Tag Archives: dinner

Dinner For Four – Milky Lane, Terrigal.

Many moons ago, I used to lament not having that special someone, and being able to go out for that much longed for dinner for two. These days, however, Geoff and I have been married for just over 20 years, and those days are long gone. Indeed, these days a family birthday dinner out is our mission impossible. Traditionally, these have included my Mum and Dad taking the festivities to six. However, thanks to a nasty combination of covid and covid lockdowns, Mum and Dad are still in isolation and the “kids” wanted to celebrate their birthdays with friends and also have oodles of activities on. This means the family dinner has been hard to squeeze in.

A rather dramatic Door Shot to satisfy door aficionados from Thursday Doors

However, we finally managed to get out to what is most definitely a young person’s hangout, although they didn’t turf us old fogies out. Well, make that one old fogey and one well camouflaged one who apparently lost ten years a week or so go when I got my hair done again.

So, we ended up at Milky Lane in Terrigal. You might recall seeing Terrigal Beach during my recent beach-crawl driving round and round with our daughter who is learning to drive. Milky Lane classes itself as a “burger restaurant”. However, that’s the understatement of the century. McDonald’s is a Burger restaurant and Milky Lane is in a different league. The only trouble I had was trying to ensure I didn’t fill up on my burger, and miss out on dessert. Or, worse still, overeat and make myself dreadfully ill.

The Mister now 18.

Meanwhile, while I throw rapturous praise around the food, the decor was out of this world, and so mind-blowingly atmospheric and a great backdrop for photography, especially if you could find more enthusiastic photo models. People who aren’t more interested in eating their meal (what I came here for) than having their photo taken. I could’ve taken photos for a decade in their especially if I had a revolving cast.

The Miss now 16.

Obviously, the last two years in more on than off lockdown has knocked me about. I’m not what I was. Who is? Two years is too long for anyone to sit still anyway.

Me age unspecified.

Anyway, we had a wonderful night out, and afterwards we crossed the road and walked along the beach a bit.

The moon looks like Saturn speeding past.

There was an almost full moon which was hanging over the beach like a golden beacon. A row of ships waiting to access Newcastle Harbour to the North were lit up in lights, and along the promenade a row of massive Norfolk Island Pines were lit up in lights like Christmas trees, although it’s March. The Rainbow Lorikeets had also congregated in the tree and were conducting a noisy chat. The waves were rolling in, and I could’ve stayed there for hours, but the kids wanted to go home.

Terrigal Beach by Night

So, Happy Birthday Mister and Miss!

Love,

Mum

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st November, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, it feels like I’m needing some kind of snorkel or perhaps a kayak to connect with you through the heavy rain which is besieging us at the moment. I’m not complaining yet, because I’m probably so used to being in lockdown that being indoors due to the rain doesn’t feel like such a big imposition as it used to. I am also older, and finding the comforts of home much more alluring than I used to.

How has your week been?

I hope it’s gone well!

Geoff with his birthday loot including the five free McDonalds apple pies our daughter brought home from work after working the closing shift.

Yesterday, was my husband Geoff’s birthday. We had a very low-key day, after a stressful week and ordered Indian takeaway, rather than braving the crowds and potential covid risk at the restaurant. That, however, meant clearing the kitchen table for us to sit down. OMG!!! That was an effort. I don’t know how things are with your kitchen table. However, ours seems to fill up with all sorts of detritus, which on a good day might be stacked carefully into neat piles in descending height order. However, on an average day, stuff just gets pushed up the other end, and the sedimentary layers buckle to form unstable mountains and inevitable avalanches onto the kitchen floor below. Just to compound the chaos, our cleaner had to stop coming because she hasn’t been vaccinated and they couldn’t provide a replacement. That certainly hasn’t helped.

A miracle- a clear table

Anyway, by the time the takeaway arrived, the table was clear, cloth in place, and table set. What more could he ask for? Presents, of course. Well, I had them sorted too after wrestling with the crappy wrapping paper which wouldn’t allow the sticky tape to stick and so I had to use the stapler in the end. You can just imagine how that turned out. Indeed, it reminds me of when I managed to end up sideways on zoom during the week when the dog pressed a few buttons on the keyboard. Boy, was that humbling. I was asked to mute myself while we went in to watch the video and I had to apologise. Can’t find the mute when I’m stuck sideways like this and the host kindly muted me instead. Welcome to my chaos.

