Monday, 31 December 2012

I can see the Glowing Heart of the World


New Years is upon us.

It heralds a time of reflection.

A time where we think about what has been before & about what lays ahead.

I have never really done the New Years Resolution thing.  I guess I like to feel as though I can make changes anytime for myself that might help improve things for me & my family. If I think changes need to be made, I don't want to be waiting a whole year to implement them.
And I like to think I am reflective about those things more than once a year.

Nonetheless it can also provide an opportunity to shut the door on things that may have been upsetting or disappointing & provide an opportunity to look firmly ahead at what can be.

That is my way.

I try really hard not to get stuck on what has been. We have had some truly sad & hard times at Chez GG in the past few years.  But I have always been a 'finding the positive' kind of gal. There were some times in there where finding the positive in amongst all the darkness felt impossible.

Bad & sad stuff happens to lots of people.  Cripplingly bad sometimes.  But something I have learnt to really grab hold of is that LOVE & HOPE are what can drive us on.  People all around the world do the same.
Out there in amongst it all there are truly amazing people who despite adversity make their lives amazing & positive and just keep on keeping on.
These people inspire me every day. They inspire me to be thankful for what I have & give me the hope I need to keep going.

After a fair bit of one foot in front of the other and not feeling as though I could make a plan beyond that I feel as though I may just be there.
I can see further into the future beyond the fog.

I feel as though I am looking into the glowing heart of the world.  And I like it a lot.

It feels good.  It feels freeing.  It feels exciting.

I have made some plans for GG that have been chatted about with Mr Girlfriend.

I am so thankful to be holding hands in life with him.

Hopefully you too will see these plans come to fruition this year.

I am very thankful for all of your support  here or over on my FB page or on Instagram.

The community here is a wonderful positive thing in my life and for that I thank YOU.

May 2013 be full of love & hope for you too.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S BEETROOT GRAVLAX SALMON:
Every Christmas on our table is Gravlax- or Gravad Lax as the Swedes call it.
It is a Scandinavian method of curing Salmon. 
It is one of the traditions our family brought back from out time living in Sweden.
This year one of my brothers posted a pic of Beetroot cured Gravlax -and so I asled him immediately for his recipe.
This is it!
Super easy, super pretty & SUPER delicious.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1 side of salmon (you can do this with smaller pieces if you wish)
  • 1 fresh beetroot, grated finely
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tblspoon Cumin seeds
METHOD:
Mix together the salt, sugar, beetroot & Cumin & now rub well into the Salmon on both sides.
Place in the fridge for 2 days or at least 30 hours.

Remove the Salmon from the briney solution and rinse.


Pat dry with paper towel and slice very finely.
It goes very well with eggs. YUM

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

I thought it would get easier.... I was wrong


SO........here we all are trying to play chasy with the end of the year.

Trying madly to get to the finish line.

This year our second child graduates from Primary school & moves to a new High school next year.

I wrote about my first child starting High school and my feelings about that here.

I didn't have problems waving any of mine off to Primary school.

High school feels oh so different.

The emotions I have as I prepare them for high school and for the next biggest step in their lives- the onset of the teen years.

I wrote a post about late last year called 'The conflict of independence' about the teen years.  About the difficulty as a parent with the notion that what we all want as parents is to set our children free into the world.  To be able to give them the gift of independence is what we truly want- yet at the same time we don't really want to let go at all.

You can read that post here.

I thought I would be better at it this time.

I thought I may have reconciled some of those feelings.

I thought it would be a softer landing.

I thought it would get easier....I was wrong.

It isn't a sadness I feel.

I am happy.

Yet I am not smiling.

I'm crying.  A lot.

I feel so heart full that my heart has filled up and is overflowing out of my eyes.

I watched last week as my 12yo boy - a school leader- as he opened the Grade 6 school exhibition.

He was so capable and confident.

My eldest said to me after his speech- 'Wow he is a natural leader'.

I feel so thrilled to see bits of his adult persona.

He led his Uke orchestra that night too.  He set up the Uke orchestra at his school this year, teaching any kids who wanted to how to play the Ukelele- now with 50 members.  He hopes it will continue without him.  I am confident it will.
My eldest got a video of them playing (you can watch it at the end of the post)- I was too busy crying......

I think that what makes me feel overwhelmed is the feeling that before me is the young man who is fast becoming a young adult.

One I feel very very lucky to have in my life.

I am in awe of him.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S Slow cooked all in the pot Lamb Roast with mixed Beans & POLENTA CHIPS:
I use soft Polenta a bit like people would use rice or pasta or mashed potato.  A yummy side dish to catch all the sauce of a yummy braise.
And I usually always make too much- a fear of mine is having people left hungry at the table!
This is the BEST way to use your leftover soft polenta.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 200g polenta
  • 50g butter
  • light olive oil for frying
  • 100g parmesan 
  • 2 litres chicken stock (substitute Veg if you wish)
  • 1 Lamb forequarter
  • 2 x cans four bean mix
  • 2 x cans of tomatoes
  • lots of fresh oregano
  • 1 head of garlic (unpeeled)
  • 1 spanish onion, sliced into wedges
  • 100g Puy lentils
  • 2 lemons
Bring the stock to the boil and slowly (This is important) pour the dried polenta into the pot all the while stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps.

The cooking instructions will vary depending on whether you are using instant polenta or not- follow the instruction on the packet for best results.

Once the polenta is cooked, add the butter and the cheese, stir through well.

Now pour your wet polenta into a large rectangular dish and spread evenly across the dish.
 Pop in the fridge overnight.

