under the influence

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Sausages and Onion Gravy with Mash kit
Sausages and Onion Gravy with Mash kit

I’m under the influence, no, not of alcohol, I never touch a drop if I’m driving, or drugs regardless. In the kitchen, I’ve been known to sip a glass of wine when making dinner plus use it as an ingredient, and it’s not even that. I’m under the influence of bloggers, some named below and others who also have a knack with good food such as ArdysMeeks, roughseas, Marianne of East of Malaga and Sandra of Notes on A Spanish Valley.

I cobbled together a kit (potato scrubbing gloves, ricer and bottle of Madeira) under the influence of Roger of Food, Photography & France in my quest for the ultimate version of one of the G.O.’s favourites – Sausages & Onion Gravy with Mash. I did taste the Madeira and found it most appealing. It’s almost due to be replenished as it has become a go-to ingredient in early Autumn meals slow cooked in the big Chasseur pot, and the tagine used for the first time ever influenced by Glenda of The Passion Fruit Garden. When the weather cools right off I have plans to make ChgoJohn from the Bartolini Kitchens’ Beef Cheeks.

750 gram bread maker Spelt loaf
750 gram bread maker Spelt loaf

Under the influence of Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and Celi of TheKitchensGarden I made bread. A while ago Celia offered me an offspring of her Priscilla but I was too chicken to accept. However the sourdough idea at least has been bubbling along in the back of my mind.

It got an incremental push when I made an unusual find in our apartment complex communal recycling area of a bread maker with an attached note indicating it was working. That was the beginning. I successfully & gleefully made a small (750 gram) spelt loaf. The G.O. adores white bread and is so-so about any other kind. Both of us do better eating less rather than more bread of any type. He however pronounced my spelt loaf not only edible but good, with only a tinge of surprise in his voice.

A couple of weeks later I attempted to make a larger (1200 gram) loaf but the bread maker responded with an E01 message (apparently indicating the unit was to hot) and couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. So I extracted the contents, gave it a quick knead, waited, it rose, kneaded, waited and put it in the oven with fingers crossed. It rose, browned and filled our apartment with the aroma of baking spelt loaf. Oh my God. It worked.

1200 gram baked Spelt loaf
1200 gram baked Spelt loaf

1200 g loaf

5 cups organic wholemeal spelt flour
1 sachet - 7 grams - dry yeast
3 teaspoons pink Himalayan rock salt
3 teaspoons organic raw sugar
3 tablespoons organic olive oil
450 ml room temperature water

Mix by hand until combined.
Rest until doubled in a warm place covered with tea towel – about an hour.
Knead briefly on floured bench – about a minute.
Place in large oiled and/or non stick loaf tin.
Rest for further 20 – 25 minutes – optional*.
Bake for 30 minutes on lower shelf of oven that has been preheating for about 5 minutes (set to 220°C/Fan 200°C/425°F).

* “Spelt naturally proves and rises more quickly than conventional wheat flour, so bake it as soon as it has doubled in size.” Spelt flour doesn’t require as much kneading as “the gluten in spelt flour is a little unusual. Unlike wheat flour, which is quite resilient and often needs a long kneading time (with breads) to strengthen its gluten and give the bread structure, the gluten in spelt flour breaks down fairly easily. This means that it is pretty critical not to over mix it, or risk having a crumbly texture imparted into whatever you’re making.”

Once the Spelt loaf has cooled I find it slices better having been stored in a plastic container in the fridge, and is better toasted.

Cookbooks and The Kitchen Tarot
Cookbooks and The Kitchen Tarot

Under the influence of Glenda of the Passion Fruit Garden I consolidated my cookbooks on a shelf of their own, adding a pre-loved Elizabeth David Italian Food, and a gorgeous pack of Kitchen Tarot cards influenced by a tea tarot image from an unrelated Kourtney Heintz post.

I doubt I’ll ever be organised enough to do In My Kitchen posts, and although I never say never it’s unlikely I’ll ever be in the league of Celi’s pig in the kitchen but when I’m in the kitchen I’m in good company.

