Saturday, March 4, 2017

Making lemonade

So my long (long looooooong) spell of waiting is over, and not in the way I had hoped - though a number of people in a position to understand it all better than I have just about convinced me that this outcome will be the best one in the long run. I think. In any case, that's really all I'm going to say about it, with apologies for being mysterious. Overall I'm relieved to have the waiting be over, but I've got feelings to process and next steps to ponder. As I do so, I'm continuing to work on practicing meticulous mindfulness - it, along with regular strenous gym workouts, has become a key mechanism for dealing with the 'anger' phase of the process around this drawn-out decision (to say nothing of  my feelings about current events in the wider world).

As I refocus on life here in Canberra, autumn is getting underway. The first of the new season apples are showing up at the markets, so to celebrate earlier in the week I made a personal-sized version of Dinner with Julie's Apple Pie Scones - I still used a whole apple, but it was small, and I halved the scone dough.

I got 3 good-sized scones out of it, and it significantly improved my week.

Since baked goods can improve most people's week, I also asked Miss B what baked good she was in the mood for, and she requested Dark Side cookies - "like the kind they would have to lure you to the Dark Side?" So I dug up this recipe from Nigella Express, and these super-chocolate bombs were just what the doctor ordered - or rather the frazzled new high schooler.

Yes - did I mention that Miss B is now in high school?! To be fair, it starts in Year 7 in Canberra, but still.

In other cooking experiments, I had a sudden hankering for san choy bow the other night, so I decided to whip some up. I didn't bother looking up a recipe, I just winged it (wung it?) with what I had on hand.

My version consists of chopped onions and mushrooms (and a little smoked salmon too) sauteed with oil/ginger/garlic/chili, with a sauce of 2 parts soy to 1 part fish sauce/sugar/lemon juice/sesame oil/sriracha, topped with chopped scallion/spring onion and slivered almonds. Wrap in lettuce leaves and have some rice alongside if you're a carb fiend like me. Proper san choy bow recipe here (turns out I wasn't that far off!).

And last but not least, here's some actual (as opposed to metaphorical) lemonade:

After my weekly farmers' market run this morning, I did some prep cooking - restocking my personal pantry for the week. On the right you see my coldbrew coffed brewing. On the left, my copy of Genius Recipes open to the One-Ingredient Whole Grain Crackers, which I made with a rice-quinoa blend I'm trying to use up. And in the middle, my re-gifted T2 tea infuser* brewing up a concoction of citrus zest and juice and mint and maple syrup to add a twist to my daily Green Tea Fizz.

*Sidebar story: the friend who re-gifted this to me handed it over with the declaration that she couldn't be bothered to use it, but that she was sure I'd figure out something interesting to do with it. I decided to take that as a compliment and a challenge; it took me a few months, but - voila!

Hope all is well in your corner of the world.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 so far

Not long after I published my last post, we headed out for New Year's Eve and possibly the most Canberra activity there is - climbing the Parliament House lawn (while we still can!) to watch the fireworks:

Canberra has two sets; we watched the 9:00 ones and were all home and in bed well before midnight.

A few days later we were off for our annual beach holiday - a week of sun, sand, and as much floating in the ocean as I can fit in.

Then, as usual, the day after we got back from the coast I set off for my annual trip to London for work meetings - an intensive week, followed by a relaxing weekend in my old stomping grounds in Oxford, including cooking a Saturday night spread for my hostess and our other visiting friends.

I also got to peruse the cookbook section of my favorite Oxford bookstore, and flirted once again with the idea of getting involved in a relationship with sourdough starter. But I can't commit....

...and always end up reverting to my tried-and-true bread recipe. These days, it's my go-to gift for other people's houses; when they tell me not to bring anything, this is what I bring.

Also as has been usual for the last few years, I was overseas on my birthday, so when I got home I made my own cake - which looks rather small and overpowered by candles here.

It was nice to come back to summer weather and summer fruit after a week in frosty England...

...get back to the regular kitchen routine, and try some new things. I've been working on making my own flour tortillas lately, working off this basic recipe...

...I also made homemade gnocchi for the first time, using leftover mashed potatoes and this recipe from River Cottage Love Your Leftovers. They were a rousing success...

...this chocolate fudge bundt cake, not so much. Tastes great, but half the cake stuck in the pan despite copious greasing. I think in future I'll stick with this one.

And this week's flower selection - hydrangeas from the farmers' market (with special guest provided by Miss B).

Before I finish, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that all of the above are examples of my continuing to try to focus on positive aspects of daily life and practice meticulous mindfulness. It's all part of my ongoing attempt to grapple with, among other things, the uncertainty and anxiety engendered by the current state of affairs in my home country, and the knock-on effects and similar trends abroad. This article has confirmed my fears, but also bolstered my courage, and I share it for anyone who may be in similar need:

A Clarifying Moment in American History

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

I know I'm not the only person who's looking forward to turning the calendar over to start a new year. So I thought I'd get one last post in, wrap up 2016, and start fresh tomorrow.

Here's a few highlights from the final month of the year:

Flowers have brightened a lot of days for me this year, and this was a truly epic bunch presented to me at Thanksgiving by DP's honors seminar team.

Red rambler roses on the walk to school. No matter where I come across them, these will always remind me of my mother and grandmother.

Miss B's continued penchant for animals of all kinds and imaginative play have made this Pusheen plushie a character in our house.

And speaking of Miss B, this cake marks the end of an era - her graduation from primary school, a bittersweet occasion as I'm sure many of you can relate. She requested a Victoria sponge, filled with raspberry jam, iced with vanilla buttercream, and topped with crystallized raspberries.

And then the pre-Christmas mayhem was upon us - goodie bags for teachers, administrators, and various others....

...decorating the house and tree, wrapping the presents...

...the traditional Frying of the Doughnuts on Christmas Eve morning...

...and the big day itself - celebrated this year with not one but two epic and traditional desserts: the Yule Log and an enormous trifle (not made by me!).

During the Twelve Days of Christmas, there's been a little more time to unwind and enjoy Christmas presents...

...visit friends...

...enjoy leftovers...

...try out some new local restaurants while everyone else is out of town...

...and begin planning for 2017.

I'll end, as I began, with flowers - and very best wishes for good things for all in the new year!

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