Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The crazymonth of December.

Since returning from my trip away to Melbourne . Early  December and the lead up to and including  Christmas has been the busiest   period  for ever it seems.
The heat and the dryness have hit with avengence and the  pump control panel on our solar bore died so  we have been doing a lot of hand watering  and carting water  from the Brother in Laws  spring fed dam for which we are eternally grateful.
The  control panel was covered under warranty  and so after an inspection and waiting for it to be  ordered and delivered the pump people came and sorted it all out.
We now have water again,  it pumps up from 300ft underground, it only pumps slow( 6litres per minute) but  it is good quality  water  and while ever the sun shines, it keeps pumping. This supplies our garden, washing machine and toilet as well as troughs.
We put our Christmas tree up in early December,  it started to make  it all feel real.

The young apricot tree in the new orchard  bore half a bucket of apricots which we were surprised  to get,
Out of which I was able to bottle 9 small jars of  apricot halves in light syrup, these jars are just the right size for Brian and I for  a meal without leftovers or eating way too much.
We already are picking heaps of zuchini's and so I decided to once again do a batch of bread and butter  zuchini pickles. My daughter had been saving jars for me, nice angled jars from Aldi that she buys a certain few products in, and I had about 5 dozen of them from the last few years and decided that I  if I  wanted to sell this that these jars would be the best option to use.
 We have had an extremely busy few weeks at our  volunteer jobs  as well, cleaning the campground facilities, publishing the local newspaper and a run of local funerals that means repeatedly stripping and remaking and cleaning the 22 beds in the local rail barracks accommodation. We then had a weekend  at Parkes to  have an early Christmas get together with one of our daughters and her family which was lovely.
We returned home and that night attended our local town Christmas get together down at the local oval. The Lions club  do a massive amount of fundraising through out the year and donate to wonderful causes, but  they also fund this  evening as well each year.
Santa arrives on the local fire engine and hands out sweets and chats to each child, there is a free sausage sizzle dinner for each child and a jumping castle and other activities.  They run ham raffles and adults are able to purchase food and drinks also.
At the conclusion of the evening each year the Lions put on a spectacular fireworks demonstration for all to see. I took many pictures and video but will just post one photo here.
There are a few  silly but important little rituals   to me that  really mean it's Christmas, one of those is that I have to make rum balls, it's just something that we have done forever and now my  children also follow this tradittion..
I use arrowroot biscuits, coconut, sweetened condensed milk, cocoa,and rum.
Mixed altogether then roll into balls and then roll in extra coconut, they refrigerate and freeze well, but rarely last very long.
It's a messy job, but fun,
and the reward is worth the effort.
 Our  firefighter pump that we keep with the 1000 litre plastic cube on the ute over summer( used for  pumping water from the BIL's dam or to fight fires) had become unreliable ,so we decided to buy a new one. As a good named brand pump was prohibitive in cost we opted for a chines  look alike brand off ebay, the old blue one was given to us many years ago, so has earnt it's keep.
Brian has hooked up the new yellow one and it is doing a brilliant job and starts first pull every time. We need  it to be reliable so that if needed  it will work immediately.
A neighbor friend and I decided to go in search of figs, we knew of a tree at an abandoned house on a neighboring property so  we went to  see but unfortunately the birds had beaten us to them.
We were telling another friend about it the next day when we were overheard and this person told us he knew of a tree that we were welcome to pick,  so  we did. They were a green variety  that I made   fig jam from. This was the first time I had ever made fig jam, something my mother is well known for.... I borrowed her recipe, so am hoping mine is as good.

This year I made the decision that I would like to spend Christmas day with my Mum, something I hadn't done for 3 years as we have been spending it with our daughters and grand children.
We picked Mum up  from her home about an hour away on the Friday afternoon and brought her to the farm.
We went into town to the bowling club for dinner on Friday night where she caught up with some of her friends( Mum has been gone from here for about 22 years now and most of here friends have either moved, are in care or have passed away, there are not many left.)
On Saturday she asked to be taken to visit a fiend who for many years was a neighbor and also they lawn bowled together.
Joyce( on the left of the picture) is an amazing 98 years old and Mum is 92.
It was so wonderful to see them together, chatting and giggling away  like long lost school friends.
They had a lovely catch up. The are both amazing women, both living independently and are  reasonably healthy for their age and are quick witted , smart and humorous. I only hope I am half as good as they are when and if I reach their ages.
The brother in Law next door offered me a bucket of plums on Christmas eve( probably the last thing I needed at that busy crazy  point before Christmas) , but I gladly accepted and got busy and made a batch of plum sauce. The BIL has a great recipe that he makes annually so he passed that to me and I got busy.

