Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on Japan

I've been meaning to post for a few days now, posts on my usual fare - cooking, preserving, family stuff and my new knitting project. Each time I've started I've been stopped by the overwhelming thought of how inconsequential and trivial this all is when compared to the disaster that is engulfing north west Japan. I've gone around all week with a knot in my stomach, contemplating the nightmare of the tsunami and earthquake and the unfolding catastrophe of the nuclear electricity plants.
I've been close to tears all week, and I'm sure this is why.
I've had to put myself on a media diet. Normally if I'm home, ABC Local Radio is on, with half hourly news reports, AM, The World Today, PM and stuff in between. This week it's all too overwhelming. I've flicked over to ABC Classic, trying to get some beautiful music to soothe my soul. Then I listen to 2 news reports in the morning and evening and that's it. That's enough to have me thinking about the dead, bereaved, the displaced and the long term damage that is likely occurring right now.

I feel I need to do something,yet I feel so impotent. What though, here in my safe corner of Australia?
Does anyone else feel this?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dog days

After lobbying consistently for at least a year, our daughter Amelia finally achieved her heart's desire when we acquired our new family member, Dash the daschund, in time for her birthday yesterday.
Pardon if the blogging has been a bit sporadic lately. Settling into a routine with our new pup has taken me straight back to the days when our children were babies. Same issues: sleep, feeding, toilet, discipline. After a few nights broken sleep, we've all been a bit tired, but Dash is settling down nicely.
The arrival of the dog has highlighted a difference in dog philosophy between me and Action Man. You see, he had a daschund too as a kid, who basically went wherever he wanted inside and out. On the other hand, I grew up with dogs too, who were strictly outside dogs. So part of the adjustment has been deciding on the rules for Dash that we can both live with. So far, he can come inside when we are here, but not on furniture. At night to sleep, though, he is outside. Early days yet, but I want to set the ground rules early.
The arrival of the dog has also given us a ticket to the dog owners club, it seems. We've been taking Dash for twice daily short walks. A neighbour up the street who owns three border collies, and has barely acknowledged our presence in eight years stopped to talk at length to Action Man today, purely because he had Dash with him. Who knew?
Our newly friendly neighbour told us that new residents set to move into their new house across the road shortly used to breed Daschunds. Can't wait to meet them, to talk daschund talk.

So, dog people, especially those who've had puppies. What's the advice? This is the first dog I've ever been responsible for and I'm sure you have some.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grapes - a sad story

Long time readers of this blog will know that we have a small vineyard, in which we have about 100 shiraz and about 20 chambourcin vines. We use our grapes to make our own wine. Well, that's the theory.
2010 was a blowout because we had extremely heavy rains in February, which caused the grapes to split, and thus ruined the crop. No winegrapes to make wine then, but Action Man was not deterred. He ended up buying boxes of shiraz, mouvedre and grenache and used them to make 2010's wine. Not bottled yet, but tasting very nice so far!
2011 unfortunately has also ended up being a washout as far as grapes are concerned. This time, the heavy rains in December meant that our grapes succumbed to mildew, because the constant rain meant that we could spray effectively. Action Man didn't even bother netting the shiraz this year.
The chambourcin, though, is more naturally mildew and fungus resistant so he netted those(we should have planted more of this variety), and it is these grapes that you see above. Don't they look gorgeous? And let me tell you, they taste gorgeous too.
We don't have enough grapes though to warrant a wine making session. Never mind, given our barrel is still full of last year's wine, and that we are busy as all get out, and that we are both getting over a weird virusy cold, we aren't too despondent.
Sometimes, you just have to rest on your laurels.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Almond Butter

Well, I suppose it doesn't look very inspiring, but I had this home made almond butter with banana and honey on toast this morning and it was dee-licious.
Being partial to nuts, I've been wanting to try making almond butter for a while now. It couldn't be easier. All you need is a fairly robust food processor. You just grind a couple of handfuls of nuts (the above example was made out of 1/2 cup roasted almonds), for some minutes (maybe 4-5? I wasn't timing myself) until it starts to come together in a ball. It does this quite suddenly, so don't despair if your batch stays in crumbs for what seems forever. I possibly could have kept the processor on for a bit longer until a bit more oil was released to make a smoother paste, but this was ok.
BTW, I saw a small jar of almond butter in Coles for over $6, so this is another thing that is definitely cost effective to make yourself.
This batch is gone now. Action Man ate most of it, as is with a spoon, as he normally does with peanut butter.
I buy my nuts in bulk from a supplier in Sydney - Nut Roasters in Chapel Street Lakemba. This is my favourite food shop in the world. They roast their nuts on site and the smell of the place is incredible. They also have super-fresh pulses grains , dried fruit and what seems 20 types of olives too. I also buy my flour for breadmaking in bulk here (10kg for $11 or so). The company is run by a Lebanese family, and a lot of the clientele is Lebanese and Greek, people who appreciate a good nut. The turnover is high, so everything is top quality, and compared to supermarkets and health food shops, cheap. I get up there a couple of times a year and stock up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blogging synchronicity

Well, like Tracy at Sunny Corner Farm I've been out for the count over the last few days. Starting with sore throat and ears, and violent sneezing on Friday, by Saturday I was welded to the couch. Sunday I stirred to do the grocery shopping but only because the food situation was getting serious. Yesterday I should have been doing some housework, but instead spent a lot of time wasting time. Today I'm up and about, but still not tip-top. I have seedlings to plant but bending down sends me dizzy, so they'll have to survive in their punnets another few days. There is something about summer colds that is very "wrong". When you have a cold you just want to retreat into a shell. Easy to do in winter, with doonas and pillows. With high humidity and temperatures, cocooning in a doona it impossible and the comfort offered by a sheet is cold comfort indeed.
Last week I wrote that I'd been making tomato relish. Here's the photo that I tried (and tried and tried) to publish last week. In another case of blogging synchronicity, Sonia at Lighter Shade of Green posted about the tomato relish she'd made. Like me, she'd used the recipe in Sally Wise's book A Year in a Bottle (I think). The results are very similar aren't they?
Making relishes and chutneys I find a lot easier and more forgiving than making jams, which require more vigilance and good timing to get the setting point right.