Tag Archives: winter

Gathering stories at the modern hearth

In some traditions, winter is a time for families to gather round the hearth and sing and tell, and retell, their stories. It is winter here and, appropriately,  I am busy  recounting, recording and researching family history,  stories, myths and legends. It is fascinating ‘work’, but very exhausting for a scatterbrain, like myself, who has a disinclination for the orderliness and systemic approach needed for successful genealogical study. What that means is that I keep forgetting names and dates and things like which person is my great-aunt and which person is my great- aunt’s second husband’s brother.

Anyway, I do the best I can, and hope that great-aunt’s second husband’s brother, dead for ever so many years, will forgive me 🙂

As I find information, I tell it to my family. Some of my regular followers may remember that I am the only one of my family in Christchurch. The rest of my immediate family live across the ditch, better known as the Tasman Sea, in Australia. So, for story telling, we cannot gather round a true hearth. Instead, we gaze in to the glow of our individual computer screens, and the investigation and celebration of our common narrative begins. (We would do Skype video if our broadband were faster and cheaper! ) There is laughter and sadness  and a plethora of memories, and, sometimes, as we chat, we gain new insights and knowledge. Other times, we become confused and lost in trying to understand the whys and wherefores of  our family roots.

Here is a typical Skype conversation of an evening. This one concerns a death notice I found for our great great grandmother who was referred to as a relict.

“[31/07/2013 12:56:52 a.m.] Sister: i like in the papers past the death notice “a relict of”
 Me: yes
 Me: yes
 Sister: it sounds like a relic
Me: it is
Me: it means a left over
Me: a relic
Sister: like u r old and left over frm thr couple that was
Me: a remnanat

Sister: heheeheh

Me: remnant
Me: also widow, or dowager
Sister: omg it really truely means it
Sister: hilar
Me: Ye s\
Me: hilair

Sister: okgtb
[31/07/2013 12:58:29 a.m.] Sister : nite nite”

The conversation happens after midnight, my time, and has no regard for grammar, for punctuation or for spelling; it is free-form, as if we truly were side by side discussing our latest find in the family story.

Here is another story time from our modern-day hearth, the computer screen. This time, my mother and I are engaged in a tale of her meeting with royalty.

“[25/07/2013 9:41:54 p.m.]  My Mother:  you all know the story of how I was introduced to Lord  Louis ofcourse
Me: You can tell me again
Me: because I probably don’t remember it properly
My Mother: well Gwen was sick and Uncle Ernie decided to take me along to the Civic Reception for the Mountbattens ,I was introduced and Lord M gave my hand a shake   very Royal  it was all over very Quickly really I think they were on their way back to England
Me: What did you wear?
My Mother: probably my best dress it wasnt an evening affair
Me: what was your best dress? Do you remember? Did you need gloves and a hat?
Me: It must have been a quiet visit to Christchurch because nothing is coming up about it on the internet
My Mother: No Ithink it was rather informal really and very short Idont recall my dress  or having hat or gloves”

And thus the conversation went, and the strands of family history were considered and sorted and reworked, much as though we were by the fireside of old, working together on the spinning and weaving of sturdy, new cloth  to keep us warm in the days ahead . Through some further investigation on my part, I was able to tell my mother, later, that the Mountbattens made a fleeting  visit to Christchurch in 1946. And we, my mother and I, went on to recall the time she and my father  met Queen Elizabeth, on a walkabout,  in Christchurch in 2002.

Much of my mother’s Christchurch, the physical structure of it, was destroyed by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.  The churches she knew, the schools she went to; all rubble.  However, I was very pleased to be able to tell her, from my recent family research,  that the home where she spent the first  years of her life is still standing. As is the adjacent building which was her father’s first shop in Christchurch. The building, which is currently home to a hairdressing business, is being repaired and strengthened to new earthquake standards. So not all is lost to time, and, just to be sure this piece of our history will be around for future story telling and reminiscing, I took some photos and uploaded them to the web, my flash drive and my external hard drive.

© silkannthreades

Feasting

In recent weeks, when I was feeling ‘under the weather’, on account of my cold/cough, my desire to eat and cook was as lacking as my tastebuds. Now that I am all better, my appetite and interest in cooking have returned and, yesterday, my meal seemed like a feast; it tasted so good!

First up, we had brown lentils and mushrooms in pasta sauce. This is a dish I  created using a combination of different ideas and recipes. It is an authentic mish mash rather than anything elegant with a specific and identifiable origin. Here is a small sample of the finished product.

