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.

 

dinner at Stefano’s

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A hundred years ago when Don and I watched Stefano De Pieri‘s cooking show, ‘Gondola on the Murray’, we had no idea that one day we would have a meal with him as the cook! After all, we grew up halfway around the world in a little Midwest town in the USA,  with nothing to indicate these kinds of special experiences awaited. 

But the road to true gastronomique does not run smoothly! A couple of months ago when Don made the booking to eat at Stefano’s Mildura, on an upcoming trip we had planned to drive from Adelaide to Broken Hill and Mildura and back to Adealaide, he warned me to have a look at the menu to be sure there was something I could eat. Given my  semi-disabled immune and digestive system, and Stefano’s reputation as an Italian cook (he calls himself a cook, not a chef), there could be problems. But the sample menus seemed to have enough choice that I could skirt the difficult ingredients like wheat and onions, despite them being basic staples of Italian cuisine.

We arrived at Stefano’s precisely at the time we had booked. Approximately twelve other patrons joined us in the damp, narrow basement of the old Grand Hotel in Mildura. First impressions of the damp smell did not bode well, but I am nothing if not open to being impressed when it seems least likely! Must be the optimist in me.

Our waitress explained that the meal was a set menu, based on seasonal local ingredients, and then asked if we had any food allergies or problems. Oh dear. Apparently they had tried to reach us by phone the previous day when we were in Broken Hill, to check on the food allergy issue.  We didn’t get the call. When I told her about the wheat and onions she immediately went to talk to Stefano. We could hear his voice in the kitchen, not yelling, I hasten to add. Back and forth she came several times…could I eat leeks or spring onion or chives? No, no, and no. But I am very vegetable friendly and can eat dairy, meat and eggs. Finally she came back and said not to worry Stefano would make it work!

  • Stinging nettle soufflé with Romano sauce and truffle oil
  • Veal fillet sliced very thinly, with homemade tuna mayonnaise, shaved radicchio, baby capers and dill
  • Straciatella soup (homemade chicken broth with egg and Romano cheese)
  • Seared Sea Trout with fennel and spinach
  • Mandarin Brûlée

Except for the soufflé, Don had a completely different meal; the same meal that everyone else around us had. I, alone, had the menu above. Every course was like a perfect piece of art–a focal point accentuated by textures and flavours, with not a piece of onion in sight! To say Stefano made it work is like saying Michelangelo could paint. 

           

Mandarin Brulee (yum)

 I later learned that someone else is the usual chef at Stefano’s these days. That we had the Man himself was at worst a fluke and at best a gift! Stefano’s cookery style is rustic Italian and the regular chef’s style is more nouveau cuisine. I’m more of a rustic girl. Bravo Stefano!

rain in the red centre

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Washed of ochre dust

immodest saturation

against sapphire sky.

Eucalyptus air

and tears, cling to nodded heads

gratefully renewed.

Beneath duvet folds

lay Dreamtime Yeperenye

Winter rain cleansed.

One thing about my haiku poetry, it may not be very good, but it’s short!! The poem was inspired by a post by The Practical Mystic and the photos by the first rain we have had in six months here in Alice. It transforms the land like nothing else. Thanks for reading! :)

As always, if you tap or click on a photo once, the gallery will appear in a larger form for you to enjoy. Tap or click at the end and you should return to the post.

IMK June 2015 (how I use my slow cooker)

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Before I start, this will be long…begin at your own risk! And most importantly, thank you to Celia for hosting our monthly kitchen get together!

Quite a few things have been happening in my life in recent months, but little of it in the kitchen. Due to food sensitivities as well as other priorities my cooking has been basic and probably not innovative, but not lacking in flavour. I’ve found myself reverting to old tried and true recipes from my past. And my past includes liberal use of a slow cooker! I’ve had a slow cooker, then called a ‘crock pot’, for about 40 years. Frankly, I can’t even believe I just wrote that, and that it is true!! That was a fast 40 years!

Rival Crock-Pot manual, circa 1977

Rival Crock-Pot manual, circa 1977

I’ve kept the little manual that came with it, since it is far better than any subsequent literature received with other slow cookers; though I hardly use any recipes these days as my tastes have mostly regressed to simple. Based on various comments I’ve had from previous posts, I gathered there was a wide ranging set of experiences for those trying to use a slow cooker, so for whatever it’s worth, here is my take on it.

