In My Kitchen – September 2015 (how the Ghan nearly ruined my Spanish lunch)

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Five years ago Don and I visited Granada, Spain to see the Alhambra (so named because of the Arabic name for its reddish walls). Our very first meal, aside from the Hotel’s fabulous breakfast, was lunch in a cafe adjacent to the Alhambra. It was a sunny spring day and the outside tables were perfect. Uncertain about ordering meals, and various food intolerances making the uncertainty worse, I settled on a salad of oranges, fennel and cod. It turns out this is a very Spanish dish and we saw it a number of other times on various travels in Spain.

Since fennel and navel oranges are usually plentiful, and reasonable quality, here in winter, I decided I wanted to try and recreate my memory of the dish. The first challenge was to find some deep sea cod. It is not common here, not being near the deep sea and all! As I recalled, the Spanish original used salted cod but I’m not familiar with using that, soaking it etc, so I decided if I could find some fresh, frozen cod or other white sea fish, I would use that. I couldn’t see any cod in the groceries, so our butcher who sells a lot of good quality sea food was the next stop, and miracle of miracles, they had some. (I have not seen even the slightest hint of any since)

The morning I planned to make the salad I woke around 4am to the sound of the Ghan* train coming into Alice–about 12 hours late! They sound their horn upon arrival, even at 4am, it would seem. We are over a kilometre away from the station but in the quiet of the morning I could still hear it. My first thought was for the poor passengers who obviously had spent more time aboard than they had planned. Part of the Northern Territory adventure, I suppose.

Peeking through the fence at the Ghan in Alice railyard

Peeking through the fence at the Ghan in Alice railway yard

Since I was awake early I turned on the heater in the bathroom and while it was warming I snuggled back in bed for a little while. Winter in Alice is quite cold overnight. After showering and having breakfast I decided to do my grocery shopping early, although 9am would not be early in the summer! As soon as I was inside the grocery I could see the other problem with the Ghan’s late arrival. The produce section had many vacant gaps, the most worrying of which was the one where fennel is usually kept!! Despite best efforts to keep things on schedule, once in a while the Ghan hits sections of the track that have washed out, or some other difficulty. Such is the story of a train that runs through hundreds of kilometres of scrub and bushland.

I had bought the fish, and the orange, but what could I do without fennel? Time for some culinary conjuring! Somewhere in the back of my mind I seemed to remember that celery and fennel were from the same genus, though different species, and thinking that sliced very thinly they would have a similar texture, I decided to try celery in place of the fennel.

My humble recreation

My humble recreation

Cod baked with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon

Cod baked with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon

I baked the cod with only lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and thinly slice lemons on top, tied in baking paper at 165C for about 20 minutes. I let them cool to room temperature because it was a salad. Meanwhile I peeled and sliced the orange thinly and used a mandolin to get the celery slices very, very thin. Once assembled on a plate I added another sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a squeeze of half a lemon. The original Spanish dish had thin slivers of red Spanish onion through it as well, but onion is something I’m unable to eat so I left it off. The result was delicious, nevertheless. I thought I had lost the photo of that special lunch, but after making what I remembered the dish to be like, the vast recesses of my grey matter led me to the five year previous photo! Next time I will add the radicchio (if I can find it), eggs and olives, now that I see what my memory had forgotten!! Now you know why I love photos so much!

That memorable meal

The glorious original

(*Ghan is short for Afghan, and the train is named for the many Afghanistani cameleers who helped settle Central Australia)

Special thanks to Celia for hosting our monthly kitchen get together. Visit her through the link and find other interesting kitchens around the world.

does having fewer guns make us helpless?

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My friends, I know you are used to me writing positive things, and certainly that is my preference. I’m not an activist, nor am I a political animal, but I do believe in speaking out about what I believe. There is something that has occurred and I believe it is concerning. Apparently this not so small event has gone undetected by most of us, until now when it appears to be too late. But I want you to know.

Day before yesterday, I heard a small news report to the effect that there was a new gun about to be imported into Australia, based on a deal our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott had done with MP David Leyonhjelm, of the Shooters Party, in exchange for his vote on tougher border security measures. In case you have forgotten, or didn’t know, this MP is the same man who said this, after the Martin Place siege

“What happened in that cafe would have been most unlikely to have occurred in Florida, Texas, or Vermont, or Alaska in America, or perhaps even Switzerland as well,” Senator Leyonhjelm told the ABC’s AM program.

“Statistically speaking” in those jurisdictions, “one or two of the victims” would have had a concealed gun, he said.

“That nutcase who held them all hostage wouldn’t have known they were armed and bad guys don’t like to be shot back at,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.

He said the Lindt cafe hostages were helpless because they were not allowed to carry a lethal or non-lethal weapon.

This ludicrous statement seems even more so, in light of the fatal shooting on air, of TV reporter and the cameraman in the United States this week.

I will leave you to read for yourself, the first two articles I have been able to source on the recent matter, the third article is when the MP stated the above after the Martin Place incident:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-14/rapid-fire-shotgun-import-concerns-gun-control-activists/6619226

http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/how-tony-abbott-swapped-rapid-fire-shotguns-for-votes

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-18/australia-a-nation-of-victims-says-pro-gun-senator-leyonhjelm/5974684

I think, there is no reason, barring out and out invasion of foreign armies, that is good enough to allow more guns into Australia–of any kind. I am proud of the stance Australia has taken with regard to guns since the Port Arthur massacre, and I am seriously disappointed at this incremental erosion of that position.

