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

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.

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.

 

Review of Mocco Wollert’s Life in Darwin, Northern Territory

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The book title is a typical Darwin expression with good connotations, and Mocco says she is an optimist, she lives on hope and in hope.  Originally from Germany, she worked hard with what she had, overcame obstacles and adapted to Australian life with her Aussie-born daughters Susan and Kim and beloved husband Niclas.

The other love in her life is Darwin, 1950s Darwin, at the Top End of Northern Territory.  No supermarkets, no fancy restaurants, definitely no air-conditioning, miles and miles of dirt roads, and at that time populated by about 8,000 people.  Tough, rough and ready people at that.

The strength of a woman when put to the test reverberates powerfully through Mocco Wollert’s narrative.  From good, bad and ugly circumstances, Mocco’s words shine.  She comes across as forthright in her opinions, honest, funny, emotional, grumpy yet ultimately loveable.  She certainly faced challenging circumstances, some which made me wince and some which would have seen me walk away, but not Mocco!

The chapters of Mocco’s book are grouped under headings, for example ‘Beginning the Adventure’, ‘Career Change’ (actually a couple of career changes) ‘Health Matters’ and ‘Decision Time’ all of which prepared me for her decade of thought-provoking reading.

Understandably there are heart-rending moments like depression in ‘A Night of Gin’ and the 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastation.

I remember sitting under our ceiling fan watching the ABCTV news on Boxing Day, 26th December, as black and white film footage showed our nation the flattened landscape which was once Darwin.  On a lighter note, it was rebuilt and continues to thrive, as did Mocco.  Small moments often stick and I enjoyed Mocco’s recollection of wigs and frizz hair-related matters in ‘Hairdressers’ where men were taboo.

Under the subheading ‘Sport’ on page 211, I think this paragraph typifies the tenacity of Darwinites and perhaps a large area of northern Australia.  “In spite of the heat and humidity, people played sport.  Golf was Niclas’ passion and he became quite a good golfer with a handicap of 16.  Watching today’s golf tournaments on television, I marvel at the green fairways and manicured greens.  There was none of this in Darwin.  The fairways were rough and, in the dry season, as dusty as a (cattle) station in drought.  The ‘greens’ were sandy plains without a blade of grass.”

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There are 47 photographs throughout the book, vivid examples of the era, and a pictorial of Darwin homelife which includes Mocco in weather so scorching she wore a bikini to hang washing on the Hills Hoist.  And there is a great little story behind the snapshot of her small daughter meeting Queen Elizabeth II.  Not telling, you’ll have to read the book!

‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ is Mocco Wollert’s tribute to Darwin, an intimate recollection of a more rugged time in 20th century Australia, told openly and honestly, and ultimately life-affirming.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

IMG_20191122_183655Born in Germany but a true-blue Darwinite by 1960, Mocco Wollert is now a recognised poet and author who lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Mocco has nine poetry books published as well as winning prizes for poems published in newspapers and anthologies.

Her Darwin memoir ‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ was first published by Historical Society of Northern Territory and later by Boolarong Press 2017.

For information on today’s Northern Territory, visit https://www.australia.com/en/places/northern-territory.html

Shopping – Bombeck and Kinsella say…

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“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.” ― Erma Bombeck (February 1927 – April 1996) ― American writer and humourist Erma Bombeck achieved great popularity for her newspaper column which described suburban home life from mid-1960s until late 1990s. She published 15 books, appeared on television shows, and wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns, all featuring her entertaining and eloquent humour. Irma Bombeck wrote before social media, achieving world-wide fame through her books, and in 1970s her columns were read twice-weekly by 30 million readers of the 900 newspapers in US and Canada.  Interestingly her work featured domesticity during the women’s liberation movement. She hid a life-long illness which was disclosed three years prior to her death. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erma_Bombeck

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
Cup Saucer Bowl Optical Illusion
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

My Easter Holiday Photos

Ten images taken during my stay-home Easter break.  In Australia public holidays are mainly observed on Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

🐥 🐣 🐤 🐥 🐣 🐤 🐥

Palm Tree Palm Sunday 2019
Palm Sunday arrives first and falls on the last Sunday of Lent, the Sunday before Easter.
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Good Friday and our traditional home-baked hot cross buns are cooling before the sugar glaze.
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Easter Saturday and I check on a tiny daisy plant (or weed) in the front garden.
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Easter Saturday and I unearthed this little old turtle in the back garden.
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Easter Sunday and we gather kitchen utensils to bake sweet biscuits in rabbit, chicken and egg shapes.
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Easter Sunday and time to count the donations in our Lent Event coffee jar money box.
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Easter Sunday and the dragon lamp and fishbone ferns keep guard over my potful of new basil seedlings.
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Easter Monday and I discovered Dr Who memorabilia and BBC magazine from Nov 2013 with no inkling of Jodie Whittaker.
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Easter Monday and the flip-side of BBC Dr Who magazine advertising a groovy 2013 event in Cardiff Bay.
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Easter Monday and there are always one or two uneaten chocolate eggs hanging around.