This may surprise you, but I use it in the summer as well as the colder months. I love it because I can cook a roast or stew a chicken to utter tenderness with very little heat getting into the kitchen. That is a bonus where we live! But it would be of no interest if the result wasn’t full of flavour and tender. For a beef bolar roast or a whole chicken I do the following:

Stewing position for the chook is breast side down

Stewing position for the chook is breast side down

1-2 stalks of celery, chopped into large pieces

1 large carrot cut into large pieces

a few sprigs of fresh parsley

2-3 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

1 tsp sea salt

juice from half a lemon

Place all of these ingredients on the bottom of the cooker. Lay the meat on top and in the case of a chicken, place it breast side down. Cover with water to about 2/3 the way up the meat/chook. Lid on, cook on slow/low setting for 6 hrs for chook, 8 hours for beef. Debone the chicken before serving, strain the broth and use for soup later. Serve either with salad or steamed or roasted vegetables. For leftovers, make chicken salad later, and slice the beef for sandwiches or Vietnamese style beef salad in the summer.

Tip: For the chicken, once I’ve removed the meat from the bones, I pour maybe a third of a cup of the broth over the meat to store it and keep it flavourful and moist.

My preference is to buy organic or free range chicken and pastured beef. I almost never cook stews in my slow cooker and the old adage of using lesser quality cuts cooked slowly is not my thing. But if you have a family and like stews, it does a good job with those as well. We like the meat sliced thinly and used for sandwiches and salads or with steamed veg in subsequent days.

To cook a silverside (corned beef) in the slow cooker I do the following:

1 stalk of celery, chopped into large pieces

1 large carrot cut into large pieces

2-3 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

1 tsp prepared mustard (stir in some water so that it mixes with the rest)

1 tsp brown sugar

Place above ingredients into bottom of the slow cooker, then place the meat on top, fill with water to within about 50mm (1.5 inches) of the top of the cooker and cook long and slow, 8 or 9 hours. I prefer to cook my vegetables separate, as we like braised cabbage and roasted carrots or pumpkin and potatoes with silverside. Sorry, no white sauce at my house, we use our favourite horseradish that is grown in South Australia at Rusticana. (I have noticed in the USA, corned beef is sold with a flavour packet included. Use that as it contains most of the ingredients I’ve listed above, but do add the carrot and celery for extra flavour)

TIP: Once you have eaten what you want for your meal, allow the leftover meat to go cold in the strained broth. This keeps the sliverside nice and moist.

Having said I almost never cook stews in my cooker, I do sometimes cook bean soup. Due to dietary/digestive requirements, I soak tinned beans for at least 18 hours prior to cooking them with the ham. If I have a leftover, meaty ham bone I place it in the cooker with the following:

1 full stalk celery, finely chopped in tiny diceIMG_3172

Ham and bean soup

Ham and bean soup

1 medium carrot, finely chopped into tiny dice

2 bay leaves

½ tsp salt

plenty of freshly ground black pepper

4 x 400g tins pre-soaked cannellini or other similar beans

Cover with water and cook on low/slow for 8 hours. I usually like to make a gluten free cornbread to serve with it. My husband is in heaven with this meal as it takes him back to his grandma’s house in Virginia.

Pork roast from slow cooker, with roasted pumpkin and sauerkraut

Pulled Pork from slow cooker, with roasted pumpkin and cabbage.

As well as pulled pork (link amended 6/6/15), there is one other favourite meal I make in the slow cooker and it is a nod to both my husband’s and my German heritage.

Pork scotch fillet with potato, sauerkraut and cabbage

Pork scotch fillet with potato, sauerkraut and cabbage

Pork Scotch fillets cooked with sauerkraut, cabbage and potatoes.

This one starts with the meat on the bottom, then layer up with finely sliced potatoes (3-4), covered with finely sliced cabbage then a layer of sauerkraut. The cabbage can be omitted but not the sauerkraut. If you are wondering if the sauerkraut should be rinsed, yes, but only lightly. Retaining some of the salty brine on the kraut is good.

