The Joy of Books – Day 30 NaBloPoMo

I love writing, I love reading and I love books.

One of the joys of living in one place for an extended period means I’ve managed to collect some quite rare titles and (particularly since I’ve been back at university) amassed a pretty nice Film Studies library.

My favourite local bookshop is a wonderful place called Cracked and Spineless New & Used Books. It’s a fabulous place run by Richard and Mike. Over the years they have become my friends as well as my book sellers, even to the point of getting in obscure text books I need for study. They also have a great collection of used books and often post excellent deals on their Facebook page. It’s always crowded and I often bump into friends there but the thing I love most about Cracked and Spineless is that I feel welcome. In this age of bookstores that feel more like supermarkets, this place is much warmer and real. No matter where you live, support your local bookstore – they are important!

Cracked and Spineless

Today, apart from being the last day of the NaBloPoMo challenge is also the beginning of my birthday week, and this year I decided to really treat myself. Richard, who is also a music fan managed to get two copies of the Mick Rock mega photo book The Rise of David Bowie. I am now the proud owner of one 😀

I cannot begin to explain how gorgeous this thing is. From the box it came in (printed pink and black), the textured, vibrant teal foldout case, to the smell of the book, this is a thing of immense beauty. And that doesn’t even begin to describe the photographs by Mick Rock. They are disarming, charming and always lush.

As Richard said to me tonight, this is one of the coolest books on the planet. I feel very lucky to have been in a position to buy it.


Thanks to all of you who’ve liked or followed my blog over the NaBloPoMo challenge, it’s been great fun and I’ve enjoyed reading lots of your blogs throughout the month.

Take care all, I’ll be back soon! ❤

A Day of Quiet Bliss – Day 29 NaBloPoMo 2015

It was very overcast and quite humid in Hobart most of today. Although I was supposed to go to an event nearby, I decided to stay home and potter around the garden. The girls were very pleased because this meant lots of extra treats for them and they rewarded me with eggs as usual. Boudica Bunny is also eating enormous amounts at the moment and all the babies are out and starting to get the hang of this eating solid food caper.


I potted up more basil, chillies and Green Shiso (Perilla fruitescans var. crispa), a wonderful Japanese annual herb, which I primarily use in stir fries and salads. I’ve grown it in the past but never had such a fabulous strike rate as I did with this year’s seed supply. It’s looking wonderful and already has that unmistakable flavour and aroma. I find it likes a rich potting mix and lots of warmth for quick growth, similar to basil.

And then there was the completion of half the “corner of shame”. This is a classic before and after situation.





Admittedly, we’re only half way there but that’s a lot further than we were a few weeks ago!

After removing the worst of the perennial weeds, I put some dolomite limestone over the area and covered it with several layers of cardboard.  Then we laid some cotton mats, donated by family members, that were old and worn and heading for the rubbish tip. (I think half our garden is recycled!)

A thick layer of coarse sand went over that and it was topped with some well composted native bark mulch, which I’ve found considerably less acidic than pine bark mulch. We did the same thing behind the chicken house and I’ve planted two Australian Tea-Trees (Leptospermum sp.) there to provide some extra wind protection for the ladies who lay.

The weeds will grow back – but not as quickly or as vigorously as they have in the past. I want to plant a couple of English Lavender here in the next few days and I’m planning to put netting or shade cloth above the fence to give a little more height for growing climbers in tubs and privacy both for and from our neighbours. Next spring, this is the likely spot for my beehive, angled in towards the garden.

I also finished the garlic crop, which has been curing inside the last two weeks. It’s now cleaned up, the tails have been clipped and it’s in three plaits, hanging off the laundry/kitchen door. It’s quite a decent amount this season, considering I’ve used and given away at least half a dozen or so heads already – and there’s more in the ground that needs pulling!


Tomorrow is back to music work and teaching, the beginning of my birthday week, first day of my next university semester and the last day of NaBloPoMo – and I’m picking up my birthday present to myself tomorrow too 😀



Friends, Gardens & Games – Day 28 NaBloPoMo

After being under the weather the last couple of days, I felt well enough to venture out and go to a friend’s place this afternoon for a birthday barbecue.



