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The Journey Begins

” A Journey of thousand miles begins with a single step” – Chinese Proverb.

Our first trip to the United States was in April 2017 to see our daughter in New York and travel around. My first visit to the 9/11 site reminded me of the destruction and demolition happening around the world. Loss of valuable innocent victims, loss of a large number of fire servicemen in the neighbouring fire service station and the destruction of twin towers -the land mark of New York City, are signs of evil forces in existence in the world.

With a heavy heart, we went to a nearby cafe. I could see beautiful red tulips in full bloom at a distance, which I caught in my cell phone. Nature brings out her best in creating beautiful flowers and creatures. Plants, animals, and birds blend well with nature and are at home in their environment. Humans are disoriented and do not blend with nature, but are endowed with creative powers to create their own environment. It’s sad to note that this creative power is used ruthlessly to destroy the beauty of mother nature.

My beautiful curry leaf plant

                              

When my father was alive, he brought me a beautiful lush green curry plant. One of his friends in Queensland had sent this beauty to him. My father was living with my sister, and as she already had two curry leaf plants at her place, he brought this plant to me. He asked me to water this plant regularly and take care of it gently like a baby.

“Deepa, are you watering the curry plant regularly?  It was the first question my father would ask as he visited me on weekends.

I felt guilty that I didn’t tender the plant with care. The lush green leaves were slowly withering and turning brown. With my work schedule, I completely forgot to water this plant. One month, two months passed, and the plant eventually died with the start of winter. Luckily, some seeds from this plant buried in the soil during winter began to sprout in spring.

After a few months with the fall of spring, two small green plants grew from the seeds. My father was pleased to see two beautiful saplings growing in my garden. I decided to look after these two plants with great care.

“How are the curry plants? My father would ask this question every time he steps into my house. I have heard people bond with cats and dogs, but I have never heard anyone bonding with a plant as my father did.

After my father passed away, I  looked after my two curry plants with love and care, and I was curious to know why he was so passionate about the curry leaf plant.

One day when I stood near the plants, I could hear them whispering to each other.

“You know Deepa’s father was a wonderful man and was passionate about the environment. He took good care of our grandmother, Jessica,” the first plant said. “Our great-grandmother Monica hails from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. She grew up into a majestic curry-leaf tree in Deepa’s father’s house. Curry leaves from her branches threw so much fragrance that every passer-by would take a bunch of curry leaves home. The taste and aroma from curries cooked with her leaves would stay in your taste bud until the next meal. 

Few years after our grandmother Jessica was born, Deepa’s father migrated to Australia and got his passport and visa for the migration. He wanted to take our grandmother Jessica with him. But the immigration department quarantined her. She was in isolation for a month and was finally sent to Queensland to avoid Sydney’s winter. The weather in Queensland is similar to Jaffna. She grew up into a beautiful young tree, and our mother, Brenda, was born. Deepa’s father’s friend in Queensland said it was not advisable to uproot our grandmother Jessica; instead, he sent our mother, Brenda, to Sydney. 

Our mother came by train and landed in Sydney and was handed over to Deepa by her father. No wonder he was upset that Deepa had let our mother die. God only knows the trouble her father took to bring our grandmother, Jessica, to Australia. We should keep our heads high and be thankful that we are in Australia. I am always grateful to her father. “

“Yes, we are living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world,” the second plant nodded in agreement. “Australian Government is well known for protecting the fauna and flora of this country .”

Composting and Recycling

Global warming has been a critical environmental issue discussed at every key summit by many world leaders in the last decade. We should not forget that waste generated and disposed of by humans also contribute to global warming. In 2002, a survey revealed that the greenhouse gas emissions from waste were highest in North America, second highest in Europe, followed by Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, totalling 350 million tonnes.

We blame Governments for not making the right decisions. As human beings, we have the habit of blaming others, nature, and everything else except ourselves for our failures. Interestingly if we are successful, we take credit and brag about our success.

If each one of us takes care of our household waste, plastic, and other materials, we may eliminate the war on waste to some extent. Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Until recently, our garbage bin was full almost every day, and we had to empty a minimum of six to seven garbage plastic bags a week. My husband gathered information on recycling, composting, and reusing. He visited a few dump yards and recycling sites to get more information on the war on waste.

