Sunday, 29 January 2012

rock

I've said before that I don't consider myself an artistic type. I'm a maker for sure, but that finely honed aesthetic sense is missing in me. I start with what works and what's beautiful comes second every time. Second, or not at all.

I have huge admiration for those who can imagine up beauty and go about making it. Who surround themselves with things that reflect that inner landscape of harmonising visuals. I know when I am in their spaces that it resonates within me - it is real for sure - but I am just not that kind of creator.

But during this last holiday as I spent a bit of time indulging my inner rock nerd at the beach I thought a lot about how much my sense of beauty tracks in natural environments. The attraction I feel to some of these pebbles comes close to how I feel about really incredible and inspired works of art. Well beyond words, holding these things, looking at their colours and forms, feeling their surfaces fills me with emotion.

I absolutely love them.

I blogged about my first sample collecting journey here, and my lack of understanding why I did it, and about the deep emotions investing in these wee bottles.

I added to my collection in Bali, some black sand (which I find, quite frankly nothing short of magical),
some lovely volcanic beach pebbles
and this odd spine found floating in the ocean. The locals we asked assured us it was from a pig, but that seems a complete fantasy to me. Sure a sea creature of some kind?

In this latest trip there were some bigger pebbles in Mallacoota - the absolutely most perfect one I picked up when we first arrived has gone missing. But I love the stripes and colours of these ones too.

And then at Cape Conran these stunningly tiny pebbles - the black ones are like velvet they are so smooth and matt and the white ones just fill me with light joy.

It's not just rocks. The green canopy over the top of the tea trees on the dunes is magnetic to my gaze, and the waves of green around the distant river shores expands my chest in a way I find quite inexplicable. But my photographs just can't capture them, and I can't bring them home, or touch them or stroke their textured surfaces.

By comparison so much of my home like is visually jarring and ugly, the textures are wrong and jumbled. I don't know that there is anything I can do about that, in a grand solution kind of sense, but I'm feeling very attuned to the colours and textures of the wilds still and looking for ways I can do more than just play with rocks.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

wilds

Mallacoota
Home.
Mallacoota

After 10 days in the wilds.

Mallacoota
The first family holiday where I have felt the crushing burden of small children is waning - even the lad spent his days off riding his bike alone, chatting to strangers, learning the art of the skid stop and discovering an abiding love of bugs. The girl went off alone to town on her bike, bringing back supplies and an enormous sense of achievement in her independence.

Mallacoota
Beautiful places.
Mallacoota

Lovely times.
Mallacoota
Mallacoota
Mallacoota

Really lovely kids helpless with laughter, playing hilariously, walking through new landscapes with open eyes and full of the wonder of the world times.

Mallacoota
Mallacoota

A great start to a new year.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

cooker

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Since Amy was quite small we've been referring to a mythical golden age when she* will be old enough to cook dinner for the family on a regular basis. D and I have looked forward to that time because we won't have to shoulder all the cooking work, but also (and way more importantly) because I want Amy to be a part of the labour team that runs the household and gain confidence in herself to be able to run her own household some day.

By the time I left home I knew how to cook. I knew how to shop, budget and plan meals. I had a stable of things I knew how to cook by heart but also a collection of recipe books and the skill and desire to use them. I was by no means an excellent cook or a fancy cook but I could feed myself and my housemates wholesome and tasty meals for a reasonable price.

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I did not see cooking as an optional extra or a form of performance art. It was something I had been doing, in various forms at various levels since I was wee. In fact I was such a mummy's girl that one of my most favourite childhood places to be was on the kitchen bench helping mum to cook. And cook we did - from the daily loaf on up, my full time working mother made everything from scratch from a single weekly shop.

As I got older I positively enjoyed baking (it was getting to eat the results that did it), but I also had responsibilities to contribute to the family meals. I helped mum to shop and I picked our own home grown produce and I learned about produce and how to pick the best stuff, I top and tailed beans, stirred gravy on the stove and tossed salads. I also got home from school to notes about putting on the roast at a certain time or getting the vegetables ready.

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I was shocked to realise how many of my peers at school never cooked at all. A lot of my friends with stay at home or part time working mums came home from school to home baked afternoon tea delights and rarely if ever were put to work in the kitchen. When I was younger I was deeply envious but as I got older I was filled with gratitude. Understanding how to cook and feed a family in the routine and mundane way is something I am exceptionally pleased to not have to learn as an adult.

So, back to Amy. This is what I want her to have. To appreciate the work of proper old school cooking, to develop her understanding and skills and one day to leave home ready to provide for herself. While she's always been involved in baking and helping out the move to taking the lead was a whole new ballgame. I've bought her a few cookbooks - I started with ones aimed at kids but I find them pretty limited, with an emphasis on sweets, baking and processed ingredients, so more recently I've kept an eye out for the easy, quick, weeknight meal type books.