I was really tired but glad I went, the young man who was celebrating is a dear friend I met through my son about ten years ago. He lives at home with his married sister, her partner and their two year old son but his mother works in Perth now, on the other side of Australia. (For overseas friends, New Zealand is closer and easier to get to from Hobart than Perth is!)

I love their garden, it’s very different to mine which is primarily a vegetable and fruit garden with few ornamental plants to attract bees and native birds. Also, theirs is a much smaller space and I really like how I can find cornflowers and nasturtiums in the midst of beans and spring onions. They also have a wonderful array of roses, irises and tubs full of colour and interest. I had a great time finding little treasures scattered around the yard, which is sectioned off as garden rooms AND I found another rabbit ❤


My son was there and some other young men I haven’t seen for a while and it was good to catch up with them all. Being a group of gamers (I’ve played D&D campaigns with nearly all of them over the years) we played a cute and quick little board game after dinner called Avalon, which is by the same people who did The Resistance. (Here’s a great little summary by my favourite nerd, Wil Wheaton). I love these kinds of deduction games, with the right group of people they can be hilarious fun. It was lovely to play outside at the barbecue table, especially with good food, great friends and family.

Do you play board games? Is “nerd” the new black? Let me know what you think, leave a comment! 




Raspberry Time – Day 27 NaBloPoMo 2015

While I’m not feeling 100% today, I’ve been thinking about what to do with the soon-to-be glut of raspberries. There’s so much fruit on the bushes, I have a feeling we’re going to be inundated in the next few weeks. Growing up in South Australia, I never ate a fresh raspberry until I moved to Tasmania and they’re probably my favourite berry fruit.


Usually I make ice cream or cheesecake with excess berries, which uses eggs up as well. But with Boysenberries, Youngberries and Loganberries starting to colour up too, I think it’s time to consider my options! I’m planning to make a Raspberry Upside Down cake next week for my birthday and already have enough berries for that.

All I do with this is make up a simple sponge batter with 2 cups of self raising flour, 1 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar (more if you like it sweeter), a teaspoon of baking powder and 4 eggs. Instead of splitting the mixture into two tins and filling it with jam and cream, I put the fresh fruit on the bottom of a deep baking pan and pour the batter over the top, baking for 20-30 minutes in a 180 C (350 F) oven. Once the cake’s turned out and still warm, it can be lovely to pour hot lemon syrup over for added zing or (for the adults only version) poke the still warm cake with a skewer and pour over a citrus flavoured liqueur.

None of us are fans of jam so I am going to try mashing some with yogurt and drying it as fruit leather. But for large amounts of berries, I can’t go past Raspberry Vinegar Cordial. I first had this over 30 years ago on a hot summer day in Hobart and it is delicious.

The principle here is to use the vinegar to not only preserve, but also to enhance the tangy sharpness of the fruit. It’s fabulous for very ripe fruit – and it’s ridiculously easy to make!

Raspberry Vinegar Cordial 


500g (1 pound) ripe raspberries     2kg (almost 4 1/2 pound) white sugar   2 litres (4 pints) white vinegar


Put the washed, drained fruit into a non-metallic bowl or pot and pour over the vinegar. Mash it to break the berries but don’t puree them. Cover the berry mash and leave it for a day or two. I have hear that some folk leave the mash for up to five days but I’ve never done more than two – patience is not my strong suit!

Strain the mash carefully through muslin or an old, clean tea towel into a cooking pot, squeezing out as much of the precious juice as possible. Heat the juice and when it’s starting to simmer, add the sugar and boil for approximately five minutes.

Decant into sterilised jars or bottles and seal immediately. If you want to keep this for winter consumption, I’d also recommend processing the bottles in a Fowlers bottling urn or water bath. Mine never lasts long enough for that!

What’s your favourite berry fruit? And how do you like to serve and preserve them?

Assignments, Goodbye and Hello – Day 26 NaBloPoMo 2015

Hurrah! I submitted my last assignment for my current university unit this afternoon 😀

I nearly always find this part of units rather bittersweet – I’m a step closer to a Bachelor of Communication but I have to say goodbye to some wonderful people I’ve been studying with. Part of the deal with online study are the discussion boards, which act like a virtual tutorial group, and often these are assessed. In this unit, (Creative Writing, Forms and Structures) I’ve had the pleasure of exercising my brain cells with some really lovely people, and I will miss them.