4 pork scotch fillets

3-4 thinly sliced potatoes

2 x 400g tins sauerkraut, to which I add 1tsp caraway seeds, two bay leaves, three sprigs fresh thyme and some fresh or tinned small mushrooms-optional

¼ finely shredded green cabbage

2 T dry sherry or white wine

weak chicken broth or water

salt and pepper

2 T butter, dotted around the top layer

Add some freshly cracked pepper and a bit of salt to the meat layer and the potato layer, but not the kraut layer. Sprinkle the dry sherry or white wine over the final layer, then pour over the chicken broth if you have it, or just water is fine, and dot with butter over the top. Cook on low for 8 hrs. This is a great, easy one pot meal, if you like the German flavours.

Sorry for the length of this post—happy eating!

the beauty of Melancholy

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IMG_2982You know how Melancholy comes to visit? She quietly slips under the door, and floats along from room to room until she finds you. Then she follows you, sitting in your lap, accompanying you on walks, being painfully present.

Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when we are open to the fact that life is inherently difficult and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. It’s not a disorder that needs to be cured. Modern society tends to emphasise buoyancy and cheerfulness. But we have to admit that reality is for the most part about grief and loss. The good life is not one immune to sadness, but one in which suffering contributes to our development. Sometimes you feel sad and you can’t quite put your finger on why. It’s not one acute sorrow that’s eating you. You feel in a way the whole of life calls for tears.

When I first read the line ‘reality is for the most part about grief and loss’ I thought ‘No, it’s not!’ But as this idea has settled into my psyche, I realise my strong reaction to the contrary was an indication of how right it is. We are funny creatures that way, often declaring adversely, those things which are most true.

Why is it, then, that my visitor comes, uninvited, and often, but is not thrown to the curb? Because I am a Light Chaser, and even I know, there is no light without darkness.

We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty. –In Praise of Shadows, 1933, Junichiro Tanizaki (via Brainpickings Newsletter)

IMG_2807Melancholy came three weeks ago today, searching the shadows of death to illuminate for me what the life had meant to mine. The Now Departed was someone who had been very influential in my life during my teens and twenties. The truth is, we had grown apart in recent years but both of us honoured our past relationship with fondness, gratitude and loyalty. Right in the middle of my huge clearing out of possessions, she passed, creating yet another, necessary adjustment to my surrounding energies. It has been a lot to mull over.

Her influence is everywhere. As I sorted through cupboards and collections, recipes and photos, scarves and books; shadows and highlights merged. They are the fabric of my life, interwoven and unique; containing my first trip outside the USA to Mexico, my first trip to Italy–connecting me with my Italian heritage, my first train ride, tasting my first raw mushroom! How can you forget eating your first raw mushroom?

Melancholy is a key mental state and a valuable one, because it links pain with beauty and wisdom.

So, I have been reflective, sad, grateful…and now, I see…all of that is part of the connection Melancholy provides to other parts of ourselves. I commend to you an article in its entirety on this topic, and hope it may help you, as it did me, understand this part of life a little better. It is comforting to know these feelings are normal, and even desirable, to move us forward and connect us with better understanding. Not to mention beauty.

21 year old me with my Aunt, Rome, 1974

21 year old me with my Aunt, Rome, 1974

just a little detailing…

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Here’s a little known factoid; many years ago I took a course in airbrushing vehicle designs. As in cars and trucks. Yes. I never intended to actually apply the skills to vehicles, it was just the only course available in Darwin when I first moved there 32 years ago. I wanted to develop my airbrush* skills and so I took the course. In those days, airbrushes were still being used in design and advertising, now it is all done digitally in computers. I had used it in my University studies but needed to advance my skills and no one locally was doing it, so I was having a ‘go’. That experience and my design background are why I have long appreciated high calibre detailing on vehicles.

Usually one is not in close proximity when seeing the primo examples. Driving down the highway is not the best way to get good photos–distracting for everyone involved. So when I looked up, I could hardly believe there was a very special tractor (Big Rig) parked on the side of the road near the walking path in front of me. Approaching from behind, what I first noticed was the Australian Military insignia. This being the 100th year of Australia’s entry into the First World War, there have been numerous special observances and I’ve seen it often.

three-dog-train

Three dog train traveling through Alice Springs                

The closer I got to the Rig the more fantastic I could see the detailing was. I hasten to add, I don’t believe the design was applied with airbrush, I’m certain it was decal, but it was still spectacular. There were a lot of cars whizzing past, wondering what I was so busy photographing, and then they would see the Rig and slow down to get a better look. It was a dead set traffic stopper. I can only imagine what it would look like with three dogs (trailers) behind!

