Saturday, 13 September 2014

We are officially now TV stars!

We were on TV!

Yes, we were called by Sunrise, the early morning program at Channel 7 and interviewed about house sitting.  How exciting!

We had a great couple of hours with Luke (can't remember his last name) and Michelle Tapper from Channel 7. They came to the house and interviewed us, filming us cleaning the pool, Peter on the ride on mower, and me watering the pot plants, as they asked  us about our house sitting experiences.

Click here to see the program.  Its only a few minutes long.

We got this experience through 'Aussie House Sitters' a website where  you can put up your profile and find people who need house sitters. They asked us if we would be interested in being interviewed and we thought it would be a great idea. It is a simple process belonging to a house sitting website, and we have had terrific experiences with house sitting from this site.

Haha, it is only five minutes of fame, but a great experience.

Soulful machines.

Soulful machines.

Someone recently put the question to me, which is the most ‘human’ machine I own. This got me thinking; after all we use machines all day every day in our modern life.
It took me a long time to consider this, about five seconds actually, and the answer?  I blame my mother.

You see, I am a child of the pre-flower-power sixties, growing up in the fifties. My father was an airplane mechanic during WW11 and then a car mechanic until he retired. My mother was a homemaker, a terrific cook, seamstress and grandmother, but mechanically challenged. While my father learned the intricacies of pistons, sparks and fuel injectors, my mother perfected learned helplessness. When anything mechanical went wrong in the house she called out….”Fred, the dratted washing machine won’t work again!” So dad ambled in with his spanner, screw driver and mandatory dirty rag and twiddled and fixed it every time.

This heritage of learned helplessness was passed on to me. Unwittingly I accepted the fact that women called for men to fix things, and men fixed things. It was one of the basic laws of nature. This problem was compounded when I married a man, who, like my father, was in my eyes, a mechanical genius. It was the normal thing for me to yell out…”Peter, the oven won’t go!” and he would toddle in, fiddle with something and the oven would then happily purr along doing its job.

Now, when you are talking about the old fashioned washing machine with wringers, ovens with no automatic timers, and cars without computerised insides, machinery was fairly simple. But today, machines know things. They have an inbuilt sense of who is using them. They can tell the difference from a woman gently lifting it out of the cupboard and onto a tidy bench to use, and a man yanking it off the shelf and dumping it down somewhere after using his forearm to clear the clutter off the bench. Machines just know this stuff now. And they will not work for a woman.

I have had so many experiences with machines, where I tried to use something, and it sat there, showing passive resistance, not talking, just refusing to turn on. Occasionally it would almost start, and then grind to a halt, never to move again. Well, that is, not until a man entered the room. If you are a woman, how many times has the man in your life come to ‘fix’ a machine, only to find that it works perfectly the first time he tries it? How many times have you vented your justifiable frustration on a stupid machine that is obviously ready for the heap, only to find that the man of your dreams just has to touch it for the motor to work perfectly until he exits the room? Frequently, I am sure.

The person who put this question to me, has to be a man. No woman would ever describe a machine as ‘soulful’. No, it must have been a man for whom machines just purr along. So, after this rather lengthy explanation I have to say that I do not own any ‘soulful’ or ‘human-like’ machines, although I could stretch a point and say that many of them act like recalcitrant children, naughty in the extreme. And I am sure that you will now understand why none of this is actually my fault. Rather, I am the product of my parenting, and having been instilled with the necessary female art of learned helplessness, I blame my mother for this.

Friday, 20 June 2014

New architects plans for China.

Here is an interesting article from

No longer content with building rows of nondescript skyscrapers, Chinese developers are reshaping city skylines to look like mountain ranges.

Construction is under way of the Nanjing Zendai Himalayas Centre in the Jiangsu province in eastern China with completion expected in 2017.

These are artists impressions. The buildings are not yet up/
The sky will not be as blue as this I think.
 Designed by MAD Architects, the colossal development with an overall building area of 560,000 square metres marks a return to a more traditional Chinese aesthetic.

Referred to as a "live-in mountain range" by architecture blogs, the design stems from the Chinese shan shui ethos: a spiritual harmony between nature and humanity.

