March 27, 2017 § 3 Comments
Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem
How do I start. 1 year, 9 months and 3 continents have gone by since I was last here. After many false starts and false promises I find myself cross legged on the couch in my Melbourne suburb home and ready to share a story. The windows are open and autumn is rolling in across the busy streets right up to our front door. And by god does it feel good! Not only to be here again, but to feel a sense of coming home – settled.
It recently dawned on me that it is exactly 3 years ago to this day that I made the decision to leave Australia in search of a dream.
I was living in Darwin and had gone to Bali to do a yoga teacher training course. Some whimsical desire to get away from it all and move from my head and into my heart. I never had the intention of becoming a yoga teacher, I just wanted to go away for a month, do lots of yoga and explore my mind – that inner world – sweep it out, open the windows, give it a good air and take the duster to it.
One morning, in a little seaside village of Bali, I found myself in a cafe where you could sit on top of the rice fields, eat organic eggs and watch the golden light rise over the sound of the roosters. Dark clouds were brewing in the east and my heart was dancing. I realised what kind of a negative state of mind I had been in in Darwin. I was reeling from a recent break up and stressed and anxious in my job. The weight of it only seemed to dawn on my once I saw again how things could be good.
With the morning sun on my face, my mind drifted to the previous day when I had stopped to watch an old man painting the gate at the guest house where I was staying. It wasn’t a huge gate by any standards, but it had taken him two whole days to complete. He sat there in such concentration, with steady slow even brush strokes, totally absorbed in his task. The man who painted the gate became my inspiration, my guru, I decided I wanted to be more like him – to be more present, to be more absorbed and joyous in each task, to love each daily ritual.
Because it is my nature to up and leave when inspiration hits and this was no exception to the norm, I started dreaming of my escape. I would quit my job back in Darwin and become… well I didn’t know what… maybe a yoga teacher?
The idea I had planted must have taken hold. Within that very same week one of my fellow students approached me with an offer to teach yoga in her women’s surf school on the west coast of France!
It didn’t take me long to come back to her with a loud and resounding YES!
You see, I had always wanted to learn another language. Not just to get by with a few words but to really know another language. For about a year I had been taking evening French classes with the idea that I would one day move to France and make this dream a reality. How elegantly life seemed to weave itself into place.
I decided I would take a year off, move to France, teach Yoga in the surf school and enlist myself into French classes. I would devote a whole year to learning French!
Little did I know that no more than 6 months later, life would continue on its mysterious path and in some intertwined and serendipitous twist of fate, I would meet and fall in love with a French painter. His name was Jon. When Jon was young he had a map of the world on his desk. In the bottom right hand corner was Australia. For any reason he spent a great deal of time when he should have otherwise been doing his homework looking at it. His eyes would drift through Europe to Africa, South East Asia and come to rest on that island continent straddling the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. He would wonder what the seemingly empty country draped by sea was like. Ever since, he dreamed of visiting one day.
By the time we met I had forgotten about the old man in Bali but in those early days Jon would tell me how he loved the work he did. How painting was a kind of meditation for him where his mind was set free through the labour of his tasks. I respect him deeply for this. In his beautiful and broken English he would say. “I love doing hand jobs”. I would try to hide my smile. I never did want to correct him when his English was muddled, because as well as being sometimes hilarious and enormously cute, it offered a peek into the structure of the language I was trying to learn.
It wasn’t until recently that I remembered the old man who painted the gate and I realised the poetry of it all. Pay attention to your dreams. Dreaming after all is a form of planning.
May 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Time has lost me. I’m well behind now – lagging in a place I slowed down in 3 months ago. It could be the heat – sticky and stiff, it could just be me. My heart is beating its own timely rhythm, its willing me on. I am aware that this is the only sound I should be listening to, but sometimes I am not so sure I want to. SometimesI am deep, relaxed, peaceful in a place within myself. And yet, other times its as if I am drowning in all this beating, slow, quiet place of time.
From the couch, I look out over our kitchen table through the wide open louvres onto a big bushy mess of galangal growing tall and stalky. I had no idea it could grow so big, so tall, provide so much blissful shade. It’s a wonderful scene to look out on and its these little things that I am enjoying in all my time. The green in our house, breathing down our backs, cupping our little lives in their chlorophyll drenched leaves, whispering barely audible stories. Slow modest stories of patience, and being where you are and nowhere else. They nod in the breeze, in agreement to my thoughts, they shrink in the sun and bask in the night – cool relief. This is our green drenched home in inner city Darwin.
March 11, 2013 § 2 Comments
Our new life is settling into itself. A bed has been made out of scrap wood from the recycling centre, a portable oven found in our land lords shed, a table, two chairs, a fridge and no job!… yet.
There is something rather fragile and strange about things when they are just beginning. A humble recipe of uncertainty, insecurity, space to be reflective, waiting, letting go, anticipation, and in this case, much time left to watch the rain. And boy does it rain, heavy thunder on our roof.
The first thing I felt like cooking when I arrived in Darwin were these Oatcakes – probably for their comforting nature. They are halfway between a cracker and a biscuit being both salty and sweet, they are incredible with cheese and even better with a sip of red wine when there is something to celebrate. I found the recipe at Molly Wizenberg’s very enjoyable and always inspiring blog Orangette. Apart from her recipes and beautiful photos, I think what I enjoy most is the honesty in her writing and the courage this takes.
Rather than re-write her recipe I am just going to send you over to her website which you can do by clicking here.
March 4, 2013 § 2 Comments
3 weeks ago we packed our lives into the back of the car and headed north, straight through the guts of Australia. Into each horizon, one after the next, through orange dust, a heavy car holding our breaths, anticipation for what was ahead.
Well north of Alice Springs, we watched the red earth begin to break with fluorescent green and a sticky humidity.
Why move to Darwin? People seem to ask. We can only shrug our shoulders. This place where fans spin, and rain pours dinner plate drops, and the air sticks amphibian to our skin. We have a house with louvered windows from ceiling to floor, no oven, a resident green tree frog, no hot water, an abundance of tropical fruit trees, and no jobs. Time moves differently, it is slower, but the days pass more quickly. Tomatoes and zucchinis can only be grown in winter and the exotic fruit is strange like echinoderms.
Perhaps I’m here for the green pawpaw salads; a slower pace; a new experience; the perfect job; tomatoes in winter; echinoderm fruit. Perhaps it’s the reminder of another Australia; or maybe its for the geographic nearness to the rest of the world.
March 18, 2011 § 2 Comments
The days are whirling on by. Why is there such a fine balance between being too busy and not busy enough. I have hit too busy hard and have resorted to that all to familiar feeling that any tiny spare moment in the day must be made productive. At the same time I am trying preciously to hold onto stolen moments alone in the garden, or a walk down a quite evening street, or a good stare at the ceiling whilst lying in bed. A life without time to smell winter on its way, or missing the precise day autumn turns the leaves on the trees, or not noticing the loveliness of a miserable cold day, isn’t worth living to me.
So Autumn has snuck up and run me over. It comes with cold toes and dewy grass, turmeric days, darkening evenings, soup cravings and way too many tomatoes in the garden.
This Tomato Chutney recipe originated from a friends brother. Its evolved a bit along the way but was so damn good to start with that it would be a shame to change it too much. The recipe calls for green tomatoes but because ours are still ripening I have used red ones instead and just used a bit less salt. If you are using red ones you also don’t need to let the tomatoes sit over night in the salt as the recipe suggests.
2 kg tomatoes roughly chopped
700 g onion finely diced
700 g grated apple
1/3 of a cup salt (if using red tomatoes 1/4 cup will do)
2 cups dark brown sugar
400 g sultanas or raisins
400 g dates roughly chopped
2 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp turmeric
1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp whole cummin seeds
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard seeds
/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole pepper corns
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil for a couple of minutes. Simmer and stir regularly for 45 minutes.
In the meantime pre heat the oven to 140°C. Clean about 10 jars in hot water. Place the jars on their sides in the oven until they have dried. Boil the lids in a saucepan of hot water.
Pour the mixture, it must be still boiling hot, into the hot jars and tighten the lids immediately.
What it Means to be Perfect: Chocolate coated dried plums marinated in white wine and a hint of thyme
February 11, 2011 § 9 Comments
When in Belgium I went to visit my great aunty and uncle Yvonne and Jos in the small town of Bellingen. Oom Jos just turned 90 and Tante Yvonne isn’t far behind. We ate cake with a fork and knife before a dinner of witlof wrapped in ham and baked in snowy white sauce. This is a very traditional Flemish dish. As a child I was always glad witlof was so hard to find in Australia so it rarely ended up in my mother’s kitchen. But now I enjoy it in small amounts provided there’s plenty of ham and sauce to go around.
During the Flemish conversations around the dinner table I mostly daydreamed at the paintings on the wall and marvelled at the young spirit of my aunt and uncle gossiping and laughing about the local goings on. At one point, the conversation briefly turned to English and my uncle proclaimed,
‘No one is perfect.’
Then after reflecting on this statement for a while he continued,
‘Except for my wife! She is Perfect. She cleans and cooks all day. She is perfect… only problem is she has no time for making love. She is too busy. She never has time to kiss me.’
I am always struck when I see an old relationship full of humour, love and adoration like this one, a little reminder that life can indeed be great, full of warmth and happiness.
So because the conversation here is about love and perfection and because it is almost Valentines Day and because I am sadly alone with my darling still in Africa, I have decided it is most suitable I share this recipe so perfect and delicious it will make you weak at the knees and your heart melt. Well at least I hope so.
I got the idea of chocolate covered prunes from Stephanie Alexanders book The Cooks Companion. She stuffs them with almonds and soaks them in brandy. I have adapted it some by using white wine and adding a few little bits and pieces for extra freshness. I think the thyme and lemon zest brings something unique and light to the richness of the chocolate. I also changed the terminology a bit because for something with a valentine spirit ‘prunes’ doesn’t really have the right um… connotations in regards to some of its well known uses. Dried plums on the other hand….
Recipe for Chocolate Coated Dried Plums
30 pitted prunes
3/4 cup white wine
Juice of an orange
Sprig of thyme
Zest of 1/4 of a lemon
200g dark cooking chocolate
Stuff an almond into each prune where the pip would have been and place in a bowl along with the white wine, orange juice, thyme and lemon zest. Allow to soak for 1 – 2 hours then drain well.
Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.
Dip each prune into the chocolate. Allow to cool in the fridge on a tray covered with baking paper until the chocolate sets.
Serve on a pretty plate and eat with someone special.