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I had planned to put this tale of the Cockatoo I rescued when I was a child on this blog.
But my wench blogging date came upon me, and as I’m madly working on finishing my new book, I decided to put it there. 

If you’re interested in reading it, click HERE

I’m pretty sure there will be more Cocky tales in future. My friend Cate Ellink took the photos of a wild cockatoo, clowning on a telephone wire, and they brought back so many memories.


A hasty "tree"

What you can do in a hurry with a can of spray paint . . .

I like to make things, and at this time of year my mind turns to making Christmas ornaments. For a few years I really enjoyed making paper ornaments — there are loads of instructions on the web, and I’ve tried most of the easiest. I do like a good result for not a huge effort.  (The post I linked to has links to instructions for making them if you’re interested.)

For a while I made tiny ones and hung them from a few spray-painted twigs arranged in a vase. I really liked how the slightest breeze would send them twisting and turning.

And for a few years I made lovely “dangles” using crystals and pearls and other beads. They were lovely — but they need a big tree, or somewhere to hang them from.

I’ve sometimes used things from nature — seed pods and twigs, (picked up after they’d fallen and dried out) — and I spray them with silver paint (actually chrome paint is better — shinier).  I have to say, I love the look of them, especially against a dark background.   I also spray-painted some dead fronds from my old tree-fern. They dry in gorgeous curls that when hung, twist in the breeze. In my old garden there was plenty of raw material to gather and play with, but that’s gone now.

This year, with the Christmas things still unpacked, and with people coming for a friends Christmas dinner, I’d run out of time to make anything new.

I needed a hasty Christmas “tree”. When I went out to my much smaller garden and surveyed it for Christmas possibilities. I wasn’t feeling too confident. Apart from the beautiful “Silver Princess” eucalypt, the gum-nuts of which are naturally silver, I couldn’t imagine what I could use. Most things here are still green or flowering.

But looking around I found quite a few possibilities; a spray of dead bamboo leaves from a potted bamboo — bamboo is so elegant, isn’t it — some seed-heads from the parsley plant I’m drying for seeds, and a protea bloom that I’d picked a few weeks ago to go in my guest room. There were also a few native seedpods I’d picked up while walking the dog. I put them together with some clippings from the greenery in my garden and made this very small Christmas sort-of-tree.

Really I should have given the seeds and flower heads at least another spray painting — they’d be much shiner — but I didn’t have time, and I think they worked okay. 

The tiny “tree”  started off on the dining room table as a centrepiece, but then when I needed the space for food and drink, I moved it to the sideboard with my curly twigs and a couple of Christmas cards behind it and it looked quite cute. (see right)

Do you make your own ornaments and decorations?


I had a group of  school-friends’ over for lunch yesterday — the first group event I’ve had in the new house. We reconnected at a school reunion some years ago and ever since, nine of us have been meeting for lunch and a catch-up a few times a year.  It’s generally at someone’s place, but sometimes we have a picnic or go on an outing — for instance earlier this year we met at a sculpture park, and ate lunch from the cafe.

berry pavlova

It’s usually a “bring a plate” event (a bit like the American “pot luck” I suspect), which makes it easier. (Speaking of “bringing a plate,” years ago, an American friend of mine, when she was first invited to an Aussie party and asked to “bring a plate” did just that. Assuming the hostess didn’t have enough plates for everyone to eat off, she bought two empty plates, one for her and one for her husband. We think we speak the same language but it’s not quite true, is it?)

So because this gathering was at my new house, and it was close to Christmas,  I decided to celebrate by making a pavlova (or pav), which is a favourite Australian dessert. It has a meringue base and is topped with lashings of whipped cream  and fresh fruit. The shop-bought pav’s are generally crisp meringue all through but the best home-made ones have a crisp meringue shell that is marshmallowy inside. (The secret is adding a little vinegar to the whipped egg-whites.)

I was a bit apprehensive about using my new fancy electric oven (which is quite technological compared with my old gas oven) especially as the recipes on-line varied in cooking temperature for fan-forced from 80C to 130C but they all agreed on 90 minutes cooking time! So I went for 105C and crossed my fingers. I baked it the night before, turned the oven off after 90 minutes and didn’t open the oven until the following morning, (which is supposed to prevent it cracking) and to my relief, it came out perfect and uncracked.  That’s it below.

But the moment I put the whipped cream on it, it cracked — so then I fretted that it might not be properly cooked inside. So I slathered over the cracks with whipped cream, and piled on the fruit — in this case mixed berries — and hoped for the best. And when we cut it, it was perfect — a crispy meringue shell, marshmallowy inside, and not too sweet. Everyone loved it and some came back for seconds and there’s none left. I was so pleased. 

Have you ever baked a pav? Or eaten one? I know a lot of North Americans never have, and I don’t know about  people in the UK or Ireland, but they’re very common here and in NZ. It’s very much a summer dessert. So what do you like to bring when you’re invited to “bring a plate” or a potluck?