Winter is settling in and so my consumption of hot chocolate commences. As I hold a warm mug in my hands, my thoughts return to a blissful autumn afternoon dodging rain clouds as we walked this iconic coastline. The floating, taunting blue front was heading our way and yet I was optimistic. It was well placed, for we had a picturesque walk to Bronte before the torrent swept in behind us. We took cover and enjoyed a tasty meal in a beachside cafe before enjoying a brisk and chilly walk back to Bondi.
garlic – feijoas – heirloom tomatoes
I have always had a healthy relationship with food and was raised on good, simple meals that provided sustenance and energy for an active and studious childhood. But that relationship has started firing on all cylinders since my elimination diet last year after which I became gluten-free. The appreciation is becoming a passion, defining moments in our travels, an expansion of our tastebuds and knowledge, and a let’s-get-even-healthier crusade.
The benefits and satisfaction of mostly homemade meals, seasonal produce and quality animal products are even more in focus as I expand my skills, confidence and knowledge in the kitchen. I wish I could bottle and share the inspiration and gratitude I feel from my weekly market visit – sometimes I want to hug the farmer when I excitedly discover what leafy greens he has that day. When another farmer hands me change with dirt under their fingernails and says “these were picked yesterday” or offers a cooking tip, I am so grateful to the local families who bring us this nutrition.
Together my husband and I absorb tv shows and documentaries and attend interesting lectures and cookbook launches. My own explorations include books and blogs which we then discuss over dinner or on our walks. I’m not one for blindly (ha!) following trends so together we determine where we stand on food issues in a way that works for us. It’s a big study and I often remind myself not to be overwhelmed by information, (and misinformation) or conflicting ideas. I think it’s really important to walk away from information gathering if it gets too stressful and to never forget common sense or just listening to one’s body. Stress will undo the goodness of the best of food. Currently I’m focused on tuning into the rhythms of seasonal plant foods. I’m buzzing with excitement at this deepening relationship.
Rick Stein – tv – Food Heroes & Spain
Fox’s Lane – blog – beautiful photos & seasonal farm living, Australia
How is your relationship with food or cooking? Do you also determine your own food practices amongst all the information/misinformation/trends? Have you come across any great books, shows or documentaries lately?
We all travelled from around Australia and the world to enjoy some quality time at the beach house. Dolphins playing, rolling clouds changing the light, some friends surfing. Giggles, Mexican food and Tim Tam slamming for dinner. At the wedding that brought us all together, we cheered on a quiet man making the longest, loved-up speech of his life to his beautiful lady. Such a precious few days with awesome people.
I haven’t taken any photos of my recent Donna Hay creations.
It’s been all about the cooking and eating.
Please accept this sexy, curvy eggplant by way of visual pleasure and apology.
I suspect there will be a home run of desserts only at the end! I’m making them mostly at half quantities (such a health conscious goody two shoes).
I’m enjoying the challenge and home cooked health so much that we’ve gone from eating out 4 times a week to 1-2 times a week.
I substitute fresh produce based on seasonal availability or gluten-free alternatives.
A nutritionist friend doesn’t like that the styling can include different foods or methods of cooking that creates an unrealistic expectation. Apparently Donna Hay is a food stylist by profession…
Which means she has recipe creators and yet I still refer to things as “Donna uses this… Donna seems to like that…” It feels a little Julie & Julia.:)
Some of the recipes are not filling enough for us and I double salad or vegetable quantities. Plus, I like leftovers for an easy lunch the next day.
There are a few recipes I won’t be making again – I’ll give the final totals when I’m finished.
I hit my chicken-overload levels a week ago and needed a break! There definitely seems to be a focus on chicken above other animal meats.
I don’t like using too many bottled sauces, so lately I’ve been finding alternatives. For example, instead of a jar of curry paste, I used dried herbs and spices with some oil.
113 recipes completed, 50 to go!
*photo of me holding leaves by my husband.
We took a little road trip to seek out red, orange and yellow cloaked trees. I love manicured green spaces where I can roam more freely without too many dangerous obstacles – a cute wide brim hat and sunglasses protect my eyes from the odd branch I accidentally end up dancing with . The fresh chill in the air, my husband by my side, photo inspiration, a picnic bag in the car, some roadside stalls, garden strolling and a hot chocolate equals a good day. My friends, I thought of you as I made a leaf bouquet, I hope you like it!
Dogs with great facial expressions. Falling leaves & old buildings. Autumn blooms.
There has been much goodness this autumn. Social gatherings, a flower party, exercise classes, book launches, a workshop & an urban food talk. Long walks. Warm drinks. Seasonal & local produce. We went on another romantic road trip – stunning autumn colours to share with you soon!
New season brussels sprouts that were scrumptious pan fried with butter, garlic, oregano, cream and lemon juice mixed with gluten free pasta and topped with grilled pancetta and parmesan. My mother-in-law gave me this old copper pan and an electric copper kettle (they originally belonged to her parents!) and they are now happy on our shelves as a sign of food love and family history. And they’re not to be thrown out in any minimalist declutter sessions. +++ Sometimes I turn a weekend breakfast into a proper date at our outside table and then lure my husband out of bed with it! It’s a great way to treat him after a big week at work. Bacon oven baked in maple syrup, eggs, rocket and avocado with locally made onion relish, espresso for him, and water served in my much-loved teeny tiny French Duralex glasses. +++ A morning tea break for one with my homemade carrot & coconut muffin and Byron Bay Tea Company earl grey. The Fog Linen wood tea scoop is from Mr Kitly. Funny story, I originally transferred the tea to a nice jar that I had forgotten to sterilise so it now has a caramelised onion relish scent to it, oops!
Do you ever think about where you learned about love? When I met my husband almost 9 years ago, my life lessons on relationships became so starkly clear. Until I met him, my longest, closest relationship with a male was with my grandfather whom my mum and I also shared a home with for 6 years. I have the fondest memories of searching through his National Geographic magazines for school assignments, finding him in his rocking chair half-asleep stroking my cat, the clicking of his typewriter, his granny smith apple at every lunch, picking me up from after school sport, trips to the library together to get piles of books, buying me my first computer and insisting I learn to type properly before doing anything else on it (a lifetime skill, thanks Gramps), reminding me not to have long showers and to eat all my food for there are starving children in Africa. He is a strong male influence on my childhood and I’m forever grateful for his never ending support of me and my endeavours. He has been a rock throughout our lives. But he was never an openly emotional man – his difficult childhood left him unable to express himself about matters of the heart or to relax into physical contact. Over the past 8 years he has blossomed and now reaches for cuddles and it aches in my heart with joy to see him grow like this as a person.
When I met my husband and became a part of his family instantly, for the first time I was able to view a husband and wife relationship up close – that of my in-laws. It is probably no coincidence that one of my favourite things is to see a man show affection to his lady and see the long-term commitment. Every time I see my father-in-law touch my mother-in-law I smile to myself. The same warmth fills me when I see my mum and her husband hug. In my own husband I found someone who adores me totally and openly too, and my insecurities about a man not really ever loving me fell away. As we started our life journey together I realised something that reminded me of the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” (first published circa 1988 and indeed a copy was in our home at one point)…
It was my adorable mum that taught me much about a functional, strong, affectionate and honest relationship – total unconditional love, compromise, treating each other as equals, working hard on oneself and the relationship, open communication, sharing the load and swapping roles to nurture the other, laughter and taking it all on together. Those beautiful life lessons and hearing the words “love you” said to me each day, and indeed saying them wholeheartedly back, have carried into my role as a partner – my husband and I are a formidable team applying those very things and learning even more about love and marriage together.
I’m incredibly, ridiculously, to the moon and back, grateful for the constant presence of these people in my life who love me and allow me to love them completely and utterly too. My mum says that from before I could talk I was a deep lover and carer. I’m honoured to share that with my closest ones. When I love, I really love.
Do you ever think about where you learned about love?
And mama? Happy mother’s day. We’re going to have a lovely day! I love you truckloads.
This year we’re enacting a goal to get closer to some food sources to understand and appreciate them more. It was a lovely date as we talked, planned and dreamed on the road trip, listened to music, ate apple pie, played card games over lunch, watched llamas play in a paddock and walked the orchard beside some resident kangaroos. I wore white jeans which thankfully didn’t turn out to be a bad decision! We also came home with 10kg of carrots which has meant a subsequent apple and carrot cook-a-thon has been underway the past two weeks!
note: photo of me holding apple taken by my husband
me holding the light in my hand and heart, California 2010
A fragile day is the term my husband uses when my eyes are particularly sore, I’m tired or just a little emotional. I like it. It’s a delicate phrase full of love, acceptance and understanding. I don’t cry very often (not even when I got diagnosed) – I focus on the positive, love my life, practise gratitude, appreciate the small things, maintain perspective, look after myself more, have a small but awesome call-anytime-do-anything support network, and soldier on with the challenges. But a few times a year those hurdles wear me down to tears and sobs. Fears that I face everyday suddenly pop up starkly clear and I realise the daily stresses I cope with quietly. My mum says that I’ve always been a strong, self-empowered, silent type who nuts things out internally. But I have definitely adjusted to sharing more, but still many people would never know the extent of my challenges, physically and emotionally. However, sometimes recognising stresses related to my degenerating conditions is a slowly emerging surprise even to me, such is my focus on living and loving life.
When the realisation arises it can hit hard sometimes as I embark on another period of adjustment and grief, such is the nature of an ever changing, unpredictable condition. A week of bright sunny days, lots of eye pain and headaches, along with searching for a new fridge and couch was the final straw this time. My environment is so important to me that buying such things comes with many stipulations on colour, size and design – I do not enjoy shopping for them! The long bright days now take their toll on my eyes given the sensitivity to light that has developed these past few years. Recently I wondered if it was my mind playing tricks on me but I have learned it is a normal progression of the retinitis pigmentosa part of my conditions. This information brings both relief and sadness. The pain I experience is intense and draining and quite hard to avoid when one lives in “a sunburnt country”! While I try to adjust my schedule as much as possible around light, I’m aware of not allowing my life to be totally controlled by it. But it is a hard, constantly shifting, sometimes elusive, balancing act.
After being diagnosed at age 19, my mum sadly but aptly described me as having become a “clock watcher”, the result of knowing I lose independence at night time when my vision is at its worst. Now nearly 32, I see that I watch for the light in different ways – I seek out early morning and late afternoon walks with filtered light, winter days with less harsh daylight hours, surroundings with the shadows of trees and buildings, cafe seats with the lights behind me, and even night time walks with my husband and dog with whom I now enjoy the mystery of the darkness in albeit familiar surroundings. I am drawn to a mild light, cloudy days make me ridiculously cheerful and I dream of where we could move to that has mostly this weather (any suggestions?!?).
In these moments of tears with my husband’s arms around me, I feel a flash of fear for my future struggles that I simply don’t entertain most of the time. I worry that my positive attitude and health-focus won’t have any affect on the damage that will continue to come. An old insecurity pokes its head up for just a brief second and has me asking my husband if he really wants to be in for the long haul – which of course he does, because (choking up again) gosh that man loves me so much, as I do him. I can’t imagine a better partner in life to hold my hand as I tackle this.
As the tears dry on my cheeks and my eyes beg for the moisture to come back, my thoughts switch to how much I still do now. I take photos that give joy, I constantly improve my cooking skills and nourish us with good food, I walk everywhere, I help with events and small businesses, I am honest, I laugh, I respect, I love and I wholeheartedly appreciate the lessons that my challenges give me. I also recently received the loveliest email from a blog friend who shared how much my words on here meant to her as she faced a difficult realisation in her own life – to think that these words might be helping others means so much to me. I pat myself on the back (not often enough) for being resilient, never losing perspective, and allow myself this extra fragile period. I forgive myself these rare times of overwhelm, fear, pain and grief, because damn it, I am not succumbing to self pity, being defeated or victimised by this. It’s ok for the tears to come. And even then I know that I will get up again and embrace this with everything I have. I’m not letting all the greatness I am blessed to have in my life slip by unheard or unseen, even if it’s not in the literal sense. The blessings are noticed and appreciated.
