Books Read 2020

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Halloween And Blogging Joys


Of course, it is Halloween celebrations tonight.  Not that I have anything to do with them.  In fact, until I grew up I had never heard of Halloween, but now the shops are jumping in on it and it is fast becoming a very commercial event here in New Zealand.




Most people I know still don’t observe it, and the ones who do seem limited mostly to their children wandering around houses knocking on doors.  I’m not sure I agree with this – we spend ages telling our children not to speak to strangers or accept sweets from them, and then encourage them to go out and do just that.  It doesn’t seem right to me somehow.

When I was in town this morning I noticed several shops have Halloween decorations up, but these are still not common in the home.  The children do love to dress up though, but not all parents are into the witches, demons and skeletons thing.  One little girl I heard of this morning dressed as a fairy so she could participate in the after-school function the school is putting on so that the children do not need to go around houses.

One Christian family that I know organises a special event for the children of their church on this night, pointing out the “dark side” of Halloween and providing an exciting alternative so that the child does not feel left out when their friends go “trick and treating”.

This morning was bright and sunny with lots of blue sky, but this afternoon the cloud has built up and there is a breeze blowing.  The days are growing warmer and we have 20 degrees Celsius here today.
One of the household cats has claimed my bed as her new daytime-snooze place – I think she likes the sunshine coming in the window or maybe it is the soft blanket.   I don’t have the heart to kick her off the bed – at the moment she is losing her winter coat so leaves little patches of black fur behind whenever she settles anywhere, but who can resist a cat who purrs every time she sees you?


Mittens asleep on the end of my bed


Today marks the end of my first month of blogging.  Without my darling husband (we were married just short of 45 years), I think it would be very easy to settle down into a quiet little rut and ignore the rest of the world.  I am finding blogging is helping me to reach out and make contact with other like-minded people from all different places around the world.  It is exciting, and I am beginning to understand what people mean when they mention their Blogland Friends.  I am glad I am now able to join in and be a part of that wonderful community.

Thank-you for reading my blog J
Margaret

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Gomashio


I love going around thrift shops (often called op shops here, short for opportunity shops) and sometimes find the most unusual items.  Once I found a small kitchen utensil (I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets) in a very tattered box.  Nobody in the shop knew what it was and the only word on the box that I could identify was “gomashio” which was not something I had ever heard of before.  It was not expensive, so it came home with me.

Thank goodness for Google!  It turns out that I purchased a sesame seed grinder, or more specifically a grinder for a mixture of toasted sesame seeds and salt.  From what I can discover, gomashio is pronounced go(t)-mar-sheee-aw and is a dry condiment often used in Japanese cuisine.  I thought I would try this out, (being the adventurous soul that I am!), and loved the result.  This is the recipe I ended up using:

INGREDIENTS:
5 teaspoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
½ teaspoon fine salt crystals

METHOD:
Measure the sesame seeds into a dish and cover with cool water.  Leave to stand for several hours and then strain off the water (this neutralizes the oxalic acid the seeds contain and makes their calcium more readily available to be used by the body).

Place the drained seeds into a non-stick pan and dry-fry until they begin to turn golden and smell toasted, stirring them constantly with a wooden spoon.  

Some of the seeds will 'pop' once they begin to dry out.  Take care not to let them burn.
Pour the seeds into a bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon fine salt crystals into the hot pan and swirl around to dry off any moisture on them.  Mix with the seeds and set aside to get cold.

This is the famous grinder.  Unscrew the base and fill the container with the seeds and salt mixture.  Turn the handle at the top (which also can be removed for cleaning) to grind the seed and dispense the seasoning from a small opening near the handle.

The seasoning could possibly be coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle if no grinder was available.

Gomashio can be used almost anywhere that salt is used.  Sprinkle it over cooked rice, pasta, vegetables (especially green beans and corn cobs), popcorn, salads, even stews.  
Crumbled dried seaweed is sometimes added to the mixture, and commercial mixtures often contain sugar as well.

Feeding two teaspoons of gomashio to a drunk person is reputed to sober them up - but I have never tried this!

Always be open to new ideas,
Margaret.









Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Silver Teaspoons

The Waikato River flowing through Hamilton on a sunny day

Our forecast rain never arrived today so all the washing got dry.  I called in at my favourite bookshop this morning and bought two puzzle books.   One is a logic puzzle where a picture is revealed when colouring in the squares (pixels) according to the numbers given on the top and left edges, and the other is a version of the popular Japanese puzzle of Sudoku.



