Books Read 2020

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Nana Napping

 

Today has been one of those peaceful lazy days of summer, with blue skies and sunshine and barely any wind.  Even the neighbours were quiet!

Son and his girlfriend went off on a day excursion to the coastal town of Raglan so I had the house to myself for most of the day.


This lovely canna lily was flowering in a friend's garden


This evening I have been out watering the garden with a hand-held hose (summer water restrictions have already begun), an enjoyable way to appreciate the cooler balminess of the evening.

After lunch, I began reading The Toll Gate by Georgette Heyer, more a mystery than a romance so a bit different to her other books but still with the historical context.  However, the day was so pleasant that I ended up nodding off several times.

I decided Nana-Naps were the order of the day and gave myself up to the luxury.

We all need to treat ourselves sometimes 😊

Margaret



Sunday, 27 December 2020

From Blue Skies To Grey

 

This morning began with sunshine and azure blue skies, without a breath of wind to disturb the peace.

At lunchtime we had a thunderstorm pass over, and the skies stayed grey and murky afterwards with the odd shower of rain.


My Apple Blossom rosebud geranium (reportedly a favourite of Queen Victoria's)
has begun to flower


I hope everyone had a pleasant Christmas Day.  I certainly did, although I admit I ate too much! 

On Boxing Day I enjoyed a Zoom meeting with my daughter (it was Christmas Day for her in the USA), once we got it all up and running.  Modern technology is wonderful when we can use it to stay in contact with loved ones.

Boxing Day is also the day of our biggest annual retail sales, and we heard reports of our local malls being thronged to the maximum with people.  Not my scene at all – I dislike crowds at the best of times.

There is a corned beef steadily cooking away in the slow-cooker, and the smell is bringing flies into the house.  Not very keen on flies either!

Happy holidays everyone 😊

Margaret


A NOTE ABOUT CORNED BEEF.

It seems that a goodly part of the world has corned beef in a can – we can buy canned here as well, and it is a horrid fatty lump that is not very nice.

Our corned beef is usually a piece of brisket or silverside that was originally kept for several days in a strong brine solution, similar to the corning of an ox tongue.  Today I believe it is injected with something to “corn” it and the meat is nowhere near as salty as it used to be – it now also has a jelly that sits around it in the bag and this must be washed off before cooking.

I cook mine in simmering salted water along with a splash of vinegar, some brown sugar, peppercorns, whole allspice and a couple of sprigs of thyme.  In the crockpot it takes several hours on High to end up with a product that is tender and succulent to eat.

It is cheaper to buy than a roast cut of meat so has become popular with a lot of families, and is equally nice whether eaten hot or cold.



Thursday, 24 December 2020

Christmas Dinner

 

Christmas came early to our little household. 

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, I will be joining my brother and his wife for lunch, son will be sleeping after working a night shift, and granddaughter is going tonight to stay with her mother.

So last night we had a Special Dinner for the three of us.


Our little Christmas tree


We had Scotch Fillet steak (a real treat) with mashed potato, steamed carrots and broccoli, and cheese sauce.


Steak and Veggies for Christmas Dinner


Dessert was a mini-pavlova filled with cream and served with canned boysenberries.  Very decadent!


Our delicious dessert


I hope all of you, my dear blogland friends, have a very safe and joyous Christmas/holiday season 😊

Margaret xx



Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Supermarket Chaos

 

Two days of shopping left before Christmas, counting today which is already half gone.  All schools are now on summer break and most service industries are closing up for the next two to three weeks.

That is a lot of people wanting to go on holiday all at the same time – not only do late gifts and Christmas food need to be bought, but also everything that might be wanted to take away on holiday.

The result is total retail chaos, and this is nowhere more obvious than at the supermarket.  Son and I went there this morning at 8am and the place was already packed out.  Thankfully we were still able to find a carpark.




Patience is needed to shop in conditions like this – one has to cope with scarcity of available carparking, crowds of shoppers with trolleys, school children running riot, lots of store workers putting out fresh goods, queues at all the check-outs.

There was no social distancing and no masks being worn.  It was just like a 'normal' Christmas, only busier, and certainly did not have a joyous feel about it.    

The supermarkets are closed on Christmas Day and then will be open again.  Next week should be much quieter!

We bought only what we will need for the next few days and have no intention of joining the hordes of holiday-makers on the roads, most of whom will be heading for a beach somewhere on our lengthy coastline.




On a brighter note, in the middle of the supermarket carpark is a small flowering Pohutukawa tree.  It is often called the Christmas Tree as its unusual red flowers always appear at this time of the year.




The tree had several honey bees visiting it, totally oblivious to all the rush going on around them.

Don’t you just love nature?

Margaret 😊



Monday, 21 December 2020

Astronomical Excitement

 

So much is happening in the heavens at the moment, and it is quite exciting to go outdoors in the evening and look at it all.  As well, today is our summer solstice – although the actual time is not until 11.02pm.

High up in our skies lies the planet of Mars, looking quite bright and reddish this year.  It is the closest it will come to the earth for another fifteen years.

But the biggest heavenly event of all is the visual conjunction of the two great planets Jupiter and Saturn, to be seen in our western skies for an hour or so after sunset before they sink below the horizon.  I have been watching these each night, (when there is no cloud), and seeing them come closer and closer together. 

The brighter star is Jupiter, 763 million kilometres away from earth, with the fainter Saturn being a further 856 million kilometres beyond that again.

Jupiter and Saturn visually pass each other in their orbits around the sun about every twenty years, but the last time they appeared this close together was 1623.  That sighting was obscured by the nearness of the sun, so the last plainly visible sighting of this phenomenon was in 1226 – making it a rare thing to see now.


The breaking of a new dawn


Astrologically, this Great Conjunction is occurring at 0 degrees in Aquarius and pointing to great change and new beginnings around the earth.  Add this with the current solstice, also a time of change, and a first quarter moon being in our skies (considered a critical point of no return, the last show-down before the crescendo of the full moon is reached), and one wonders what the next couple of years are going to bring.  Hopefully a change for the better.

May the blessings of happiness be upon you,

Margaret 😊



Sunday, 20 December 2020

Isabella Beeton

 

“As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house.  Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment, and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path.”




I have the good fortune to own a facsimile of Beeton’s Book of Household Management that was published in 1861 by Isabella and Samuel Beeton.  It is a fascinating book, reflecting the daily lives of middle-class citizens in mid-Victorian England.




A large portion of the book is devoted to recipes, with many side notes about where different foods originated, how they were historically used, when things were seasonable, how much the recipe would cost and so on. 

Many of the recipes were plagiarized from previous cook books, or copied from those sent in to her husband’s monthly publication, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, but are considered a reasonably accurate representation of what was actually being cooked in middle-class homes at that time.




Although the recipes and their side notes make for good reading, what I find enthralling are the notes on how to run a household.  There are detailed descriptions of what would be the responsibility of each particular servant, how a mistress should conduct herself, tips on how to raise healthy children, and different fashion hints.

A comprehensive section on first aid shows what it was like before the advent of our modern drugs.  It includes the use  of such amazing compounds as ‘precipitated sulphuret of antimony,’ cakes of opium, ‘sweet spirits of nitre,’ and ‘antimonial wine,’ as well as the more usual items such as calomel, Epsom salts, castor oil, and whiskey.


By Maull & Polyblank - National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain,

 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45334839


Isabella herself had an interesting life, even though she died at the young age of 29 after the birth of her fourth child.  Wikipedia provides a comprehensive biography about her (see here).




Our weather continues to be sunny and warm and I have been finding the evenings especially pleasant 😊

Margaret.



The Book of Household Management

By Mrs Isabella Beeton

Published originally by S.O. Beeton in 24 monthly parts, 1959-61

First published in a bound edition, 1861

And reproduced in facsimile by Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1968

This edition published in Australia by Thomas Nelson (Australia) Ltd, 1977





Thursday, 17 December 2020

Summer Has Arrived

 

Once again, thank you to all those who made comments on my last posting.  I really appreciate them and am happy to report things are looking brighter.

Our weather here has now turned decidedly summery, with blue skies and warm temperatures although we have had some wind at times.  The umbrella has been up out on the deck and it has been very pleasant sitting out there in its shade.


'Mrs Pollock' is blooming well


I had a lovely day yesterday with one of my sisters-in-law.  I think we spent the whole day just talking!  It is always a pleasure to get together with a relation who is also a good friend, and have a good natter about everything under the sun.


Pretty Petunias in one of our hanging baskets.


Lately, I have been reading through my collection of Georgette Heyer historical romances and they pass the time away quite nicely.

I have been feeling a bit guilty though, about not visiting anyone else’s blog recently.  Please forgive me and I hope I will soon be a regular visitor again.


Sunny Marigolds bring cheer to the garden.


Our Christmas Tree has been decorated – just a small one this year as I will be away for the day, grand-daughter will be at her mother’s, and son will be sleeping after having finished a night shift at work.

Keep smiling 😊

Margaret.


Sunday, 13 December 2020

A Rough Week

 

This last week has been a bit rough. 

The mother of a friend of mine died.  It was expected, she has been ill for a long time, but I know my friend will be sad and I feel for her.

And then the 17 year old niece of a dear friend (she was also the granddaughter of another old friend) died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.  Such a tragedy when a young life is cut off so unexpectedly like this, and such a shock for all the family.




Throughout most of my adult life I have suffered from bouts of clinical depression and this week what has been building slowly over the last several months finally tipped the scales again.  So I am now back on meds, after being nearly two years without them.  I detest taking drugs, but I know they help so I take them.

We have had quite a few warm humid sticky days lately, but this coming week is meant to be dry and mostly sunny.  I am looking forward to them.

Take care,

Margaret 😊



Sunday, 6 December 2020

Kunekune Pigs

 

Kunekune (pronounced coo-nee coo-nee) are a rare New Zealand pig, becoming almost extinct in the 1970s before work was commenced to save the breed.  They were developed by Maori from pigs that were thought to have been introduced by whalers in the early 1800s, possibly originating from Asia, South America, and/or Polynesia.

The Maori named these short-legged short-snouted small pigs “kunekune”, meaning “fat and round” as that is their predominant feature – their love of food causes them to become quite rotund and they carry a very deep layer of fat (useful to Maori as it was used to preserve food).




Coat colour and texture can vary considerably.  Colours can range from black, brown, golden or cream, sometimes with random patches of another colour.  Hair texture can range from short and silky to long coarse curls, and extensive hair loss is common during the summer months.

Kunekune are typically a very sociable placid pig and, although they are still occasionally used for meat, their prime use today is as a pet.  They are intelligent and affectionate, and I have even met one who was house trained!




These two pigs pictured here belonged to my nephew, and were being kept as pets on their small holding.  I found them placid and friendly, and very amenable to a good back scratch 😊

Margaret.


LINKING UP WITH EILEEN AT Saturday's Critters


Saturday, 5 December 2020

An Edwardian Childhood

 

I recently bought this book, An Edwardian Childhood, second-hand from a charity shop and have enjoyed dipping into it and reading about some of the vivid experiences recalled by children who lived at that time.




The Edwardian period is generally said to have lasted from 1901 to 1914, and was a time when children were no longer treated as miniature adults and childhood became a time of innocence and joy (at least for those in the middle and upper classes).




Many children whose memories grace this book were brought up by nurses and nannies, and I was struck by how much emphasis was placed on order and self-control.  Rigid routines were often strictly adhered to, and an overall aim seemed to be to teach children self-discipline.

A strong emphasis was placed on good manners and consideration for other people.  Dirty clothes made work for others, so you kept yourself clean.



There are stories of food being presented at several meals running until you ate it – teaching you to be polite and eat all that was placed in front of you.   Nursery food, plain and simple, was the order of the day and cake and sweets were joyous treats.




Fresh air and play were important for bodily health, so regular outdoor activities were scheduled.  Indoors, lessons and games were used to stimulate little minds.  Reading was encouraged, especially if the book promoted courage and bravery, or imparted interesting and important facts.

Outings broadened a child’s horizon but were still rare enough to be regarded with awe.  Things like trips to a toy shop, a visit to a museum, or attending a Christmas pantomime, were special treats to be savoured and enjoyed.




Times have certainly changed in the last one hundred years!

Margaret 😊

 

 

“An Edwardian Childhood”

By Jane Pettigrew

Published 1991 by Little, Brown and Company, London

ISBN 0-316-88865-6

Illustrations in this post here are all taken from this book



  

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Christmas Shopping - Done!

 

When I woke up this morning I really had no intention of going out to the shops, but I changed my mind while eating breakfast.  A woman is allowed to do that!

I visited one department store with the idea of having a look at what was available for Christmas presents for my grandchildren, and ended up buying almost everything I wanted.  A visit to the supermarket and I have completed my shopping, except for wrapping paper.


This beautiful tree was erected in downtown Flagstaff, AZ, for Xmas 2018


I purchased nothing very expensive, just a few little things that hopefully will add joy to the day and not pander to avarice (it saddens me that so many folk seem to place more importance on getting than giving).

I gave up buying expensive presents many many years ago (in fact, for several years I never even observed Christmas), and still feel that too much emphasis is put on the commercial side of what is really meant to be a religious festival.

I also bought a small artificial Christmas tree for my room and will decorate that in the next few weeks. 

Have a happy day 😊

Margaret.



Wednesday, 2 December 2020

A Gentle Breeze

 

After yesterday’s strong winds, today has been a lovely day with a gentle breeze and sunshine.  A few clouds are beginning to gather now but the forecast is for fine today and maybe some showers tomorrow.




Mitten’s friend Tigger wanted to know what she thought of the new bedroom arrangements.  I asked her and she purred, so I figure she is happy.  She certainly likes the fluffy blanket thrown over the chair, claiming it as her special spot so that I feel totally unable to fold the blanket up and store it.




It is easy to tell we are getting closer to Christmas as the junk mail in our mailbox is increasing more each day.  Last night there was so much it was rolled up and kept together with a rubber band!




My little bit of container garden is coming on well, although I really must buy a few more annuals to fill in the gaps.




Wishing everyone a happy and enjoyable day 😊

Margaret.


Tuesday, 1 December 2020

The First Day Of Summer

 

The first day of December, the first day of summer, the first day of the last month of this strange year.  Who would have thought twelve months ago that 2020 was going to turn out the way it did.

I have been spring cleaning – a bit late in the season but better late than not at all.  I have only been doing my bedroom (that’s enough!) and it seems to be taking ages.

All the furniture got moved around into their summer settings – the best place for my bed is under one of the windows but in the winter too much cold came through the glass so I moved the bed.  It is now back beneath the window.  Of course, when the bed is moved all the drawers need moving as well so that everything can fit.


Yay - it's summer!

I don’t mind having a winter and summer setting for my furniture.  I like to make seasonal changes in the dΓ©cor – they may not be big things but they just add a little something and help one stay in touch with the rhythm of nature.

Every drawer has been gone through and I have discarded about half of my clothes.  Most were either worn out or no longer fitted nicely, but some were perfectly good only I didn’t like them.  I finally came to the decision that I never wore them because I disliked them, so what was the point in keeping them?

I am not a minimalist by any means but there is something very comfortable about not owning too many things.  I can now see everything I have stored in my wardrobe, and I know all my clothes fit me and look good.  And my bedroom is all clean, ready for the hot summer months ahead.

Stay happy 😊

Margaret.


Thursday, 26 November 2020

Weed Walking

 

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I went for a short Weed Walk (twice, actually) along a quiet country roadside.  There were several interesting grass and weed specimens to look at.

I like the unfurling fronds on this Bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum).




Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is classified as a pest, but where it had been left to roam the air was filled with delicious scent and it was difficult to think of it as being ill-favoured.




Several grasses were in flower, including this perennial Cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata)

Cocksfoot first arrived here in 1867 and is still popular today as it makes a good compliment to Ryegrass when used in pasture mixes.




Timothy grass (Phleum pratense) is another important perennial pasture grass.  It is both palatable and nutritious for stock, and traditionally makes the best hay for feeding to horses.




Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) always looks too pretty to be called a weed, but it can be very invasive.  Cattle will not eat it and most herbicides are ineffective against it, with the best form of control appearing to be grazing by sheep.




The yellow Lotus (Lotus uliginosus) is also known as the Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil.  It has proved valuable as a pasture legume, especially in areas where White Clover has difficulty in getting established.




Wild life must love areas like this, providing them with shelter and food.  In this age of agricultural efficiency, it is good to see that some farmers still allow a few of these corners to survive.




I hope everyone is having a great week 😊

Margaret.



Wednesday, 25 November 2020

A Drive In The Country

 

At the end of last week, on a gorgeous sunny day (it is pouring with rain today!), I jumped in the car and went for a drive out of the city.  I didn’t have any set destination in mind and I never traveled too far, so I was home again in a few hours.

I headed for Pirongia first, a small village close beside and named after this semi-dormant volcano.




Pirongia’s Heritage and Visitor Centre was still closed (I was too early) so my visit was short – but it became a timely stop as I took two phone calls while wandering around here.




I love balmy days in the country, and this day the air was heavy in places with the smell of honeysuckle and privet – I know many dislike privet (because of hayfever) but I actually love the scent of the flowers.

This tangled gully was full of birds and bees, and wafted out clouds of scent on the breeze.




Nearby is Kakepuku Mountain, another semi-dormant volcanic cone and a place where we once lived for a short time.

Although now covered with bush and farmland, this mount was once a virtual food basket with its slopes covered in gardens and fruit trees that supplied the resident Maori pa as well as a good proportion of the surrounding district.




This path (which is steep and often slippery) leads to the top of Kakepuku Mountain, where great views can be obtained of the surrounding countryside.




I went for a short Weed Walk along this quiet country road.  I rather enjoy seeing what is growing wild along the roadside.




It is always a pleasure to leave the city behind for a while and remember what rural areas are like – my father used to sneeringly call such drivers Sunday Drivers as they tootled past.  I really don’t know what he had against them.

Keep smiling 😊

Margaret.


Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Artisan Bread

 

Words fail to adequately describe the wonderful smell of freshly cooked bread.  It is a cozy warm smell that wraps around one and infuses the senses with a double dose of domestic harmony – and an overwhelming desire to eat some!

I had that experience this morning when I bought a loaf of organic sourdough multi-grain bread that had not long been removed from the oven. 

With a certain amount of will-power I managed to resist eating any of it until lunchtime, and then found it delicious and filling.  Artisan bread is so different to commercially baked bread.




I bought the bread while checking out two organic shops that I had heard about, and also purchased lamb sausages and beef patties as well as a dozen free-range eggs.

The chickens are allowed to roam free on an organic farm, with their houses being moved each week to a fresh location.  No colouring agents (to make the yolk yellow) are used – “What you get in our eggs is what the chickens make.”  We will see tomorrow whether they pass the taste test or not.




Neither shop had a very impressive range of organic fruit and vegetables so I avoided purchasing any of them, but did find a small shaker of dried sea-lettuce and this lovely comb.

The comb handle is made from sustainable sandalwood and the comb teeth are made using ox horn.  It has a very satisfying tactile feel and combs my long hair without any problems.




A quick visit to the local supermarket was needed to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, and then back home before the rain arrived.

It is always a good feeling to get the shopping finished before the weather turns bad 😊

Margaret.



Monday, 23 November 2020

Memorable Highlights

 

As it is ten years since I first visited my daughter and son-in-law in America, I thought it would be nice to post some highlights of some of the places I was privileged to visit.

This is me at the Hoover Dam.  The Dam marks the border between Nevada and Arizona and this was taken on the Arizona side.




Being based at Flagstaff, it went without saying that we had to visit the Grand Canyon.  I found the place breath-takingly spectacular and loved it, especially when we were able to get away from the usual tourist spots.




We visited the Arizona Snowbowl (ski resort) and wandered amongst the bare trunks of aspen trees.  At 9200 feet in early winter, and being accustomed to seaside conditions, I found it rather cold!




We spent one day visiting Sunset Crater, with all its volcanic associations, as well as taking a fascinating walk around the Wupatki Ruins.  It is believed about 100 Pueblo Indians used to live here until around 1200AD.  It is one of several ruins in the area but is the main site open to visitors.




Walking through the Upper Antelope slot canyon with our Navajo guide was a magical experience. 

This view was taken looking up towards the narrow aperture at the top of the canyon.  Hard to believe that water bubbles up out of there during flood times.




Zion National Park was perhaps my favourite destination, and we spent a pleasant night in a pretty campground there.   

I think I could rave on forever about the beauty of Zion, especially the massive rock faces that we saw there.




Bryce Canyon was another remarkable place we visited, and I found the upright hoodoos an amazing sight.

This photo was taken from Paria View, further up the canyon.




I wrote about our visit to the Sonoran Desert in this post here 




I also got to visit other places and experience many new things.  It was an extremely busy and very happy three weeks of my life.

Having wonderful memories adds to the enjoyment of living 😊

Margaret.