Wednesday, July 31, 2013

love, friendship and a kitchen colander

If you've read my about page you will know that I thank my great grandmother, Emily Rowe, for fostering in me a love of cooking and sharing good food with family and friends. I feel very blessed to have known and loved Grandma, as I called her, for the first eighteen years of my life. I was devastated when she died in her mid-eighties; she lived a long life but I thought she would live forever she was such strong and vibrant woman. And of course she does live on forever in my heart and I suppose you could say in her cooking legacy too.

Some weeks after Grandma’s funeral my Nan (Grandma’s daughter) presented me with a beautiful gift: Grandma’s rose gold wedding band (pictured above). I felt so honoured and treasure Grandma's ring to this day, especially because two and a half years ago Pete placed this ring on my finger when we were married.

So. You can imagine how upset I was when last monday this precious ring flew off my finger and into the sand on the beach at Ocean Shores. We've been starting our mornings at the beach while we are here in northern New South Wales, Pete surfs and River, Sol and I play on the sand. This particular morning Pete was out in the waves and I had been reading to the boys, I stood up to brush sand off my legs and goodbye wedding ring. Yes there were tears.

On hands and knees, River, Sol and I gently crawled around the patch of sand where we had been sitting. I couldn't understand why the ring was not just sitting on top of the sand, as it was so early in the morning and the sand was flat and undisturbed. After twenty minutes Pete came out of the water and joined us in our search. After an hour Pete suggested we leave and track down a metal detector.

My initial response when the ring went flying was that I wouldn't leave the beach until it was found. After an hour of searching and feeling like the ring had actually vanished, Pete's suggestion sounded good. And rational.

We went home and started making phone calls starting with a tools and equipment hire company "Oh no your wedding ring!" came Glen's sympathetic voice. "I'm so sorry we don't have a metal detector, what we do have is a phone number of a guy called Lance he's a bit of a character, a bit like a snake charmer. Lance has a metal detector and he'll come out and search the beach for you for a fee. Gee good luck with it". Glen's sincerity was almost cause for more tears. We called Lance. No answer. We left a message and moved on to the next phone number, Tom a friend of a friend, Tom has a metal detector. A few messages later I finally speak to Tom. Tom is busy all day and into the night, not able to get home to get the metal detector "I'd be able to help you out tomorrow afternoon." TOMORROW AFTERNOON! That is a whole tide change away. 

As disappointed as I was feeling I still had losing the ring in perspective. In reality it was a band of metal, yes a very special and sentimentally valuable piece of metal but I still had what is most important in life - my health, my family and friends. So I said to Tom, "Tomorrow afternoon would be fine. I am being philosophical about this and if I am meant to find it I will."

To cheer me up and take my mind off the sadness I was feeling Pete suggested we go out for lunch at our friend's health food shop in Brunswick Heads and meet up there with our friend Meghan. I have to admit I wasn't feeling particularly social but agreed because I knew sulking wasn't going to help either. 

I felt so upset I couldn't order anything to eat or even my daily coffee which is normally a highlight of my day! I ordered chai. Meghan arrived with her friend Janice and as I sipped chai I shared my wedding ring woes. Meghan and Janice listened, were sympathetic and then like all great women went above and beyond the call of duty without fanfare.

Well if I had access to a brass band for the afternoon I'd send them marching up Meghan and Janice's street because let me tell you these ladies deserve fanfare. After lunch Meghan and Janice put their shopping plans on hold and went home to get colanders from their kitchens. They then headed to the beach. To search for my ring. Sisterhood in action right there.

Based on very vague information from me at lunch about our whereabouts on the beach where the ring was lost, Meghan and Janice had decided they were going to find my wedding ring, Emily Rowe's wedding ring.

In my mixed up emotional relay of the story I had said we were at the second track along the beach, when in fact it was the third track. The ladies arrived at the second track and on the beach within minutes Janice announced to Meghan "We're not in the right place". Undeterred they walked to the end of the next track. "This is it," declared Janice confidently "I can see the finger marks in the sand where they've been looking". 

Meghan later tells me on the phone, "We found the area and drew a rectangle in the sand around it, and then we had a system so we didn't miss anywhere working along the edge of the rectangle putting handfuls of sand through the colanders". Can you believe their kindness? Determination? Focus? I am still in awe!

