  Contrary to popular belief, not all toadstools are poisonous but I would not eat them.  Fungi grows indiscriminately, open ground and nooks and crannies.  This type had a brief fling with my lavender yet its spores may linger.

What is their purpose?

Interestingly, plants have fungal partners.  Our native eucalypt gum tree has underground mycorrhizal (symbiotic) partners for good health.  Remember fungus puff balls as a kid?  They are one of many varieties of above-ground seed dispersal units.  The Australian National Herbarium has great info for nerds like me!
Check https://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/what-is-fungus.html 

If you like fungi (or you’re a fun guy) I will include a diagram so that when you are strolling across a paddock, or rambling through a wood, you can recognise what you are about to step on.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Sisters-in-Crime Membership Card

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I kept the postage stamp but the envelope has been recycled.

How is this for the personal touch!  Sisters-in-Crime mailed a white 9×4 envelope with my address neatly printed on it and a postage stamp stuck in the corner.  The stamp, if you are interested, commemorates 50 years since the moon landing.  Australia had a hand in the Apollo 11 lunar module ‘Eagle’ landing on the moon.

Back to the goodies in the envelope:

A welcome letter from Carmel, Secretary & National Co-convenor.

Diary Dates and information on 26th Scarlet Stiletto Awards.

Leaflet for ‘Murder She Wrote’ Readers and Writers Festival to be held in Tasmania under the title ‘Terror Australis’ .

Bookmark stating all the wonderful things Sisters-in-Crime can offer me.

Info on bookshop discounts, panels, discussions, debates, tours, launches, festivals.

And, of course, my Membership Card!

Every department store in the world wants to give you a plastic card but this is a Crime Card.  Not plastic; written on by hand; the nostalgic beauty of it.

Who or what are the Sisters-in-Crime?  Let me fill you in—

Sisters in Crime Logo 03 2019Sisters-in-Crime is a world-wide organisation but the Australian chapter was launched at the Feminist Book Festival in Melbourne in September 1991, inspired by the American organisation of the same name, which was founded in 1986 by Sara Paretsky (creator of Chicago PI VI Warshawski) and other women crime writers at the Bouchercon crime convention.  Members are authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by their affection for the mystery genre and their support of women who write mysteries.  Chapters currently meet in Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane.  The Melbourne chapter holds very regular events and partners with festivals, libraries and other organisations.

There are annual crime-writing competitions, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards (big prize money) and the Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women published in the previous year.

I missed ‘Murder She Wrote’, the readers and writers Terror Australis Festival in Huon Valley, Tasmania, from 31 October to 5 November 2019.  It was jam-packed with amazing stuff; panel sessions, masterclasses, Hall of Writers, book launches, Murder Mystery Dinner, etc.  Hear my teeth gnashing…

I am currently reading ‘Dead Man Switch’ by Tara Moss and she attended the Festival.  Quote ‘I would kill to be at the Terror Australis Festival, but thankfully I was invited so I won’t need to.’ – Tara Moss, author.

Maybe next year <sigh>

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Tree Orchid with Pink Flowers

Trees are dropping leaves to survive and the ground is like iron.  Just the other morning I watered my Dendrobium orchid and the long buds were tightly closed.  Drought conditions have sent the ants in all directions in search of sustenance but even they were absent.

In the afternoon I returned from lunch with friends and à la voile!  There was my tree orchid in full bloom!

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Springtime is not properly acknowledged in my garden until this orchid flowers.  It is always my September spectacular.

Australian orchids tend to be small, for instance the Cooktown Orchid which is the floral emblem of Queensland, but this species is large and robust.  The dull afternoon light does not do justice to its display.

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A semi deciduous pink-flowering orchid, it is ‘probably’ native to Australia, a Dendrobium Nobile, and in this case has been grown as an epiphyte – tree hugger.  It has been in the family for over forty years and needs basically no care at all.  The blooms have a very faint fragrance.

Why I say ‘probably’ native to Australia is because I always thought it came from the Pacific region.  In fact, originally its forebears came from northern India/southern China where it would have been quite used to extremes in temperature.

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Then I discovered hybrids have been produced.  These can be subdivided into two types, the ‘English’ and ‘Japanese’ type, and later I read this historical document courtesy of The Shambles, a country garden at Montville in south-east Queensland:

Dendrobium nobile  Reliable soft cane epiphytic orchid.  We have many unnamed flower colour varieties from mauve, pink and white range.  A trouble-free orchid flowering in spring.  Introduced to Britain c.1836 by Loddiges’ Nursery.  Requested from Loddiges’ Nursery on 1st February 1849 for Camden Park NSW Australia and obtained from them, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in that year.  India www.qos.org.au 1A.1885, 13.1900/1,15.Camden Orchid walk, West Garden, near back stairs, Blue trellis garden, Rain forest walk.

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After reading the Wagga Orchid Society PDF (link below) and using a bit of guesstimation, years later my orchid could have been transported from the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia, on consignment to a Brisbane plant nursery.

I now look at my tree orchid in awe and wonderment – such a lineage.

