Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seedling progress

I am amazed at the difference putting my seeds under the bathroom heat light has made! You can look at the seeds at say 6pm and go back at 10pm and see things have popped up that werent there before... I had 7 leeks at about 7:30pm, and went back and had another look at about 10:30 and there were 12, it boggles the mind! You can see that the beans are unfolding over a matter of an hour or 2!

If you look at the 2 pictures you can kinda see how much progress has been made over 24 hours. The darker one is from saturday night, and the lighter one, sunday night... In the top left going across is: purple beans, heirloom tomatoes, rocket and beans again. On the bottom left going across is spring onion, sage, leeks and spring onions again...

You can see that on saturday there were only a couple of beans coming up but sunday, nearly all of them! Sunday there was I think one maybe two leeks - now there are THIRTEEN! A tomato has come up, so have a few spring onions, and the beans have just gone nuts!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Strawberries, farm fresh!

Today I stopped by the Berry Sweet strawberry farm in Bullsbrook to grab some "seconds" strawberries from their farm shop. For $5 you get a pretty big punnet of their top strawberries, which is cheaper than in the shops already... However for between $8-$10 (depending on the size of the box you end up with) you get a massive box of strawberries which are their second rate quality, not fit for the supermarkets... the picture on the right is of my $10 box of "not fit for supermarket" berries... some look a little bit old, but I've gotten berries like that in the punnet you get from the supermarket, so Im not complaining at all!!
When I went to take the photos of the berries, I sat on the kitchen floor, taking pics... eat a strawberry, take a photo... strawberry, photo, berry, photo... They're so nice and sweet and so juicy!
But what am I going to do with them?? Ideas Ive had, or been given that are very viable, are margaritas, jam, and cheesecake... Strawberries and cointreau seem to be a popular combination, I might try a strawberry and orange cheesecake tomorrow - since I have a few oranges to get rid of too, after visiting a work colleagues farm, and her offloading a number of oranges, a huge broccoli, cabbage, and 6 free range eggs!
Life in the Chittering Valley is pretty good :)


2 weeks ago, in 8 little black plastic punnets (that I bought for $1.30) I planted 6 different kinds of seeds in special seed potting mix... Rocket, purple climbing beans, heirloom tomatoes, leeks, sage and spring onions have been planted, and waited upon by one fairly impatient gardener!

The rocket took about a week to show signs of life, and the little dicots are about 2cm tall now! I took those seeds straight to school for the kids to plant, in the hope that something they've sown will germinate quickly and spark their interest! So Im looking forward to being able to add rocket to my meals in the near future, in the knowledge that when it looks like they're going to run out, they germinate quickly and Ill be back on my way!

Tonight I went and had another look, in the vain hope SOMETHING will have sprouted... Upon having a look I think I acted like a child at christmas when I saw a bean had sprouted! I had a little poke around and found that more were starting to come up!! Without digging too far in and disturbing the little seeds, I found that quite a few had germinated so I think its pretty safe to say, that I'm going to have at most, 16 purple bean plants! I also noticed something else coming up, much smaller, just poking its little head out, but I cant remember what it is... I think its either leek or sage, I cant remember... Either way, its on the up!

I think things may have gone faster if I had've chosen a better spot for them, because they didnt get as much sunlight as they should have, I think... So I've decided that, if I remember, Im going to have the seeds outside in the sun during the day, and for part of the night, in the bathroom under the heat light... I dont know how that will go, but I worked on a flower farm in Queensland for a month when I was backpacking around, and in order to get the Chrysanthemums nice and tall, so they had long stems for good bunches, they were under lights all night, and obviously, sun all day. Im hoping this same idea will work for the germination of seeds - they need sunlight to grow, and Im assuming the grow upwards in the search for sunlight, so if theres light on more often, Im thinking they're going to grow a bit faster? Looking at the picture, it doesnt look very impressive... But there are bean shoots coming up in the top left and right punnets, and I honestly think, in the last hour, after I gave them more water and lots of light, a few others that might have needed another day before I saw them, have started to come up! More to come, but I think the light idea is a good one!

I suppose this means Im going to have to get busy on getting the garden ready?! There are ALOT of weeds out there, still! I actually may have teed up a sheep or 2 to get rid of them! Ahhh the country life :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The new garden!

Today I have finally decided to do something with my expanse of yard out the back. I have been very fortunate (or unfortunate in some peoples minds) to have been allocated a 3 bedroom house, with a generously sized backyard. At first I didnt know how long Id be staying here, so I didnt touch the garden. Then I went away for the holidays, and came back and somehow, the backyard that was already full of weeds, was a forest. Hmmm...

Today I went to the nursery to order some plants for the Horticulture class that I teach (not by choice, though it has certainly sparked my interest!) and had a chat (for ages!) with the guy that runs the place and found out they're opening a fruit and veg shop there - awesome! At the moment I travel 45mins to go to a market rather than buy the overpriced and substandard quality fruit and veg available at the supermarket here... Anyway I saw lots of cool things that I wanted to plant but they were all in seedlings, which is normally better, but because I havent established any kind of garden patch, buying seedlings now wouldnt be that smart because Id have nowhere to plant them...

Anyway I headed into the city to do my shopping, and once Id done that, I went into the garden shop next door. I could have bought 100 things there, but after talking to a few of their staff (who were really good - I got asked if I needed a hand a few times, and when I asked them something they were helpful) I left with a handful of seed packets, a pitchfork (to get the weeds!), some soil with added nutrients thats meant for seeds, and a little tray to grow them in... It all came to about $50, which wasnt too bad!

Ive come home with a packet of heirloom tomatoes, spring onions (which came with the seeds on a 6m long dissolvable "tape"), sage (meant to be a natural insect repellant), rocket, leeks (meant to be easy to grow - winner!), and purple beans. Ive put the seeds in, covered the seedling tray with gladwrap, watered them and left it outside on the porch! Im pretty impatient so I hope they come up fairly quickly!!

