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Balloon delight

It’s a crispy cold, still morning here, so quiet because it’s  Sunday on a long weekend, and across the morning sky, hot air balloons were drifting. Such a lovely sight and it always fills me with delight.

There were more than these in the photo, but I couldn’t fit them in one photo, and they were drifting low, and the next door house was in the way, so I didn’t try.

I remember last year, when we’d just come out of  Lockdown, and the balloons floated above my house at dawn, it was such a sign of hope — I think I’ll always feel that now, whenever I see balloons. This morning I just stood there smiling.

It felt amazingly peaceful, not just because a lot of people have gone away for the last long weekend before winter and the neighborhood is quiet, but because the balloons were a little to the west, instead of overhead, as they often are, and so Milly-dog hadn’t noticed them, and  hadn’t shattered the peace of the morning with furious barking to repel the gently hissing alien invaders, which is what she usually does.

Actually she’s the reason I mostly notice the dawn balloons. It’s generally too cold to wander out into the back yard, but when she suddenly starts barking I hurry out to see what the fuss is about, and stop her annoying/waking the neighbors.

But this morning while waiting for the kettle to boil for my morning coffee, I went out to admire the Virginia creeper in the pale rosy dawn light, and saw the balloons. A little morning gift.

It’s taken a while for my creeper to get its autumn colors, but it’s finally turning in time for my last experience of it before I move.  This is what it looked like yesterday in the bright morning sun. Of course, it’s all colors as the leaves turn — from this gorgeous scarlet, to pale baby pink (the new leaves), to rich bronze and a thousand shades in between. It’s a visual feast every autumn. I know I’m going to miss it.

Hot Cross Buns

Around Easter, the supermarkets here stock hot cross buns. I love them. They’re soft fruit buns, subtly flavored with cinnamon and other spices and studded with sultanas or currants and sometimes other fruit. On the top is an icing cross. Some supermarkets have also come up with chocolate buns and other combinations — even fruitless ones! — but for me, the only one is the traditional one. I’m having these ones for breakfast.

They’re best slathered with butter — real butter, not margarine. I left the butter out on the bench last night so it would be soft for my buns this morning, but it was a chilly night and I don’t have the heating on yet, so as you can see, the butter was still pretty firm. But never mind, they’ll still be delicious with my morning coffee.

Some people zap them in the microwave or pop them in the oven to heat them up, and if you’re baking them at home, they’re yummy straight from the oven. (There is a recipe here from a favorite site, which includes a a no-knead version, and another one from the BBC. I haven’t tried them but they’re both reliable sites.) But hot cross buns are still delicious cold. When they get a bit stale I’ll toast mine, though there’s probably no danger of them lasting that long.

I once read a regency novel where the heroine was eating “cross buns” and I blinked when I read it, and then realized that the author must be American, and was being literal because the buns were not hot. I chuckled, because hot or cold, we still call them hot cross buns, and I’ve never heard them called “cross buns” which conjures up an image of a seriously grumpy fruit buns. I suppose we call them that because of the old nursery rhyme — “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny two a penny hot cross buns.”

When I was growing up, Mum was very strict about not eating hot cross buns until Good Friday morning, and they were a real treat. There are still people who wax furiously about them becoming available weeks before Easter. Not me. The moment I spot them in the supermarket  I snap them up. (They usually bake them in-house at my local supermarket and the smell is irresistible.) After Easter, they’ll disappear again, and though the supermarkets still sell fruit buns they are not the same — the taste is quite different — so Easter is the only time I get these yummy treats.

Whether or not you celebrate Easter (culturally or otherwise) do you have any special food you eat at this time of year?

 

Ice and flowers

I saw this photo on Facebook (or somewhere) and thought how lovely it was. It reminded me of when I was a small child, when we lived in inland Victoria (my state) on the border of New South Wales. Up there, in winter, the nights were often very cold, and the frosts were bitter. But it never snowed. We had to drive up into the mountains to see snow.

I was four when we moved to that house and turning seven when we left, and those frosts taught me that Jack Frost and the pictures he made were real. I loved gazing into those intricate, layered swirls of ice that covered the windows and seeing images and stories in them. They reminded me a little bit of the twisty, detailed Arthur Rackham illustrations from some of my story books, only more mysterious. Jack Frost’s pictures were never the same and quite ephemeral — they’d melted away by mid-morning.

Another thing I loved about those frosts was making ice ornaments — not like the ones in these photos, but along the same principle. I’d arrange flowers and pretty leaves in a saucer — geraniums, japonica, whatever was in flower — then half fill the saucer with water and put it out on the back step to freeze overnight. In the morning, thrilled to bits with my icy ornament, I’d proudly bring it inside to display on the breakfast table.

I love the thought of these hanging ice ornaments. A lot of the blogs that describe them are blogs for children, but in some of us, the child within never fades (luckily) and I would love to make hanging ice ornaments now. Alas, it’s summer here, and though I could make them in the freezer, somehow it’s not the same as letting nature (or Jack Frost) do it. And they’d probably only last about ten minutes in the heat, if that.

Even when I was a child, the bitter cold of those winter nights never lasted long. My memory of primary school (elementary school) is that I’d go to school wearing a blazer and a jumper (pullover) over my uniform. (School uniform isn’t always compulsory at elementary school level, but a lot of kids wear it.) By morning playtime the blazer would be hanging on a hook, and by lunchtime the jumper would have joined it.

The pretty image on the left is from this website, and if you want to see some more techniques and ideas go here.  I rather liked this one which incorporated birdseed into the ornament, to help the birds survive winter.