Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happiness-Inducing Things, September 2012

There's been a lot of happy this month. My baby girl turned 5 and started sounding so ... grown up. At night, we've been sitting in bed with bowls of ice cream and - today - gingerbread foxes, watching Minuscule on DVD. I love a show that mashes insect ecology and human psychology and has 70+ episodes in season one. In the mornings, I water my garden and smell the freshness as the sunlight breezes over. I've spent hours turning words over and over in my head, and crawled through sand to get photos of marine debris. Both of which I loved. Robbie and I started watching Fringe all over again, from the beginning. I made him beef stew, he made me decaf coffee. We have a new favourite breakfast. I've been reading Peppermint and Gourmet Traveller and Cheryl Strayed and Siri Hustvedt and listening to Julia Stone and Beth Orton. I found The Road on DVD at the library, and can't wait to see it because I loved the book. In all its post-apocalyptic charm. I learned that the word 'nose' in Anindilyakwa sounds a lot like my first name, and that next month I'll take my Australian citizenship test. I'm pretty sure I'll pass - I know what a test match is, and it has nothing to do with fire {right?}. I dreamed about a flock of black cockatoos. I made coffee over hot embers. I found Robbie's passport {after having lost Robbie's passport}. We decided to travel Spain next year. And Thailand. I considered my future, my past, my fears, my dreams, my wardrobe. And the month's not even over yet. 
Amanda xx

Sunday, September 16, 2012

{Hopefully} Possum-Proof Gardening

I think my front door looks better this way, actually

I may have mentioned our possum problem before, and before I get going on my diatribe please let me tell you how cute these animals are. They're small, and shy, and not at all ferocious {like North American opossums}. At the moment we have a population of no fewer than 4 ringtail possums that traipse through our garden after nightfall {two fully grown ones, and two little ones}. 

I want to cuddle them. Serious cuteness.

But these visitors of ours have a tragic love of parsley. And when our parsley's been munched? They don't move on to our neighbour's ... nope, they move on {heartbreakingly} to other small, leafy, palatable things that we've tried to grow. 

You can see a ringtail's nest perched in the tree next to our bedroom balcony ... which is an improvement from the possum that was living in our aloe plant on the balcony. Catch my drift? We've practically been a live-in restaurant for them.

Till now.

piss off, possums

Our garden bed - the one we built up to our front door {because it gets the best sun} - is now protected with aviary wire. I spent Friday afternoon with black tights on and shovel in-hand, obsessively turning the dirt and tipping in chicken poo and pulling out as many of those pesky tree roots as I could. Nelle and I filled the garden bed {and the two little black beds} with seedlings - basil and kale, silverbeet and capsicums, habeneros, eggplant, tomatoes and swedes. And a whispered word, grow

Then Robbie built our wire fortress.

the view out our front door
And, in the spirit of using our cramped townhouse-space effectively, I built a possum-proof hanging herb garden on our front door. I poked holes in the bottom of biodegradable, heat-resistant sugarcane-starch cups, filled them with dirt and reclaimed herbs {some of which had been munched already ... } and hung them one-over-the-other with clothespegs. 

the view up

Pretty! They get a perfectly small amount of sun {in this hot Queensland climate} and drip excess water into one another. 


And - hopefully - producing.

the view down

So please please please cross your fingers for me - for us - on this one. My little heart aches to produce more of our own herbs and veggies. These things make me happy. 

The possums can find their own happinesses. Elsewhere.
Amanda xx

Thursday, September 13, 2012

5th Birthday Goodie Bags {and My Go-To Meringue Recipe}

I thought I'd revisit my meringue post from the archives, since I made a batch for Nelle's post-birthday-party 'goodie bags' yesterday. Do American kids these days do party bags? I can't remember them from my own childhood ... but that's not saying much. My memory ain't what it used to be. {Thanks, child ... }


Australian birthday parties usually involve goodie bags. Take-aways for the kids involving craft stuff, stickers, pencils, candy, and more candy. Things they love.

And, in Nelle's case, things I usually rush her past at the supermarket. Please don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against candy-and-plastic-filled party bags. I don't mean to be offensive, or unappreciative. She adores that stuff. But I don't typically buy refined sugars for home ... so I didn't want to do so just for my kid's party.

Maybe I put together the lamest goodie bag ever. That's ok. I'm already mentally prepared to be 'lame mamma' in my child's social circles. The paranoid, label-deconstructing mother running around with handmade hand santizer and stuff. I blame it on cancer

{And, in fact, please blame all my crazinesses on cancer. Ha! Don't you wish you could?}

What was in Nelle's goodie bags?
- a homemade meringue with organic rose petals {recipe below}
- an organic fruit lollypop
- 4 paper airplane templates from a 2010 paper airplane calendar*
- a Foodie ABC magnet and postcard**
- plus I printed a colourable design on the front of the bag

* I told you it was lame. But we love these airplanes! So there.

** And yes. I used some of my own products for the bags. But hey, I designed them for kids. These bags were for kids. And 1+1 = 2. Right?

And {because of? despite? my attempt at eco-happy goodie bags}, Nelle-Belle had a super-great 5th birthday! 

Thanks to everyone who shared it with us!
Amanda xx

Basic Meringue
makes 12

There's something about meringues that gets me. Maybe it's how they come together like that chemistry experiment I wish I'd learned in high school. {We made soap instead. Ick.} Or how their flavour perfectly suits tangy passionfruit and creamy Greek yogurt. Or how you bite into them like air ... only to find a satisfying chewiness in the centre.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm ....

