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Weekend Coffee Share 19th February, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

Usually, I’m here offering you a few rays of sunshine with your coffee. However, this weekend I’m handing out umbrellas and trying to keep us dry. We’ve had a steady flow of thunder storms, lightening and heavy rain since Friday afternoon. So, this weekend, I highly recommend a virtual coffee instead.

How has your week been?

I hope you’ve had a good one.

As you might be aware, we arrived back from Tasmania about 3 weeks ago and I’m still catching up on the holiday. You see, this was no ordinary holiday and as I’ve mentioned before, my husband is Tasmanian and we took the kids down to see and experience where Daddy came from. So, I  took a gazillion photos and I’ve also been working to put together Geoff’s family history capturing as many stories as I can of his parents and grandparents. I’m really enjoying doing it but I’ve been working flat out and ignoring the small stuff which is starting to rise up like Everest around the house. However, as much it’s important to keep on top of these things, it’s also important to know who you are, where you’re from and have a strong sense of family. So, I’m juggling a mountain of stuff and dropping it all and meandering around town half-lost with my head in the past.

Does this ever happen to you?

It’s strange to say that I don’t think I’ve taken any photos in the last week. That feels really weird after taking hundreds of photos every day on our trip. It’s almost like I’ve left part of myself behind in Tassie. Who am I now I’m back? Surely, I have to be more than the proprietor of Mum’s Taxi?!!

Well, I did manage to write a pretty challenging story in response  to quite a dark post on Friday Fictioneers…The Motivational Speaker.

I also caught up on another of our Tasmanian holiday delights…a cider tasting at Spreyton’s Cider: Tasting Tasmania…Spreyton’s Cider.

On that note, I’m going to keep it short this week and turn it over to you.

How was your week?

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. The Weekend Coffee Share has now moved over to Nerd In the Brain  and you can click here to join in with the link-up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

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For the love of GOLD

Thought you might enjoy reading this fascinating story of Irish gold and of course the little green men with the red beards xx Rowena

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When I first visited the National Museum of Archaeology in Dublin, I was stunned by the sheer amount, and quality, of ancient gold artifacts on display… there is a whole floor  of the stuff.

My youngest son, who was about 8 years old at the time, scrounged my phone and busied himself taking photos of it all… he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, either!

Now put Ireland and gold together in the same sentence, and most people immediately think of pots of gold at the end of a rainbow guarded by a little red-bearded man dressed in green. *shudders* Ugh! How I loathe that little creature.

But here you go. The word ‘leprechaun’ is derived from the Old Irish luchorpán. The leprechaun first makes its apearance in an ancient medieval tale known as the Echtra Fergus mac Léti (Adventure of Fergus son of Léti). Fergus, King of Ulster…

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The Motivational Speaker…Friday Fictioneers.

Amanda started typing…

“You can wrap your children up in bubble wrap. Do your utmost to keep them safe. Give them the best opportunities. Yet, that doesn’t help when your child’s greatest enemy is themselves.”

Amanda deleted that last line and returned to the drawing board.

No! THAT girl wasn’t her daughter but a thief…an alien intruder.

Is this what they meant by “mental illness”?

But, if it wasn’t her, why wasn’t it gone? And whatever happened to victory?

Amanda slammed her laptop shut.

How could she give anyone else the answers, when she only had questions?


This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt was provided by © Liz Young

This is a serious subject brought on by this week’s photo prompt. Most of us know and love people affect by the black dog or whatever you care to call it and know the difficulties and near despair trying to be there and keep loving no matter what. My heart goes out to you. Let’s hope love will ultimately triumph.

After reading a few of the comments, I was reminded of a humble Sydney man who has prevented many suicides at a notorious Sydney suicide spot, The Gap. He lived across the road and simply approached people and invited them over for a cup of tea. Here’s his story: The Angel of The Gap

Good to finish this very hard-hitting story off with a bit of hope and empowerment. We can make a difference!

xx Rowena

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Tasting Tasmania…Spreyton’s Cider.

If you are what you eat and drink, I must’ve become a Tasmanian by now what with getting stuck into all this cheese, chocolate and now cider…the Three C’s.

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The family at Spreyton’s. Photo by Michelle.

Anyway, today I’d like you to join me for a tasting at Spreyton’s. This is going to be a little difficult because I can’t quite remember exactly what we sampled, especially after I tried the Hard Ginger Beer, which I immediately appropriated as “my drink”. This is a bit of a problem because it’s a long way back to Spreyton’s to top up my glass, although I did find a somewhat local stockist online tonight.