This will a great addition to the pantry, as plum sauce is just so good with everything.
My Brother from Sydney also joined us for Christmas which was lovely.
We had a very quiet Christmas day with just  the four of us, I missed being with the grandchildren but felt it was much better to spend some quality time with Mum, you never know how long we will have them.
Christmas lunch this year was a traditional baked  affair with plum pudding( cooked by Mum) ,icecream and custard to follow.
My Christmas gift from Brian was a brilliant new Breville food processor, my existing one started dying when I was making the rum balls,(that's when Brian purchased the new one) and then totally died when I was doing the plum sauce. The new one will certainly get a lot of use. The old one had been passed to me about 10 years ago  and was about 40 years old.
It must have been a very exhausting  preparing all the Christmas lunch and all the associated clearing and cleaning(lol)... as the men of the household all seemed to collapse  onto chairs and sleep for several hours in the afternoon......
But that's what our Christmas's are usually like, and truth be known probably wouldn't have it any other way.
I hope your Christmas was as joyous as ours and that   the new year is a happy and healthy one for us all.
Take care until we meet again down the track,

Merry Christmas  and a Happy New Year to everyone,
Jane and Brian.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Food, Friends,Family and Fun Times.

Another year has passed and once again  my annual  trip away with my  wonderful friend  had   hit me  fair in the face.
Time has  just gone so quickly by and  it was upon me before I knew it.
(My friend is the daughter of my  wonderful next door neighbour we had on the coast) Sadly we lost Rita a few years back and as she adored  beautiful food we decided to meet somewhere each year in her honour and have a "Foodie" weekend.
This year we decided on Melbourne, and arranged to have three days down there exploring and eating glorious food.
I had never actually stayed in Melbourne( only briefly passing through when we went to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania".
The trip took some planning , as my friend was travelling by plane  from Newcastle, and I began my jouney from Dubbo. Brian took me to my brother's home on the Wednesday evening. My brother loves to create  things for his garden from  old bits and peices he  obtains.
These two chairs are his latest creations, I think they look wonderful.
The next morning my sister in law  dropped me at 8 am at  the railway station to catch a bus to Lithgow and from there I transferred onto a train to Central Station in Sydney.
I was met at Sydney by my sister and we went to the Queen Victoria building for a coffee and it was great to see that their stunning Christmas tree was already up.
And we couldn't resist a selfie in front of the stained glass windows( even as bad as it is )
We then met my Brother In Law as he finished work and wandered the waterfront in search of a reasonably priced place to eat dinner at. The waterfront already had many of it's Christmas decorations up and my sister and her hubby posed in front of this big tree for me.
After a lovely dinner( seafood pot pie) we  went for a wander  along to Barangaroo and around the point and back under the Harbour bridge.
As time was getting away, we quickly made our way back to Central station , collected my luggage from the storage and they  said their goodbyes and I boarded the overnight  8.30 pm XPT sleeper train to Melbourne.
I shared a compartment  with a lovely lady named Hazel. The  bunks are made up about 10pm , the seating arrangement is quickly turned into two bunks for the night.
We shared a very small toilet /shower facility with the compartment next door( it was  very compact but serviceable for our needs) I did not take the 2 photos above or the one below as my phone was flat and not able to be used)
I didn't sleep very well, but thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would try it again.
I arrived at Southern Cross Station,  Melbourne next morning at about 7.30 am and awaited the arrival of my friend Les who was catching the sky bus shuttle from the airport to the railway station.
We walked to our motel, a small modest  block of rooms in Little Bourke street, which we decided was fairly central for us to do our exploring.
We unpacked  and then went wandering,We tried to get morning tea at this beautiful tea room we had been told of,(The Hopetoun Tea Room) only to find the queue enormous, so we made do with a drool over the sumptious  cakes and slices on display in their window and went on to find an alternative  ( the Lindt chocolate shop)
We came back  three or four times over the three days but the queue was never shorter than about 20 or 30 people, so we gave up.
The  Myer shopping centre had there Christmas window display up and we spent time  wandering along with all the other people  reminiscing of Christmas's gone by as their windows were Australian  60's themed, they really were truly wonderful.
We wandered the central mall area, had some great italian lunch in a small ally cafe and took a ride on the famous  free city loop trams to have a look around. The public transport in Melbourne is really great and I had never been on trams before, so a new experience for me.
In the evening we got ourselves ready and  headed to Southgate on the Yarra River, as we had booked a  night time dinner cruise.
(The above night shot is not mine)...The 3 hour  4 course dinner was amazing, wonderful food and wine, great night views along the river, great people to chat to and very  friendly,helpful staff.
It was a night to remember, I loved it( something I would love to repeat one day with Brian)
The next day we had an early start ,we were booked into the Queen Victoria Food Markets for a "Hunter and Gatherer guided  tour"
We were told of the buildings history, and the markets history and how many of the shop and stall holders have been there for generations. The place was  so clean and smelt of wonderful fresh seafood, meat ,baked goods,spices, chocolates, cheeses and other delicious goodies. As we wanded along we were given tasty samples from a lot of the stalls and told their stories.
The following photos are a collection of just a very few of the wonderful produce stalls that numbered in the hundreds.