On the other hand, next week I start a new unit, (Writing the Short Story) and I’ll be saying hello to a new group of people to discuss and share work with for the next 13 weeks. This unit will take me up to March next year, which is the start of Study Period One of the academic year. I decided on my units for 2016 a while ago and enrolled in them today – the last of my second year subjects.

I also realised this afternoon that I’ve been studying online continuously now for two years. It’s quite an achievement for me to stay that motivated and engaged, particularly without any campus interaction, but I’m interested in the work and the teaching through Griffith has been excellent. I’m majoring in Creative Writing and Screen Studies, two subjects close to my heart, but I wish there were more screen units – I really loved them with a passion!

And this is my 100th post on this blog – I’m astonished! As I’m coming to the end of the NaBloPoMo challenge and starting a new unit, I’ll be pulling back from blogging a little. My goal from December 1st is to post once a week rather than every day.

Meanwhile, I’m taking the evening off and chilling out – I’ve got a few days solid gardening to do before Study Period Four starts!


Sleepy baby

More Small Joys – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’ve had a great day – bustling and busy – but great nonetheless. This morning I fed and watered the hungry hoards and said hello to the baby bunnies, who are all growing at a phenomenal rate! Their eyes are open and they are getting quite inquisitive about the world.


I picked raspberries (a daily job now) and I’m hoping to have enough to make a spectacular birthday cake for myself next week 🙂 When I went to give Boudica her daily raspberry leaf treat, I discovered someone had come out to see mummy and see what she eats ❤


There were six eggs from six chickens this morning, so after watering the greenhouse, I pickled another dozen eggs using the recipe I shared  here recently and started another loaf of sourdough bread. This weather Wee Beastie is very active and needs more attention (and feeding!)

My son came over and hung out, he’s in the process of moving out of his old place and in with a friend who lives just up the road from here. I think he was just sick of sorting out the junk from the stuff he wants to keep and needed some chill out time. So we kicked back, drank lots of tea and watched cooking shows on television. We’ve agreed to have a birthday dinner at home for me next week – Roast Pork with all the trimmings, maybe some new potatoes from the garden – which will be perfect!

I’m gradually getting my head around this final assignment, which is due Friday afternoon. I’ve opted to write three poems for plus a 500 word exegesis. Although I’m a professional songwriter (and prolific blogger) I don’t have much experience with poetry and it’s a form I find quite fascinating. Interestingly, I’ve found the easiest way to start is take and idea and just write. Stream of consciousness seems to be the key way into it for me. Then I edit and arrange the words on the page so they make sense to me – and hopefully my tutor! So my poems are largely about the strange weather we get in Tasmania, the changing seasons, growing things, musicians and music.

The sourdough went in the oven late this afternoon and, as a light dinner I took fresh sourdough slices, slabs of Pork Brawn I made on Sunday and crumbled over feta cheese I made a few weeks ago. We put the slices under a hot grill for about 10 minutes – until the feta started to melt – and it was so delicious! The sharp saltiness of the feta worked so well with the rich, meaty Brawn on the fresh sourdough.

I was also reminded by HeWhoMustNotBeListenedTo that everything on our plates was made by me. It was a very satisfying moment……


So, tomorrow will be even busier – sand and pine bark chips are arriving for a project in the back end of the garden. I’ll have pics to show you all tomorrow night 😀

The Joy of Little Things – Day 23 NaBloPoMo 2015

Today’s post will be very brief, I’m in the midst of writing an exegesis for a uni assignment.

I know it’s just a little thing but it gave me a tremendous amount of joy. Today I went to Oak to have lunch with my friends before doing a music session with them. I took a salad, as I often do, but today absolutely everything in was grown, made or raised by me – I knew where it all came from 🙂

Eggs from my feathered beauties, sprouts I grew in the kitchen, plus rocket, spinach, basil and kale from the garden. Even the cheese was a feta made a few weeks ago with real milk. And it was all delicious ❤


Making Room – Day 22 NaBloPoMo 2015

Just a short post today, I’m tired tonight!