Unfortunately, asking me about wines or ciders is a bit futile. My wine palate has been destroyed by years of serious chocolate addiction and I find most wine too bitter and even though I’d trying to be all sophistocated and refined, it is very hard for me not to screw my face up sampling most wines and ciders. Geoff really liked the Perry Cider, which is made from a blend of Tasmanian pears with a touch of gala apples thrown in. Rather than try to describe it myself, I’ve pinched the description from their web site: “Bottle fermented and conditioned, our Perry is refreshingly crisp and dry with a light carbonation and fine bead. The hints of sweetness and subtle pear flavour make Perry a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. Enjoy clear or gently roll the bottle before opening for added yeast complexity, either way Perry is a wonderfully sophisticated Pear cider experience.”

Photos Above: Walking through Spreyton’s Apple Orchard. Tasmania used to be known as the Apple Isle, so apple cider is right at home in Tassie.

We bought some of the Perry Cider, Hard and Regular Ginger Beer and enjoyed it back at our friends’ place with some Ashgrove Lavender Cheese. They were perfect companions.

By the way, I happened to notice that the family who owns Spreyton’s Cider Company goes back five generations in Tasmania and I can’t help wondering if they’re related to Geoff. Geoff scoffs when he says that I think he’s related to everyone in Northern Tasmania. However, there’s more truth to that than he’d like to admit. Those pioneers had big families and Geoff’s ancestors on a couple of sides arrived in Tasmania around 1830, which has given them plenty of time to “spread their wings”!

xx Rowena

 

 

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Weekend Coffee Share…12th February, 2017.

Welcome to the Fiery Furnace Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been?

Let’s just say that I have been hot…stinking hot!

Just make sure you’re in the right part of the world, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been experiencing extreme heat waves. Indeed, while checking out the details for this post, I found out that our Bureau of Meteorology now has a  Heatwave Forecast Service. While I know it’s been furnace-hot lately (not that I’m prone to extreme fits of melodrama!!), even I’m shocked to find that the heatwave has made itself at home:

“The Heatwave Forecast is a Bureau of Meteorology product that shows the location of heatwaves, severe heatwaves and extreme heatwaves for the last two three-day periods and the next five three-day periods. It uses some analysis Numerical Weather Prediction model data, not the Official Forecast data.”

Indeed, over the last couple of days, I’ve not only sought refuge in anything air-conditioned, I’ve also been listening to my husband’s dire updates. ( I think that’s why he has an iPhone). Anyway, he’s shown me maps of Australia with huge patches shaded in red and then there’s even a darker red. Even though I love the colour and it’s almost Valentine’s Day, that amount of red on any map could only mean disaster!!

Naturally, thoughts of evacuation came to mind. After all, we’re only a long stone’s throw from the beach. However, from my air-conditioned inner sanctum, going anywhere near the beach seemed madness and anything but a refreshing dip. The ocean was boiling and my poor thongs (flip flops) would melt straight into the hot sand. No exaggeration!

Indeed, the heatwave forecast was so bad, that my son’s sailing race was cancelled yesterday.

That’s intense!

Needless to say, I haven’t exactly been functioning on all cylinders in this heat and have been leaning more towards multiple daytime siestas…as well as following up from our trip to Tasmania.

I added two new posts about our trip to Tasmania this week. I’m falling very behind. However, I’ve found myself absorbed in research and had a lot of other things to sort out this week.

Chocolate Tasting

Cheese Temptation at Ashgrove Farm.

I also produce a rather dramatic piece for Friday Fictioneers: When the Mask Cracks…

This week, you could say all my Christmases came at once when my package for the National Disability Insurance Scheme was approved. While I might have the occasional vent about my struggles to access any kind of assistance with my chronic health and disability issues, I don’t say much about it. However, despite raising two young kids with these conditions, I could only qualify for 1.5 hours domestic assistance per week. There are months at a time where I’m barely able to move or leave the house mostly due to bronchitis/pneumonia, but that’s been it. Naturally, that’s put a huge burden on my husband who works and commutes ie a heavy concrete slab. Well, the burden is easing considerably. I have been allocated a generous package and if I use it wisely, it will radically transform my life for the best. This includes free access to occupational therapy, psychology, a mentor and sufficient cleaning. It hasn’t really hit home yet and I’m also conscious that this forward movement is going to involve some uncomfortable “growth” as well. There’s some definite pruning ahead, but I do want these changes. I do. I really do!

