Saturday 27 October 2007


The weather in Melbourne today was very warm, with the temperature reaching a maximum of around 30˚C. This was quite a contrast form yesterday and the day before where we had overcast, showery days with the temperature struggling to reach 20˚C. Such is late Spring, here in the Antipodes, with quite an unpredictable course and never a dull moment. We made the most of the weather by driving up to the Plenty Gorge, in the North of Melbourne and visited a beautiful nursery and garden shop called Rivers.

The garden centre is built in the middle of paddocks and surrounds a pond on the shores of which there some gum trees. As well as the nursery and shop there is a restaurant and café where one may have a nice morning or afternoon tea, or something more substantial at lunchtime. Even though we are in the midst of a drought, undaunted gardeners were purchasing plants and the nursery has been keeping up with the times by encouraging people to buy drought-tolerant plants, natives and also water tanks for recycling of gray water.

We spent a very pleasant hour do so there, enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and then drove to the Mill Park Library. This is a newly built library that was established to service the new suburbs in the North. The building is circular, large and very well designed. One can easily spend several hours in there enjoying the books, magazines, newspapers, music and video collections. As well as the books on offer for borrowing, our libraries here have occasional book sales where used library books are sold to the public. We were very lucky today as they were selling some books from their Greek collection, some of which were in excellent condition and sold quite cheaply. Needless to say that we bought these books with great alacrity!

By the time we got home, it was hot outside and it was quite a pleasure to have a cool drink at home and eat some fruit salad for lunch. The afternoon was spent relaxing and, what else? Going through our newly-acquired treasures, reading, listening to music and enjoying the weekend.

For Music Saturday today, a beautiful extract from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. Soprano Katia Ricciarelli and Contralto Lucia Valentini sing the first movement of this work, with the Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, in Milan, conducted by Claudio Abbado. 1979.

Friday 26 October 2007


Seeing it is fast approaching Halloween, Food Friday today is dedicated to the pumpkin. The pumpkin, or Cucurbita pepo, to give it its proper botanical name is a trailing vine, of the gourd family, having tendrils, large lobed leaves and which is native to warm regions of America. The plant produces the familiar large rounded orange-yellow fruit with a thick rind, edible flesh, and many seeds. Many other varieties of pumpkin are now also available including the very tasty elongated, buff-coloured butternut pumpkin and the Queensland blue pumpkin, with the slate-bluegray rind and bright orange flesh.

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek pepõn for a large melon. The English termed it pumpion or pompion. This term dates back to 1547, yet it did not make an appearance in print until 1647. The pumpkin was one of the many foods used by the Native American Indians in the new world and was a welcome discovery by the Pilgrims. The Indians pounded strips of pumpkin flat, dried them, and wove them into mats for trading. They also dried pumpkin for food. Pumpkin blossoms can also be used as those of the squash family, such as batter-dipped and fried squash blossoms.

The new Americans heartily embraced the sweet, multi-purpose fruit, which became a traditional Thanksgiving food. The colonists used pumpkin not only as a side dish and dessert, but also in soups and even made beer of it. One of the most familiar uses of the pumpkin is in its popular Halloween incarnation, when it is carved into a Jack-o'-lantern. The practice was brought to the USA by Irish immigrants who originally carved turnips into Jack-o'-lanterns. In America, pumpkins were more plentiful and cheaper than turnips, and so came about the switch from turnips to pumpkins.

Two recipes for you today, both extremely popular in Australia.

Pumpkin Soup


* 4 cups peeled chopped pumpkin
* 2 leeks, thinly sliced
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 150 g butter
* 3 cups chicken stock
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 cup cream
* 2 tablespoons flour
* freshly grated nutmeg (to taste)
* salt
* pepper
* croutons (to serve)


1. Cook pumpkin, leek and onion in 90 g of butter for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add stock and cook gently until pumpkin is very tender.
3. Push through a sieve or pureé in blender with a little of the milk.
4. Melt remaining butter in a clean pan and stir in flour until golden, then add the pumpkin pureé and the remaining milk and the cream, stirring until well blended.
5. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
6. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve and garnish with chopped parsley and croutons.

Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen’s Pumpkin Scones


* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg
* 1 cup mashed pumpkin (cold)
* 2 cups Self raising flour


1. Beat together the butter, sugar and salt with an electric mixer. Add the egg, then the pumpkin and stir in the flour.
2. Turn on to floured board and roll into a 2 cm thick sheet. Cut with 5 cm diameter round cookie cutters. Put on greased baking tray and glaze with some beaten egg or milk.
3. Place in tray on top shelf of very hot oven 225-250 ˚C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy, and don't forget to notify Agnes, our Food Friday hostess if you are taking part in the tour!

Wednesday 24 October 2007


This is a very busy time of the year for me as it is the end of semester and the fast approaching end of the academic year. Between now and Christmas, all sorts of things happen in a University that could not be done during the normal semester times. This also gives me the opportunity to apologise to all of you as I haven’t been able to visit your pages as much as I would have wanted to. Work and life get in the way of the really important things like… blogging!

As the examination period is right about now and much of time will be taken up by examining students, correcting papers, setting additional quizzes, giving viva voce examination and marking theses, the word of the day is appropriately:

quiz |kwiz| noun ( pl. quizzes |kwɪz1z|)
A test of knowledge, esp. a brief, informal test given to students.
verb ( quizzes, quizzed |kwɪzd|, quizzing |kwɪzɪŋ|) [ trans. ] (often be quizzed)
ask (someone) questions: Four men have been quizzed about the murder.
• give (a student or class) an informal test or examination.
ORIGIN mid 19th century (as a verb; originally U.S, influenced by inquisitive Possibly from an early 18th century English dialect verb quiset, meaning to question.

There is an apocryphal story regarding the origin of the word quiz, which is in all probability improbable. It concerns a Dublin theatre proprietor by the name of Richard Daly who apparently made a bet that he could, within forty-eight hours, make a nonsense word known throughout the city, and that the public would give a meaning to it. After the performance one evening, he gave his staff cards with the word “quiz” written on them, and told them to write the word on walls all around the city.

The next day the strange word was the talk of the town, and within a short time it had become part of the language, its meaning being taken from the questions that every asked about its meaning! This picturesque tale appeared as an anecdote in 1836, but the most detailed account (in F. T. Porter's Gleanings and Reminiscences, 1875) gives the date of the exploit as 1791.

The word, however, was already in use by then, meaning 'an odd or eccentric person', and had been used in this sense by Fanny Burney in her diary on 24 June 1782. 'Quiz' was also used as a name for a curious toy, something like a yo-yo and also called a bandalore, which was popular around 1790. The word is nevertheless hard to account for, and so is its later meaning of 'to question, to interrogate', which emerged in the mid-19th century and gave rise to the most common use of the term today, for an entertainment based on questions and answers.

Other etymologists prefer to relate the word to the Latin question: Qui es, meaning “Who are you?” In any case it is probably from the same root as question and inquisitive (Latin: quaerere “ask, seek”).

Enjoy your Word Thursday, which apparently Jacqui BB has taken under her wing. Thank you, Jacqui!

Tuesday 23 October 2007


Yet again, I am moved to write about wild fires burning out of control and causing much pain and suffering, this time in Southern California. Here in Australia we sympathise greatly with bushfire victims anywhere around the world as we are so familiar with the distress and immense loss of life and property that these wild fires cause. Not so long ago, Southern Greece was burning, now California and this Summer we are bracing ourselves here in Southern Australia for the bushfire season.

The unrelenting winds created a deadly firestorm across Southern California, with firefighters conceding defeat on many fronts. More than 500,000 people have been forced to move away from their homes, not knowing whether they will come back to find them… It is a terrible thought – get up this moment and leave your house, taking nothing with you, and remembering that everything you own will be lost forever…

Our thoughts here, Downunder are with you, people of Southern California. One hopes that weather conditions will abate and that the fires will be controlled soon…

The Burning

The fire burnt my house
The smoke stifled my breath.
The flames licked my memories
The tablet wiped clean.

