Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Naturally Clean Microwave

citrus - a key ingredient for all-natural cleaning

One day, you'll open up your microwave - the machine you always wonder, every time, is this bad for me?? before setting your gone-cool cup of tea inside and pressing start - and you'll KNOW it's bad for you. 

Because the entire inside surface will be covered in a prehistoric splatter crust. I spare you that photo.
Here's what you can do when this happens: 

1. Close the door and back away. If you haven't seen it, it hasn't happened. (or)

2. If you see the crust moving, catch it on video and youtube the fucker. It may be disgusting, it may be a new species, it may make you millions. (or)

3Clean it. Now.

You know how I am about cleaning (Mom, I know you're reading this). I'm not a fan, and I'd rather be rich and pay someone else do it for me if I could. But given we spend about 40% of our income on travel, and another 40% on coffee, that's (sadly) not an option. Yet. 

So if you're like me with cleaning - you have to do it yourself, NOW. In your underwear, in a loose towel, in your best dress, NOW. And if the cleaning involves your microwave, try citrus.

This is nice cleaning. It smells good, and it makes you feel like one of those paper towel commercials we all know are a complete set-up. Ooh, look how this stuff just wipes off! For REAL. 

Slice 1/2 - 1 lemon or lime - even kinda old ones will work here, but use a greater proportion of the fruit if it's old and dry - and place into a small bowl with 1 cup of water. Microwave the bowl of water + lime (uncovered) on high for 3-5 minutes, until boiling. Then leave the door of the microwave closed for another 2 minutes so the citrusy steam can work its magic. If you're like me, you might even forget about the whole thing until 2 hours later, when you return to warm up a cup of tea. Oops. That's ok. Just carefully remove the dish (it might still be HOT! though not 2 hours later ... ) and use a warm, wet cloth to wipe down the microwave. Easy peasy. 

And I hope you eventually enjoy that tea. :)
Amanda xx

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Third Day of School

She's just kissed me goodbye and put on her backpack and opened the car door and closed it behind her and waved through the window and started up the stairs to school and looked back once (just once?) and then she's gone out of sight, my baby girl, my big first grader, and all I want to do is cry and follow her up and will she be ok? But I take a deep breath and shift the car out of park and pull away from her, from the the curb, and drive into work.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wholemeal Spelt Crackers

organic wholemeal spelt crackers for lunch

This may sound crazy but hey, it's all end-of-school-holidays mental in this place. You know how many crackers your kid eats, right? I mean, unlike bread crusts, crackers are a food group unto themselves. Ever run out right when you needed them? Yeah, me too. 

And that's when I had this little inspiration:
Why not get the child to make her own?

And then I remembered that actually, I had a similar inspiration just over a year ago. (I think, I blog, I forget, I think, I blog, I remember, oops and so on. I blame many things for this, including parenthood).

But let's pretend this is a completely new idea around my kitchen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rainbow Pasta Salad with Roasted Roots and Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Got Valentines plans? How about the greatest pasta salad of all time

This is the greatest pasta salad of all time - so great, in fact, that you might want to make it for your lover for Valentine's Day if you plan to save room for dessert. (And go ahead and take that however you like, friends). 

The only way this isn't going to make your next date night? If your partner dislikes despises detests loathes hates practically retches at the sight of beetroot. Sorry, sweetie. I didn't really mean to poison you. I just kinda thought maybe I could sneak it past you? Ummmm, guess not.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why It's Ok to Cut the Crusts Off

breakfast today - tahini + banana + raw honey + cinnamon on organic sourdough

"Real" food bloggers might tell you that your kids need to eat their bread crusts - learn to love them like we grown up types do. And let me tell you, I've tried that. You know what? Sometimes I just like to have my crusts and eat them, too. Shall I explain? 

What it comes down to is this: 
I'm quite willing to pay extra money for quality, organic bread - but if I do, I'm not wasting a single crust of it!

What happens when we feed our kids stuff they don't like? 
You know as well as I do.

Scenario 1: Child eats her crusts without complaint. (Uh, never happens in this house - my girl picks the outsides off Turkish bread.)

Scenario 2: Child is presented with crusts on bread, asked to eat them, and then eats all the bread from around them leaving the crusts themselves slobbery and un-pick-off-plate-able. (This scenario makes our dog very happy. Me, not so much.)

Scenario 3: Child is presented with crustless bread, and mummy or daddy tip the crusts into the food processor, whizz them into bread crumbs, and freeze until needed. Or just cut them up into chunks and freeze until needed.

Happy. Especially for AMAZING fresh bread that you've just paid $4 - $7 for.

you paid for the good stuff - don't waste it!

The key is to use the best bread for your chunks or crumbs - expensive, organic crusts and ends otherwise discarded - and to freeze them in completely airtight containers, because bread *loves* freezer smell. So crumb them straight away (or you'll forget) and glass jar them or whatever you have to do to keep them completely isolated from the outside world.

Then, when you need bread crumbs - you've got em! I wrote about saving stale bread (and crusts) previously here - focusing on good bread-chunky recipes, but this here post is different. This post is saying it's ok to cut off the crusts. You're a great parent - and you sure as hell aren't letting your kids or the world or the blogging community out there down by doing so. 

Anyway, here are my 5 favourite ways to use bread crumbs:

1. As a parmesan alternative for pasta - It used to be that fried bread crumbs were considered cucina povera ("peasant" food) for everyday Italians who couldn't afford parmesan. Now they're just delicious. Bread crumbs fried in butter or olive oil with garlic or chili make an excellent topping for your next buttery or pesto-based pasta dinner. Here's a great recipe to get you started.

2. In veggie burgers - like Heidi's "ultimate" recipe over on 101 Cookbooks

3. As a topping for savoury bakes that use up heaps of greens - like Smitten Kitchen's "Best Baked Spinach"

4. As a topping for mac and cheese - and I know this Martha Steward favourite calls for tiny (perfect?) bread cubes, but who are we kidding? I'm sure crumbs are fine. Right?

5. Whatever Nigel Slater says. Because the man is a genius. Great ideas, people.

So get out there and buy yourself some fabulous organic bread! I hope you enjoy every crumb. :)
Amanda xx

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Becoming a Regular - and How to Take That Home with You

One of our favourite things to do while traveling is find a little bar or coffeeshop and become regulars, even if it's just for a few days. Maybe we speak the language, maybe we don't - but regardless, we settle in for games of Yahtzee every evening, or games of Scrabble every day. Sometimes we chat with the locals, sometimes we just admire the view.
Surin Beach, Thailand (L) + Ella, Sri Lanka (R) [2013]

Often, we'll buy a small piece of artwork from the place - because the kinds of places we like to settle into tend (for some reason) to have local art for sale (as well as the imperative great beer or cocktails or coffee) - and then it hangs in our house and reminds us of when we "lived" in Paraty or Sintra or Long Beach.

But artwork's not quite what this post is about. It's about little routines - becoming a regular.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Eat with Your Hands - Where to Start

I think we should all eat more with our hands. Forget convention, forget tidiness and definitely forget the feel of metal sliding over your teeth and tongue. I have a theory that eating with our hands is better for us - that by touching our food we connect with it a bit more, that it's easier remember to slow down and chew and swallow. We're more mindful. 

It's pretty normal-feeling to shovel food into your face with a utensil - ever tried it with your hand? It feels very strange, very post-apocalyptic. Quick, the zombies are coming - EAT! Or maybe you are the zombie. Hmmm.

Is eating with your hands better for you? At this stage, it's just a theory of mine. There's a lot of fluffy internet crap to wade through on the topic, but I'll let you know if I come up with any scientific evidence for you. All I know is that eating with my hands is fun, and feels nice in a kind of naughty, should I be doing this? kind of way.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blogging Angst, and What I'm Going to Do About It

Here's the thing about blogging. You start off wondering what you're going to talk about and then 3 1/2 years later suddenly you're talking about too much. Ironically, I've been a little quiet lately because I've been trying to figure out my writing future. Not "figure out" in a permanent sort of way, but in the sense of choosing my path forward from here. From where I stand right now. 

what does a tortoise have to do with existential crisis?

Out of all these things in my head, which should I put down here? Which should go elsewhere? Which should be note-booked for a later date? I think I've finally (sort of) figured it out.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Nights in Texas (Queensland) - and a Smooth Chai Concentrate

Most of the time when we travel - even just for weekends - we rent a cottage or a house. Then, for whatever time we're there, we get to settle into an alternative life - with a wood stove and neighbours and a chance to sit on the back step with a chai and a great book of poetry and be someone different for a time. Or someone (at least) unburdened by laundry and grant proposals and garage-cleaning. It's like playing dress-ups, except you're trying on all those things you think you might want to be, sans commitment. Farm-wife, baker, poet, bushwalker. A real local. 

That's a holiday.

And one of my favourite holidays in the last year was to a tiny town in Queensland called Texas. This cottage is seriously cute, don't you think? Tin roof, flower garden, a clawfoot tub and fireplace. I could die happy here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Favourite Books (and Essays) - So Far

Yesterday morning we arrived home to our little Brisbane townhouse and immediately started unpacking - mainly because our dog doesn't relax until the suitcases completely disappear. (Between you and me, I think the offcuts I bought her at the butcher have facilitated forgiveness ... she's curled up beside me at my writing desk looking pretty happy.)

This trip to Phoenix was a special one - Robbie and I married each other again, Nelle started Grade 1 in the US, we caught up with old friends and made new ones. So leaving this time was bittersweet ...

But it's always good to be home.

While I get my feet on the ground, I wanted to share with you a list of my favourite books. Awhile back, I started compiling a reading list on the blog - but I realised many of you may not have seen it. I read a lot of books, and I have strong opinions about what I like and don't like, so I thought I should share all my recommendations with all you out there. Plus, I want to hear what you're reading!

One thing you might notice about my list - I love fiction. This is something I only just learned about myself ... I always considered myself more of a non-fiction type, whatever that is. Since I finished my PhD, I've been reading more and more and more fiction - catching up on all those lost years when I couldn't fathom reading another word after I'd finished studying. But fiction - well written fiction - is different from how I'd always perceived it. I now find it mind-clearing. Absorbing all the rubbish off my brain like a triple-ply paper towel.

The writing in these books has inspired me - to relax, to think or see differently, to become a better writer myself. I endeavour to be the writer I like to read, and in fact since October I've been working on that! I've been taking (and LOVING) a fiction writing course that pushes me to write a short story a week on a different prompt. It's been challenging and fun and there is NO GOING BACK NOW. Fiction is where my heart really is! (Who knew)

Anyway - on to the list. I'll post it all here - and you can always bookmark (#punintended) the Books page for the latest update on what I've loved reading. There's a lot that's not there - but I felt strange making a "didn't like" list, so I've kept it to only the books I've really enjoyed. 

I hope you enjoy them, too! Please share your faves in the comments - we'd all love to hear them :)
Amanda xx


Travel's amazing - and everyone should do it. But you can still extend your world from the comforts of your own bed, in the wilderness, or at a cafe with a cup of coffee steaming away in front of you. If all else fails, there's always the toilet. Personally, I like arriving at school pick-up an hour early, to sit in my car in the warm sun and read.  

Regardless of where you are, a great book or essay or poem can entertain or inspire you, or may even transform the way you see things. 

And that is awesome*.

So here are some of my favourite reads. Some of them told me what I already knew, some what I wanted to know, and some what I didn't even consider knowing. All worked, for me.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

PS. There should be books in each category, but sometimes they don't seem to load when you open the page. If not, just refresh the page and they should appear. There are quite a few books I've read recently that aren't here, for one reason or another. If you feel like starting a conversation about a book you see here (or don't) - I'd love to hear from you. Please email me here.

*Yes, I do say awesome from time to time. I blame the 80's.





What You Will Do, by Jacob Newberry in Ploughshares (2012)
The Slather, by Brian Doyle in Orion (2012)
Bruised, by Joe Wilkins in The Sun Magazine (Jan 2012 - sadly not available online in its entirety)
What the Dead Wear, by Sue Wright on Drimzel Road (May 2013)


DISCLOSURE: If you purchase books - or anything, really - via these links, the cost is the same as always but I receive a teeny commission. Which I use for more books. So thank you xx

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