Postscript: The lovely Celia has added me to her IMK list 😊 If you want to join in go to In My Kitchen.

it’s not the end of the world

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Apocalypse Yard Garage Sale
Apocalypse Yard Garage Sale

It’s not the end of the world when the G.O. doesn’t work on a Saturday. In fact, it’s very nice. In the construction industry, Saturday work is pretty much a given. But the G.O.’s current work site is located on the South Coast a 80 km each way commute and in exchange for working Monday – Friday 7 am – 5… or 6 pm he’s not been working [many] Saturdays. So on work-free Saturdays we have a glorious sleep in, then over coffee consider possibilities.

Last Saturday, motivated by Celia of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial’s post about Little Flowers, who share premises with Velvet Garage café a short stroll from us, encouraged further by the neighbouring Apocalypse Yard’s garage sale we headed over. Our foray into the garage sale was brief as they were burning something noxious fuelling their Atomic Cafe barbeque, bestowing an acrid authentic end of the world aura to the proceedings.

The French Boy alongside a Ham Sandwich
The French Boy alongside a Ham Sandwich

At Velvet Garage we ordered black coffees right off and I knew I wanted a French Boy but there was much deliberation over menu selection for the G.O.’s part. Eventually after we moved to a brighter table near the door and being able to see the menu he decided on the Ham Sandwich.

The coffees were excellent but strong which proved fortuitous as a perfect foil for the flavoursome breakfasts. The French Boy was a stunner topped with creamy yoghurt, unctuous caramel, passionfruit, raspberry coulis, fresh mint and toasted almond slivers but the Ham Sandwich flavoured by maple syrup and dressed up with sliced fresh pear & melted cheese was no slouch either.

We shared. The G.O. took command of the Ham Sandwich but forked 2 decent pieces over to me. I made a valiant effort with a slice of The French Boy. The G.O. nibbled at the remaining French Boy, and while I was distracted glancing through the Good Living lift-out of the paper demolished the rest.

Necessary then was a long walk home which for which we took the less direct route, noting a couple more St Peters cafés for future reference, It Happens to be a Secret and ASLAN Coffee.

Postscript: The French Boy is Velvet Cafe’s quirky and delicious take on French Toast.

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ringing in the new

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2014 has a different feel to it than the past couple of years. Something needed to change. I mulled it over for a couple of months. And faffed about with other things, joining Pinterest and Instagram, until inspiration hit me…

I’ve given elladee_words a makeover, and my other WordPress blogs elladee_images and elladee_places are on hold but images and places posts will continue, for now incorporated with the elladee_words content of this blog.

It took some work but the export and import processes were quite straightforward (kudos to WordPress) other than a bit of mucking around manually adding images that had fallen off imported posts. To begin with it was a nice trip down memory lane but patience isn’t my thing and after repeatedly scrolling through 2 years of posts, I just wanted it done.

I like having all the pieces of elladee together. As my revamped About page remarks “I scare myself sometimes by imagining what would happen if I gave in to my crazy grandma hippy leanings and let my world become a potpourri of psychedelic, pattern & rainbows. This blog is as close as it gets…”

Let me know what you think.

In early March the G.O. and I fulfilled a commitment to visit my sister who relocated to Melbourne early last year - our spirits were willing but time had been lacking. Given the busyness of this year if we didn’t go when we did it would be August before we could think about it again.

I’m notorious for cramming as much as possible into trips away – you can sleep when we’re home – and my sister is no slouch as well. The G.O.’s head is still spinning.

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It takes courage to grow up…

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Sandra Danby emailed me and asked if I would like to review The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood by Kasia James (Contributing Editor).

“I’ve just had two of my short stories published in an anthology and wondered if you would review the book on your blog? It’s called ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ and includes short fiction, poetry, art, memoir and medical writing on the theme of honest motherhood. Some of the writers have recently given birth, others are grandmothers. Some, like me, are childless; my writing is inspired by memories of my own mother. Some of the pieces will make you smile, others are heartbreaking.”

I responded “… be happy to… given the theme which is close to my heart also”. Of course. I have been around mothers my whole life. Many of my family, friends and colleagues are mothers.

But my reactive assumption of familiarity with the subject was way off. It amounted to: I’m a woman; a Sagittarian, ergo I value honesty above all else; and my mother gave birth to me.

Reading the The Milk of Female Kindness contributions was eye-opening. It was like reading science fiction - women but another life-form, inhabiting a planet unfamiliar to me.

A colleague years ago shared the details of her entire pregnancy with our little office clan but that’s far different to what comes later. She resigned to take on a new role of full-time mum. She may as well have left the country as far as those of us who remained were concerned.