It is amazing how you can forget what you own.  I was sorting through a box earlier on, and came across a small black container with six silver-plated teaspoons in it.  I have no idea why I forgot I owned these, because they have sentimental value to me.  Perhaps it is because I have never used them. 

My grandmother's teaspoons

My mother gave them to me as a birthday present many years ago.  She had received them long ago as a birthday present from her mother, who put a little note in with them to say that she had received them as a wedding present.  My grandmother married in 1925, so these teaspoons are almost 100 years old.

My grandmother's wedding in 1925

My grandmother is the lady on the left of the photo.  I love the huge bouquet of flowers she is holding.

May your troubles be less,
and your blessings be more
and nothing but happiness
come through your door.
(A Celtic Blessing)

Cheers,
Margaret.



Monday, 28 October 2019

Seasonal Decor


 This ewe was a busy mum with her triplet lambs (2006)


Occasionally I meet a person who believes in changing their home’s dรฉcor with the seasons and have always thought it sounded like a great idea, doing things like swapping heavy winter curtains for lighter summer ones, putting out throws on the sofas during winter, or creating a fireplace arrangement for summer.  It sounds like a nice way to mark the change of seasons.

My efforts are much less exciting and far more utilitarian.  With our temperatures warming up, I have now removed the electric blanket off the bed and moved my slippers to the back of the wardrobe.  Everything in my bedroom has been cleaned to make it sparkle, not that it was that dirty as we only moved in a couple of months ago.  I still have two sheepskin rugs on the floor as I like the look it gives the room, but once the days get hot they too will disappear into the blanket box, as I know it will make me hot just looking at them. 


Halloween pumpkins displayed on the porch (2010)


I once met a woman who loved to decorate her house according to the current season or holiday period.  She kept barrels of decorations stored away in her basement, all neat and tidy and labelled so they would be easily accessible when needed.  I wasn’t sure if I thought her efforts were Ultimate Clutter or Creative Fun, but the main thing was she loved what she was doing.

Always be yourself,
Margaret

Sunday, 27 October 2019

The Cost Of War

The Maori call it Te Utu – the cost of war.  Most places have memorials to those who have fallen in battle, and in Hamilton it is Memorial Park in Hamilton East.
The Cenotaph, dedicated to "Our Glorious Dead"
I went for a quiet walk through this area this morning.  It was sunny and there were not many people around, as I made my way through the Park and down to the Waikato River.
"Pause To Remember" the fallen of WWII
This wall is dedicated to those who died during WWII.  There are other walls for other conflicts.
War Horses are seldom acknowledged
The plaque here reads:  “WAR HORSE.  To commemorate New Zealand’s gallant war horses who served so bravely overseas in the South African War 1899-1902 and the Great War 1914-1918.  They suffered wounds, thirst, hunger, and weariness almost beyond endurance, but they never failed.  They numbered more than 18,000.  They did not come home.  We will remember them.”
The Spitfire bomber has become part of national legend
This Spitfire Mk XVI plane commemorates “The sacrifice, courage and fortitude shown in the air and on the ground by men and women who served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in all theatres of war 1939-1945 in defence of our freedom.”
Remembering the New Zealand Navy
The anchor comes from the New Zealand Navy Leander-class frigate HMNZS Waikato, which was decommissioned in 1998 after 32 years of service.  It had a special association with Hamilton, as the city is the main urban area of the province of Waikato.
WWII Artillery Gun
This gun is described as a “BL 5.5 Inch Mk3 Artillery Gun.”  My father was a gunner for part of the time he served in WWII and I wonder if he helped fire one of these.
River bank footpath
The Park connects to the walkways that follow the Waikato River.  It was very peaceful down here, and I sat for a while just contemplating life – as you do.
The Waikato River
I hope this post hasn’t been too depressing.  I feel it is important that we remember those who died or suffered so that we can enjoy the freedom we have to live the lives we do.  And this Memorial Park is a fitting place to do that as one wanders around, as well as enjoying the beauty of the Park itself.

Freedom should never be taken for granted,
Margaret.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

The Chinese Scholar's Garden

Inside the Chinese Scholar's Garden


One of the gardens I visited on my recent stroll through Hamilton Gardens was the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, touted as “an interpretation of the 10th to 12th Century Sung Dynasty gardens which were designed as natural worlds of imagination and surprise.”

