Monday, 15 August 2011

This Blog Should be Called: "I need a holiday to write a blog

So I've been away for awhile... well, not away (like on holiday), just home... and busy of course! Why is that being home is soooo busy? So I planned to write something to update you when I did go away again (just for a few days), but even then I didn't find time! What have I been so busy with?

On my last mainland trip, my computer got slightly hacked. Yep, they took a few hundred from my credit card and tried hitting my facebook and PayPal accounts. It seems they didn't get into those. So I had to do the paperwork to get my money back (no, of course I did not book a ticket on Arab Airways, but if I had, I think I would have had exciting things to do!).

And my little laptop was rather old, and slow (it was second hand when Rob gave it to me five years ago, and needed to be plugged into a power point to work), and I just started mistrusting it. I've heard that people who have had their houses broken into sometimes feel that their very person has been breached in some way, and therefore feel unsafe in their house. I became that way with my computer, and used it less and less, and when I did use it, I really didn't like to be. So eventually I forked out and updated everything. Now I've got new programs (you know everything has changed since 2000 - which is the vintage of all my other programs?) and I am having to learn it all again! And transferring all my documents over, and re-organising them etc. Always quite a task.

What else has there been? Well, there's been curtains. That has been a saga, which still is not complete. I might fill you in on that one later. Why a curtain saga? Well, first, we had completed building one room, and moved our bedroom in there just before leaving for the mainland. This room has four windows. I had decided to use the three curtains that were in the old bedroom, and had to cut and sew them to the size of the three main windows in the new room. There's still a fourth window to go!

New room!

Also, not long after our return, I got news that I would soon be sharing my 'craft house', and not just to the mice and critters. Nope, this sharing is with a much larger critter; man-sized in fact. Rob's son wanted to move in, and you know you can't say no to children. So a massive amount of energy went into compacting my activities, furniture and supplies into two rooms, instead of the whole house (I'm sure an ironing board in the kitchen and fabric all over the dining table would have been inconvenient for both of us!). Then I started on the curtains there. Downstairs (the windows that had curtains) needed hems taking up so they didn't drag on the floor. Two more windows still needed curtains (now done). And the colours they were just made me feel hepatic, so dyeing was undertaken. Then there's upstairs. The saga continues at this point.

Curtains needed attention, particularly the colour!

Then I made the mistake of actually looking at the 'bathroom' area (this is outside the main house, but still under the one roof, if that makes sense). I usually just walk past it, ignoring it all. I go back 'home' even to visit the bathroom, due to the toilet there leaking (supposedly Mike has fixed this now, using a mechanic's product).

Mould, mould, mould. I knew the doors were acquiring the shadows of blooms (well, that area is rather exposed to the moist air, given it is only three-quarters built). But I opened the bathroom door knowing I'd have to clean the bugs out of the bath and shower, and well, it was all spreading. Then inside the bathroom cabinet was black. Gross! Rob said I didn't have to do all this work; that his son could do it. I opened that cabinet and showed him. He walked away not saying anything. I took that as agreement. Oh, and miserably, I was working with cold water on cold days. The hot water system there was not completely hooked up yet (it's a woodfire job when the water is connected). I could have boiled the jug, but I was just going through too much water, it was black every five minutes. Looking closer again, the tin on the outside of the bathroom (but inside the bathroom area) did not just have a thin layer of dirt and was mould latching on too. More cleaning!

Then the floor was an issue. It's just concrete. But it was not a successful lay, and continually dusts up. If you sweep it, you have to keep on sweeping, because more concrete dust comes loose, and you start digging a hole. So the owner had scabbed up old bits of carpet and lino, and put it down over most of the concrete. But it is rather hard to sweep carpet. And always way too filthy to vacuum. Plus, concrete dust is great at blocking up the vacuum cleaner. And then finally, between the overlapped layers of lino, there was mould. I dragged it all out. Scabbed up Rob's remaining BondCrete and gave a section a go-over (not nearly enough to do it all). Then I bought another tub, and gave the main section a go-over, this time at a 50:50 ratio BondCrete : Water. That did it. Problem solved...until I paint the area. There's still more BondCreting to do, but in less used areas (and I guess more successful areas on concrete!).