Once Ive figured out where the sun is in the garden, Ill transfer the seedlings and buy some new seedlings to plant. Im planning on having a herb garden (I already have HEAPS of rosemary which was here when I moved in), and also putting in come chillies, capsicum, summer lettuce, beetroot, corn and whatever else looks nice and is in season when the time comes.

After Id done that I attacked some of the weeds... This is going to be a bit of a job! I think Im actually going to mow the weeds down, because some of them are quite grassy and would be fine if they werent a foot tall! The others though, are going to have to just get pitchforked out! Which I discovered today... Will be a bit of a job, some have very well established root systems! Im thinking about asking the education dept, who own the house, if they might be able to get some of the backyard paved, which would make entertaining much easier! Theres also the added bonus of having less garden to take care of... Cos those weeds are going to be the end of me!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The famous Jon Mac cookies

Well after hearing so much about these peanut butter cookies, I decided the make them today... Peanut butter isnt something that I normally have in the house so I bought some smooth PNB for the job... Heres the recipe before I go on...

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

Anyone would think that some of the ingredients are missing? Where is the flour? Nope, none. Thats it. Forgive me for being skeptical, but I was... I thought they would come out as "cookies" but not really that great. How good can something be with only 3 ingredients? I beat the egg and sugar together until the sugar was as dissolved as it could be, and my arm got tired so I gave up beating! But I already know that I dont like too many sugar crystals in my biscuits so I tried to dissolve as many as I could! I then mixed in the peanut butter until it made a nice even mixture. I baked them in 2 batches, the first I forgot to roll into balls, and the second lot went into the oven nice and uniform! I expected the mixture to melt down to create quite thin biscuits, but to my suprise they sank into perfectly round, 1,5cm high smooth cookies! I was pretty blown away by how they formed, I didnt expect it at all! But at the end of the day, the most important thing is how they taste....

Well Ill tell you.


At first I ate one and it was a little bit bland, but it was pretty much fresh out of the oven... Ive let the little beauties cool and had another one and theyre pretty good!! They seem to get better with time... obviously when I say time I dont mean a week. But Id say tomorrow these guys are gonna be fab!

As you can see I did slightly burn them... they have to be watched fairly carefully otherwise, as I found out, they can end up with a bit of a burnt tinge! Note to self - dont go and do anything important while cookies are in the oven!!

But, what an awesome recipe to have up your sleeve! You can have these whipped up in 30mins, done and dusted.

All credit goes to JonMc from the forum for sharing the recipe with so many! Its definately going in the repetoire!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Commercialism hits again

Having another musical moment.

I love the Subways album "Young for Eternity" and have it blasting loud and often... Favourite songs include Mary, Rock n Roll Queen (which you can find on a FIFA game, Guitar Hero, and on the RocknRolla soundtrack, probably their most famous song from this album), Oh Yeah , and I wanna hear what youve got to say. Its just generally awesome.

I might be a bit behind the times, but they have a new album called All or Nothing. Its left me pretty cold... Their old vocals were great, it was rock n roll and it wasn't perfect, cos they're too busy letting loose and rockin out, and their music was unleashed upon the listener, the kind of music that you wanna kick your shoes off, use a beer bottle as a microphone and dance on a table with your friends, playing the air guitar. This new album hasn't got the same raw quality. It feels alot smoother, refined and a bit more commercial. There are hints of their old unrestrained rock n roll like the start of Shake Shake, but you can hear the shackles of commercialised pop rock dragging them down a bit... Their vocals are too clear and toned down, they sound like they're trying to sound "better", or clearer or just sound a bit more like everyone else to appeal to the masses. and I HATE that. I will have to listen to the album more than once though...

The same thing happened with Kings of Leon. Their old vocals were SO distinctive, mainly because you have no idea what they're singing about - you cant understand it because he mumbles and has a strong southern accent. Their music was THEIRS and it was very personalised, it was their style and they rocked it. It was just music they wanted to play. Some of my favourites are Taper Jean Girl (which is one of my favourite songs from their album Aha Shake Heartbreak), Velvet Snow, The Bucket, and King of the Rodeo. With their new stuff, their vocals are really different, hes refined them so much, it feels like, for me, that he's lost alot of what made KOL so cool, the distinctive vocals! You can understand everything he says, he hardly has an accent anymore, and while you can still tell its him, he's trying to appeal to a wider audience by not being too much of a "niche" vocalist. I remember saying to a friend, before I discovered them (which was LATE, I never really listened to them until they got FLOGGED on the radio with Sex on Fire etc) that I didnt like his voice because it sounded to me like he was a tryhard, wanting to sound like something hes not. Turns out, upon listening to their old stuff and LOVING it that I feel thats the case... Im not totally bagging their new stuff out, I do like it, but its not NEARLY as good as their old stuff, which feels to me like they had less commercial boundaries, they just played what they liked.

Lets hope all my other favourite bands dont jump on the wagon!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm a fairly frequent poster on Nigella Lawsons website, and get alot of recipes either from her collection, or from other users who post their recipes on there. However I often have problems with the website. After posting I get redirected so the posts get lost (luckily I just press "back" and the post is still there - I just have to resubmit 4 or 5 times before it goes through), and I have to keep on logging in ALL the time, the option of "remember me" doesnt seem to work. When telling the moderators about the problems you get the same response that they are working "tirelessly" or "around the clock" on the problems, however the problems have been there as long as I can remember, at least 6 months. They don't seem to do doing anything at all to fix it. However them working around the clock also means moderating EVERY post that gets submitted. If they dont like what you've written, you get an email and you have to change it or it just doesn't go through. You dont have to have said anything especially controversial, but anything thats not sugar sweet and lovely wont make it through the censor. If you say that you dont like a certain celebrity chef for whatever reason, when the thread is about celeb chefs, you get an email, saying the thread is going off topic etc... With all the problems this website has in terms of user friendliness, you'd think they'd have better things to be doing with their time rather than just sitting there making sure everything thats being said is to their liking. However, today I sent them an email asking where half my posts had gone, and I got a reply saying that my posts had recently started to cause them a great deal of work because of my... *sigh*... lack of apostrophes and capital letters. This is what "Webmistress" had to say...

