Beyond the Blog

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of blogging.
What, you’d noticed…?

But friends we make on blogs are at arm’s length. For many people, that’s the ideal distance. Blogging friends appear and disappear as they switch on or off the device of choice, and they are safely insulated from each other. That’s not enough for me, though. I like contact.

For some time now, I’ve been Skyping with friends I’ve made on this blog. Living where I do, in the north of Queensland, remote from the rest of Australia and indeed the rest of the world, it has been a lifeline. It’s so much more fun to exchange ideas, thoughts, jokes and suggestions in real time, face to face. Last year, I took the plunge and proposed a meeting in person with a blogging friend who lives en route when we were visiting friends and family in New South Wales. She was agreeable, despite the foreboding and dreadful warnings of her friends, who thought I might be a dangerous loony. As it turns out, neither of us is either dangerous or (more than average) lunatic, and we enjoyed our visit so much that it’s become a regular feature of our journeys south. I’ll be seeing her in a couple of days – Hi, Nanette!

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Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 6.09.41 pmOver the past half year, I’ve become friendly with another fellow blogger, this time someone who has a part-time home relatively close to where my sister lives. By lucky chance, we were both going to be in the same part of the world at the same time, so of course, a meeting had to be arranged! In a beautiful and peaceful corner of New South Wales, we drank coffee, ate cake, talked, took in fabulous views and in my case, suffered a bad case of verandah envy…  The Husbands bonded over home renovation and motor-bikes, and we talked about food, life, the tree-change lifestyle and places in the surrounding countryside we might visit together some time in the future. One day… when we’re both in the area for longer than a few days at a time – probably when the Husband and I have retired. It was a hugely enjoyable day, and I hope we’ll be able to catch up again some time soon. Thanks, Ella Dee, I had a wonderful time…

Neither of these nice people has been scary, weird, obsessive or a mistake to know better. I’m pretty sure the world is full of more like them. So I’m going to continue to look for friends Beyond the Blog.


The Bookcase Quilt: a short story

It’s short and sweet today.

I haven’t had much time for sewing in the last 3 or 4 days, and what time I’ve had was earmarked for completing my F²F August blocks for Susan so they could go off before we went away. They’re now done and in the mail, and with a couple of hours in hand, I’ve powered on and got another shelf done on the Bookcase Quilt. It’s the one at bottom right. I have the colours sorted for two more.

Book case progress 25-8I’m just over halfway through making blocks; 4 more to go, then I shall make sandwiches of all of them, quilt, cut and sew on the sashing front and back, and then bind it. I shall get it done before Lucy goes back to Sydney if all goes well.

I’ll post while I’m away, but I’m not sure when and on what subject. I’m sure I’ll find something to share with you!

Right, time to go and start packing!  

SAL 16: head and shoulders

A bit of progress this time, despite lots of distractions!

Here’s where I was last time

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And here it is now.

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The Digger’s hat is complete, and his shoulder has been started.  The Digger is the hardest part of the piece, and I’m concentrating on him so that the rest of the embroidery is a more relaxing experience. There’s a lot of variation in his uniform, so it’s going to take quite a while, but the Stitch Along will keep me honest and on track!

Meanwhile, do hop over and see what the others are up to. Remember they’re on earlier time zones than I am, so give it a few hours before you try…

Avis at

Claire at

Gun at

Carole at

Alison at

Jule at

Elizabeth at

Wendy at

Lucy at

Cathy at

Jacqui at

Jess at

Silence is golden-brown and cake flavoured

There hasn’t been much bloggy output from Chiconia in recent days.

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Keep calm and eat cake

The reason for all this unusual silence began because the Husband and I are heading south for a week to see friends and family. Most of you will know that I have a home business baking gluten-free cakes and pastries for local coffee shops. I gave my customers a heads-up, telling them when I was going and returning, and asking if they’d like to order a few extra items to cover my absence.

Well. Mistake!  Both have gone into panic buying mode. Instead of the usual manageable 7 or so items, one has ordered 17 items. The other has gone from 6 to 15. It’s lovely to have the business, but it has meant waving goodbye to my weekend and being on my feet for 10 hours on three consecutive days, a fact appreciated by neither my feet or my arthritic hip. Quilting, embroidery, posting and just about everything not connected with baking has gone by the board, including, if we’re frank, the housework.

My kitchen is a 3m x 4m (10ft x 13ft) galley, with a small pantry off one end of it. In the last 3 days this modest space has produced:

Raspberry almond slice; lime, coconut & zucchini sponges x 3; banana bread loaves x 4; date & gingerbread loaves x 4; chocolate fudge brownie x 3; Jaffa torte; peanut butter cookies x 20; carrot cake with lemon cream-cheese frosting x 3; pear upside-down cake x 3; pineapple upside-down cake; sticky date cake with toffee sauce; chicken & asparagus quiche x 2; quiche Lorraine; Mediterranean vegetable quiche; breakfast pies x 4; beef, bacon & cheese pies x 12; and 5 x 250ml cups of chicken soup and curried pumpkin soup.

It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to wonder if this happy little home business needs to be taken a bit more seriously. Up to now, it has been a pleasant diversion, a chance to share my cooking with a wider audience, a way of catering for my town’s gluten-averse population. One of the coffee shops that stocks my food has virtually stopped buying from other sources, because they have no trouble at all selling the gluten free items to everyone, once tasted.

It sounds like a great business opportunity, and would be if I were younger, stronger, less arthritic and more ambitious. But if I grow, I’ll need proper catering premises, I’ll be on my feet all the time, I’ll never have a weekend, I’ll need more equipment, delivery will be harder, and last but not least, I’ll have to register for GST (Goods & Services Tax) and do BAS (quarterly Business Activity Statements for the Tax Office). Not keen, no sir. I’m reluctant to let growth happen by accident rather than design, and one of the things I’ll be pondering while we’re away is whether to take the plunge, or hold it down to current levels and deal with similar situations by simply doing a lot more forward planning.