In addition to the chaos, the last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for some people close to me, and I absorbed their tragedy very personally. Indeed, the shock hit my physical body like being rammed by a truck. Since then, a different friend has has a micro-stroke or what is called a TIA, another friend has a tumour in his colon, and another friend who had gone off the grid has resurfaced which brought me absolute joy, although her harrowing tale was very distressing. My husband half-joked to stop answering the phone. I didn’t but Friday was a busy day, and I’m not in the psychology business or a doctor. I’m just garden variety me.

I don’t feel that I’m of an age where your friends start dropping like flies, and I certainly recall my grandparents telling me that all their friends had died, or they were going to funerals all the time, and the reality of that didn’t really sink in back then. However, there is that progression through life…children’s birthday parties, 18ths, 21st’s, weddings, births of kids, for some divorce, and as the zero birthdays start to add up, it’s inevitable that we’ll end up at funerals…the last stop on life’s journey. Not that I intended to get all morbid on you. After all, my friends are doing well. One is recovering and the other off to surgery so nothing too worrying there at this stage. It’s just that all of this has made me think.

flannel flowers

Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep myself on the straight and narrow. That’s involved trying to ensure I get regular exercise, and extricate myself from my writing/research to get outside and absorb the expansive coastal landscape right on my doorstep. I went on a walk to the Mt Ettamalong Lookout. The flannel flowers were still out and waving their pretty faces in the wind while I was there. There was quite a blanket of them, and they just looked magnificent. I continued on to the lookouts, which I found so healing after recent events. I don’t know what it is about looking out over a steep cliff and across the water at an expansive view, but it was absolutely breathtaking.

The view across to Pearl Beach

I also went on another walk at the Mt Penang Gardens up the hill at Kariong. The garden here have quite a mix of native and overseas plants, and so much to scintillate the camera lens (or my phone in this instance). I didn’t come across too many labels identifying the various flowers and so you’ll just have to enjoy their visual appeal without knowing exactly what they are.

Since I missed last week, I’ll also mention that Geoff and I went out for dinner at nearby Terrigal Beach last weekend, while we were taxiing our daughter and her friends around.

Anyway, that about sums things up. How has your week been? I look forward to hearing from you.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Table Talk…Table Done!

“There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

Don’t know how it is round at your place, but getting anything done around here is a very long and winding road that makes mission impossible look quick and easy. So, any successes need to be celebrated with the full brass band out in force and waving the flags. We did it! Yesterday, we finished restoring our new to us but anything but new outdoor table.

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

While restoring the table has been a journey, just getting it here has been a story in itself. My friend Roland found the table “beside the road*”. When I saw it in his lounge room, I was filled with envy. Damn! Why didn’t I find it? Well, to be honest, even if I’d found it, I wouldn’t have been able to shift it unless it was just down the road and the kids actually lifted a finger to help. Geoff, I’m afraid wouldn’t not have aided and abetted bringing any more tables home. We already have enough tables!! However, as it turned out, Roland had second thoughts, and decided it was too big. Before he could offload it to the opportunity shop, I stuck my hand up, and it was all mine. He even stuck a post-it note on it with my name on it. So there could be no challenges to my precious piece of real estate.

There was just one problem.

Well, there was more than one problem.

There usually is around here, which is why getting anything done is such an arduous, circular process.

The Table Arrives in the Dark of Night.

Firstly, the table needed transport, and unfortunately not being related to Enid Blyton’s Magic Wishing Chair, it wasn’t going to sprout wings and magically fly down the mountain to our place. It needed Geoff, and that required more than a confession. Serious negotiation was required. You see, there was already a table and a fish tank out where the intended table was meant to be going. The fish tank has been sitting here waiting to make to next step of it’s future life after it started leaking something like five years ago, and the existing table was falling apart and we’d bought the wood to replace the top. However, nothing had happened and Geoff has been painting the house, replacing the guttering, and anything but idle. I decided that table could go out the back. I didn’t care where the blessed fish tank went as long as it was gone. I didn’t care where the lot went. I wanted my new table out the front so I could have friends over outside once this wretched lockdown eased, and actually start getting social again within the safety of home. After all, we’ve not been in lockdown for 106 days and Monday is Freedom Day. I want to be a part of it.