I painted the laundry wall with some of our leftover paint (not all walls in this area have 'walls'). Two of the three doors, there's still another coat to go, but since they took a week to dry, I'm waiting until finer weather). And finally, I gave the tin a go. It had concrete splatters up one side (first photo), so I had to use a textured paint. We had some brown suede left over, but not enough (and I wouldn't want the whole wall brown - yuk!), so I came up with a stripe design, and painted away. Gosh, talk about wrong time of year! A day later it was wetter than when I first applied it! Two weeks later I was still waiting for it to completely dry! It has now, finally, but I'm definitely not doing the middle section or second coat for a couple of more months, I can see how painting can be a real disaster!

Concrete splatters

Craft house bathroom wall

Then there's been recipe testing. I've now tested fifty-six and a half recipes, out of a possible eighty-three. I'm only obligated to test twenty-five. But I wanted to test as many as possible. I'm just like that! So I've felt like my life is cooking, eating, cleaning, cooking, eating, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, eating, cleaning, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, eating, cleaning. Yep, a bit crazy. Rob can't wait until I stop and just clean! The oven desperately needs it, the bottom shelf copped a falling (and then exploding) container of cornflour (still not entirely cleaned up - that stuff spreads!). And the fridge? I went to do that months ago...and then got distracted. It will come...after recipe testing, okay?

Pina Colada Cupcakes: vegan AND gluten free!

We've also had a touch of book binding, but thankfully that is not my responsibility, I just 'help out' to reduce stress levels for Rob. And I'm nursing an itchy leech bite. This is the first leech that has ever successfully got his/her full suck from me. I was walking by the local wholefoods shop, when next thing I noticed I was kicking a large black slug. Gross, again. Which means there's been gardening: the rhubarb patch has had its first bit of care and attention since it was planted (before my time here), and I'm half-way through what the raspberries need.

One of Rob's sayings is: "I'm too busy to have a job". The scary thing is, the more he says this, the more it comes true. And I've not seen any work done on our house since we moved into the 'room'. It's been engines and biodiesel, and airplanes, and printing, and garden, and parents (they take up a lot of time, but another lot you can't say 'no' to, they won't be here much longer, and are having a real hard time currently). The same goes for me, as you can see from the above. But guess what? Yes, some of my time has been put into job applications. Selectively. But a bit of community involvement, intellectual stimulation, and pocket money would do me good. Thus far I've had two rejections from the ABS (they didn't even want me to collect census forms!), rejected for an apprenticeship in a museum, and the big Roy Morgan research firm doesn't want me trudging under bridges to interview homeless people. Hmmmm... if only they knew how suited I am for all of these positions hey?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Friends & Food

So after that long walk, it was on to the real part of the holiday for me – time to wake up!

A couple of my friends live in Queensland, and so the Tassie boys took me for a drive through the big smoke, where roads cost money to drive on, and engineers are busy building ramps, overpasses and a mazes of new roads to charge us for. Definitely a shock to the system. But good ol’ Homer on the GPS got us there after hours of driving.

First stop was Mary’s (of Beetle Creative). Mary did live in Tasmania, but is busy creating her own little beetles and decided she needed Mother Beetle’s support…which meant moving back to Brisbane. Well, what a time for me to turn up!!! She’s only six weeks away from hatching bub number two, and it was her wedding anniversary – good timing Kat! But she didn’t mind – what a great friend!

Mary even went out of her way to ensure she had a vegan meal ready to cook on the first night – Nachos from the Turn Over a New Leaf Cookbook. Yum! The second night she was at a bit of a loss though, with having to feed a picky three year old and an even pickier man. I was so happy that I had planned ahead so I could take that bit of stress away from her, and whipped out a packet of Asam Fish which I could cook to go alongside her steamed veggies. She even tried a bit (I do keep claiming it’s the BEST camping food ever), to which I think she agreed!

This started the week long of midnight or later nights, full of chatting about art, craft, food, children, friends, markets and men, all of which continued from Mary’s and on to Michelle’s. Hard work when my bed time is usually something more in line with the setting sun!

Miss Three must have worked off a lot of sweat at her swimming lessons, as after that all she could think of was cake.

Swimming lessons

So we invented an excuse to cook cake: the cat! Tabby, who adopted the family 10 years ago, had never celebrated a birthday. So we decided it must be tabby’s birthday. I let my memory guide me in buying what ingredients were necessary for vegan cupcakes, then when back ‘home’, headed to the PPK for guidance. Thankfully there was a chocolate cake recipe basically the same as the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cupcakes I usually cook. Saved! The girls went crazy decorating with all the birthday candles they could find, including Dora.

Tabby’s birthday celebrations

Girls and candles

The cupcakes - cookies and cream!