Yet, it sitting in my chair basking in the air-conditioning is so easy…

Meanwhile, as I said, I’ve been following up from our trip to Tasmania. As you may be aware, my husband is Tasmanian and we were going down there to show the kids where Daddy came from. Not only that. We were also introducing them to family and friends and also trying to give them some idea of Geoff’s parents. Geoff’s Dad passed away when he was 16 and obviously I never met him and Geoff’s Mum passed away when we’d almost been going out a year. She didn’t live locally and I only met her twice but I did go to her funeral. Unfortunately, I never really got to know her either and have a very limited view to share with the kids. Yet, she has her place in our family. We call her “Gram-Ma”because she was a real stickler for grammar and loved playing Scrabble. Indeed, she used to play using a massive Webster’s dictionary, which was as thick as a brick and this was their authoritative text. In her younger years, she’d been a school teacher.

Anyway, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time since we arrived home, researching Geoff’s Dad. Many of our old newspapers are now available free online. This means that you can easily put someone’s name and location into Trove and get all sorts of results.

One of the things which interested me, was that Geoff’s Dad went to work over in King Island doing some labouring work and I only had a very sketchy idea of his time there. In a sense this doesn’t matter. Yet, once I realised how little I knew about someone who means so much, I had to have a go. If you know me, that means extracting the marrow out of the bone but it never starts out that way. I simply start sniffing.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this King Island, which lies between the Australian Mainland and Tasmania in Bass Strait, is that it makes superlatively fantastic cheese, especially its King Island Brie. It’s also known for it’s superlative beef and seafood. So, going to “cheese island”, even if it is vicariously through my research has appeal.

Geoff’s Dad used to fly in and out of King Island in a DC3 on trips that sounded rather hair-raising. King Island is located in the famed Roaring Forties where you need more than Superglue to keep your hair in place.

Anyway, when I set out on this journey this morning, all I knew was that he was in King Island around 1951-1952 and that’s because he played football there and that was mentioned in the newspaper. I started giving Geoff a bit of a nudge and he was pretty sure he was filling in swampland and that a local earthmover had got the contract. I went back to Trove and lo and behold, I found out that McLennan’s had a contract to build a drain on Egg Lagoon. I was thrilled to find that because I have a strong sense of place and that can make such a difference to the story. I guess I was particularly interested to know whether the ground he worked on was now part of King Island Dairy. Another aspect was that the land he was improving had been given to returned servicemen after WWI and in typical fashion, they’d given them dodgy land which would barely sustain a flea let alone a family. The land around Egg Lagoon was notorious for flooding and equally for government neglect. year after year, the lagoon flooded and year after year the government did nothing. Familiar story…

Anyway, it felt good to be able to know exactly where Geoff’s Dad was working and what he was doing. It gives us something to work on to trigger those family memories as well and I already have a title: “Building King Island”.

The other news at our place, is that the selective schools test is coming up on the 9th March. Our daughter will be sitting for the test and it’s been a bit of a cloud hanging round for the last year. Not necessarily a dark cloud, but definitely something which has been hanging around demanding some kind of “take”. This “take” ranges from having intensive tutoring and hot housing your child because “they must get in”, to “we’ll give it a go. It doesn’t matter either way” and “it’s not something you can study for.” I have been striving to travel somewhere in between these positions. She has had tutoring for a few months and I’ve bought the test books and we have used them a little but we also went away for 3 weeks in the holidays and her dance commitments are fairly intensive. I haven’t wanted to turn her into some kind of test robot with very narrow, tunnel vision. Rather, I’ve been wanting both our kids to be more rounded. See the bigger picture. This seems very logical to me and I know she’ll be better off in the long run. Yet, at the same time I know she’ll be competing with the robots and it’s very tempting to get sucked into that, especially when she’s currently in a selective class and will need to “get in” to stay with her friends.

So, as  you can see, even though I haven’t been all that physically active in the last week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

I hope that you and yours have had a good week and I thank you for joining me for another weekend coffee share. You can click here for the link up. I would like to thank Diana over at https://parttimemonsterblog.com/ for launching the Weekend Coffee Share and putting so much in to build it up to what it is today. From next week, it will be hosted by Emily over at Nerd in the Brain.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

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When the Mask Cracks…Friday Fictioneers.

“My life is an empty chair,” Madeleine lamented into her glass of red wine.  “And I’m drowning in my own tears.  Drowning! Hello!  Can you hear me? Why can’t anyone hear me? I’m trapped so deeply inside myself, there’s no way out.”

Madeleine hurled the glass across the stage. Wine dripped down the wall like blood, cascading over broken splinters of glass.

The theatre erupted in applause… her finest performance.

“I should be happy. C’mon Madz.  Change gears. Think positive…I’m a happy little Vegemite as bright as bright can be…

Brakes screeched.

All she could see was that empty chair.