We now have two large compost bins in the garden and a small container in the kitchen for vegetable peels and other food scraps. Every day the small container is emptied into the compost. By reducing the garbage waste to a minimum, we have reduced the number of weekly kitchen tidy bags (bin bags) from six to one. Our garbage bin is now only 10 percent full for the weekly collection by the Council, whereas it was packed to the rim before. We use the compost manure to fertilise our vegetable patch and flower beds.

Statistics show that food scraps and yard waste together make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away. People should compost them instead, as composting keeps these materials out of landfills.

We collect soft plastic bags -from loaves of bread, frozen food items, etc., wash them, and put them in the bins provided by Woolworth Supermarket. Our understanding is that these soft plastic items are recycled.

Every paper, glass, or plastic item with a “recycling” mark is in the recycling bin.

Global warming is making the planet earth a warmer place, bringing drastic weather changes unbearable to humans, animals, plants, and other species. Reducing the emissions of our greenhouse gases is an effective way to mitigate global warming

I hope more and more people are aware of their responsibility regarding global warming; to reduce plastic, waste, and harmful materials that affect carbon emissions and reduce waste reaching landfills.

Vegetable salad with a difference

The common belief in the South-Asia region is that a meal should have items with six different tastes that stimulate the digestive systems’ enzymes.  The six different tastes are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, pungent and astringent. If we don’t use it, we lose it. We have developed the habit of eating sweets and savoury items and ignored the rest. Each taste possesses different properties, provides a distinct benefit to the body, and enhances the digestion process.

The vegetable bitter-gourd is a powerful and effective vegetable to fight diabetes. It is a natural way to reduce the glucose level with little effort on your part.

For example, in India and Sri Lanka, it is used widely in cooking. However, the traditional ways of cooking this vegetable are either deep frying or cooking in oil which we now know are very unhealthy.

I have tried bitter-gourd in salads, and when combined with other vegetables and dressing, you wouldn’t taste the bitterness in the salad.

Ingredients:

Two medium carrots

Two  Zucchinis

One medium bitter gourd

One Granny Smith Apple

One Red Capsicum

One bag mixed salad leaves – 100 gm

One tbsp Apple cider vinegar

Two tbsps Extra Virgin Olive oil

1/2 Red onion

One Long green chilli

Method:

Cut the ends of Bittergourd and divide it into three cylinders. Scoop out the seeds with a knife and cut them into two half pieces.

Shred the carrots, zucchinis, bitter gourd, and apple in a shredder/food processor.

Slice red capsicum into thin slices or small pieces.

Add sliced onion, finely chopped green chilli, and salad leaves.

Finally, add olive oil and apple cider vinegar and mix it well.

Note: Avoid adding tomatoes as it will make the salad soggy.

            Salt is not required.

Sliced bitter gourd
Sliced vegetables – bitter gourd, apple and carrots
Red capsicum cut in small pieces
Sliced vegetables in the Shredder ( All vertical)

Colourful Salad Bowl

Pelican Feed – Central Coast, NSW Dated 19 June 2020

Our daughter visited us from overseas for a few weeks in Mid-February in Year 2020. We decided to travel to Central Coast on a hot summer day. The temperature soared to 40 degrees unexpectedly. Travel by car from Hornsby to Central Coast along Pacific Highway took just over an hour. GPS guided us through various nooks and corners, and finally, we reached the Entrance Waterfront on Central Coast.

When we reached the Waterfront, at 2.00 pm, there were hardly any birds on sight. We drove through the town in search of a gluten-free meal. After enjoying a refreshing and delicious meal at an Organic restaurant, we drove to the nearby beach. The bright blue sky, the tranquil nature, and the shallow waves had a soothing effect on us. After spending about fifteen minutes at the beach, we left for the Waterfront.

