Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving from afar

I don’t normally take much notice of Thanksgiving celebrations in New Zealand because I know so few of the Americans who reside here.  However, yesterday, I happened to be having one of my rare TV watching moments and I saw an item on a Thanksgiving Dinner at the Downtown Community Ministry in Wellington.  The Dinner was sponsored by the US Embassy to New Zealand and 300 meals were served, with the help of Embassy staff and their families. The diners, most of them New Zealanders, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner…..and who wouldn’t enjoy turkey and cranberry sauce and pecan pie and all the trimmings?   I have very happy and delicious memories of Thanksgiving Dinners in New York and also with  American friends in Cairo and Zambia…. but back to the US Embassy to New Zealand, or more precisely the US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa,  David Huebner. I was charmed by his Thanksgiving spirit and his modern approach to the age-old craft of diplomacy. ( He even has a  blog!  )

In fact, I was not only charmed but  I felt inspired to rearrange a ‘grumpy’ post that had been stewing  in my ‘brain pot’ for a few days. So here it is, transformed in to my Thankful List.

I am thankful  that the days are warm and I have a lovely garden to view whilst I wait for my broken  curtain rail to be fixed.

Room with views

Room with views

I am thankful my home is, once again,  unflooded and keeping us warm and dry , even if the repairs are not yet finished and

there remains a hole in our bedroom ceiling.

There's a hole in the Ceiling, dear G, dear G

There’s a hole in the Ceiling, dear G, dear G

I am thankful that we have a wonderful library system that tells me about excellent magazines, one of which is   Frankie ; which I like so much I have to buy a copy.   And to my  delight contains a pullout poster,  by the ever so  talented  Becca Stadtlander , which just happens to be the right size to cover the vexatious hole in the ceiling; and provides a  new interpretation of vision board.

Not that I want a desk/home office on my ceiling, but I do want my home to be orderly again, one day, with everything in its place and a place for everything 🙂

Like my rugs, which have been lying, unrolled, on my  living room floor waiting …waiting….for so long….that I don’t really remember  what we are waiting for….

Why are we waiting?

Why are we waiting?

I am grateful that the path outside my house is being cut and drawn, yet again, so that soon our neighbourhood will have access to ultra fast broadband that very few of us can afford 😦

But such major upgrades of our infrastructure  are enabling many workers to enjoy employment, none more so than the temporary workers from the Philippines, some of whom will be concerned about the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in their own country, as they toil to  rebuild our broken city. I am grateful for their willingness to be so far from their homes and  their families.

And, lastly, I am ever so grateful that my home no longer looks like this,

for there are many in this city  who still live in damaged, unrepaired homes.

Now, if someone would deliver a turkey dinner and some pumpkin pie, I would be very thankful for that too 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

© silkannthreades

Minutiae

The days are busy; the evenings too. Not with big, important tasks;  just  the minutiae of daily life… . bread to bake, clothes to lavender, meals to prepare, groceries to buy, dishes to wash,  feet to scrub, vases to fill, socks to find,  hair to brush, a friend to visit, a neighbour to chat to, a letter to write, an email to send, a text to answer, and phone calls to make and  to receive….

My mother is improving and gaining strength. She will return home soon, we hope. Her  progress is good. I phone her once, sometimes twice, a day. A hospital is a busy place.  Our conversations are brief.

But I  grab a moment of the call, to talk to my brother or my sister; whoever happens to be with our mother when I phone. They are tired. I hear it in their voices. Whilst one sibling is at the hospital, the other cares for the house and my father. Care responsibilities are 24 hours.

Later, when it is 1 in the morning here, I may phone my sister again. It will be 10pm in Cairns. We discuss the day’s events. I am yawning and, suddenly, my sister switches from talking about hospital matters to something about ‘hammering nails’. I am silent for a while, wondering what this means. My sister is silent, too, for a moment. Then she laughs and asks, “What did I just say?” “Something about nails,” I reply. She laughs again; her great,big, only-my-sister-can-laugh-this-way, laugh. “I fell asleep. I was talking in my sleep,” she says.  A short while later, it happens again. We hang up before our words become any more incomprehensible 🙂

There are other calls to make at other times. To friends; to my aunt, in a rest home, to let her know that her sister is okay; to my uncle and my aunt who are moving to their retirement home. To others we Skype. My father likes to Skype chat. He types well and knows how to use those emoticons 😀

Thus are the smallnesses that occupy my days; that keep my fingers flying, my voice activated, and my brain engaged (mostly).