Easter is a time to reflect on sadness and rebirth; a time when our weather is often humid with autumnal rains; a time for relaxing with family and friends.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

🐣 🐤 🐥 🐣 🐤 🐥 🐣

Nasturtium Flowers Lifespan

Nasturtiums like to grow free-range in the sun with well-drained soil but I planted the seeds in an old hanging basket under the verandah and watched their lifespan over three months from warm September mornings in springtime to steamy January afternoons in summertime.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Pets Stop People Travelling


  • Australians really love their pet pals – one in three won’t go on holidays because it would mean leaving their pet behind.  A recent survey examined the lifestyle of 1,000 pet owners regarding the impact pets have on their travel habits.  I found the results interesting.

 

  • National Seniors and Trusted Housesitters research demonstrates that with 5.7 million households owning a pet in Australia (over 13 million people) roughly four million people choose to stay at home rather than holidaying due to concerns about their pet’s well-being.

 

  • Apparently those who did take a break (69%) said they had felt guilty when leaving their pet behind, while over one-third of Australian pet owners (36%) have turned down a weekend away, citing being unable to arrange pet care as the reason.

 

  • Pets often disrupt their owners’ social lives, with 18% of respondents having regularly missed social engagements in favour of staying at home to ensure their pets were cared for.  Of those surveyed, 6% avoided going on dates, choosing their pets over romance.

 

  • When it comes to Australian pet owners who regularly take holidays, 29% opted for a trusted pet sitter versus putting their pet in a boarding kennel (21%), while 35% of pet owners organised friends or family to care for their furry friend.

 

  • One in four participants said they would never travel overseas or interstate without their pet.  Presumably this pet is a dog and the owner is wealthy!

 

  • In a British study of veterinary experts conducted by Trusted Housesitters UK, 100% believed animals responded better to a new carer than a new environment, as animals were particularly bonded to their home.  Is there bias in this result?

 

  • I’m not making any pronouncements for-or-against.  I’ve loved and cared for every one of my darling pets and by making arrangements in advance, none ever stopped me from travelling away from home.  But the guilt was there.

 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


My Mandarin Tree Growing Project

You are invited to follow my pictorial efforts in home-growing mandarin trees with no experience and limited resources.  Nothing by the book, just me planting seeds and hoping Mother Nature does the rest.  I’m not even sure if you have to dry the seeds first!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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#1. You may remember this photo from my bread baking post. These home-grown mandarins started me thinking about growing my own fruit tree. The following photos are the beginning of my journey.

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#2. Originally five experimental mandarin seeds were sown and two germinated which was enough encouragement to start my home-growing project. These prototypes have past the two-leaf stage and should be replanted.

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#3. It was annoying having to wait until this egg carton was empty but the eggs were delicious.

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#4. I cut the lid off the base and snipped off the support cones in the middle of the box thinking it might help with watering. Not all egg cartons are made the same.

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#5. The lid fitted nicely into the base and created a drainage system underneath. I left the flap to write on later.

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#6. Seeds from two or three mandarins. The 45-year-old tree grows in our backyard and never gets watered or fertilized. I noticed that not all of the fruit had seeds so I took the plumpest ones.

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#7. It may look like an advertisement but I used a small portion of this 6-litre bag of seed raising mix.

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#8. Twelve seeds planted (poked into the soil) successfully with several left over until I have another egg carton. Just in case I forget, I wrote data on the side flap. I hope to post regular updates!

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#9. Instructions on the seed raising bag suggest watering with an atomiser for a fine spray. This one works well without flooding although I’m not sure how the cardboard carton will hold up.

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#10. I found a suitable bench outside where I can keep an eye on my project; and added a drip-tray. A clear cover is suggested to increase humidity and encourage germination but I live in a subtropical climate so will not cover the container. Fingers crossed…see you in three months time!