My husband and I visited this place a decade ago with some friends. However, we missed the Pelican Feed time and didn’t see many Pelicans near the Waterfront after the feed. The birds converge at the Entrance Waterfront daily sharp at 3.30 pm their feed-time. Initially, the Pelican feed was started by staff at a local fish shop many years ago. As the popularity of the pelican-feed grew, the local Council built a feeding platform, known as Pelican Plaza in 1996. Many sponsors and volunteers provide their continuous support for this bird- feed project.

Birds don’t need a compass or a GPS to reach their chosen destination; neither do they need a clock. The creator has provided these enormous birds with an internal GPS and a timer. Daily for 365 days, a colony of pelicans would congregate at this Waterfront without fail at 3.30 pm. The striking feature of a Pelican is its long beak and a large throat pouch to catch its prey. Even though they looked freaky, they appeared harmless.

I should remind the readers that we visited this site just before the COVID19 outbreak. Not many people were around. Slowly the Pelican colony made their way to the Waterfront. At 3.30 pm, a volunteer started to feed the fish to the hungry Pelicans from a bucket. The birds snatched the fish thrown at random with their long bills. If a Pelican missed its turn, it waited patiently for the next round of fish from the volunteer. The beauty of this colony was that they didn’t fight among themselves to snatch the fish. A calm order prevailed on the platform. At the end of the feed, the entire colony gradually disappeared into the water or air.

It was a memorable afternoon, which made me ponder that we can learn so much from these birds. The platform would have looked like a war-zone if a group of people similarly received food.

Gluten-free Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups Gluten-free Self -raising flour ( Organ brand) -1
  • 1    cup Besan flour (Lotus brand) -2
  • ½  cup Tapioca flour (Lotus brand)-3
  • ½  cup Potato starch (Bobs Red Mill brand)-4
  • ½  cup Cornflour (P.A.N brand)-5
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 250 ml warm water for the Pizza dough

Yeast preparation:

  • 1 tbsp Dry Yeast (Tandaco brand)
  • 1 tsp Brown sugar
  • 140 ml lukewarm water

Sauce and Toppings :

  • 5 tbsp Tomato sauce
  • 100 gm -Cheddar, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese mixture
  • 50 gm – Small cup Mushrooms, sliced into quarters
  • ½ – Red Capsicum, sliced into small pieces
  • ½ – Green Capsicum, sliced into small pieces
  • Handful – baby spinach leaves
  • Handful -Fresh basil leaves (or dry)
  • 1 tsp -Dry Oregano leaves (or fresh)

Method:

Dissolve the sugar in warm water, sprinkle the yeast on top, and mix with a spoon and set aside for 10-15 minutes until frothy.

Put all 5 measured flour and baking powder in a bowl. Sieve the mixture 3 times, so the different flours and baking powder are combined together.

Preheat the oven to 180° C (fan-forced).  Place the flour mix into a food processor, add the warm water and yeast and pulse until the mixture come together in a soft dough.

If the dough feels a little sticky, add more self-raising flour. If it is too dry, add a little water.

Scoop the mixture and knead it by hand on a board until it becomes a smooth oblong-shaped dough. Divide it into 3 equal portions and make 3 balls.

Transfer one ball on the baking sheet/paper on a board, sprinkle with flour and using your fingers, flatten it. Then place the cling film on top and roll it with a rolling pin until it turns into a pizza crust about 24 cm (or 20 cm) diameter. Place it on a Pizza baking tray, cover the top with another baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and spread with tomato sauce. Sprinkle a small quantity of cheese and arrange mushrooms and capsicum. Add the remaining cheese, put baby spinach leaves on top, sprinkle Basil and Oregano. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the crust is cooked through and the cheese has melted.

Helpful Hints:

The dough will become soft once it’s kneaded by hand.

Baking sheet/paper is preferable to Aluminium foil.

No oil or milk has been added to the flour mixture. When 2 tbsp of olive oil is added to the flour-mix in the Food processor, the mixture will come together in a soft dough.

Okra (Ladies’ fingers) Curry

When we were growing up, the vegetable “Okra” was a favourite dish in our household. My grandfather said that each okra seed was packed with nutrients equivalent to an egg. I am not sure whether there is any scientific proof of this statement. Sometime, we ate young tender okras fresh from the garden at my grandfather’s request. Plenty of okra plants grew in the backyard, and tender ones plucked at the right time. If they are left too long in the tree, the okra pods become hard and inedible. Okras can be dried and seeds planted in fertile soil at the appropriate season.