"We have noticed with your recent posts that it has been necessary to edit them quite heavily for punctuation, in particular capital letters and apostrophes. We are happy to capitalise the odd oversight but extensive edits such as thoserequired for your contributions are time consuming and slow the publicationof all other submissions. Could you please double-check future submissions before pressing 'send'.
Please see below for an example of a recent submission and Webmistress's edited version. Thank you for your cooperation on this.
Best wishes,

(This is what I wrote in response to someone else starting a post about a plug in muffin maker, as opposed to an oven - and the person who started the thread was bagging it out)
"yeah whats so hard about the oven? whats even different about the oven, aside from you can fit MORE muffins in there? who makes enough batter for 6 muffins!?"

(and this is what Webmistress "had" to change it to... This is what she gets paid to do all day...)
"Yes what's so hard about the oven? What's even different about the oven, aside from you can fit MORE muffins in there? Who makes enough batter for 6 muffins!?"

Ummmm...... WHO CARES?! Does a lack of capital letters really matter? lol its really pretty ridiculous... It makes me wonder if they're just trying to get me off the site. Because really... Writing "dont" instead of "don't" on an internet forum is the least of their worries when you see how the things runs...

Pretty lame if you ask me!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jylland Winery

5 minutes from my house, on the road out of my town on the way to Perth, is Jylland Vineyard. Its set on a hill with a view over the surrounding farms and green fields. To me it looks like the Margaret River of the north! They're open all weekend and have a blackboard menu, I guess they only put on the menu whats fresh, seasonal and available. Perfect. Today they had carrot soup, french onion soup (both $10), coriander chicken pie ($17) and something else that has slipped my mind! They also had 4 delicious sounding desserts, all for $6 and coffee was $3.50. Certainly not Margaret River prices! They also have 2 platter options, one is $15 pp and the other $25, which you have to book ahead for. If they use all local produce, which Id say they do, it must be fantastic.

I tried a couple of wines, including their JRB (Juicy Red Blend) and the shiraz, both of which I bought a bottle of. The JRB is really light and fruity, perfect for when you dont want anything too heavy - I think its also perfect for making sangria! Without the headache of a cheap n nasty red! and it was only about $15 I think, cheap but not nasty!

They let me in on their little secret - well hardly - the Chittering Valley is having a food and wine expo on september 12th, excellent, where do I sign!? Ill be there. All the 7 wineries are putting something on, Adele, the woman who I was speaking to, was saying they were deciding the menu tonight. She said last year they had 4000 people there, and they were totally not ready for it but this year they were going to be prepared! Im really looking forward to see what they put on...

After my little tour around the region today, Im pretty stoked with what I have on my doorstep. Fab wineries with great food, and cheap!

If only I could get the city gang to come out here more often!?

Bindoon Bakery and New Norcia

I was meant to have a friend come over this weekend, but she bailed (2 big nights in a row - but didn't plan on telling me she wasnt coming till I asked her.. nice hey) and so I was left wondering what to make of my weekend at home in the country. I've boycotted going into the city for a few weekends, because I'm tired of travelling the 2 hours there and back for friends who are never prepared to come out here. So today, on a sunny, blue skied sunday, I decided to go and sample the goods from Bindoon Bakery, and see what New Norcia had to offer.

Bindoon is about 20mins away, on the Great Northern Highway. Its home to many a mandarin and orange grove, and more famously, the Bindoon Bakery. I heard it was award winning but I didnt know what for - bread, pastry, pies - no idea. So I went for coffee, cake and a pie. Yes I made a pig of myself! But I didnt eat the entire piece of cake, thats sitting on the kitchen table waiting for me to finish it off! I've recently read that it has won awards for its vanilla slice, which I didnt order. Bugger. Next time! Anyway, I ordered a beef and guiness pie, and a cake that I wasn't too sure what it was. The pie was alright, the pastry was great, as I would expect from any bakery pie, but as usual, the filling was more sauce than meat, and didnt blow me away with flavour. I'm finding that most places I go that are known for good pies, Im disappointed with, because the sauce is a bit too gelatinous, and isnt meaty enough. Yes they're better than a Mrs Macs, but at the same time, still not mind blowing! Considering it cost $5.50 I was expecting more meat. It was nice though, Id go back again, but probably wouldn't go for a pie!

Now the cake, Im not sure what it was, I forgot to ask. I figured Id go for something that really gives the baker a chance to show off their baking skills, rather than how well they make custard or glaze fruit. A cake is ALL baker. So it tastes like a pretty standard butter cake with walnuts, with butter cream icing. I was expecting more to be honest! The texture of the cake was pretty nice, it was dense and moist and resembled my nannas coconut cake, without the coconut! But it had a disappointing amount of walnuts in it, and needed some more flavour - something extra! a squeeze of lemon, some cinnamon, something! Actually lemon would have been nice to cut through the fattiness of the butter cream icing, which after 2 or 3 bites makes you feel a bit like your arteries are clogging up! Didnt say it wasn't tasty, just obviously unhealthy! However the consistancy of the cake kinda saved it, as well as its size, it was huge! Some for now, some for later! Next time I go Ill have a crack at the vanilla slice...

