Thursday, February 28, 2013

In the Quiet Around the House :: With Toastie and Veggie Broth

Today, I'm slow-cooking veggie broth. I've saved all the ends and wilts from that neglected bottom drawer, and in this morning's brief quiet, I popped them into a vintage crock with parsley and pepper and a handful of dried bay leaves. Poured over the water, set the glass lid gently into place, on - yes, ok, and out the door we dashed. The broth's done now, and once it cools a bit I'll strain it into glass jars for the fridge. Our new worms will get the sodden bits I filter out. The rest? Soup and soup and more soup over this next week. 

It's raining again and the lights are still off, so the house has that deep and pensive dimness to it that makes me want to write. Daydream and write. Or maybe read. I'd crawl into bed, but it's actually quite bright up there, so I'll sit instead at this old hardwood table with a steaming tea. Write things into the largest of my moleskine notebooks, the one Nelle emblazened with my name across the cover.

Thank you, darling. 
There's no 'r' in Amanda, but what does it matter? Really?

I've just made myself a toastie - a flatbread straight out of the freezer, folded over feta and caramelised red capsicum (from a jar), with sliced mushrooms and spinach. Some of the capsicum has oozed out the side, and caramelised even further across the underside of the flatbread. The very best kind of surprise.

I'm thinking about Burmese food, and that sweet, small smile Margaret Atwood gave me, and a walk through tea plantations in the Sri Lankan highlands we'll take later in the year. But more on those another day. I think it's time to leave the house and smell the rain over a cup of coffee.

Happy weekend,
Amanda xx

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pea Soup with Peppermint :: and Koalas

Things have been busy around here, busy like salmon pushing upstream. Every year we do this run, we come home from overseas and it's time to plan grants, write grants, submit grants, and then cross our fingers and wait to see if all this work has paid off. This year, there are quolls and koalas and more forming themselves into tidy little packages of idea + approach + budget before us. And as soon as we can heave them off Robbie's desk and my desk and onto someone else's desk, I can turn my attention back onto my own year ahead.

I can't wait, I'm so keen to get started on my own year ahead. It'll involve quolls, of course, and tiny antechinus; a series of essays on all kinds of things; poems here and there; and a book proposal. I'll tell you more later, of course, but needless to say, my life and thoughts (still) revolve around death. (It's not a bad thing, actually). For the animals I'll study, it's breed-then-die. For me? I hope not to die for a very long time, but I'm hoping to learn about the process via these wild beauties, and a little research of my own.

I think in part because my brain is elsewhere, my cooking has fallen off the bench a bit. Hit and miss, around here, I'm afraid.

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Space

The dog woke me up, she stood at the side of the bed - my side, not Robbie's side - and trembled until I heaved myself up and over and out of the warmth and took her downstairs to go out. I was awake then, fully awake at quarter-past-five in the morning, my brain turning over things I've been reading like this blog and this book, and that it's still raining, and that soon I'll have to make breakfast - maybe these, today - in the hush before getting-ready-for-school. 

So I sit here at the kitchen bench, my tea steaming sweetly beside me, and I'm feeling a little frustrated, a little stuck between spaces, in a way that's more evident than ever in these early hours. What is this space, that's mine? This space of science and the written word and the miles we drive on the weekend - they're my openings outward, tendrils seeking light and warmth in the world around me, and yet they're confining me in all the possibility.

I feel the need to create, but what? And will it be any good? 

Now I'm back to sipping my tea, and in a moment I'll have to leave this and get out the butter and the flour and the deep, rich rapadura sugar, and I'll make something to eat that's much like a cupcake (but it's not, it's just French) and maybe another cup of tea, and I'll let my mind wander over the people who inspire me (like Cheryl, or Phyllis, or Jess, or Yvonne, or my very own Robbie, or for that matter Alan Lightman or Tracy K Smith or Jane Hirshfield or John Steinbeck, because you cannot fail to be inspired by someone who can write the following, am I right?
"Someone should write an erudite essay on the moral, physical, and esthetic effect of the Model T Ford on the American nation. Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars." - John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
And I'll set about my day, and I'll be who I am, whoever that is - ecologist, writer, mother, cook, partner, traveler, explorer, survivor, dishwasher, reader, learner - and I'll work at being good at all those things simultaneously, in some likely-unachievable way, but hell. This is my space.

