* bedside

2 08 2011


I can reach out and touch Hemingway’s Moveable Feast

A moss-green notebook

And a flowery pen, a birthday gift from my little girl when I had swine flu

*

Two black hair ties overlap

A red ribbon, a piece of blue frayed fabric

From a skirt I want to transform

*

4 wrinkled, handwritten letters from America– lined paper, blue ink.

(With no envelopes)

Layered, willy-nilly, on top of the bright orange book, ‘Philosophy through Film’

*

A lamp, not mine, white, metal and practical

A whiteboard marker – blue, juicy with ink

A generic brand of ibuprofen – all gone but one

*

Oval brass photo frame, glass broken

Faded snap-shot of a small Jewish American boy with socks up to his knees

Ironed collar and 1960’s vest

*

Far left, a small portable stereo – the red light usually shining

I take the opportunity to pile papers on top of one of the speakers

Outdated.  Forgotten

*

Beneath it all a Rimu Hope Chest crafted by my uncle

Filled with gifts and treasures by my mother

Discovered by me after her funeral





bonkers for garbanzos

29 06 2011
These tasty little nibbles could not be easier – I’m garbanzo mad at the moment and I’m sharing the insanity…
  1.  Drain, Rinse and blot dry 2 cans of chick peas
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix it well
  3. Season with salt, garlic or any favourite flavours
  4. Spread on a baking sheet
  5. Bake on high heat (230°C) for about 30 minutes or until chick peas are crunchy

It’s chilly down under.  I’m a master fire maker and that is a fine skill indeed. The kitty loves me for my fire wrangling prowess and we often sit together marveling at my talents – she a little closer to the heat than me, of course. She insists.
I’ve been reading like a fiend, playing games in the evening with Zuzu and M and cooking some hearty soups and curries. It is a wonderfully relaxing and heartwarming time of year and I am so grateful for the opportunity to stop being busy for a minute. I do believe one of the gifts in all the weeks and months of assignment overload is feeling the beauty and gratitude of this rest.




the whole shebang

16 03 2011

I am doing it all!

I’m having my cake and eating it. I have placed all my eggs  in one basket. I’m juggling. I have a bird in each hand and several others in the bush. I’ve added fuel to my fire. I’ve gone out on a limb. But there’s method in my madness – as long as I don’t run out of steam. OK, I am finished indulging myself with this idiom idiocy.

I am now underway in two post-graduate degree programmes. I know! What am I thinking? Less than 6 weeks ago I was thrilled to have discovered an opportunity to study Creative Writing at a graduate level and I was certain that a delicious new path was spreading tidily before me. A few days later, when I was offered a place in the coveted Graduate Teaching Diploma programme, I wondered if I could do both.

Here I am. I’m wriggling and jiggling in essays and tests, assignments and case studies. I’m challenged, exhausted, energised and dazed – all at the same time. I am loving it.

 

 

I knew the timing was perfect for a new endeavour, with Zuzu now commuting to High School in the city. Most days I am on the ferry with her and if I have late classes, then she meets M and heads home with him.  I am fine with the house being a little disorderly, I can handle the brain strain, I’m even reveling in the early morning ferry commute – I sit with M and Zuzu, coffee and some relevant article in front of me. It’s working beautifully.

 

But! I am desperately missing my days fiddling around in the kitchen. I yearn for that feeling of bliss when I am sparked by an idea and all the ingredients before me with the whole day to play. I long to throw myself into a cooking project while my sweet people hover on the perimeter of the kitchen, sniffing and anticipating. I dream of sprinkling spices and herbs at will, savouring the aroma and later, the flavour.  I periodically vow I will spend one of my weekend days in my little kitchen cocoon but, invariably, I am either working on an assignment, reading for a class or attempting to wrangle the house into some recognizable shape. The house issue wouldn’t be such a big deal but the week after I started back at school, I decided to dissect and redecorate Zuzu’s bedroom. I even made her a desk. Unfortunately, as I pulled everything – EVERYTHING – out of her bedroom, I found resting spots for the leftovers in the hallway and the bathroom, not to mention the lounge and my bedroom. I need to go through it and store portions of it then hard-heartedly throw some of it away. There’s the dilemma. When might this happen?

My spirits soar on these new adventures and while I eagerly anticipate my first study break of the year, to get my house in order and enjoy a cooking revival ,  I guess I’ll just have to come to terms with the old adage:

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.





the bright side

14 02 2011

Luckily for me, I love mashed potatoes. However, after too many days of a  ‘low residue diet’, in preparation for an endoscopic procedure,  I was afraid that I would forever lose the taste for my ultimate comfort food.

I’m going to need a lengthy break from yogurt, eggs, broth and white rice but potato mash still fills me with delight.

 

Step 1: Cook 1 1/2 pounds of mashing potatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt – so a fork easily passes through them.

Step 2: Warm 4 tbsp of heavy cream and 2 tbsp melted butter together in the microwave or a pot.

Step 3: Drain water from potatoes and put hot potatoes into a bowl.

Step 4: Add cream and melted butter mixture and mash the potatoes until perfectly smooshed.