Back of cab with Military Insignia

Back of cab with Military Insignia

The name ‘Bill Braitiling’ was painted in the design, so I Googled it–as you do these days. Bill was born in Alice Springs and joined the 2nd Light Horse Regiment at the age of 28 in 1915. Fortunately he lived beyond the war and died in Alice Springs at Mt Doreen Station in 1959. The Rig is obviously in his memory and the memory of others in that war.

Detailing is an art form added to street art, murals and tattoos which reflect our culture and give us pause for thought. Enjoy the gallery. (as usual, if you click on the photos you can see them enlarged, and scrolling over them in the gallery you will see the captions)

*(an airbrush was a small pen-like device with a paint pot attached and compressed air was fed through with the ink/paint to create shading and layers of paints and shapes)

the yellow challenge

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Along the way of my ‘365 photo challenge’ I have done a couple of sub-challenges. It helps me keep perspective, otherwise I wander along the same walks and routines and the ideas could get stale.

the photographer and her tool

the photographer and her tool (perhaps the ‘tool’ and her photo??)

The first sub-challenge was to take 3 photos over three days that I could post ‘straight out of the camera’, that is no edits at all, only cropping–because Instagram primarily uses square format photos. I’m sorry if this disappoints all my peeps out there, but I DO edit the majority of my photos. A photo seldom looks like what the eye has seen, so I endeavour to recreate my memory of the subject/scene—what excited me about it in the first place, and usually that takes editing. Occasionally I take a photo, maybe once a week, that I feel meets my objectives and so I post it ‘as is’. The #sooc (straight out of the camera) challenge went well. Magic happened and I was able to do 3 photos, three days in a row, that I honestly felt needed no editing. Whew.

So, recently I accepted another challenge, the ‘yellow challenge’. This one, for five days in a row, is to take a photo of something yellow or with yellow as a major component. The morning the invitation came through to me, it happened that my photo of the day had been a stunning one, of a yellow leaf. So I took this as encouragement to accept the invitation for four more days. No pressure.

Nanook of the South

Nanook of the South

Day two was exceptionally windy…Nanook-of-the-North windy. It was also cloudy and I took a beautiful photo of the subdued hues of clouds in early morning, but no yellow. I turned right to continue my walk–still with the yellow challenge in my mind. My eyes fell on flowers and leaves and bits of yellow rubbish, but nothing I hadn’t recently photographed or that seemed worthy.macdonnell-ranges-australia

And then…

galah-feather-pink

pink galah feather

Caught in the grass was a tiny feather, white of fluff and yellow of tip. It was the rarest of the rare. I see feathers of many colours on my walks, and have photographed a few—pink, green, blue, grey, black and white. But never have I seen a yellow one. It was my little bit of magic for the day, for the challenge, for ME.

Despite the strong winds the grass was holding it securely. Carefully I bent down and plucked it from its lodging and placed it in my pocket. For the remainder of the walk, I smiled the smile of the cat who ate the cream. Arriving home I unloaded my pockets—key, used tissue, glasses, iPhone, macro lens and yellow feather.

Aaaaarrgghh, WHERE WAS MY FEATHER?

It was as gone as yesterday’s lunch. Gone. I turned pockets inside out, unravelled the snotty tissue—at least three times. It was nowhere to be found.

It was my treasure. My beautiful little bit of magic and I had let it slip through my fingers–probably quite literally. Despite all logic to the contrary, I decided to go look for it, IN THE ROARING WINDS. Silly girl. You will never find it. But I believe in magic, so I looked. I walked up the street and beyond where I had found it, searching in the grass, along the roadside, everywhere. Notta. I was so sad I nearly cried. How could this magic thing have happened and then it was as if it hadn’t? Why? I suspected when I could answer that question, the real magic would happen.