Baking Bread and Growing Mandarins

Two loaves of home-baked bread with garlic on top and grated cheese inside, eaten with chicken and corn soup.  Entrée nibbles were baby beetroot leaves, sliced sausage and home-grown mandarin (tangerine) pieces.  The mandarin tree is about 45 years old but still produces a juicy citrus crop each winter.

One of my earlier posts https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/07/15/garden-notes-on-a-warm-winter-day/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Clothes Shoes Food

Shoes Winter Spring Summer

There’s no disputing that clothes, shoes and food make the world go around.  The order depends on your preference.  I would have listed food first but today I’m talking about shoes.  Why?  Because I wear shoes out of necessity and make my favourite pair last for years.

Summertime footwear is usually sandals or thongs, no, not that kind, the flip-flops/jandals kind.  And wintertime is usually a closed-in toe like runners/joggers/sandshoes.  I have black work shoes and lace-up boots for walking, and flat heels and small heels being the most versatile for social occasions.

I like matching accessories, however, my shoes are usually the least prominent colour.  Recently I purchased a shiny rose gold-pewter casual pair of flatties and I love them.  They go with a lot of things and they are comfy.  My maroon old-lady slippers haven’t had a workout yet (summertime lingers in the subtropics) but my shiny flatties are just as good for pottering around the house.  The best part is that the shoe shop where I purchased them had a sale day.  Need I say more…

The ramblings above make it appear that I have many pairs of shoes but in actual fact I do not.  Of course, there’s the old, forgotten ones shoved to the back of the wardrobe, e.g. closet, gathering dust and mould.  The strappy, bling-covered pair which contain good memories; the 1980s white leather and wood health clogs; the brown leather knee-high boots which cost me a month’s wages (much admired by family and friends) now growing mildew.

Not so long ago I had a foot problem due to a gardening incident and suffered much pain even when inactive.  Treatment and recovery were slow, I spent a lot of time babying my foot which became a nuisance.  My heel had throbbed at random intervals, even though I inserted every kind of foot pad imaginable into the sole of my shoe…but not all at once!

My foot injury made me very aware of good shoe support and good advice from a doctor or podiatrist.  Never underestimate the importance of your “plates of meat” as Cockney slang might say.  Feet get you from A to B carrying the complete load of your body.  Support them!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Earth Hour for the Environment

Are you participating in Earth Hour?  Join the largest global movement for the environment.  On Saturday 24 March 2018 switch off – then do it again every year.  Make an earth-friendly statement towards our planet’s future.  Commit to a sustainable world!

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Have a cosy night in.
Light all the candles you can find.
Turn off all your lights.
Turn off the television.
Turn off the phone.
Turn off all electronic devices.
Sit in your favourite place.
Talk, laugh, eat and relax.
Be aware of the darkness of night.
Gaze into the candle flames.
Feel drowsy, feel peaceful.
One hour goes fast.
Maybe sit there a bit longer…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


In Australia, Earth Hour will start at 8:30pm.  Join millions of people in over 180 countries who are switching off their lights for Earth Hour as a symbolic gesture to show the need for stronger climate action.  Are you ready to join the movement?  It’s time to switch off and #Connect2Earth.

Earth Hour ambassador, Lucas Handley, says “For me, Earth hour isn’t just about saving energy for that one hour – it’s a visual recognition that we are all part of an interconnected community; capable and committed to finding a more sustainable and earth-friendly direction for our society.”  Q&A with Lucas Handley

https://www.earthhour.org.au/
https://maas.museum/event/earth-hour-at-sydney-observatory-2/