These enclosed gardens were havens for relaxation, meditation and the cultivation of the spirit, and were extensively used by scholars of the day.

This particular garden is named the Garden of Retreat-in-Flowing-Happiness.


The formal entrance to the Garden

The prettily named Spring Blossom Walk


I love the paving pattern in Blossom Court, and the unusual shaped entrance to the Gallery Walk.


Blossom Court 


The Gallery Walk was tunnel-like with heavy dappled shade, and felt a little mysterious.  The roof was covered with flowering jasmine, with the paved walkway strewn with fallen flowers, and the scent was almost overpowering. 


A moon gate leading out of the jasmine-scented Gallery Walk


The path now wound around the Moon And Lily Lake, leading first over the Wisteria Bridge (covered with flowering wisteria) and across the Island Of Whispering Birds, before crossing the Willow Bridge.


Wisteria Bridge and the stone Willow Bridge

Stone table and seats on the Island Of Whispering Birds


The walkway led up steps among tall bamboo whispering in the wind, leading to the Celestial Turtle and the Golden Pavilion.

The Bamboo Walk


The Celestial Turtle of Taihu Lake


The Celestial Turtle of Taihu Lake was presented to Hamilton in 1996 by the city of Wuxi in the People’s Republic of China, to mark ten years of being a sister city.  According to legend, this immortal creature used to rescue people from natural disasters.


The Golden Pavilion


After stopping at the Golden Pavilion to look back over the garden, the path winds its way back down to the exit door.  Among the shrubbery can be caught glimpses of the nearby Waikato River.

It is a thoughtful place to visit, with its play of light and shade, the twists and turns of the path, different styles of paving, and the overall feeling of tranquility.

May your life be filled with happy thoughts,
Margaret

Friday, 25 October 2019

Out Shopping


I had an appointment at the hospital at 8.45am this morning, so it was an earlier start to the day than what I am used to now.  Nothing major, just a routine x-ray, and I was back out again at 9am.
Rather than heading home I headed for the shops.


A sunny spot on the terrace (2006)


Every now and then I like to call into a thrift shop and wander around to see if there are any little treasures I might like to buy.  Apart from excellent Retail Therapy (it is generally a reasonably cheap pursuit), I sometimes find an item I genuinely fall in love with.

Such was the case with this little cushion.  It just called out to me to love it, and for $1 it has come home with me and found a new residence on my bedroom chair.  It just seems to “fit” like it was made for the chair. 

My new cushion

 The rug on the chair was woven by one of my sisters-in-law on her loom.  She has had an almost life-long interest in wool, dying, spinning, knitting and weaving.  She has made some incredible things and I felt very privileged to be given this throw rug a few years ago.


On to the hardware store, and I was happy to find a desk fan for my room.  The sun pours into my bedroom and I can see it becoming rather hot during the summer.  I know from past experience it pays to buy fans when they appear in the shops, as waiting for hot weather to arrive means most fans are already sold, and there is certainly not the selection available.

I could have bought a cheaper fan than this one but I was swayed by the timer function, meaning it will turn off after a certain period (so I can go to sleep with it on), and it is also nicely compact so will be much easier for me to store during winter.


My Dimplex "air circulator with electronic controls"


Next stop was a visit to a sister-in-law to give her a cute little giraffe I picked up recently, as she loves giraffes and has several dotted around the house (unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it). 

A visit to the cinema means I now have two tickets (for myself and grand-daughter) to go and see the Disney movie Maleficient the Magnificent tonight.  I'm looking forward to it.

A bit more shopping, fill the car with petrol, call at the supermarket, and finally I am home again.  To be honest, I was glad to arrive home as I was starting to feel like I had had enough.  It was put the kettle on and make a cup of tea, then a sit-down to munch on seaweed-rice crackers with cream cheese and salmon pate.  Made me feel much better!


Tea and Crackers


This weekend is a holiday one (Labour Day on Monday) so town was busy with traffic.  Labour Day traditionally signals the start of summer, and many people head off to the beach this weekend.

Stay safe,
Margaret

Hi Again!
Well, we enjoyed the movie tonight - but I got the name wrong when I wrote it above.  We went and saw Maleficient the Mistress of Evil.  Not a movie for young children, but certainly great for teenagers. 