Bindoon Bakehaus & cafe on Urbanspoon

Anyway, off to New Norica! Its a really old town which started in the 1800s because some spanish benedictine monks started a mission for the Aboriginal people living in the area. The architechture in the town is pretty special, and as the town is on the highway you just drive straight into it, its really unexpected if you dont know whats there! One of the first things you notice is the hotel, its really big for a tiny town surrounded by farmland! I went in to have a quick look, I didnt realise there was a cafe there, which I was excited and bummed out by at the same time, because I'd already eaten at the bakery, and there were a few things that I definately wanted to try! For some reason the ploughmans lunch appealed to me, which was cold meat, cheese, salad and bread. It sounds boring, but I'm imagining it with fresh local bread and butter, pickles etc. Next time...
I headed into the museum and shop, and somehow got talked into paying $10 to visit the museum... It wasnt THAT interesting, Ive been to better, and worse! There were some cool things though, all the old tools they used in their bakery, and all this old homeopathic stuff, little vials of god knows what... cos kinda cool. But then I headed into the shop, which is where I found the food! Food is always what gets my attention... They sold the New Norcia Bakery bread, nut cake, biscotti and chocolatti... and it was all pretty expensive. They had 3 kinds of bread and the only one they had left was the multigrain fruit loaf, which definately grabbed my attention when I read the ingredients! Sultanas, bakers flour, wholemeal flour, currants, dried apricots, unsalted butter, yeast, wheat flakes, crushed wheat, kibbled soy, linseed, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds, rye flour, salt, water, vitamins (thiamin and folate). WOW. This stuff is GOOD for you! and at $9.90 a loaf it'd wanna just about cure cancer! This is not a bread I'll be making a habit of buying. Its definately nice. But not near on $10 a loaf nice. 680g for $9.90. and its a small loaf, its just really heavy! But ill support the all natural ingredients just this once, next week when I go there Ill buy another one lol. I also bought some of their biscotti which was really nice, they had some to sample. Its nice and lemony. Also quite expensive... I bought the bread, the biscotti and a bottle of their shiraz (I didnt know they did wine too?!) and it cost me about $50... expensive. But worth it for a one off.

After that I just wandered around the place for about 45mins, checking out a cemetary (alot of monks with Spanish names, quite old, some from the late 1800s) and just generally wandering around the property. Didnt see any monks though...
Drove home, with my ipod playing a brilliant mix on shuffle (Rolling Stones, Beatles, Kasabian and The Verve amongst others) and then on the way decided to pop into one of the wineries thats on the road home, Jylland, which can be saved for another blog post ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

I've recently discovered a fab website, full of all manner of gorgeous things to make your environment pretty. Clothes, kitchenware, linen, doorknobs and buttons. I love it. Anthropologie. Fabulous.

These are just SOME of the clothes! I am quite deeply in love with the military cardigan... I'm wondering if its worth spending €200 on it......... I do really like it ;)
To be honest Im not even going to try and pick out my favourite bags or accessories... There are too many! The belts are wicked... I could buy at least half of them!
Check out the homewares section, there are so many quaint, cute, eye catching and unique items that can really set a room apart, they're awesome. Be sure to have a look at their aprons, they really are something else! Really great for a foodie friend!! Hint hint ;-)
Anyway, get shopping!

Sacre Bleu Cassoulet!

I think I made the best casserole of my life tonight. Big call, as I've made alot of them... But tonight I went french, and made Cassoulet.

According to Julia Child, "Cassoulet is a rich combination of beans baked with meats, typical of south western France. The composition of a cassoulet is, in typical French fashion, the subject of infinte dispute, so much so that if you you have read of heard about cassoulet and never tasted it, you come to expect a kind of rare ambrosia rather than the nourishing country fare it actually is."
Well whatever I got, it was amazing. I used pork ribs (pretty much the same as pork belly just on the bone), some gluten free sausages (because its just what I had - some good quality garlic/rosemary/thyme flavoured sausages would be fantastic), chicken thigh (on the bone) and pancetta (because its what I had, however it would be more authentic if you used lardons). It was so easy and delicious and just what I felt like eating tonight!

Heres the recipe!

2 Pork ribs/belly, off the bone (if its a rib) and the skin trimmed off (keep the bone to add flavour) and cubed
2 Chicken thighs (skinless) cut off the bone (again, keep the bones) cubed
4 Sausages (good quality ones, you choose the flavour!)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
Half a glass of wine (red or white, whatever youre drinking while youre cooking!)
1 sprig each of thyme/rosemary
1 can tomatoes (I use whole ones, because the flavour is kept inside the tomato rather than watered down when theyre chopped)
2 cans of cannelini beans (I like beans, so 1 can is probably enough for most people)
1 cup chicken stock (I used a packet of liquid consomme which turned out fine)
1,5 cups breadcrumbs
1 tbsp melted butter
S&P to taste

Preheat your oven to 150C.

1) Add oil to a casserole dish/pan (oven safe) and fry up the pork, bones and bacon. Allow it to brown and leave all the bacony goodness on the bottom of the pan! Put the skin you trimmed off the pork belly in first, skin side down and allow it to crisp up while you cook all the meat - chefs treat once its brown and crispy and the fat has rendered down! Take all the pork out and put it to the side.

2) Add the chicken and bones and brown, remove from the pan. Then add the sausages and brown. Once they're brown cut them up into chunks and put them aside as well.

3) You should find that the bottom of the pan is covered in golden goodness! The pan will be a little hot for the garlic and onions, so deglaze it with your wine (I used white) and then add the onions and garlic, and cook until translucent.

4) Return all the meat and bones to the pan, with the rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, and stock, cover and let it cook in the oven for 90mins.

5) After 90mins mix up the breadcrumbs and butter (adding herbs would be great - parsley would be traditional). Add the beans to the pan, then cover everything with the breadcrumbs and cook for about 30mins or until the crumbs are golden brown. At this stage you can also add a cornflour roux to thicken the sauce. I didnt bother really, it was delicious as it was, and while the sauce does end up only slightly more viscous than water, but if you cook it longer it will reduce down alot more... It was perfect how it was though, if you had bread to sop up the gravy! I mention water when describing the gravy, rest assured it is only the consistancy NOT the flavour, it is just busting at the seams with flavour!

Serve with crusty bread or your choice of potatoes, as well as a glass or 2 of your fave wine.

This was seriously delicious, and I'm going to be making it for my parents when I visit during my holidays! Its perfect for a cold winter night, warming and rich. The best part about it, its only going to get better if you're able to save any for the next day!