The next day cut the polenta into even size chips of your choice- i like them to fairly large- you can cut triangles, circles, whatever you like!

In a non stick pan heat up some light olive oil to a medium heat and pop a few of the polenta slices into the pan and fry gently till brown .

Turn and let each side brown.

Set aside on paper towel until you have cooked all your chips.

Serve with whatever dish you like!

I served mine with a whole Lamb Forequarter that I slow roasted at 150C for 6 hours (well covered) in a pan with  a variety of beans (cannellini beans, chick peas, kidney beans & white beans)  a couple of cans of good tomatoes, about 100g dried Puy lentils, spanish onion, a whole head of garlic, a few quarters of lemon & lots of fresh oregano. 

Just put everything into the roasting pan and cover well with foil.  Put it in the oven and take out half way to stir the goodies around but otherwise leave it alone! 

YAY so easy!

The crunchy Polenta chips were a perfect accompaniment for the soft melt in your mouth meat dish.


Here is my lad's Uke orchestra playing 'The Killers- All these things I have done'. He is on the very far right. 
Of course I cry every time I watch it........

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The big bad Internet....or not.


So often we malign things without learning ways to make them work for us.

It is not possible with all things.

But sometimes there is good to be found in the most unexpected places.

The internet is often seen as negative thing for children.

And yes, sometimes it is.

It is the openness, the vast never-ending unrestrained nature of it that can leave us feeling frightened of it as parents.

In our house it is managed by only having computers in common areas, easily visible to all- but especially ME.
Can you see the computer under the vintage Coke sign? That is where this all happens! Right in amongst it all- the heart of the home. In my kitchen/dining/family room. 

No electronic devices are in any of the bedrooms in our house.

Phones placed on the kitchen bench before bedtime...that kind of thing.

I have talked about having balance with old & new before - my most recent post about that was here.

We are a technology rich house.

I am an early adopter.

Mr Girlfriend and I had email in 1995- way back when it was first invented....only none of our friends had it so we could only email each other- in the same house.  Hilarious.

But seriously I love technology and the big bad internet.

I love the freedom it gives me.

I love the way I have created this space with it.

I love the people I have met because of it.

I love how I can have my fave people in my home with me- even though some of them are across the other side of the world.

I want my kids to be able to use it & understand it too.

I am not keen on gaming and we have super strict limits on content & time.

We normally do watch TV - but as with gaming we are strict with content & viewing time with this too.

But for the last two weeks we have not turned on the TV once.

I know right?!

B I G.

It wasn't really even a conscious thing.

We don't have the TV on during the day at all during the school week anyway but after the 3 little kids were in bed Mr Girlfriend and I would often kick back with the big 2 and a few eps of Modern Family or some cooking shows.

But the other week Mr Girlfriend was away and the big 2 (12 & 14) and I just ended up chatting on the couch- about music- what we were listening to and loving, or about school stuff or other 'big' life stuff.

Then one tonight I was reading on the couch and the other two were on my computer that is smack bang in the middle of the heart of our home.

They had invented a new game to play.

So very cool.

Kids are awesome like that.

They just invent stuff out of nothing.

So.......

On that night they invented this game.

And I wanted to share it with you as I think it is super ace & I love to share super ace things with you!

See the big bad internet really can be super dooper ace for our kids!

Jasper & Max's WIKIPEDIA GAME CHALLENGE:
The challenge is to go from one thing to another seemingly COMPLETELY unrelated thing only using the hyperlinks in Wikipedia.
You have to choose things that you think have no relationship to each other at all.

No-one is a winner of this game- it is not about winning.
It creates really interesting discussion and some really amazing learning.
My kids spent about an hour or so on it that night & have revisited it since a few times.
It is probably for older kids but it is SOOOO interesting to find out the ways that things that seem to have no connection to each other, really do.
It's kind of like a 'six degrees of separation game'.

Give it a whirl & let me know how you find it?

PS. It has now been TWO full weeks with ZERO TV & I  am LOVING IT SICK.
Let it be known there will not be a TV in the reno at all.  
No siree.  Music speakers YES but TV no way. And don't you hate the way living area designs are determine by the TV? Pet hate of mine..........

Antonio Carluccio's CARAMELISED RED CAPSICUM FRITTATA:
I LOVE watching cooking shows- as I mentioned above- but one of my all time faves is The Two Greedy italians.
For so many reasons......I have always seen Antonio Carluccio as a kind of hero. Doesn't everyone want him in their life? His joie de vivre is infectious and inspiring.  His cooking is amazing. His broken English just perfect in it's uniqueness & charm.  His love of the simple is so refined. 
A beautiful human being.
But this programme was so real in the way it portrayed their gorgeous and ever playful friendship & their love of real food.  Honest simple and totally achievable in any kitchen.
It is their absolute passion for produce that I love.
We have a LOT to learn in Australia about the way we see vegetables and use them in our cooking.
In MANY other cultures they are the treated with the reverence they deserve. 
Whole meals are served as vegetarian feast-not because the people eating are vegetarian or because it is 'Meat Free Monday' but because the produce deserves to stand alone.
We eat way too much meat to be sustainable and I for one would be super happy to see us eating less meat and more veg in our day to day lives.
I served this dish for dinner after seeing Antonio Carluccio cook it- and I had just bought 3 kilos of Red Caps at the market at closing time for $1 (!!!!!!!!) so I needed to use them up.
I served with with a simple green salad- and we were all very very happy. so so tasty.
SO few ingredients. 
Food can be so very simple and so very amazing. 
I hope you make it over & over again and love it as much as we did. x
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 5 large RED capsicums, cut into long strips
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO (extra virgin Olive oil)
  • fresh oregano (not in Antonio's recipe but my garden is full of it and it was a delicious addition)
  • S & P
METHOD:
 Heat oil in a non- stick fry pan to a medium heat.
Add the capsicum and fry until starting to brown- about 5 minutes or so. 
Turn over and caramelise the other side too.
Now add the garlic (and oregano if you wish) and gently fry for a minute so the garlic is cooked but not brown.

