Friday, April 20, 2012

Three Ways with Plums

I was at a meeting this week and someone made a (reasonably tasteless) joke about getting cancer from a power line.  People laughed awkwardly.  So did I.  I looked around at the meeting attendees and it struck me.  No one here knows I have had cancer.  And they can't tell by looking at me (although why they think I would choose to have hair this short I don't know but there are lots of women around with Voluntary Short Hair and they look great)If there is one thing I have loathed over the last 16 months it is the occasional look of pity or shock or embarrassment I have received when people realise I am being treated for cancer (the wig was a giveaway).   This is a good place to be in, I can tell you.

Something I have done in the last five years which has improved my life by an amount I can even measure in percentage terms (I would say 5%), it would be using one of the duopoly supermarket people to home deliver all my heavy horrible groceries like milk, mineral water and nappies.

In an attempt to further limit pointless driving around I have just started using these people to deliver organic fruit and vegetables to me. The delivery includes a mystery box of what is in season (and presumably cheap).

I think this is something people do perhaps more in the US than here, but I am loving the surprise of it. So what to do with two huge eggplants? Or other vegetables I don't otherwise usually buy like mushrooms. Last time round I got a big batch of plums. Plums remind me of my childhood, I think the plums we had then we a bit different - purple inside rather than orange, but nevertheless, I love their juicy sweetness.

(chopped plums, mint, chilli and spring onions)

The first thing I made was plum tabbouleh, with burghul (ie the traditional way).  The plums contrast very well with the grain.  Lots and lots of olive oil and lemon juice and salt and you can eat a whole large bowl No Problem At All.

This idea came from Nigel Slater' Tender Volume II, which is a cook's guide to fruit.  I have written before about Nigel, and his brilliant cookbooks.  (Nigel is on my dream dinner party list. He would be joined by Anthony Bourdain, Ian McEwan, Malcolm Turnbull, Henri Bernard Levy ands the lead singer of Muse (yes, all men. Why not, it's my dream.)).

Then I made a pudding-ey cakey plum cake with cinnamon and honey.  This was okay but not amazing but I think I may have overcooked it.  A variant on his recipe is here.  

Finally, plum chutney.  Very easy - chopped up plums, onion, cover with splash of water, some malt and apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds and cinnamon.  Cook slowly for an hour. You may need to add more water and check at the end to make sure it is sufficiently sweet \ sour.

Brilliant with pork.

Happy chutney eating to you all. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Down the Path

Down the (newly granulated) windy path, and past the forest of iron bark gums*:

Up through the bend, under the shade of wattle trees: 

Across the railway sleepers and down the little steps:

Lies a green circle of grass, for playing soccer, running under the sprinkler and lying in the sun.

(tanbark will soon be overrun with lots of Australian native grasses)

And on the other side, a dark little shed, just ripe for conversion into a little study.  Or studio.

A place to work, if we have to.  Or write, if I want to.

George Bernard Shaw's writing room.

This is where GBS wrote many works including Pygmalion. So many writers need solitude and separation from the real world.  This writing hut is so clever, because it pivots on a kind of Lazy Susan to make the most of the sunshine and also to change his aspect.  It has a little sloping roof to deal with snow.   He called it 'London' so his staff would be telling the truth to visitors when they were told 'He has gone to London'. 

Virginia Woolf's writing shed (converted from a toolshed) at Monk's House in East Sussex

English firm Scott's of Threapston makes a writing shed based on both Virginia Woolf's and Shaw's.  This is the interior of the Woolf style (from Remodelista).  I love the forest green austerity. 

Something more dramatic (and unrealistic) via Remodelista

This is actually a little home.  via

Of course I would have to shingle the roof.  Or would I? (via a million boards on Pinterest)

This was made using recycled wood and cost $35.  Via Canadian House and Home

What do you think?  I am guessing the shed needs to be lined, and floored, and electrified (you can tell I am no carpenter).  Has anyone ever done this?   Any tips? 

* We have just had the garden redone at the beach.  It was not a dramatic change, we kept all the trees but did some little paths and a fire pit sitting area, and the grassy bit.   But it makes such a difference. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Turquoise Eggs

Amazing as it may seem I have managed to reach the ripe old age of Over 40 without ever making any colored Easter eggs. That deficiency has now been rectified. I made these yesterday.

I used gel food colouring which is more expensive that the liquid but I am told it lasts a long time - I bought a set of 8 colours for the rainbow layer cake I made last weekend for my son's birthday. I managed to take no photos of its multi coloured amazingness but the colour was certainly intense I can assure you.

For these eggs I used the teal colour and also violet.  I soaked the gently hard boiled eggs for at least an hour, in water with a bit of vinegar.  (I have learned through experimentation that the way to hard boil eggs is to cover with cold water, bring to a boil then turn heat off and leave for 14 or so minutes -this seems to stop the shells cracking).

As is sometimes the way with these kinds of exercises I appreciated the result more than my family who said variously:

'Isn't that a waste of eggs?' (husband)

'I don't eat hard boiled eggs.' (daughter)

'Yum when can I eat them are they chocolate?' (son)

But I still love them.

We are down at the beach for Easter. Yesterday was boiling hot and we swam in the surf. Then there were windy storms, and today it is cold.  We will have the fire lit before Easter is over.

Happy Easter.  


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


One of the many books I read during my chemo purgatory was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.  A great book for sleepless nights wondering about the random nature of life.

(designer Lyn Morgan's Greek Revival House in Savannah) 

(living room)
I first bought it at university, prompted I am pretty sure by the rave reviews of my friend Aussie New Yorker but I never quite got to it.

If you have not read this book, it covers the author's lengthy stay in Savannah, at the time of the four trials of antique dealer, Jim Williams, who was tried for the murder of local good time boy (and his assistant), Danny Hansford.

I so loved this book, the humid, creeper clad decadence of the Savannahians, and their eccentric cross dressing, backwoods bars, corrupt politicians, secret affairs, all night parties, internecine rivalries, and the two unforgettable female characters - a local voodoo high priestess and drag queen (the Lady Chablis - formerly Frank).  The writer describes the shady world as Gone with the Wind on Mescalin, one of the many lovely turns of phrase sprinkled in the book.  

I particularly liked Mandy Nichols' observation that it is so much better to be on the 'edge of a party'.

This book is a great exploration of the darker side which hums beneath every city, town and village.   As Minerva the voodoo lady puts it -

'Dead time lasts for one hour -- from half an hour before midnight to half an hour after midnight. The half-hour before midnight is for doin' good. The half hour after midnight is for doin' evil.'

This is Jim Williams' house (Mercer House, now a museum I think) which he loved to live in because it annoyed all the 'right people'.

Here are some typical houses from the historic quarter:

(via Young House Love)

(via Pinterest)

For all of Lyn Morgan's stunning house in Savannah, go here.  

It is quite divine and the antithesis of the dark antique filled rooms of Jim Williams.  You can read more about him here
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