Good morning, friends,
Amanda xx

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Long Walk Home :: Or, How a Mistake Turned into One of the Best Walks Ever

We were planning a walk that afternoon, somewhere on the cliffs above Los Obos, north of Morro Bay. But first, we had to have barbeque. Out of the love in my heart, I'd hunted down this little place in Cayucos - I am a vegetarian, so give me credit here - but I can appreciate the atmosphere of a shack on the beach with a kickass barbeque. So I sat with my somewhat sad veggie sandwich and watched my loves enjoy their wood-smoked meat, pulled off some bone or other, topped with crisp apples and celery, tucked into handmade tortillas. 

This made me happy.

I'll admit, the fresh-baked cookies on Main Street also made me happy.

We said goodbye to my parents, who'd joined us for lunch, and set about exploring the town and the pier. We'd meet them back home, and get ourselves properly organised for our walk on the bluffs later ... food and water, shoes, daypacked provisions.

And then, with their car's exhaust just clearing from the air, we realised our mistake. Our car's keys were in the back of their car.

We'd have to walk home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sweet little treasures :: Happy Valentine's Day

So, I have a little pre-Valentine's confession for you.
I'm pretty crap at holidays. I'm one of those friends who's likely to wish you happy birthday during the month of your special day, because I forget I can look up the actual date itself on your Facebook page. I'm the daughter and the niece and the aunt and the sister who posts Christmas cards in January, if at all, and sends birthday gifts a month early or a month late. The wife who wrote her wedding vows the night before the wedding, in bed next to the husband writing his own wedding vows. 
(We were meant for each other, what can I say?)

Regardless of my hopelessness in certain holiday-tradition-based matters, I love my friends, and I love my family, and I think of them all the time. And I hope I can show my love at all the various scripted and unscripted times of year in random-food-and-wine-and-little-treasures kinds of ways. I like to think that sweet, unexpected gifts and moments are in fact the very best presents.

Here are some sweet little ideas for celebrating the people you love. All of them, because who wants to draw a line when it comes to love?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spinach, Lentil and Apricot Salad with Cumin and Chillies

Today Tracy J Smith spoke my words for me, in the pages of her book Life on Mars: Poems:
"I've been beating my head all day long on the same six lines,
Snapped off and whittled to nothing like the nub of a pencil
Chewed up and smoothed over, yellow paint flecking my teeth."
- excerpt from the poem Alternate Take (2012)

So I leave you with salad.

Spinach, Lentil and Apricot Salad 
with Cumin Seeds and Chillies
serves 1-2

A simple but sunny salad for sharing, unless you're very hungry.

In a pretty dish, toss together:
2 cups washed and dried baby spinach
1 large apricot, chopped
1/4 c sunflower seeds, pan-toasted with a pinch of cumin seeds
1/4 c cooked (or canned) brown lentils
a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
a splash of white wine vinegar
a pinch of chopped red chilies
a pinch of flaked sea salt

*use organic when you can

Amanda xx

Monday, February 4, 2013

At the Fringe

We spent this weekend up the coast, that place of sunshine and fresh air and twinges of heartache. It's hard to be in a place that reminds you so much of a person, and yet, being there you feel closer to them than you do otherwise. You remember the moments you had, but also the moments you'll never have.

It's lonely, and peaceful.

Nelle was off on her scooter, Robbie jogging behind, and I was sitting on the grass looking across Pumicestone Passage feeling those strange combined feelings of sadness and happiness when I saw them. Just on the fringes of the water, along the rocks that I'd never paid attention to before - the crabs. Living their own little lives in the space between here and there, 

and they were just what I needed.

Amanda xx