But there are other smallnesses that rest my body and mind; that communicate by ancient paths and provide calm and continuity,

and call forth joy every morning.

© silkannthreades

The case of the missing socks

Remember  this post  , back in February, when my son, the one and only,  best beloved , left home to go flatting ?…..w.e.e.e.l.l…….I would not need to hire dear Monsieur  Poirot*  (* possible, but unlikely, spoiler alert)  to tell me that said son has returned to the fold. The evidence is clear.

And, if those signs were not compelling enough to indicate a son-in-residence, this one is indisputable.

Where's the Pair?

Where’s the Pair?

How is this possible? Where does the other half go? Perhaps I do need Monsieur Poirot, after all, to help solve this mystery that is as old as the sock itself?  Even if he were not  able to find the missing items, he would surely throw some psychological light on the subject  of sons and socks and mothers who treat their own socks like this ….which is very just so..

But more mysterious than the missing socks,

(and here I might require some fanciful intervention from Mr Kipling because I fear I am now  seeking answers in a realm beyond Monsieur Poirot’s logical mind )

is that mismatched socks may appear in the laundry, but I do not know when my son ever wears socks, in pairs or otherwise. Every time we meet in the house, or in the garden, he is barefooted.

Be that as it may, it is good to hear the noise and the quiet of him again.  And little Jack is thrilled to be able to race upstairs, once more, and find a  ready place to snuggle down with his best buddy.

Number one son, best beloved, may not be home for long. This is just an interlude between the end of the academic year and whatever he plans to do next. Should I suggest a job involving socks…selling, finding, darning, washing, knitting….thereof???

(Isn’t it fun that there’s always a good yarn to be had from a sock 😀 😀 :D?  Yes, you may groan! )

© silkannthreades

Perfectly Lovely and Blessings Two

I have had a fragmented sort of day. I don’t know why; a case of general Monday-itis, or, perhaps, a failure to concentrate on the task at hand; or, more disturbingly,  not  being quite sure what the task at hand should be. Whatever the case, I feel that, if I had been sensible enough to write a to-do list, I would have completed precisely minus one on the list.

Mmmm, that’s a bit harsh…..I did fill the flower vases, afresh,  which is a fine occupation for a Monday morning. I was particularly pleased that, today, there was enough in the garden  to bless two vases with their first flowers in my home. Both vases have had former lives  and came  to me when flowers were not so plentiful. This day  was their day to experience their true calling 🙂

First Blessing : this  striped vase was found by a friend in a half price sale at a St Vincent de Paul thrift store. She thought it would be a cheerful addition to my house and so it is.

Roses and Ivy, Heucher and Parsley

Roses and Ivy, Heuchera and Parsley

Second blessing: this  vase is the large Royal Doulton bowl, which I featured in an earlier  post . It was given to me by my uncle and used to belong to my grandmother.

Peruvian Lily and Portuguese Laurel

Peruvian Lily and Portuguese Laurel

I filled the bowl with Portuguese Laurel and Peruvian Lilies. Portuguese Laurel is properly known as  Prunus Lusitanica

Peruvian Lily is the common name for Alstroemeria

Quite fun to realise that I had, unintentionally, combined flowers with the same first letters. Perfectly lovely…….even if the bugs have been finding the Alstroemeria perfectly lovely too 🙂

© silkannthreades

All the parts of the whole picture

About a year ago, I observed that, when I brought flowers in to the house, I often placed them against the backdrop of a favourite photo in a book

or against the landscape

of a print of a  loved painting.

Heuchera, Hebe  and Catmint

Heuchera, Hebe,  Catmint and  Yorkshire painting

Once I realised what I was doing,  I decided that the overall effect, of my relatively thoughtless juxtaposition of plant and paper, was pleasing. And I felt that  I could add another layer to my floral tableaux  by creating a digital image of them; one that made them seem as though  the real and the printed record were almost fully integrated.

