Monday, July 14, 2014

Food Stuff





There are changes happening in my kitchen. 

I've always loved food and I've always eaten well, often too well. Without wanting to dig too deeply into the psychology and conditioning behind how I eat and why I eat, I'm aware that in recent months I've gotten very lazy about feeding myself. I've reached far too often for packaged convenience and, while eternally trying to shovel wholesome goodness into my children's mouths, far too often I've settled for peanut butter toast late at night for my own dinner. Old habits die hard.

But at the start of this year, I promised myself I'd address the old energy issue. I'm tired of dragging myself out of bed in the morning, counting down the minutes till the first coffee, scraping my way through the afternoon, and then hitting my stride sometime mid-evening and thus ending up in bed far too late, only to wake up and do it all over again. I'm tired of being tired.

And I'm better at making massive changes than gradual ones, so I decided I needed a big jolt, a big wake-up, something to strip me back to basics. So I've just come off a three-week elimination diet. It was fairly extreme - no sugar, wheat (or grains of any kind), fat or dairy for three weeks. No alcohol. No bread. None. At. All. I got through it, much lighter and clearer as a result.

It wasn't necessarily difficult, but it was boring. I was on a culinary desert island where I found myself fantasising long and hard about food. I rediscovered my cookbooks (and added to my collection as well.) I found myself drawn to blogs about real food and whole food. I toyed with previously unconsidered notions such as gluten-free and sugar-free. I lay in bed at night creating incredible meals in my head.

And now I've begun the part where I introduce foods back in. There's still no sugar and wheat, for the time being. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this process doesn't reveal any sort of gluten intolerance. I know I have to cut back on the bread and the baked goods, but I can't stomach the thought of never enjoying them again.

But what I'm really excited about is something that's becoming clearer every day in my mind - an approach to food and eating, a philosophy, if you will, that I want to apply to how I feed myself and my girls. I hope to share more here in the coming weeks.

This past Saturday I travelled an hour up the highway to buy an organic chicken straight from the woman who raised it. Yesterday, the girls and I enjoyed it with roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips and beetroot. I made a delicious side of sautéed black cabbage and kale (bought direct from a woman who described herself as a kale specialist). The girls wouldn't touch that, so the leftovers went into a frittata for my lunch today. This afternoon I picked the chicken carcass clean then boiled up the bones for stock. I used a little of it to make a sauce with carrots, peas, a little creme fraiche and the leftover meat, which Pearl and I wrapped in pastry and called a pie. The girls devoured it, Lola declared it the best dinner ever, and then they insisted I pack the leftovers in their lunch boxes for tomorrow.

Winner, winner, organic chicken dinner.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

School Knit








Once upon a time, long, long ago, I blogged about knitting. Truth be told, it was the knitting that got me into the blogging. My return to the needles in my late 20s saw me seeking out new techniques online, which is how I discovered the knitting blog, which led me to the sewing blog, the mummy blog, the any-kind-you-will blog. And eventually I was inspired to start my own blog.

So the knitting did beget the blog, and the blog, in turn, did beget the knitting. I knitted for the love of it, and to feed the growing obsession with yarns and patterns and the finish line. I knitted to clothe and warm other people's babies, and then my own babies, and, ever so occasionally, and far less successfully, me. The blog, meanwhile, was the impetus to keep going, to record, to show off, to share.

And then the blog led me to selling my knitting. And it was wonderful and grand and all things good. But all other knitting ceased. My children grew out of the last of my handknits and nothing has replaced them. No cardigans, no jumpers, no core-warming vests, no funny stripy leg warmers. 

My Lola started kindergarten last year and I couldn't bring myself to dress her in the standard issue acrylic V-neck. While she wore through a few fleecy hoodies, I got my hands on some superwash wool and found a pattern. Winter arrived, and left, and still she wore the hoodies.

This year I was determined to get it done. My hands weren't used to knitting on smaller needles. I wasn't used to reading an actual pattern. I worked at it in bursts, between the hats. I relaxed as we languished in a long, not-very-cold autumn. But when winter hit good and proper, I knew I had to finish.

My big girl, no longer a kindergartener, but a first-grader with a gappy smile and an obsession with books, finally has a handknit cardigan to keep her warm in the schoolyard. Now, back to the hats...


Pattern: Granny's Favourite by Georgie Hallam
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash in Navy
Ravelry notes here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life + Lemons {The Honey and Lemon Drink}






She wasn't very unwell, but there was just enough snot to warrant a day home from preschool. As she settled on the couch with a blankie around her shoulders and everything she needed within reach, I headed out into the rain to pick some lemons from that tree

It's the same simple recipe my mum made for me when I had the sniffles. The juice from one lemon, strained. A teaspoon of honey. Boiling water poured over. The whole thing stirred to dissolve the honey, and left to cool just enough for a four-year-old taking full advantage of a runny nose, a rainy day and a mum who needed a day on the couch as well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pie









My food processor's been on the blink for over a year. It used to make my pastry for me. Lately, I've had to do it myself. I've rubbed butter into flour with my very own fingers. Dripped in the water, just enough to make the dough come together. I've kneaded it, but not too much.

Rest it in the fridge. Roll it out. Drape it across the tin then gently push it in. 

It's become one of my very favourite things to do.

When I get the food processor fixed, if I do, I'll let it make pesto. Almond meal. Fish cakes. 

But I might keep the pasty making just for me.

{We made a pie with those apples. And then another.}

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Courage/Fear


I woke up on the first day of 2013 knowing it was the year I was leaving my marriage. And even though I didn't know what that meant, what form it would take, how I'd get from where I was to where I needed to be, I knew I had to find a way. And I knew I'd have to draw on my courage to get me there.

The word 'courage' was one I clung to. Whether or not I actually had any of the stuff, and whatever the hell I was going to do with it if I could find some, seemed almost irrelevant. I just kept invoking the actual word. When I needed to make difficult phone calls, or have difficult conversations, or even think difficult thoughts, if I started to get muddied down in fear or denial or resistance, I'd remember that word 'courage' and I'd be able to go through with whatever it was that needed doing. What is it they say about courage not being the absence of fear, but rather action in the face of fear? I'm not sure. I do know I was bloody terrified. 

Last week I came across a Brene Brown quote that caught my eye. In it she defines courage as: 
1) Asking for what you need 
2) Speaking your truth
3) Owning your story
4) Setting boundaries
5) Reaching out for support.

Is that courage? I'm not sure. But I know that all of those things are incredibly important for an authentic life, and they're all things I'd like to master. I'm useless at number 1, but these days much, much better at number 4. Numbers 2 and 3 fill me with equal parts terror and exhilaration and I wonder if they might just be the meaning of and solution to everything. 

Speaking your truth. Owning your story. 

A few weeks ago, Jodi interviewed me for the Heart to Heart series over at Wholehearted. The chat (via Facebook) was delightful and easy and entirely enjoyable. But then the fear about it being out in the world set in. It's one thing to want to speak your truth, another to do it in earshot of other human beings.

On Friday, when the interview appeared on the site, I was overwhelmed with the response. Such beautiful, loving, generous, supportive comments and emails and messages, from people who've known me my whole life, people who only know me via my blog and also complete strangers (who know a bit more about me now).

Number 5 - reaching out for support. I can honestly say, during this tumultuous past year, I've not needed to reach out. In my beautiful family, in this little village community, amongst my dear friends across the country, and here in this incredible online world, it feels as though the support has come to me. How lucky am I. And thank you so, so much from the bottom of my heart.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Funny Little House


I must have driven past the funny little house a dozen times, which did nothing to improve its appearance. It had been on the market for a long time. The photos online gave nothing away. I kept thinking I should call the agent and book an inspection, but I didn't ever get around to it. A friend who had seen it described it as 'awful', so I let myself let it go. And then one day I felt compelled to look online again, and there was a date and a time. So I went.

It was dirty, dull, uninspiring. It smelled dusty, and of stale cigarettes. Every wall was a different shade of grotty beige, but for the glossy pink in the main bedroom. The shower screen was cracked, the grout in the tiles black.

And then I stepped outside, avoiding the monstrosity of the falling-down garage, averting my eyes from the cobwebs on the eaves, the lichen on the deck, the curious angle of the rickety fence. And my eyes fell on a tree in the middle of the yard. Surrounded by unkempt lawn, a few other straggly shrubs, there it was - a beautiful healthy lemon tree, bursting with ripe fruit.

I wandered some more, trying to see past the grime and imagine it all with fresh paint, furniture, laughter and good cooking smells. I imagined chickens poking about between the raised vegetable beds, an apple tree, rambling roses and creeping jasmine. I saw friends sharing delicious food on the back deck, enjoying the rare warm evenings of late summer. I saw my girls deep in the throes of another tightly choreographed musical performance, fighting over who's turn it was to sing. Could it even be possible?

I pocketed a lemon and went home to my rental.


The next day was Sunday. I cut the lemon in half and, with a handful of garlic cloves, shoved it into the cavity of a free-range chook. Before I whacked the pan in the oven, I just might have said a little prayer over the bird, or as much a prayer as a non-Christian girl can accomplish with raw poultry on the kitchen bench before her.

I closed the oven door, stood up and I wrote a single word and a question mark in the dusty grease on the rangehood above the stove. "Yes?" 

Over the following several weeks, I went looking for why it should be yes, when so much about it cried, "No!" It was tiny. It was ugly. The timing was all wrong. Other property wasn't yet sold. It was ugly. Things were entirely up in the air financially. Oh, the work it would require. A wombat lived under it. It was...ugly.

But there was the lemon tree.


I thought of the lemon tree in the backyard of my childhood home. Lemons remind me of my mum, who didn't mind a gin and tonic with a fresh slice. I thought about the funny little house, talked about it with family and friends. I made lists of pros and cons. I listened out for the signs. I did the research into money and legalities and potential termite invasions. I even pondered the street number and tried to determine if it was auspicious.

And every time I walked past the dusty rangehood, which I couldn't bring myself to wipe clean, I saw that question - "Yes?" And the universe, or whatever it was, kept throwing me positives. Without a huge amount of effort - as though it was meant to be - it became possible, and then it became real.

The day I paid the deposit, I finally cleaned the greasy rangehood in my rental. The question had been answered. 

I'd found us a home.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pick Your Own










This is the sort of thing I had in mind when we moved to the country. The overflowing backyard veggie patch has always been in the picture (yet to be realised) but I wanted to be near places we could visit to pick our own food. There's something about an orchard that gets me all nostalgic. I spent a few years in my childhood living in a house in the middle of an apple orchard, and while the glasses have definitely taken on a rosy hue, I'm sure I'm not exaggerating when I say we spent our weekends running up and down the rows eating fruit straight from the tree. 

Even though apples aren't uncommon in this area, and plenty of people seem to have a tree or two in their backyard, I hadn't been able to locate a proper pick-your-own farm.

Then a friend told me last week about a place not far from here that was once run as an organic farm, and is now a meditation retreat. It's set on a beautiful patch of land alongside an enormous, neglected orchard with rows of apple trees of all different varieties. The fruit is falling from the trees and rotting on the ground - the birds are having a field day. 

So armed with our inside knowledge, my littlest pair and some dear friends put on our gumboots, grabbed some baskets and set out. We were warned about wombat holes and rabbit warrens, then invited to help ourselves. The kids ran wild while my friend and I sampled the wares, grabbing a handful of the sweetest, a selection of the crispest, as we came across them. Every tree held a different fruit, none of them labelled. The prettiest often seemed the most lacking in flavour. Ironically, after traipsing the length of several rows, I decided that my favourite had been the first one we'd tasted. Luckily we were able to find that tree again, and the basket was topped up.

Now I have to turn my attention to what to do with all that fruit. Apple pie, anyone?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A is for Apple

 





For a brief time as a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. Noble as that career path would have been, I know it was less about a desire to educate and more about being able to write on the blackboard*. My short stint as a teenager giving piano lessons to a handful of neighbourhood kids drove the final nail into the coffin. As highly as I value education, and as much as I love to learn, I am not a teacher.

But back when I entered Year 2, back when 'teacher' was the answer I gave to every well-meaning adult who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I took to school a set of handmade flashcards that I'd stayed up most of the previous night making. I had thought it through, you see, and I was going to teach my little sister and her kindergarten colleagues how to read. I think it lasted one lunchtime before they gave up on me and headed off to play chasies.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. One evening last week, this was the scene taking place in our lounge room - a very grown-up six-year-old taking it upon herself to teach her little sisters the alphabet. And perhaps she has more of the teacher's spirit than me, because she turned it into a game, sending them off for an apple from the fruit bowl, a xylophone from the music basket, a plastic horse from a bedroom, to illustrate her lesson.

They fight and argue with the best of them, these three, but it's these shiny bright moments of cooperation and care, the encouragement shown by a big sister, and the adoration of two little girls for one big girl, that lets me know we're doing OK.

* Showing my age, I know.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lately







++ Visits with dear friends
++ The re-arrangement of the stuff
++ A very important birthday celebration. Four! My babies!
++ The brightening up of corners in our new home
++ Handmade gifts from lovely little people (whose mother allows glitter! Brave woman.)

We're settling into the same old rhythm within these new walls. The work/school routine is keeping us busy. So much is so good right now. There's uncertainty, yes, but such possibility. 

{Thank you for your beautiful comments on this post, and for welcoming me back with open arms. I don't know where I'll fit this blogging lark into my already overflowing days, but it means too much to me to let it go.}

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