As usual, my recipe  for this dish is fairly carefree and easy but, for those of you who are interested, here is an outline of the ingredients and cooking method:  Roughly chop one onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 celery stick and 1 carrot and place in the blender and blitz. Place a little olive oil in a large pan and add blitzed mixture to the pan. Cover and let mixture sweat for about 10 minutes. Add a half teaspoon of dried oregano, and about a half teaspoon of salt and a cup of canned, chopped tomatoes in thick juice. Stir and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Add one tin/can of drained and rinsed brown lentils (about 400gm) and stir. Then add one bottle of thick pasta sauce. I use Bertolli Five Brothers Pasta Sauce, large size, in the summer tomato and basil flavour.  Stir again and cover and simmer gently for a few more minutes. Lastly add about 200 gm of quartered, button mushrooms and 3  Tablespoons of bulghur wheat.  Cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes, or until the bulghur wheat is tender. Before serving add freshly ground pepper and 2 or 3 Tablespoons of cream to the pan.

The textures of the ingredients and the smooth richness of the sauce are wonderfully hearty  on a winter’s night. I served the sauce on creamy mashed potatoes with steamed carrots and steamed broccoli stalks. And ,because the recipe makes a large amount, we will be having the sauce again tonight, but this time with polenta.

To follow the main meal, I made a scrumptious fruit crumble, using an absolutely excellent crumble recipe from blogger Valerie Davies; excellent because it is  both delicious and makes a large amount (which means at least enough for two fruit crumbles in my house). For the fruit component of the dish, I used freshly sliced cooking apples and a good handful of less than perfect grapes which I blanched and peeled and sprinkled with lemon juice.  The results were so good that I had to restrain myself from taking a third helping. Thanks Valerie 🙂

If you would like the recipe take a look Here.

While you are there, check out her other delicious recipe for Convent Eggs. http://valeriedavies.com/2013/07/13/the-real-dalai-lama/ 

I am sure it was the Convent Eggs that finally set my tastebuds on the road to recovery. Food has been tasting superb, since the day I made those delicious eggs.

Finally, what’s a feast without something for the eyes as well. I am so thrilled to have these three lovely books on my table today. The two Virago books arrived by post this morning, via Amazon.  The  third  book, With Bold Needle and Thread by Rosemary Mcleod  is on loan from the library. It is subtitled Adventures in Vintage Needlecraft, and so it is, so it is; a very lovely adventure.

Books of a Vintage

Books of a Vintage

A Visual Feast

A Visual Feast

© silkannthreades

What do you see?

What do you see?  What do you hear?……..All EarsI see a box; I see a rug;A box, a rugI see a flower on the Tree of Life; I touch a flower on the Tree of Life;Flower on the Tree of LifeI see a tray;Tea TrayI sense tea; I taste cake;Tasty treatsI feel the shape of the tea-cup in my hand;Cup for my handthe warmth of the teapot in the afternoon sunWarm feelingsand I hear the quiet silence of my house on a winter’s afternoon.

Today, 27 June,  is Helen Keller’s birthday.  If you would like to honour this remarkable woman, spend a few moments honouring and treasuring each of your five senses, no matter how perfect or imperfect they may actually be.

Then enjoy some time with the wonderful people at Helen Keller International; and be inspired by my dear friend Victoria Quinn as she writes about the Human Yardstick; and, finally, check out Good Housekeeping and up date yourself on 10 Facts about Helen Keller. Did you know she loved dogs?

https://www.facebook.com/HelenKellerInternational

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victoria-quinn/checking-in-on-the-human-yardstick_b_3404554.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=global_motherhood&comm_crv

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/inspirational-people/facts-about-helen-keller#slide-1

© silkannthreades

Short Stories

Rain

Rain

viewed from my window.

Soup

Soup of Substance of Substance and Sustenance, Lentils and Spice.

CakeNutty Fruit Cakeeasily made with Fruit and Nuts.

Rain, Soup, Cake; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Like the soup is sticking to my ribs 🙂

Footnote: Recipes for soup and cake in my next post.

© silkannthreades

It’s all turned to custard

It rained on my mother’s birthday (15 June), it rained yesterday, and it rains still…and HOW! 110 ml in the past 36 hours.  Rivers and drains and ditches are overflowing and some of the city streets are flooded. When the weather deteriorates like this, or when anything worsens, New Zealanders often say ‘It’s all turned to custard.”

I don’t know the origin of this expression. When I left New Zealand in 1977, custard was confined to the family dinner table. When I returned to New Zealand in 1999, I was astonished to learn that a great many things, including our attempt to win the Rugby World Cup, had “all turned to custard”.  Why custard? Why was poor, innocent, humble custard chosen to represent the unbright side of life. Had New Zealand become a nation of custard haters in my absence?

I love my custard. So I am deeply affronted by the sullying of custard’s good name. 😉CustardI make all kinds of custard but,  for my favourite quick custard, I use Edmonds Custard Powder. Edmonds used to be a genuine New Zealand brand but it has been sold out to a bigger overseas concern . So does that mean even our national custard industry has turned to custard?

So, those are photos of  the beautiful custard which nourished my body and soul yesterday.  Here is how it was made: Three tablespoons of custard powder, mixed with one tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 cup of cold, full cream milk.  Mix into a smooth paste.  Add 1/4 cup cream, mixed with a lightly beaten egg to the mixture.  Heat 1 and 3/4 cups of full cream milk and add this heated milk to the cold mixture.  Put the combined mixture in to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, with frequent stirring, until the custard thickens. Add a few drops of vanilla or almond essence and serve hot or cold. This recipe makes a very thick custard. ( I like thick custard with a thick skin on top! ) To make a thinner custard use 2 tablespoons of custard powder.

That’s the custard. Now look at the photos of the weather that has ‘all turned to custard.’ Can you see a connection to custard? I can’t.

Footnote: I have taken a light-hearted approach to custard, and the weather, but the weather and flooding are extreme in some parts of the country. There will be extensive damage  to land and property as a result.

© silkannthreades

Matariki and my mother’s birthday

NASA Matariki 2012 small_0Today is a special day. It is my mother’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Mum! My mother and my father live in my sister’s home in warm, tropical Queensland.  But my mother’s birthplace is just few kilometres east of my present home in Christchurch.  It was raining ( I think) on the day she was born, and it is raining on this day, too. It seems that  some things, weather wise, have not changed  in 91 years 🙂

Something else that has changed little in all my mother’s  decades, and for decades before her time, and which will change little in decades to come, is Matariki, or the star cluster Pleiades.  In New Zealand, in traditional Maori culture, when Matariki appears before dawn in late May or early June, it is a signal that heralds the New Year, in accordance with the Maori lunar calendar. This year, Matariki was on 10 June.  When my mother was born, Matariki  apparently disappeared from the night sky around  19th -21st May and reappeared in the first new month ( Pipiri ) of the year, about 17th -19th June.  So, by this reckoning, I can say that she is a New Year baby,  born under the ‘little eyes’ or ‘the eyes of god’  ; two of the interpretations of the meaning of Matariki.

Despite all the clear instructions on how to find Matariki in our New Zealand skies,  I have completely failed to do so. When I look at the night sky, I am immediately lost.  However, there is one bit of star-gazing that I can do, and have done, for as long as I can remember, and that is to notice the first star of the evening.  And with that noticing comes a little verse that has been sung over the centuries by many a child and, undoubtedly, many a mother too.

“Star light, star bright, The first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.”

I have wished many a wish on that first star of the evening sky, though what those wishes were I no longer remember. Perhaps they came true, perhaps they did not.

One wish that my mother had, a very long time ago was to have her travel diary published. She kept a comprehensive diary ,and many letters, of her early married life in Fiji but publishers were not interested then, and most likely still wouldn’t be.

However, with the POWER of WordPress at my finger tips, I am going to make my mother’s wish come true, on her birthday, and  publish a small extract from  her first rough copy manuscript !!!!

“It was our first winter at home (Christchurch)  after almost two years in a warmer climate, and we were feeling the cold dreadfully. Dealing with gas and electricity rationing and a fuel shortage did nothing to relieve our feelings, or the cold! On one particularly cold, wet, bleak afternoon I sat shivering before a small fire, nursing aching chilblains, and thinking gloomily of better days. Beside me on a desk lay a bundle of letters, written to the home folks, while we were away, and on an impulse I picked one up and began to read. Gradually the gloom dispersed and I was back again in the warm, happy islands of Fiji. Thoughts flitted through my head as bright as the hibiscus flowers and the myriad gay little birds of that tropical land where we had been so happy.”  September 1951

A Happy Birthday and  a Happy Matariki to my mother for all seasons, and for all time. Have a lovely day in warm sunshine. Is it fun to have your work published? 🙂
For the star gazers; a link to the heavens 🙂  (http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/matariki-maori-new-year) ( http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/maori-astronomy/taatai-arorangi-maori-astronomy-2.html)
The first image is apparently one from NASA and seems to be used by many of the websites I have looked at whilst researching Matariki.
© silkannthreades

Glum crepusculum and other twilight zones

Twilight, or the crepuscular hours, can be beautiful.  The twilight of a warm summer’s evening,  the twilight of a desert dawn, or the brief twilight following a tropical sunset, are especial favourites with me.  But twilight that starts around eight in the morning, before a sunrise that barely happens, and  then  seems to go on for the entire day, as it did today, is altogether a case of glum crepusculum.  Today was the fourth day of winter; assuming that winter’s official start was 1st June. It was wet, dreary, cold, grey and sunless.  I am already over winter.  And it’s only just begun.

What to do?  Glumness is too dull to bear. Well,  I made a hearty, spicy lentil soup!  That was a bit cheering. But not quite cheering enough. So I made a golden, creamy custard which we ate for afternoon tea with homemade apple sauce and whipped cream.  Not my usual ‘cuppa’ for  afternoon sustenance but I figured that, if I was living in a twilight zone, a dessert, in place of tea, was neither here nor there. And it was delicious. One helping wasn’t enough. We had seconds.

Then what? Having fed my body, I decided to feed my mind, which is when I googled  ‘twilight’. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crepuscular  and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight).  And I discovered that cats  exhibit crepuscular behaviour which explains that cat you always see sitting at the gate, watching the world go by, shortly after sunset. That crepuscular activity is vespertine  which I think is a lovely, languid, slinky word that perfectly describes  that cat that sits and waits as the evening draws in.

Back in the realm of the ‘twilight zone’, I was amused to learn that another meaning for twilight zone is an “area of a city or town, usually surrounding the central business district, where houses have become dilapidated’.  That meaning  aptly describes  the state of the centre of our city,  post earthquakes.

But glum and gloomy as the day was, I have to admit the obvious, which is  that twilight is never completely dark; it cannot be, because in every twilight there are always degrees of light. That is the essence of twilight. So to lighten the mood, and feed the soul, here are some photos.

The first series features my beloved Tibetan carpets. They are a riot of colour and joy and light up my life every time my eyes alight on them. And strange to think that such vibrancy came from the hands and hearts of Tibetan refugees, who had moved from one twilight zone to live in another in their temporary home in Nepal.

The big picture:In full lightThese second photos were taken last week  to celebrate the birthday and enlightenment of The Buddha.

Now, as I end this post,  the true dark of night is here, and we again await the next twilight hour.  It  will be a matutinal twilight and, perhaps, will hold the  promise  of sunlight.Brilliance© silkannthreades

Tales of snow and other things

Yesterday we had a little taste of winter. The weather was bleak. There was a wild, bitingly cold wind, hail, rain, sleet and snowflakes, and temperatures that barely rose above freezing point. Oh,  and a few moments of sun, as well.  I stayed indoors and tried not to mind the ice and cold whipping around the house.

This morning the storm was gone and the sun was shining again, but not with a lot of warmth. We ventured out to view the world. It hadn’t been cold enough for the snow to stay on the ground, at sea level, (where we are), but the hills of the city were covered with snow.

As we looked at the snow from a distance, we listened on the car radio to the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Sixty years ago, today, they reached the summit of Mt Everest; the first people to succeed in climbing to the top of the highest point on earth. Two humble climbers; one remarkable moment.

It is a great story, that first successful ascent of Everest. One part of the story that I  particularly like  is this; there were two New Zealanders on the expedition, Edmund Hillary and George Lowe. When Hillary descended from the summit, he was greeted by George Lowe and this was their exchange :-

Lowe, waiting at the South Col with a thermos, called, “How did you get on?”

“Well, George, we knocked the bastard off!”

“Thought you probably must have,” replied Lowe. “Here, have a cup of soup.”

For more information on this day, sixty years ago, try the following links.

(http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/8729855/Hillary-stands-atop-summit-of-NZ-fame) (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10872850)

And, here are some of the photos I took, today, of the first snowfall of the year. The scenery may not be up to Himalayan standards but it has its own charms and is a lot easier to access.

© silkannthreades