Friday, 30 November 2007

End of NaBloPoMo

Today is the last day of November and thus the last day of NaBloPoMo. I have been surprised at how far it has gone and also by how nice it has been to blog every day. Perhaps I will make a habit of this.

Today is also the last day of Spring here in Australia and tomorrow Summer will be upon us. And so will begin three months of warm weather, mangoes, fresh tomatoes, beach trips, sunscreen, Christmas, NYE, heat, bush fires, picnics, salads, and long evenings. If only we could just skip the bush fires (and some of those ridiculously hot days).

Thursday, 29 November 2007

To every season

When I was about 6 years old I wanted to grow a flower garden from seeds and I went to the garden shop to buy some with my mother. My mother explained to me that many of the seeds would only last a season and would have to be purchased again the following year. She told me that this was not a natural thing, but rather something that had been purposefully bred into the plants so that a small number of companies could profit from their sale and that now thousands of varieties of flowers no longer existed.

I was shocked. I couldn't believe that such a terrible crime had been committed and that nothing was being done about it. I thought that people should be marching in the street at such a deliberate destruction of flowers.

Well I didn't know the half of it.


Of course this same kind of cynical breeding has been going on with all of our plants - most particularly with our grains, fruits and vegetables - and now it is being done with GM technology. The most insidious example of this is, of course, the Terminator Gene, but essentially the plants that we rely on for food have been deliberately bred for easy transport, appearance and, above all, profit. In the process millions of different varieties of plants that were perfectly adapted to their specific locations and that actually tasted good and were full of nutrients have become extinct and replaced with a monoculture of plants that are poorly adapted to their local environments and require constant inputs of chemicals and pesticides to survive. When I stop and think about it carefully it makes my blood boil.

I have been aware of this issue for a while now. I wrote my Masters thesis on the right to food and water - with a particular focus on the impact of Intellectual Property and GM technology on global food sovereignty - but I haven't been actively thinking about the issue over the past year.

That was until I started reading Barbara Kingsolver's 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'. The book is a documentation of a year in which Barbara and her family decide to live almost exclusively on food that they have grown (or raised) themselves or purchased locally from farmers that they know. Although the family decide to include meat and animal products in their diet and I cannot really relate to that decision, the book makes inspiring reading.

I am currently walking around with a burning desire to grow my own fruits and vegetables and to gain a far deeper understanding of the foods that grow well in my locality and the seasons that determine when they are at their peak, etc.

Our humble little garden is starting to bare some fruits now that Spring is so thoroughly upon us. Our little strawberry bushes are fruiting and yesterday our first tomatoes of the season arrived. We also have tons of herbs (thanks to my mother and her partner's previous gardening efforts) and some sad looking eggplant plants that may or may not come good in the next couple of months.



To be fair, we only moved in in July and small babies are not very easy to garden with, but I wish that our garden was overflowing with food.

Instead, I think that I will embark on a little self-education about fruits and vegetables and try to focus even more on eating seasonally and locally (and organically). And maybe some day in the future we will be lucky enough to be able to step partially off the grid.

How fun would that be?

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Turkish dinner

This post is dedicated to Isil who finally gave me the confidence to make İmam Bayildi - one of my favourite dishes in the world.




Since my Mum was in town, I also made Fasulye, a cannelini bean salad and couscous.



Cannelini beans may seem a bit odd, but it was supposed to be a chickpea salad until I realised that I had completely run out of chickpeas...



I make Fasulye a little differently from the recipes that I have seen online, so here is my recipe if you want to try it.



Ingredients
500g green beans (with ends cut off)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
4 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup water

Heat the olive oil over a low/medium heat, add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the spices and stir again for 30 seconds. Add the beans and stir so that they get covered in the spice/garlic mix. Add the tomatoes and raise the heat to medium/high. Stir in the water and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Turn down the heat to medium/low and cover. Leave it to simmer for about 45 minutes, checking periodically to stir and add water if it gets a little dry.

It should be really soft and melt-in-your-mouth-y when it is ready.

See Veggie Way for the Imam Bayildi recipe.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Exhausted

Well it's been a big, long week and I am exhausted.

We are back home now from our little trip to Sydney and I am relieved to have a little time just to find our rhythm again and to relax.

On the way home today we stopped at a rest stop and were shortly accompanied by a busload of tourists from China. One of them gestured to us that she would like to hold Lily and then suddenly Lily was surrounded by about 7 or 8 cameras and many more people all admiring her and asking us questions (in Mandarin). We tried to guess the answers: "Girl", "Daughter", "8 Months", "Yes"... but the over-all gist of the conversation seemed fairly evident. They thought that she was cute and wanted snuggles and photos.

Lily took it all in her stride, smiling at her fans and not fussing at all.

I didn't get my camera out fast enough, but here is the tail end of the fun.

Monday, 26 November 2007

To the beach

We made a last minute trip up to Sydney yesterday and went straight to Coogee beach to take advantage of the lovely weather. First we headed to Melon Head to enjoy one of their amazing smoothies. Lily thought that P's was pretty good and got it all over herself.



We then took a couple of Vietnamese salad rolls down to the grass near the beach and had a little picnic. Unfortunately, Lily was far more interested in eating random found objects than her lunch. I was't so concerned about the grass or the leaves, but I did have to draw the line at the cigarette butts, eww. I wish that people didn't just leave them on the ground.




Having been denied her cigarette fix, Lily decided to chase the Seagulls. I guess it made a nice change to have then running away from us.


After finishing our lunch, we met up with my brother and headed for the water. It was still a little cold for Lily, but she did enjoy squelching the wet sand between her toes.



Ah, bring on summer!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The morning after



And, no, as incriminating as the picture looks, the 3rd champagne glass isn't the 3rd Pea's.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Mostly happy

Looks like it's all said and done.

We're over the moon that the government will change.

We're very happy that the Greens have a positive swing in every state (except NSW) and are constantly being called a "viable third party" by the people on teevee.

We're ecstatic that Howard is likely to loose his seat (though it is a sad and depressing way to go).

But, we’re totally disappointed that Kerrie Tucker didn’t get elected as an ACT Senator. She did extremely well, polling at 20%, but it’s not enough to get her over the line.

Not sure what will happen in the Senate, if the Libs retain the balance of power it’s a nightmare waiting to happen.

Guess we’ll see…

I think I’ll go to bed, not sure I want to revel in Howard’s defeat all night – we have cracked the champagne though (actually popped the cork at 7pm, just quietly).

OK I admit it

I've got my hopes up.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Tomorrow

If you are Australian, remember to vote (for the Greens).

And, remember also that it is International Buy Nothing Day tomorrow. (Although feel free to make a bid on this house!).

Ginger soy 'fish'

We had some of the soy 'fish' left over and so I decided to do a variation on the theme that P had done so successfully the other day. This time I did a ginger sauce, steamed some asparagus and puk choy, and made brown rice.


Ingredients
Ginger sauce
1/2 tblp canola oil (or any light vegetable oil)
2 tblp fresh grated ginger
1 tblp chilli sauce
1 tblp lemon juice
1 tblp soy sauce

soy 'fish' (2 or 3 per person)
asparagus
puk choy
brown rice


Cook the brown rice. (We use a rice cooker).

Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the ginger. Stir for about a minute and add the chilli, lemon juice and soy sauce. Stir for a couple of minutes and then lower the heat and let it simmer for a little. Add some hot water if it starts getting too thick.

Brush a fry pan with a small amount of oil and lightly fry the soy 'fish' on both sides.

Steam the asparagus and puk choy for about a minute (or until slightly wilted).

Serve all ingredients on to a plate and drizzle the ginger sauce to taste.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Spiders

Over the last week we have been inundated with spiders around here.

First we found a White-tail on the stairs.Well, the stairs just go down to the garage and laundry and so we weren't too worried.

Then P found another white tail on one of Lily's soft toys as he was picking it up to give to her.

We started to get worried.


The next day P found two more White-tails in the bathroom.

We were officially worried at this point.

Then yesterday I disturbed a huge Huntsman in the lounge room. Not dangerous, but scary nonetheless.


Then P almost sat on another White-tail on the couch. And then... I found a Redback in the bath.

Despite being vegans we have called exterminators.

If you are not Australian, then you might not quite understand why. But, you see, Redbacks are lethal. If that Redback had bitten Lily then she would possibly have died before we got her to the hospital.

It's funny how you can go for years feeling pretty comfortable living in a country that is just chock full of creatures that can kill you and then one day it strikes you as all a bit scary.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Toys

My Mum recently bought Lily a present that is so cute that I thought that I should share it with you. It is a "bag of blocks" and all the blocks are made out of very natural looking wood (all carefully smoothed and made baby-safe). There are even a couple of little 'people'.


We got it out for Lily to play with this morning and she just loved it.




It is funny how you can go crazy buying tons of wizz-bang fancy, noisy, expensive toys for them and what they really love is the simply things like a big pile of wood.



Oh, and the washing. She just loves the washing.





Tuesday, 20 November 2007

One of those days

Today has been one of those days. Those days when I feel a little bit lost and kind of unsure about what I am doing - sort of like I'm floating in space.

Lily has been getting pretty bored with just me at home and so this morning I took her along to a local playgroup.

I think that I had been building this up for a while now - thinking that it would be the answer to all of Lily's boredom issues and would become a great Tuesday activity to fill our week with fun, etc - and so the reality was simply not what I had expected.

Unlike my mother's group where everyone was getting to know each other and keen to make new 'mother' friends, the women at the playgroup already knew each other and had their own catching up to do. Also, while Lily wasn't the only baby, two of the others were newborns and the third wasn't mobile or very interested in playing with Lily (despite being older than her). Meanwhile the toddlers, who Lily was fascinated by, were all outside in an area that simply wasn't suitable for her.


I must admit that I am pretty crap at making new friends. I'm awful at small talk and feel ill-at-ease in many group situations (not that I am shy, I will still talk etc, I just don't really enjoy it). I'm an introvert and prefer one-on-one kind of friendships and catch-ups. For some reason, however, I hadn't thought about how uncomfortable I would feel just showing up and attempting to engage with a group of people that I didn't know. I was completely focused on how Lily would find the experience.

It is weird how becoming a parent can challenge you on so many levels. I mean, first there is the intense experience of labour, followed by a sudden complete loss of autonomy and the slightly panic-inducing realisation that your time is no longer your own. Then your sleep is constantly interrupted and you have to learn a whole bunch of new skills in an awful hurry.

However, once you have endured this baptism of fire, there are still more adjustments waiting for you - you have to become a part of the world of parents. Mother's group has been a fantastic entry point for me into this brave new world, but now that Lily is getting so active I have realised that I will have to venture out a little further.

And so I will probably go back next week despite my natural hermit inclinations. At least they are planning to meet at the pool.

Monday, 19 November 2007

The banana debacle

Me: Hi, I'd like some bananas.

Banana Man: How do you like them? Thick or thin?

Me: Um, actually, I don't like them at all.

Banana Man (looking a little hurt): Really? Oh, um...

Me (shuffling feet and scratching head): I've never liked them, I used to spit them at my mother when I was a baby... [descends into incoherent mumbles and grinds to a halt].

Banana Man (looking somewhat embarrassed): Um?

Me: They're for my partner. I think thin would be better - she's small.

[Okay idiot, just pay for the fruit and get the hell away from here]

Banana Man (trying to rescue the situation): Have you tried Ladyfingers?

Me (also trying to rescue the situation): No [smile].

Banana Man: You should, they're the nicest bananas in the world.

Me: Maybe I will [knowing full well I won't].

Banana Man: Thanks [goes back to a world where people like me don't exist].

Me: Thanks [flees].

Off to the pool

It is supposed to get to 31 C today (I am not sure what that is in Fahrenheit, but it is hot) and so to cope with the heat and to clear my sleepy head, I decided to take Lily to the pool.

We set up our towels in a shady spot under the trees, got our swimmers on and Lily made a bee line for the water.



Once in she wasn't so sure. The baby pool was a little chilly and she started to climb up my body to get out. So I decided to take her into the kid's pool.

The kid's pool was deliciously warm and she loved it. She giggled as I floated her across the water and by the end she was kicking and waving her arms as I pulled her along.

Afterwards we caught up with a couple of friends for a picnic lunch on the grass. It was so relaxing to sit there in the shade, relaxing in the cool breeze.



It was a lovely little break from the heat and I will definitely be doing it again. Perhaps we will make it a regular Monday outing...