Mothers who know me well don’t hand their babies to me but regard me kindly, reading the trepidation in my eyes. We don’t talk about mothery stuff, so I can’t even say what kind of honesty I was expecting from The Milk of Female Kindness.

The truth it revealed is how disengaged from motherhood I am as an adult. As a child, I still shed tears when I hear of someone similarly motherless.

My best friend Mrs S. only occasionally regales me with anecdotes about her mother but until now I never thought about it. Am I not included, or do I not participate, in those conversations because of their inclination to be one-sided? My mother died when I was five has been known to be a conversation stopper.

While I read The Milk of Female Kindness, I doubted my ability to write a fair review. I tender a few lines from a poem I wrote many years ago by way of explanation.

Mum and me, c 1966
Mum and me, 1967

They never told me who she was
I never knew
enough to feel like her daughter
only to be
I can’t remember
what it feels like
to have a mother
only motherless
 two-dimensional skeleton of memory
hand coloured
sepia imagined detail.

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She’ll be apples, mate – Right?

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As is my habit during the course of a Saturday morning I did our weekly food shop at the local Eveleigh Farmers’ Market. When I returned home I made a cup of tea, and settled in with the lunch I bought: gluten-free mushroom, kale and leek tart made from, the friendly stall-holder informed me, market ingredients. At the computer I arbitrarily clicked on ABC News. The first headline I saw was

Federal Government scraps food grants program

“The Federal Government has scrapped the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program.

The funding was announced last May by the former Labor government as a key initiative of the National Food Plan.

It would have seen money invested in projects such as farmers markets, food co-operatives and hubs, community gardens, and city farms across the country.

But applicants have now been advised by letter that the program has been reviewed and a decision made that it won’t be continued due to the ‘tight fiscal environment’…

…The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is also disappointed. The alliance’s national co-ordinator, Nick Rose, says it was the first time that work by the community food sector had been recognised at a federal level…

…A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture says the Australian Government remains strongly committed to a vibrant, innovative and competitive agriculture sector…

This is why the government is developing a White Paper Agricultural Competitiveness, which will drive long-term agricultural policies and ensure Australia’s agriculture sector remains a significant contributor to the national economy and local communities.

The White Paper will take into account the analysis done for the National Food Plan, in the context of the government’s agriculture and food related policies.

A priority of the White Paper will be to generate jobs, boost farm gate returns, investment and economic growth in the agriculture sector…”

So, the Federal Government is ditching a scheme where 364 applicants have gone to the trouble of placing submissions for grants. Instead of fulfilling it even to some extent, simply by virtue of a change of government more time and money will be diverted to a White Paper to reinvent the wheel. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water could they not reassess the submissions and at least make some grants?

If the government insists on the White Paper, I suggest a field trip to Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, both to buy great fresh produce and to talk to the stall-holders/producers.

she’ll be apples, mate…

Maybe they could interview Mr Apples, who I’ve had enough conversations with to know a little about. He’s been a farmer his whole life. At one stage he expanded operations buying neighbouring properties. His adult kids have jobs elsewhere. One of the first chats I had with him he said it wouldn’t make sense for his kids to be farmers. Too much work. Too little income. He makes more money now since he downsized his orchards and sells at farmers markets rather than to the supermarket chains. His farm at Batlow is 4 and a half  hours drive from Sydney. He & his wife leave on Saturday mornings to be in Sydney in time for the market’s 8am start. Sometimes his wife does the Sydney markets and he goes to other markets on Saturdays, and they go to markets on Sundays also.

Last year I was paying $5 per kilo for his fruit. This year it’s $6.  I spent $4 on 8 white peaches and apples but the shopper after me bought 1 apple. As an exercise I think a good but possibly unlikely case scenario, if 200 people bought a kilo of his fruit over the course of a weekend - 200 kg is lot of apples, it would gross $1200 cash. Out of that we have to assume costs – fuel, accommodation, farm costs, tax…

How many kilos of fruit would Mr Apples need to sell to earn the equivalent of our incomes?

Mr Apples has one advantage. He’s established. Instead of getting out of the industry completely he made a change to his business. Many farmers walk away. If they all walk away, if no new producers are encouraged, where will the food come from?