I buy okras from Harris Farm. Pick okra that is fresh, firm to touch and green without blemish spots. Wash the okra pod well in water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Slicing okra just before cooking inhibits the release of a slimy substance from the inside of the pods. Using a sharp knife, cut off the pointy end of the okra and then slice into smaller pieces.

Ingredients:

  • Okra pods – 400 gm
  • Long Green Chillies – 3
  • Small Red Thai Chillies – 2
  • Medium size onion -1
  • Water – 200 cc
  • Curry Leaves – few sprigs
  • Coconut milk – 4 table spoon
  • Lemon or lime – 1/2
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Slice the okras into small pieces and put them into a pan. Cut both red and green chillies to small parts and chop the onion. Transfer okra, chilli and onion mixture into a pot cover it with 200 ml water and cook in slow fire. Once the okra is cooked, add the coconut milk and curry leaves and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add salt to taste, remove from fire and squeeze in the lemon juice.

Points to Note:

  • Evaporated milk or Soy Milk can be used instead of coconut milk.
  • Optional -half tea spoon turmeric powder can be added before adding milk to the curry.
  • If chillies are hot, you can reduce the quantity to 2 long green chillies and 1 small red chilli.

Green Square Underground Library

I first heard about Green Square library while watching a documentary on the top 10, 2019 Architectural buildings in Australia. The underground library in Green Square received rave reviews from the judging panel. The unique structure, room space, natural lighting, proximity to station and buses, shops, etc. makes the library an attractive place to visit. As 90% of Green Square’s residents live in apartments, the underground library is an ingenious use of limited space.

Green Square station is along the railway line to Domestic and International airports in Sydney. As I came out of Green Square station, I saw the triangular shaped glass pavilion and walked around it once, viewing the building at various angles, wondering where the library was. Once I entered the building, I realised the pavilion provides the entrance into the underground library. A flight of steps downwards leads to the main library. A circular sunken garden in the centre adds novelty. I walked pass the sunken garden, observing the glass walls, which lets in light. A courteous member of staff asked if she could be of help. Perhaps my wonderings and photo snapping surprised her?

The walls are draped with vertical book shelves with attractive and popular titles. One section has rooms available for group study free of charge for two hours a day, but you have to book it. Records show that there are about 40,000 books in this library. Children are attracted to adorable reading nooks within the bookshelves.

A series of circular skylights on the ground floor, dot the plaza and light the library floor below. The amphitheatre that filled the sunken void at the end of the Library was quiet except for a few people having a discussion in the middle and a little girl who walked up and down the steps countless times clasping her father’s hand tightly.

A separate six-storey glass tower has a double-height reading room, computer lab, music room and bookable community space.

A rainbow colour installation decorates a wall in the library. It’s quite eye-catching, and the picture is on display at a few public places. I scaled the six -storey glass tower and the entire library once and couldn’t find this artwork. Later I bumped into one of the Librarians and asked about it. He smiled at me and said that most of the discarded books have been carefully wrapped in bright colour papers and stacked neatly on shelves in the tower’s reading room. This installation provides the backdrop for the colourful artwork. I retraced my steps and found the tower and captured the bright artwork on one side of the wall. It’s a casual space with armchairs and bean bags and provides a great view of the plaza.  

The Green square library is for the whole community; read, relax and enjoy the peace and harmony of the underground environment both inside and out. It accommodates people of all age groups, from infants to seniors. A dedicated section inside the library is available for small children to read, play and create. Although very young children, accompanied by their parents visit the library, a few hours I spent there I heard no crying.

