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Silver Princess

At my front gate, I have a silver princess gum tree (eucalyptus caesia) growing and at this time of year it’s especially pretty.

It’s called “silver princess” because it’s beautiful and it really is silver, at least the bark and the old gum nuts are gorgeously silver. You could be forgiven for thinking someone has sprayed the gum nuts with silver paint, but it’s all entirely natural. 

First the little pear-shaped buds form, — you can see them in the photo — then the flowers open (and the birds and bees love them), then after a while they fall off, leaving that little bell-shaped remnant cap, which also falls off eventually and dot the ground like tiny pixie caps. 

When I was young, I used to make tiny dolls out of the gum nuts and the little flower caps of  gum tree blossoms. Like most Australian kids I grew up reading the stories about the gum nut babies, by May Gibbs. ( Do a google image search for May Gibbs gumnut babies and you’ll see hundreds of really cute little illustrations.)

Finally the gum nuts form and they’re  pure silver, ready to be picked for Christmas decoration — no paint needed.

You can see the silver gum nuts here. It’s not a very good photo — it looks as if it’s a black and white photo, but I took it this evening against a grey winter sky, and silver and grey doesn’t show up well. But you get the idea.

Extra-warming porridge

 This morning, for the first time in the new house, I made porridge for breakfast. I was raised on porridge as a warming and healthy winter breakfast  — rolled oats, cooked with a little salt and served with milk and some kind of sweetener, usually brown sugar, or golden syrup or treacle. Golden syrup was my preference as a child — I liked to drizzle it over the porridge and make patterns. 

But these days, I don’t have it sweetened like that, and I don’t have it plain, either.  It’s still cooked with a little salt, but I also add in things like seeds and nuts and LSA (ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds) and any sweetness comes from dried fruit and whatever in that line takes my fancy. I call it “porridge with bits.” In my pantry I have a line of blue-topped jars that I filled myself, and I pick and choose from them. The contents vary. 

This morning I tipped in something that I didn’t recognize from a blue-topped jar in my new pantry. But I sniffed it and though I still had no idea what it was, it smelled lovely and slightly sweet, so I tipped half a lidful in, along with the usual bits and pieces. The porridge turned a pleasing cinnamon brown instead of the usual greyish beige. That’s it in the pic at the top. Yum yum, right?. 

But when I ate it . . . heat! Lots of heat! Chilli-type heat! Much more warming than your average porridge!

Of course, the large delicious-smelling jar with the tiny reddish brown bits was a jar of chilli flakes and chilli seeds. I love chilli, but not for breakfast. Usually I keep a few different kinds of chilli in small jars. I have no idea when or where I bought such a large quantity. And when I looked closer, the blue lid was not the same kind of lid that I keep the porridge bits in.  

This, my friends, is what happens when you get to an age of needing glasses after a lifetime of not needing them. I only put them on when I think I need them. But the truth is, I need them more often than I think I do. Is it vanity? Or laziness? I don’t know. All I know is that I should have been wearing them this morning.

Anyway, I made a new batch of porridge, and it was lovely, though not quite as tasty or as warming as the first. And I’ll be storing the large chilli-flake jar in a different corner, and maybe even putting a label on it. 

I might have to start a new occasional post of the perils of not wearing glasses! 

An on-line chat

In August, I’ll be taking part in the HNSA (Historical Novel Society of Australasia) on-line program — a series of workshops and chat salons from some of Australia’s top historical novelists.

My part is a chat about writing Regency and Victorian-era novels and it takes place on August 19th.
I’ll remind you again, closer to the date.

For more information about my chat, and to book a ticket, click here.

To see the full HNSA program, click here.