Step 5: Use a strong spoon to beat further, adding milk to achieve the consistency you prefer – Don’t over-beat or your potatoes will get gluey.

Step 6: Salt and lots of pepper to taste.

 

Once off the diet, I have to admit I was craving something crunchy and woo hoo spicy. In fact, on the ferry coming home after the procedure, I felt manic and we desperately tried to find a number for the new Thai restaurant on the island. Thwarted, I settled for a mouth-watering Indian Palak Paneer and  indulged in Pad Thai Jay for dinner the following night.

This morning, however, as I was wandering through the usual dinner prep, in my head – I was caught up in a fancy for mashed potatoes. That’s true love for you.

 





mulling it over

21 11 2010

There is no doubt that it was a rainy winter, here in the Southern Hemisphere. In spite of that,  I had a wonderful time gathering with family and friends,  playing, learning and of course, cooking. Now that spring has put a bounce in everyone’s step, I want to briefly look back and pay a small homage to a winter comfort that so ably warmed and encouraged us on the coolest of evenings and under the darkest of skies.

Many years ago, I spent a season working in a well-known ski lodge resort in the Sierra-Nevada mountains.  It was a fashionably rustic and very high-class retreat, complete with a French gourmêt chef, Chinese sous-chef, a multi-ethnic kitchen staff. Then there was me.

My friend and I had managed to charm our way into a job at this resort. We didn’t blink when we were given skin-tight lycra ski suits to wear, nor did we hesitate when we heard that the resort was way out in the Wilderness and could only be accessed by snowmobile , skis or charming horse-drawn sleighs – upon which the guests would arrive, in their finery, ready for a 4 day retreat.

Whilst my friend spent her days lighting fires and cleaning loos,  I sat in the cafe attached to the lodge, overlooking the lake for a few hours each day.  I would very gladly  greet the day skiers who found their way out to the lodge, chatting with them and gathering an address book of helpful contacts whilst  feeding them chili, chocolate and beer.  I was very happy with my draw of the straw.

We were both responsible, however,  for ensuring the guests felt at ease, mingling and chatting together. Primarily, we were required to make intelligent conversation and keep it going but our specific duties included such things as hostessing a high tea at 4pm, serving tasty treats with loose leafed Earl Grey.  We were also required to sit at the dining room tables for each meal and facilitate group conversations. On the dot of 6pm, however, we could be found in the lounge ladling mulled wine from a large pot settled on a pot-bellied stove (very picturesque)  and offering baked brie and other delicacies whilst making scintillating conversation with the fabulously wealthy and well-read guests. I was 19 years old and I had a blast.

Step 1: Pour one bottle red wine  in to a pot ( no need for fancy wine – I’ve made it with nice Pinot and basic red)
Step 2: Add 2/3 cup brown sugar
Step 3: Add a few cloves
Step 4: Add 2 tsp cinnamon (can use cinnamon sticks)
Step 5 : Add 2 tsp ground ginger
Step 6: Add a sprinkle of nutmeg
Step 7: Add 1 cup orange juice (include slices of orange, lemon or lime if you have them)
Step 8: Add 1/4 cup of brandy – optional
Step 9: I also sometimes add a cup of ginger ale or ginger beer

Heat SLOWLY until sugar melts and spices have integrated.

These days, my socializing intentions are much more discriminating. I love being in a group of interesting people, talking and listening and discovering universal resonances. I have a wonderful, eclectic  collection of dear friends on the island – some of whom are recent but others with whom I have gathered  for many years now. I love that Zuzu is surrounded by people, at home and in the community, who enjoy discussing and debating issues – from global to local.  I want her to feel comfortable representing herself authentically in her interactions and to understand that communication is the first step toward every resolution.  On top of that, sitting chatting with friends, whether at morning coffee in a café or over a cup of mulled wine on a winter’s eve, is plain good fun.





Sunday, Sunday…

20 09 2010

One of my Nana’s old sayings came back to me, yesterday morning, as I stood with M on a secluded beach with gusts of wind fairly punching us and sharp streaks of rain hammering our heads – “that’ll blow the cobwebs out”.

It was wild, woolly and magical and I was overjoyed to be out walking in it, feeling refreshed and energised by the power of nature.  We managed to get home just before a torrential downpour which encouraged a certain smugness – as if we were at one with the awesome temperament of the weather.

I feel viscerally affected by the sound and the might of a significant wind. I believe I become quite unfocused and more susceptible to mood changes. We were prepared for these storm conditions, due to the glut of doom and fear media coverage but aside from making sure we had candles and water,  no other accommodations were made.  There was nothing to do but ride it out.

We spent most of the day in a lazy haze of chatting and watching movies; napping on the sofa and cooking.  M, who is working towards his PhD, attempted to add a little research study to the mix but was uncharacteristically distracted.  Zuzu was in her own little world – alternating between cocooning herself in her warm and cozy bedroom and trailing me around the house, feeding me little snippets of interesting information.  At one point, we all sat down for a conversation about getting a puppy and a kitten.  It started with somewhat of an agenda which included time frame, duties and responsibilities and swiftly moved to breeds and colours and names.  I’m not sure we accomplished much more than agreeing we would all like a puppy,  soon-ish.