Posting this is my small way of protesting. I have also written my federal member to voice my concerns.

a nod to the blog

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In the beginning, blogs were rather like diaries that people shared, or forums for discussions. The modern blog has only been around less than 20 years and it has changed forms rapidly in that time. Today’s entry is a nod back to journal type posts from years gone by, but with photos, because I can’t help myself. Normally I take a few days to write a post, but this one is pretty much flow of thought this morning…

The photo I wanted to share with you last week... I call it 'casualty of winter' but it makes a nice monochrome photo.

The photo I wanted to share with you last week… I call it ‘casualty of winter’ but it makes a nice monochrome photo.

It has been a very busy, and mostly productive few weeks for me. But my body hasn’t liked it and I’ve had a head cold this week–another casualty of winter? Head colds are mongrels. Trying to think, and be inspired, is not easy. Self imposed stress has meant that my ‘shrillness’ has turned into a cold. Why do we do these things to ourselves? Slow learner.

3 weeks ago my credit details were stolen, through no fault of my own. It took ten days to get things sorted. Thank you to whoever decided they needed my details more than me. (the world could use that talent if only it were re-directed!) It actually had a ripple effect that achieved good results for me, albeit a hassle at the time. Move on.

During that same week I had ordered a new computer. I’m in computer love. It is a MacBook Pro, quad processor, 15″ laptop and it runs like the wind–as long as the wind doesn’t include whatever slowed down my photo uploads last week! I love it when I update appliances or devices that are well in need, because the replacements are like living in the future again. Amazing.

My media centre while setting up the new computer :)

My ‘media centre’ while setting up the new computer :) note jewellery pieces in background, and that I am taking the photo with my phone, pretty much sums up the creative scene at the moment!

Around that same time I was asked to make a ‘collection’ of jewellery which my hairdresser plans to use in his Christmas Boutique of the salon. Okay, so this was one step too many. Where is that rear vision mirror for life when a person needs it? The collection is getting there. I will photograph it and share it with you when it is done because I now know I’m ready to move on. I’m done with jewellery making. Done.

As problems go, I have none. But ‘Power and Water’ had one that necessitated they dig a huge hole beside our letterbox, and turn off the power last weekend and again this week. Also I did have some sinking pavers and some tree roots under others, creating dangerous tripping points around my clothes line. My friend and bricklayer who built the paved areas at our place came back to do the repairs and we had a lovely catch up. Marvellous fellow.

During this time, I have seen doctors for check ups, performed all of my usual domestic goddess miracles, including making Magic Bean Cake, which I will soon share with you. But the 365 photo project has been perilously close to collapse. That’s why it is a ‘challenge’. Day 241 today.

#217 from 365 Photo Challenge on Instagram 3 wks ago

#217 from 365 Photo Challenge on Instagram 3 wks ago

Every single day, there is some tiny miracle. Like the day my darling husband came home with a beautiful feather he had found–for me to photograph. He’s very supportive in a quiet way, pointing out colours and trees and things he thinks may be of interest. So sweet. But this feather…when he proudly presented it to me he said ‘it was just there winking at me’. It stopped me in my tracks. Three weeks ago I posted a photo on Instagram, of a feather I had seen in the grass, the caption was ‘it was winking at me.’ I don’t think I said it out loud to him and I know he doesn’t use Instagram, but when you have been married for 32 years… It doesn’t matter where it came from, it was just one of those tiny little moments that shines above all the calamity life throws at us. A ‘feather wink’ becomes a loving gesture, which becomes a photo, which becomes a digital image akin to hand-painted watercolour. How is this possible? Because when we look for the magic in life, we find it. Magic.

Waterlogue image from photo of the feather Don brought me.

Waterlogue image from photo of the feather Don brought me.

what’s in a name?

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It’s a bit after the fact, I know, but I’ve been thinking you might like to know the origin of my blog name. I also thought I’d throw in the origin of my Instagram and Tumblr* names (the same as each other) just for fun.

Before the blog, there was Instagram, and before that there was Amos…

How Amos got his name.

Instagram was my very first social media forum, even before my Facebook page–which I have recently deactivated. When I set up the Instagram account and had to choose a name, I decided to purloin a name I’d been using as the trade name for the jewellery I made and sold in the local gallery–Amos the Magic Dog…or in Instagram-speak, @amosthemagicdog. There is nothing brief about it, which flies in the face of most marketing strategies except, it seems, that it is memorable.

amos-the-magic-dog

Storm-the-rescue-dog, alias Amos

Amos-the-magic-dog was really Storm-the-rescue-dog. We adopted him when he was about 10 months old from the local animal shelter. He was part Blue Heeler (cattle dog) and the vet thought perhaps part Corgi as well, but who knows! He was sweet and smart as anything and lived to the ripe old age of 18 years, 17+ of them with us. When he was about midway through his life, my parents came to Australia to visit us. They stayed for several weeks. Dad and I would go for walks in the mornings and Storm would come with us. We walked on the golf course, which at that time of the morning had few golfers, so Storm could have a run off the leash. Storm would be very busy sniffing and peeing and trying to herd the rabbits and birds (Blue Heeler instinct at work) and Dad would look around and wonder where he had disappeared, but for some reason he couldn’t remember Storm’s name. One morning he asked ‘Where is Amos-the-magic-dog?’ It tickled me so much, the name stuck in my head. Dad’s family had a habit of making up names, the product of their ‘humour gene’. The classic was the woman up the street that my Grandfather called ‘Porch Swing’, because he would always see her sitting in a swing on her front porch. Everyone knew who he was talking about when he said it, and I knew who Dad was talking about when he asked about Amos.