The thing I struggle with in this cookbook challenge is the number of desserts I have to make!! I grew up in a household where dessert was a treat – I never felt deprived, I loved my childhood food. However I do remember when a friend carried the tin of Milo from her house and we tucked into it as she lamented our boring pantry! As an adult my own trends in the kitchen have followed this line. I don’t make a habit of keeping sweets in stock and bake only a handful of times a year (remember the imperfect but delicious macarons I made?).
Consequently there is much I don’t know about making desserts. For Donna Hay’s Deconstructed Tiramisu, I learnt that she means brewed coffee into the saucepan with sugar, not coffee granules – I got the giggles over that mistake! I also discovered that one should allow mascarpone to warm to room temperature before whipping with the cream. After those little mishaps I tried again and thankfully still had a dessert to serve my mum, stepdad and in-laws who came for dinner. Mmmm yum was the all-round consensus. Phew!
- Making smoothies in my 15 year old blender that I cheer on each time.
- My diary with meetings, pop up events, dinners and projects marked.
- Scrumptious farmers market produce & basil from my mum’s garden.
- Writing cards to friends for just because moments & special occasions.
- Participating in inspiring urban initiatives.
- Long walks in the cooler autumn mornings, yay!
- New sheets in a colour called storm = cosy.
- Beautiful girlfriends.
- Shared jokes with my mum.
- Our first olive oil tasting session.
- Fresh breezes through the window.
- A girl’s date to the theatre.
- Scheduled rest times, always.
- Home cooked meals & watching food & travel shows with my husband. Quiet night bliss.
Autumn you are energising and inspiring, welcome back.
What’s been making you happy and thankful lately, my friends?
My mum and I have always been very close and the best of friends. We aim for a date together once a week, whether it’s breakfast at a cafe, a movie, shopping for a new pair of shoes, doing errands or even just necessary paperwork. On this day we visited an open garden so I could take photos and she could acquire inspiration for her own garden. Then she took me to a lovely French-farmhouse-inspired cafe/store where I picked up a couple of goodies for the kitchen and refuelled with simple, homemade fare. We then went to a second hand store, the first time in a couple of years for me – I didn’t find anything but mum picked up a gorgeous vintage wood-handle egg beater that just might need to be a photo prop in future! Another lovely date, mum. Love you.
Do you have any regular dates with a loved one?
Some older friends with no children told us that when some people have kids you don’t see them much for years. After that some relationships will return as strong as ever and others will have run their course. I wrote about everyone else having babies last year and I really appreciated your thoughts.
After leaving this beautiful backyard picnic party for a cute boy in our life, I happily realised I didn’t feel unsettled by it as some baby-focused events can do to me. Partly because these friends still actively include us child-free couples in their lives (made easier by their son’s relaxed personality too). As time goes by I’m also more comfortable with these changes in some of our social circles – physically with my vision coping with moving toddlers and fragile babies, and emotionally. There is still a grieving process even when a conscious decision has been made to go against the grain. We know we’re on our own path and doing what’s right for us, with the support and understanding of our families and a four-legged one to adore. It’s life that we may lose some friends no matter how hard we try to maintain them and I have to stop taking those relationship-fizzles personally. In the meantime, we are learning how to be an awesome “Auntie” and “Uncle” to those adored children who are in our life.
My husband is great for talking all things science, dinosaurs, space etc. I am very good for cuddles.
Housekeeping: Google Reader is being closed down. If you use this service, you will need to find an alternative one for keeping up with blogs. I don’t know enough to recommend any, but this article might help you.
On our final morning on the farm I was ridiculously bouncy when I looked out the window and saw fog (I’m a known morning person who is annoyingly cheerful anyway, hee hee). Gumboots on, a dog by my side, camera in hand, I strolled the property talking to the cows and horses and admiring the beauty of the misty landscape and perfectly placed, photogenic trees. While I’m a city dweller and lover, starting each morning with a walk around the farm taking photos and throwing sticks for the border collie who accompanied me, was a treat.