Fast forward 24 hours…

Every so often my mornings are turned upside down like a snow dome and I have to rearrange the timings of coffee, breakfast, and walking to accommodate some unusual errand or event. This was one of those mornings. The walk came at the end of all the other things, including a trip to the grocery. The fact that the wind was once again blowing a gale straight from the Antarctic was just like a layer of Vegemite on top of a cake. Not that great.

It was very hard to take photos when the branches were swaying wildly and at times, gusting so hard it threw me off balance. Thank goodness for warm houses on cold, blustery days, I thought. Photos are very much a by-product of my walks. I walk because it is good for my back and heart, but most especially for my mind. It is moving meditation for me. Though it was late-ish and the sun was getting high in the sky, I set out, perhaps to take a photo or two. Too much overhead light makes for bleached out colours in photos, but I am ever hopeful.

I was wearing sunglasses, which generally I find a nuisance when photographing, but otherwise the light was so bright I couldn’t really look around to see things, including approaching bicycles and vehicles! Bracing myself against the wind I walked down our street, analysing the patches of shifting light and possible subjects to photograph. And then for reasons I have no idea about I glanced to my right, in the grass. There. It. Was. Yellow of tip and white of fluff. I was stunned. I held my breath and slowly reached down to release it from the grass. This time I took nothing for granted. I deliberately held tightly to it, and did not look away until it was safely in my pocket. Deep down in my pocket. For certain.

For the rest of the walk I was cautiously jubilant, and truthfully wondering if I was asleep and dreaming I had found the feather again. What if it had been another mistake, and was not real? Occasionally, and carefully, I stopped and peered down into my pocket, the way a small child does when they are carrying a treasure in their tiny cupped hands. Is it still there? Yes, still there.

Arriving home, I repeated my daily ritual of unloading things from my pockets. Finally, I looked for the feather. It was nestled deep down into the farthest corner of my pocket and waiting for me saying…

have hope, patience, and perseverance;

all things are possible, in their own time.

feather-yellow-white

yellow of tip, white of fluff

The gallery of photos from my yellow challenge:

(Posted on the occasion of my 62nd birthday. It’s good to be alive. Thank you for reading.)

when things come together…

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No one asks me how my 365 photo challenge is going. I think they are afraid I will have to tell them ‘I’ve failed’. There is no failure in such things, there is only learning. If I never learn another thing, these 128 days of taking a new photo every day, will have been worth it. SO…if you are wondering how my 365 Photo Challenge is progressing, here is an update…

Sunrise is over an hour and half later now than it was when I started my challenge. That means my morning walks are later, otherwise there is not enough light to capture my subjects. And light is everything with photography.

There are problems with walking later. I intersect with people doing other things, like playing golf on the course that is my backyard, and where I take most of my walks! It also disrupts my comfortable morning routine. Things are all topsy-turvy now.

It is a confluence of activities, re-creating the flow of my life.

Yesterday morning, in order to avoid the golfers, I left the house too early. The sun was not high enough to light the things I wanted to photograph. So I walked farther, to take up some time. This brought me to the Todd River. It lay in its usual state of benign desiccation, still waters running deeply beneath. Nevertheless, there was something pulling me into the riverbed.

dry-todd-river

Dramatic sunlight and shadows.

I realised the siren song was the dramatic light and shadows. They created a different Todd River than the one I showed you a few months ago, at the beginning of my photographic challenge. It was confluence of a different kind, the two sides of the personality of the Todd.

(If you move your cursor over the photo gallery, you will see the captions revealed at the bottom of each photo. If you click on the photo you can see it full size)

The discarded.

Hidden danger.

The everyday.

And the extraordinary.

The photo challenge is…challenging. Most days it requires at least an hour of my time, some days more. It’s a bit like ‘home schooling’ myself. I am learning new methods of editing, and practicing basic photographic skills as well as developing my eye. I have discovered a new application called Steller (click to see some of my stories), that allows a person to publish photographic stories. (I haven’t been able to figure out how to get it to show as a ‘widget’ on my blog, but stay tuned!)

After 23 years, I have also fallen in love, all over again, with the place that I live. The more I photograph, the more I see. Also, the additional walking and climbing, to chase the light, has forced me to become more fit (seriously)–and that is no bad thing!

Contributing influences—confluence–where things meet. If a person’s life isn’t this, I don’t know what is.

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