So, when I wanted a cute, funky name for the jewellery I made, Amos the Magic Dog came to mind. The tags even included a photo of Storm, aka Amos. And when I opened my Instagram account I became ‘amosthemagicdog’. I attended an Instameet with other Instagrammers earlier this year, and I introduced myself as amosthemagicdog, and the other contributors immediately knew who I was, er rather, recognised the name.

Amos tags, from Edinburough to Alice, Sydney and Rome!

Amos tags, from Edinburgh to Alice, Sydney and Rome!

The blog name.

I thought I might want to write about more serious matters when I started the blog, so I decided the Amos name might not be quite the right vibe. I started playing around with various names but nothing quite worked, mostly because they were already being used by someone else. So, thought I, no one else will be named Ardys, certainly that should work. But it didn’t! And a couple of years ago a woman named Ardys actually contacted me, having found my blog. Mystery solved. There are a few of us out there! And then I tried adding my initials, becoming ardys-e-z. I realised that minus the hyphens it would either sound like ‘ardys easy'(hmmm…) or ‘ardys-says’ when people read it. Being an optimist, ardysez was registered. Not as creative as it could have been, perhaps, and slightly confusing as it turned out, due to the unusual nature of my name, but not having any better ideas that were immediately able to be registered, it remained. Then a friend gave me a lovely birthday card in which she had copied the following anonymous passage:

There is that which has always been there,

Which has never left your side,

Which has always been present,

Whatever the feeling, the circumstance.

When you turn your attention to trusting that,

You surrender to yourself.

That really said it all to me; what my life and writing was trying to be about. And so the byline for ardysez became ‘surrender to yourself’. I think of the longer version above when I read the byline, and thought you might like to know it too, so that it may give you some context in which to read my various writings.

Wishing you a happy and healthy week.

(I had intended to add another photo and a new feature to this post before publishing today, but for two days our internet and/or WordPress has been very difficult for uploads, so it will wait for another time.)

(*Tumblr is another blogging format. I have not explored it as much as I have WordPress, and I use it mostly to reblog my WordPress posts, and Instagram photos.)

what is your superpower?

Do you ever feel a bit ‘shrill’? Like you are saying everything with capital letters and exclamation points? Okay, it’s just me then. That is how I feel at the moment, and whenever I need to chill out a bit. Last week, amidst credit card debacle and setting up my new groovy, amazing computer, someone asked me for 30 pieces of my jewellery for their Christmas Boutique. I said ‘yes’. Now, why did I do that? It’s complicated. I knew the pain of credit card replacement would be like a bandaid ripped off quickly, and soon be over. I was pretty sure the computer transition would be mostly short-lived as well. And I have five perfectly good weeks before our next trip, so why not drag the jewellery makings out of storage and have one more go. I’ve been on a break for over a year, and wasn’t sure I’d ever go back, but after 20 years of on and off making jewellery, it seemed likely that I would go back. It’s a darn shame not to because I’d finally reached a point of having a ‘style’ and finally had all the beads and findings a person could need, so why not take advantage of that enviable situation? I’ll tell you why not… because maybe it was the journey to get here that was what I needed/wanted. Maybe. I can’t be sure yet. So I’m making jewellery again, for five weeks. It takes about 5hrs for each necklace. Each one is slightly different, but the style is the same, so they require individual attention. If they didn’t I wouldn’t be doing it at all. I can’t bear repetitive activity. It is mind numbing.

Photo edited in Waterlogue app, recent necklace creation

Photo edited in Waterlogue app, recent necklace creation

So. Now I’m taking a new photo every day for the 365photochallenge, I’m making jewellery, and also writing a blog, as well as my normal home duties. And today I have to take time out to see the doctor at the eye clinic about the glaucoma I’ve had for a couple of years. One of the luxuries of later life and not having to go to work each day is that I try to minimise my scheduled activities. That is, I try to allow myself plenty of ‘play time’. I’m still learning what that looks like–what constitutes play and what feels more like work; what time each thing needs, too.

In a couple of posts from other bloggers I have recently seen references to their ‘superpower’. The thing that they do better than anything else. One of them said her superpower was knowing when to step back and recharge/relax. Oh that that was my superpower! But it got me to thinking. What is my superpower? It could be very useful to know, especially if it is something I’m unaware of and could use to better advantage.

gum leaf with sliver cabochon droplets of moisture

gum leaf with sliver cabochon droplets of moisture

The other evening I looked at my husband and asked “What do you think my superpower is”? He mockingly looked at me (he’s used to my weird questions) with his unblinking eyes wide open, as if after 32 years I was about to reveal that I had x-ray vision. So I had to explain that I was asking him what he thinks is the thing I do best. It turns out, what I think I do best is not exactly the same as his response, but it’s not that far off, either. I was expecting some surprising revelation, but our evaluations were actually pretty close.