Architects Stewart Hollenstein with Stewart Architecture won the global design competition for the Library. The land that was once a swamp has been converted into a stunning and functional building, using sophisticated engineering techniques. The glass pavilion on the plaza with a cosy café is prominent and livelier than the six-storey glass tower in the middle, which has only one room at every level. I spent about three hours roaming in and out of the library, scanned through a book by “Deepak Chopra” and finished my day with a cup of “Chai latte” at the Library’s café.  Finally, when I stepped out of the glass pavilion café on the ground floor, I saw a beautiful Christmas tree with colourful, dainty decorations. It looked majestic, bringing the Christmas spirit to all those in the neighbourhood.

Museum Discovery Centre

The Museums Discovery Centre is a collaboration between the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums. It’s a storage centre for the treasures of the state collection and is located at 172 Showground Road, Castlehill, New South Wales.

I visited the Museum Centre last weekend with my husband. As it was Sunday, not many people were around, and the canteen was closed. The Museum operated with a skeleton staff. Outside, the sun was hot and weather humid, but inside it was cooling. Unlike other Museums which are in the heart of major cities, this centre is located about 33km from Sydney CBD by road. The surrounding looked green and welcoming. The exhibits are placed widely apart on three different levels and subdivided into six stores.

Store 1: This store displays the masterful creation of the world’s best designers. Chairs, vases, bowls, teapots, and silverware are some of the exhibits on display. Many items date back to the 19th century.

Store 2: Many innovative technologies that changed the lives of humanity are contained here. Telephones, clocks, radios, printing machines, engines, etc. to name a few. Change that occurred from the Industrial age to the present day is housed here.

Store 3: Variety of transport engines are parked here. It includes Cobb & Co -mail and passenger coach, wheat wagon, cars, bicycles, fire engine, an array of aircraft, cable tram, and a Yacht. Bikes are mounted high on the wall. Planes dangling from the ceiling look like huge toys.

Store 4:  This store is a home for a multitude of objects collected and used by Scientists both in the field and in the lab. A Sabre tooth tiger model on display is scary and provides an eerie atmosphere at the entrance to this store. It’s made from the skins of three African lions and a goat. Many items on display in this store are scientific specimens and instruments.

Store 5: Many domestic appliances and toys are exhibited here. Some of the cooking implements on display appear to be rustic and ancient.

Store 6: The structural model of a few buildings is on display here. Many architectural elements rescued from historic and beautiful buildings are housed here. A carved timber window cornice from Drummoyne House is on display. This massive cornice over 5 metres in length was part of a large stone mansion that belonged to a wealthy merchant and trader William Wright. The cornice had taken two years to complete, and the design based on the “foliage, flowers and fruit surrounding Drummoyne House.”

The tour gave me a glimpse of the Australian past.  I was impressed with the model display of a golden nugget,” Welcome Stranger,” that was found in Moliagul Victoria in 1869. Store 3 has many samples of doll dresses, hats, and a variety of shoes.

Museums showcase a Nation’s history, tradition, people, lifestyle, and culture. In his travel classics “Down Under “the author Bill Bryson reflects, “Personally, I think Australians ought to be extremely proud that from the most awkwardly unpropitious beginnings, in a remote and challenging place, they created a prosperous and dynamic society.

https://maas.museum/museums-discovery-centre/

General admission opening hours are on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the admission is free.

The Museum centre is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Group tours to the Collection galleries are available from Wednesday to Friday. The admission fee is $ 10 per person, with a minimum of 8 people. Behind the scene, group tours are available from Wednesday to Friday for $ 20 per person.

Winery and Chocolate Factory in Western Australia

When we were on holiday in Perth, my husband’s cousin, who lives in Perth, took us to a Chocolate Factory and Winery.

Swan Valley is well known for its excellent wineries. We visited Sandalford Wines, which was established in 1840 and is said to have advanced viticultural practices and a splendid winemaking team. The Sandalford brand enjoys a reputation for quality, and visitors are welcomed for wine tastings, for meals in the elegant restaurant and a guided tour of the winery process.

We parked the car in the allocated spaces and sat under the shade of grape trees whose branches went above in a criss-cross fashion. As it was early morning, the weather was cold and the breeze chilling, but the environment divine and peaceful.

As we were talking about the beauty of the place, I heard someone saying, “Your blouse looks very pretty.”

I turned around, and a lady with a twinkle in her eyes remarked, “Did you buy your blouse at Target”?