Because we have relatively mild summers here in Tasmania, I grow chillies and basil in pots in the greenhouse so I get the most out of them. When I first moved here six years ago, this was run down shed, full of weeds and cherry tree suckers and it took six months to get it into a workable state. All of the shelving is timber salvaged from the old shed.

I’ve been doing yet another clean out of the greenhouse the last couple of days, in an effort to make more room. It’s something I go through every spring as it tends to become a storage space in winter. But this year I’ve got more chilli plants already in pots – and a lot more on the way!


So this is what it looks like after today. This is the front half, with a wonderful view to the outside and the main raspberry bed. Inside, there’s Sweet Basil in pots that I’ve already started cropping and two more punnets of Basil seedlings ready to be potted up. The area out of shot holds my eight very productive strawberry plants a storage shelf for plastic trays, tags and toilet roll grow tubes and further left is a bench where I can sit and work.

In this photo there’s also vegetables sizing up for planting out in the next few weeks, including zucchinis, beans, various salad vegetables and about 50 Asparagus seedlings.

At the far end on the top shelf is a tray with approximately eight different varieties of chillies that need to potting up – so many plants!


Following around are mini cucumbers in a tub on the wood chip floor, Garlic Chives about to go out into the garden and my permanent chillies, a Rocoto (Capsicum pubescens), which has beautiful purple flowers and large, very hot fruit and a Scotch Bonnet (Capsicum chinense).  On the lower shelf are three pots of watercress, one of my favourite salad plants.



The top shelf here is more chillies – did I mention my family love hot, spicy food? – Cayenne, Jalapeno, Habaneros and Thai and the last of the vegetables to be potted up. The lower shelf in this photo will eventually be filled with Mammoth, Lettuce Leaf and Thai Basil. Out of shot to the right is a shelf and small cupboard that might end up being more shelving for chillies!

So, that’s my greenhouse – probably my most productive space in the entire garden 🙂

What’s the most productive space in your garden? Do you have a greenhouse? Please leave a comment. 






Sunny Saturday – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2015

I had a really lovely day today. It wasn’t too hot, there was a gentle breeze through the yard and there was lots of gardening to do. Who am I kidding – there’s always lots of gardening to do! Admittedly, I didn’t do a scrap of uni work today but I had such a busy week, I felt I deserved a day off.

It’s wonderful to watch everything grow and change this time of year. In the space of a few short weeks, we’ve gone from buds to flowers to fruit forming on the cherry, apricot, plum and nectarine trees. The strawberries have been delicious and reasonably plentiful despite having only a handful of plants. But this morning we picked and ate the first raspberries of the season.


It was quite a momentous occasion, I think it always is for people who grow their own fruit. When I was a child in South Australia (a far more Mediterranean climate than here in Tasmania), we would pick the first stone fruit – usually early apricots – and my mother would cut it into equal pieces for us all to share and she insisted we make a wish on the first of the harvest. It’s a ritual I’ve continued to this day with my family and whoever happens to be with us when it happens.

This afternoon I started cleaning out the other side of the greenhouse in preparation of the main Basil and Chilli crops. Because the climate here in Hobart is on the cool side, I always grow these in plastic pots in the warmest spot I can find. So far I have all the common Sweet Basil (Ocimiun basilicum) potted up, about 40 plants this year. But there’s Thai, Mammoth and Lettuce Leaf (my favourite for pesto) plus more varieties of chillies ready to go now and nowhere to put them at the moment!

I’ll get it finished tomorrow. Meanwhile, tonight we had the first of the free range pork that arrived yesterday with a salad from the garden, featuring home made feta cheese I made about a month ago. It was a winner all round 😉

What are your favourite family rituals? Leave a comment below. 

Pork Brawn Recipe – Day 20 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’m going to start again with a disclaimer. This post is all about pork and the preparation and cooking of a free-range pig’s head and trotters and does contain photographs. I have absolutely no desire to offend any of my vegetarian friends so if this isn’t your thing, come back tomorrow when I’ll be likely talking/writing about music, vegetables or home made cheesecake 😉

Home made Blackberry Cheesecake from last summer

Home made Blackberry Cheesecake from last summer

Today I had a delivery from my friend Paul. He and his partner Trudy own Elderslie Farm, just out of Hobart. We met when I was searching for a local, low food miles, free-range meat producer and I can’t praise their produce enough. It’s flavoursome, tender, butchered and bagged to my needs and delivered to my door! The bonus is we’ve made new friends in the process.