So, his answer was that he felt the consistent style for everything I do in life was my superpower. He went on to explain he felt I applied a similar approach to my creative endeavours, home duties, friendships, etc. Well, that’s a pretty nice thing, unless of course you are terrible at all those things, which I might be, but at least he doesn’t seem to think so! It implies integrity, I think. Not so much the ‘high moral’ ground kind, but the kind of structural integrity a good building needs to have.

Still, there is the question of what do I think is my superpower? Where is my superwoman vision beneath the geeky glasses? For a long time I have harboured the thought that ‘lateral thinking’ is a secret, superpower of mine. I remember being in Art School when the term was first bandied about. Supposedly it was first used in its modern way by Edward de Bono in 1967. It refers to creative thinking, or thoughts, that do not take traditional logic, step by step. It is a sideways (lateral) train of thought, rather than a linear one following a more predictable path.

Photo of some of my favourite things edited using Waterlogue app.

Photo of some of my favourite things edited using Waterlogue app.

It seems to me this way of looking at the world is in alignment with the consistency of style my husband was talking about. It’s about being deeply in touch with one’s inner self and having the confidence to follow one’s intuition, to trust the outcome. Inside my head, lateral thinking also has a lot to do with how easily a person can let go of what one has been taught, or suggested should work, in favour of trying one’s own solution. There’s a fine line between doing as you are told and veering slightly one way or the other to see if another way is better for you. Even moving to Australia was probably one of those things for me. I’d lived in several places in the USA and none of them quite resonated with my inner self the way I felt it needed to.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life? –Mary Oliver

“I will not bang my head against the proverbial brick wall.”–ardysez

So, if you are waiting for me to reveal to you that my superpower is brain surgery or playing polo, you will be disappointed. I’m just good at figuring things out in a sort of non-linear way. And as life skills go, I’ll gladly accept this one. And I’ll work at the relaxing thing.

Feeling quieter, a little less shrill now. Thank you.

What is your superpower? I’d love you to share in the comments below.

corkwood-tree

Silver ‘painted’ Corkwood Tree in late afternoon light.

 

In My Kitchen August 2015

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Mum and youngest brother in 1957 kitchen--note clock at top of photo, Dad made that as well!

Mum and youngest brother in 1957 kitchen–note clock at top of photo, Dad made that as well!

The first home I remember was in Bethel, Ohio on Main Street, USA. (sounds like the setting for a play, doesn’t it?) The house had a feature fossil rock wall that was part of my bedroom and a huge, huge pecan tree in the back yard. When my parents bought the house it was a real wreck, a ‘fixer upper’–only worse! Dad remodelled every wall, floor and surface in the house, plus a bit extra. It had a beautiful yard with lilac bushes, mulberry and cherry trees and a little tiny rivulet of water that flowed in wetter years, separating the main yard from the big pecan tree at the back.

Age 9, Brownie Uniform geekiness (feature fossil wall beside)

Age 9, Brownie Uniform geekiness (feature fossil wall beside)

In summer, the pecan tree’s generous canopy would shade us from the hot sun. Dad built us a tree house in a nearby smaller tree, too. We spent a lot of time playing under the tree in warmer months and collecting pecans that fell in the autumn. Then in winter Mum would sit most evenings and crack and pick the nuts from their shells. I would help sometimes. Mum discovered that nuts freeze very well and so she would freeze packets of pecans to use year round for her baking; pecan pie, pecan sandies and fruit cake at Christmas. I loved them all. Pecans are still my favourite nut for flavour and versatility. (I have no photos of the tree, and sadly, it was cut down years ago)

We pause our scheduled post for this public service advice:

I think this must have been the beginning of my love affair with trees, nuts and food. I could see, and understand, the connection between them all. To that end, I’m going to share a link with you that is about trees, because I love trees so much. It is a six minute YouTube video by a rap artist I had never heard of before seeing this piece on blog friend Sara‘s post this weekend. I thought I’d pass it along because it is so good.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

TIP: Since I am very familiar with the flavour of fresh pecans, my tip to you is they should taste sweet and nutty, not strong. I’ve noticed if I buy pecans in the winter and store them in my freezer for use in summer they are better than trying to buy them in summer (in Alice), when often they have become rancid through shipping and storage. Double wrapping them for the freezer is best.

This winter I came up with a recipe for gluten free muesli (granola) that uses pecans, cashews and pepitas and I have enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

Nut and Cinnamon Baked Muesli (granola)

IMG_63561/4 C pepita (pumpkin seeds)

1/4 C roughly chopped pecans

1/4 C roughly chopped raw cashews

3-4 tsp Maple syrup

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of fine salt (I use pink salt)

1.5 C puffed millet

Preheat oven to 160C (325F)

Line a rectangle baking tray with silicon paper (don’t use foil, it will stick to foil making an impossible mess). Mix everything except the millet together until the nuts/seeds are evenly coated with the syrup and spice. Then add the millet, and again, stir thoroughly. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12-13 minutes, no more or nuts may be too brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Break it up roughly and put into a jar to store for up to 2 weeks.

nut-cinnamon-granola-serving

Serving suggestion with yogurt and blueberries

This is fairly nutrient dense, so I use it on top of a bowl of fruit and yogurt, almost as a topping. Used in this way it makes about 6 servings, otherwise about 2-3 servings. Because I only occasionally eat grains I make it in this smaller quantity. Don’t tell anyone, but I sometimes just grab a little handful as a snack. Yummy.

The smell of cinnamon will perfume your house for hours. Wonderful to make in winter, especially. Of course you can change the nuts and seeds to suit your own taste, but the maple/cinnamon/pecan magic may be lost!! Also you can change out the millet for puffed rice or other puffed cereal as you like.

Have a delicious month. :)

old friends, new experiences

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darwin-chinese-temple

Chinese Temple, Darwin City

We have been in Darwin the past week. I’m still processing the events. Whenever we visit, I am taken back to memories of the first years of my life in Australia. Because we stay in the city, and our first flat was in the city, these are my old stomping grounds! But not. So much has changed it is hard to grasp. For example, Darwin is much more beautiful now than it was then. But I was newly in love and so it still appeared beautiful to me. But mostly it was, and still is, so unique and diverse.

dried wildflowers by the sea

dried wildflowers by the sea

 

The Esplanade Bicentennial Park area did not exist in its current form and now is a joy for my early morning walks, with many glimpses of the sea just beyond the trees. This time I did something I have never done before, walked down to Lameroo Beach where the very rocky native stones meet the sea. It connected me in a new way; this mountain person who could love living by the sea.

darwin-lameroo-beach

Native stone on Lameroo Beach

Three days were spent with old friends, two days with the same friend who I came to know here in Alice, but who moved to the North 10 or so years ago. Jo is recovering from a brain injury through an accidental fall at work. She is doing very well but is working very steadily at it. She never once bemoaned her bad luck or her ongoing issues of headaches and memory struggles. It was my joy to be able to help her set up a blog page which I commend to you. She is still learning the ropes but I know you will be kind to her. Her first post was so moving, she will most certainly be a fabulous contributor to the blog community. Jo plans to write about her many interests as well as her journey recovering from the brain injury. Because I think you will enjoy her writing and her story, here is a link: https://intralude.wordpress.com/

friends living room in filtered light

my artist friend’s living room in filtered light (Waterlogue edit from original photo)

quilty-after-afghanistan

painting by Ben Quilty

My other dear friend is one I made 30 years ago. We share an interest and practice in art, among other things. This time we attended the ‘After Afghanistan’ Exhibition by renowned, and official war artist, Ben Quilty. Having seen a documentary about his creation of the works, I was still unprepared for how moving they would be in person. You’d think I would know better! They were really about energy–the energy of one’s being that is changed when going off to war. I felt the emotion of several of the pieces as if they were physical blows to my solar plexus. Even thinking back on them now my tummy tightens with emotion. That is art.

quilty-after-afghanistan

painting by Ben Quilty

quilty-after-afghanistan

painting by Ben Quilty

Arriving home yesterday to the flashing button of the answering machine was an inauspicious welcome, as it turned out. My credit card has been compromised. Fortunately the bank was quick to recognise it and so there is only a $7 debit that got through. But now, everything that I normally do with my card, which is EVERYTHING, must be changed over when the new card arrives, probably in about a week. It could have been so much worse, and for that I am grateful.

But it has unhinged me a little. The post I had been working on will wait for another day.

This much I know for sure, and needed no processing…I have loved my life and cherish my friends, who are testaments to that life, as I am to theirs. In the words of German theologian, philosopher, Meister Eckhart “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you’, that will be enough”.

darwin-sunset

Serenity at sunset from Bicentennial Park

the surprising Outback…

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Travel is a wonderful teacher. It has brought history to life for me when visiting other cultures, countries and especially within Australia. Don and I love to visit regional Australia because much of it is still reminiscent of how it was settled; how the people lived…and sadly, died. And it is full of surprises and genuine characters.

Adelaide:Broken Hill:Mildura map copy

A close up of our travels

Australia map

Detailed larger map is from this lighter area.

A few weeks ago we flew to Adelaide in South Australia. Our itinerary was to drive northeast from Adelaide to Broken Hill, New South Wales, south to Mildura in northern Victoria, and back to Adelaide again, incorporating three states, and seeing a variety of points in between.

Before leaving South Australia, we stopped at the town of Burra, where mining set the theme for the next few days. Copper was the main attraction in Burra. Rows of workers’ cottages remain, some being used as rentals for tourists, if you are so inclined. The land was owned by the investors and cottages built and leased back to the workers for 3 shillings a week. The first section of cottages was built in 1849 and imagine, the verandahs were not even added until around 1930! Very basic living, indeed. We also discovered Monday is Burra’s day off! Most cafés and shops were closed on Monday, the day we passed through. But it was a charming little town, nonetheless.

Wild goats.

Wild goats.