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The following shot was taken a few days later in much better sunlight.  There was a bee hovering around but it refused to be photographed.

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Gretchen Bernet-Ward

P.S. If you are interested in lovely flowers and picturesque settings in rural countryside, I can recommend a visit to the website and blogspot of The Shambles country garden, Montville, Queensland.

https://montvillegarden.com/
https://montvillegarden.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/montvillegarden
and further reading
http://waggaorchidsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Dendrobium-nobile-orchid-growing.pdf

The Shambles Monsieur Tillier Rose
The Shambles and ‘Monsieur Tillier Rose’

‘Fallen Angel’ 100 Word Drabble

 

Wild birds are squawking in the gum tree and I see movement in the grass below.  A bobbing head, something is amiss.  I open the kitchen door and step outside. With a sudden, strong flap of its wings, a goshawk rises from the ground in a cloud of grey and white feathers. Not an angel fallen to earth but the death of a white-headed pigeon.  A flotilla trails the hawk into the distance as I walk up to a pile of fresh feathers, no body, only feathers. It is springtime and the hawk has young to feed.  GBW © 2019

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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Coach Departing Now, Folks

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Made in England – china dessert bowl – date and manufacturer unknown.

A rather dramatic story is unfolding in my breakfast bowl.

Cereals and desserts have been eaten from this bowl for over thirty years and yet I have never properly looked at the picture on it.

A few days ago I had a shock when I scooped up the last spoonful of my Weet-Bix (similar to the UK Weetabix, both invented by Bennison Osborne, an Australian) and saw there was a castle on the hill.  I kid you not, I had never seen that castle before!

Allow me to acquaint you with some backstory.  Originally there was a set of six china bowls (15 centimetres or 6 inches across) and originally my parents owned them.  Unfortunately porridge, domestic accidents, and heating leftovers in the microwave have whittled them down.  Of the surviving two, one has a nasty looking fault line appearing.  Therefore, the bowl I have photographed may be the end of the ceramic line.  Or the end of the beginning of a coach trip.

So far, so boring—but wait.  Although this bowl is old, I have to be honest and say it is not an antique.  In fact the picture may have been embossed on like a transfer and glazed over.  Never mind, I’m getting to the point, well, ten points actually—

  First there is the brooding castle on the hill; quite a substantial pile.  A name doesn’t immediately spring to mind but I’m working on it.

  Nestled halfway down the hill is a gamekeeper or crofter’s cottage.

  In the valley at the base of the hill is a small village.  An unaccompanied lady is standing on the side of the unpaved road which runs past the Duck Inn.  She isn’t over-dressed and uses a walking cane.  Her gaze is towards the two gentlemen opposite, chatting beside the milestone.  Perhaps this marker reads “London 100 miles” but I can’t decipher it.

  One of the toffs (lord of the manor) is holding a buggy whip.  He would not have ridden a horse down from the castle in a top hat.  He could be the lady’s son and heir up to no-good, he spends too much time in the tavern.  Or she may be his old faithful nanny, instructed to keep an eye on him.  Or yet again, she could be the wife of the man canoodling in the middle of the road.

  We see two lovers canoodling in the middle of the road.  The man is keener than the woman, and a dog is either giving them a wide berth or coming around behind the man to nip him on the ankle.

  Unbeknown to the busily occupied people, a cat slinks into the rear footwell of the coach.  Earlier he had been shooed away but being a feline named Nosey…

  Outside the Duck Inn (a duck is painted on the sign) the coach boy is making final preparations for the horses’ feedbags.  He loves them ‘orses.

  The coach driver is ready and waiting.  He’s heard rumours that Dick Turpin is lurking in the vicinity (if I’m in the right century) and wants to get going well before nightfall.  The innkeeper loaned him a pistol and it digs into the small of his back.

  Seven people are milling about.  At least four are passengers judging by the loading of a trunk on the roof, a well-wrapped parcel in somebody’s hands, and a family group perhaps saying goodbye.  The husband could be off to London on business and the daughters are sad but the wife is glad he’s out of her hair for a few days.

  Lastly, a curtain twitches at one of the attic windows of the Duck Inn.

There are leafy details in the background and in the foreground the stone wall appears to be crumbling.  I have looked for birds but only managed to spy a tiny number 9 in the garden beneath the Duck Inn sign.  A maker’s mark?

And that’s it.  There are no hallmarks or stamps on base of the bowl except the words “Made in England”.  I have no idea if the picture is fake-aged or has been copied from an earlier (original) tableware design.

One thing is for sure, it has given me a good idea for an historical short story.  Visual prompts are another way to overcome writer’s slump.  Look hard at any image and you will find a story to tell.

Check your kitchen cupboards, your own crockery may have a narrative in the making!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bees Like My Lavender!

A subtropical climate is not conducive to growing French lavender.

I have followed all the rules, not too wet, don’t dry out, soil nutrient, trim regularly, but haven’t had much success.

This year I let my lavender shrub do its own thing.

Although the flowers and leaves are not as big or lustrous as those in designer gardens, the mauve flowers and soft leaves do have a lovely fragrance.

