Friday flowers

Image: Su Leslie

Today I’m taking inspiration again from Tracy (at Reflections of an Untidy Mind), and am bringing you some music with my regular Friday Flowers.

This cover of the Cranberries Dreams was recorded last year “to raise funds and awareness for Safe Ireland, an organisation that provides support for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse.”

A change of scenery

Mt Ruapehu, North Island, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I live on an isthmus; about 700 metres from the sea at high tide. I can’t see the water from my house, but it’s impossible to travel far in any direction and NOT encounter the Waitemata or Manukau harbours which define and enfold Auckland.

In this, I know I’m extremely fortunate.

Well, except for a couple of weeks ago when three large off-shore earthquakes had many New Zealanders scrambling to evacuate their homes and head for high ground, while the rest of us spent a tense day listening to the news and checking our emergency supply kits.

But tsunami risk aside, living in Auckland means that “the beach” is the backdrop to everyday life. So when I need a change of scenery, my favourite place is the mountains in the central plateau of New Zealand’s north island.

The road to Whakapapa village and ski-field, and the Chateau Tongariro, central North Island, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The road to Whakapapa village and ski-field, and the Chateau Tongariro, central North Island, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

I’m sure part of my longing is tied to memory. My first visit to the area was to attend a conference held at the Chateau Tongariro — a wonderfully grand hotel nestled in the foothills of Mt Ruapehu.

The Chateau Tongariro, built in 1929 to encourage tourists to visit the newly opened Tongariro National Park. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The central plateau, more accurately the North Island volcanic plateau includes three active volcanoes; Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Ruapehu and the Rangipo Desert. Not that Auckland doesn’t have volcanoes too, but ours are much smaller, never snow-covered and tend to erupt only once. Mt Tongariro last erupted in 2012; Mt Ruapehu in 2007.

Mt Ngauruhoe, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Rangipo Desert, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

And just as the macro landscape is vastly different to my “normal”, the flora is too.

Close up shot of small green/red plant growing around the snowline at Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Alpine flora, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Close up shot of four-leafed alpine plant growing around snow line on Mt Ruapehu, NZ. Leaves bright green with white, fuzzy edges. Two of the leaves are beginning to brown. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Alpine flora, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Close up shot of spreading yellow-green succulent-type plants growing amongst white moss. Seen at the snow line on Mt Ruapehu, NZ. Image: Su leslie, 2017

Alpine flora, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Small white flower clusters mixed in with green mosses seen on Mt Ruapehu, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Alpine flora, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Although I appreciate the benefits of living in a city, the noise and bustle and sheer number of people and cars exhausts me. I’m not sure I could live in the shadow of the mountains, but it brings me joy to spend time there.

First light on Mt Ruapehu, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Morning light on Mt Ruapehu, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Early morning under lowering skies with low cloud around Mt Tongariro, SH1 south of Turangi, North Island, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

The Desert Road, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Storm clouds, Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

First light Central Plateau, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | A change of scenery

The colour green

Close up shot of fern frond. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Fern frond. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Green is the colour of the month at Jude’s Life in Colour photo challenge.

It’s a colour heavily encumbered with association; denoting renewal, nature, harmony, freshness, and the environment — while at the same time being associated with money, greed and jealousy.

Seen from space, New Zealand looks like a series of small jade islands in the vast Pacific. It would be easy to fill a post with the landscapes and flora familiar to me, but instead I’ve sought green in other realms of life.

Food for example (unexpected I know!)

Eat your greens. Image: Su Leslie

Feijoas. Image: Su Leslie

Making tarragon vinegar. Image: Su Leslie

Mint slice al fresco. Image: Su Leslie

And of course art …

Glass chandelier. Image: Su Leslie

Art class. Image: Su Leslie

Light sculpture. Image: Su Leslie

Taking it outside. Fence at artist’s studio. Image: Su Leslie

And life’s small treasures

Vintage water glasses. Image: Su Leslie

A kiwi classic, Fun Ho! toy truck. Image: Su Leslie

The intersection of art and nature. Image: Su Leslie

Morning walk. Image: Su Leslie

If you’d like to join in, pop over to Travel Words and read Jude’s introduction.

Linger in the sun

Image: Su Leslie

Today I’m taking inspiration from Tracy (at Reflections of an Untidy Mind), and am bringing you some music with my regular Friday Flowers.

Gaelyn Lea is an incredibly talented American musician and advocate for disability rights. Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun is beautiful and haunting. Her words feel absolutely right for this time.

Don’t tell me we’ve got time

The subtle thief of life

It slips away when we pay no mind

— Gaelyn Lea, Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun

Virtual Afternoon Tea, March 2021

Cup of tea and a slice of cake? Image: Su Leslie 2021

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all)

After our recent see-sawing in and out of lock-down I’ve been feeling the need for a wee celebration cake. And in our household, that means banana cake with (lashings of) coffee buttercream.