For dinner, I decided that since I had most of the ingredients with me, I’d cook the delicious Cold Sesame Noodles again, and get the opinions of this family to give back to Allyson for her upcoming book. It turned out that only Michelle and myself liked it. Miss Six said it tasted like ‘poo’ (yeah right! I think you just like that word!) and Miss Three was enticed with tomato sauce for a little while. On the other hand, the girls liked the Syndian pumpkin balls on their plates, whereas Michelle and I thought they were too dry and tasteless. The Mister in the house didn’t touch any of the strange apparitions on his plate. I understand kids not liking things that are ‘different’ but feel sad when the men won’t even give things a go. Oh well, he really missed out. And the Noodles is a main course for four people, so I lived off it for the next few days! That made things easy, but meant I didn’t get to test any more recipes, as I had been hoping to do.

On the last night, we decided to take the challenge of eating out. I really wanted to take the whole family to Loving Hut. I’ve heard great things about them, including that they’re child friendly. But since I was outside my own territory, and could not guarantee there would be anything any of her people would eat, I let Michelle pick the place, as long as they had a chance of catering for me. She ditched the family and decided on Mexican, since she never gets to eat it as the rest of her family just doesn't like it.

We drove to Pickled Cactus, got green lights all the way there, and then a carpark right in front of the restaurant, despite it being a busy night. Good signs! Michelle started to get cold feet about them being vegan-friendly. I assured her Mexican can do vegan (and crossed my fingers!). We got our table, the last in the place and studied the menu. Then when the waitress came along, Michelle did my bidding for me: “My friend is a vegan – do you know what that is?”, “Can you do anything for her?”.

“Yes, I was vegan for 17 years!”. Score! Our fantastic vegetarian waitress assured me they understood what a vegan was, that if I asked for no cheese and sour cream I would geta vegan meal, and then went on to make her recommendations. We took her up on them:

Pickled Cactus meals (mine closest - yes - that huge thing!)

Michelle was over the moon, and it was really nice and relaxing after that. And I somehow managed to eat everything in that Supreme. Michelle took a doggy-bag home. “You could have it as lunch tomorrow” she had insisted when I said I was full half-way through, “No I can’t – I’m flying!”. So I made the most of it!

But I have to say, as great as it was, Pickled Cactus was nothing when compared to a true vegan restaurant. While at Yo’s, we went into Lismore for 20 000 Cows. An unusual name, with an awesome reputation. I finally got to tick this one off my list! And I can’t wait to go back...and that is not because the neighbour’s cat decided to join us at the Ashram (though it did make me feel very at home!).

Cat on my lap at Cows

We ordered a feast, and got a feast. It came out in many courses, with many plates to sample and share. Every single dish was delicious, well presented, and there was much excitement with every bite. And we thought we were done (this is three men and myself). We were satisfied, contemplating whether or not we should order dessert. And then the finale came out – we didn’t even know there was still more! Well, that struck the dessert off the it didn’t actually, I couldn’t handle that, so I asked for the cheesecake as a takeaway. They were happy to do this, but it became obvious that they don’t usually do this – they gave it to me on one of their plates with alfoil over the top. I had tears in my eyes over how sweet it was for them to be so generous and trusting! And I gave Yo firm orders to return it at his earliest convenience.

20 000 Cows Middle Eastern Course

I had many things on my to do list while on the mainland, mostly to do with experiencing vegan food. I wanted to go to Loving Hut. I wanted to go to a Mrs Flannery's Health Food Shop to try Tofutti Cuties. I wanted to find and buy sorghum flour. I didn’t get to tick these off my list this time. But, my handy ‘just add water’ wipes certainly got to show themselves as handy – adding water to wipe my hands clean after patting the cat at 20 000 cows, wiping perfume off Miss Three’s face, along with many other scenarios.

Can’t wait until next time!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Just a walk through the Forest

Now you’ve had a moment to rest, let’s get some exercise!

That’s what it was like on Sunday at Yo’s. The day before had had discussions about climbing Mt Warning, quite an arduous task, but we were all for it. But then Sunday morning came and we were all lazy, sitting around reading our books. Then Phil called, asking “So are we going? Are we doing something?”. “Yeah, I guess we’ll do something”, so we got our act together and agreed on Minyon Falls, a relatively easier walk than Mt Warning!

Though, I think the Kookaburras sit at the picnic ground laughing at us before we take our leisurely stroll!