And what I am even more in awe of is that they FOUND MY RING!!

Meghan put her had into the sand and didn't even need the colander, she felt the ring in the sand and screamed out to Janice "I've got it!" Just at that moment they looked up at the water and saw a whale. True story.

I was speechless when Meghan phoned. Speechless and grateful. I couldn't work out what I was more overwhelmed by - their kindness or the fact that they found my ring.

Thank you, thank you, thank you ladies. I am forever grateful xxx

Sunday, July 28, 2013

stills on sunday

1. Red onion and leek for risotto
2. Risotto with red onion, leek, mushroom, peas, broccoli, pumpkin and goats cheese
3. Byron Bay fava bean tempeh frying in olive oil
4. Byron Bay fava bean tempeh served with Davidson's plum jam
5. Sunrise at Tyagarah
6. Afternoon tea - fig and hazelnut torte with vanilla cream and chai

Friday, July 26, 2013

friday healing

It's been a bit of a tough week in that River came down with a case of hand, foot and mouth disease that almost saw him hospitalised to be rehydrated. I thought I'd mention it here because if you have never heard of it, read up then you will be better prepared if your child ever comes down with it. River's bout was very unpleasant, his mouth filled with ulcers and he was unable to talk, eat or drink because it was so painful to move his tongue. After visiting the doctor and hearing the word 'hospital' he succumbed to the pain and sipped as much water as needed to avoid needing fluids intravenously. A tip - sipping through a straw is less painful than drinking from a cup. To River's delight the doctor prescribed ice cream (!), he is feeling better today looking brighter and able to talk. Phew!

Added to the emotional roller-coaster this week (I get anxious and emotional very easily when my children are sick I'm sure I'm not alone in that!), I lost my wedding ring on the beach. I am very happy to report it was found and there is a great story to go with it. I'll share that next week.

Last Sunday I was cooking buckwheat pancakes for breakfast and thought, "I could never go completely grain free!"These crumpets are another reason why. I think I'll try a spelt version this weekend.

I like the look of this book - "The Homemade Pantry: 101 foods you can stop buying and start making"

I'm excited about Natalie's first cookbook coming along...take a peek.

Wishing you all sunshine this weekend where ever in the world you are. I'm off to finish cleaning out the plastic container drawer, what else do you do when you're housebound with sick child?

Have a beautiful weekend. Thanks for visiting xx

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

wholefood cafe love: federal doma cafe

When I lived in Melbourne and worked as a reviewer of cafes and restaurants, eating out was a daily part of my life. I enjoyed it at the time but am very happy to have moved in a different direction,  now cooking and eating at home for ninety five percent of the meals that my family and I eat. I still enjoy a coffee in a cafe most days but most cafe food leaves a lot to be desired on the wholefood front. Cooking at home is better for my health and bank balance. All that said, when we are in Byron Bay and surrounds there are more options available to eat out AND eat well. The Federal Doma Cafe is a fine example.

Last Friday, my friend Ruth, her twins, my boys River and Sol, and I started our day with haircuts by Norico, in her beautiful studio that overlooks a lush valley and coffee plantation. Her children played with our children and we each took it in turns to have a new do.

Two hours later we farewelled Norico and her children and took a short drive to the Federal Doma Cafe.

Order through the front window for take away or if you're taking a seat out the front. Head to the side door if you want to select from the ready-to-go sushi packs on the counter or to place your order and find a seat at one of the two inside tables or grab a cushion and find a place on the wooden floor of traditional Japanese doma room. The doma room is perfect for dining with small children.
My boys worked their way through sushi with avocado and then a version with tuna and crunchy tempura crumbs sprinkled on top before delving into a plate of cone shaped hand rolls filled with rice, avocado and haloumi. Ruth and the twins enjoyed a plate of teriyaki chicken with rice and salad. The coffee was perfect and though we didn't try dessert there were brownies or green tea panna cotta on display that looked worth going back for.

I deliberately avoided telling my boys that there were things on the menu other than Japanese food, but I'll share with you that there are home made burgers (meat and vegetarian), hot chips, and a daily specials board menu to choose from. 

The only, and I say only, thing that jarred me a little was that everything was served on disposable plates and coffee is only available in disposable cups, yes they were bamboo and biodegradable but still I just have a thing about how much disposable 'stuff' there is in the world and the message it sends to our children. There are other cafes around the Byron Shire that do this and the theory is that it is less taxing on the environment than washing plates and cups. I'm not convinced.

I digress though, a trip to federal doma cafe is well worth it. Perhaps take your own cup and plate.

Friday, July 19, 2013

friday light

Rain is falling here this morning. Thanks to Sol our days have been beginning early. Like 5am early. Slowly, slowly he is adjusting to being in a different house, sleeping in a different bed and finding his Northern Rivers rhythm. Oh how I rejoice on the rare morning he sleeps until 7am (as does the rest of the sleeping house. Sorry Dave and Tiff).

(River busking at Byron Farmer's market)
Leftovers will become breakfast this morning. Cooked brown rice leftover from nori rolls and a big, pink, crisp and juicy Pink Lady apple that Sol took two bites from yesterday. I'll grate the apple into the rice, add some rice milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon and heat them through perhaps a little grated ginger too. Warming, nourishing and delicious.

On with the links:

How good does Michelle's tomato soup with chicken, pesto and Iggy's croutons look?!

I haven't visited 101 cookbooks for a while but this smashed avocado combo drew me in...

We are eating vegetarian while we're here in the Northern Rivers so I've been looking around for veggie recipes. I like the sound of Veggie Mama's Stuffed Peppers.

Paleo fans - do you agree with BodyEcology that plants are the missing piece in the Paleo diet?

If you've ever read the magazine Dumbo Feather I think you'll enjoy reading this interview with its editor and publisher Berry Liberman a dynamic and energetic woman and mother of three under the age 5 including a four month old baby!! Yes I know the mere thought of editing and publishing a magazine and mothering three children is overwhelming and exhausting let alone actually living it. I am happy though to read about someone else doing it!

Ok. I'm off to eat that porridge and get ready for a drive to Coorabell where I will see Norico, a beautiful Japanese lady who works as a hairdresser from her delightful home studio overlooking a lush valley. The studio is built out of recycled materials and is uncluttered and calming to be in as is being in Norico's company. I'm going with my friend Ruth, her little twin boy is having his first haircut and then we'll head out with the children for a sushi lunch in nearby Federal...please sunshine if you are listening be out and shining by lunchtime.

Happy weekend everyone. Thanks for reading xx

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

postcard from the Northern Rivers shire

I've been thinking of you all, dear readers as we settle into our Northern Rivers rhythm wishing I could capture every ounce of the beauty and magic I feel when we stay here. Yes, magic. And possibility, I always feel a greater sense of what is possible when we are here. 

I feel so lucky to have not one but two incredibly beautiful locations to call home. I fell in love with Byron Bay and surrounds from the moment I arrived here eight years ago and have made some of my closest friends here. Do you have a home away from home?

The days are warm, the mornings cool enough for steaming bowls of porridge pictured above. And the evenings cool too, cool enough for lentil and veggie soup, dahl, and pumpkin, lentil and silverbeet lasagne. I'm working on the recipe for the lasagne for you. 

Our beyond generous friend, David, who we stay with is vegetarian, so for the time we are in his home we happily adopt a vegetarian diet. I am enjoying the creativity of coming up with vegetarian meals each night, ones that we will all enjoy. I was inspired to make nori rolls tonight because they tick both the boxes - vegetarian and everyone loves them. I think I'll be spending more time over at Veggie Mama this month.

I am conjuring up some Byron Bay wholefood posts featuring Peace Love and Vegetables, and Puremelt chocolate.

Love to hear your favorite vego recipes. Leave me some links in the comments if you have vego posts to share. Happy days xx

Friday, July 12, 2013

friday back in Byron Bay

We're here. Hooray. So happy to be back in the Bay, our other home.

We had lunch today at our friend's shop, Brunswick Heads Health Food, and as I looked around at all the super delicious and healthy Byron Bay made food products I thought "I can't wait to share these with my blog readers". So stay tuned for a very Byron Bay infused next few weeks.

I hope you've all had more joyful moments than frustrating ones these school holidays and are ready for another term of...packing school lunches!

On with today's list:

For Melbourne folk who love art and food and are in need of a little bit of indulgence book yourself a place at the Siri Hayes dinner at Cafe Vue at Heide. I love going to Heide and the artist dinners are a fantastic concept, a great way of learning more about an artist and their work through one of my favorite mediums - food!

Cardamom and rosewater love tarts. Say no more.

You may be comforted to read, as I was, that even Soulemama loses her cooking mojo occasionally!

I found new blog love at well nourished. Do you know it?

Not a morsel of food involved in this post but I had to share the bounty of love and gorgeousness between Steph and Remy in their sling diary dance.

Looking forward to doing the rounds of the farmer's markets here and seeing what's in season.

And a highlight of our trip will be seeing Jay in real life just as we did last year.

Wishing everyone a very happy weekend. We'll be starting our day at Spaghetti Circus open day tomorrow. Hope you have something fun planned. xx

Monday, July 08, 2013

monday musings: a beautiful science

(this beautiful photo is taken by my husband Pete)
A couple of months ago after dinner I headed out leaving my boys at home for a 'men's night' as they call it with their Dad. I stopped in at a local cafe and bought a cup of tea to takeaway, then headed up the road and settled in at the community centre to hear Saraswathi Vasudevan speak about yoga therapy.

I took my seat in the candlelit room and about 60 of us sat in meditation, something I hadn't done in a long while. It only took about three conscious breaths to feel soothed and refreshed. Why don't I do this more often? Saras' closing words for the meditation "awaken to the reality of this moment" felt so powerful as they landed in my ears.

Saras had traveled from India to spend a couple of weeks in Australia, teaching in Sydney then on to the Peninsula presenting a two day workshop about yoga therapy. I considered attending the two day workshop but arranging care for River and Sol for two full days fell in the too hard basket but a couple of hours on Friday night I could do.

What is yoga therapy?

Yoga therapy is more than doing a yoga class. While certainly there are therapeutic benefits to doing your weekly yoga class, yoga therapy is a more individualised application of yoga that is used to treat an ailment or illness, be it physical or mental. Through asanas, breathwork, meditation, focus on diet and other life style factors yoga therapists works with individuals to improve health and well-being. The key difference between yoga therapy and western medicine is that yoga therapy considers the whole person not just the illness.

Saras posed the question, "Why are we here?" As the audience pondered the meaning and purpose of life Saras offered us an answer that to my mind was unexpected. "Pure enjoyment" she said and smiled. I say this answer was unexpected because to be alive for pure enjoyment sounds indulgent but of course that is not the path Saras was sending us down.

As we all pondered some more, Saras asked "Are you feeling whole and complete in this moment?" "Are there aspects of your life that you do not feel whole or complete?" I am yet to meet a person that feels whole and complete in every single aspect of their life. Sitting with these questions, Saras offered this "Discovering our wholeness and completeness we enter the path of yoga." She spoke of yoga as a tool to discover our true nature, "When we realise that 'I am not this body, this mind, all that I am fretting about' when we realise this we are in our true nature."

There were a number of people in the audience with an illness. One woman who had been an asthmatic all her life bravely spoke of her struggle to manage her asthma and asked "Why do I resist practicing yoga when it is something I love and helps me feel my best?" A common conundrum. We all know what we should do to look after ourselves but why is the doing so hard?

Saras encouraged us, "If we can quiet the mind, the path is clear we just need commitment and courage to follow it."

Saras explained that if we view illness as a way to find wholeness and completeness, the key is to find a way to be with it rather than fight it, it is not about removing symptoms it is about understanding.

She spoke of the relationship between teacher and student in yoga therapy as the teacher being like a midwife and that the student has to do the work with the support of the teacher. This relationship is clearly different to a traditional western doctor patient relationship that is most often played out in the roles of the patient being helpless in their healing and the doctor having the answers.

One of my favorite quotes from Saras that evening: "The most important tool we use is the breath because it bridges mind and body. Just as we vacuum our house, the breath vacuums our mind. The breath knows what to do in our body."

I was grateful for all I heard and felt in my one and half hour evening with Saras. As it turned out it was the perfect amount of time and food for thought for me. I walked back out into the night feeling like my cup was full without running over, two full days would have been an overload.

"At any point in time the support you require will come. Trust and follow." Saraswathi Vasudevan

Friday, July 05, 2013

friday apple pie

(this photo made me laugh. total fluke that I snapped it right when the seagull was above River's head)

First week of the school holidays almost over it has gone so quickly. How about for you? And I have to admit the wholefood highlights have been slim because we have eaten out more than we usually do and it has left me feeling quite blah. Oh well nothing a few dandelion teas and green smoothies won't fix.

River asked if we could look up the healthiest foods in the world and the unhealthiest foods in the world, it was a fun thing to do and River was interested to see which foods on the healthy list were ones that we regularly eat and we both agreed that the we thought the unhealthiest foods would actually be worse than the list we found.

Loving Dovedale gluten free chia bread at the moment. (unsponsored)

Looking forward to baking Mette's apple pie today to take to dinner at Robin's tonight.

Have you entered Vanessa's luscious skincare giveaway?

Need a little help getting through winter? Simple Green Smoothies 30 day challenge may be just the tonic.

Happy weekend one and all. Look forward to sharing this space with you again next week xx

gluten free and organic: buyer beware

Thanks to those sneaky marketing people, feeding your family well can be tricky work. 'Gluten free' and 'organic' have become buzzwords to sell products, as much as they are also terms to describe food. Unfortunately if you don't read the fine print on every package you buy and instead rely on buying products labelled 'gluten free' or 'organic' because you have been led to believe they are healthier then you could be heading for trouble.

My darling husband Pete has fallen for this marketing tactic a number of times. It began with the organic cornflakes he bought for our boys. Pete was disappointed when I pointed out to him that they contained two forms of sugar and a high salt content. Actually disappointed is an understatement he was really annoyed feeling like he had been misled.

Another example was when I was out with a friend and she offered River and Sol sweet biscuits and while handing them to the boys my friend looked at me saying "is that ok? they're organic" as if somehow the organic part made them better for them than if they were a non-organic sweet biscuit. And yes I prefer all our food to be organic, even the treats but just because something is organic does not make it an everyday food or a healthy option.

The ingredients in macro brand gluten free choc chip shortbread include sugar in four different froms and a mysterious ingredient 'natural flavour'. Processed food is processed food, sure the ingredients in organic processed food are better quality than conventional and free from artificial colours and flavours but they can still be high in sugar and salt so keep this in mind.

Pete's latest gluten free purchase was Coles brand gluten free pancakes. Normally we buy Orgran buckwheat pancake mix that is also gluten free but Pete saw the gluten free label on the Coles ones and thought he'd give them a go for $2.50. Unlike the buckwheat ones, this packet contained sugar, skim milk powder and thickener.

So, if you are buying processed food even if it is organic or gluten free read the fine print.

If you have some favorite organic or gluten free brands that you'd like to share please do in the comments.

Monday, July 01, 2013

monday musings: on being busy

I've decided that 'being busy' has become an overused easy excuse not a genuine reason. Have you noticed? For so many people their reply when you ask "How are you?" is "I'm so busy". Or "sorry I haven't been in touch I've been so busy".

Sometimes this is hard to swallow when you consider the number of communication mediums available to us, that sometimes it can be days before we reply to family and friends or receive a response. Because we are 'busy'.

I read once in a buddhist book (sorry I'm vague on title details it was a long time ago) that to the Eastern way of thinking Western busyness = laziness. And I have to agree this makes sense to me.

Maintaining a daily spiritual practice (whatever that means to you) and regular meaningful connection with friends and family are just two important parts of life that can suffer: because we are 'busy'. Too busy to exercise, too busy to eat well, sleep well, love well, live well. Something is wrong with this picture wouldn't you agree?

Sometimes when I talk to my wonderful nan on the phone and say we will come and visit some time soon, in her gracious way she says "see how you go. I know you are busy". Nan says this, not because I have told her I am busy but because she likes to make life easy for everyone and would never want me to feel pressure to come and visit (not that I ever do in the slightest it is always such a joy to see her). I tell her "I'm never too busy for you".

I do prefer to say and think that life is full because that is the way it feels in the best possible way. To my mind being busy has a bit of a negative connotation in that there may be stress accompanying the busyness.

I looked up the definition of busy -
busy adjective. having a great deal to do verb keep occupied.

Yep that's pretty much everyone.

From here on out I am being mindful of the 'b' word, intending not to overuse it and definitely won't be relying on it to make things ok for not getting back to friends and family when they phone, text or email.

What are your thoughts on being busy? Am I over-reacting, are my expectations too high or does the busy phenomenon bug you too? Do you know anyone who is not busy?
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