The time
20 min prep + 45 min baking + 30 min cooling

The ingredients
4 organic eggwhites*, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp red or white wine vinegar
a sprinkling of organic rose petals {optional}

the pulp of 3 passionfruits, to serve
a large tub of Greek or honey yogurt, to serve

*Save your egg yolks for cookies or ice cream or omelettes or fried rice!

**Try to use organic ingredients when you can - especially for the eggs. The vanilla and vinegar you can actually make yourself!

The process
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (360F). Line a baking tray with paper.

2. Making meringues is all about the process. A lot of people get stressed out by meringues or pavlovas - and you don't have to. Honestly, I'm not the most precise of cooks ... and I've only ever had one meringue not turn out. And that one just wasn't pretty. I crumpled it up and made it into a parfait and it tasted great. So have no fear ... this is simpler than you imagine! (Delia Smith has lovely photos of some of the key steps here)

3. Place your eggwhites into a large bowl, making sure there's no yolk. Use a hand mixer to start whisking them - then, when they become shiny and form stiff little peaks, begin adding the sugar. Slowly! Just a couple Tbs at a time ... you don't have to measure, just pour in and keep whisking little by little. When you've mixed in all the sugar, keep whisking for another couple of minutes until the meringue mix is thick and makes nice sturdy peaks.

4. Now, use a spoon to gently mix the vanilla and vinegar into your meringue.

5. Dollop the meringue onto your baking sheet in little mounds. Try to make ~12 mounds of about the same size (or you can make one big one, if you prefer). Sprinkle with rose petals, if using. Put your tray into the oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 120C (240F) and cook for ~45-50 minutes, or until they're golden and the outsides are crispy. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside to cool. (If you're patient enough ... I've taken them out and they've been fine)

6. When they're cool, serve with your favourite fruit - like passionfruit or raspberries - and your favourite cream or yogurt. If they aren't pretty? Crumble them up and serve them parfait-style.

The cost
My organic meringues cost me only about $0.50 each, fully dressed. I made my own vanilla extract and vinegar, and the passionfruits {from the original recipe} came from a friend's garden. I bought the rosepetals online.

Go on. Get yourself some eggwhites and whisk.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bircher Muesli

Wow. I just looked back over my posts and it's been a loooooong time since I posted a new recipe! Guess I've been livin' and stuff. Ironing all my camping clothes. Sorry about that.

So here we go. My new favourite breakfast/snack/dessert. {Yes, dessert. I'm that addicted.}
Bircher muesli.

I found this recipe via Neil Perry {online, of course}, but have cut the amount of honey in half and played around with different combinations of nuts/veggies/fruit/tea. I'll share the basic recipe and then tell you some of the variants I've created. 


Here's to a great weekend!
Amanda xx

Bircher Muesli
serves 4

The time
5 min prep + soaking overnight + 5 min prep

The ingredients
The basics
2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free, if needed)
the juice of 1 lemon, lime or orange
1 cup water or cool tea*
1/4 cup raw honey
2 cups plain yogurt

*I've used apple but I reckon green, chai, ginger, lemongrass, or chamomile tea would be AWESOME in this. Not all together. Pick one.

The extras
1 or 2 of the following fresh raw fruits or veggies, finely shredded or diced:
apple, pear, banana, persimmon, sweet potato, zucchini, berries
a handful of frozen berries
a handful of dried fruit, diced if big
a handful of nuts and/or seeds*, toasted or raw, sliced or whole 
*I've used various combinations of sunflower, sesame, linseed, macadamia, walnut, hazelnut, almond, cashew, and pepitas.

NOTE: if you're using chia seeds sprinkle them on after serving. They soak up too much liquid otherwise.

The process
1. Combine the oats, water and citrus juice in a large bowl or jar. Cover and soak overnight. {You don't have to fridge it}

2. The next morning, add the yogurt and honey and whatever fruit {fresh, frozen or dried}/nuts/seeds you have on hand and mix well. Reserve some of the fruit/nuts/seeds for sprinkling on top when you serve {optional}.

3. Serve into bowls and enjoy! If you have extra you can fridge it for a few days ... if it lasts that long!

The cost
I've been making this with my homemade yogurt - and it's a great recipe for using up a batch that sets a bit liquidy. Or thickly. Whatever. The cost really depends on the nuts and fruit you add ... but the basic recipe made organically runs me less than $4 {or less than $1 per serve}. Positively happiness-inducing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Country

Groote Eylandt is an Indigenous Protected Zone - meaning that to go most places on the island you need the permission of the Traditional Owners of the land. The people who belong to that place you're going. Whose ancestors breathed the dusty air and walked across the sand. Whose spirits will one day wander along a songline back to the origins of their Dreaming. 

We went camping, on the east coast of the island - pitched our tents just far enough from the water's edge that the salt-water crocodiles wouldn't find us. We hoped. We fished for dinner, collected salt from the rocks, and made coffee in the mornings. Tortillas and eggs one morning, to go with that amazing hot sauce Alex made.

I thought about my country. Where I grew up. Is my Dreaming the sound of the wind through the cornfields? The wide, muddy Mississippi swollen from rain? Bald eagles fishing on the frozen river? Do I even really understand where I come from?

And, when I die, will my heart travel back to Iowa via all the places I've loved? The hot wet forests of Cape Tribulation, the red rocks of Punta Tombo, the iridescent lakes of British Columbia? Will I re-visit the sea turtled corals of Kona, the wild green of western Scotland, the quiet sunny avalanches of Mt Salcantay, and smell the pines of Colorado mornings? Will I run naked through the trees on a cool Alaskan afternoon?

Or is this my country now? Will my heart come full circle back to this wild and warm and sandy and dusty place?

I'm ok with not knowing, not expecting. With feeling peace in so many places. It gives my little soul options, after all.
Amanda xx