Lest I mislead you, there is not a lot except bush, wild goats and emus to see between the towns, which are sparsely set. Bladder control is an issue. It is not terribly scenic, but interesting how much of Outback Australia is like this, or similar. It underscores the determination of the early settlers, as much as anything else does. Just across the western border of New South Wales we arrived in the town of Broken Hill. Mostly, Broken Hill was built in the late 1800’s, as was much of this region of Australia. The mining of silver, lead and zinc was the big attraction. As best we can tell, a few people made quite a bit of money, but the rest of the settlers worked hard and many died young.

We began our only full day in Broken Hill, driving out of town to another, even smaller town named Silverton. Guess what they mined? Recently the town of Silverton is famous for the Mad Max films, and also the 1980’s version of the film ‘A Town Like Alice’, for which a small building was transformed as the film version of the town’s ice cream parlour. The real Alice Springs was already way too ‘modern’ to use as a setting for this story which took place at the end of WWII.

We found this in the Silverton Gaol museum, note the number of children who died that year.

We found this in the Silverton Gaol museum, note the number of children who died that year.

Our first stop just outside the town of Silverton, was the cemetery. You can learn a lot from a cemetery. The wind was biting cold and the sky overcast that morning, which added to the sombre mood of the place. Many children died due to typhoid fever, rampant, until it was worked out how to clean the water. It was pretty gut wrenching to read the epitaphs. The cemetery covers 42 acres and only a portion of the graves have stones.

In the small, dusty remains of the town of Silverton was a pub, of course. There were wild donkeys roaming about, an interesting museum set up in the old Gaol, organised incredibly well by local volunteers, with oddities too numerous to mention. Saving you from endless descriptions, I have photos for you!

1950's café, Broken Hill

1950’s café, Broken Hill

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Broken Hill.

Broken Hill.

Back in Broken Hill we had a refreshment in a 1950’s style diner/café (above photo). Another random experience, not expected in regional outback Australia, but that is what travel is about! Next, we visited the Regional Art Gallery. What a shock. The entire (I think) exhibition from the previous year’s Archibald Prize was on display! This is a very well known portrait prize in Australia, and such a delight we often plan a yearly trip to Sydney when we know it will be on. As it turns out, we had missed the 2014 exhibition, and here it was in front of us…for free. What a wonderful surprise.

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Palace Hotel paintings.

Palace Hotel paintings.

We were curious about the infamous Palace Hotel of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ movie fame, and so we walked the couple of blocks around to have a look. It is in the final stages of a renovation so the bar area wasn’t open, but the famous murals lining the walls of the entry and stairs were on display. It was quite a spectacle and for a moment you forgot where you were, thinking you must be in some Disney-esque themed brothel!!

Since it is winter and the sun sets rather early, we pushed on, deciding to try and get to the Living Desert and Sculpture Park outside of Broken Hill, in case the weather might be inclement the following morning. With showers falling all around us and dark clouds scudding about, the atmosphere atop the rocky outcrop, overlooking the plains was stunning. The bus scene from Priscilla Queen of the desert was filmed on these plains, and must be where the phrase was first uttered–miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles! On the distant horizon, was the tiny little eruption of Broken Hill. This was the stark Outback and it is still vast. In 1993 a symposium was held for a group of international sculptors to travel to the area and camp and create works that would remain in situ. The result is a very special destination that only adds to the character of the area.

In our Art Deco style hotel, The Royal Exchange, we had a dinner that was so surprising, we are still talking about it. To cook most of the meat and poultry, the chef uses a French method of cooking called ‘sous vide’. The meat is put into a sort of cryovac packet and poached in water very, very slowly, 12 hours or longer. This results in the most tender and flavourful of steaks I’ve ever put into my mouth. Alas, steak is not very photogenic and the texture and flavour would certainly not have translated, so I didn’t attempt a photo. You’ll have to take my word for it. Eat at the Royal Exchange.

Mushroom,tomato, spinach, egg, feta and bacon breakfast at Royal Exchange Hotel. Yum.

Mushroom,tomato, spinach, egg, feta and bacon breakfast at Royal Exchange Hotel. Yum.

The dining room with its fire blazing in the evening, was redolent with the charm of another era. Breakfasts were also delicious. The Portobello mushrooms with tomato, spinach, eggs and bacon were so delicious I had them again the second morning.

The second full day of our stay… oh, wait there was no second full day to our stay because my darling husband sometimes pushes us a bit fast, and short of time. He’s a work in progress. In his defence there was a problem with the hotel being fully booked and we would have had to change hotels if we stayed a third night, so he opted to move us on to Mildura the next day. For our upcoming trip in September, I reviewed the itinerary and then had him add a day to every stop. :)

Again, the drive to Mildura was mostly bush; Mallee trees, wild goats, some sheep and a few kangaroos and horses. We pulled up alongside the road so that I could photograph the goats, who were, of course, trying to escape quickly. I rolled down the car window and immediately regretted it. If someone ever tells you, ‘you smell like a billy goat’, this is NOT a compliment! Wild goats stink, people!! Apparently, they eat something called onion weed and that, plus their normal odour makes them rather repugnant. But they feed on saltbush, too, and this gives the meat a distinct flavour and once they have been fed normal food without onion weed in it for a couple of months, the meat is quite good, so I’m told. They used to be hunted to keep the numbers under control but these days, the farmers herd them up and ship them overseas for goat meat and breeding. Goodness knows the farmers need a win now and then!

As we neared Mildura, we stopped near Wentworth at the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers. Australia, being the driest continent (save the Antarctic) in the world, and the Murray/Darling being our biggest source of inland water, made it seem like an essential stop on the journey.

The town of Mildura has a lovely waterfront along the Murray River. It is a real credit to them, and still being developed. The Grand Hotel, our abode for the night was originally established in the mid 1700’s as a Coffee House. There was a move to discourage the mine workers from drinking alcohol so Coffee Houses were built to fill that niche. The original building morphed over the years in both purpose and design, until its eventual reconstruction as an Art Deco hotel was reached in the early 1930’s. It has been refurbished but the Art Deco theme is still prominent. It turns out that Stefano De Pieri, whose restaurant I wrote about previously, married the daughter of the hotel’s owner and has established 4 restaurants and a micro brewery under the roof and adjacent to the hotel.

The best chips ever look normal, but are sooo delicious!!

The best chips ever look normal, but are sooo delicious!!

Eating later than normal, and larger than normal breakfasts, meant that our need for lunch was minimal and not happening at optimal times. An hour and a half out of Adelaide the afternoon of the finish of this portion of our trip, I was hungry. I am not nice when I get too hungry. Ask my husband. And having food intolerances makes it doubly difficult for me to eat take away foods, since most of them are wheat and onion laden. I told him if we just saw a place that sold chips (french fries) that would suffice and hold me to dinner. We had several thwarted attempts to find such a place, given it was 2.30 in the afternoon. Then we drove into Nuriootpa. Gleaming like a red jewel (and I swear there was the feint sound of Hallelujah Chorus in the background) was The Nuriootpa Chicken Centre. Saved. It was so clean you could eat off the floor, and even well after lunch time they were doing a good, steady business. Now I know why. If you are ever in Nuri, find The Chicken Centre and buy a bag of chips. They were the absolute best I’ve ever eaten. They were photo worthy–TripAdvisor worthy, even. All chips henceforth shall be compared to the chips at Nuri–perfectly crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, seasoned with chicken salt and a dash of love, I’m sure.

So this was a sampling of Regional Outback Australia. It is full of surprises and you never know when you’ll have a gastronomic thrill as well!

(As always, if you scroll on the gallery photos their captions will appear, and if you click on the photos you can see them larger)

Grapes sun drying on the vine in Sunraysia region

Grapes sun-drying on the vine in Sunraysia region

Vineyard in winter, SA

Vineyard in winter, SA

seeing the light

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I hope you aren’t getting sick of reading about my photography journey. It is the exact learning, experiential process I had hoped it would be. At first glance these things can look easy. But they often turn out to be revealing and complex. We can get mired in a situation we thought would be fast and simple–take for example my software upgrade of a ‘critical’ nature this morning, or the installation of the backup from my old iPhone to the new one a few weeks ago. Or we can be strategic and get through it. Things that look simple from the outside, seldom are. But we all know that, don’t we?

On June 30th, I passed the halfway point to 365 photos; a new image shot, edited and posted every single day for 183 days. Many thoughts have crossed my mind. It has become so much more than just the one hour or so of activity each day; it is a review of Life lessons, with a few new ones included.

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(158) Winter in dry Todd River bed

Uncertainty

From the beginning I have struggled to not let the taking of a new photo each day paralyse me with fear. Where will I take the photo? What if I don’t get one? It can feel overwhelming. These are the sorts of dilemmas we face each day, not with photos, but with the actions and events of our lives. Will I get that job interview? What if I don’t get the results I want with this medical test? What mess will getting a new puppy make of my life? Life is uncertain. Always has been. Get over it. Have a back up plan. Have faith in yourself.

Patience

Have you tried to photograph a small wildflower in the wind? Try it. If not impossible, it certainly takes patience at a whole new level, not to mention a different skill base. It also teaches the concept of choosing your time carefully, perhaps on a not-so-windy day!

Skills

Nearly every day I am learning how to frame things better, which apps to use to best edit each photo, what tools and filters within those apps work best, and why. I am learning to watch the sky (and the thermometer!) to try and calculate the best time for a walk as well as when the light will be best for photographing, and what to do when the light is not at its best for photographing! If not exactly the same, these are in parallel with other life skills we learn every day; which food to buy, how to cook it, which route to drive to work, and okay, what the weather will be so you know how to dress. Some things are just not that different!

Disappointment/Surprise

I am learning not to be so certain about things. I may think a particular photo is THE one, until I get home and see what image I’ve actually captured. Often it is not the one I thought I’d captured. (not unlike a few long ago boyfriends…) Our senses take in so much more of a scene or experience than the camera, and sometimes that just doesn’t translate in the photo. I have also discovered, so often, that the photo I thought had the least potential, but was quickly snapped on a whim, turns out to be THE one. Go figure. I could name a few times in life when that has happened, and I’m married to one of them!! Didn’t see that one coming! My first professional job was one. Nearly every day Life’s potential stuns me with something I had never considered, both good and challenging! Capturing photo images is the same.