My evening will be spent with my delicious cassoulet, a bottle of really nice red (Houghtons "The Bandit" Shiraz Temperanillo - will buy it again!), a copy of Gourmet and Spice - West Coast food and life, Julia Childs "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".
Have a fabulous Friday evening!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

South Africa!!

Ive gone and booked my holiday for November, to South Africa and Singapore! 2 of my South African friends lived in Perth for a while, and while living here made friends from all around the world, so for their wedding all their friends they had while living in Australia have been invited to Cape Town! Which means theres crew from all over Australia, Finland, Canada, America, Germany... We'll all start out in Cape Town and then travel around for a week or so from there, camping etc. Ill be there a month, about 2 weeks for the wedding and 2 more weeks to travel around a bit further once most people have gone home. Another bonus, I have some South African friends that I met while I was in Holland, so I'll get the chance to go and visit them as well!

After my month in South Africa I'll be heading to Singapore to stay with a friend for 4 days... He has promised me glorious street food and a flat screen TV with cable haha! So I can imagine days gorging on amazing food and then crashing out on the couch for movies cos we're too full to move! I cant wait!!

When I came home from the Netherlands at the end of 2008, I was pretty devastated, I wasnt ready to come home, I didn't WANT to come home, because Amsterdam WAS home... I loved it, found a place I really loved and could call home. Then I had to come back to Australia and study and it was one of the hardest years of my life. The post graduate diploma I did was intense and alot of work, on top of that I just wanted to go back to Holland. Now almost 2 years on, I still miss Holland but I'm feeling fine about where I am. However today when I booked my tickets to Cape Town and Singapore, I was elated. I then realised that this is what makes me happy - travelling. Going on holidays makes everyone happy, but I feel like its a little bit more to me. Most people love travelling but also put having a home high on their list of priorities. Being settled, having a nice house with nice things... And don't get me wrong, thats nice. But I get tired of it, I have an inability to sit still, I dont like being in one place too long. It can be a lonely existance, moving on all the time, but I dont mind it really. But I think I realised that being here, where I am, and teaching, is fine, and I could be fine doing what I'm doing. But its when I do something like book a ticket that I just feel alive again. I feel like what I'm doing now is existing. Then when I'm off to a new place, I'm living again...

I really can't wait!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mustard Pork w/ Gnocchi

This was one of the recipes that I decided to make this week for dinner, on my little spree of organisation! Its one of Nigellas recipes, which you can find here, on her website!

Anyway despite what the ingredients say, I used a couple of slightly different ones! I wanted to use up some mustard made with Newcastle Brown Ale, and Ive decided that I dont think I like it! Its a bit too sharp for me, in an acidic way, if it were sharp in a horseradish type way it would be different, but its not. It has a funny aftertaste as well, which I think is because of the beer... I also had no cream but that was by choice, I didnt want to buy cream, so I used a bit of sour cream I already had, with a splash of low fat milk. It also said to deglaze the pan with cider, again, had none (unusual in my house lol), musta drank it all! So I used a splash of apple juice and water... anyway the sauce wasnt bad but it was overpowered by the mustard that I didnt like. Next time ill use a different mustard, and I think rather than cider Ill use white wine... the apple juice didnt really work for me, and I know white wine would... So next time its wine! The gnocchi was alright, but it really needs to be bought to life with something, its so bland! I still have 2/3 of a pack left so im going to have to find ways to use it that are delicious! Its in the freezer though so no hurry, Ill save it for one of those days where I have no food and no money :P
I also made a salad with red cabbage, apple, red onion and beetroot. I seasoned it, gave it a squeeze of lemon and put it in the fridge to let the salt take the juices out and make a little marinade. I keep reading on the forum that people braise their red cabbage in apple juice so I thought Id try that, but I think Ive decided today that I dont really like to cook with apple juice! It was alright, nice with the pork for sure, but the apple juice just tastes a bit
funky... So Im still looking for ways to use my red cabbage! Though the salad is pretty nice thats for sure, itll be even nicer tomorrow when I take it to school!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Food Discovery!

I have recently discovered a packet meal, that are preservative and gluten free and 100% vegetarian... Im not a huge fan of packet meals, as they always taste the same and I would prefer to cook it myself anyway, then I know whats in the food Im eating. However my old roommate Rose turned me onto these little packets of wonder! Theyre all indian meals, and vary in range of heat from one to three chillies (though I have only ever found 2 chilli meals, which vary in heat anyway lol) and are really tasty! The brand name is Gits, its made in India and exported (the food miles are the only negative I have found so far...), and I buy them from the Waneroo Market "supermarket", and they're about $3 each, which I think is reasonable!

Today for lunch Ive eaten Pau Bhaji, and the description on the back says "the original fast food from Bombay, Pau Bhaji literally means bread and mixed vegetables. The Bhaji, ie mixed veg, is cooked with a medley of spices and herbs, cooked to perfection in large pats of butter and garnished with coarsely chopped coriander leaves and diced onions. The Bhaji is served with small loaves of bread called Pau. An ideal snack that can be a meal in itself, Pau Bhaji offers you a taste of Bombay that leaves you craving for more". Aside from the marketing talk, its pretty accurate in whats in the box, and I love that they explain what the name means. Not many people really understand the Indian words used in menus etc so its great that they're demistifying the terminology! Now I know what Pau and Bhaji mean when I encounter them on a menu!

Most important thing is the taste though... yum!! Im no Indian food buff but to me, its nice. It would be great mopped up with some garlic naan, and its full of flavour and has a great texture. Its very tomatoey, which is explained when I look at teh ingredients - 35% tomatoes. Followed closely by potato at 31%. Over half of it is already just vegetable, which I love to see. While it DOES taste a little like something from the packet, its still one of the best foods Ive had thats packaged - and as a former uni student I tried one of everything at some stage!! I would serve the better ones of these (Im on my way to figuring out which ones are the best!) as sides if I were to cook an Indian feast for friends, simply to cut corners (as I know some of my friends would never know the difference!).

The list of ingredients shows only herbs, spices and vegetables, NO E numbers, perservatives, random thickeners, stabilisers, flavour/colourings... not one.
Happy days :)

This weeks dinner menu!