A series of mixed-use towers are joined by weaving corridors and elevated gardens. The buildings, some as tall as 120 metres, flank a low-rise village that is connected to them by footbridges.

According to MAD, the "towers along the edge of the site act as a mountainous backdrop, while water features such as ponds, waterfalls, brooks and pools connect buildings and landscapes to integrate all of the centre's elements".

Shan shui, which translates into mountain-water, also refers to a style of Chinese painting that depicts natural landscapes.

What MAD is calling "a fully realised shan shui city" is certainly not the first eyebrow-raising design from the Beijing-based firm.

Last year, construction of MAD's design for the Sheraton Huzhou Hot Springs Resort in the Zhejiang province was completed. The curved hotel rises out of Taihu Lake and resembles a glowing horseshoe.
MAD is also behind the curvaceous Absolute Towers in Mississauga, Canada, completed in 2012.

Although Nanjing is one of the earliest established cities in China, in recent decades it has been transformed into a modern industrial hub.

Below is a picture of a typical scene in China these days. All the old 
buildings are knocked down and acres and acres of new tall concrete and brick buildings go up.

 Great for housing large numbers of people, but hardly beautiful.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Hedges and stuff.

This house sit is on an acre with lots of trees and gardens. The gardens don’t need a lot of attention, mostly set out in hedge formation around the house.  When we first came here the hedges in front of the house were quite high, but when the home owners came home over the summer they attacked them with a vengeance, cutting them quite low, and it has made a huge difference to the amount of light that comes into the house.

Over the past few months we have not had much rain, so the grass has not grown a great deal but the shrubs and hedges still seem to find enough water to flourish.

He's really getting into it here...... Note the winter clothes,
here we are in sunny Queensland, with fleecy trousers and
fleecy sweatshirt.

The finished height

It makes short work of the hedge around the pool...
So yesterday Peter decided to get out the hedge trimmer and give the hedges a haircut. Previously Peter did this job with the normal hand hedge cutters, but when the home owners were here last summer they bought a small hedge trimmer, just a lightweight one, but it makes a huge difference to the job, making it much easier and quicker to trim the hedges and it makes a really nice level job.

The hedge trimmer is a ROK brand. Peter found it really easy to use, and said it has some great safety features. Apparently you need both hands on the handles to make it work. If your grip goes from one of the handles, then the motor stops, the blade stops and there is little chance of injury.
ROK brand. Goes really well according to Peter. He's
the outdoor expert here, I don't know much about these
One of the advantages of keeping the front hedge area low is that we get a much nicer outlook. Previously we couldn’t see past the hedge, but now we can see right over to the other side of the little valley we are in, and actually right to the top of Mount Tambourine too.
 Winter is also the time for soup.  As long as I can remember Mum made vegetable soup every winter. She had a base recipe that only changed a bit in the last ten years or so of her cooking life.

Soup is an integral part of most winter meals, and even here, in Sunny tropical Queensland where others might think it is hot all the time, well, once you have lived here for a while you acclimatise and now we are really noticing the cold winters. So soup is a regular meal for us, cheap, can be made in bulk and frozen and quick to make.

Using a kitchen whizz makes the slicing and grating easy and quick.

Soup mix, buy it already  mixed from the supermarket.

I think soups are a bit of a family tradition, recipes passed on from mother to daughter, because most mothers seem to have their own way of making soup, and it is just the way it is done in their households.

Mum, about 1985. When you have five children there is a mountain
of washing and ironing to do, not to mention baking and cooking to
feed the bottomless stomachs of the boys.
My mum passed away early this year, but she would have been making soup for about 60 years I reckon, and although I have had many soups in many homes, none have been quite like this. I don’t know where she got the recipe. I don’t remember my grandmother making soup, but she used to belong to the CWI in the 40’s and 50’s so maybe it came from there, I don t know.
Anyway the basic soup recipe is dead easy, so here it is.