Now add the vinegar and fry gently until evaporated. 

Take off the heat.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl with S & P.

Return the pan to the heat & add the eggs.  Stir in & leave to sit for about 5 minutes or until there is a crust on the underside.

Now place a large plate over the top of the frypan (it must go over the edges) and flip the frittat onto the plate.

Turn over and slide back into pan to cook the other side.

Cook for another  5 minutes or so.

Turn onto plate, cut into wedges and serve either hot or cold.

Another reason to love the internet is good ol' YouTube and all the music love it has on it.
Like wikipedia, lots of the stuff on it is thanks to people sharing. 
I LOVE that someone shares this.......... le sigh.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Finding balance

Sometimes people think our family is unconventional.

It's true we do some things differently to others.

But really there is a lot of how we live that is super doop old school.

Mr Girlfriend is the breadwinner.

He gets all dressed up in his ace outfits of awesome and heads into the city where he works in an office.

I stay at home and look after the kid side of things.

I cook and mostly don't clean...well I do clean but you know I don't love it.

I do the laundry.

I organise paying all the bills and getting any of the housey organisey stuff that needs to get done.

I organise the shopping & cook dinner for everyone every day.

BUT .....

Doing all that stuff is HUGELY time consuming.

It really IS a full time job.

I look at families that have two people working- either part time or full time- and manage their children as well and think they are totally amazing.

I think we all spend our entire lives as adult's trying to find the balance.

Balance between family & work.

The balance between work and family is a constant tug.

Working enough to get the money to keep the financial stress as low as possible.

And then the modern fascination with feeling like you need to LOVE your work.  That places another pressure on everyone.  Or is it just me that thinks that 'loving your work' is a new thing?
Is it wrong to go to work to be able to invest in the other parts of your life that you love?

Don't get me wrong- it is super ACE if you do what you love for work- but I think the pressure to find a job that you LOVE is huge.

What if the other part of your life is what you love the most?  And work is a means to make that how you want? Is that ok too?

It's all so hard isn't it? Finding that balance.

Was it always so complicated?

Do we have to love everything we do?

There are some things in life that you just have to DO and that don't feel good- right?

I don't think it is healthy for our kids to NEVER have a hard time at stuff. I think it is healthy to NOT win all the time.  To feel the sting of disappointment.  To struggle sometimes to achieve something.

I know it is not very popular but I think learning resilience has far greater merit than being a winner.

It is not easy to watch your child struggle but sheesh it feels great to watch your child gain the courage to stand up and try again.

I think people are super dooper LUCKY to be able to do a job they LOVE!  

Bringing up five children is an expensive enterprise.

And having five was what we always wanted to do.

A very considered choice.

Our family is the part of our life that we enjoy the most.

But there are all these things to think about ~

Being home enough to balance the need to be with your family.

Finding time to be with your partner.

And then the hardest part of all.

Finding time to be you.

I am thinking about this a lot.

I guess I always am.

I am grateful to have been able to be around as all of my children have been small.

But there is just one more year left before my fifth and final child will head off to school.

And for me it will be the beginning of a new path for me trying to contribute more financially to the family.

In the time leading up to this I am busily thinking about how I can best do that & still retain the ability to be around for the kids.  Even though they are at school there are lots of things on that are great to be able to be around to be a part of.

Do I do something with the work I do here & make it earn some income for me or do I just find a job that I can walk into & walk out of every day?  

The balance will be tipped again and we will have to find new ways of living our life with balance.

I wonder if any of us ever really achieve it?

Or whether the scales keep tipping?

I have said it before but I think it takes a lifetime to find the balance between life & work.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S ANCIENT GRAIN SALAD with ORANGE & CUMIN dressing:
Summer totally means Salad  season right!
My kids love taking salads like this for lunch.
This salad is totally PACKED with nutritional goodness & lovely textures.
You can add all sorts of goodies- think roast veggies, beets, goats cheese, fetta cheese- just use your imagination!
This is a meal in itself (GREAT for kids school lunch) or just sooo good with any meat. 
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 100g freekeh 
  • 100g Quinoa
  • 100g Green Puy lentils
  • 100g chick peas
  • 100g puffed corn
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 1 lebanese cucumber, cut into 2cm rough chunks
  • 4 oranges (3 for the salad peeled and cut into chunks and one for the dressing)
  • loads of dill, basil, coriander, parsley & mint- or any herbs of your choice chopped roughly. Don't be shy with the fresh herbs!
  • 4 tblspoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 4 tblspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground Cumin
  • S & P
METHOD:
Prepare the freekeh, quinoa, lentils and chickpeas according to the instructions.

Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl add the EVOO, the cumin, the juice & zest of an orange & the red wine vinegar and mix well.  Set aside.

Add all ingredients into a large bowl , pour over dressing and combine well.

Adjust seasoning and serve.

I have been really enjoying Poor Moon's self titled album this week. A couple of them are members of Fleet Foxes and you can hear their music in this album. It's really lovely.
I love this clip too. Do you?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

We are doing alright

Yesterday my eldest son came home from school and told me something that made me cry.

I know.

It doesn't take much.

But this was really super special.

Something that made me feel as if we are doing alright.

Bringing up our kids with the right attitudes & morals.

Those things are very important to me.

Much more so than what they are going to 'be' when they grow up.

Surely HOW they be is more important?

Not so long ago I was in one of my son's classrooms for a parent meeting and I saw a quote on the classroom wall that really resonated with me.

I am going to segue a little here....remind you of ol' skool Snoopy cartoons.
Do you remember the bits where there are adults in the cartoon speaking and all you can hear is 'Wah Wah wah wah'- like in this video......

I had that happen to me at this meeting when I read this quote.

All around me went to 'Wah wah'.

All I could hear was the words I was reading resonating loudly in my head.

A light bulb had gone off.

I wish I knew whose words they were...I forgot to take notice.

The words.  It was all about the words.

Stuck in my soul.

"It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings"

YES!!!

So much YES!


Mr. Girlfriend and I had only been laughing at ourselves as parents the other night.


We were laughing about how as we get older we seem to have less & less idea about everything. So much so that soon we will be in negative territory.


I retold this idea to some friends of mine last night.  


It is good to laugh at ourselves. Not to take ourselves too seriously.


I guess it feels as if we are stepping into a whole lot of foreign territory with our teen. After years of having young children and feeling pretty well versed in how to manage that we are now back in 'beginner' territory.


Not really sure if we are doing it right or not?


Lots of self doubt as parents.


The kind you have when you are doing things for the first time.


Then our eldest comes out and tells us about something he did.  And it made me feel me ok about it all. That we are indeed doing ok.


We could have very nearly never known about what he did.  Kids do lots of stuff we don't know about.


And one thing I DO know about the teen years is that there is a whole lot more secret stuff than not secret stuff.


I guess we assume that is not a good thing & it is hard to reconcile the letting go with the being attached there is no doubt about it.


But I am sure there are LOTS of really amazing things. Little things. Little and GOOD things that happen that we won't ever know. 


So.......


Let me tell you about this one good thing.


This amazingly good thing that my 14yo son did yesterday.


He is currently undertaking 3 weeks of school in the CBD of Melbourne.  He and his fellow class mates make their own way into the city each day to their little school away from school to encourage familiarity with their home town.  To encourage them to dig deep into the history & workings of the city they live in.


How great.


He was making his way into the big smoke for his very first day of the CBD program.


He got off the train right in the centre of town & made his way up out of the underground station to the street.


For some reason there were a stack of bananas being given away in the train station. Some kind of promo.


He grabs a couple & continues up the stairs.


There on his way up on the landing of the staircase was a homeless man.  He tells me he was VERY smelly and his clothes were really ragged & filthy.


My son smiled at him & offered him his bananas.


The man accepted, and thanked him profusely again & again smiling at my boy.


My son could have chosen to NOT see that man. That man who was so invisible to every other commuter walking by him.


One of many many invisible homeless people in every city on earth.


He could have decided that the very unpleasant smell and his ragged appearance was too much.  Too confronting. Too much to warrant an interaction.  


But instead he chose to engage with him and offer him something of real value.


This is why I cried.


I felt overwhelmed.


Amazed that he behaved with such tenderness & compassion towards a complete stranger when it would have been so much easier to walk past like most other people did.


Wow.


Just wow.


Our kids teach us SOOO much each and every single day.


It is so important that we make the time to listen to what they tell us.


I might NEVER have heard this story.


And I would have missed so very much.



GOURMET GIRLFRIEND’S BREAKFAST TOSTADAS
Tostadas are a delicious fresh, tasty & easy dish from Mexico.
Most people love Mexican food but might have never thought of eating it for Breakfast.
I bet it will be a weekend favourite once you have tried it!
You can change the ingredients to suit what flavours you like.
You can serve it as described below but it is also great with a fried egg on top or maybe even a little bit of cooked shredded chicken or prawns if you want to be all fancy.
You can change the ingredients that make up the salsa to your won liking. I like this mix as it provides a lot of colour as well as different flavours & textures.
Super yum scrum.
You can add chilli if you are are a chilli fiend like me!
I had the absolute pleasure of cooking this recipe with some 12yo girls at our local Primary school & can tell you all that they LOVED eating it and were super doop great at making this.
Get your kids in the kitchen and enjoy! 
Cooking together is one of the BEST ways to have interactions & conversations with your children.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
  •      2 avocadoes
  •      2 mangoes
  •       1 orange, peeled
  •      ½ Lebanese cucumber, peeled
  •       100g fetta cheese
  •       ½ bunch  coriander
  •      2 limes
  •      1 teaspoon cumin powder
  •      1 packet of Round Tortilla chips
  •       ½ Spanish onion (red onion)
  •       Salt & Pepper
METHOD:
Using a sharp knife, chop the mango, cucumber & orange into 2cm cubes.

Dice the Spanish onion finely.

Chop the coriander coarsely.
Add all chopped ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Add the juice of two limes & the cumin powder.

Mix well with your hands.

Taste and season with salt & pepper.

Place the tortilla rounds on a large platter and add a small amount of the salsa (the mango, cucumber mix) on top of each.

(If you are adding a fried egg you would fry them up at this point– it would be better to do individual serves and pop the egg on top of each individual serve)

Once you have finished crumble the fetta over the top of it all.

Add a little more fresh coriander to make it look super fab.


