Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The BIG Four-Oh!!!!!!

On Sunday I celebrate my 40th birthday.

Alot is made of this's significant in the scheme of our lives.

Most of us celebrate this one in a big way.  We think about it as a BIG milestone.

I have been too.....thinking about it that is.  Kind of thinking about it's significance.

What does it mean to me particularly?

Well I'm not sure that I have figured that one out yet but I have been thinking about my life and the bits of it that have been and are significant to me today.  I won't be able to mention everything here but I intend to mention a few.......

When I was 1 ( my eldest brother was 8 and there were 3 others in between!) my mum & dad borrowed money for a one way fare (by boat!!!) to Europe.  They bought a camping trailer & a Citroen DS station wagon like just like this one:

images courtesy of

.......and we lived in the camping trailer for two years travelling around Europe.  The longest portion of that time was spent in Sweden- where I developed my ongoing obsession with CLOGS and many other things Swedish.

Here is a pic of me and my siblings when we were back in Oz.........I'd be the one with the clogs on at the front!  Aaaaah the fashion of the 70's......rick rack, flares and zip up jumpsuits....what's not to LOVE?!

I still have the clogs in that amazing photo.....and about 5 other pairs that fit me now.  Much like I start the day with a bowl of coffee- I HAVE to end the day with my clogs on, even if it is just for  a little while.  If I haven't been wearing them during the day I have to slip into them for the last bit of the day.  Clog therapy.

I have no doubt that this European trip has had an enormous influence on me and my siblings in so many ways.  Literally opening up the world for all of us.  Cuisine, culture, music, language- how lucky we are to have had that.

Our family lived in a camping trailer very similar to one that I managed to find through the trading post.  The Europeans know how to camp in style!  While our Aussie style campers are decked out in SUPER heavy canvas- the euro's are lightweight with lots of windows for air and light.
Mine is a Dutch camper from the 70's that has all the original trim throughout. Magnificent.
My siblings & I have all grown up loving camping , my children LOVE it too.

Here it is.

Inside it is like the "tardis" from Dr. Who.  There are 2 double beds and a zip on annexe that we call the "extension".  It even has a kitchen with sink!  Me & Hubby sleep in one double bed, the middle two sleep across the other and we set up a camping bunk for the big two and the porta-cot for bubba. PERFECT!  In fact PURE LUXURY!

I love CAMPING- it is one of the few things as a family where you are kind of forced to just be.  We cook yummy food- it's a kind of tradition that we cook a chicken curry the first night and then whatever.......we love our vintage round cast iron"toastie toasties".  You can readily buy square ones at camping stores but the round ones seal the sandwich so much better and they are now very hard to find except at op-shops. 

A "toastie toastie" is a camping version of a toasted sandwich.  All manner of yumminess can go in.  In fact the more strange often the better- its usually last nights dinner with cheese added.  But to make it super delish you have to put a rasher of bacon on the outside so it comes out with all that crunchy pork goodness on the outside. YUM.

Her's my bubby loving the camping trailer.  Checkout the way the beds have their own little 70's chic fabric cocoon for that necessary bit of camping privacy!  Hilarious!

As you already know COFFEE is also very important to me.  Here is my beautiful Atomic coffee machine  that comes camping with us so I don't have to be without.

I fell in love with it probably on that trip to Europe. Mum says I used to love sitting with her and having a coffee with her.  That is where we learnt to drink it from bowls.  The Swedes have their moring coffee in a bowl- a beautiful way to warm your cold hands.  It is still how I prefer to drink my coffee.

My CHILDREN........  Well who could ever be prepared for the heart melting love that you feel for one's children?
I always knew I wanted a large family.  I was lucky to meet my beautiful hubby three weeks after I turned 17 and we had enough time to make our dream together of a big family reality.  

Here are our FIVE beautiful boys- I love to laugh with them, play with them, learn with them, cry with them, cook with them amongst other things.   Most of all I heart-achingly adore them.

My GORGEOUS HUSBAND- here we are on our wedding day.   I couldn't have done any of this without you!  It's been a fun 23 years so far.....looking forward to many many more!

And then there are my beautiful friends who have helped me through good times and bad. Who have sat around my table with me laughing and crying, feasting and drinking- wine and of course COFFEE!

My wish going forward is that I can continue to share my life with interesting people.  Life is about sharing- sharing the good, the bad, the sad, the difficult, the joyous. 

I am lucky to have a beautiful family & amazing friends- old & new- to share life with.  I have a wonderful life and I am thrilled to say I am very happy to be turning 40.  Long may it continue but may I never GROW UP!

I feel like cooking this Hot & Sour beef shin.....a fave from the LONGRAIN cookbook by Martin Boetz.  It is sooooo deluxe and not that tricky.  Just needs a while to develop it's me AGED 40!!!!!!

