Sunday, November 20, 2022

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT....

                                                           

 



 



 



 

The other night while watching the TV series “Blue Bloods”, which is not only a cop show, but tells the story of a close-knit family, I wondered if many families these days dine together; or are the kids and parents too busy with their heads buried in various devices.

When my now late brother and I were little, meal times were important, and were always spent at the table.  Sunday lunches, after we’d been to Sunday school, were major events. Dining together, at the table, might, to some, seem to be a little thing, but it’s not.  It’s very important. Doing so is necessary in the development of children; of their mind and their behaviour.

A while back I had difficulty working out how to operate an air pump to inflate my deflated car tyres. I muttered a few appropriate words. Fouling the atmosphere didn’t solve the problem, so I threw my hands in the air. My hands are attached to my arms, and didn’t come to grief.  

Fortunately, Sir Galahad, disguised as a fuel tank driver, came to the rescue of this old dame in distress.  In swashbuckling style he leapt from his trusty steed aka tanker.  The thoughtful gent approached, offering his assistance.  Accepting his considerate offer, I felt less of an idiot when he, too, at first, had difficulties operating the damn pump; but with the patience of Job he got the job done. His help meant a lot.  His kindness was no little thing.  I’d still be there doing battle with the pump, with hot air floating around everywhere, but into my car tyres!

The same morning of the above adventure more unexpected drama unfolded.  

When I was pushing my loaded trolley towards where my car was parked, my Iced Coffee Milk ‘bottle’ decided to leap free from the trolley.  As it began to roll downhill, my spontaneous, swift reaction surprised even me. Somehow, I managed to block its escape with my foot. The next problem I faced was stopping the errant trolley from rattling off with my purchases, crashing into, and destroying other cars on its way. The trolley was doing its best to skedaddle.  

A second complication I had to conquer was being able to bend down to pick the renegade milk coffee up off the ground without my falling head over turkey, thereby making a real goose out of myself.

Struggling to not fall over, similar words to those muttered under my breath a little while earlier were mumbled in the middle of IGA’s car park.  A young woman who had begun to pull out from her parking bay, turned off her car motor; got out of her car, and rushed to my aid, just as I, ungracefully, with a firm grip on the delinquent trolley, managed to pick up the milk. A major calamity was avoided. 

The young lady’s thoughtful gesture meant a lot to me, too.  There are many nice folk around.  I met a couple of them that morning. Both might have thought their actions meant little, but, to me, they meant a lot.

A spoonful of Crunchy Peanut Paste, aka “Peanut Butter”, is a little pleasure that means a lot to me.  I love digging deep into a jar of Crunchy Peanut Paste, and often do. Not a very lady-like habit, I know, but I won’t be gracing Buckingham Castle’s dining tables anytime soon. However, don’t knock it until you try it!  Forget the spoonful of sugar….apologies to Mary Poppins…a spoonful of crunchy peanut paste all the way every day!

Frequent serenades at my screen door by my neighbours, Mr and Mrs Magpie, and their kids, as well as the Butcherbirds might seem minor, but to me, their joyful presence means a lot.

Small gestures of kindness; a smile; encouraging words; taking time to listen, to understand; shared laughter…thoughtful behaviour is welcome, always, amidst the daily turmoil…genuine expressions of goodwill.  Little things do mean a lot.  Generosity of spirit…to quote Anne Frank; No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Crispy Peanut Paste Biscuits: Preheat oven, 177C.  Combine 3/4c Crunchy Peanut Paste, 1/2c unsalted soft butter, 1/2c brown sugar and 1/2c sugar. Cream, about 4mins, scraping down sides; add 1 egg and 1tbs vanilla; beat well; add 1/4tsp salt, 1-1/2c plain flour and 1tsp baking soda. Mix at low speed until flour is worked in. Up mixer speed to full for last 2secs. Scoop about 28g of mixture onto paper-lined baking sheet. With a fork, tap on some of the dough left in bowl to moisten; dip in sugar; create crosshatch pattern on biscuits, tamping fork in sugar after each press. Bake 12-14mins, just until top and edges begin to turn golden. 

