Friday, 29 June 2012 Shop Locally

Matakana Farmers Market
It was a cold, bleak morning today but we got out of bed earlier than usual and headed to our local farmers market. It was bustling with customers, stall holders, musicians and teenage girls who had set up a dog-minding service for shoppers. People clustered round the outdoor fireplaces, warming their hands on cups of free trade coffee and hot chocolate. 
  It was all good-spirited and friendly. Growers gave away free samples of their organic produce and were, as always, happy to chat to customers about the provenance of their food.
  It was hard to choose what to buy, there was such a range of delicious goodies. I filled my shopping bag with sour dough bread from the artisan baker, gouda cheese from a local cheesemaker, mustard and pickles from the home-produced condiments stalls, and lots of fresh vegetables that had been picked only last night. Oh, and a container of nuts and seeds, a bottle of macadamia nut oil, and a bottle of verjuice from a boutique vineyard.
  It felt good to come away from the farmers market knowing I had supported local producers, had bought organic vegetables, and had the makings of a fresh and healthy lunch. Yum!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

... to Really Relax

I have been reading about 'moon gates', those circular doorways often found in Chinese gardens. As a garden art feature they are stunning. But they have a deeper meaning also. They symbolise passing from the hectic, everyday world into the peaceful surroundings of the garden.
  From busy-ness to tranquillity.
The Moon Gate at Sydney's Chinese Gardens
  So often we feel stretched like an elastic band because of all the demands on us - work, deadlines, family, pressures we put on ourselves. So often we are too busy to take the time to relax, even for five minutes.
  And I thought how it would be easy to 'build' a moon gate in your mind. When life was getting too frantic, you could visualise leaving behind the stresses and strains, stepping through the moon gate, and moving into a place of quiet and beauty.
  Somewhere you could really relax. Even if only for five minutes. Even if only long enough to take ten deep breaths, to feel refreshed, before you stepped back through the moon gate and into the real world.

Sunday, 24 June 2012 Feed the Birds

I get so much pleasure from watching the birds that visit our garden. And now it's winter I put out food for them each morning. It didn't take the mynahs and sparrows long to work out where and when to appear. They're waiting for me every day and if I'm a bit late appearing, they fly up close to the windows as if to hurry me up!

Ingredients for Birdseed Cakes
  I make birdseed 'cakes', a batch at a time and keep them in the fridge. They take five minutes to make, cost only a few cents, and are much appreciated by our hungry feathered friends.
  Here's what you need. You don't have to have exact measurements.

  • dripping or lard
  • wild bird seed (from the supermarket or garden centre)
  • breadcrumbs
  • extras such as chopped peanuts, popcorn, raisins (whatever you have on hand)
  1. In a microwave safe jug, melt some lard.
  2. Stir in enough birdseed and extras to make a thick mixture.
  3. Spoon into patty pan tins or little plastic moulds and set in fridge.
  And that's all there is to it!  
  I got such a surprise today. Out on the lawn, pecking away, was a turtle dove! I've never seen one round here before. In fact I had to 'google images' it to check what it was. Now all I need is to find a partridge in the pear tree and I'll be really happy!
A Turtle Dove in our Garden

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

... to Celebrate the Winter Solstice

Keep Warm for Winter Solstice
Down here at the bottom of the world it is the Winter Solstice today. The sun is at its northernmost point, denoting the longest night and the shortest day. The day has been a mix of rain and sun - as I'm writing this a huge rainbow is arcing the sky.That's always a good omen, isn't it?
  I had thought we'd have friends around for a hearty dinner of roast pork, then spend the evening in front of the fire, playing Trivial Pursuit. But I'm afraid this unsettled weather has caught up with me and I have a bad cold. So the only celebrating I'll be doing tonight is sitting in front of the fire with a hot water bottle and a box of tissues!
  But that's OK. Because now we are on the halfway mark of the year, and it's all downhill to summer!

Saturday, 16 June 2012 Change a Routine

Today I decided to do something different. I would change my morning routine.
  My husband leaps out of bed in the early mornings, whistling and happy, ready to get stuck into a new day. I, on the other hand, am more inclined to snuggle down under the duvet and doze off again. Eventually I'll haul myself out of bed to make a cup of coffee but I don't want to speak to anyone until I'm fully awake.
  "You miss the best part of the day," he, the ex-farmer who has had years of early wake-up calls, is always telling me.
Winter's Early Morning Mist
  Today I got up soon after sunrise and went out onto the deck. This beautiful scene was my reward.
                  Don't let your habits become handcuffs  (E. Berg)

Perhaps I'll change other routines and see what surprises that will bring into my life. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