I said, “Yes” and realized that she was wearing the same orange floral blouse that I was wearing. I was glad that nobody thought that it was the corporate uniform for the winery.

Beautiful roses at the entrance provide a spectacular view of the winery. We strolled around the garden and marched into the fertile vineyard. At a distance, it looked like armed soldiers neatly lined up in their green uniform ready for their morning drill.

Shortly afterward, we joined the guided tour within the building. A video showed a short history of the winery, process and the storage of wine in barrels and bottles and finally wine tasting. As we had planned to visit a chocolate factory, we didn’t dine at their restaurant, but the food looked like the “Master Chef” dishes.

Our next stopover at the Margaret River Chocolate Company was a mouth-watering experience. It was full of many blends and a variety of chocolates in different shapes and colours. All packed neatly and arranged in shelves to attract customers. Its unique combination of smooth, European-style chocolate is made from raw ingredient cacao beans. The chocolates that we tasted just melted in our mouth had a rich aromatic flavour.

Finally, we went to the nearby beach. The sky was bright and blue, and the water cool enough to wet our feet. Standing on the shore with white sand and waves under the feet was therapeutic. The vast ocean reminds us of how small we are when compared to its mighty power. We saw a person holding a kite right in the middle of the sea. Whatever he was standing on was wavering on the water, and he was struggling with the kite which was moving in every direction with the wind. It was an exciting sight to watch the battle between two forces, the waves and the wind. But the kite-holder was the master of the situation, trying everything in his power to control nature’s forces.

Train Journey

Shankar could hear his mother calling his name loud and clear. It was about eight in the morning, and he could see the beautiful reflection of sunlight on his glass window. He had to catch the 8.30 train to be on time for school at 9.00 am.

As he jumped out of his bed in a hurry, Lucky leaped with a shriek when Shankar stepped on his tail.

He patted the dog tenderly and said,” Sorry, Lucky, I’d forgotten that you were sleeping under my bed last night.”

Shankar brushed his teeth, showered and after eating his breakfast, left home by 8.15 to reach the railway station. His mother had given him the exact train fare to school. On his way to the station, he met two other friends, Gopal and Raju. Gopal stopped at a sweet shop, and Shankar couldn’t take his eyes off the colourful bottles full of multicoloured sweets. He took the train fare from his pocket and bought sweets to his heart content.

Once they reached the station, Shankar realised that he didn’t have enough money for the train fare, neither did his two friends. All three decided that they were going to travel without the train ticket. The train was going at high speed, and all you could hear were passengers talking, people listening to music and a baby crying at the far end of that carriage.

Suddenly there was an uproar at the far end. You could hear people ruffling their pockets, looking in their wallets and handbags for their tickets. Ticket checkers have boarded the train. The three boys didn’t know what to do. In a flash, they hid under the seats at three different places.

Shankar hid under the seats completely. Suddenly Shankar felt a soft fur close to his body. To his astonishment, Lucky was also travelling on the same train. Lucky was licking Shankar’s face and wagging his tail.

Now the ticket checker Ram has reached where Shankar was hiding. He was checking the tickets of every single passenger. Ram was a dedicated, honest man. As he came near Shankar, he saw the dog’s tail. Shankar was dragged out and as he didn’t have the ticket nor the money he was escorted out from the train.

Shankar was handed over to the Station Master by Ram. The Station Master was shocked to see Ram with the little boy Shankar.

“You have been very harsh to this little boy,” said the Station Master. “How can you treat your son like this?

“Duty comes first, Sir” Ram replied. “As an employee of this Railways, I have to do what I am expected to do. Even if it’s my own son if he has done something wrong, he needs to be punished.”

The Station Master paid the fine for Shankar and let him go. That night when Ram reached home, Shankar was fast asleep. His wife said that Shankar was weeping the whole time after he returned from school and had gone to sleep. Ram gently woke his son up and cradling him in his hands, took him to the dinner table. He taught his son the importance of honesty and that it’s a lifelong lesson that he should follow throughout his life. Ram said that he cared for his son very much and wanted his son to learn good habits at a young age.