In a large pot, a proper large stock pot half fill it with water and add either a bacon hock, a couple of knuckles of mutton or some chicken. You can pretty much use any kind of meat or bones really, I have also used beef bones and pork bones, but they don’t have so much meat on them. If you are vegetarian, then leave the meat out.   I often buy 4 or 5 skinned chicken legs and add those. I bring that to the boil, then I add soup mix, about one cup. I let that simmer for an hour or so, until the soup mix is soft and the meat is tender. The soup mix contains pearl barley, lentils and split peas, its cheap to buy from the supermarket all mixed up.
This is a large stock pot. I don't know how much it holds.
Here, I have just added the veges.
At this stage the soup looks a bit murky, but that’s okay. When I am ready I slice celery and onions, about 3 cups of each and add that to the pot. Then I grate carrots, again about 3 cups and add that. Once you have made it a couple of times you will get to know how much to put in.

I let that slowly bubble away for an hour or so, adding water or vegetable juice as needed. Towards the end I add salt to taste, pepper and usually some sweet chillie sauce for a bit of a kick. Taste from time to time until it gets to be how you like it.  Mum would also add a tin of Watties Tomato Soup (only Watties had the right taste) and a packet of chicken noodle soup mix, but I don’t bother with those.

Eat it fresh for the first meal, then you can put it in the fridge for the next few days and I also freeze some to have whenever I need  quick meal.
You can make smaller quantities if you want, but it seems a lot of effort just for one meal, when you can do a big potful and get lots of meals out of the same amount of work.

The finished product, hot and tasty and a good meal with
a couple of bits of toast or cheese on toast.
Give it a try, you just might like it.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Winter and whipper snippering

Well winter has more or less come.  It is still quite nice during the day, but getting colder at night and we have had our first fire.  This fireplace really warms up the whole house. When the home owners were here over the summer they did quite a lot of work to the grounds, and chopped down one or two trees that were dropping lots of stuff into the pool. We have the benefit of that now with plenty of firewood on hand for this year, although Peter and some friends chopped down a couple of trees down by the road last year. So firewood is not a problem for us.

  The cooler weather also means the grass is not growing so fast, meaning less mowing. Most of the work is done on a ride on mower, but at the back of the house there is a bank and it is too steep to mow, so Peter does that with a whipper snipper, also known as a weed whacker or weed eater depending on where you live.

 We have a man called Jeff Higgins who is fascinated by weather, and lives in Queensland. A while ago he started posting information on facebook, and he is pretty accurate with his information. He is especially interested in storms, and most of you will know that here in Australia we can get some really vicious thunderstorms, not to mention the cyclones etc Queensland gets from time to time. Anyway, Jeff puts up some wonderful photos, and here are two really good pics.  I have also put up his Facebook page if you want to check it out.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Come to the movies...just for 30 seconds...texting while driving....

So many people are driving and using their phones.  It's illegal but most people still do it.  Just check out this 30 second advertisement…it might change your mind.

 Everyone knows twiddling on your phone is one of the most dangerous and stupid things you can do behind the wheel of a car — yet plenty of people still do it.

This Volkswagen ad uses a Hong Kong cinema and a location-based texting trick to shock people into keeping their eyes on the road instead of on their mobiles. So far it's stunned more than 1 million YouTube viewers.

If you're still tempted to use your phone while driving, please immediately cut up your license.

I can’t embed this into my blog so go to this link…it is very short…

It says that more people die on the road when texting than any other accidents.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

These will put a smile on your dial.

Watch both of these....terrific.  I couldn't figure out how to embed the first one...but it is lovely and the music is terrific.

Then watch this one......

One big swtich...cheaper petrol?

There is revolution afoot....against high petrol prices.  There is something wrong, well in my opinion, with the petrol pricing here in Aussie, the four main petrol companies seem to have the country over a barrel, (forgive the pun) and we pay too much for our gas.

So something is being tried for the first time here.  You might like to read about is certainly gaining a following.

People Power campaign seeks to build $1 million of buying power to unlock Group-discounted Petrol.

 In an Australian first, One BigSwitch has today launched the Big Petrol Switch, a national people power campaign to unlock group-discounted petrol.

The Big Petrol Switch aims to aggregate at least $1 million dollars worth of petrol buying power in order to unlock a group discount of 5%.

On an unleaded fuel price of $1.50 per litre, a 5% group discount would reduce the cost by 7.5 cents per Litre.

With the threat of a petrol tax increase looming, One Big Switch is launching the campaign to help families cut the cost of spiralling fuel bills.
The campaign will work in 3 simple steps:
1. Consumers register at and tell us how much group-discounted petrol they wish to buy.