Wind-carried sparks surround me
Igniting my flammable mementos.
The embers glow, the hot ash flies
My place of refuge, now a hell.

All’s lost up in smoke,
My eyes are blinded by my fears
My tears making of the flames
A watery incineration.

The earth is roasted dry,
Even the air is fire-red.
My house no more a haven
My home no more.

My pockets empty,
All that I have the clothes I wear.
My mind is desiccated
All dreams have sublimated.

The fire burns, the flames destroy.
All my possessions charred and gone.
The fire cauterising wounds
It itself has opened.

The fire robbed me of my home,
The smoke asphyxiated me.
My souvenirs are smoke
All of my pages, now ash.

And yet I live, I still have you by my side,
Things that are lost no more important than fallen leaves.
Stand by my side, hold my hand, and hope,
For the fire in our hearts, can make of this barren, deathly place
A paradise, again.

This poem was inspired by a news report we watched yesterday, where a news reporter watched his own house burning down…


Book Tuesday is hosted by The Witch and today I’d like to feature a distinguished New Zealand writer of crime and detective fiction, Ngaio Marsh. If you like Agatha Christie’s novels, you’ll also like Ngaio Marsh ( She was born April 23rd , 1895? and died February 18th, 1982. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900. She was an author and theatre director who wrote thirty-two novels in total.

All of her novels featured her brilliant detective, Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Inspector Alleyn was assisted by Inspector Fox, Nigel Bathgate, and later his wife Agatha Troy, a famous artist. Ngaio Marsh used her knowledge and experience of the theatre in many of the novels, particularly in one of her best books “Opening Night” (1951). The majority of titles appeared first in the UK but there are thirteen titles, which appeared first in the US, so there are also a few alternate titles. As she also studied art, artists make frequent appearances in her novels.

As a kind of hobby and with no real hope of publication she wrote her first novel, “A Man Lay Dead” (1934), scribbling it down with a lead pencil in twopenny exercise books. She left this story with an agent, and was astonished to learn some six months later, that a publisher had been found. Most of her writing was done at her home in New Zealand (now a museum and well worth a visit if you ever go to Christchurch, a lovely city on the South Island of New Zealand!).

One of Ngaio Marsh's most popular novels is “Surfeit of Lampreys” (also known as “Death of A Peer” in the USA, published 1940/41). The novel begins when a young New Zealander’s first contact with the English gentry is the body of Lord Wutherford (dispatched into the next world with a meat skewer through his eye!). The Lamprey family had lots of charm but have unfortunately fallen short of cash. Their eccentricity and peculiar lifestyle in which they revelled required a lot of money. The rich but awful Uncle Gabriel, Lord Wutherford, often visited (but he was always such a bore) and the double and triple charades, with which they would entertain their guests left him rather bemused. The Lampreys thought if they were nice to rich Uncle Gabriel, he would provide them with some funds, yet again… Unfortunately, Uncle Gabriel met a very nasty end. Chief Inspector Alleyn of course comes into the scene and has to deduce which Lamprey killed him...

If you are into good detective fiction, full of gruesome murders, the necessary comedic relief, enjoyable characters, involving plot, amusing conversation, wonderful style and faultless detection, then Ngaio Marsh is the woman for you.

PS: A lamprey is a jawless fish armed with a vicious toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth. While lampreys are well known for those species which bore into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood, these species make up the minority. Nevertheless the name Ms Marsh chose for the murderous Lamprey clan is quite apt you must admit…


I have a blog on Yahoo's 360 and have tried out their unimpressive Mash. As Yahoo is phasing out 360 over the next few months, I thought I may try out this blog space, which seems to have a reasonable enough interface. I'll be interested to see how many of my Yahoo 360 friends migrate to this blogging arena.