Light

There are three words that describe my approach to photography and Life…

see…the…light

But first you have to look for it. For me, every day is about how much light I can shed on my understanding of the world, myself and others. It’s what has always driven me. And in photography, the light is the first thing I look for as well. I look first with my eyes, not through the lens. It is the light that makes the shadows, the light that causes the colours, and creates the mystery. It is light that creates the image. Without light, all would be dark.

Failure

I have said before that there is no failure. But sometimes things don’t go according to your plan. You plan to photograph that tree in the sunlight that you spotted a couple of days ago, but it is grey and overcast and the light isn’t there. Oops. Or you take a few photos of something only to get home and look at them and realise you had the wrong settings, or angle, to get the photo outcome you were after. So that is when you learn. I’ve learned to have a back up plan for something I can photograph if everything falls in a heap one day. And it has, believe me. But the thing about a good backup plan is it needn’t be a compromise. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be able to pick which of the photos on this post was a backup plan (there are two). In addition to all of the above things, I’ve learned to overshoot and take more angles at more settings than I think I need to. But possibly, most importantly, I am learning to follow my iPhone photography teacher‘s advice: ‘be less obsessed with the end result and think more about the process’.

If I learn nothing more from this journey, that will be enough.

XX Light Chaser

IMK July 2015– flashback to 1968

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Recently a friend’s blog post brought back a long ago memory of cooking. The memory was before I ever traveled, or even thought much about it, so the ‘foreign’ foods I’d eaten were mostly Americanised. On a few occasions I’d had some fairly authentic Italian and German and that was about it. About the time I was reminded of this memory, I found a photo taken the same year and I thought you might enjoy it. Remember when girls wore curlers? BIG curlers? My best friend and I both had wavy hair, and that was just not in fashion in the 60’s. So we used the largest curlers we could find, even repurposed orange juice cans on occasion!

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Curler girls, Lorraine on the left, me on the right–making a pie

Both being from fairly strict homes with hard working parents, we had to contribute our share of the sweat to cleaning our respective homes every Saturday. After the cleaning was done, and only afterward, the fun could begin. We would shower and set our hair in curlers to spend the afternoon drying, so that we would look beautiful when we went out that evening, if we were lucky enough to have a date or a party to attend.

One particular Saturday, I had organised the ingredients to try recipes given to me by our High School French teacher. She was the second of what would be three by the end of two years. She had actually lived in France, as opposed to the third teacher we had who was the Spanish teacher and was learning French at the same time she taught us. Not a great experience, and fascinating that I learned much at all, mon petit chou!

Mrs. K, the second teacher, had authentic French recipes for three things; bread, onion soup, and cheese soufflé. In those days I had no idea that American ingredients were any different that those used in France, and would yield a somewhat different, though reminiscent, result. Being very inexperienced at creating a menu, I decided that those three things would BE the menu. My best friend who supported me in all my crazy endeavours spent that entire Saturday afternoon helping me make the meal…in our curlers.

Where would we be without our best friends to support our adventures??

I seem to recall sampling some of the dishes at a French Club gathering we had, but certainly I had never cooked them before. At the ages of about 15 or 16 we were far from experienced cooks, though both of us had to assist with meal preparation at our homes. But probably the biggest challenge was that none of my family had tasted anything like the soup or the soufflé, so we were pushing them into the deep end, with ourselves following closely behind. In a little mid-western town of 2500 people in the late 1960’s, people did not eat this way. As I recall my family was not terribly disparaging, but I do know we never had the meal again. The amazing thing was, that we had it at all, and that it was a precursor to tasting, and cooking, so many dishes unfamiliar to me.

 

Flash forward to the present:

Just over a week ago, I found myself in the signature restaurant of one of Australia’s best known cooks (he does not call himself a chef). You can read about the meal and how it came about in this previous post, but here’s the thing…now, I’ve travelled all over the world and eaten many, very fine meals, and even cooked a few myself, but I’m still learning about my own taste preferences. Dinner at Stefano’s showed me the food that I really love to eat. It is rustic, made with quality ingredients and lots of flavour. After several very nice meals while we were away, the one dish I wanted to recreate was Stefano’s version of fennel. I love fennel, finely shredded and raw, or cooked in soups, but the best fennel I ever had was his baked version, and looked very much like this:

Baked fennel

Baked fennel

My fennel was baked at 175C (350F) in a single layer, glass baking dish, that had been generously greased with butter. The single, large fennel bulb (no stems) was cut across the layers in slices about 1cm (1/2inch) thick and laid on their sides in the dish. A generous pinch of salt sprinkled over, then 1/2 C of pouring cream, or double cream with about 1 T water to thin it, drizzled over evenly. I covered the dish with foil and baked for 55 minutes, but test to make certain the pieces are very tender. The joy of cooked fennel is a tender texture that brings out its sweetness. Remove from the oven, and turn the oven to grill/broil. Remove the foil from the baking dish, while the griller is heating, and grate 1 C of Romano or Parmesan cheese and sprinkle evenly over the cooked fennel. Place under the griller for a few minutes until the cheese turns golden. I wouldn’t presume to say this is as good as Stefano’s, but it is close enough to satisfy me until I can get back to Mildura!!

Thanks to Celia for hosting our monthly kitchen get together. My contribution this month is a bit different due to traveling and being away from my own kitchen most of the time, but I hope it is of interest, nevertheless.

 

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