I’d be interested to hear what you think. Bear in mind that I’m not very able bodied any more, and my energy reserves are fairly low. But I do LOVE to bake, and find the business enjoyable and satisfying. It’s a tricky question….


The Gardens of Chiconia 39: Winter colour

By now, most of you know that here in Chiconia, our experience of winter isn’t quite as chilly as it is in temperate climes.

It’s downright warm and sunny, in fact. I walked around the back yard with my camera and discovered all sorts of signs that spring is on the way, whether it’s flowers or a bit of action on the part of the fruit trees.

Come and take a tour with me.  First the flowers…

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Little pink trumpets twining round the frog pool

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Pink silk pompoms

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These buds will become tiny yellow and brown spotted orchids

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It’s been a stunning year for the hibiscus

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Buds on the white phalaenopsis

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White silk pompoms

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First flowers from the petrea, lots more buds coming on

And now for the vegies and fruit trees…

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Blossom for next year’s mandarins

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Tomatoes enjoying mildew-free weather

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Giving the mulberry’s neighbours a haircut has obviously done the trick!

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The passionfruit, twining obediently along the fence. For now…

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That tiny round thing in the middle is a baby mango…

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Mango blossom, and green ants playing havoc with it.

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My dwarf avocado is flowering for the first time.

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Custard apple seedlings in the sun porch, waiting to move to larger quarters.

It’s starting to get lighter in the mornings and evenings, and the time will soon come when I won’t be able to work outside in the middle of the day. I have some post-winter tasks to take care of, like transplanting some things, tidying up edges and fallen palm fronds and leaves, weeding the patio paving and starting some seeds.

My most important jobs in the next couple of days are potting on my Angel Trumpet cuttings, which have ample roots and are outgrowing their accommodation, and cleaning and clearing Frogtopia, which is becoming a frowsy nest of dead leaves and bits from the palm and acacia above it. I have to clear the dead vegetation, take out all the rocks, empty the pond, clean it, flush and clean the pump and then put everything back and refill it, ready for the return of the froglets in spring. The huge elephant ear taro growing above the pond have died back a bit in the cooler, drier weather of winter, and I need to cut them back and clear out the dead stuff there too. It’s quite a big job, but it’ll look so much better when it’s done!

Thank you for visiting, do come again!

ScrapHappy August

After last month’s unimpressive start, I made a point of being ready this time!

I have a lot of long skinny strips in my scrap baskets, bits of leftover binding, trimmings and offcuts. You can’t do much with them – except make a scrappy block. So here it is.  It’s a big one, at 17″ square, and the seams aren’t totally straight, but then, nor were the scraps! It’s not wonky, just a bit crooked, and I’m fine with that! Nor is it a very complicated block, but there are no rules here, and it’s done.

August scrappy blockIt’s up on the design wall next to last month’s hexie block, and already I’m loving the contrast between the stripes and the hexies, and wondering what weird and wonderful idea will emerge next.

Maybe something like the Scrap Vortex quilt being created in brilliant Technicolour by Amanda Jean over at Crazy Mom Quilts…. And then there’s Cath’s version over at Wombat Quilts. She’s gone for low value fabrics, and it’s gorgeous. Whichever version I went with would certainly take care of some of the tinier pieces! It seems everyone is catching the scrappy bug, and it’s such a good thing, because otherwise these treasures sit unloved and unused in a bag or box and never see the light of day.

Linking with

Gun at (in English and Swedish)

Sue at

Viv at

Helena at http://www.helenaå (in Swedish only, but lovely pictures!)

Titti at (in Swedish only)

If anyone else wants to join us, just drop me or Gun an email or comment on the 14th of next month, so we can add you to the list.



A date with some cake…

Or more correctly, a cake with some date.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 8.47.20 pmIt looks a bit like a coffee iced doughnut, doesn’t it? Or perhaps a bagel spread with peanut butter. But no, it’s a full sized cake. Which is just as well, because I’ve made serious inroads into it. The cake has comforting, Mum’s kitchen-type aromas, and makes me think of family Sunday lunches – the smell reminds me of my mother’s apple crumble, which is the cinnamon and ground cloves at work.

Applesauce Date Cake with Fudge Icing

1 ¾ cups self raising flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup butter
1 cup firmly packed soft brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1½ cups unsweetened apple sauce
½ cup raisins or sultanas
½ chopped pitted dates
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Fudge Icing:
¼ cup butter
½ cup firmly packed soft brown sugar
3 tblsps  milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 cup sifted icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F.
Grease and flour a large bundt or tube tin.
Whisk together flour, salt, spices and baking powder.
Beat together butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Scrape down often.
Mix in the beaten egg. Scrape down some more.
Add first some flour mix, then some applesauce, and continue alternating till they are gone, ending with the flour mix.
Fold in the raisins, dates and if you are using them, the nuts.
Pour into prepared tin, and bake for about 75 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Make icing by melting butter in a pan, adding the sugar, and boil for 2 minutes. Pour in milk and stir until it returns to the boil.
Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes, and then beat in the vanilla and icing sugar. Spoon generously over the cake. It sets just like home made fudge. Don’t burn your tongue when you lick the spoon…

You can, if you prefer, substitute more dates instead of the raisins, or vice versa. I know lots of people like nuts in cake. I don’t, but I’ve given quantities in case you do!

Now, go and put the kettle on, and cut yourself a generous slice. We’ll see you in half an hour…