Banana cake with coffee buttercream icing. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Do you have a go-to cake (or other sweet treat) that’s your family favourite? What is the story behind it? How does a particular cake cake come to take on the mantle of “celebration”?

In my case, I have my late mother in law, Joy, to thank. My mother didn’t bake banana cake, so my early memories of it are from cake stalls and “ladies a plate” events (see below).

Joy made banana cake for the Big T’s birthdays, and then later for mine. They were unfailingly moist and tasty, had a generous, but not overwhelming, application of coffee-flavoured buttercream, and were often decorated with walnut halves.

First attempt at candied walnuts to top the cake. Image: Su Leslie 2021

For me this is the perfect banana cake, and I’ve never understood why other people’s versions seemed to be coated with anemic and thoroughly unappetizing chocolate icing.

Until last week.

I always bake banana cake from the recipe in the Edmonds Cookery Book — something of a cooking bible in NZ. What I had never noticed before is the last line of the recipe — “When cold ice with Lemon or Chocolate Icing or dust with icing sugar.”

Well, as you can imagine that got me thinking (and quizzing T) about his mother’s coffee buttercream, and about the history of banana cake generally.

Is banana cake a “thing” where you live? If so, what sort of cake is it. Is it iced? Coffee buttercream???

Sorry to bombard you with questions; I really want to know.

My banana cake is basically a butter cake with mashed bananas folded into the mixture. Practically all banana cake recipes in New Zealand are variations on this, and have been for many years. However, one local recipe — from (the delightfully named) Bush Advocate in 1906 — included currents and coconut, while one published in Britain’s Daily Mail published a recipe in 1928, was more of a sponge. In several early recipes from both Australia and New Zealand the banana component is basically sliced banana between layers of cake.

What’s really amazed me about this is a) how old some of the recipes are (1891 in both New Zealand and Australia); and b) how often NZ newspapers printed recipes for banana cake: 136 times between 1891 and 1950, which is the last year for which newspapers are available online through Papers Past.

Image: Su Leslie 2021

But enough of my Musa musings. Pull up a chair, grab a plate and help yourself to some cake.

Tell me what you’ve been up to? What’s happening in your world?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)


The term “ladies a plate” was ubiquitous in New Zealand when I was growing up, and referred to the convention that catering for social gatherings involved all of the women bringing food. As a new immigrant to this country, my mother suffered the embarrassment of arriving at her first such gathering carrying — literally — a plate, having assumed that the hosts must be short of crockery.


Update

My lovely co-host Del from CurlsNSkirls has baked soda bread, in honour of St Patrick’s Day. You can find her recipe here.

Pop over to see Margaret at Pyrenees to Pennines for a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a cashew nut butter cookie.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has baked banana bread and shared her recipe. Please check it out.

Have some chicken pasta salad with Ladyleemanila.

Carrot cake is particularly popular, and Ju-Lyn from Touring My Backyard has not only made one (and posted the recipe), but shares a new perspective on what “carrot cake” means in Singapore.

Deb at The Widow Badass has made some fabulous blueberry lemon oatmeal muffins (with recipe).

Special moments

Two photographers doing what we love. Image: Su Leslie 2018

The history of photography was, until the digital age, entirely the history of special moments. Early photography was both expensive and extremely time consuming. Cameras — large, often bespoke contraptions that worked by exposing chemical-coated plates to light over relatively long periods of time — were the preserve of a few wealthy enthusiasts.

Even after new technologies made cameras accessible to the mass market (thanks Kodak), the cost of buying and developing film meant that many (most) people still saved photography for recording the events and moments of most importance to them. Five selfies with that cheeseburger — no way!

Now that most phones have (perfectly decent) digital cameras and are internet-connected, the way we think about — and use — photography has utterly changed. One of the most intelligent writers about photography (in my opinion) was the late John Berger. Writing in 1972, he said:

Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation. A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless.

John Berger

Recording the experience of art; a project I consider worthwhile. Image: Su Leslie

With the ubiquity of photography in our lives, how do we choose special moments? Not just those we capture — but those we share with the increasingly wide audience available through social media. How different bloggers respond to that question, posed in this week’s Lens Artists Photo Challenge, is fascinating in itself.

My lens for this project is creativity. My special moments are those in which creative activities are being practiced, or their products enjoyed.

Exploring creativity with a compassionate and talented teacher. Image: Su Leslie

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

Sophia Loren

Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

Exploring the boundaries of art. Image: Su Leslie

” … I feel that what we should get from art is a sense of wonder, of something beyond ourselves, that celebrates our ‘being’ here.” — Trevor Bell. Images: Su Leslie

Before and after. Recording process matters. Images: Su Leslie

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | Special Moments

What served in the place of the photograph, before the camera’s invention? The expected answer is the engraving, the drawing, the painting. The more revealing answer might be: memory.

John Berger