I got a side of pork earlier this year from them and, perhaps I was feeling some childhood nostalgia, agreed to have the head and trotters included so I could make Brawn. My grandmother used to make this along with various other dishes that used every part of a beast, where nothing was wasted. When I was little, my job was to pull the cooled cooked meat apart with two forks and I think it’s still my favourite job in this quite long process.

It went so well, I’m doing it again and right now the kitchen smells amazing – there’s a pork head simmering in the slow cooker with a head of fresh garlic and various spices. It’s so big I can’t fit the lid on properly!

For this post, I’m using photographs from the Brawn I made earlier in the year.

Pork Brawn


Pigs head, cleaned and de-haired     Pig’s trotters, cleaned thoroughly     Stock powder (optional)

1/2 cup Marsala or sherry   1 onion, peeled and halved    1 head of garlic 2 or 3 Bay leaves  2 or 3 dried Chillies

Spices to taste in a cheesecloth bag (a few cloves, allspice berries, cardamon pods – whatever takes your fancy)

Water to cover


Start by preparing your cheesecloth bag with the spices. I sometimes put sprigs of thyme or sage in plus cloves, cardamon, peppercorns, star anise or whatever takes my fancy. Tie it up with some kitchen string and leave a tail to tie it to the handle of your pan. Put the clean head in a large pan or slow cooker. Then add the Bay leaves, chillies, halved onion, stock powder (if using it), pour over the Marsala and cover with water.

IMG_20150419_185456Cook covered on a very low heat for 4-6 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. This will depend on the size of the head. I’m cooking mine in a slow cooker on a low setting for a few hours tonight. I’ll switch it off and leave it there overnight and check in the morning to see if it needs more cooking time.

It should look a little like the picture left – basically a pork soup. (Note the string that I tied to the slow cooker handle).

Once it’s cooked, it’s time to get into the messy part of this dish! Make sure you’ve got plenty of room to spread out and I suggest getting all your implements ready before you start lifting this around – it’s heavy!

Get a large clean pan and set it up next to the pork. Use a nylon strainer or a sheet of cheesecloth tied over the clean IMG_20150419_192017pan and start ladling the rich broth, straining the liquid. I find it best to do this stage when the broth is still warm but not scalding hot. Remove the spices in the cheesecloth and and large bones and skin as you come across them.

You should end up with a delicious smelling pot of stock, something like the picture to the right. It will be full of gelatin from the bones too, which will make your  brawn set.

Put this on a low heat uncovered to reduce the stock.

Meanwhile, the pot with the head and trotters are now ready to work on. IMG_20150419_192004My family like things spicy, so I usually leave at least one of the chillies in with the meat to chop up and go in the final dish.

Take it piece by piece, (the cheeks are particularly delicious) and on a clean board start shredding the meat with two forks. Put the meat into a bowl as you go. Continue stripping the head and if the tongue is still in the skull I chop that up finely and put it in too. (My gran used to do this separately as pressed tongue in aspic but I prefer it mixed in the brawn).

You can also chop the onion halves finely and as many cloves of garlic from the head as you like and add them to the meat mix as well.

By now, the stock should be reduced. Take it off the heat, cover and allow it to cool. Refrigerate it if the weather is warm. Cover the shredded meat mixture and refrigerate it until you’re ready to assemble the brawn.

While the stock is cooling, prepare some small ramekins or cups by lining them with plastic wrap. Pack the meat mixture into the ramekins.

Skim any excess fat off the cooled stock and ladle enough of the liquid carefully over the meat mixture. Leave it a couple of minutes for any air bubbles to escape. Then carefully fold the plastic wrap over the top. (Any excess stock can be frozen for later use in soups or stews).

Stack the ramekins on top of each other or put a weight on each and refrigerate.


Finished turned out Pork Brawn

The finished product will set naturally from the high amounts of gelatin in the bones and trotters. There’s no need for any extra gelatin. Serve turned out on a plate with slices of fresh crusty bread and with a green salad makes a lovely lunch.


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