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Earth Hour and WWF Logo

Run Rabbit Run

The yellow rabbit picked his front teeth with a twig and contemplated what it would be like baked in a rabbit pie. He remembered a tune the tone-deaf gardener used to sing “Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run, something, something, he’ll get by without his rabbit pie…” Stupid song but with a happy ending for the bunny. The yellow rabbit didn’t have to worry about ending up in a pie because he crept among the marrows and hid in the sunflower patch or in buttery dandelion clumps and the gardener couldn’t see him. There were so many things to hide in, or on, or against when you were yellow. He remembered the nerve-wracking time he stopped on a double yellow line so a council truck wouldn’t run over him. The driver wasn’t going fast but that’s beside the point. The yellow rabbit nearly hopped out in front of the vehicle. Of course, stopping still on the yellow line made him invisible. His paws were a bit shaky once the truck had driven passed and he’d vowed then and there never to cross a road again. He looked up at the back verandah of the old homestead and continued his contemplation. There was a big yellow tablecloth fluttering on the railing which meant plans were afoot to eat outside. He had already spied the plump yellow cushions on the cane chairs. The big glass jug was frosting over, filled with ice and lemon nectar. Rabbit 09The yellow rabbit always thought it strange how the humans ate with tools. They doled out piles of food and delicious salads with forks and scoops and ladles. Then they sliced succulent pineapples with large knives and chopped it into chunks. The strangest thing he’d ever seen was when they would cut the sides off mangoes and grid the luscious inner flesh before turning the skin inside out. At least the young human consumed large portions of her meals with her fingers. This meant that the female of the warren would continually wipe the fingers and face of the little fluffle. The yellow rabbit was now watching for this small fluffle, a young girl who always wore a yellow and white striped dress. She strolled outside holding a glass bowl, spooning egg custard into her mouth without watching the spillage. Her bright eyes were scanning for him. It didn’t take long for her to see him crouched down in a tray full of marigold seedlings. He twitched his long ears. She brushed a curl out of her eyes. He wiggled his nose. She gave a wiggle of her fingers then turned away, disappearing back inside.  Out came the male and hung a wire cage on a fancy hook. The canary inside the cage started singing. The male started to set the table with yellow spotted plates and serviettes with sunbeams on them but seemed more interested in taking long swigs from a bottle of amber liquid he had left on the open window sill. The little girl reappeared and behind her trailed several yellow balloons on long shiny strings. She was wearing a cardboard hat decorated with sprigs of wattle which tangled in her blonde hair. The female emerged from the kitchen door with a bunch of daffodils in one hand and an empty honey jar in the other. She put the flowers in the jar and placed it in the middle of the table while talking to the male.Scribbles The Yellow Rabbit 02 The yellow rabbit shuddered and averted his eyes from the hot metal plate where the male had just thrown raw meat. Even the smell of fresh lettuce couldn’t stop him feeling slightly nauseated. After a few minutes, the little girl looped the balloon strings around the handrail and skipped down the verandah steps. She was coming straight towards him. Instinctively he shrunk low into the cool earth and tensed his muscles. She was swinging her arms casually and appeared to be looking over his head at a light catcher made from shimmering pieces of tinfoil clipped to a branch. The yellow rabbit blinked in surprise. She walked right by. However, quick as a wink, she flipped something out of her pocket and into the seedling tray. It was a carrot! Joy swelled in the yellow rabbit’s heart. He snatched up the fresh carrot in his big front teeth and leapt out of the seedling tray. He landed on the grass and bounded for the back fence. He knew it was ungracious of him, but he didn’t turn around to acknowledge the young girl. Biting hard on the carrot, and with a bit of pulling and tugging, he managed to crawl under the fence without getting stuck. He hopped off across the paddock with his tasty prize. The young girl trailed slowly back to her parents. They had soft smiles on their faces. With a happy nod, the young girl sat down at the table where a chunk of pineapple was waiting. As the sticky juice ran down her hands, she listened to her parents tell the familiar story of how they had been shown the nearby rabbit colony when they were her age. The yellow rabbits were a family tradition but nobody knew why they were yellow. Strangely, most of the bits and pieces in the homestead were the same colour, a shade her grandmother called sunshine. Legend says the yellow rabbit always appears on bright sunny days.

The above story was written as a free-write, a freefall stream of consciousness, and I had no idea where it was going or how it would end.  It’s a fun technique!  To find out more, click  Jen Storer Girl and Duck Scribbles

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Teatowel of Ignominy

Ever do something just for fun?  Sure you have.  From an impromptu picnic to cooking a lavish dinner.  Sporty things, family things, shopping expeditions or entering a competition in the name of fun.

Recently I designed a book-themed teatowel for fun.  There was a prize involved but I won’t dwell on that because I did not win.  However, it did spawn this blog piece…

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G-B-W©Book Lifecycle artwork (Australia)

For those born into a dishwasher world, I will elaborate.  A teatowel is used to dry crockery and cutlery.  It is made of an oblong piece of linen or cotton material, naturally absorbent, hemmed on all sides and printed with a design.  The design is printed on one side, in portrait position.  Teatowels can be any colour, any theme, but traditionally the same fabric and size.  They can also be displayed poster-like on a kitchen wall.  The following teatowels are not ignominious!

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Raspberry Thistles©Scott Inness (Scotland)

Tourist destinations sell souvenir teatowels, the most glorious ones are those in public art galleries.  Gift shops offer cute ones with flowers, teacups, recipes or cow designs.  Craft groups use them as fund-raisers, while cookware stores display matching sets of oven mitt, apron and teatowel with a trendy designer logo.