                         ......sweet ol' life you taste so sweet! 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Today I have had two conversations with people that inspired today's blog post.

One involved a new mumma to a 4 week old bubby.  We were having the conversation about grabbing a moments rest in the busy day of being a mother.  Particularly challenging when your baby doesn't sleep much during the day.  And the other a gorgeous new friend from kinder.  Both conversations brought up the issue of being a good parent and the inevitable comparisons that we tend to make when we look at other parents we meet. 

It took me back to my first baby and how I was so scared to leave the precious bubby for more than 5 minutes to have a shower for fear of somehow neglecting the poor child and damaging his prospects of fulfilling his potential because he was pyschologically damaged from my neglect!   What the?????!!!!!  Clearly sleep deprivation sets the tone for irrational decision making early on in the piece. 

In fact I was reminiscing about how I couldn't stand the crying so much that I would get out of the shower before I had even rinsed the shampoo out and spend the rest of the day with shampoo in my hair!  Looking good!  What was I thinking?  Not alot clearly......

And now five babies down the track...... how do I react to my crying baby?  "Well excuse me bubby but  I need to shower, blow dry and GHD my hair - oh and paint my face- before you can have my attention!"    

...........aaaah but that is where the magic happens......

On my return the bubby has inevitably, magically fallen asleep. 

Some may say (or feel) this is neglect - as I most certainly felt with my first child.  Now I call it reality.  

As parents we give ourselves a hard time about every descision we make. And mothers especially tend to fall into the pattern of thinking of everyone else's needs before ourselves and acting in accordance.  If we think about this just a little bit- it's not a great pattern to be modelling to our children is it?  

It's good to put ourselves first sometimes. 

I am totally guilty of putting myself last pretty much ALL the time.  I am trying ever so hard to put myself first just some of the time. It is not something that comes easily to me at all.  Let's call it a New Years resolution- only it's not new year (although damn it i wish this year was over!) .........and I hope unlike most new years resolutions that this one last a little longer than a couple of days!

What I have gotten better at since I have had more children is letting things go a little.  

Like not running to a crying child at the very first instance.  

Like not succumbing to every single request that every child demands of me for fear that I will somehow damage their prospects for a fulfilled life ahead because they are pyschologically damaged from me saying no to their ridiculous demands for lollies at 8 oclock at night!

Like having weetbix for dinner every now and then so you can have a rest.

Some people have this idea of me being a Supermum.  WRONG!

If being a supermum means having a tidy house, all the laundry done, folded and put away, dinner planned, always in a good mood, never dreaming of another job and never getting frustrated at the kids- then as my kids would say "epic fail"!  

Click here to go to a previous post to get my feelings on all that kind of unhealthy perfection.

I'm so not a Supermum and then some.......I have bad days where the chaos is a little more out of control than others, days when I wish I was skulling vodka at 10am, days where I wish the laundry was under control,  days where I yell at the kids for totally unreasonable reasons......

I have learnt to choose my battles.  My fourth child has been a challenge- all of you that know him understand!  He has basically made it impossible for me to go anywhere except the necessary places.  Wherever we went he would either scream or run away. Delightful.  He has been labelled the human tornado- for obvious reasons.  Sitting still is not in his genetic makeup and for a just turned 4yo he can run like the wind- and usually straight into oncoming traffic.  Awesome- NOT!

I had to decide for my own sanity how to deal with this.  For me it meant basically not going out during the day.  I had to learn that this wasn't a punishment for me being a bad parent but just the best way to deal with a very difficult child.   I just couldn't stand the judgmental glares anymore.  Behind all this difficult behaviour lies one of the most wonderful personalities.  

I learnt to make it work in my favour and to stop giving myself a hard time.  It's just the way it is.  It's ok- as long as I don't compare myself to other people.  That is the tricky part. 

It's normal.  Normal in a healthy way to have a balance of days where we feel ok about things and days where we feel crap about things too.

Let's all give ourselves a break and simplify things a little.  Lower the bar.  My theory is that if I have low expectations I have far fewer failures.  

Sometimes neglecting things a little gives us benefits that we would otherwise not have received.  It's not all bad.

My garden has suffered a whole lot of neglect over winter.   I normally grow a winter vegie crop but other things took priority for me this year and the vegie bed got left to go wild.

Some plants (like children) benefit from being left to their own devices a little.

I planted a solitary horseradish plant just over 2 years ago and it has THRIVED.  I normally harvest quite alot of it after winter to contain it- it notoriously takes over the garden.  

It is a beautiful plant growing enormous green foliage during spring/summer that dies off over winter.  A member of the Brassica group of plants- really probably my favourite veg are in this group- cabbage, mustard, broccoli etc.

When winter ended I was keen to harvest some of the delectable roots to make various horseradish wonders.

Here are the roots after harvest.  

Once they'd had a good scrub I blitzed them and added a little vinegar, vinegar and salt to taste.

The aroma is divine- but be careful not to inhale too's potent stuff!

It looks really pretty........

.......and keeps for months in a jar in the fridge.

Today I added some to Japanese mayo and had it on some toasted sourdough with pork rillettes &  fresh aragula from the garden (another plant that loves a bit of neglect!) It was DIVINE!  Simple delicious food at it's best.  

Next on my to do list is to make up some beetroot and horseradish like I find at my local Russian providore and to make my own pork rillettes- food of the gods!  

I have found this great blog that has a here to take a look!  Tell me that does not look divine!

Mine are via my latest order from the wonderful Bruny Island Cheese company.  Click here to look at their beautiful website. Truly magnifique!

So let's all promise each other to "neglect" a little and practise putting ourselves first for a bit........and see if we survive and thrive a little as a result! 


- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Ol' Faves

Recently as the Aussie dollar has nearly reached parity with the USD I have been having a look on Amazon at cookbooks.

I collect them.  Am a sucker for them.  Can never have enough of them.  LOVE them.  Covet Nigella's collection of them.  Do you get the idea?

Actually I LOVE books in general.  I love the smell of old paperbacks.  I love looking at cover design.  I LOVE reading.  I love buying books for my children who I am happy have ALL caught the reading bug.  I have always dreamed of having an ol' fashioned 'library'- you know one of those dark mysterious rooms with a big comfy chesterfield and a sliding ladder to reach the books high up (actually I need one for the books on the third shelf as I am really short- but anyway.....). 

Anyway I hopped on the interweb as I love to do and was in search in particular for Japanese cookbooks.  I have searched for a long time for a Japanese cookbook that gives me more than Teriyaki recipes.  I have found it impossibly I was excited when I found these.

I did some research and found a couple that I thought would make a good start.  And of course I stumbled upon another book that I HAD to have- you know how much I LOVE dumplings!.

It got me thinking about what my favourite cookbook was.  I don't know that I can answer that as I have phases of cooking.  The weather influences it too.  In winter the old European slow cooked style of cooking takes favour or of course a rich curry.  Whereas in summer more light Asian style food feels more appropriate.

So then my thoughts moved to the most influential cookbooks on my shelf.  The cookbooks that have affected my cooking the most.

I came up with two out of all the hundreds I own.  They were cookbooks that were on my parents cookbook shelf when I was growing up and were the books that I used when I first started cooking 30 years ago.  Copies of both of these cookbooks are on all five of their children's shelves now as adults- as they were also influential to my other siblings.  And now my children are cooking from them also.

It made me smile when I thought of that.!!!  GUILTY YOUR HONOUR

So what are these two cookbooks?

The first is one is Charmaine Solomon's  Complete Asian Cookbook

My copy was given to me by my sister when I moved out of home aged 18.

It contains the first recipe I ever cooked for the family aged 10 which is now a favourite of my children.  Kukul Mas curry.  It is a well loved (read 'well splashed on') page.  This cookbook is still in print after being first published in 1976.  A testament to it's popularity.

The other ol' fave is Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking.  First published in 1969.

It has been out of print for many years but all five children from my family have managed to hunt down copies from far across the globe.  I found mine in a gorgeous second hand book shop in Canberra when I was 19 but it has taken other of my siblings many years to find.

My sister in law recently took hold of a copy for my brother as a birthday present.  She has been waiting two years for a booksearch place to find her a copy.  They went together to collect it.  It was a surprise- he thought he might be going to collect a new industrial coffee machine (my siblings also share my passion for coffee) but was not the least bit disappointed when it was a copy of 'Ada Boni' - as we all refer to it!  It's a very special book.

 It is separated into the regions of Italy and contains very few pictures- and the ones it does have are of that fabulous styling of the era...take a look.   I LOVE!

This was my 'go to' book when Mr.10 bought the tripe from the market. (Click here to go that post.)  I knew it would help us out.  It did & it was delicious.  A reminder that good old fashioned simple cuisine is so often the best!

Do you have any cookbooks that are ol' faves or new faves for that matter or perhaps one that has influenced you?

I would love to hear about them.

And today I share an ol' music fave:

Join me on my journey......

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Lovely Ladies

The last couple of weeks in Melbourne have finally seen the sun come out again after a very cold, very long & very wet winter.

This year for the first time the weather really affected me.  As some of you know our family suffered an enormous tragedy and the winterness hit my heart hard.

I didn't blog, I didn't facebook, I didn't tend my vegie patch and I didn't really have my doors open....well they are always open but there wasn't too much traffic except one very dedicated friend who warmed my heart when I needed it most.  Bless you- you know who you are. 