Thursday, 24 October 2019

October in Bloom

Brrr.  It got cold again today, and tonight we have lit the fire to cheer us up.  Another week or two and we will probably be complaining about the heat!
It was a good day to sort out several drawers in my room.  I need to pare things down to a minimum as I just do not have space available to store things.  Each drawer has been designated a purpose – such as Sewing, Office, Decorations, Medical, Embroidery, Diaries and so on – and now I am trying to keep things related to each drawer in that drawer and dispose of the rest. It is not easy!

October is the month of Spring.  Below are some of the blooms I have seen in and around Hamilton during this month.  

Livingstone Daisies

Poor Knights Lily

Snapdragons

Ice Plant

An early Rose

Flag Iris

Rhododendron

Enjoy your beautiful flowers,
Margaret.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

A Day Out


I had a wonderful day out today with a dear friend in Morrinsville.  Morrinsville is a town that is thirty minutes’ drive from Hamilton, and is set in the middle of dairy farming countryside.  Cows are so important to this town that they have created full-size cows out of fibreglass (I think!) and painted them to match the business they have been placed outside of.
So far there are over fifty such cows, and I saw a new one today outside the Police Station.  It is a Police Cow!


The Police Cow reporting for duty outside the Morrinsville Police Station


Friend and I caught up on all our news and I was able to have a look around her new home.  It was so light and airy and full of sunshine, and it made one feel happy to be there.  I was given an enthusiastic welcome by Lucy, the pet Maltese Shih Tzu.  She is like one big cuddly teddy bear and has a beautiful personality.


Lucy, the 2-year old Maltese Shih Tzu


After a bite to eat for lunch, friend and I headed down-town and visited a couple of thrift shops.  We had fun!  I bought two tops, a summer cardigan, a lightshade for my bedroom, and a couple of little trinkets.  I am slowly learning that just because I like something, it does not mean I have to buy it!


When I left this morning it was windy and raining.  Coming home this afternoon it was still windy, but I was bathed in brilliant sunshine.  I stopped and photographed these dairy cows ruminating beside a large weeping willow tree.


Dairy Cows enjoying the sunshine


Back in Hamilton just in time to get caught up in the start of rush-hour traffic.  Son is getting dinner tonight so I can relax.  He is very good to me.

Home is a wonderful place to live.
Margaret

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Turtle Lake, Hamilton Gardens


Finally, a day of sunshine!  There were a few clouds around but it was sunny and warm.  The strong wind was a nuisance but we could overlook that and appreciate the sunshine.

I went out with son this morning and we bought some concrete pavers for the new garden he is creating.   He has been hard at work the last few days repairing fences and digging out tree stumps, before leveling the soil ready for laying out a new lawn and garden.

It was so enjoyable being out and about, that after we returned home I went out again.  This time by myself, and I visited Hamilton Gardens.  These public gardens are an extensive collection of many different themed gardens and it takes several hours to see all of them.


Turtle Lake, at Hamilton Gardens

Today I visited Turtle Lake and the Chinese Scholars Garden – I will write about the latter in another post.  I am not quite sure how Turtle Lake got its name, but it does have turtles in it.  I have seen them several times before but they are notoriously hard to photograph.  I had to be content with a photo of them cast in bronze sitting on a rock.

Bronze turtles on a rock

In 1998 a boardwalk was built around the Lake and it makes a pleasant place for a quiet stroll, or somewhere to sit and contemplate life for a while.

Garden Seat near Turtle Lake

Half way around the Lake there is an artificial waterfall.  I like to stop here and watch the ducks and golden carp and have a good look for the turtles.

Turtle Lake waterfall

There are some patches of water lilies growing in this lake and I managed to find a couple of flowers blooming.

A water lily

By now it was time for a late lunch, so I headed off to the Hamilton Gardens Cafรฉ and bought a small quiche and a piece of cheesecake, accompanied by a drink of hot chocolate.

Turtle Lake Pavilion, with Hamilton Gardens Cafe in the background

Before leaving the Gardens I visited the Information Centre and picked up some brochures of interesting things to see and do around the city. 
I also bought a key-ring.  Recently I read about purse-charms, which I hadn’t heard of before, and found a perfect charm in the shape of a souvenir key-ring which I have now attached to my handbag.  

My new Purse Charm

Hope you have a great day,
Margaret.