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Friesian Cows©Rodriquez (Australia)

I have a large proportion of Australian flora and fauna too well-laundered to show here.  The examples displayed are the best I could find in the kitchen drawer.  A lovely giraffe print from Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo NSW, was singed from a cooking incident.  My recently purchased Cecily teatowel (below) is part of a book-themed series from New Zealand.  It will not suffer the fate of another limited edition teatowel which, shock horror, was used to wipe the stove griller.

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Cecily©Moa Revival (New Zealand)

Teatowels sound old-fashioned and domesticated but they can become the focus of teenage washing-up disputes and used as a weapon to flick people.  Snap!

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Babushka Dolls©Ladelle (Australia)

Apparently teatowels originated in Victorian England and were used at teatime to keep the china in good condition.  Baked goods were often laid on a teatowel to cool or alternatively kept moist under a teatowel.  The name is different in different countries, in Australia a dishtowel/dishcloth is used for more heavy duty cleaning.

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Tidy teatowel (Unknown)

No doubt there is an online history of teatowels and teatowel aficionados around the world, but I am content in the knowledge that I have owned many useful hard-working ones over the years.  Lightly imbued with nostalgia and sentiment, some were gifts, most I have bought, and one I designed myself which is not destined to be printed.  That’s a good thing.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


BONUS:
My blog post is laden with afternoon tea foodie photographs
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/03/11/afternoon-tea-and-fancy-food/
Extra teatowel image courtesy of The National Trust UK
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

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Made with care in UK for The National Trust 100% cotton.

Daydreaming

Daydreaming is my addiction.  “Well, if one’s going to daydream, one might as well make it a good one, don’t you suppose?” says Danielle Paige.

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Federation style

My biggest vice is the real estate section in Brisbane News or weekend supplements.  I drool over million-dollar homes, daydreaming how I would rearrange the décor, or daydream about refurbishing an old mansion.  Of course, I enjoy daydreaming about being effortlessly rich, benevolent, eccentric and having a chauffeur to drive me everywhere.  Until Lily Amis reminds me “Daydreaming is a way of escaping from reality. But you can’t avoid the reality forever! Sooner or later you have to wake up and face it!”

Still, my mind wanders no matter what, usually while doing domestic tasks.  My focus regularly trails away into the realms of daydream when I am reading, writing or watching a movie.  As Neil Gaiman says “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

A cautionary note comes from Jasper Fforde who says “My mind wanders terribly.  I’m not wholly annoyed by my daydreaming as it has been of immense use to me as regards imaginative thought, but it doesn’t help when it comes to concentration.  And writing needs concentration – lots of it.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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Warehouse Loft

P.S. Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier) a 20th century architect said “Une maison est une machine-à-habiter” or “A house is a machine for living in”.

Balcony Muse

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Balcony View

As I sit on our small balcony with the French doors open behind me, I can see a front view over the trees, over the shallow valley and up the opposite hillside.  Roof tops gleam here and there and a council bus grinds its way up the steep incline of a street still named ‘lane” from way back when it took farm traffic up and over the hill.

To my right are the wooden chamfer boards which line the house, in this instance making the wall of our home office, or, as it was nicknamed many years ago, The Den.  To the left is an open view over rooftops and trees and I’m right in line with a big fluffy white cloud.  This cloud is probably bigger than an ocean liner.  It is floating slowly through the blue sky.

To the side I hear the roar of a jet engine and a shiny aerodynamic form cruises past, heading towards the fluffy cloud.  For the first time, I wonder what it must be like for the pilot, drawn inexorably into this massive expanse of whiteness.  From experience I know that clouds can be bumpy rides but the unspeakable horror of something else flying into it from the other direction…nah, that’s not possible in this day and age…

The plane gets smaller and smaller until the sun glints off a tiny silver speck.  I wait for it to be swallowed by the white cloud when, ever so gracefully, it curves away and downward, heading for the airport and out of my view.

I jump as suddenly a screeching white cockatoo cuts across my line of vision.  It is closer but follows the same flight path as the jet.  Still screeching to scare both friends and enemies, the cockatoo turns and mirrors the same downward arc, disappearing from sight.

Perhaps a philosophical parallel could be made, a bit of literary prose penned to suit the occasion.  However, it is just an illustration of everyday life and I can still hear the highway rumble, the neighbour’s dog barking and the postman on a small motorbike with squeaky brakes.  Nothing magical, no cheque in the mail, just suburban routine.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Cockatoo