So I began my   image making, recreating and rearranging the scenes before me. And, although the results are of variable quality, I have  great  fun messing about with flowers and photos and other people’s beautiful artwork.

An Impression of Clematis and Catnip

An Impression of Clematis and Catnip

Fragrant settings

Fragrant settings*

Today, I am finding this creative activity  beneficial as well as  fun. It is helping me to focus, to be mindful, to be at one with the  Serenity Prayer   ….. Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other….

or  to smile at its amusing Mother Goose version:-

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

The other day, I mentioned that my mother was unwell and needed a wheelchair. She is now in hospital, undergoing tests/scans, receiving physiotherapy treatment, and help with pain management. Yesterday, she was walking again with the aid of a walking frame and hospital staff. This is all happening thousands of kilometres from me but I know that  she is in good hands. When I spoke to her on the phone the other night, I could hear, in the background, laughter and kind voices encouraging her into wellness.

Everlasting Ivy

Everlasting Ivy*

Floral notes :

In Britain, the ivy is the last plant of the year to bloom and is in full bloom by early November. It is a welcome source of nectar as the colder days advance. It was once looked upon as a woman’s plant. In New Zealand ivy is  considered, by many, as a garden nuisance. Since I can’t seem to eradicate it, I have decided I may as well put it to use in my vases. And, if I ever take to drink, it will supposedly protect me from drunkenness.

Resources for this post:

The Floral Year by L J F Brimble, published by MacMillan& Co. Ltd 1949 and dedicated, amongst others, to Enid Blyton

The Garden Design Book by Anthony Paul and Yvonne Rees**

Tricia Guild’s Natural Flower Arranging by David Montgomery and Nonie Niesewand *

© silkannthreades

Winners in my book

In my previous  post   I wrote, amongst other matters,  about baking delicious, crunchy rye crackers, using a  recipe  by New Zealand caterer, Ruth Pretty.

Rye Crackers

Rye Crackers

I mentioned that ” I had to  bake the crackers about 15 minutes longer than suggested, to get the degree of cracker-ness that I like..” and I said “…. but, my goodness, they are good.”

And, my goody-goodness, within 24  hours of publishing my post, I found this comment in my inbox…

ruth pretty November 11, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Hello and yes they are lovely crackers. You mentioned that you needed to bake them 15 minutes longer than recipe said. They look much thicker than how we make them so that will account for the longer time. Ours are thin and crisp. I will try them thicker as that will be an interesting change. Keep cooking!

Yes, a comment from  Ruth Pretty herself!!!! … with helpful advice as to why I may have needed to cook my crackers a little longer than her recipe suggested. Now, I am an iddy biddy blogger in the middle of itty bitty  nowhere, so I nearly choked on my cracker crumbs to see Ruth’s comment on my blog: a) BECAUSE SHE NOTICED; and b) because she CARES enough about her recipes, and her work, to follow what is happening to them on the blogosphere.

In my world that makes Ruth Pretty AWESOME. I can’t tell you how many times I have  commented on author/poetry/artist websites, because of my genuine interest in someone’s work or book, and received no feedback; none, not a bite, so I give up, disappointed, and wondering why said persons even bother with a web presence.

Sophia Stuart,

Sophia Stuart

writer, photographer and award-winning digital media advisor in her article, New Hollywood (Digital) Dating Rules  for the Huffington Post, writes “You need real people to manage your Social network presences. Try not to outsource. It won’t be your voice. This is too important to farm out. And if you engender real loyalty from your audience, not only will they follow and friend and respond to you and your brands — they will tell everyone they know (many more people than you know, when you add up the network effect) and this is the best bit — they’ll do it for free (but only if they really like you). There’s no substitute for a true relationship.”
Her article should be compulsory reading for anyone wanting to establish a digital presence. ( And just so you know, she follows her own advice to the letter….communicating with  Sophia [or her IL persona  teamgloria ] is a delight, a true delight )

I am not sure who directs Ruth Pretty’s digital strategy; perhaps Ruth herself but  she clearly  knows how the relatively new internet world/market works.