Eveleigh Farmers’ Market is a hugely popular market in the middle of Sydney. We are incredibly fortunate to have these producers spend time and money bringing their produce to us.

Conversely, when the G.O. and I spend time in the country at Taylors Arm, despite it being an agricultural region, we don’t have access to weekly farmers’ markets, and those markets that exist need more support. I see few enough shoppers at the local markets to believe the stall-holders show up out of principle rather than profit. Already the monthly Medlow School Markets and the weekly Nambucca Valley Farmers Markets’ which started during the last 5 years in the Nambucca Valley no longer operate. It’s not like the producers don’t make the effort; I see Ausbuff from local Eungai, 5 hours drive from Sydney, at Eveleigh Farmers Market every week.

I enjoyed the cup of tea and the tart but not the article. The politics left a bad taste in my mouth.


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us and them

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George Street, Erskineville, NSW, Australia
George Street, Erskineville, NSW, Australia

Local Inner West resident and artist Thomas Jackson painted the George Street wall of Hive Bar in Erskineville, a comment to the recent Western Australian government’s shark cull that began on January 26.

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things. Terry Pratchett, Jingo

At the same time news headines also declared “Buses the big killers of pedestrians in Sydney’s CBD…”. I ask myself, should the NSW Government take a cue from WA and cull the buses?

lost in transition

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Like one of those old movies where the mad scientist’s human atom rearranging experiment goes awry, part of me appears to have gone astray enroute to the city from our 3 week respite at Taylors Arm. I’ve returned to the thankfully air-conditioned office in body at least; reviewing & updating Excel spreadsheets, but I suspect my spirit continues to read the Outlander series whilst reclining on the futon on the verandah. If so, I hope it stirs from time to time, wanders around the garden, and amuses itself by doing a little weeding.

My immediate response in re-entering the real world, once I took up position at my desk was to use the electronic accoutrements for the higher purpose of booking flights to take us north again for the upcoming Australia Day long weekend at the end of January; there are only so many long drives up and down the Pacific Highway that can be sanely endured. We were teetering on the brink. It was book flights or not go. That I booked Tigerair flights is evidence of sanity impairment and/or desperation.

So removed had I become over our holidays that upon arriving back at our city apartment, opening the door, it took a moment to register… oh yes, this is where we live.

Aside from watering dry potted plants, unpacking and making an appearance at the office-worksite, we’re doing as little as possible. For at least another fortnight survival will take the form of food foraged from leftovers & local shops, air-conditoning, free-to-air TV tennis, and slowly catching up on the blog post reading I missed as after several unsuccessful attempts at Taylors Arm to wrangle uncooperative wireless internet waves, I gave up.

Mags was pleased to have staff in attendance
Mags was pleased to have staff in attendance

Once settled in, and after a quietly spent Christmas Day we roused ourselves only for day-trips-family-friends-visits, walks on the beach and swims. We took few photo’s but this snap of Mags, who along with his feathered and furred cohorts, enjoyed the benefits of having staff on hand to replenish water & food, reflects the agreeable simplicity; a pleasant end to a 2013 that I have no complaints about and start to a 2014 of wonderful possibilities.

Happy New Year.

go slow

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verandah table: all, including the table & stool, are found objects plus $5 old bowl, and solar candle lights & stool rubbers purchased from Bunning Warehouse
* verandah table: all, including the table & stool, are found objects plus $5 old bowl, and solar candle lights & stool rubbers purchased from Bunnings Warehouse

Amongst the lovely birthday gifts I received recently from the G.O. was also what we refer to as A Present. A Present is something random we occasionally buy but usually find for the other, given for no reason at all. Mostly A Presents are bits & pieces the G.O. finds at work on construction sites, and brings home for me. Over the years he has brought home many & varied A Presents: old coins & marbles; bottles; furniture and odds & ends from demolition sites, and one tiny tabby kitten which we couldn’t keep but gave into the good care of the local Cat Protection Society.

After the G.O. handed me birthday gifts he’d hidden within the organised chaos that is the back of his ute, he proffered a muddy disk, and graciously said “here, that’s for you too, I found it.”

As the dirt washed off it into the kitchen sink my A Present revealed itself as a battered stop and slow sign. Exciting. Almost as good as my birthday gifts and no cash had been exchanged, which always gives me a thrill. Even better I had just the spot for it. My work-in-progress Taylors Arm verandah table of found items. Right where it would remind us for the 3 week duration of our holidays that slow, rather than stop is the objective. Forget about go.