The big bonus is busy bees like my lavender!


Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My ‘Photo of the Week’ Pictorial

Readers of my blog often go straight to my current post which detours Photo Of The Week on my Home page.  I’ve gathered together some of my favourite shots—just in case you’ve missed a couple!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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An apologetic alien in the corner of the bedroom ©GBW2019

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Walking home through the Great Court at University of Queensland, Brisbane, after attending the rare book auction in Fryer Library on Friday 3 May 2019. The 4-day book fair continued over the long weekend https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/ ©GBW2019

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Easter Saturday and I unearthed this little old turtle in the back garden ©GBW2019

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The perfect place to sit and read as evening falls on another long day ©GBW2019

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Action figures left on the shelf, a child’s forgotten game ©GBW2019

Gemma Phone (8)
The rain has gone and Poppy is ready to go outside ©GBW2019

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Polly Pocket pet shop on piano – The concept was originally designed by Chris Wiggs in 1983 for his daughter Kate Wiggs. Using a powder compact, he fashioned a little house for a little doll. When opened, later models showed inside a miniature dollhouse or various interiors with tiny Polly Pocket figurines living, working and playing ©GBW2019

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I’m watching you, always watching you ©GBW2019

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Blue Berry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) an evergreen Australian native tree which grows along the east coast. The white flowers and blue fruit feature twice a year. Animals eat the berries but humans find them unpalatable https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2002/elaeocarpus-reticulatus.html ©GBW2019

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Cute young camels at Summer Land Camel Farm, Harrisville Queensland Australia https://summerlandcamels.com.au/ ©GBW2019

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A tunnel, a cave or portal? For a wizard, a dragon or alien? ©GBW2019

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Created in 1985 by Brisbane sculptors Leonard and Kathleen Shillam “Five Pelicans” sit in the Queensland Art Gallery water mall, viewed from the Australian Glass and Ceramic Pelican Lounge https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/australian-glass-and-ceramic ©GBW2019

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Bromeliad, guzmania genus, perennial monocotyledon, throws an afternoon shadow on the path ©GBW2019

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Addicted to adult colouring books https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/08/24/revisiting-adult-colouring-books/ ©GBW2019

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Return to yesteryear on a steam train tour from Brisbane to Toowoomba operated by the Australian Railway Historical Society. Each year tourists travel by steam train to Toowoomba’s spectacular Carnival Of Flowers https://www.tcof.com.au/full-day-steam-train-tour/ ©GBW2019

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Every day is a happy blogging day! ©GBW2019

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The Degraves Street Subway and Campbell Arcade, once glamorous 1950s shops, now with artspace, hair salons and Cup of Truth Coffee Bar for commuters accessing Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia https://cv.vic.gov.au/blog/archive/degraves-street-subway-and-campbell-arcade-the-underground-artspace/ ©GBW2019

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Optical illusion ©GBW2019

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“Experience is never limited, and it is never complete, it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every airborne particle in its tissue”––Writer/poet Henry James ©GBW2019

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Peering through the magnifying glass of original World Expo88 butterfly catcher statue at Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens, Brisbane, Australia ©GBW2019

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Viewed while walking through Queensland Gallery of Art, South Bank, Brisbane, silver balls floating on ponds ©GBW2019

Take a Test ‘Creative Types’

On a go-slow day at home, I clicked a link from a fellow writer and discovered this cool/cute/interesting Adobe Create personality test.  It invited me to answer 15 questions.  Eight creative types are on offer and once I’d completed the test I was given a full explanation of My Creative Type.

This quiz-like questionnaire gave me a joyful, colourful few minutes.  I could take it or leave it, the results are rather like a horoscope, but it did give me a confidence boost.

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‘Visionary’ Creative from Adobe Types Test

Apparently I am “VISIONARY – A visionary combines a vivid imagination with a desire for practical solutions. Your introspective and intuitive nature is balanced by a keen interest in the world around you.”  The rest is private!

The Adobe Creators say “The Creative Types test is an exploration of the many faces of the creative personality.  Based in psychology research, the test assesses your basic habits and tendencies—how you think, how you act, how you see the world—to help you better understand who you are as a creative.  Answer these 15 questions and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your motivations, plus insight into how to maximize your natural gifts and face your challenges.”

“These personality types aren’t black-and-white labels.  Think of them more as signposts pointing you toward your full creative potential.  While there’s probably one core type that best describes you, you may change types at different points in your life and career, or even at different stages of the creative process.  As a creative, you have a little bit of all eight Types inside you.”

Click or cut and paste the links:

Creative Types Test
https://mycreativetype.com/share/producer/?fbclid=IwAR2VZtjJ3U3MMYLNxyioJ6vQGX_ocWTLex5wD4Kw3iCVfZAU7M3aT59LyIQ

About the Team
https://mycreativetype.com/about/

Eight Creative Types
https://mycreativetype.com/the-creative-types/

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‘The Maker’ Creative from Adobe Types Test

The slick visuals are not completely computer generated because if you look closely you can see the human touches.  Kind of endearing.  Try it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward