Wednesday, 30 May 2012

... to cook with Autumn produce

Apple and Pear Jam for Autumn
Today was the day I was going to make orange marmalade. So on my daily walk I called into the new fruit and vegetable shop that has opened in our town. But ... no oranges.
  'We sell only produce grown locally,' the owner told me. There were some luscious looking pears and apples in the store so I changed my plan.
  This is what I made instead, in the microwave. This recipe makes 2 jars of jam.
Apple and Pear Jam
  • 3 apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 pears, peeled and finely chopped
  • juice and zest of a lemon
  • 600 gm sugar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, washed
  1. In a large microwave-proof bowl, cook apples and pears in a little water until soft.
  2. Drain the water off and put the cooked pulp back in the bowl.
  3. Stir in the lemon zest & juice, sugar and cider vinegar.
  4. Microwave on high for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. (Check after 15 minutes by putting a little on a cold saucer to see how it is setting).
  5. Pour into sterilized jars.
  6. Add a sprig of rosemary to each jar and cover while hot.
This jam goes a lovely golden color when cooked and is not too sweet. The rosemary gives it a subtle flavor that is unusual.
  Give it a try and see what you think!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

... to Watch the Birds

The New Zealand Native Wood Pigeon (keruru)
The native wood pigeons are back! I heard the noisy 'swoosh, swoosh' of wings and looked out to see four gorging themselves on the fruit of the guava tree. They'll provide me with hours of entertainment now for a couple of weeks, till they have stripped the guava trees and moved on to ... who knows where.
  With their large, plump bodies and broad white chests they look like the avian equivalent of cuddly teddy bears. They are so heavy that when they land in trees the branches bend alarmingly. I always expect to hear the creak and crack of breaking wood.
  The Maori name for the handsome wood pigeon is keruru or kukupa. I dashed outside to snap this photo of one while it was sitting still, taking a break from gulping down the guavas.

Monday, 28 May 2012

... to Smile at Strangers

Smiles in Singapore's Chinatown
Look at this happy face! You can't help but smile back, can you? 
  This morning I found a quotation that really appealed to me: 

You find yourself refreshed by the presence of cheerful people. Why not make an earnest effort to confer that pleasure on others? (Lydia Maria Child)
So when I was out walking today, I decided I would smile at strangers. Perhaps they would grin back. Perhaps they would look at me as if I were strange. Perhaps they'd ignore me.
  I smiled at the old man walking his dog through the park. He doffed his cap and said hello. 
  I smiled at the teenage girls sitting on the skateboard ramp. They ignored me. (Obviously, when you're waiting for boys to arrive, you save your smiles for them!)
  I grinned at the little kids zooming down the slide in the children's playground. They beamed. 
  And I smiled at the Chinese lady who was out in her backyard feeding her ducks. She speaks no English. She didn't need to. The huge smile and wave she gave me transcended language. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

... to Write a Note to a Friend

The Hand-Written Letter
It is so quick and easy to send an email or text message to a friend, isn't it? But my computer has been hiccuping and doing strange things the last few days and is now in the repair shop.
  Today I wanted to connect with a friend to let her know how much I admired her art work. So I took the time to communicate the old-fashioned way - I wrote a note.
  I had forgotten the pleasure of selecting a pretty card, choosing a pen, addressing an envelope. The very act of writing by hand made me think more carefully about the message I wanted to convey.
  It's a shame the art of letter writing, of putting pen to paper, is becoming lost in this age of technology. Think of all the hand-written ephemera in museums and libraries around the world. How we can, by accessing these treasures, still read the letters Napoleon wrote to Josephine when he was on campaign, the sonnets of Shakespeare scribbled with a quill pen on parchment, the illuminated manuscripts painstakingly written by monks hunched over their desks in their monastery's scriptorium.
  An email printed out on A4 copy paper doesn't have the same appeal, does it?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

... to Chase Butterflies

A Monarch Butterfly
I took the time today to follow a butterfly because, so the saying goes, 'butterflies lead you to the sunny side of the life'. 
  And this monarch, late to leave after summer, did lead me on a merry dance. With camera in hand, I stalked it from the geraniums down by the lawn to the bright pink nerine flowers on the deck and back again.
  It stayed still there long enough for me to get this photo. And then, with a dainty flit of its wings, the butterfly fluttered by.

... For a Picnic

Algies Bay
The golden weather is due to end tomorrow, according to the weather forecast. So we took the time today to pack a picnic lunch and head out to the beach while the sun still shone.
   Algies Bay was calm. We had the whole beach to ourselves, apart from the officious seagulls and the scurrying oystercatchers. The smallest sounds were so clear in the still air: the swish of the wavelets on the sand; the red-billed gulls stamping their feet in the shallows; the tuis singing high in the pohutukawa trees.
Nature's Treasure - a Clam Shell
  I picked up a treasure on my walk along the beach - a tiny white clam shell. I put it in my pocket, to add to my collection of beach finds when I got home.
  Despite the sun hot on our faces and silvering the sea, the islands looked dark and close, a sure sign of approaching rain, my father always says. And the clouds looked different too, heavier and greyer. 
  We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Take the Time Today to Enjoy the Season: Autumn

Liquidambar Leaves in Autumn Tones
Every morning when I open my bedroom curtains, I see these liquidambar leaves glowing golden. What a wonderful way to start the day - close to nature!
  I cannot remember when we last had such a glorious autumn - blue, clear skies, no wind, and warming sunshine. It is such a pleasure to walk through the park each day, to sit outside in the sun for lunch, to potter in the garden. 
  Autumn is my favorite season. I don't mind the crisp mornings and cooler nights, although it's not cold enough yet to light a fire. 
  I love the low afternoon sun that casts golden light and long shadows over the hills. I love the spectacular sunsets when the sky turns to flame. And I love the spiderwebs that appear overnight, slung between posts on the deck, bejeweled with dewdrops in the morning.