Sometimes, hints are broad suggestions aren’t enough. Roland was wanting to clear his garage and I desperately wanted to table here, and measuring tape or no measuring tape, Geoff found himself making room for the table, and driving up the hill to pick it up. I don’t play the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” card often, but by now I was in make it happen mode. He had no choice but to capitulate and assist.

“To share a table with someone is to share everything.”
― Paul Krueger, Steel Crow Saga

However, there was just one small complication with the table. It was more of an indoor table than an outdoor table, and aside from needing protection, he top needed sanding. In other words, the table was “a project”. What’s more, the rest of the family was quick to extricate themselves and call it “YOUR project”. Geoff fetched the orbital sander from the garage and with my arms vibrating and my head buzzing, I started rowing backwards and forwards giving my arms quite a workout, which proved quite a shock to the system in itself. Seeing me with a power tool in hand must’ve been like an apparition too. Rowena the Writer is a far cry from Bob the Builder and his mates.

This could be the raised hand of a drowning woman as the sanding continues…

“To gather together around a table – the ultimate symbol of communion – is the only truly authentic way to properly prioritise the ritual of eating.”
― Michelle Ogundehin, Happy Inside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness

After beavering away for a veritable eternity with the orbital sander, the scratches were definitely winning. Moreover, these scratches giving have that worn-in distressed look that people go out of their way to age their furniture. The table looked like the scene of a cat fight with random scratches all over the place, and the annoying perfectionist in me was starting to picture our guests sitting at the table and counting all the scratches and thinking about how awful we were. I did try saying they’d be much more interested in the dessert and conversation, and wouldn’t care but I knew better. I asked Geoff for stronger sandpaper, and at this point he finally realized I wasn’t wanting to do a superficial sand, but more of a reconstructive face lift. I wanted to strip this baby right back to bare wood, even if it meant losing loads of personality. It could regain character in time.

the lingering mystery square, which looks like a UFO flying across one end of the table.

Now, the belt sander came out, and it was incredibly satisfying to see all those scratches evaporate in clouds of dust.

“The oldest form of theater is the dinner table. It’s got five or six people, new show every night, same players. Good ensemble; the people have worked together a lot.”

Michael J. Fox]

“Here’s yet a spot,” she cries, desperately rubbing. “Here’s the small of blood still.”  This spot isn’t going anywhere either.

I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that the table top is oak. It has a beautiful grain, and when I finally came to apply the decking oil, the wood just shone. It looked amazing. Although it was “your project”, Geoff ended up sanding and painting the legs. By then, my arms had had it. I’m much more in favour of teamwork than being a lone ranger – especially when I’m the one needing assistance.

I know you can’t be too demanding about a free table that was left out beside the road, but what possessed someone to sandpaper so ferociously against the grain? Thanks to the belt sander and yours truly, all gone!

The table was finally finished yesterday and moved into position. It looks amazing. I cooked up a big lamb roast with all the trimmings to celebrate last night, but it was cold and dark by the time it was really so we still haven’t christened the table yet. Moreover, I’ve been tapping away in here in my pyjamas with the dog on my lap ignoring the outside world, which is so bright and sunny. Geoff has gone sailing.Our daughter is doing her final dance class in the kitchen and for dinner or worse our world here in Greater Sydney is about to open up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 22nd March, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I’d like to invite you over for a good old fashioned lamb roast along with roast potato, carrot, peas and gravy. It was all rather scrumptious, but I know the fat content isn’t going to do my heartburn any favours. I know I’ll pay for it, but it’s a rare treat. We had Creamed Rice for dessert with plump, fresh raspberries. So, if it wasn’t for the steady, heavy rain and floods throughout NSW, I’d invite you over for dinner. As it stands, I think you’d be better off on bread and dripping where you are.

If you’d like to read more about the NSW floods, you can click here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/22/nsw-flooding-rain-forces-evacuation-of-18000-people-on-mid-north-coast-and-sydneys-west

Has has your week been? Or, the last couple of weeks to be honest? I hope you’re well, and somehow miraculously liberated from Covid, even in your dreams.

We’ve had a busy time here. We celebrated our son’s 17th birthday recently, which was followed by party at our place with about 15-20 friends. The rain came down in the middle of that while I was outside chatting under the shade sail and I got drenched and needed to get changed. All good. I spent much of the night in the kitchen sorting out the food and keeping the party going. I could’ve flown the feminist flag and said I was too good to do the dishes and he could do it himself, but he needed me to do what was needed, and be thinking of him, and not where my own life is heading – or not. (Yet, at the same time, I do feel my kids have reached a “certain age” where they can step up to the plate and pull heir weight, and I’m not spending the rest of my life wiping their backsides. It’s just that his birthday wasn’t the time for that conversation. That said, I’m still waiting…)

Anyway, the party went really well. of course, there was no alcohol, and it was so encouraging to see them all laughing, and making their own entertainment. Our son played some of his old Scouting Gang Show DVDs on the TV. It sounds a bit daggy and rather unconventional, but the songs were excellent and it creative a fun, festive atmosphere while our son strutted around being the Greatest Showman as he acted as MC. Meanwhile, the dogs turned out to be the unexpected stars of the show and I’ sure they thought it was their party. Someone threw Zac a balloon and he bumped it with his nose and that went on for at least 15 minutes with them all standing round him in a circle. Being a bordr collie x kelpie, he has no off-switch and he was just delighted to be the star (especially as his sister Rosie usually shows him up on the ball fetching front).

Meanwhile, I might’ve mentioned that I recently won some recording studio equipment for our son and some studio time with a recording studio professional. Well, the equipment arrived last week. So, that was pretty exciting for him. He’ll be doing the mentorship session after Easter, which is seemingly just around the corner.

My research into Australia’s involvement in WWI continues. I’ve been beavering away trying to get a draft together so I can try to get some grant funding, and get what is turning out to be a series of books together. The trouble is that I keep finding an endless supply of gold nuggets, and the stories and the storytellers just keep on coming. However, I’ve only been hard at it for about 18 months now. So, I can’t expect to cover such a big area and get myself up to speed in the blink of an eyelid.

Since I’ve been doing this research, I’ve also been quite overwhelmed by what I didn’t know, especially as I thought I had a reasonable understanding. However, ignorance is like that. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that’s going to bite you. So, I’m frollicking in all these stories like a pig in mud, but I am drawing up plans and trying to get some scaffolding in place. Get the show on the road.

I guess this all brings me to our pet subject… covid. Being in Australia, you’re probably wondering what I’ve go to be worried about. There’s barely been a case of community transmission in a very long time. However, the reason our transmission has been so low is that we’re vigilant, and we’re not as vigilant as we were, and most of us don’t need to be. However, I do, and it’s much harder when restrictions are tight and we’re all (well, most of us) are doing the right thing. Now, I’m having to excuse myself. I’ve stopped going to physical Church because they’re back to singing against government restrictions and have lodged a complaint about discriminating against Churches with singing restrictions. So, as you can see life gets complicated.

The covid vaccine rollout started here in NSW on the 22nd February for frontline staff and employees of nursing homes and disabled facilities. Today, it was extended to group 1b which is elderly people over 70 along with younger people with chronic health or disabilities. This includes me. The only trouble is finding out where and how I’m going to access it, and this really started to stress me out. We Australians went into battle over toilet paper this time last year, and I dread what it’s like trying to get the vaccine. I was going to try to fight my way through today. However, I was getting so stressed, that I’ve decided to put it off. My GP isn’t currently part of the rollout, which I feel leaves me high and dry. However, local production of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is launching this week and that will push things along a lot I hope. I, no doubt like most of us, just want my life back, and even though I know the vaccine isn’t perfect, it’s better than nothing, and since we’ve had few cases here, we have herd vulnerability.

Well, I’d better call it a night and get to bed.

I hope you and yours are doing well.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…2nd September, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Since this is all about virtual sharing, I can offer you a slice of passion fruit sponge cake with a generous dollop of cream without having to fend you off with my fork. You see, in reality this cake is mine, ALL mine. However, I can be very generous with all of you. Almost all of you are too faraway to collect.

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Passion Fruit Sponge Cake (butter needed to be mixed in better…oops)

Yesterday, it was Father’s Day here in Australia. A day which promises so much, but frequently under delivers. Or, completely contrary to one’s hopes and aspirations is catastrophic. I know we all try to hold back the tide for special occasions, but it isn’t always possible. It is what it is. I explored realities versus expectations in yesterday’s post Not Quite A Perfect Father’s Day

Yesterday, was not only Father’s Day. It was also the first day of Spring…yippee! Sunshine here we come. I have to admit I’m looking forward to warmer weather, especially the in between months of Spring before the place turns into a furnace in Summer. The beach is only down the road as well…heaven on earth.

The last week was rather uninspiring. We had a few days of ferocious rain and wind, which while nothing like the force of Cyclone Dorian which is hitting the US, it was still quite intimidating and made its presence felt. By day, I bunkered down in bed underneath the doona reading Oliver Twist.

Indeed, speaking of Oliver Twist, I finally finished it over the weekend. Have you ever read it? I absolutely loved it. While I read A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities at school, Oliver Twist is the first of Dickens’ novels, I’ve read by choice. I also prefer to read shorter works. So, for me to actually make it through to the end of a 500 page novel, was also a personal triumph. I found myself completely absorbed in the story. Although I know the musical and we actually put it on when I was about 12 at school, I found the novel was in a league of its own. The characters were much richer and complex and the novel is deeply philosophical as Dickens explores the aftermath of the Poor Laws of 1832 and the horrors of the workhouse, child labour and the world of crime. London comes across as a veritable cesspit, a place to escape at all costs. Knowing that Geoff’s family was living through these times in London, further brings Dickens’ stories to life for me.  These weren’t just characters in a novel. These characters represented real people… thousands and thousands of people grappling with extreme poverty and crime as the only way out. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t living through these times.

Oliver_Twist_02

“Please, Sir. Could I have some more?”

Have you read Oliver Twist or any of Dickens other works? Are you a fan? Do you feel Dickens has a place in the modern era or belongs in the past?

The main reason I’ve been reading Dickens is that I’m working on writing a book of short biographical stories about our ancestors and the stories at the beginning are from this era, or even a bit earlier. To really tell a story well, there are so many details to absorb and yet these need to become the wallpaper and not the story itself or you’ll bore your reader to death. To be honest, I thought I’d have got there by now but I still feel like I’m having to process more before I’m quite ready to tell the story right. I’m not sure if this is the perfectionist in me or whether I’m not there yet. However, I’m trying to hang in there.

Meanwhile, my reading has gone off onto a different tangent. I was trying very, very hard to keep walking past our local bookshop Book Bazaar and  yet like a kid being lured into a candy shop, I ducked my head in through the door and spotted John Marsden’s: The Art of Growing Up. John Marsden is a distinguished Australian author of Young Adult fiction and was the founder and principal of two schools. As a writer myself, this had to be my kind of parenting book, although he’s quite hard-hitting and certainly not into free-range parenting by feel. Probably a good thing really. Anyway, thought I’d share a quote with you…

When I hear parents say ‘I want my children to enjoy their childhood; there’ll be time when they’re older to learn about those things’, I hear the voices of those who are scared of the vastness of the universe. These adults have a view of childhood as some kind of discrete interval, rather than just a few years from the continuum of life. How fortunate that the spirit, courage and curiosity of many young people remain largely undefeated by such adults.

-John Marsden, The Art of Growing Up

So, you could say that last week was book week.

In terms of blogging, I’ve done the following posts:

On The Run…Friday Fictioneers

A Festival of Red Doors…Friday Fictioneers

Hey, just when I thought I hadn’t done anything very exciting, I forgot that I revisited Heidelberg, Germany where I lived for six months back in 1992 when I was 22 years old. I had the time of my life there and made some life-long friends. We recently got a few crate loads of photos out of the shed, which included a second photo album of overseas photos. There was Heidelberg again. How beautiful. I showed the photos to my daughter and she asked why I came back. I must admit, I was wondering myself for quite a few years. Anyway, I ended up revisiting Heidelberg via Youtube. It was amazing. Here’s the link: Heidelberg Tour

So last week wasn’t quite so uneventful after all. How was your week? I look forward to hearing from you.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Madame Cuisinier – Friday Fictioneers.

It wasn’t a case of who done it. Rather, it was just a question of whether Madame Cuisinier knew that migratory quail were toxic, and would kill her husband.

Of course, nobody wanted to believe, that a Great Grandmother could kill her husband.  Married for over 60 years, they’d been born in Paris during the Occupation. Why not get a divorce? Why go to all the trouble of catching and preparing the quail and concocting that wonderfully fragrant yellow sauce, m’qalli, just to poison him? Why not feed him cake?

Madame Cuisinier wondered why she couldn’t follow through with their plan. Why she couldn’t eat the dish. It would’ve been the perfect end.

…..

My apologies for going a bit over this week, but I couldn’t work out how to shortened this complex tale. I’ve been watching Masterchef lately and couldn’t by-pass a food reference.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields  PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share 30th July, 2017.

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share!

It’s my birthday today. So, come along and join me. We can grab a huge chunk of sludgy chocolate cake with our coffee and swing from the chandeleir, until the whole  darn thing rips out of the ceiling. I might just leave out the bit about us falling to our doom.

I cherish each and every birthday and am grateful to be getting older…most of the time. I’ve never looked in the mirror and seen the wrinkles. However, I must confess that I’m profoundly short-sighted and as time’s gone by, I’m near sighted as well. So, I’d be lucky to see a fault line on my face, let alone a wrinkle without my glasses.

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Birthday Breakfast.

Anyway, we’ve had a fantastic day. It started out with a sleep-in. Our daughter made me a cheese and salami omelette, which she cooked up in heart-shaped silicone moulds. It really touched my heart.

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Mother and Son.

Not to be outdone by his sister, our son made pancakes for lunch and effortlessly flipped it. The smile on his face from pulling this off was priceless. He was stoked. I spent much of the day in my PJs, which I feel is the perfect birthday attire, especially for the middle of Winter. Then, we were ferrying our daughter to and from a last dance class before her exam tomorrow. She was be sitting for the RAD Grade 4 Class Award.

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Next, we were off for dinner with my parents at theThe Coast Bar & Restaurant, located on the Gosford Waterfront. I ordered a Pina Colada by some other name and shared a seafood platter. I wasn’t too sure about whether I would like the oysters. I’ve never been a huge fan. However, your tastes mature. So I thought I’d give them a try. I loved them. My mother has always been a huge lover of oysters and she’s always said that they taste like the sea. This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters where I’ve got that. They had that flavour of the sea and then, it suddenly intensified. Boom! They also had some charcoal coated prawns which were very crunchy and yum. Oops! I almost forgot to mention the lobster mornay. unfortunately, there was so much to enjoy and limited capacity.

Greed is good

Glasses? This might come as a surprise to you, but I always wear glasses but almost always take them off for photos. This is how I see myself. However, Geoff and the kids see me like this and think I look weird without them. Geoff actually likes to catch me with the glasses on. My shameful secret. 

For dessert, I had the cheese cake with salted caramel and chocolate ganache. That was so smooth and the presentation was incredibly artistic with a wave of caramel poised in suspended animation just asking to be photographed. Naturally, we had my camera there and that was more fun capturing those priceless memories of the family, and exploring some creative, photographic options.

Rewinding now to the rest of the week…

Yesterday, I went to an all-day drug and alcohol seminar at the local community centre. While this was geared towards people caring for someone living with drug and alcohol addiction (which I am not), it was also providing information on drugs and I thought my husband and I need to be more clued up. However, I not only learned so much about drug addiction, but I also learned some new strategies for getting through traumatic and conflicted family situations. So, it was really worthwhile.

During the week, my parenting skills were sorely challenged yet again when I caught our dog skyping the Queensland Governor’s do, Gavel from MY laptop at 2.00 AM. She gave me a bit of a woman-to-woman glance and crooned: “There’s nothing like a dog in uniform!” Turns out Gavel was training to become a Police dog. However, after being snubbed for being  “too friendly”, the Governor kept him on and he’s now been recruited as the Vice-Regal Dog. Well, thinking of herself as a real blue-blood, Lady’s fallen deep for Gavel. Or, was it all that bling on his coat and connections with the Royal Corgis.

Of course, I  snatched back my laptop and it’s now being stored in our room overnight.

However, my close friend who also has the rabbits and chickens which were of great interest to Lady, will be driving to Queensland this week. With a carload of kids all running helter skelter, I can just picture this sneaky little black dog who’s colouring enables to move with great stealth. She can’t chase a ball, but she can hunt AND she can hide.

You can read about Lady’s love life here: Love Is A Dog In Uniform. 

Rowena Backpacking

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again this week. This week’s effort was inspired by my trip to Europe in 1992. A week after I’d left, I’d had wallet stolen, I’d lost my passport and I was missing a love interest back home in Australia, and I burst into tears as I was locking my backpack in a locker and wanted to go home. I found a telephone booth and phoned the bloke back home. I still remember standing there feeding that handful of coins into the phone with such desperation. I’d fallen apart on the other side of the world, where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. That thought didn’t hit me at the time. However, in hindsight it does. That utter dislocation from everyone and everything you know. Back then, it wasn’t like now where you can leave home without leaving home and Skype people. You also have email, Facebook. Travel just isn’t travel anymore. You’re still attached to the umbillical cord. Not doing it tough. You can read my flash Here

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Well, that just about covers it. Can’t remember the rest. So, it must’ve been good.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster Blog.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

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Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.

Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Weekend Coffee Share 4th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m offering you something a little different…pumpkin soup. Perhaps, this might’ve been healthy once upon a time. However, I’ve ramped it up tonight  with a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of home-made croutons. I don’t know what it is about this recipe. However, it’s the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. I always make it using butternut pumpkin, but it seems to have a special something. Could it be love?

Hope you like the photo I snuck in of the kids eating their Pumpkin Soup! It’s only a few years out of date, but they looked so cute!

Now, that you’d been fed, let  me ask you how your week was?

One of these days, I’ll have to add a rating scale.

Today, is my Mum’s birthday and my Dad’s birthday is later in the week. Usually, we’d go down to their place in Sydney, but we’re so busy. Our daughter has dancing on Saturday mornings and our son has rehearsals for the Scout Gang Show. I’m hoping we might be able to get together yet.

The past few weeks have been fairly stressful. I don’t know if  is the sort of stress you experience when you’re stretching and growing. After all, growth is by nature uncomfortable. So much is going well, and yet my awareness of all these things I’m struggling to change, has also increased. So, while I’m now tap-dancing and doing yoga, I’m still wading through stuff trying to clear up the house. I won’t use that dreaded word “declutter”, because I don’t believe in it. Indeed, after spending hours working on my daughter’s room, I arrived home with a crate of books from the op shop. These weren’t any ordinary books either. They included a four volume set of Home Mechanics Books from around 1910. They were more about repairing things around the home  such as your Grandfather clock and were absolutely fascinating. However, I am trying to follow what I’ll call a “trading policy”. That for everything that comes in, something has to go out. It works well for me in theory. However, like so many things, not so well in practice.

Jeffrey Smart Car Park in Bologna

Jeffrey Smart, Parking Lot Near  Bologna 1992.

This weekend, the whole issue of my teenage son’s school assignments reared its ugly head again. He’s been unwell on and off and the night before his assignment was due, our wifi went down. I don’t need to tell you that was a catastrophe of epic proportions. Anyway, not unsurprisingly, yours truly found herself researching Australian artist, Jeffery Smart, and his painting: “Parking Lot Near  Bologna”. Not to do his assignment for him, but to be able to help.

To be perfectly honest, this painting did nothing for me. Yet, I had to find something. Understand, at the very least, why it was considered worthy of an assignment. I personally prefer more of an expressionistic style with thick, lashings of paint, whereas this almost has a flat, photo finish. No, not my style, but I could see why the trucks might appeal to my son. That said, he’d probably prefer a Ferrari!

The last part of the assignment involved writing a 100 word story about the painting. It finally clicked that this was just like the flash fiction challenges I do. So, we talked through various plot ideas and possible names for the two men (Luigi for the Italian and Sergei for the Croatian) and then moved onto people smuggling. I wanted to teach him the thinking that goes into writing something like this, particularly the structure involved. Having that twist or punchline at the end. So, I wrote an example for him.  Here’s the link. It was very difficult to write, being set in Italy. However, as usual, Google came to the rescue.

MackayHugh03

Hugh McKay

In  between the assignment and playing Scrabble with the lad, I also read read a fantastic novel, Selling the Dream by Hugh McKay. Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and the author of 17 books, mainly in the field of social analysis. Selling the Dream is his seventh novel. I am in the throws of writing a review. However, if you enjoyed reading Graeme Simsion’s: The Rosie Project, you’ll love it. It’s hilarious and despite being classed as satire, it’s incredibly real. Sorry, I forgot to tell you that it’s set in a Sydney advertising agency and has a serious swipe at the industry and it’s “heroes”.

I really loved reading this book and am really going to try to read books more often.

However, I’m sure you know how it in. Before you know it, the day just disappears.

As has the weekend. So, I’d better get this posted quickly.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena