Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The dreaded Lurgy

For the last 5 nights I have been unable to sleep in my bed due to a bad dose of bronchitis; something that has not struck me down in years. Lying down makes me cough like a 3 pack a day smoker so in order to get what little shut-eye I can, I have spent the last 5 nights in my recliner chair wrapped in a blanket. Surprisingly I have managed to get 4 or 5 hours of snooze time in between bouts of coughing.

I was thinking this morning that compared to an economy class aeroplane seat on a flight to Europe (something I have done 3 times in my life), the lounge chair is not that bad. In fact it is way better as I can lean it back a lot further and there is no-one behind, in front or beside me to take into consideration. Plus when you get to the point where your eyes are hanging out of your head with exhaustion, you could probably sleep on a bed of nails between a major railway line and Freeway and still get some rest.

Most unusually for me I have stayed up till after midnight for the last 5 nights, discovering all sorts of programs on TV that I was unaware of and finally drifting off around the 2am mark.

I had a flu shot 3 weeks ago and the doc told me that it was not possible to catch the flu from the vaccination. She didn't say anything about bronchitis, asthma or any other respiratory problem. My chest is rattling like a closet full of coat hangers. So now I am patiently waiting to get better. In the meantime I have 2 puffers to ease the breathing and the coughing muscles have finally stopped hurting.

Oh bring on the day (or night) when I can finally get back into bed. Ah... bed, with those fresh, crisp, clean sheets; warm cuddly doona and a couple of dogs to keep my feet warm.

My horse friends next door

This is my mate Major.

I haven’t had a lot to do with horses in my life; I have been horseriding in the Megalong Valley twice and I knew one friend at school who owned a horse, but I have always thought they were a little like very large dogs. Since I moved here I have had the pleasure of getting to know the two horses that share the paddock next door, I have become enthralled by their beauty and gentleness.

Their owner is a young lady that I have had the opportunity to chat with. Not knowing much about horses, I saw her one day and asked about my equine neighbours. Why, for instance, does the male horse wear a blanket now that winter is here but the female does not? She told me that the male who was named “Major”, was around 15 years old and had spent most of his life in a warmer climate so he needed a winter blanket whilst the female who was named “Hey You” was about 30 years of age and had spent most of her life here so was used to the colder weather and she also had a much thicker coat than Major. Well there you go, makes sense when you know that sort of thing. I asked her if she would mind if I gave them a carrot or an apple every now and then and she said that was fine with her.

I am pleased to say that since I began my relationship with these two lovely animals, I have gotten a great deal of pleasure from their attentions. Mind you I do realise that they only love me for my food. Major was not shy in coming over to the fence for something to eat but Hey You was a different matter. Apparently she had spent 10 years by herself in a paddock with only a little human interaction. She had not been given a name; the lady told me when she first took ownership of her she had to follow her all over the paddock calling out “Hey You” before she finally was able to catch her so the name "Hey You" stuck. She did not come to the fence to see me but hung around in the back ground so I used to throw her a couple of pieces of carrot.

It has now been about 3 months since my first attempt at making friends with these beautiful creatures and I am excited that they come to the fence and seek me out. Of course it is for the food but, what the heck, I love it. Hey You will now take food from my hand and let me stroke her muzzle and face. Major on the other hand has been letting me do this from the beginning and he lets me wipe the boogies from his eyes with a tissue. He is such a sweetie but is really tall when he stands up straight and towers over me. I was a little nervous at first because of his size but we have gotten to know each other now and I am a bit more brave.

Every now and then their owner moves them to another paddock for a few days. I always miss them when they are not there. When they came back after a week somewhere else and we were all glad to see each other. I fed them both some apple and carrot and Major was trying to shoo Hey You away and keep me all to himself. This used to work in the beginning when Hey You was still getting used to me but she has started to stand her ground.

I am so grateful to be living here with the ability to interact with the various animals that live here. I also believe Rocky and Lou Lou are loving it here though Rocky is very jealous of me paying attention to the horses. Can’t blame him really considering his previous life. He barks at Major but Major couldn’t care less and takes no notice. I have to put Rocky in the house when it is feeding time for my equine friends.

I have observed Major when there is another horse in the vicinity, for example, if a car and horse float pulls up near the paddock, he gallops around, snorting and kicking his back legs. Once when I was in the front yard and Major was carrying on, he kicked a large clod of dried horse poo that sailed through the air and landed quite near me. Rocky, who was with me at the time, jumped straight in and started to eat it.

When their owner takes Major for a ride, Hey You is constantly in motion all over the paddock and trots up and down the fence line waiting for him to return. She certainly gets plenty of exercise then.

Being winter, there is not a lot of feed left in the paddock and my two friends have been elsewhere for the last 2 weeks. I miss them but no doubt when they return I will hear Major whinnying to me as if to say, well I am back now, come and give me a carrot.

Love it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Artistic Endeavours

This is a view of half my back yard and part of the paddock next door with my equine friends Major and Hey You not long after the sun rose to reveal the wonderous winter landscape that we are enjoying on an almost daily basis.

I am only fairly new to digital scrapbooking but am fast becoming enchanted with the whole process. The other picture above I took a couple of weeks ago when we had the minus 9.6 start to the day and everything was frosted with white icicles. Simply beautiful. This is the pub as viewed from my front yard. Not too far to stagger home when you have had a skinfull. Anyway, I have turned it into a picture with some of the elements I have in my digital scrapbooking stash. The advantage of digi scrapping is that you don't have miles of papers, embellishments and tools taking up space on my work desk but I confess that I still enjoy the "hands on" process too.

I am sure there are better places to live but as far as I am concerned, you can keep them. I love where I live and feel more at home here than anywhere else I have lived before.

Watch this space, there is more to come


How long can you live on what food you have at home?

If you had to live on what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer starting right now, how long do you think you could last without having to go shopping? To clarify, "shopping" means heading off to Woolies, Coles, Aldi or your local IGA, grabbing a trolley and going from aisle to aisle and filling the bugger up to the top. My aim, now that I have stocked my pantry and freezer over the last couple of months is to see how long I can manage to feed two adults and 2 dogs with what I have right now plus $21.00 to take care of the essentials.

I belong to a fabulous group called Simple Savings www.simplesavings.com.au which is where I got the $21 challenge idea from. Go and have a look at it for yourself. You will be surprised.

This is one experiment I am going to start this week. The only concessions I will make to this venture is (1) to buy some bread and eggs from the post office. Yes, I know that sounds odd but in this little village where I live the post office has a tiny general store component to it and the post mistress has her own chooks. Fresh bread comes in on a Friday and is available frozen most of the time if you get caught short and (2) some fresh fruit and veg when I go to town on Wednesday to have my tax return done. Otherwise I have worked out that I can mix and match the contents of the fridge, freezer and pantry to create about 50 meals.

So, if I can avoid going "shopping" for the next 28 days, I will be able to save about $1,000.00. Impossible I hear you say but not so. You would be surprised what is lurking in the pantry and what you can do with it to create something delicious. I have a number of things that are getting close to their "best before" dates so they are on the top of the list to be used first.

Given my penchant for Chinese cuisine, for the first time in my life I am going to make sweet and sour pork at some stage this week. I have all the ingredients to make it from scratch including the sauce. It won't be that bright red colour though but it will taste great. Nothing like a little confidence in your own abilities eh?

The only difficulty I can forsee is possibly that the dogs will need something apart from a tin of meat and some dry food, once the 6 bones that are in the freezer have gone. However I am sure that I can use some of the $21 to overcome this.

So that is my plan. Starting now. In fact, I think it is time for another cup of coffee and to decide what, from the vast array of yummy items I have accumulated, I will make for our main meal today. Hmmmm.... I think it will have to be spinach and ricotta canelloni made with mountain bread. Delish!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The olden days

It would appear that I am turning into my grandmother. You know what it was like when you were a kid. The older members of your family constantly reminiscing about what it was like when they were children and how good it was then. How cheap things were and us kids looking at them in wonder at how old fashioned it all sounded.

Well, I suddenly realised recently that the same thing is happening to me now. For example:

* in primary school my pocket money was 2 shillings which Dad gave me every Saturday morning. Oh boy you could buy a lot with that in those days. A lot of the time I would go to the Saturday matinee at the local theatre where tickets were 1 shilling and 3 pence and I would spend the other 9 pence on a huge bag of mixed lollies from the milk bar across the road. At Mrs Lemmon's general store you could buy 3 pence worth of broken biscuits and get a big bag full. Biscuits came in large tins then and you bought them by weight.

* Being from a family that was not actually flush with funds, my brother and I used to save Dad's daily newspapers until we had enough to roll into a big bundle then we would take them to Pat Roots butcher shop where Mr Roots would buy them from us for 6 pence a pound. He would use them to wrap his meat parcels, the first recycling I can remember. Often we would take the money in the form of sliced devon to eat on the way home.

*The Beatles were all the rage when I was in primary school and a couple of the boys at school had plastic Beatle wigs they would wear to school.

* I started high school they year Australia changed over from pounds, shillings and pence to dollars and cents. I felt ripped off as 6 pence was the same as 5 cents but when you translated that into lollies, you got less. Not fair!

* My first ever brand new "off the showroom floor" car was a red Datsun 120Y. I bought it in 1974 when I was a student nurse and I have no idea how much I paid for it because I was only interested in the monthly payment figure and whether I would get a good trade-in for the crappy old Morris 1100 that I was driving at the time. The payments worked out to be $95 a month and on my student nurse salary, I could manage that.

This was not my first car, oh no, my first car was a 1963 blue Ford Falcon that my Dad bought for $80. It has a hole in the automatic transmission which he skillfully repaired using aluminium foil, araldite and some other secret substance which actually worked because I drove that baby around for 18 months with no problems.

Then I traded the Falcon in on a Morris 1100 which turned out to be a piece of crap. I didn't even complete the first trip I did from the place of purchase (Penrith) back to the hospital. It stalled in Maroubra and when the NRMA bloke arrived, he told me the alternator had failed. Then every time it even looked like it might rain the bloody thing would not start or if it was actually going, it would conk out after 3 drops of rain. The final straw was when I was on my way to visit my grandfather for my 4 day break, who lived on the central coast. I had just crossed the Hawkesbury River on the new F3 freeway and was chugging up the hill when it started to rain and (surprise, surprise - not) the car stopped. No way could I start it again and by now the rain was falling heavily.

We are talking about 1974 here folks and of course, no mobile phones so I had to try to flag someone down to help me. It was starting to get dark by then and it was only after at least 30 minutes of waving frantically at the traffic whilst getting soaked that some kind person finally stopped. They drove to the nearest phone and called the NRMA for me. In those days I discovered that the NRMA had no jurisdiction on the F3 freeway. The Freeway people had their own road service which eventually turned up and I could hardly believe what they told me. They would tow my car off the F3 and onto the pacific Highway which would then enable the NRMA to come to service the car. Why they couldn't look at the car themselves was beyond me.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a couple of hours wait, the NRMA managed to start the car again and I finally arrived at my Grandfathers place after 11pm. It was on the return trip 4 days later that I drove into the Datsun dealer in Maroubra and told the salesman "I want the red one in the front window".

Well, back to 2010 and the other day I was sitting patiently at a red light in Armidale when I saw a Datsun 120Y go past the other way and I thought "Boy, I bought one of those new" and that started me thinking. I wonder how much you can get one for today? A couple of hundred bucks probably. Funny how things turn out.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

High School memories

This is me not long after I left high school. All that lovely long hair that now a days I don't have. Far too much hard work to look after.
I loved my 6 years of high school between 1966 and 1971. Now that may sound quite mad to some of you but it is true. School was fun for me and I even enjoyed doing exams. I viewed them as a challenge to see how well I could do with the minimum of study. I am proud to say that I did pretty well in most of my exams even though I hardly studied much. I have a pretty good memory so I think that helped plus if you enjoy doing something you can usually do well. I can recall several school reports that the teachers had written “can do better” or something along those lines. The way I looked at it then was “sure I can do better but I would rather just do enough to get through”.

My maths teacher, Mr Wilson, whom I had for the entire 6 years, said I had an attitude problem. Oh well, from his point of view I probably did but if you look at maths from my perspective, I was trying to cram into my brain all that obscure mathematical information that I was never going to use once I had left school like X equals Y squared, sine, cosine, tangents, algebra, etc. see, I have forgotten it already. As soon as he started talking about these things in the class room my eyes would glaze over and I would start to daydream.

It all came to a head when I did my trial HSC and scored 8.5 out of 120. Mr Wilson reprimanded me for achieving such a low mark but do you know; I didn’t even get the lowest score in the class that time. No siree, there were two more fellow maths delinquents that scored even less than I did. I told Mr Wilson that as far as I could tell, when I left school, all I was ever going to use was adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing and the rest of it would be of no use to me so why waste my time trying to learn it all. Well, in hindsight that was probably not the best thing to say to a person whose whole teaching life was devoted to mathematics but it was the truth and, my friends, I have been proved about 98% correct over the years.

I took up playing the guitar in 1970 and that seriously affected my studies. I can’t remember just how the guitar came into my life but I do remember being so keen to learn to play that I did very little else for 18 months. I bought myself a Fender acoustic with nylon strings at a music shop in Penrith for $60. In 1970 that was a lot of money and of course being a Fender (I had no idea that it was a good brand at the time) it sounded great. I still have it and it is in pretty good condition as I hardly play it these days so it would have to be worth a bit I would think. Anyway, I digress…..

When the time finally arrived for me to do the HSC, it was evident after the whole thing was over that I had spent too much time playing guitar and not enough studying. My two favourite subjects were Industrial Arts and Indonesian and I romped in with a 2nd level pass for each. With maths I was extremely lucky and scraped in at the lowest pass level, along with science and English (3rd level) but when it came to Geography, and I have no idea at all why, but I only just failed it. In fact, I applied for a remark in the new year but still did not manage to scrape a pass. Now this was not good news as at the time my Aunt Jane (Dad’s sister) was a geography teacher so I felt like an idiot.

I must mention Industrial Arts now which was a combination of tech drawing, woodwork and metalwork. I had done tech drawing for the 3 years prior to getting into 5th form and adored it. I even managed to top the class in 2nd form which was no mean feat. There were only 4 girls at my school doing the subject and about 100 boys and to come top of the class and beat all the boys was a real feather in my cap. Once we got into 5th and 6th form tech drawing became Industrial Arts and I was the only girl in school studying that. What I didn’t realise until the class did an excursion to Ultimo Tech during 1971, was that not only was I the only girl in Nepean High, I was the only girl in the State studying Industrial Arts. A gathering of Industrial Arts students from various high schools in NSW turned up for this event at Ultimo and I was the only girl. Far from feeling the odd one out, I felt so proud to be one of a kind. At the time I had ambitions of studying Architecture but that, as they say, is another story.

On the last day of high school it is traditional for the senior class to play pranks and misbehave a little. These days some pupils take it to extremes and the police have to be called in but back in 1971 the most outrageous thing our class took part in was to swap uniforms. The girls uniform was a light blue shift dress and the boys wore grey trousers or shorts and a light blue shirt. About a dozen of us met up before school in one of the parks and swapped clothes. My God it was so funny. I have some B&W photos of a few of the boys in our little shift dresses and witches breeches peeking out from underneath.

Witches breeches, did you have some of these? I had 2 pair that I can recall. One was red with black lace and the other blue with white lace. For those who don’t have any idea what I am talking about, witches breeches were underwear, a type of shorts made from a satin type of fabric and the legs trimmed with several rows of lace. Think bicycle shorts but not as tight. Anyway they were high fashion in the early 70s amongst school girls and were worn over your pantyhose. Cool!

Ah, those memories. I had fun at high school but after my HSC results I had to revise my career choice because, as luck would have it, I didn’t get a big enough pass in Maths to do Architecture and in fact, I didn’t get enough marks to get into Uni. The moral of the story is; Mr Wilson just may have been right after all. Oh well.

Just what I did do after I left school is a whole other story. Until next time, take it easy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Brushes with fame part 2

This is the grand final contestant lineup from the Campbelltown Catholic Club Talent Quest circa 1992. You will notice me at the top right and a very young Human Nature at the bottom second from the right. I can't believe that it was 18 years ago now. My God how the time does fly by. Of all the contestants pictured here the only ones that have gone on to fame and fortune (naturally) are the boys from Human Nature. It was evident back then that they were a very talented bunch and it is great to see them where they are today. At least I can say I shared the stage with them once. Go Guys!! We all love you.

Harry Potter's Whomping Willow's Aussie Cousin

This is it folks, I discovered it on Wednesday morning. The first cousin of the whomping willow from Hogwarts Castle, Harry Potter's school, lives in my front yard. It was a cold and misty morning ...............