The fact that I am not taking my eldest to see my wonky-eyed fave singer man & his band (Radiohead) with me on Friday was only tempered a little by the fact that yesterday I bought him tickets to see another fave of ours- Kings of Convenience -with me- 3 rows from the front early next year.
OMG did I tell you how excited I am that my lads are old enough to come with me to music gigs now?!!!!
And the fact that they want to......and love the same music.....THE BESTEST.


Friday, 9 November 2012

Ladies who lunch

Last week was my birthday.

We like to make our birthdays last as long as possible in our house.

For years Mr.Girlfriend has had to travel to NY for a week over my birthday.

I KNOW!!!!! 

After years of trying to get this time shifted to no avail......this year he FINALLY did!

I was SOOOO happy!

Go Mr.Girlfriend!

This year my birthday week also happened to co-incide with one of the busiest weeks in the history of our family in terms of the kids schedule's that we have ever had.

I was so happy to have him around.

The day before my birthday he stayed at home, didn't go to work.

My parents were flying over to be here too.

He told me he wanted to take me out to buy my present.  Something he thought I would love but wasn't quite sure.

We hopped in our family bus with our littlest and off we went to a 'secret' destination.

So much fun!

And there it was.......

Something I have been coveting for years.

And unbeknownst to Mr.Girlfriend I had just included it in a Xmas wish list of mine a couple of days earlier to be published elsewhere ( that he knew NOTHING of).

He knows me so very well.

Look!!!!!
An exquisite Japanese Nabe pot from here
 Then we quickly scooted around to Richmond for some Pho for lunch.

And it wasn't even my birthday .......yet!

And then it was.

OMG.

For the first time in about 5 years I woke up on my birthday and ALL of my family was there with me.

And I was showered in hugs & love & more presents from my lads. OMG. So Lucky!

I got phone calls form my siblings, hundreds of lovely messages on le internet. So. Much. LOVE.

On my birthday morning I came over all 'Ladies that Lunch' style & invited a few ladies over to my place for lunch at the last minute & they said yes!

Cause that's what 'Ladies that Lunch' do dontcha know?!

I set the table.

And cooked some yummy fish and everyone brought a plate. And it was ace.
And then another friend arrived and she brought a cake and these GORGEOUS flowers from her garden.
They are still gorgeous a week later on my mantelpiece.


Then that night Mr.Girlfriend and I went out to dinner together.
We ate at a fave Japanese restaurant.
Looks so pretty doesn't it.
Tastes pretty too.
you should go eat here too. Sooooo good!
Then the next night we had a campfire- as we often do.
We cooked on it & ate by candlelight outside and stayed up really late and played music by the fire, we sang, we laughed and talked and talked & forgot to notice the time.
The next day it was cold and I got to wear my new Swedish Cape I bought myself and my Mumma got to wear the gorgeous new hat she bought at the same gorgeous Swedish shop & we toasted a gorgeous friend on the other side of the world who has shown us amazing compassion & generosity at a very very hard time in our family's life.
The wine was bought by this same very special friend and brought all the way across the other side of the world by my mumma to share with me. we look very happy don't we. we were. xxx
WOW.
I was tired by the end of my birthday week.
But me oh my it was one of the bestest most loveliest weeks ever there was.

I felt soooo loved.

My favourite birthday gift of all was having Mr.Girlfriend home with me.
It was the best present ever.

It's going to be a good year.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S INDIAN SPICED FISH and WALNUT & BROAD BEAN RAITA:
At my Ladies Luncheon I cooked up an old fave. 
A super quick an easy Fish dish. The ladies approved! 
And I have been asked for the recipe - so here it is.
I used Dory fillets but it is also delish with Flathead or any other firm white fleshed fish.
And as it is Broad bean season i am always looking to invent ways to use broad beans. 
According to Mr.Girlfriend this was the 'Best Raita EVER'- this is coming from a dude who DESPISED Broad beans until recently!!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 500 g firm white fish fillets- or any fish you like
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • S & P
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Rice bran oil
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 100g shelled broad beans.  (I removed mine from the pod & boiled for about 3 minutes then removed and shelled)
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced finely
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 green chilli, sliced fine (omit if you like)
METHOD:
for the fish:
In a wide bowl add flour, ground cumin, turmeric, S & P & 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander leaves. Mix well.
In another bowl add the whisked eggs.
Take each fish fillet and drag through egg to coat, then place into the spiced flour.
Set aside on a plate.
Repeat with all other fillets.

Heat a non stick fry pan to medium high.
Place butter and oil in together.
Once butter melted gently place fillets into pan. 
I fry two or three at a time- don't overcrowd the pan.

Fry for 3-4 minutes and turn gently and fry for a couple of minutes on the other side.
Remove from pan onto paper towel until all fillets cooked.

for the Raita:
Place chopped walnuts, shelled Broad beans, yoghurt, spring onion, chilli (optional), S&P, cumin seeds and Yoghurt into a bowl and mix through well.

Serve with some freshly steamed Jasmine Rice -( or as we did on my Ladies Luncheon with an assortment of salad yuminess. )
I also served mine with my Indian Chat potatoes - recipe here

I love this song by Poor Moon (the side project of a couple of members of Fleet Foxes).
And who doesn't love a Combi?!



Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Optimistic for the future

Last week I had the pleasure of watching my 14yo son's school production of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

The kids did it all.

The set design, the lighting, the direction, the production design & the sound, the art for the handouts, the ushering.

It was so incredible to see.

There were errors, little lines forgotten here & there, people that were hard at times to hear, lights on the wrong players but there was also inventiveness, amazing music played by the kids, incredible make-up & costumes, fantastically choreographed flash mob dance scenes, lines delivered with brilliant humour and acting that the Bard would have been proud of.

Here in front of the audience was a generation of burgeoning adults who are often labelled with descriptors such as "lazy, selfish, unable to concentrate or finish anything, no-hopers".........

What I saw was a generation of young adults who were filled with endeavour, wit, camaraderie, concern for one another, humour, originality,  musical genius, courage & intellect.

I for one will not partake in the conversation that puts down the current generation of youth.

Give them the opportunity to fulfil their talents and they will seize the opportunity.

I wish someone had told me to pack tissues.

I sat two rows back with tears slowly and silently falling.

I wasn't one bit sad.

I was just plain overwhelmed.

So proud of each and every one of the kids on that stage that night.

To stand up in front of an audience & recite William Shakespeare is no mean feat but to have done so & given it the life they did was truly something to behold.

I am optimistic for the future.

The hands that it is in are filled with creativity, genius, independence, courage, friendship, humility & love.

It is in good hands.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S VANILLA POACHED PEACHES:
Summer means lots of stone fruits.
YUM.
This is a good way to use the stone fruit that is sitting in your fruit bowl that needs to get used up.
This recipe is for Peaches but you could substitute any stone fruit.
Delicious served on your cereal with some yoghurt, on Ricotta Hotcakes, Pancakes, or served with a good Ice cream for a fresh and delicious dessert.
It will keep for a week in an airtight container in your fridge once made.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 200g sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 peaches, halved & stones removed
METHOD:
Put the sugar & water in a large pan ( I used a deep frying pan) & stir until the sugar dissolves.
Now stop stirring and bring to the boil.
remove from heat and place the peaches flat side down on the pan.
Reduce heat to medium & place back on heat for ten minutes.
Can be served hot or cold.
Place remainders in an airtight container & put in fridge.

Cat Power's newest recording 'SUN' is out....I LOVE her.
This song seems perfect for this post.......

Monday, 29 October 2012

Unplanned perfect

We just had the most wonderful weekend.

Saturday was our kids local Primary school fair.

It was so super lovely to just spend the entire day mooching around celebrating our lovely community.

I didn't know where my crew were most of the day but I knew they were safe.

Being looked after by each other & by their friends and by other parents.

I would look around and this is what I would see....
 Brothers loving each other.

On rides together, faces sore from smiling.

And then later on my 12yo went on stage with his band.

OMG when did kids get so awesome?
And so brave?
Can you imagine doing that at 12?
It was amazing.
They played a bit of Leonard Cohen & a bit of Paul Kelly.
As you do.
The little kids made up the mosh pit down the front.
Max was keen on getting them up on stage with him to dance.
They did.
So much fun.
The fun went into the night.........
We stumbled into bed late with happy exhaustion
A busy busy day.
A lazy brekky out on Sunday morning was in order...
We left the teenager behind fast asleep.
As you do.....
We walked home slowly.
And did some Spring gardening....
Then later we realised we hadn't had lunch or thought about dinner.
We did a late rush to Prahran market at closing time.
I wanted some fish for dinner.
We scored all this for a tenner (the benefit of shopping at closing time).
And I got a couple of pieces of Salmon and Swordfish.
Our closing time Market haul
I made the bunch of Basil into Basil Butter.
The kids devoured mango after mango.
We ate a delicious meal outside together and stumbled again wearily into bed, content.
What a lovely weekend.
A weekend of accidental perfection.
We couldn't of planned it better.
My favourite kind.
A perfect start to my birthday week.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S BASIL BUTTER:
The heady scent of basil is like no other.
I you don't have it in your garden and buy bunches you will notice how quickly and easily it bruises.
This is a great way to preserve the fresh and perfume rich flavour of basil a little bit longer.
Try & use the best butter you can afford. 
I love butter from Myrtleford Butter Factory .
Once made you can use slices from your roll of herbed butter to pop on top of steak, fish, chicken, in pasta or on top of vegetable fritters- really the possibilities are ENDLESS!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1 bunch Basil
  • 125g Buter
METHOD:
Pop a small pan with a little water onto the stove and bring to the boil.

While the water is cooking, remove all of the Basil leaves from the stems (don't throw the stems away, they can be finely chopped and used in pasta sauce or stock).

Once water is at boiling point, throw the leaves in- just for a moment, until they are blanched and vibrant green. 

Remove and squeeze as much excess water as you can.

Blitz till fine in a food processor & now add the butter and blitz till combined.

On your work top place down some glad wrap and silicon paper on top of that.

Use a spatula to remove the herby butter from the food processor and onto the silicon paper.

Use the glad wrap to help you roll into a sausage.
Twist the ends tight to help you achieve that shape.

Place roll into the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks.
I used it to pop on top of our Barbecued fish. 

The kids played this at the fair. Three guitars. One trumpet. SO very much amazing right there on stage.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What different eyes see........

We bought our little house nearly five years ago.

I fell in love with it instantly.

It was desperately in need of a whole lot of love.

To most it looked like a knock down but what I saw was a whole bundle of opportunity.  A blank canvas.

An opportunity to keep the history of someone else's family & add ours to it.

Our house is a classic 1920's Californian Bungalow.

The floors were like trampolines and some of the floors already had holes in them down to the dirt below.

The house had been unchanged since it was built by the owner's Mother in 1924.

When we won it at the Auction the family that owned it cried with joy that a new family was moving in to love it like they had despite the Real Estate agent warning them that most people would be looking at it to knock down and develop.

All I saw was joy.  No undoing someone else's reno that wasn't me.  My husband not so much.  He couldn't see what I saw.

To him it was just a smelly old mess that looked overwhelming.

To me it was a house filled with windows and light and opportunity.

The first time I saw it I had visualised walls down opening up the living space, floors sanded, walls painted and our family in it loving it.  I saw dramatic changes for not much money.  I am always looking for creative ways to make do without the dollar cost.

What I like isn't to everyone's taste but I am not one to make the design of my house about resale I am about making my house a home.  A home that tells a story about us. About what we love and about how we live.

Luckily my Husband trusted my judgment & let me bid for it & then freely create my vision.

Over the five years we have grown to love this place.  Our home.

But now as our children begin to grow very big (one is bigger than me and the rest won't be far behind) our little 3 bedroom bungalow is becoming a wee bit squishy and we are looking at making ourselves some more space.

I have been busily designing the extension with the same builder who knocked down the walls for me 5 years ago to create our gorgeous combined Kitchen & Living space.  I am lucky.

My builder understands me & my quirky 'out of the box' ideas.  He is happy to accommodate my nuttiness.

We had a meeting the other night to finalise the design.  He told me he is very excited about this job.  About doing something that is so unlike most other things he does.  I know how very lucky I am to have an existing relationship with a builder.  I trust him.  He understands me.  So very very lucky.

The important factors for me about the design have been about putting our personality into it with very large consideration to using sustainable, environmentally sensitive and recycled products where we can.   There will be some old recycled Australian Wharf timbers being used as features, there are plans for vertical gardens & kitchen gardens & we will be using a super energy efficient building method.

I wanted the new building to have harmony with the old but to be unique in itself.  I didn't want to mirror the old but celebrate the new.

Le Husband has left me pretty much to my own devices with regards to the design.  The wharf timbers was his idea & one that I am super doop excited about. The timbers will be visible from both inside and outside of the building.

It really is happening.

Our very own Grand Design.

And I am very very excited.
As will this little Builder boy be......


Watch this space.......

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S SPICY KALE CHIPS:
Have you caught the Kale chip frenzy?
It is everywhere.
I have mentioned many times on this blog my unashamed affection for Cavolo Nero.
I LOVE it. I use any excuse to put in stuff.
And so a couple of years ago when the kale chip frenzy began I was totes on board!
Another excuse to eat kale?
You betcha!
My kids ADORE these.  Plus they are SUPER nutritious and delish to boot. So much better than packet chips. My lads take them for morning tea snacks to school.
So so easy and so so yummy.
Give them a whirl - you will never look back.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1 bunch Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale but you could use any Kale)
  • 1 tblspoon Olive Oil
  • Japanese Chilli  (you will find this in the Japanese section of your Asian Grocer)
  • Salt
METHOD:

Heat the oven to 150C.

Strip the leaves off of the stems and tear into large pieces.

Toss well in Olive oil so the leaves are coated (but not wet).

Lay out on baking paper so that the leaves are separate & not overlapping.

Shake over a little Japanese Chilli and salt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp.

Remove from the oven and let cool.
 They won't last long!

This song has been on high rotation this week. So very lovely.......

Friday, 19 October 2012

Things I have loved this week

After a tough few weeks I have actively tried to slow things down a little here.

The kids are better.

I am still exhausted.

I needed to slow down.

A lot.

So I did and here are the things I loved.



  • had time to spend nearly an entire day with an ace friend  mooching around Ikea and then an obligatory Dumpling lunch. So good.  I smiled for the rest of the day.
  • looked at my eldest and saw a fine young man

  • went & sat outside with the kids for afternoon tea everyday after school instead of me being in the kitchen cooking.  It meant we had very lazy dinners because boy oh boy it is 7pm before you know it- but it was the BEST.  The kids were in their pirate ship or just sitting with me on our very gorgeous YELLOW chairs that just make you smile when you sit in them & chatted. 

  • cried at the lovely comments on my last post. 
  • made a point of going outside to water the veggies at dusk and watch the sunset.

  • listened to some music I haven't listened to for a long time & loved it all over again.
  • talked with my gorgeous brother on Skype. I never tire of seeing his lovely face & chatting & laughing & crying with him. How goodamn ace is technology?!!!
  • made a point of cooking a really ace breakfast every morning. It was my way of saying to myself- give some good back to you GG. Sometimes the kids joined me, sometimes not but it was great. Great to give me some time back.
  • had a meeting at school and was amazed yet again at how super ace the teachers are and how very lucky my lads are to be involved with such inspired & inspiring people every single day.
Life is good.

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S CORN, CHILLI & FRESH CORIANDER FRITTERS.
I made these for one of my 'being good to myself' brekkys this week and had requests on Instagram to share the recipe.  I have started my own #ggbreakfast hashtag if you are IG, you can have a look at my breakfasts there for inspiration. 
I LOVE a brekky fritter- I shared my Zucchini, Dill and Fetta ones a while back.
Basically the ingredients are limitless- the bater is the same, you just add whatever you like to the mix.
Super simple but always SCRUMPTIOUS!
I had plenty leftover and my kids loved them for dinner. 
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large can Organic Corn kernels  (or the kernels of 2 fresh corn cobs)
  • 1/4 cup SR flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • S & P
  • 2 large red chillis (omit of you don't like chilli)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped roughly
METHOD:
Crack the eggs into a large bowl.

Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Heat a non stick pan to medium and add a little Olive oil or butter.

Use a soup ladle to transfer the corn fritter mix to the pan. I did 3 at a time in a large pan.

Flip when the fritter has small holes that remain- this takes about 4-5 minutes (like Pikelets).

Flip and cook till brown on the other side.

Serve immediately. 

"I know the story, I know how it goes... you've broken into my soul."
aaaaah Richard Hawley your tunes were perfect for me this week. le sigh.



Monday, 15 October 2012

Am I really cut out for this job?

Do you ever have doubts about being strong enough to be a parent.

I have moments when I am overwhelmed by self doubt.

Doubts that I have the credentials to fulfil the job description.

Last night was one of them.

A heavy black velvet veil of anxiety draped itself around me good and proper.

Our family had only 2 days before shown the signs of recovery from the WORST gastro ever to take it's grip on our family.

I went out on Saturday night with some of my gorgeous blogging pals that were in town for a conference.

It was so good to get out.

We laughed HARD all night.

The best medicine of all.

I thought things were on the up.

All the hard stuff had gone out of my head.

Then last night our 12y.o's lips blew up- he was clearly having an allergic reaction to something.
My tummy felt like it had fallen to the floor.  I just felt paralysed with anxiety.

My head was shouting at me-

"You are not strong enough to cope with this.

Do I go to the hospital?

Do I wait & see what happens?

Do I ring the Ambulance or will they think I am stupid?

WHAT DO I DO?????"

Lucky for me my rational Husband comes to the rescue at this point.

We called Nurse on Call and the Nurse put us straight through to a Doctor.  He told me I had done exactly the right thing (I had given him an antihistamine as soon as I saw his lip) and now we talked about a plan.

I felt better.  Despite hating plans to do with my personal life- this sort of plan was my friend.

But I still had this feeling of panic- a sort of "Oh my god I have FIVE children and I am NOT any good at this parenting thing. I really am not."

Yeah that.

Then I take a breath and think of some advice a gorgeous friend gave me a few weeks back when I was talking to her of being consumed by self doubt.

She said the key is accepting that some level of self doubt is normal.  Is human nature.  But that to carry on we need to accept that and move ahead by letting ourselves believe we CAN do it.

I'm trying in amongst my sleep deprived, barely recovered state to hang on to this advice.

To say it over and over.

This morning we have seen a Doctor as his lip was still way too swollen to feel at ease.

Looks like we are going down the Allergy testing route.

But somehow I felt better.  I feel like we have support.  Like people are looking after us.

But I feel a little scared.  And a whole lot fragile. That little voice is in my head making me feel anxious. If anxious is the new black I am so in fashion right now.

We might have to wait SIX months - SIX MONTHS I mean really??!!!- for an appointment with the specialist and there may well be another allergic reaction in that time.

The key for me is to know to ask for help.

Don't try and be brave.

People DO want to help.

And there is nothing cowardly about asking for it.

And NOTHING cowardly at all about ringing an Ambulance.

Are you full of self doubt?

DO you find asking for help easy?

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S XINJIANG LAMB:
I first found out about this dish from my ace Sister in Law who has Chinese heritage-( she's related to the super doop Sydney chef Kylie Kwong don't ya know?!! (gotta drop that in don't I- cause it's super ace!))
Anyway she taught me about this dish after eating it from street stalls when she was living in Wuhan.
It is an intensely aromatic dish yet ever so simple.
The flavours are not what most of us would first think of as Chinese- but they are very authentic. Most of our views of what constitutes Chinese cuisine are limited.
Like many National cuisines, Chinese cuisine has incredible variety from province to province.
Xinjiang is one of the far northern provinces- bordering Mongolia.  Lamb- which is not seen in a lot of the other Chinese region's cuisine- is common here.
I went out with some ace friends and had this dish- I was reminded of it's simple glory & wanted to share it with you all. 
I hope you give it a try & LOVE it!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1/2kg finely sliced Lamb (I deboned a leg of lamb and sliced the meat from that- get your butcher to do it for you & reserve half the meat to make something else)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons WHOLE cumin seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 10 whole dried chillies (optional for the chilli lovers)
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tblspn Rice bran oil (this is a high heat tolerant oil)
METHOD:
To get the BEST flavour from your spices you need to dry roast them. You will NOT believe the difference this makes to the overall finished dish. 
Heat a heavy based (cast iron pots are perfect) pan to a low/medium heat.

Pop in the Cumin seeds and the Sichuan peppercorns into the pan & roast until the seeds are starting to brown slightly and are giving off a gorgeous aroma. 

Remove from the pan and put into a Mortar & Pestle.


Grind till there is some powder but still some whole seeds. Drink in that perfume!

Dice the onion into wedges.

Place the finely sliced Lamb into a large bowl.  

Add the spice mix, the crushed garlic and the soy sauce and mix very well with your hands.  

It is preferable to let this marinade for a few hours but will still be delicious if you cook straight away.

Now you need to heat your wok to smoking- the heat of the wok is super important. 

Add the oil carefully and let it heat or about 20 seconds. 

Add a small handful of Lamb at a time. 

Let it sit in your wok for a minute WITHOUT stirring or touching AT ALL.

I know you want to!  I can see you reaching for your spoon!

DON'T!!!

By leaving the lamb you achieve this lovely crunchy exterior to the meat while leaving the meat tender.  It is the secret to this dish.

Once it has cooked for a minute you can now stir.  Once the Lamb is cooked remove form the pan and set aside.

Continue in small batches allowing the wok to come back to full heat in between batches.

When you have done all the lamb and it is sitting aside you can now add the onion wedges and stir fry till brown on edges and soft.  

Add chillies now if you are including them.

Now add the Lamb back to the wok and stir through to combine all ingredients well.

NB. This dish can be done on a BBQ plate if you have a solid plate and allow it to come to a VERY high heat.

Serve with Jasmine Rice.