As we had been snacking all around the markets, we didn't worry about lunch and headed back to our motel to change for "Afternoon Tea at the Windsor Hotel"
This truly was a special treat in honour of Rita, one of her favourite things to do was to go to High Tea or Afternoon Tea, and we thought what better place than the Windsor Hotel. !!

We had champagne,  lovely pots of tea of our choice, and this selection of goodies brought to the table.
And then.....there was the help yourself dessert bar, a sight to behold.

I am ashamed to say, I made a  piggy of myself, but everything was just so delicious and  I found it very hard to resist. It was  the most beautiful afternoon tea that I have ever had and I am sure Rita in spirit enjoyed it too( Les and I certainly ate enough for her as well)
Afterwards we went for a walk( thought we ought to after all that food) up  into the Fitzroy gardens, surrounded by beautiful old buildings,
Parliament House,
St Patrick's Cathedral,
Captain Cook's childhood home( disassembled in England and brought to Australia in the 1930's and  rebuilt, becoming Australia's oldest building)

There was also this beautiful conservatory.
We  headed back to our motel, had a rest for a while , didn't need any dinner as we were stuffed from afternoon tea, spruced ourselves up and headed off  just down the road to Her Majesties Theatre to see the stage  production of "Kinky Boots"
It was a  brilliant show, wonderful music score written by Cyndi Lauper, and just such   great entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed the  show as  did it seemed most of the audience that night( it was a packed house) SUCH FUN !!!!!  We climbed into our beds that night thoroughly exhausted.
The next morning we hopped on a tram to St Kilda and wandered the waterfront, it was such a picturesque spot.

We then  wandered over to Ackland street for a coffee and cake from one of the famous bakeries along the way.
The choice was very difficult.
I don't think I have ever seen such wonderful food as what I saw in Melbourne,  it just never ended.
We headed back to the city on the tram and went past Luna Park( which I niavely only thought existed in Sydney.
We   did a bit of window shopping in a few stores that I don't normally see , wandered the  river waterfront , Federation Square, past   the famous old Spencer Street Railway Station,

had a wonderful  delicious lunch in a small Turkish cafe up a  tiny lane way that accommodated about 30 cafes along it on both sides.

We returned to our motel and  packed ourselves up and caught a very busy tram back to Southern cross Station.
I farewelled my friend at the station onto her bus back to the airport and then filled in an hour or so wandering  the station.
About 6.30 pm I once again  boarded  the overnight XPT sleeper train( this time back to Sydney) arriving there about 8am the next morning just in time to connect up( miraculously )  with the XPT train to Dubbo, arriving there about 2pm.
Brian collected me from the station, we did a quick grocery shop and headed home arriving back at the farm nearly 24 hours after having left Melbourne.
I had the most  amazing, wonderful,fattening few days ever. I loved every minute of it, even my poor ,sore,tired aching feet from all those many  kilometres we walked, loved it. !!
It was a wonderful way to honour Rita and next year we will do a more low key( inexpensive)   weekend, heading to  the coast  and just doing special local activities around where we once lived. ( we are already planning and looking forward to it.)
Hopefully we will meet again down the track,
so until then, take care