Ive gone down a bit of a different road this week, in terms of what I'll be eating... I actually planned what Ill eat and made a list for it. It didnt take me too long really, and I tried to choose recipes with ingredients that I know I already have and am keen to use up (like mustard, potatoes and halloumi).

So I went for the shop today and found that I bought much LESS than I usually buy, because I had some direction in what I knew I needed, rather than buying a heap of things I MIGHT want to use... I spent about the same amount that I usually spend, but I think this had alot to do with a few extras I bought that werent food related.

What I've decided to eat this week is:
1) Seared lamb with hummus and pine nuts
2) Mustard pork chops
3) Double potato and halloumi bake
4) Warm Bean Salad w/ bread
5) Crispy chicken w/potatoes and tomatoes
6) Welsh Rarebit

The first 3 are from and the last 3 from Jamie Olivers book, Jamie at Home, but I dont have a link to the welsh rarebit sorry!

I had the lamb tonight for dinner, and it was really nice! Ive decided that I quite like hummus, ever since I had it at the Subiaco Hotel in Perth. It was served with pickled vegetables and dukkah bread - it was the hero dish of the night, it was deceptively good! Anyway so my first attempt at making hummus went fine, I dont have a blender but you really dont need one... Just took a quick step into the old days before there were any appliances and everything was manual labour! The hummus was great, its really easy, though I never really thought otherwise, but its definately something I'd make again! Now, the recipe calls for pomegranite seeds, pinenuts and dill... I hate dill (due to an unfortunate incident with salmon with dill sauce resulting in food poisoning), there was no pomegranite at the market (not in season Im guessing!) and pinenuts were insanely expensive (cheapest I found was $7 for a little bag... hmf) so I skipped all those aspects. It wouldve been an amazing dish with the pinenuts and pomegranite, though they werent available so I made do... The lamb i changed a bit to use what I had, which was lamb shanks. I put sealed them first in a pan with S&P and a sprinkle of cumin, then into the slow cooker, set on high for however long it took me to get to the shops and back (where I do my shop is 40mins away...). When I got home the lamb was almost ready so I left it a bit longer until I couldnt pick the shanks up to turn them over in the slow cooker, without bits of meat falling off the bone! I flaked it all off, mixed it up with the hummus and some extra cumin, S&P and ate it! I was pretty hungry so I didnt manage to get any pics of it, but next time I make it Ill take a pic and hopefully itll have the little pomegranite bombs of flavour on it!!

Ill report back on the others during the week as I make them, but Im looking forward to a delish week!!

PS this is about 45mins after Ive eaten dinner, followed by a little tub of yoghurt with mango - I feel really satisfied by this meal and dont feel like I need to eat anything else! I often feel like something else after Ive eaten dinner but not tonight! All teh chickpeas have done me good :)

Friday, June 4, 2010


Have stumbled across some pretty awesome art today... I wish it was more affordable, I would love to buy some Banksy prints, I haven't seen one that I haven't liked, I love the messages in them.

World Wide Trap by Blu

I love this one... I feel its an accurate representation of society and popular culture... People are so easily streamlined into a certain way of living - wake up, work for a person you don't like doing a job you dont enjoy, to earn money for an expensive house in an area you live in because it sounds good when you say it to people, a car that you can feel a bit cool in, and nice things in your house so people are impressed when they come over. To me, its a dig at the "right" life. Married with kids in a nice house with a stable career... throw a dog in there and you've got it made. However the name suggests peoples reliance on the internet, that people can only connect with others through electronic means rather than using social skills. Which is also true... either way - love it.
Napalm (Cant beat that feeling) by Banksy
Pretty powerful image, which I dont think needs any explanation at all...

No Ball Games - Banksy

This isnt the original image, there are a few variations but this is the one that struck me the most. Kids aren't playing that much anymore... its all computer games, social networking sites and electronic games over real games outside. Its pretty sad. The whole world is in a pretty sad state of affairs to be honest. Western culture is knackered, because everyones becoming Americanised and look how well thats turned out. 3rd world is equally knackered, because they're being exploited by the greed of the west who can never get enough. But thats looking really quite far into the image. Its simply, for me, an accurate reflection on the stay of play in childrens lives. It comes from the big square babysitter.

Anatomy of Love - Paul Insect

I just like the colours... art isnt always about messages and social commentary. Sometimes I just like how things look. You can look into this piece loads, there are heaps of messages you can draw out of it. However the first thing I thought was simply that I liked how this picture looked.. and who doesn't enjoy a celebration of love? Regardless of whos involved - gay straight black white old young... Love is Love, and should be surrounded by pattern and colour!

Toxic Mary - Banksy
What are we feeding our kids? Most of the time people dont even know whats in the food they feed their family... A common phrase is " you know XXXX gives you cancer..." and the common reply? "Everything gives you cancer these days..." said often jokingly or with a nonchalant tone. Since when does cancer become so casual? Our food and environments are toxic, we dont know whats in half the things we eat, or whats in the air we breathe, and its only once people start to get sick that we ask questions. The same happened with asbestos, and smoking... in the not so distant future we are going to be looking back at the habits of the population and think "how could we have been so stupid?"...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Are a fab band.... I dont listen to them THAT often, but every now and again its the only band that I can listen to, and I never get sick of them. They have great lyrics, and I find I can relate to alot of them, in my own way (obviously not always the same as 2 pommy brothers who drink and fight :P).

but Oasis.... are a band to be remembered.

Half the World Away
a song that I relate to in many many ways! I love this song...

Champagne Supernova
beautiful, cool...

short but sweet

a classic good mood song!

another one you cant help singing along to and feeling a bit rock n roll!

seriously, sometimes only Oasis will do....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Students - the new matchmakers?

