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A midsummer's picnic




A drizzly grey evening was not what I had in mind when planning a midsummer picnic. In my mind, we were going to be sitting on picnic blankets, basking in the warm sunlight and watching the sun set over golden meadows, dotted with great bales of freshly cut hay.

Instead, we rugged up with coats and scarves, wellies and beanies, and headed to the field anyway, determined to enjoy the longest day whatever weather this crazy Tasmanian summer threw our way.

There's something magical about midsummer, the solstice, a day for being outside and marking the turning point when the days start to get ever so shorter again (already?!).

A day worth marking in my books.

We sat in the drizzle, hoping it would pass, and supped on a summertime feast of hot-smoked salmon, watercress and dill, soft boiled eggs and loads of radishes.  For sweets there were the most fragrant of strawberries, chocolate coins and a bottle of prosecco to mark the occasion.

The children weren't bothered at all by the weather, and, looking like they'd just stepped out of a Boden catalogue, ran through the meadows playing hide and seek in the long grass, and rode their bikes speedily down the long steep hills.

We made our way home in the gloaming, and honestly walked through the door as it just got dark at 10pm.

Of course, today is the perfect weather for a midsummer picnic, so we'll probably head out and do it all again. As they say, you've got to make hay while the sunshines.

On track



I feel an immense sense of achievement when I can say that to myself, I'm on track. I'm on track for December. On track for Christmas, on track for school holidays, on track for the garden.

Of course, I could be slightly more on track, if that's such a thing, (are you either on or off? Is there a midway point?) I could have more Christmas shopping done, sent off dozens of hand made cards, organised a school holiday vacation, heck I could have even put up a Christmas tree. Luckily there's still time to organise some of that.

However let's focus on what I have done shall we? And that is made a start on making gifts, made an advent calendar and filled it with treats, and planted a modest summer garden of cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis and beans that's well underway.  But most importantly, I've been there for my tired busy children who have a hectic schedule as the school year draws to a close.   That is as on track as I need to be.

As for making gifts, I'm going through a cordial stage at the moment, vinegary ones to be precise. While a pantry full of jam might languish on the shelf for a season or two, when it comes to homemade cordials, I can barely keep up with the demand. I like to sip a cordial of an evening maybe with a splash of gin, and while we all drink gallons of water, there is something quite refreshing after a hard slog in the garden to sip a homemade cordial in the shade.

Right now, we're on a shrub craze, an old fashioned cordial made with equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar.  There's loads of recipes around on the web, but I'm loving the one from the Do Preserve book, made of Strawberry and Mint, which are both flourishing in the garden right now.

So I can add that to my on track list, and feel smug about my shrub, made from homegrown strawberries and mint from the garden.

How about you?  Are you on track?



Ghosted

I left that noisy room last week. No announcements, no pleas to keep in touch, I simply ghosted and quietly left forever.

At first, I did love being there. Enjoyed the discussions, the laughs, the company and connecting with family and friends. But over the years, things started to change. There was a sinister side; the snark, the nasty comments, the hideous news feed, all things that didn't sit well. Then there was the just plain wasting time, dwelling on what didn't really matter. But mostly, being there stopped me from being present. Present with my family, with my IRL friends, with my own thoughts.  I needed to make a clean break. So I've left for good.  And I don't even miss it. So long Facebook. Nice knowing you.

Anyway, I'm going to hang out here a bit more.  Like a long lost old friend, let's pick up where we left off shall we?  I may be a bit wobbly on my feet at first, but like Kate's lentil pancake, things will get better.  To celebrate, I've uploaded a new blogger template from super stylish  Gatto. Ain't it lovely?!



With more time, more head space and a shiny new blog, I feel all inspired to start writing again (I know, I know, I said that back in October) but it helps to have a brand new notebook to scribble in don't you think? A crisp new page to start afresh.  I'll be taking more photos, hanging out in the garden. It needs me, (as you can see above) and so do my kids.