... to Click for Good

Donate rice to the World Food Programme by clicking your computer mouse
If you're like me, you'll spend time playing games on your computer - Freecell, Mahjong, Solitaire. I find it relaxing and a way of being 'in the moment'.
  Now I've found a new on-line 'game' that is just as relaxing but does good for others at the same time. Plus you learn something each time you play. So it has that 'feel good' factor and the satisfaction of knowing that you've helped someone and enriched your own life as well. All it takes is for you to click!
  It's a website called Free Rice, run by the World Food Programme. Each time you get a right answer to a question, you donate 10 grains of rice. Ten grains doesn't sound like much, but they soon add up into the thousands the more you play.
  You choose which subjects you want to play. My favourite is 'Famous Paintings' closely followed by 'English Vocabulary'. I learn something new each time as I progress through the levels.
  I thought I had a reasonable knowledge of world geography, that is until I tried playing the 'World Capitals' category. My stars, I hadn't heard of some of the countries let alone the capital cities! All those obscure African states which change their names every so often and the plethora of European ones that end in 'zistan' really confused me.
  Do you know which country has Bujumbura as its capital? Go to Free Rice to find out!

Monday, 11 June 2012

... to Celebrate Winter's Colours

The Colours of Winter
It's a bleak, grey day today. Even the wood pigeon in the guava tree has stopped his greedy eating and is sitting still with feathers puffed up, hoping for some sunshine, I expect.
  So to brighten the day I gathered these examples of cheerful winter colours. I brought them indoors and arranged them in a leaf-shaped bowl. The glowing orange of the persimmons, the sunny yellow of the lemons, and the red berries of the cotoneaster, make me smile each time I look at them!

Friday, 8 June 2012

... to Walk a Different Path

I've been thinking about where I walk every day - always through the park and then up to the shops, or round the block, or down to the main road and back up the walkway, or along the ridge road, or down the new road and back up the hill. 
  I like going through the park. There are often children on the playground,  families having picnics, kids testing their skill on the skateboard ramp, or people walking dogs. Sometimes I meet others I know to exchange hellos as we step aside to let each other pass on the narrow footpath.
  I like to see the changes in the park as the months go by and watch the birds and butterflies that swoop among the bushes and trees.
  Today, I headed off in a new direction, out into the countryside. The sun was casting low shadows across the hills, the wind was cold, but I delighted in the different view as I walked a different path. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

... to Take Joy

'...within our reach is joy. Take Joy!'
It was very tempting today to wallow in misery. I had several reasons why I didn't feel like greeting the day with glee - cold weather, worry about my sick brother, being in a lot of pain. 
  But as I lay in bed, a quotation came to mind, written in 1513 by Fra Giovanni, an Italian artist .

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take Joy!

And I realised that it was entirely up to me whether I had a gloomy day or a joyful one. So I got out of bed and I took joy. 
  How is your day going?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

... to Cook a Right Royal Meal

A Royal Diamond Jubilee Menu
I've been watching television coverage of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrations the last couple of days, wishing I was living back in London so I could be part of the festivities. Nobody does the pomp and pageantry as well as the Brits, do they? All the colour, the precision, the spectacle - fantastic!
 I wonder how many state banquets the Queen has been to over the 60 years? Perhaps she sometimes, when faced with course after course of rich food, thinks she'd rather be at home eating bangers and mash and mushy peas in front of the telly!
  So as a bit of fun and to honour the Queen, this is what I'm cooking for dinner tonight - a Right Royal Meal. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

... to Look Up!

Wonderful Cloud Formations
I had been inside all day today, hunched over the computer writing a short story. It wasn't until late afternoon that I put on a jacket and scarf and ventured outside for a walk. I had gone halfway around the block, deep in thought, puzzling over my story's ending, before I really looked up - and saw this beautiful sky!
  Wonderful cloud formations always remind me of my grandmother. She used to love looking at the sky and would always comment on the colours and the clouds.
  It was while I was taking this photo that a memory of a book I had read as a child flashed into my mind. It told how Robin Hood and his band of merry men were such successful robbers because they used to hide, unseen, up in the trees. And most people, when going about their daily lives, look down at where they are walking or straight ahead. They don't look up.
  So if you are walking along preoccupied with your thoughts, or are texting as you go, or are trudging to the bus stop, or are hurrying down a busy city street, hemmed in by tall buildings, pause a moment ... and look up!

Friday, 1 June 2012

... to Meet a Friend for Coffee

Morning Coffee - a Trim Flat White
You can just about smell the coffee, can't you? And what was even nicer this morning than having a cup on my own, was having coffee with a friend. 
  Alison and I go back a long way. Our friendship began when we were in our thirties, volunteering at a community centre. In more recent times we see each other about once a year, phone two or three times in between and live in different towns. But whenever we meet, we slip straight away into where we left off, laughing and talking as if it were yesterday. 
  She was travelling north today so took the time to stop and visit. My coffee this morning tasted extra good when shared with a dear friend.