It appears that my year 10 students are intent on setting me up with another teacher... As I mentioned in another post, a couple of students have a home ec assignment where they have to design and execute a 3 course meal and serve it to a teacher. Well 3 of them have chosen me, but I seem to be getting more than just a free feed. The students are dead set on setting me up with a teacher at school, and they're using the lunch they're cooking for me, to invite him too, to set up a romantic lunch... They're (apparently) getting rose petals to sprinkle over and around the table, and all sorts of other romantic mood setters. Thing is, I'm not too sure exactly why me, or why him? I guess were both single and young? Im laughing about it, but discouraging it at the same time, its a little weird. And I cant talk to this teacher without a couple of students coming up and making comments, calling me Mrs XXXX and generally poking fun. But this teacher is encouraging it, saying he cant wait to spend more time with me and hes looking forward to our lunch - which gets ALL the year 10s going! I had them coming up to me today during a class to talk to me about it, the girls were alot more sensible about it but I think they're just caught up in the romance of it all... I think they'd love to see something happen, and they'd love to be credited with setting 2 young single teachers up!

I do have a bit of a soft spot for my year 10s though.. I got warned about them, how they're a pain in the arse, disengaged, really hard work, really low literacy levels and just a struggle to teach... and in some ways I agree but on the other hand these guys have loads of personality and they just need the space to be themselves. This class arent really the studious type, they DO struggle a bit with literacy but they seem to respond well to discussions, talking about everything rather than writing, and not being treated like they're a pain, which I know is how some teachers treat them. These guys dont respond at all to an dictatorship in the classroom. They're 2,5 terms away from finishing school and going into apprenticeships and they have the mentality that school is almost done for them, they're in charge of their lives and school is an almost ended chapter. So getting them to sit down and study genetics quietly is an improbability... I've bribed them with chocolate, I've let them plug an ipod into the classroom speakers and listen to music int he last 10mins of class if they've worked well... and I get something out of them, they try to get some concepts, and they give me the time of day. I laugh with them, I dont take myself too seriously, and I let them much around a bit, as long as they pull themselves together after a few minutes and get back on task... I've also mentioned to them that I know and understand that for their immediate futures, it may be easy for them to think that topics in science are totally irrelevant. I let them know that understanding science is understanding the world they live in, and their own bodies and how they work, but I get it, that for them, at the moment, its not the most important information. I dont expect them to be science geniuses, although I certainly believe that they're capable of more than what they think... and I've told them that when a future employer wants to see their reports, which they likely will if they want an apprenticeship, that they're not going to be looking primarily at their grades or their academic achievements. Its the comments from the teachers they're going to focus on - how does the student work, do they have a good attitude, how do they interact with their peers? and thats what I'm focussed on as well. I want them to have a go, believe in themselves and have enough self respect to participate in class and not be afraid to fail - they shouldn't be afraid to try and grasp a concept and not understand it. If they dont understand it, its not the end of the world, but if they do understand it, great! They've proven to themselves that they've done something they didn't think they could do, which is only a good thing!! The fantastic thing is, that most of my year 10 class are really beginning to understand this. I think. Theyre 14/15 years old, they're going to have off days of course, but they seem to respond well to me, so far, and Im really happy with that.

They respond so well they're apparently taking charge of my love life....hmmm... we'll see how monday goes!

Damn cookies...

honestly. cookies ellude me. for some reason I cant get them crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. i just get crumbly all the way through, which ends in a mess when I eat them...

just made some rolled oat cookies that I nabbed from a forum ( which came highly regarded. Now I did make one mistake, instead of adding the sugar to the melted butter to dissolve, I added it to the dry mix, which I think affected it a bit... they still taste nice... but its not the texture I was after at all.

But baking has always elluded me... I never seem to get the desired result. cept with the guiness cake! that was a big success!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Staff morning tea

Tomorrow I'm one of the staff members who's turn it is to bring it something for the fortnightly morning tea... a pretty safe bet is sausage rolls so thats what I've gone for! I think its pretty hard for home made sausage rolls to be anything less than delicious! It just depends on what you mix in with the meat to make them stand out...

The sausage meat itself was already great - it smelled really good, but so far, all the meat I've gotten from Drovers Market in Wanneroo (Corner of Wanneroo and Burns Beach rds) has been pretty awesome. If you're looking for a recipe though, I dont really use amounts or anything with sausage rolls, it just depends what I have in the house... This time I used 2 tsp of some gourmet mustard made with Newcastle Brown Ale which I bought off the net from, a chopped spring onion, a squirt of HP sauce, S&P, an egg, and 1 tsp of minced garlic. I squished it all together with my hands (its really hard to do it any other way...) and then wrapped it in puff pastry and put them in the oven at 200 celcius, and took them out when they looked, and smelled ready! They were golden brown and puffy, and of course, I had sample one! Deeeeelicious! I think the mustard gives it a really nice tang, and the fact that its made with a dark ale gives it a bit of an edge - its good stuff! I normally add tomato or barbeque sauce but this time I added HP sauce and I think that will be an inclusion Ill stick to - really nice and not quite as sweet as the others, its nice n smokey instead...

I had some puff pastry and a couple of spoonfuls of sausage meat left, so I decided to make some pinwheels as well. I just spread some passata on the pastry and then spread the meat in the middle from one side to the other, then layered it with grated cheddar cheese and chopped spring onions, with a generous sprinkling of S&P. Rolled it up, cut em up into approx 1,5cm lengths and in the oven they went! The smell was pretty awesome, and watching the pastry puff up was a slow, satisfying entertainment. It was also quite cold so being by the oven was a good place to be!

Again, they needed to be tested, of course, quality control ;) they're pretty yummy! All the goodness in the sausage meat went into the pinwheels, even though there wasnt much meat in it, its pretty flavoursome and so these little mouthfuls are very moreish! With about 5 other people bringing something in, it should be a nice little feast!

And speaking of feasts, the year 10 home ec students have an assignment where they have to plan and execute a 3 course meal, and their "customer" has to be a teacher. So 3 of my kids that I have in science came barging in one lesson asking if they could cook for me! So on monday I get to go to "cafe 10" which is their little cafe they'll set up, and have a 3 course italian lunch cooked by my year 10s! Being nice to your students certainly pays off! Well... Ill decide that once I've tasted the food!

Quick edit: sausage rolls went down a treat - though loads of other people bought them too! But mine were the only homemade ones and one of the teachers sought me out to tell me they were delicious! woohoo!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Pictures of the kids when Aunty Jax came to visit - there are more pics of one girl than the other, simply cos the younger one doesnt like photos that much, and the older one LOVES them and is usually very animated lol

Told that we have to go home from the beach... uh oh...

Music I can't get sick of...

even though I try my hardest to play these songs to death! You cannot be anything but happy listening to these tunes...

Kings of Leon - Taper Jean Girl

The Kinks - You really got me (the video is gold!)

Kasabian - Fast Fuse

The Wombats - Lets dance to joy division

Steppenwolf - Magic carpet ride

The Subways - Oh yeah

ACDC - If you want blood (Bon Scott - pure rock n roll)

The Black Keys - Countdown

Ash Grunwald - Breakout

I could go on... But Im tired and if I listen to such cool music any longer ill wake up and wanna party!

those greeks had it right...

Its funny how sometimes even though you know of a classic food combination, you dont necessarily eat it, or really know how it tastes, you just know its a classic/common/popular combination. I'm a creature of habit and while I can tell you the classic combinations for many foods, I dont necessarily eat them very often, because I tend to eat the same things pretty often - purely because, again, Im a creature of habit, I buy the same stuff at the supermarket all the time, because I dont plan to go to the shops. I live almost an hour from where I go shopping, and so its often a case of "Oh well Im going to the city today anyway, ill do my shopping". And off I go and do my shopping without planning at all... I really should plan more but I spend so much time at school, planning lessons etc that I dont really feel like planning 5 or 6 meals as well! Even though Id enjoy it! Anyway Im getting off topic...

I just discovered for myself, the deliciousness of greek yoghurt and honey... dear lord, this yoghurt is good! Ive been getting into eating yoghurt every morning with my oats (with extra frothed milk from my coffee, crushed frozen raspberries and a splash of apple and cinnamon juice) and the yoghurt Id bought was just plan old natural yoghurt from Brownes, which is decent enough! But today I went to buy some more and all they had the local shop was the greek kind, so i just bought that... after a delicious dinner of roast beetroot, sweet potato, carrot, boiled potato with butter, S&P, and a grilled chicken breast, I felt like something fruity - so I decided to get into the persimmons that Id bought from the market the other day. Might as well chuck on some yoghurt, and since Id bought some local natural honey - why not drizzle some of that on too? Anyway, enough about my thought process, to the important stuff, it is SO delicious! The greek yoghurt is so much creamier, and milkier than the other stuff, and while its still quite sharp, the aftertaste is smooth and, well, again, creamy! I was really suprised at how lovely it was... and it was sweetened so nicely by the honey, which isnt too overpowering, as Ive found some store bought stuff.

Ive tried persimmons before, but I think it was toward the end of the season and they were a bit too soft and tooooo sweet. But they had a little container with some pieces cut up, and I tried one and it was really nice, sweet but not too sweet. Its hard to describe the flavour, especially now since Ive smothered it in yoghurt! But the combination of the 3 is just divine... Im really blown away by it! Ive always favoured simple food, where the product speaks for itself, the best ingredients cooked simply - so you can actually TASTE the vegetables/fruit/meat etc... and so todays discovery of an in season fruit served with creamy greek natural yoghurt and a drizzle of local, natural honey, is right up my street! Add some chopped almonds, dried cranberries and white chocolate buttons (aptly named "Celebration Mix") and you have a delicious breakfast or dessert... Yum Yum YUM!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

graduate teaching...

is hard. Not only do you have to plan and create everything for the first time, youre left alone in the classroom with no feedback from anyone. I do like being alone in the classroom and not being watched all the time, but it would bereally awesome to get some feedback for what im doing right/wrong. Ive recieved compliments from staff a few times, the deputy really likes what Im doing with the students, its nice to see the kids getting hands on experience and getting outside, and another teacher, who is sort of my HOD (unofficially - its how I see her anyway- btw HOD = head of dept for those playing at home) just said that she didnt know if anyone had told me, but I was doing a great job and have adapted really well to the school and to teaching a subject I was barely trained in... nice to hear, but some constructive advice would be nice too. Im pretty much alone teaching science - there is one other teacher who teaches one other science class, aside from that Im pretty much on my own to decide what the students learn. I have a lab tech who knows more than me, who, when i ask her to prepare experiements for me, brings out a load of stuff i didnt ask for and doesnt tell me how to use it. she brings out all the equipment I need but also a bunch of stuff I dont need. it makes me feel a bit stupid that I dont know what its all for. Im meant to be her superior, Im meant to know everything, and I dont.

As a graduate teacher Im finding one of the biggest things that Im struggling with is long term organisation. Im finding that I can have my classes organised but not further than a week, and Im realising what I need to teach as I go along... I cant say that by this time, the students should know this, this and this, and they should be able to tell me about this. Because at the moment Im learning it all myself. Im a PE major and Im teaching science, and most of the things I have to teach at the moment, I havent learned since high school myself. So its hard to see a terms worth of content and how to deliver it. Im just wading through the waters trying to make sense of it all and going lesson by lesson, week by week. I can feel it getting somewhat easier, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel and I think with experience I am going to get alot better at it, and once I know everything I need to know things will get so much easier. But at the moment its hard not to feel a little guilty that the kids Im teaching arent getting the as good a science education as theyre meant to...

Will have to just keep plugging away, and do the best I can while I learn how Im actually supposed to be doing this! Fake it till you make it!


Fave pics of around the place...

All the following photos were taking at Stirling Range National Park by me, on the way to Albany one day... its a really stunning place, if you get the chance, have a drive through!

These pics were taken by me in Albany, at The Gap, a stunning place in any season!

All the following photos were taken by me, at my parents place one summer while working

Our rusty old doorbell - still works!