So tell me, are you addicted to Facebook? Ever thought of quitting?

lessons from the chicken house




Here's a post from the draft files.  Written at the beginning of September last year, the roosters, are a distant memory now. Although the hens are still laying like the clappers like they do every spring, and with a weather forecast today of 10 degrees, feeling wistful for warmer weather is as relevant today as it was last September.... 

Feeling a little wistful for warmer weather and dreaming of summer apricots, today I needed to bake something nostalgic. Using all the eggs our girls our  laying right now.    

Things are a little sad at the chicken house, as we lost two of our roosters this week.  Spike, our lovely handsome Barnevelder rooster and his son,  who had no name and was shunned to live on the outer, are now both gone.  Mauled to death by a dog.  And while yes, there is a sense of relief that the early morning crowing has stopped, I can't help but think what a dreadful way for the poor creatures to die.    

Then there is Charlotte, my very first Barnevelder, the oldest hen in the flock who now, at the grand old age of seven years old, is feeble and weak. Charlotte's always had trouble with her legs, a few wobbly spells, but she always recovered with some confinement and rest. But now she can't walk.   She seems happy in herself, still eating and getting up when she has to, but still, I wonder what to do. Let nature take it's course or.....

Despite my feelings of grief over the roosters, the hens are laying like the clappers and we're enjoying the bounty of at least eight eggs a day.  We fry them for breakfast, make Spanish tortillas for tea, and bake plenty of cakes.  Like this Victoria sponge, filled with a jar of last summer's apricot jam and plenty of billowy whipped cream.

This morning, as I fed the hens, I was greeted by the most lovely of surprises, a mother hen with two little chicks, so sweet and fluffy. So lovely to see new life and along with the cake cheered us up no end.     

Lessons learned today.   Life goes on in the chicken house and cake makes everything better. 



Victoria Sponge

This is my go to cake recipe, hands down. I make it all the time and I love it because you don't need a recipe. The weight of your eggs determines the weight of your other ingredients.   You can vary the flavor by exchanging fresh fruit filling for jam, or any berries with cream would be delicious. And for a lemon cake use lemon zest instead of vanilla in the cake batter.

Three large eggs
Butter, softened
Castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Self raising flour

6 tablespoons of jam
250ml of cream, whipped to soft peaks

Take three eggs and weigh them in their shells. This weight will be the weight you use of sugar, butter and flour as well.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins.

Beat sugar, butter and vanilla in a stand mixer until creamy and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each one, about 20 seconds.

Slowly flour, a third at time until well incorporated.

You may need a splash of milk here to soften the batter.

Divide the mix between the cake tins, place into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden brown.

The cakes should spring back when gently pushed in the middle.

When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.

Spread the jam onto one cake and top with the cream. Sandwich the cakes together and dust with icing sugar.





No More Cats



It's quiet here.

Like an abandoned village. Or a remote windswept paddock that nobody visits. But I don't mind. That's why I like it.

It's calm and soothing, away from the noise and distraction.

So here I shall be, clearing my thoughts. Writing some words that I might use later. Or perhaps not.
That's really not the point. It's somewhere to keep track of my thoughts, the words and ideas, that really are feeling a little smothered of late.

Too much work, too much noise. Too many other pretty things to look at.

My words feel smothered and weak. I try to get them up and moving about. Set them free.
C'mon! Let's go out words, stretch our legs, write some words I say.  But my writing muscle feels feeble and weak.  "No, not today"  that writing muscle tells me, "let's scroll Facebook for cats instead"

"Okay! Yes let's do that!"  I usually say. But it won't do. Not any more. I need to get going. Move around, play with words. I love it when my brain is full of words just wanting to get out. But now my brain is full of mush and pictures of cats.  How can I write anything with a brain full of mush and stupid cat memes?

So here I will be writing to you, anybody? Trying to write a little bit more so I can get going again.  I'll find those words, grow them, nurture them, and pull them into line.

Maybe I'll press the publish button. Or maybe I'll press the save button, and keep these little thoughts filed away as drafts.  Like a savings account. For words I like.