2. One Big Switch uses the $1 million dollars worth of buying power to help unlock group discount pre paid petrol cards.

3. If we unlock a group discount of at least 5%, we will forward the details of the offer to registrants, who can choose if the offer is right for them.
Average petrol prices have almost doubled in Australia since 2002. For more petrol facts, see Appendix A attached.

One Big Switch co-founder Lachlan Harris said Australian households are fed up with petrol prices going up and up without respite, “we want to use People Power to help reduce the impact of the petrol tax increase, and give families struggling with the rising cost of fuel access to group discounted petrol.”

The Daily Telegraph’s Cost of Living editor John Rolfe “We saw the success of the Big Electricity Switch in reducing the impact of the carbon tax, now we’re doing the same thing with petrol. Consumers can turn their dissatisfaction into action.”

Campaign registration is entirely free, and obligation-free, at Registration closes midnight on the 20th of June.   

Monday, 9 June 2014

Coffee and sugar

My daughter in law found a book in her local library which is very interesting. So she went off and bought a copy. It is called The Fat Revolution.

 It’s probably a bit controversial, as so many health professionals tell us to cut out fat, go fat free, use margarine instead of butter etc.  The problem with all this is that they seem to replace the fat with sugar. So how do you cut out fat and sugar to keep a healthy diet? It’s really hard. You end up with lean meat, fruit and vegetables, which is fine, but quite restrictive. And others tell us to keep the meat intake low, and of course you need to restrict your salt intake so your blood pressure is okay. It all gets a bit tedious.

Anyway, Peter decided he was going to quit coffee. For almost all our married life he has drunk copious amounts of coffee. We don’t have it strong, less than one level teaspoon in a large mug would be usual, and we don’t keep percolated coffee in the house much, which in my opinion is much stronger. 

But one day he decided to go cold turkey and cut it out altogether.
My daughter in law thought he would find it really hard, with withdrawal symptoms etc, but not a bit of it. He just stopped. That was about three months ago. He might have the occasional cup now, maybe one a week if we are out somewhere, but otherwise it is water. Now he has almost never drunk water in our 48 years of marriage. Hardly ever. Sometimes if he was working outside and sweating a lot I would take out a jug of water and he would have some of that, but just drinking water throughout the day was not part of his routine. The thing is, that in the coffee was the sugar, and over a day his intake of sugar was highish. And not only his, but mine also.

Add to this the sugar we eat in food, cake, biscuits, icecream etc, not all the time but from time to time, the sugar intake goes up. So Christine Cronau’s book was very interesting.

She advocates no sugar, or as low as you can go. But this is not easy when you have a really sweet tooth and have been used to having it in your diet all your life. But I must say, it has not been too bad. Christine does suggest eating fat is okay, natural types of fat, for example full cream milk, cream, some animal fats, and using butter rather than margarine etc. This makes life much easier, and avoiding the sugar has not been so hard.

I have been reluctant to just chuck out of my pantry all sugary foods, not that there were tons of it anyway, but most of that food has  now gone, and my own sugar consumption has gone way down. I have to say it is not too hard. The one problem I had was this……how to you get past the ‘get up and make a coffee’ first thing in the  morning. I hate coffee without sugar. And the first cup of coffee was always my start to the day. Well I have replaced that now with Chinese tea, of which I have plenty still in my cupboard. I bought a lovely teapot from The Tea Centre in Robina, and we have some double walled glasses which I really enjoy using, so now it is a pot of green tea first thing in the morning.

I love these shops, they have the most beautiful cups and
mugs, tins and tins of fabulous teas, and some wonderful
Chinese tea sets.
 In the picture the tea looks pretty weak stuff, but actually it is a lovely golden colour.

 So far so good. I must say I have noticed a real improvement in energy levels. That's a plus.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Quadruple bypass.

 This month, May 2014 is the tenth anniversary of Peters heart operation. He was always fit and active, but in 1997, after a day moving house, (something we seemed to do on a regular basis) he had a heart attack, went into Wellington Hospital and had a stent put into his heart. The effects were instantaneous, and he came home to his usual busy life.

In 2004 he had a hip replacement at the Bundaberg hospital, and a couple of days later had a small heart attack while still in hospital. After further tests etc, he was told he needed open heart surgery, a scary proposition at the best of times.  He was booked into Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.

Prince Charles Hospital...generally specialises in heart patients.
At this point I will digress a moment, I think it is probably only in Aussie that you can get a road with the name of rode.  The hospital was on Rode Road….however pronounced Rode ee Road.

The operation went well and the staff were wonderful. One day after the op he was on his feet, feeling pretty wobbly, but every day after that he was walking and getting stronger. I can’t remember the doctor’s name, Dr Standford or Stannard I think. He was terrific, took every care and, Peter had a quadruple bypass done.

At this time, we were living in Bundaberg, but our oldest daughter was pregnant and we were half way through packing up and moving to the Gold Coast to be nearer her when we got the call…..we have a bed, be here tomorrow. Oh boy, the timing couldn't have been worse.

So we packed up and drove to Brisbane, 5 hours away. I stayed at a hostel next to the hospital, and my youngest daughter came up from Melbourne to be with us which meant all the kids were close at hand.

Just a couple of days before discharge we had a family dinner
at the hospital.
 He had one or two hiccoughs, but made a speedy recovery, and after about six or eight weeks was allowed to drive again and given the all clear for work. Of course, he was not allowed to help with the moving house, so he went and stayed with our second son while I went home to pack up the house and get it moved down. Guess what. Two of our best friends, hearing the situation came over from New Zealand, hired a car and drove up to help me move house. Now that is what I call true frienship.

Sue and Steve, who came to help me move house while Peter was recuperating.
 Medical science has come a long way, and they do research into some weird and wonderful areas, but in this case, they save many many lives. Without it I would probably have been a widow many years ago. Instead we have had ten years of travelling, teaching, seeing our families grow and prosper, more grandchildren born, and house sitting all over the country. He probably would not be here to play with his grandchildren like this. 

 As things stand, he has many more years ahead of him. I'm very grateful.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Pots and pans.

 We have been house sitting in quite a few homes now and we have had kitchens of various sizes and quality. One or two were pretty scummy, but mostly they have been nice kitchens and in some cases, just lovely large kitchens to cook in.

This house on the Gold Coast has a really nice kitchen. It is not large but it is very well designed and easy to work in with plenty of storage. I still have my own kitchen gear in storage, but also have brought some of it into the house here to use too.

The house sit owners have left a fully equipped kitchen but a few of the pots and pans are past their best now, and mine also are fairly old, so I have been watching for sales so I could get some new saucepans for myself and also use while we are here.  I finally took the plunge last weekend. Robins Kitchen has got a really good sale on, and we were up on the Sunshine Plaza on the Sunshine Coast for the day to visit some people. We went into the big shopping plaza there, it’s a huge area and very nice. We found Robins Kitchen and after fossicking around for a while I bought a set of three saucepans, stainless steel, Baccarat brand, known for good quality, and reduced from $300 to $139.00.

Repacking ready to take back.
 The first time I used them I had trouble with them. I used the large one for spuds, mashed them and then used a normal spoon to get the mashed potato onto the plates. As Peter was washing up he brought the pot into me and showed me the scrape lines all along the bottom where I had used the spoon. I was not impressed at all.

I rang the shop and they said to take them back and as I was on the Gold Coast I could take them back to a closer shop, in our case the one in the Runaway Bay shopping centre.

The manager there was really good…..she was as shocked as I at the scrapes on the bottom. She offered a full refund….but I still needed a set of saucepans so eventually decided on another set of three Baccarat pots but the black non-stick type.

So I hope these will be okay.

Over the years as the family size increased I have had quite a few different pots and pans, some of the cheap and nasty ones, and a few expensive ones when I could afford them. The expensive ones are always worth their money, they just outlast the cheap stuff. So I am slowly replacing my old stuff for good quality new stuff, with the intention that they will last me until the end of my cooking days.

Still going after 48 years. Peter put a different handle
on the middle one, it cracked and was unsafe.
 The first set of saucepans I ever had were a wedding present from my uncle John. They were Murray Brand, made in Australia, copper bottom and had a really good reputation. I have used them for years and years, and eventually handed them on to my daughter when she was first married and setting up her kitchen. She is still using them after 48 years use. Not bad eh?