M mentioned that he hadn’t had cornbread for years. Zuzu couldn’t remember ever having cornbread (although I am sure she has had her share at Thanksgiving dinners in the U.S).  Suddenly, I was compelled to make cornbread. I did a quick search on google and found some strange-looking cornbread recipes as well as cornbread forums and heated discussions over such things as the efficacy of sugar in the recipe and oil vs melted butter.  I did not let that deter me and found a simple recipe that allowed me to use organic polenta  in place of fine cornmeal. I used this basic recipe from  The Fresh Loaf :

Basic Polenta Cornbread

Step 1: In one bowl, combine: 1 cup polenta, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar), 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt.

Step 2: In another bowl, combine: 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, 1 egg.

Step 3: Mix them both together and pour into a greased pan ( I used  a square pan with parchment paper).

Step 4: Bake in 190°C oven for 20 – 25 mins. I left it in until the top was browning a little.


Zuzu wanted to make chili and I was happy to let her. I love knowing she is developing a nice little collection of meals that she can comfortably put together. I would like her to discover an interest in healthy and hearty cooking in her own way – I periodically solicit her help with my meal preparation (while it is still more fun than a chore) – and so far she seems to have a confidant attitude to creating interesting and tasty dishes.

The  recipe she used was a super quick  Can Do Chili that I discovered many years ago and have adapted to suit just about anything I have in the fridge or cupboards.


Step 1: Sauté 1 chopped onion, a few cloves of minced garlic, a ¼ tsp chili powder, salt and pepper.

Step 2: Stir in 3 cans of beans – drained and rinsed (this means anything from chick peas, four bean mix, black beans, lentils, cannellini beans, lima beans, broad beans, kidney beans). Add more cans if you are making chili for larger gathering.

Step 3: Stir in 1 can of peeled, chopped tomatoes (or more if needed).

Step 4: Add 1 can of spiced chili beans – usually found in the International section of the market near the tacos.

Step 5: Stir, checking spices and altering according to taste. Simmer on a low heat until ready to serve. I have also made this in a big pot during a power outage and put it on top of the fireplace.

There is so much you can do with this basic recipe. I often add fresh spinach at the last moment or corn kernels – I will use red or green lentils in place of beans, if I feel like it.  It really is up to you!


The wind was steadily howling all through the day and by the evening I found myself feeling a little fragile and weary. I sequestered myself for a few hours and vehemently insisted on some privacy – much to Zuzu’s annoyance. It was strange to have felt so buoyed by the wind’s tantrum in the morning, only to find myself having my own Greta Garbo – like tantrum in the evening.

"I want to be alone"

Later that night, as I lay with Zuzu talking about moods and behaviours, I couldn’t help but feel so fortunate that her temperament is so temperate. From time to time she has small outbursts which she clears up remarkably quickly and moves on without a trace of a grudge or residue irritation. I think that attitude will serve her well and I am doing all I can to learn from her.








all in together boys

14 04 2010

I have long been a fan of those cooking shows where several contestants are given an hour and a handful of ingredients, along with some essentials such as oil, garlic and spices, to create an evening meal complete with dessert.  I am almost always impressed by the interesting dishes they prepare. From time to time, in the privacy of my own kitchen, I admit I play out this little challenge – especially when the contents of my pantry are sparse right before market day.

So, I spent most of yesterday helping my friend move house. Zuzu returned from a two day sleepover and then went off to the beach with her friend for the afternoon – she’s not silly enough to get roped into a day of lugging boxes.  I got home, looked into my cupboard (I wonder if everyone stares into their pantry, mesmerized by the arrangements of noodles, cereal boxes and cans,  the way I do), and realised there were very few choices on the dinner front. There was a bag of green split peas, some legumes, some root vegetables, some cans… slim pickings. Unless, of course, you are up for a challenge!!

Five main ingredients: carrot, kumara, potato, green split peas, can of tomatoes.

A few necessities: onion, garlic rice bran oil, garlic, organic vegetarian bouillon, dried chili, basil (fresh and dried)

All the makings of a delicious Split Pea and Vegetable Ragoût.

Step 1: Add diced carrot, potato, kumara, 1½ cups green split peas and vegetarian bouillon to a large pot.  Cover with water and cook until soft but not mushy.

Step 2: Sauté onion and garlic in oil with chili and dried basil.

Step 3: When peas and veges are soft, and most of the water has been absorbed, add onions and garlic. Stir gently to combine flavours.

Step 4: Add a can of tomatoes and simmer, stirring gently.

Step 5: Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and top with fresh basil.

It took me no more than 45 minutes to make this hearty meal and I had plenty of time to grab M from the ferry and pick Zuzu up from her friend’s place. We lingered there a while, chatting over a delicious bottle of “Summer Aphrodisiac 2006” from Casita Miro Vineyard and securing some technical support for next weekend’s 48 hour Film Festival shoot.

When we were finally home for the evening, Zuzu heated up the Ragoût and I served it with a sprinkle of fresh basil. It was delicious and I had really enjoyed the challenge. Would it be going too far to actually film myself?