I am not currently in the market for a new recipe book  but, if I were, I would definitely be looking at one written by Ruth Pretty. For one thing, I now know that the recipes will be accurate (v. important!), and, should I have any difficulty , Ruth is  willing to help me get it right.

So cake tins and chefs’ spatulas off the bench, and raised, to Ruth Pretty.

And now it’s time for my cuppa and a Rye Cracker slathered  with my favourite manuka honey.

Crackers, Ruth, Sophia, manuka honey, teamgloria; all winners in my book; oops blog. 🙂

© silkannthreades

Let’s talk hardtack

This morning I woke up to a  version of this ; The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended, one of my all time favourite hymns.

I lay in bed listening to words and music that I hadn’t heard in years, and felt profoundly peaceful. The hymn was part of our New Zealand  Praise Be programme for Remembrance Sunday, on this second Sunday in November.  On Remembrance Sunday,  people throughout the Commonwealth  pay tribute, before God, to those who laid down their lives in war.  I haven’t been to a Remembrance Sunday service, in real life,  but the few scenes (and one  service sheet ) that I have seen, via the internet and television, always impress me with the beauty of their words and their music and their surroundings. Heavenly and divine aptly describe these church services where we honour peace and life, and, somehow, try to atone for the horror of war and conflict.

Now, although to a certain extent I am a person of faith, my spiritual life is more bread and butter than angels and divine inspiration, which means that, as I was  listening to the hymn this morning, my mind suddenly  jumped from wreaths on tombstones to one word…hardtack!  Yes, hardtack! Well…. it was nearly breakfast time, so quite natural that my stomach/brain would be reminding me of food. And, since an army is said to march on its stomach, I would guess most soldiers, of older times, also thought  more often of hardtack (what they would rather have, or what they could do with it!)  than their Maker.

Hardtack, as many of you may know, is a  type of plain cracker made from flour and water and salt and, in ages past, was used to sustain soldiers and sailors.  Hardtack was hard, very hard, and very long- lasting. It was a substitute for bread. In World War One, Australian and New Zealand troops ( ANZACS)  jokingly called their hardtack,  ANZAC wafers. They were also called ANZAC tiles.

According to this source,  http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/ , the daily ration of an ANZAC soldier  was ”disablingly bad”  and included 7 ANZAC Wafers ( ie 7 hardtack biscuits).  Considering many soldiers  didn’t have a full set of teeth, or had false teeth,  eating the rations must often have required more energy than they had to spare. Apparently the Anzac biscuits (and the bully beef) were so inedible that, sometimes, they were merely nibbled on and then thrown in to No Man’s Land.

The Australian War Memorial  website offers a recipe for ANZAC wafers. However, I don’t suggest you try it, unless you  want to boost your dentist’s bank balance.

A happier and more nutritious alternative would be to try these delicious, crunchy rye crackers that I made, based on a  recipe  by New Zealand caterer, Ruth Pretty. I had to  bake the crackers about 15 minutes longer than suggested, to get the degree of cracker-ness that I like but, my goodness, they are good. No armed services personnel would throw these crackers in to No Man’s Land.

Rye Crackers

Rye Crackers

And, if you do make these crackers, or something similar, remember as you munch, that our service personnel once had more to fear than enemy fire. Remember too, that how we treat and train our armed services is often more  important than how we pray for them.

After bites; Captain Clark Gable had false teeth 🙂

Some viewers may not be able to see Praise Be for copyright reasons.

© silkannthreades

Often the soldiers managed no more than nibbling away at the edges before tossing the centres out into No Man’s Land. – See more at: http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/#sthash.4Em0zDGB.dpuf
Often the soldiers managed no more than nibbling away at the edges before tossing the centres out into No Man’s Land. – See more at: http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/#sthash.4Em0zDGB.dpuf
Our rations are 7 biscuits a day, a very little each of jam, tea & sugar & a very fat chunk of bacon. There is any amount of bully beef but only because it is poor & barely eatable. I have a struggle to get satisfied; it takes a lot of gnawing to fill up on biscuits & our 7 are as many as a man with ordinary jaws can manage. – See more at: http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/#sthash.4Em0zDGB.dpuf