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This has been a contribution to the Friday Fictioneers. Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the last month, we’ve spent three weeks travelling around Tasmania. We had such a fantastic time and the photographic opportunities were mind-blowing. I’m still trying to catch up on writing about the trip, but I’d love you to pop over and enjoy some vicarious travel.

xx Rowena

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Oops! Tasting More Than A Little Chocolate.

While I was madly collecting brochures on board the Spirit of Tasmania, one really stood out and captured my attention. It was (drum roll)… The House of Anvers. Serendipitouslythis was only 5 minutes drive from the ferry terminal and also very close to where we were staying!!

Well, you might ask who Anvers was, and what was so good about this house. What was the big attraction?

Two words sold me on this place: “chocolate factory”.

It turns out that Anvers is another name for the Belgium city of Antwerp. Proprietor, Igor Van Gerwen,  studied at the Institute of Foodstuffs in Antwerp and was trained by Roger Geerts, the world renowned confectioner and author of “Belgian Pralines”. So, that’s the connection.

Ever since I first saw Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, let’s just say I’ve had my dreams, fantasies and most of them can’t be mentioned here. Just like cheese, chocolate can make you do all sort of things, which are completely out of character. Indeed, they can take you from being a law abiding citizen and throw you straight into the “criminal class” with no returns.

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Another place I’d like to call home. Does anyone have any shrinking solution?

Like Ashgrove Cheese, the House of Anvers has free tastings, although it’s much more limited. We were able to sample both dark and milk chocolate buttons and three types of fudge. The one which captured our attention in a rather ravenous wolf kind of way, was Fudge D’Anvers Butterscotch. Yummy!

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Our son swore blind this was one piece of Butterscotch Fudge.

Indeed, this Butterscotch heaven again stretched all my restraint beyond breaking point. Having already gone across to the dark side, this time I didn’t care if I got caught. I couldn’t stop eating that fudge.This time, however, I did notice a sign and I wish I’d photographed it. It clearly stated something about leaving some for someone else.

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Perhaps, I’ll need to put him in here when we open up our last packet of Butterscotch Fudge.

Absolutely smitten, we bought two boxes of it to take home. One’s already been eaten…a sad casualty of it’s own beauty. It didn’t even get the chance to leave Tasmania, before it was gobbled up by this gang of desperadoes.

We also bought a curious looking chocolate, which we still haven’t tried as yet. This is called Fortunato No 4 Peru. It’s a  68% Organic Pure Nacional and is genetically certified to be “Original Cacao”.  The pure Nacional Cacao was thought to be extinct in 1916.  Later on Criollo and Foresterra varieties were and are being sold as Nacional; they are not!!!  The Cacao beans were discovered 10 years ago by Brian Horsley and Dan Pearson in the Maranon Valley in Peru.  They have been genetically certified as the original cacao by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The beans are grown at 3250ft and produce purple and, unique to this variety, white beans.

Brian Horsley has set up farm and still works with the farmers to produce these exquisite unique cacao beans. The beans are shipped off to Switzerland and made into couverture chocolate using traditional roller conching methods. Anvers Confectionery has the exclusive rights to be able to introduce this chocolate into the Australian market.

“In my 30 years as a Chocolatier I have never experienced a more rewarding chocolate than the Fortunato No. 4 Peruvian Nacional. The complexity and balance of the flavour profiles satisfy my tastebuds. The social responsibilities and sustainable farm practices engaged in the making of this chocolate, satisfy my conscious.”

— Igor Van Gerwen

However, the House of Anvers also has a fascinating chocolate museum. They have an informative, beautifully displayed range of antique chocolate moulds, chocolate tins and advertisements from around the world and I think this was the first time I’d ever seen a cacao bean. They also tell the story of the discovery and development of modern chocolate, taking you on a journey from the Aztec Indians, to when chocolate was only consumed as a liquid in the 1700’s, on to Henry Nestle who mixed the chocolate with milk (in 1875), onto modern chocolate.

While touring the museum, I found out one of the distinctions between good and fine chocolate.

By the way, I stumbled across this comment on their website:

“Igor (Van Gerwen) has found the Tasmanian cream and butter to be the richest in flavour of any in the world, ideally suited for truffles and fudge. He believe the reason for this is that the pastures in Tasmania’s pure environment stay green almost all year round, eliminating the need to feed the dairy cows on grains.

I found that quite interesting because I have found Ashgrove Cheese particularly creamy and obviously their milk has these special qualities.

Being known for my weird sense of logic, I can somehow justify consuming vast amounts of chocolate and Butterscotch Fudge in the interests of gaining an education.

Besides, like the Ashgrove Cheese, this chocolate is so good, I’ll indulge now and repent at home. I think I’ll be sentenced to a diet of lettuce leaves by then.

Sweet Dreams!

xx Rowena

Even the garden is magic!