For the first time I really got to understand the term hibernation.  My mum has referred to me as "B" since I was little - a referral to my childhood nickname of Bunzi & also to being her little Bear.  I certainly lived up the Bear bit this winter.  I'm still a bit growly sometimes.........but on the whole on the mend.

As you may have read in earlier posts,  I am the proud owner of 7 lovely chooks- I refer to them as my "girls" or the "ladies".

I love having chooks.  I grew up in a suburban house with chooks.  We also had pheasants, ducks, quails and for a while some Guinea Fowl too.

I wanted my 5 boys to be able to grow up having chooks too.  Chooks are also the most wonderful pets for young children.

I wanted Bantams.  For those of you who are unfamiliar- full size chickens are actually VERY big.  And for some kids a bit daunting.  They also inflict a bit more substantial damage on the garden than the delicate little feet of Bantams.  Their eggs are also smaller.   We have a mix of Japanese, Silky and Pekin Bantams (the fluff balls in the pics).  I dare you not to love them.

As my kids are quite little I thought they would get more joy from the bantams and that we could get more of them.  The children adore them and are often in the coop sitting with them on their lap.

When friends come over it is such a treat for most of them as few kids of that age get the opportunity to come close- and when they find an egg- the joy is wonderful to watch.

I looked into getting miniature pigs last year too- but decided that I really needed to be living on a farm to give them a good day!   At the moment I just a have a "pretend" farm in suburbia.

Our girls- like me- are also very happy to see the sun come out again after winter.  Chooks also go into a sort of winter hibernation....well they stop laying anyway.

They have started laying again and are the most productive they have ever been- which is lucky as my boys are eating more and more eggs!

Here is a pic of Henny (my favourite- a Japanese Bantam)  laying in unison with Fluffy (a Silky Bantam).

My last post referred to the wonders of Weet-Bix for dinner when us busy parents get a case of "I can't be stuffed-itis".  But I am also a BIG advocate of the 'eggy dinner'.   Both of these options are FABULOUS!  Both very nutrititous and quick.

My now 7yo has been making his own scrambled eggs since he was nearly 4 and my 12yo makes a killer omolette.

Interestingly he went off eating eggs for years but wanted to cook an omelette for my mum.  And after cooking it he had a try and voila he loved it and cooks them regulalry now.  He also cooks PERFECT poached eggs. YUM!

We can easily go through a dozen eggs at breakfast between the 7 of us.  Yes, sometimes we need to buy some to keep up but nothing beats the ones from our own girls!

I also try to grow as much produce as I can.  I am realistic abut this.  I am a ridiculously busy mother of five young boys (who somehow manages to make time to write).

I am very aware of how much work it takes to achieve living sustainably.  What I feel strongly about though is giving my children an awareness and a sensitivity to their world.  An awareness that fruit trees don't produce the peaches we enjoy for a small period in Summer all year long just as the chooks stop laying. 

The fruit & veg have seasons too.  Who knew!   It's a lesson that can be taught in your backyard.  It is certainly not a lesson you can teach at the supermarket where you can buy red tomatoes all year round- ok so they don't have any flavour and apparently they have been bred to have an outer skin of leather- but they are there nonetheless ALL YEAR ROUND!  And we buy them .......hmmmm. 

This winter I just wasn't up to it and so I let the vegie patch go.  It made me sad to see it in decay but I just couldn't do it. 

The spring has arrived and I am feeling renewed.  We are lucky to live on a fairly large block.  We moved here 3 years ago and it was previously owned by the same family since the house was built nearly 100 yrs ago and was largely in original condition.  What that means is that it has lots of outdoor shed type buildings and large areas of lawn.  I was happy with that as I am not into the kind of soul-less order of most renovated homes- suits some doesn't suit me.

We have worked slowly at getting rid the lawn (totally unsustainable- our British ancestry is obviously taking a while to shake off in this regard!) and replacing it with natives, herbs a plenty, vegetables & fruit producing trees.

Down the driveway we have planted a peach, a plum and a nectarine.

 We have blood orange, olives, a lemon & kaffir lime trees in large pots and I have bought some dwarf varieties of peach and nectarine- I have put them in half wine barrels.

Gardening is such a great family activity.  Is there any more joy than feeling mud in your fingers and feeling worms writhe in your palm?

It has helped the kids expand their palate too- they WANT to try the produce they have helped grow.  Some of the kids new faves are beetroot, eggplant (such a pretty plant)  & silverbeet.

We try to buy heirloom seed variteies from the Digger's Club.  If you live in Melbourne you should visit their property at Dromana. Such a  wonderful experience and a great example of how beautiful a vegie patch can be.

I'm going to go all Molly Meldrum on you and tell you to "Do yourself a favour"- go buy a Chook and set up a vegie patch- it will give you and your family untold joy.

Click on these links to read about keeping chooks and buying some fruit & veg:

Join me on my journey.

here's what we are listening to today: