Tomatoes & Calamari

A few weeks ago, one of our regular patients presented us with an esky of ‘used injections’ that needed binning. After a few moments and bursting at the seams he declared it was not in fact injections at all and that we must promptly investigate the offering…

Inside, was perfectly and beautifully cleaned, cut and packaged calamari. More than enough for all of us, and freshly caught that week. Surrounding these (much more interesting than injection) treats were the most big, luscious and rosy red tomatoes you had ever eyed. Simply smelling them taking you to summer days. Not a insect bite or a worm hole in sight.

After giving it considerable thought throughout the day and multiple tomato sniffs. I came home and made fettuccine with eggs from the girls in the garden. A roasted tomato sauce with sage from the herb patch and threw in precious and lovingly caught calamari at the end.

I’m not sure if it can be considered slow food, but it was good food. Good in every little way possible.

 

Bruns.

WHO: Three little pigs who once lived in the tropical land of the Northern Territory. They get together (away from their homes so no one is required to clean and clean and entertain) to feast, swim, adventure and bubble.

WHERE: Brunswick Heads.

WHY: Because Byron is fantastic but too busy. Caught in the hustle and bustle of where to eat, which ‘insta celeb’ that actually is and most shockingly stuck in traffic; we decided these distractions were not necessary and that a change of scenery and discovery suited us.

*Disclaimer, dining at Fleet also influenced this decision greatly.

SLEEP: We stayed at The Brunswick Heads Motel and when we arrived here, we knew it was going to be a ripper of a holiday. Our family room (room 201), was spacious and clean. The beds comfortable, with beautiful linen. Towels and a daily tidy did not go unnoticed and the icing on the motel cake was the really delicious and inclusive breakfasts. We tucked into tea, toast and avocado and deliberated over tasty tasty toasties. We took full advantage of the supplied bikes (and received multiple comments on their level of hipster) to assess the surf and shop the opps.  The staff were heavenly and full of smiles. They all seemed really proud of the Bruns Motel, and rightly darn so.

Haircut? Oh SURE, why not.

It was well and truly time for the tired old locks of 2016 to leave the building. So after some creeping discovered The Social Alibi. A haircut on holidays seemed like an absolute ingenious idea. And it was! It truly was. I took my  images into Briana, who took one look and feel of my hair and politely vetoed all suggestions. However, she agreed the hair should go and that was really my main holiday concern. The Social Alibi is an environmentally conscious salon, making me realise considerations I had never made. Every towel, drop of water, colour and squirt of beautiful Italian shampoo has as little impact on the environment as possible. And I know this, because Briana really knows this and when I commented on ‘cool towels!’ ‘Beautiful smelling shampoo!’ ‘Great colour!’ It was met with an explanation of why she had decided to have that very towel or colour or shampoo and not only did it really work wonders for both the earth, and my hair. It made me walk out feeling GOOD. Even my long unwanted locks were being sent away to soak up oil spills on the ocean and so little Miss Virtuous bounced out of the salon with her new look.

Say What? Say Fleet?

This trip was very largely (entirely) driven by the beautiful restaurant Fleet.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon for our 4pm booking (following a serious stalking of their bookings calendar to ensure we didn’t miss out – if you want to visit it’s worth creeping the calendar, they book out quickly and it’s very limited seating). To one of the most special, delicious, beautiful and comfortable dining experiences of my little pig life.

Fleet seats 14 and dining commences at 3pm. Reservations are for 3.5 hours. There’s a communal table that fits 10, and a window seat that sits 4. There were two other couples when we dined, and a diner on her own in the window seat. It’s the type of place that she looked just as happy and as comfortable as the rest of us, which I think takes work and is an achievement in itself.

The concrete bar is softened with locally made ceramics and linen. And the space clean cut, beautiful and admittedly rather unexpected on the side street of Bruns.

Astrid’s wine knowledge is delivered in a cool, calm and experienced manner. And Rob looked after us as though we were old friends in his kitchen.

In the kitchen though, the magic happened.

Our afternoon was filled with those foodie moments when you look at each other with eyes filled with ‘but how?’ ‘but why?’ How on earth a warmed oyster, with sheep’s milk yogurt and shaved macadamia can cause such delight is almost a wonder, but at Fleet every sip and every taste is applause worthy.

These lucky little diners feasted and fascinated on:

  • Warm rye and caraway sourdough from the Bread Social at the Farm. Served with house cultured butter that is whipped, burnt to form a caramel layer, and then whipped again.
  • A warmed oyster, with sheep’s milk yogurt and shaved macadamia. Served in the most beautiful and locally made ceramic dish.
  • Smoked mullet, crispy skin, potato and dill. The best chips and dip you ever did and ever going to have.
  • Snapper, beans, crustacean oil and society garlic. Lick the plate clean.
  • Veal sweet bread schnitty sanga. Made with local white sliced and served with an anchovy mayonnaise this is a Fleet specialty and to absolutely no surprise a staff favorite. We nearly signed up for work experience on first bite.
  • Nimbin valley cow blue, with buck wheat, molasses and plum.
  • The most beautiful Black Sapote cake (which is a fruit known as the chocolate pudding fruit) fig leaf blueberry and wild rice.
  • Licorice ice cream, dandelion, onion and shiso.

Dining at Fleet with two precious people was one of those moments where you really realise how incredibly good life is, and how wonderful it can be.

Bruns had us at Hello. And we’ll be back.

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The Overland Track

Let’s do the Overland he said (with a certificate in outdoor education & minimal experience in snow adventuring.)

Great idea she responded (having not been on an overnight hike since high school, a long time ago).

And so on Wednesday the 27th of September 2017, after one of Tasmania’s coldest winters and during a freezing spring, we started our Overland journey.

The Overland track runs from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair in Tasmania. It is a 65km walk, with multiple day hikes. There are huts along the way, camping is encouraged where possible. The highest point is 1250m at the plateau between Marion’s lookout and Kitchen hut. The lowest point is at the Forth River crossing at 720m. During the peak hiking season (October 1 to May 31) walkers must travel North to South, however outside of peak season hikers can walk the track whichever way their Gortex boots fancy.

On arrival at the visitor center at Cradle Mountain, we were told in no uncertain terms that A. we were ill equipped for the weather, B. too late to complete the planned day 1 walk to Waterfall valley and C. without an emergency response beacon we were asking for trouble. We were shown a picture of Kitchen hut, which was practically inaccessible due to the amount of snow blocking the entrances.

So, we swiftly shoved an emergency beacon into our already overfilled bags, changed the night one hut plan from Waterfall to Scott Killvert and held hands while whispering ‘crazy cats.’ We have excellent thermal and ski gear and had enough food to last approximately 47 days and feed 6. We also (thankfully) had no understanding of what we were up against, shrugging our shoulders in TYPICAL tourist fashion “how hard CAN it be?”

An hour later, and practically vertical on a rock face with a cliff behind and no view to be seen thanks to the very dark and rain filled clouds with our heavy packs nearly turning us upside down and inside out and I declared my first “I’m not designed for this, not at all. My back isn’t designed for this bag, my feet aren’t designed to be soggy” and my fear of any form of danger or injury is really not that useful. Richie, (in an almost rehearsed response…) assured me we could turn back at ANY point, and that it would be fine if we needed to. But that I was quite capable of this and that it would be OK. (Between us we have the stubbornness of a rhinoceros, and turning back was never an option).

Arriving at Scott Killvert hut was a warm welcome, it was incredibly dark with only an hour of sunlight left, but the coal heater had been transformed to a wood fire and we gobbled soup while relishing our sensible ‘dry clothes.’ The sign at the door identified importance hut etiquette ‘the last to arrive are as welcome as the first.’ And just before sunset, the gorgeous group of 6 Irish arrived; they had trekked around the lake (as opposed to up and over and vertical) in mud and snow but still came in laughing, like they did each time we found them.

We snoozed among the top snorers in Australia that night, giggling at the absurdity of 25 grown adults who have never met all lined up as if a dedicated day care nap post the most exhausting bed time story of all.

A hike up a steep incline (1100m at the summit) on day 2 and we found ourselves being blown over by snow and ice filled winds that stung our cheeks and buckled our knees.

I let Richie know I didn’t think his snow experience was up to this, and that he should have listened to my hourly pre trip weather forecasting. I felt an inner fury at my inability to cope, and questioned my toughness. Richie clearly and calmly (while turning his awful shade of anxiety) stated we should probably turn back the way we came, where we knew that whilst there was thigh deep powder snow, there was also shelter and a path that would lead us back to the hut.

Just as it came to crunch time, the Irish stumbled up the snow banks, and we all joined forces to find the path together. The friends we had known for approximately 22 hours turned back often to make sure we were still with them, and offered precious commodities of nuts and chocolate.

Throughout the next five days, we hiked through a snow filled rain forest whilst waiting for Aslan and Mr Tumnus to appear, adored incredible and ancient trees. Marveled at cold clear streams. Cried at the challenge, and swore at wet socks and heavy packs. Occasionally we would get a glimpse of mountains surrounding us, and would feel protected by their enormity. The famous button grass was a snowfield, but we would walk all day without seeing a soul and it was magic. We laughed together, and forgot the woes of the world as we focused on arriving safely and keeping it together whilst staying together.

Each night, we would scramble into the hut to find our people. Slowly but surely we found our army along the way; and with the weather entirely unappealing to sleeping outdoors in tents, we would sit and share soup stories and games of cards with people who quickly felt very important, very precious and very true.

Our little tribe at the end of the trip included two 12 year old kids. These absolute heroes talked us through the map each night and morning, identifying areas that would be challenging and the highest and lowest climbs for the day. Playing cheat was a giggle feast (their poker faces beautifully innocent).

These raw and new friendships, where there were no phones, no computers, no brands, no cars, no houses, no news, no trump, no terrorism, no guns, no nonsense.

Extra water was boiled for tea, and teabags were shared when supplies were running low. Lives were talked about, and dreams discovered. There was a kindness and a friendliness that equaled the expansive forests and curious wallabies of the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness.

Our last morning was full of ‘congratulations, good luck and thank you’. We all beamed with pride, not of ourselves – but of one another. The suns had cleared to fully expose the mountains surrounding us, their true enormity only becoming clear.

In a time where the world is tough, where people are fragile and where we live so very quickly this walk reminded me of the beauty of humanity, of the potential we have and how the environment brings out the best of this in us. How life really is simple, but that our extra additions complicate it. How the silence of snow allows for a still and clear head and how being in the real forest is far more therapeutic than any forest Apple has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Bones

Today, I found beauty in this poem. In a world that currently feels as though the beauty must be hunted for.

Good Bones. Maggie Smith.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine.

In a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways. a thousand deliciously ill advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least 50% terrible and that’s a conservative estimate. Though I keep this from my children.

For every birth, there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged sunk in a lake.

Life is short, and the world is at least half terrible. And for every kind stranger, there is one who would break you.

Though I keep this from my children.

I am trying to sell them the world.

Any decent realtor walking through a real shit hole, chirps on about good bones. This place could be beautiful right?

You could make this place beautiful.

 

Cinque Rimpianti

Today I heard a tale from a palliative care nurse that intrigued and surprised me.

I spend a lot of my working life with people staring down the sometimes terrifying sometimes peaceful barrel of death. It’s most certainly not the easiest topic of choice, and one that makes people uncomfortable. It’s the one thing that links us all, but I understand people not wanting to sit around and discuss it. I most certainly don’t.

Bronnie Ware is a palliative care nurse from Sydney who found a common link of regrets in her patients. Her famous blog post is all over the internet, and she now writes books and speaks inspirational talk. (I’m probably one of the very last to find her). When I first heard her tale, I thought that the regrets would be along the lines of ‘hug the ones you love’ ‘tell the ones you love’ but instead it was true reminder of the person who you must be the most true and love filled to, yourself.

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It’s made me feel that little deep pit of death uncomfortable writing this. But I think these regrets should be acknowledged and respected and a reminder of what a lucky lucky treat every new day is.

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Soup

The pumpkin soup I made for dinner was really delicious. And just like the one that I used to dream of as a little girl on a mountain that felt that winter chill.

1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 leek, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 3 cups chicken stock, 1kg peeled pumpkin, 300ml thickened cream.

It really was so very straight forward and I’m sure not worthy of a blog, but simply sauteing the vegetables then adding the stock and pumpkin and blitzing when soft and adding the cream very last but oh so important minute.

I also added caramelized red onions, which I hadn’t done before but were so stupidly easy. Brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, water and red onion in a small non stick saucepan for as long as they take (it took mine about half an hour). I literally did not touch them. I should have been making these delicious little babies for my whole entire life but at least I have the rest of my whole entire life to make them now.

I also made a bruschetta (pronounced with a K people a K) which I made up but had peeled zucchini which I just pan fried for about a minute, capers, mint, truffle oil, lemon rind and buffalo mozarella. For the first time ever I did the bread on a griddle pan and it made a real difference and if I shut my eyes I was in Italy which was a very nice place to be and a place I would actually quite like to be on this cold winters night.

 

Tasty (or not so) Tuesday

I’ve decided for the blog of 31, when my brain can’t find words I’ll keep a food diary. Because I love food. And eating. And Masterchef. (And also because it keeps getting to this time of day and I haven’t written anything and I get a bit panicked because I need to start a banking of blog posts.)

Two slices bread with fresh tomato and Vegemite. Luke warm tea (in order to skull while having 2.3 minutes to get ready for work). Short black coffee.

Soy latte. Boiled egg with salt salt pepper pepper.

Wrap. Slaw, ham, mayo. Delicious but small, too small.

Savoys and cheese. (Can ya tell I work in a hospital?).

Toast with slaw. Soda stream bubbles.

Pumpkin soup with caramelized onion. Zucchini, mint and buffalo mozzarella bruschetta. (No shit, and I made it all from scratch).

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir. Black chocolate with almonds.