We started a year or so ago with the occasional mothers day or fathers day meals but at Christmas time Amy announced she wanted a regular weekly slot. We decided on a weekend night so there would be time to shop and prepare without rush. Last week she made risotto primavera and it was sensational, this week spanakopita.

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I find it really hard to teach and nurture her without getting too caught up in doing everything efficiently and well - it will be my ongoing challenge to hand over the reigns whilst still being supportive. I need to teach her more knife skills, and build her confidence with heat and somehow get her muscles going for handling big pots and pans - she's petite for her age and no match for the adult scale of kit. I also need to reinforce the lessons and tips she learns as she goes.

It was while mulling over some of these challenges that I came up with the idea of her blog posting her cooking. In writing down the recipes and steps she can relive the process and better cement it in her mind. She'll have a record to come back to if she wants to cook the same dish twice and I also thought she might gain a readership with some of my blog readers kids - maybe other households will take up the weekly kid cook challenge. I'm letting Amy post in her own words, as she wants, and if I feel the need to add anything I'll do it as a postscript at the end.

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Hi I am Amy and I cook dinner weekly and I am 9 years old. Here's something I made on the 7/1/12.
And here's the recipe for it:

Spanakopita


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Ingredients:
3 eggs

1 box of filo pastry

125gms melted butter

500gms cheese - feta and/or haloumi and/or ricotta

2 packets of frozen spinach

2 large onions

3 cloves of garlic

Oil


Method:

1. Dice both of the onions and finely cut garlic

2. Put garlic & onions in a pan over medium heat and cook without browning with a drizzle of oil
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3. Meanwhile crack all the eggs into large bowl [watch out for some shell]
4. Crumble cheese lightly over bowl with the eggs
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5. Drain spinach and leave over sink
6. Check on onion, if the onion is ready put it with cheese and eggs if not do this step later

7. Add spinach to the other ingredients and mix and mix

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8. After you have finished mixing get a square tin, filo pastry and the melted butter
9. Spread butter around the tin up the side and the bottom work quickly so that pastry won’t dry out
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10. Put a piece of pastry in the tin and spread butter all over fast, do it about 10 to 15 times then add the filling
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11. Then do the same as you did for the bottom by folding in the sheets that are hanging over the sides of the dish and brushing each one with butter
12. Put it in the oven at about 175 and clean up then wait till it is crispy
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serve with yoghurt or tomato and cucumber salad
hope you enjoyed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by Amy


[Suzie's PS - we actually split our mix in two and made 2 smaller pies - one without spinach for the boy who won't eat green. We used a mixture of haloumi and feta cheese because we like the flavours - ricotta gives a milder taste if that's what you like. I also usually put a bunch of chopped spring onions and a handful of flat leaf parsley in - but we were cooking from what we had so we skipped these things. You can beef the meal up by serving with some steamed baby potatoes or rice and lentil pilaf, we had it with green beans from the garden with a bit of vinegar, pomegranate molasses and some chopped cherry tomatoes. This quantity made plenty for the 4 of us with enough left overs for lunch tomorrow - could have fed 6 adults. Next time Amy makes this I will encourage her to switch a few ingredients so she can explore changing recipes once she has the method down pat.]


Edited to add - as one commenter highlighted, this post gives the impression that all these expectations are placed on Amy and not Wil. And I just wanted to say this is absolutely not the case! When Wil is a little older he will be doing the same as she is now - but at 4 I don't think he's ready for kitchen resnsibility. He loves to help me bake and already shows a natural tendency for order and precision that bodes well for his cooking future, and he loves anything that involves following 'structions. And I fully intend to see him off in the world with all the capabilities in the home sphere that the girl child has and besides would I pass up the opportunity for 2 nights a week off cooking?!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

restless


I am seeking grace in this period of restless inaction.

My health care professional has braced me for the likelihood that my cough and cycles of exhaustion and infection will probably continue for at least six weeks longer, so I am trying to simply view the next little while as a time of gentle non commitment.

I feel OK enough of the time to keep normal life going - sort of - but crap enough to be uninspired and grumpy as hell, and to have lost all faith in making plans and doing stuff.

Cue the perfect time to chug away on a few miles of the crochet blanket of doom.
I am surprised how much I am enjoying the mindless repetition and the feeling of progress. A long way from finishing to be sure, but now that I have passed the a quarter of the way there milestone it is beginning to look distinctly blanket like.

And while I am hooking I am gathering courage for a mighty destash. Just as soon as my lungs are fit for a bit of dust exposure I am going to be ruthless in getting rid of loads of books, some fabrics and yarn. Really clearing stuff out. I won't have enough stock or interest in running a market stall and while I can fairly easily destash yarn on ravelry and books on ebay I am not at all sure about how to offload fabric in an efficient way. Anyone got some good ideas? Is this blog a reasonable place to conduct a garage sale?