Saturday, May 16, 2015

Garden Thyme

My garden  in late 2014 - looking a bit tierd
Late last year I responded to an invitation from Bec at 'Think Big, Live Simply' which has resulted in some big changes for me and my garden. Bec asked if anyone wanted some help in the garden, and I said 'yes please'.

Bec, says this about herself..
One of my passions is to grow food. Another is to take photos of growing food. You’ll find lots of both things here. I want to inspire you to think about your own life, and get curious about how you can make it even better – through growing a garden or choosing to live simply, whatever this might mean for you.
 I have been following Bec for a while now, and her regular posts in my emailbox do exactly as she hopes - inspires me to think about making things better - for me and my garden.

Bec asked me lost of questions about what I like to grow, how I like to grow things, what wasn't working, what I wanted to do better and all sorts of other questions. I told her that I like to grow my own seedlings - but I wasnst having a good success rate. My seeds just weren't germinating.
My babies :)
Becs advice on growing seedlings was really helpful. Firstly she pointed me in the direction of some great books, and advised me to use proper seedling mix (I was trying to make my own). Bec also suggested 'getting your partner involved mid-week with some watering or simple compost turning will make a big different to your time as well - and never know,  you might convert him into even more of a green thumb'. So, I placed the seedlings in a sunny place by the front door. I put a waterbottle with a little watering lid near the front door. So during the week, when I am living in a different city to work, he would see the seedlings and the water bottle and water them.... it worked!

We love pesto - we love Basil - Basil loves the warmth from these rocks!
Bec made a good point - she said herbs like basil, parsley, mint, chives, spring onions and leafy greens like kale, lettuce and rocket are happy to grow in quite a bit of shade, especially if it's dappled. I was trying to grow everything in 'full sun' but was loosing good ground to the shade... by Basil is pretty happy now here in the warmth of a stone wall.

New seedlings wrapped up in their mulch.... happy mustard green
Bec reminded me about the importance of looking after my soil. She ecouraged me to get back to healthy mulching (espcially in summer). She also said 'I've already mentioned the sweet stuff.. Molasses. Its cheap and easy to use in multple ways. use it in the compost, worm farm and new veggies beds to stimulate microbial activity and healthy soil development'.
Bec mentioned the importance of using all the space in my garden - even the verticle spaces. So I found this mesh frame hidden in the shed, and gave it a new home - the beans love it!

Bec encouraged me to use pots more - and I like the colours here. These pots house my favourite herbs.
When my partner and I designed this garden we created this large entrance to the compost corner, with the runner for the wheel barrow to run up. But we dont need the full width of the steps all the time. So I put pots here. I can move them when I have large loads for the compost corner, but other times they recieve water from the auto sprinklers, and they are easy for us to access for food preparation.

Yellow Eggplant - growing in a pot that gets special attention
I decided to try growing some of the eggplants in terracotta pots because I wasnt sure how they would go through the end of summer and autumn - and I thought the terracotta would given them a little bit more heat during the change of season. It seems to have been OK as they are still producing into May.

My purple mini eggplants - happy in the back of the garden with rocks that reflect heat
Beans climbing my 'bean temple'
Guava's (like many fruits and some veggies) attract fruit fly which ruins the fruit before you can harvest it. I've found over the years, if I wrap my tree early enough, the fruit is saved. I've had a bumper crop this year - I'm stewing, bottling, jaming and pie making til the cows come home.....

I know its been a pretty photo heavy post - but here's a couple more to finish the story...

Thank you Bec.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Storm Disaster 2015

Dog bed is ravaged by winds and pot plants have hit the deck!
 I have been drafting two other posts during April, but they haven't been finalised, so I thought I'd post the reason why. I had a family wedding in Adelaide April 18th so I had a couple of days off before that and my husband and I  enjoyed a little RnR in South Australia.

However, that was the end of the RnR... we returned to NSW admist massive wind and rain storms. Our plane circling for more than an hour before getting permission to land in Sydney.

When we did finally return to home base in the Hunter Valley - we found our place had see the impacts of the winds.

Banana plants have blown over

a bed of storm  blown and torn leaves cover my lawns and meditation decks.
 But before long, we had our orange State Emergency Service (SES) uniforms on, and we were out volunteering in our community. Only to discover our blown over banana plants and pot plants were NOTHING.....

 Here, my team assess a large tree leaning on a two story home and the damage done to the roof.

 On another house, we climb up to repair the damage done by tree's to the tiles. Here's we're placing plastic over the problem area by tucking it under the stronger tiles.

Here my team are involved in ferrying isolated community members back to higher ground - which soon became nick-named "mainland".

Since Monday 20th April, We've been volunteering 8 full and long days.

The effects of the massive storm are slowly being cleaned up - while today another massive weather event hits our northern east coast capital, Brisbane. Thoughts and Prayers to everyone already affected by storms this month, and those feeling it come down on them tonight!

News links with stories of the storm are here
Newcastle Herald - the Aftermath
Sydney Morning Herald - Storm of the Century
Sky News - Devestation of the Storms

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Books, Movies and Theatre - March Madness

This post is as much for me as it is for you - I believe I have read more in the first three months of 2015, than I've read in recent years (my reading list). I'm not intending to offer grand reviews, just a few reflections of my own about the books, movies and shows I've read or seen this past month or so.

Books Read

SE Hinton

Earlier this year I was talking with a friend about people who re-read books - I don't usually - and she said if you enjoyed something the first time, you might enjoy it differently the second time. So I thought about what books I have enjoyed enough to re-read. SE Hinton wrote lots of books, as a teenager, for teenagers. I remember devouring TEX and RumbleFish and the Outsiders as a kid. They might have been the first novels I actually read. So, I downloaded a couple of Kindle - and re-read them. The Outsiders, Tex, RumbleFish, Some of Tims Stories and Taming the Star Runner.  Loved them again.


Searching for something easy to read one afternoon on the train, I found Marikami's Strange Library was available for Kindle. I have to say I think this is the first of Marikami's novels that I didn't like, and wouldn't recommend. The story was just plain stupid. It was frightening, lonely, pointless. Needless to say, I am hoping that my next Marikami novel will be more to my liking. I have the Elephant Vanishes to read on my holiday later this month.


Last month we had the Newcastle Writers Festival. I couldn't go to any of the presentations, but several of my friends went. One of them went to hear Marion Halligan speak. An Australian Author who has lived in Newcastle, and writes Australian Stories. I have previously read some of Marion's books including The Fog Garden (based in Tasmania) and Valley of Grace (based in Paris), and decided to look at something available on Kindle. I found Shooting the Fox, which is a collection of short stories. Described as....'on love and loss, sex and death, food and gardening ... a new collection by Australia's most assured short-story writer', this collection of short stories were descriptive, engaging and meaningful - about women and our roles in life and relationships. Normally I don't enjoy short stories, but Marion is a clever author - not surprisingly she has many awards to her name.

The Healthy Chef
While I don't know Teresa personally, her name is spoken in my house weekly... she's my advisor and companion in the kitchen. I follow her blog, love her recipes and her food philosophy fits for me. When this book was made available for Kindle, I had to have it. She's such a sensible chef and nutritionist. Check out her website, and if you're interested in food and health, check out this easy book - describing common digestive problems, offering a common sense approach to digestive health, and providing a great collection of recipes.


James Morrison and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

My partner and I have been fans of James Morrison since we were young. He's an absolutely amazing Jazz Musician who can play an amazing collection of Brass and other instruments. To see him play with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, at the Sydney Opera House, was an extreme delight for the both of us.

Bell Shakespeare Production - As You Like It.

Many years ago I decided to go and see some Shakespeare Productions because I hated reading when I was younger, and didn't study any Shakespeare. I felt I was missing out on something - all those quotes and references people refer to and I had no idea where they came from. So I decided to go and see some of the Bell Shakespeare productions. John Bell is a brilliant director, and is retiring this year for new things. So I wanted to see something before he left. As you like it was quite different to anything else I had seen. People told me it would be lighter than most other Shakespeare pieces, and it was. Very good. I especially enjoyed the music interludes in this one.


Invited by a friend to see this show, which he said would be amazing. We went with a small group of friends to see this apparently 'burlesque - style' acrobatic performance. Loved the acrobatics, didn't necessarily enjoy the Gillionare and Penny's script. This show is apparently from Los Vegas and has been getting rave reviews here in Australia.

French Film Festival

I truly enjoyed my AFFF this year. Sadly I didn't get to some of the movies I had selected (ran out of time), but of the ones I did see here's my top favourite to least favourite.
    1. Far From Men - (Viggo Mortinson) - based on an Albert Camus novel, l'hote) this was set at the start of the Algerian War, and includes one of Cumas famous lines about himself - in France I'm Algerian, in Algera, I'm French.... the movie was suburbly crafted, and captivating. Must see! (better seen on the big screen).
    2. The Connection - About the French Police and their role in uncovering French drug lords and the exports of drugs to the USA in the 70's. Fantastic movie!
    3. Diplomacy - based on a play, this was set in one room, and it was about the role of the 'diplomat' to convince the Germans to not blow up all the Parisienne bridges and famous landmarks. Needless to say, the 'Diplomate' won.
    4. Almost Friends - Comedy
    5. Breathe - Young Adults coming of age
    6. Three Hearts - kind of a 'sliding door' movie
    7. Get Well Soon - comedy - of the makes you smile kind.
The movies I didn't get to see, but really want to - Samba, Famille Bellier and Gemma Bovary

To close, I wanted to share with you these clip from Far from Men.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Reflections

Resting in one place

Taking a stroll in nature

Playing in the Garden

Watching the Sunset
Where ever you are, 
and how ever you spend this weekend,
 this Easter , 
I wish you all a special time of reflection. 

For me, Easter is a special time to reflect on 
hope and change,
new ways, and new growth,
vision and focus, 
and simply sitting in the present.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

et voila! The French Film Festival c'est fini!

 Still one of my favourite places at the end of a working week!
 Sunset at Lake Macquarie.

I knew March was going to be a month of madness for me when I signed up for 8 French Films at the Alliance Frances Film Festival, on top of already being signed up for a weekend course for my voluntary role in the State Emergency Services, and entering the Loop the Lake cycling event (90km round our lake). I said no to alot of things this past month, but perhaps not enough..

Still I made it to the end with a smile on my face. Friday night I got off the train from my week in Sydney, to be greeted with a bottle of bubbly, picnic basket and a trip to the Bay for free music in the park. Now that's what I call coming home. 

I can now report that I did very well on my bike ride, I am still pretty chuffed with my results. I like to get a PB every now and again - it makes all that training worth while. 

I can also report that I made some time for socialising during mad March too. Last weekend I hosted a Moroccan Feast with some lovely friends. I enjoy the challenge of preparing something different for presentation, and I think it all turned out pretty well. I did

So now Mad March is  settling into Autumnal April, I will post soon on my recent reading and screening adventures. This includes an epic reading adventure of SE Hinton's novels, returning to Murakami, and Marion Halligan.

Easter next weekend is planned time for personal rejuvenation, spiritual reflection and rejoining with my loved ones locally.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Festival Time - the Alliance Francaise Film Festival

It's the Alliance Francais Film Festival here in Sydney. This years program is amazing. I have selected 8 movies to see in the next 3 weeks, but I'm devasted I cant see more. I'm going to see..
 Do you know any of these? Have you seen any of the others on the program? should I go and see something else??

Needless to say, I'm a little distracted at the moment... will post again when I can.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Searching for Ideas

These girls are happy. They live together at the Barathi Girls Hostel (ages 13+ years) and the KGBV Primary School (ages 8 - 12 years). They are part of the the girls education strategy delivered by ODAM, the Organisation for Development, Aid and Maintenance, in Tamil Nadu  India. They are happy to be at school and love being taught. Many of the girls would not have had the opportunity to do this without the help of ODAM.

This is the charity I support. I see these girls as my girls. I am so very proud to see them growing up, moving through primary school to secondary school and some of them go on to vocational training. Check this out to hear their stories....

In Australia I am part of a group of ODAM Supporters. We undertake to raise money for the school and hostel each year. This year we're looking for some new ideas for fund raising.... We traditionally hold a very successful trivia night and have held fun and fruitful movie nights. We'll do these again I'm sure. However, we'd like to consider new ideas.... have you got any? I would love to hear your thoughts....