Sleepy

Lily fed almost nonstop between 2am and 6am today. When she woke up (at 7am) she was all smiles and had no new teeth.

Why???

I am very sleepy.

My little cruiser




And I thought that things would get easier when she was mobile!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Soy "Fish" with tamarind sauce


Our favourite vegan restaurant in Canberra, Au Lac, does the most magnificent soy fish with tamarind sauce. I've been wanting to try to make it for ages and the other day I found the catalyst.

I was in one of the Asian groceries in Dickson looking for those delicious soy chicken nuggets that we're a little addicted to when I stumbled on a package of soy fish. This was quickly followed into the basket by a jar of tamarind paste and I was all set.



I looked online for a good sauce recipe and found a few different ones, some vegan others very fish saucy.

In the end we decided on the following for the sauce:

a couple of chillies
1 tablespoon tamarind
2 tablespoons say sauce
a small chunk of palm sugar
the juice of one lemon
a dash of vegetable oil
some water



heat the oil in a saucepan and add the chillies and let them fry for a couple of minutes. Toss in the tamarind, soy, lemon juice and diced palm sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the heat down, add some water and let the sauce reduce.

Meanwhile, steam the fish (we tossed ours into a steamer basket on top of the rice cooker). Once it's heated through lightly pan fry it brushed with oil.


That's about that for the main dish.

We also tossed together a side of mushrooms and puk choy stir fried in a little soy with a dash of sesame oil added at the end.

It was delicious and surprisingly easy. The only problem is that it's getting harder and harder to eat out...

White bean & mint dip

The other day I decided to give Lily some cannellini beans for lunch and so I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the can (I know, I should use the dried beans, but I am simply not that organised at the moment). So, I grabbed a bunch of mint from the garden, added the juice of half a fresh lemon, a little salt and some olive oil and blended them all together to make a white bean & mint dip. And, it was really yummy.

It tasted really fresh and minty and just perfect for a sandwich of tempeh, tomatoes and lettuce (from the garden). It also made a good dipping sauce the next day when I was feeling snacky.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Rosemary roast pumpkin salad

Yesterday was hot hot hot and so we decided to have salad for dinner.
I roasted up some left over pumpkin with some rosemary from the garden. Added some mixed beans, a bunch of parsley (also from the garden), some tomatoes, snowpeas, asparagus and avocado and topped it with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and some Iku salad dressing. Yum.



Lily was quite taken with it, but had to settle for her own meal of avocado, butter beans and pumpkin.

Friday, 16 November 2007

An ethical Christmas (part two)

[continued from part one]

3. Fair trade goodness
Another option for an ethical Christmas gift is to give people something fair trade. Things like coffee, tea and chocolate are a nice option here, because they are semi-luxury foods that lots people like (or may be slightly addicted to). Another benefit is that these are some of the products that are difficult to grow in Australia and generally involve incredible bad labour conditions (essentially slavery) when purchased from large corporations. A lovely spin off may be that some of your gift recipients may choose to make the switch to fair trade on a more permanent basis.

Other fair trade items might include clothing or home wears from shops like Cambodia House or Taylor & Khoo - who produce their products through fair trade practices in Cambodia and then send all of their profits back to Cambodia to run projects like an orphanage and other project work with people with disabilities, urban poor, female land mine victims and rural youth.


4. Eco-friendly gifts
Eco-friendly gifts are also a nice option for an ethical Christmas. This opens a whole range of possibilities and there a plenty of places stocking great gift ideas in this category.One of our favourite sites is Biome where you can buy a range of eco-friendly products, like these adorable wooden animals by Anamalz (available internationally), or environmentally responsible stationary (like the "I used to be a car tyre" mousepad) or the beautiful skin (and baby) care range from Tasmania's Beauty & the Bees.

5. Homemade & Handmade
Another option is to make something yourself. So, for example, if you enjoy baking, you could make gingerbread for people or other tasty treats (using organic & fair trade ingredients, of course).

If you are skilled in the arts & crafts area then you also have a whole range of other options - you could make a patchwork quilt for someone, using recycled & vintage fabrics, or you could make them some jewelry using recycled objects.

If you lack these kinds of skills (as I do, alas), then you might want to check out all the glorious items available on etsy. Everything on etsy is handmade and the money goes straight to the producer. Continuing with our ethical theme you could focus particularly on items that are made with recycled or eco-friendly materials or you could use the geolocator tool to locate sellers that are close to you (or to your intended recipient) so that you items do not have to travel too far and use up unnecessary fossil fuels.
6. Experiences
Finally, you could give someone an experience rather than an object. For kids this might include a gift of dance or gymnastic lessons, or a trail ride. For adults it might be something that they have always wanted to do - like the Bridge Climb (Sydney Harbour Bridge) or hang gliding.

P's sent me hang gliding for my birthday a few years ago and it was the best birthday that I have ever had.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Just cruisin'

Lily just took her first steps between pieces of furniture (in a desperate bid to get a bottle of cleaning spray). I can't believe that she is doing this already. I hope that she practices for a long time before deciding that she can let go!

Fresh tomato & basil soup

We bought a big bag of fresh tomatoes and a bunch of basil at the Farmers Market last weekend because I was going to make Bruschetta for the party. I ran out of time, however, and so I was left with having to think of something else to do with the food. And so we ended up with fresh tomato and basil soup.

I had forgotten just how delicious fresh tomato soup could be and so I thought that I would share the recipe with you. It is extremely simple.




Ingredients
1 kg fresh tomato, peeled and roughly chopped
a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
3 cups of boiling water
salt & pepper to taste
(a couple of cloves of garlic would be yummy too, if you can eat it).

Slice a cross in the base of the tomatoes and blanch them in boiling water to make it easier to peel them.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based stock pot over a medium heat. Add the tomatoes (or the diced garlic first if you are using it) and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the salt (I used about 1/2 teaspoon) and the basil and stir for a minute. Add the boiling water, stir and cover. Leave to simmer over a low heat for around 10-15 minutes.

Serve with crusty toast covered in pesto. (A dollop of pesto in the soup would also be tasty).

Eat outside, if possible.


Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Wordless Wednesday - A man and his dog



For other Wordless Wednesdays click here.

8 Months

Dear Lily

Today your turned eight months old.

This has been a huge month for you. Your crawling has improved dramatically and you can now crawl properly on your hands and knees for the full length of the house. A few weeks ago you also figured out how to pull yourself up to standing. You were so impressed with yourself that you promptly let go (with inevitable results). Ever since then standing has been your greatest passion in life. Some days you wake up and immediately pull yourself up to standing on the bed rail - as though you were worrying all night that you might have forgotten how to do it.



Due to all this practice you are now incredibly quick at pulling yourself up on everything around the house - the couch, coffee table, draws, the clothes drying rack, chairs, etc. - although flat surfaces like windows still present a bit of a challenge. You have also figured out how to take a few steps while you are up there, which makes me think that cruising might not be too far down the track.


You have also shown the same level of determination and independence when it comes to eating. You have decided that if you can't hold it and feed it to yourself then you are not going to eat it. As a result we have had to adopt an entirely new approach to feeding you. We now give you a selection of steamed veggies, some pieces of avocado, some beans and a bit of crust and you simply feed yourself. It has made meal times so much easier - although you certainly know how to make an impressive mess!



Fortunately you have gone back to enjoying bath time again. I think that it is because you can now sit up and play with your toys and with the water. You now like nothing better than to splash the water and to suck on your washcloth.

This has been a month full of visitors. My Mum (G1) and her partner (G2) were down for a week; we visited my Dad (Grandpa) and his partner (Grandma) for a long weekend; we had a party at our place; and you saw quite a bit of Papa's parents (Grandma & Grandpa) all month. You have simply thrived on all the company.



In fact, your least favourite days have definitely been those when we didn't get out and about and didn't see other people. On those days you have been bored and frustrated by your current inability to walk. Because of this, I have decided that we need to get out more and preferably to places where there are other little people (since they fascinate you so much). We started this last Friday by going to story time at the library, which you absolutely loved. However, my plans to take you to playgroup this week were thwarted by a nasty virus that has been making you pretty miserable.

Currently you are sleeping in your hammock. We just got back from the doctor and you lay back on the couch and fell asleep all by yourself. You have never done that before in your life so you must be feeling pretty exhausted - poor little thing.

Hopefully you will wake up feeling heaps better and be back to your usually happy self tomorrow.

love mama
xoxo


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