I’m around this week until late Friday but after that I may not be popping into blog world much or at all. As usual it’s dependent on the caprices of the wireless internet waves that may or may not find their way to Taylors Arm. Last year I was a little bereft, not having the ability to regularly check in with my WordPress Tribe. I’ll read blogs and comment if possible, but I’ll be back in the real world a fortnight into the new year.

When we’re out & about if I snap something remarkable with my phone I’ll endeavour to upload it to elladee_images or elladee_places.

*You can also find me and other photos like this on Pinterest.

I wish you a Very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. In the spirit of the festive season I offer up the last verse of an Australian version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the 12th day
of Christmas
My true love sent to me
12 parrots prattling,
11 numbats nagging,
10 lizards leaping,
9 wombats working,
8 dingoes digging,
7 possums playing,
6 brolgas dancing,
5 kangaroos,
4 koalas cuddling,
3 kookaburras laughing,
2 pink galahs,
And an emu up a gum tree.

Ollie & Vin

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In my short story Henry forgot to write “eat, eat”  I wrote “There are ghosts in my kitchen. I know who these ghosts are. They are familiar to me”, and chronicled various family members who turn up from time to time.
But there are ghosts who weren’t familiar to me. Ollie whose kitchen in fact it was until 1980, and her husband Vin. One of the wonderful things about Ollie is she isn’t pushy. It’s taken us a while to get to know her.
It was only during our last visit to Taylors Arm earlier this month, chatting briefly to an ex-local, Peter, we became on a first name basis with our predecessors Ollie & Vin. Peter who by his surname is a relative of theirs, lived his early life in successive houses and was an apprentice baker in the village. He resided next door at the time of Ollie’s death in 1980. She died from a heart attack in the front bedroom. Our bedroom now.
Our house was built in the 1930′s. We knew the first occupants by their surname only and were told they raised 8 children in our 3 bedroom house. As was common practice it also once had part of the verandah closed off as a sleep-out.
Courtesy of Google I was able to find some of Ollie & Vin’s family history. Ollie & Vin were married in 1925. They both came from local families. Their various family names abound locally still.
Ollie’s husband Vincent, 6 years older than her, died 6 years before in 1974. They were both 73 when they died.
Although she was yet to be introduced to us, the G.O. and I had started to wonder about Ollie’s influence. Along with the many other old floral pictures we or our ghosts have a penchant for, we have in 8 years of our residence acquired several old religious pictures, starting with a simple small God Bless This House which cost a dollar.
Both the G.O. and I have Anglican family heritage but the pictures we’ve acquired are quite Catholic, Ollie & Vin’s religion. To this day, they and their family’s names appear in the weekly parish bulletin under “Praying for Holy Souls”. As I imagine they were regular church-goers, the Catholic Church conveniently for them is one house up from ours. It’s the church we attend at Christmas & Easter but all, regardless of denomination, are welcome any time. It’s the local church.
Only days before my chat with Peter the G.O. surprised me with several gifts for my birthday, one of which was a print of (I now know) Saint Therese. The gift was a surprise because I had been mulling over its purchase for a while. When we were in Macksville en route to TA I went to the shop to buy it but there was only an empty hook on the wall. Somehow sometime the G.O. bought & got it home without my knowledge.
Saint Therese
Saint Therese


Our St. Therese now resides over the kitchen door, flanked by flowery renditions of The Lord will Provide and The Lord is my Shepherd.
As the G.O. hung St. Therese in place on the Saturday, we wondered about the original owners of the house and if this was their influence. Our suspicions were confirmed the next morning.
When the G.O. joined Peter and I in conversation and was told Ollie and Vin’s names the expression on his face must have echoed mine. Since I met the G.O. in 1990, his nickname for me has been Ol’ short for Ollie, and his pseudonym in my short story Reprise is Vin, named for Vincent, his grandfather.
No wonder it feels like home.

the doctor

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 I have the busy blahs diagnosis of dullness work-life disorder   My white coated friend  prescribes apply cat fur  thoroughly each day.

I have the busy blahs
diagnosis of dullness
work-life disorder.
This white coated friend
prescribes apply cat fur
thoroughly each day.