 Crispy Peanut Balls: Put 1/2c Peanut Paste (crunchy or smooth) in bowl; stir to loosen. Stir in 1/4c maple syrup. Add 1c rolled oats, 1/4c desiccated coconut, 1tbs chia seeds, 1-1/2tbs unsweetened cacao powder and pinch of salt. Stir until combined. Pick up small chunks of dough; roll between your palms to form balls; gently press dough together to compress it.  Place in air-tight container; store at room temp for up to a week.

 Easy 3-Ingredient Chrissy Cake: Combine 1kg mixed dried fruit and 600ml iced coffee flavoured milk in bowl. Cover and place in fridge overnight to soak.  Remove bowl from fridge; set aside 30mins to come to room temp.  Preheat oven 180C/160C fan. Grease a 22cm round cake pan; line base and side with baking paper. Stir 300g S.R. flour into fruit mixture until just combined. Pour into pan. Smooth surface. Bake 1hr 30mins or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Set aside in pan 3mins to cool slightly before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.   

 

 

Friday, November 11, 2022

LITTERERS LITERALLY LITTER!

 

Newry Island
                                             
The northern rear end of Newry Island and the narrow channel between it and Rabbit Island

 

Annette Kellermann

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20171101-the-amazing-life-of-australias-million-dollar-mermaid

 



On the subject of litter one shouldn’t be a fence-sitter. Perhaps the minds of some are filled with litter because they fritter away too much time on twitter.  

I can’t help but get angry when I see rubbish defacing our landscape. The other day I’d driven only a few metres along Main Western Road, which is just around the corner from where I dwell, before I spotted an empty can marring the scenery…one can too many. The ignorant transmitter of the litter had wantonly, in passing, tossed the can out a car window.  

If only the twits who litter realised they don’t need the brain of an Einstein to understand dumping their garbage in bins where it belongs is what should be done. It’s simple, really..  Brain surgery isn’t required to figure it out, and not a lot of energy is needed to do the job. 

Maybe the litterbugs do need brain surgery; instead of eating chips, and thoughtlessly tossing emptied packets out car windows, an anti-littering chip could be inserted into their brain! 

It’s easy to become embittered by the thoughtless behavior of litterers.  Along with the no fence-sitting, there’s no hairsplitting regarding the folly of littering.  How I wish the litter critters would become quitters!  There are no withdrawal symptoms.

In the mid-80s when I was manager of the now non-existent resort at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island, the National Park Rangers, who patrolled and maintained the visitors’ facilities e.g walking tracks etc., whose duties included the management of marine-life, wildlife, vegetation et al, decided to try a previously untried experiment at Macushla, a camping area in Missionary Bay, on the north-east side of the island, between the resort and the mainland. 

Bins were supplied for campers to dispose of their waste, but most of the rubbish ended scattered about on the ground than in the bins. The rangers discovered native wildlife (not of the human kind) was the culprit. Scavenging among the bins looking for food, dispersing the refuse everywhere but in the bins provided, four-legged, furry critters, and resident goannas (monitor lizards) were the offenders.

The rangers’ unusual trial was to remove the bins.  Secretly, I didn’t believe their experiment would succeed. I gave it one chance in 10 million of working. However, much…very much… to my surprise, succeed it did!

Strangely, visitors, seeing there were no rubbish bins available, took their waste with them when they left. In turn, the wildlife no longer had bins through which to rifle. Sadly, these days it appears, with the amount of litter carelessly discarded where it shouldn’t be, human behavior has changed drastically over the past three decades…and   
not for the better.

A bad example of littering is the behavior of some amateur fishermen in their tinnies. Those who take along a carton of beer-filled stubbies to quench their thirst while dropping a line. After downing the beer, they throw the lethal glass weapons overboard.  Those glass weapons are not just a mere drop in the ocean! I don’t understand their mindset. If they can take beer-filled cartons out with them, why can’t they take the empty bottles home rather than toss them into the ocean? 

Every morning before I began my day when I looked after the small, humble resort on Newry Island, north-east of Seaforth, north of Mackay, I strolled along the water’s edge scouring the beach for broken glass. Unfortunately, too often I found what I was looking for.

Nowadays, only ruins of the buildings are left on what was once one of the earliest resorts in the area. Newry Island National Park lies within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. 

Previously I’ve told the tale about Annette Kellermann whose brother, along with his wife, in the 1930s, lived on the island.  Kellerman, a professional swimmer, vaudeville star, film actress and writer often visited during his tenure. 

As the story goes, Annette swam, probably more than once, from the island across to Seaforth, and return. Not a difficult feat considering in 1905, at the age of 19, she attempted to swim the English Channel. 

The 1952 movie, “Million Dollar Mermaid”, starring Esther Williams in the role of Annette Kellerman, is a biographical film of the life of the Aussie star.  For those reading this who are members of younger generations than mine, “Google” both ladies…interesting lives they led.

Freely, honestly, and literally, I admit I’m far from perfect in every manner, shape and form…but a litterer I am not.  Don’t you be, either….

 

Sweet Potato Fritters: Preheat oven 200C. Peel and grate 2 medium sweet potatoes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible; put into bowl. Add 100g crumbled feta, a handful finely chopped shallot stalks, 1-2tsps smoked paprika, 1tsp garlic-infused oil and 1/4tsp chilli flakes. Add 3 beaten eggs and 80g flour of choice. Mix well. Form into patties; place on oil-sprayed lined baking tray; spray patties lightly with oil. Bake, 25-30mins. Flip over halfway through. Serve with Avocado Dip: Place ½ large avo, 1/4c plain Greek yoghurt, 10 basil leaves and salt to taste in blender.  Blend on med-low until smooth.

Vegetable Fritters: Place 2c shredded zucchini in colander; sprinkle lightly with salt; let sit 10mins; then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Transfer to bowl; add 2c shredded carrots, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2/3rd c plain flour, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1/3rd c sliced shallots (green & white parts), 1/4tsp salt and 1/8tsp pepper. Heat 2tbs olive oil in large pan. Scoop mounds of mix into pan; flatten slightly; space at least 1cm apart. Cook 2-3mins; flip once; cook further 1-2mins. Drain on paper-towel-lined plate; serve topped with sour cream or yoghurt.

Peach Fritters: Heat oil in pan on a med-heat. In bowl, whisk 1/2c sour cream and ½ whole milk. Add 2tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp salt, 2 egg, 3tbs sugar, 1/2tsp cinnamon; beat until it comes together.  Add 1-1/2c plain flour and 2tbs melted butter; don’t over-mix. Fold in 3 or 4 chopped peaches. Drop 1 or 2 heaped tbs of batter into hot oil; fry about 2-3mins per side. Don’t over-crowd. Drizzle glaze made with 1/2c icing sugar mixed with 1tbs milk over cooked fritters.   

 


Sunday, October 23, 2022

AND THE MUSIC GOES ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND….

 

 
 
 


 

                                      

                            

          
                                      




 

Once a month a Gympie friend phones for a chat…a lengthy chat.  He and I first met circa 1960.  He was…still is…four years older than me.

In the late 50s he, along with four mates, formed a band.  Immediately they became very popular. Their group, “The Starbrites” played many gigs throughout Gympie and surrounding areas, as well as sharing their music with crowds at well-known Brisbane venues.  Their repertoire consisted pop, rock, country, and ballads, all of which the group played with free-spirited, professional aplomb.

Upon leaving high school to join the “working world”, weekly, often bi-weekly, I attended the local dances and record hops.  A regular on the dance floor, I loved to dance.  My friends and I waltzed, fox-trotted, twisted, limbo-ed, and be-bop-a-lula-ed every chance we got. We made sure we never missed a chance to dance. 

I had a secret crush on the The Starbrites’ handsome young drummer.  The furtive looks he flashed my way as I tripped the light fantastic, without ever tripping over, showed he had similar feelings towards me. We never acted on our hidden desires, though.  Love at arms’ length it was.

More than three decades later, shortly after my brother Graham’s passing, my teenage crush and I chatted on the phone.  It was the first time we’d talked in many a long year. During our conversation he told me the reason our romance never got off the ground…or the dance floor. 

Unknown by me at the time, my brother Graham, having sensed the beating of our hearts, warned my admirer off!  Graham figured part of his role as an older brother was to keep would-be suitors at bay.  My brother might have believed my welfare was his priority, but if I’d wanted to be cloistered I would’ve become a nun, but of that, I would have none!

Music played a major role throughout our childhood. Our piano was rarely idle. Sing-a-longs around it were frequent. The piano was gifted to our grandparents on their wedding day. The steel-framed Irving Upright had belonged to an aunty of our grandfather.  As mentioned in previous posts, our mother was brilliant pianist.  With nimble fingers that effortlessly flew up and down the key board, Mum mastered all genres of music….with or without help of sheet music.  

My brother loved to tease. I wasn’t his sole target.  Often after dinner I’d attack the ebony and ivory, while Nana, lost in a world of her own, continued to fiddle about in the kitchen.  Most nights Mum would be working.  Through the years she worked long hours as a barmaid.  Many chilly winter early morns Mum also picked beans on farms in the Gympie area.  

Our kitchen was within close proximity to where the piano stood.  After I’d played a few tunes, on cue, Graham and I, with mischievous twinkles in our eyes, would nod in silent accord.  I’d then begin playing “Love Letters in the Sand”…a song that was first released decades before in 1931; a song, which through the years had been resurrected many times, most notably, and successfully, by Pat Boone in the late 50s.

Without fail, after playing only a couple of notes, Nana’s sweet voice would fill the air as she sang along unaware….completely oblivious…she was doing so. That is, until Graham and I broke out into loud laughter.  She’d then realise we’d tricked her once again,  Nana would shake her head in feigned annoyance, before bursting into joyful laughter.  Each and every time I began playing “Love Letters in the Sand” Nana would burst into song and, once again, our devious plan had worked.  A happy memory it is.

The last time I played the piano, any piano, was in 1974, the day after our mother passed away.  Before leaving to fly back to Brisbane, with Nana sitting close by in quiet reverie, I played some of Mum’s favourites, which included,“On the Sunny Side of the Street”, “Walking My Baby Back Home”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”…and her all-time favourite… Hoagy Carmichael’s, “Stardust”.

With Nana’s passing two years later. In 1976, Graham gave the piano to a Mackay pre-school.  I hope the piano continued to bring years of joy to the children.  Who knows?  Perhaps, it still is...

My musical Gympie mate who rings me monthly (he rang me on Saturday just gone, and once again, we covered a lot of territory, and shared lots of laughs) still plays guitar and sings.  He’s constantly updating his catalogue of songs because he regularly visits Gympie’s aged care facilities to entertain the residents. 

The Starbrites broke up many years ago. My friend is the last man standing, but the music goes on. and on.  It’s wonderful he is still, to this day, at the age he is now, sharing his talent, and love of music with others…selflessly brightening their lives.

 

Green Bean Salad: Combine 500g cooked, fresh green beans, 330g Three-Bean mix, 1 chopped red capsicum and 1 sliced onion.  Mix together, ½c x-virgin olive oil, 3tbs vinegar, 2tbs brown sugar, 1/2tsp mustard powder, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1tsp dried basil leaves. Pour over bean mix; chill for a few hours.

Beans & Tomato Salad: Trim 500g green beans; leave whole. Cook in boiling water until crisp tender, 3-5mins. Don’t overcook. Drain; cool. Cut away core of 6 tomatoes; cut into wedges.  Use a punnet of whole cherry tomatoes, if preferred,  In salad bowl, combine 2tbs Dijon mustard, 2tbs red wine vinegar, 4tbs finely chopped shallots, 1tbs finely chopped garlic, 4tbs x-olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add beans and tomatoes; toss well; sprinkle with 4tbs coarsely chopped basil.

Almondine Beans: Steam 500g fresh green beans until just tender. Meanwhile in a pan, melt 3tbs butter.  Add 1tsp crushed garlic, 1-1/2tbs lemon juice and 1/3c sliced almonds. Sauté, stirring frequently until almonds are slightly browned.  Be careful not to overcook the garlic. Add beans to serving dish; pour butter and almond mix over top

 






Sunday, October 09, 2022

WHO AM I? WHAT AM I?

Graphite drawing I did a few years ago

 


 


The above are million dollar questions to which I’m not sure I have the answers without boring you senseless, or to sleep, by going into lengthy detail.  I know I’m an old bird, of that there is no dispute.  However, the unsettling part is I think I’m becoming a kookaburra, which is most unbecoming.  Please don’t misunderstand me…I love kookaburras, but I’ve never considered being one.  The kookas probably wouldn’t like the idea, either.

The reason for my concern is not my waking up at sparrow’s whatever, but it’s because lately I’m waking up around the same moment the kookaburras start laughing, which, as spring unfolds, is getting earlier and earlier each morning.  Why the birds find it so funny is a both a source of puzzlement to me, and amusement. Maybe my kookaburra neighbours are happy because they believe we’re birds of a feather, and that’s the reason they’re encouraging me to join them in their early morning frivolity. 

I, for one, do not want daylight saving!  It’s no laughing matter.  I experienced the day-light saving trial in 1989/1990 when I was living in tropical Far North Queensland.  It was a giant pain in the proverbial!  I was climbing out of bed before birds of all feathers woke, and I was working long into the still-sun-filled nights!

My circadian clock was way out of whack.  Please note…”circadian”…not cicada!  An old bird I might be, but I’ve not begun to morph into an insect…not yet, anyway.   Am I droning on too much?

It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself, though.  I’m always laughing at my own self.  Perhaps it is me I hear each morning, not the kookaburras.  I’ll apologise to the birds, if that is the case.

A perfect example of my comedic-self occurred the other day when I was doing my grocery shopping at IGA, our local supermarket.  As I reached for a container of milk, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of someone to my right.  She wore a red top on similar to the one I was wearing that morning.  I turned to smile and pass a friendly word of good cheer when I realized I was looking at my own reflection in the mirror at the end of the dairy display! 

And you wonder why I keep dodging those blokes cruising around in their vans, armed with jackets (and nets) at the ready!  One also wonders why I’m allowed out unaccompanied, let alone allowed out at all!  I’m surprised the locals don’t run off screaming in fear…and horror…every time I venture forth.  I guess it’s just as well I never venture often, or venture far…very rarely venturing farther than North Tamborine.

Between you, me and my non-existent garden gate, I believed word had finally gotten around one Monday morning earlier this month.  When I arrived at IGA the roller doors were down, bolted securely. I thought everyone, fearful of my pending appearance, had gone into hiding.  To my relief I discovered (with the helpful advice from a pleasant young lady who showed no fear being in my presence) because it was a public holiday, the supermarket wasn’t opening until 9 am.  As always, I was at the centre bright and early, a few minutes past 7 am. “The early bird catches the worm”, as the saying goes. I didn’t find any worms…not that I was looking, if that’s what you’re thinking.  

Shaking my tail feathers, I hopped into the newsagency to grab the daily papers and a couple of magazines. Rather than wait around for the supermarket to open, I flew home.  There, for the rest of the day, I remained, tackling puzzles, including Sudoku.  Ruffling my feathers, flapping my wings, I tore my hair out over Sudoku!   One would think I’d give up on the numbers’ games, but no!  I won’t let Sudoku beat me!  I’m a demon for punishment, that’s what I am!   

You’ve got to laugh!  And, we birds of a feather must stick together.  Now I’ll stop flapping my gums!

 

Mushroom Soup: Bring 600ml water to boil; add 1 vegetable stock cube, 200g diced spuds; season to taste. Reduce heat; simmer until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat; set aside.  Heat pan over med-high heat; add 20g butter; when melted, add 1 diced medium onion and 2 minced garlic cloves. Sauté until onions are just softened; add 300g diced white mushrooms; season. Cook until mushrooms have softened. Remove pan from heat; add the onions and mushrooms to pot with spuds in it. Puree with stick blender, or transfer to processor. Place mixture back on med-heat; stir in 200m cream.  When first bubbles appear on surface, turn off heat. Serve soup topped with freshly chopped chives and reserved mushroom slices.

Wise Chicken Milk Delight: Season 1-1/2kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs with salt, black pepper and paprika. Heat 3tbs x-virgin olive oil in large pan; add 8 garlic cloves; cook until golden on both sides. Transfer to bowl; set aside. Pan sear the chicken, in batches, on each side until a little golden; set aside; keep warm while working in batches so as to not overload the pan. Add 2-1/2c milk to pan chicken has been cooked in; use spatula to scrape all brown bits from bottom of pan; bring milk to gentle simmer. Add 20 fresh sage leaves, garlic and chicken back to pan with the milk sauce; bring to gentle simmer; cover with lid. Cook 30mins. Remove lid; continue simmering on low heat for another 15mins, until chicken is tender and sauce has reduced to your liking. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve garnished with chopped parsley, sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of x-virgin olive oil.