It was hard to get a photo from the main lookout as there was a baby having a name ceremony, with all the associated adults hanging back, smiling and taking photos. This is a hippy area after all, what else would you be doing on a Sunday morning hey?

Looking down from the lookout:

We decided to do the loop walk, a seven and a half kilometre walk down to the base and then back up to the main lookout again, although the boys told me it was only six.

The majestic Minyon Falls:

The flora quickly became very tropical with ferns and palms and strangler figs all over the place.

From within the strangler fig:

A perspective on size:

We made it to the base of the waterfall, and sat for a while. We also took the opportunity to unload the backpack of its fruit contents, and we all tried Caramelised Buckins for the first time – everyone loved them!

Here’s a short video of the fall in action (sorry it's side ways - if you know how to edit it to the right way - let me know!). The falls are about a 100m or so drop for all that water, and I found it interesting that the flow was not even – it was like someone was scooping extra water along the flow to try and get rid of it all, and then the areas of greater mass would hit the swimming hole below with greater intensity. Great place to frolic in summer!

And the walk back to the other side continued to be interesting. This was an easier walk (though uphill), with many parts displaying plants and trees different to what we had already seen. I was very happy to sit back in the car though. That was a LOT of walking! Definitely worthwhile!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


The next stop on our trip was Tyagarah, a tree-lined, grassy strip near Byron Bay.

Our plane was put away in Captain Wocca’s hangar there, as we would be occupied by people for the next little while (which is why this blog post is so delayed – it is hard to write with people around!). Captain Wocca owns a Tiger Moth, very similar to one that my partner, Rob once owned. Here’s a shot of them (and an ultralight plus a couple of cars!) all jammed into the one hangar.

Then we waited around to be picked up and transported to Rob’s brother’s place, near Nimbin. The last time I was there was about four years ago, when he had only just bought the land. It was a steamy summers day. We drove up the rough driveway, through the lantana and sat with the cicadas until we could bear it no more.

What I contrast this visit was! Since settling in less than two years ago, Yo has slashed the lantana so grass is now growing, added landscaping, native tress, fruit trees, a veggie garden, and started work building a real home, all the while living in the better of the two existing shacks on the property. This is a view over to the neighbouring property, which gives you an idea of the countryside.

And his handy landscaping work. Fantastic hey?!

Being winter it was cold, but probably not as cold as Tasmania. We were offered a small room (the artists’ room) just outside the one room shack, or the deck, which actually fitted the double mattress. What do you think we opted for?

Yep – the great outdoors!

But the view was to die for:

With fantastic ancient ferns growing in the rain forest!

This was also the view from the composting toilet and the shower - all outdoors (but under cover - it does rain a lot there!).

But despite the hard, springy mattress, and the cold (lots of layers and snuggling up, I felt very welcome and at home there. I didn’t explore Nimbin town this time, last time I didn’t enjoy it much (perhaps something to do with the Aboriginal woman who offered Rob a look at her boobs, despite me being right there with him!).

What made it feel like home? Well, probably the bush shack setting, which is quite like our own (I'm not afraid to make a mess!), the great company (Yo and Parko are well travelled boys with lots of stories), and reading time (yep - we're a great bunch of book worms!). And the boys have done a stint of veganism themselves, and so know how to look after my needs! Parko made an awesome pumpkin curry – definitely restaurant quality. Sorry, no photos – I was too busy chowing into it!

I also got to admire some fantastic, very modern embroidery done by Rob's mum many years ago:

Friday, 27 May 2011

Vegan in a non-vegan world: A Review of The Pier (Port Macquarie)

The Pier is a modern pizza and tapas joint. Being a ‘Soul Session’ Thursday night, it had a better atmosphere than anywhere I’ve been since I lived in Sydney.

Rob settled in for a half litre of German beer, the waiter took his order, and then scampered off without even giving me a look. It was all downhill from there.

We ordered up big time, excited that there were potential options on the menu. After I chased the waiter down again, clarified that I was a vegan, and asked if the dishes I was ordering were suitable, I was told a ‘yes, definitely’. Cool! Except the chargrilled veggies had been removed from the menu due to lack of popularity. I upgraded to my back-up option of Hindu pizza, minus the two cheeses (obviously), and minus the onion (time to give my poor bod a break from the substance it doesn’t like).

Our ‘Bites’ were probably the best dishes of the evening. I had the simple tomato, basil and olive oil, the man ordered something with cheese. They came out on the same serving slab, but there was no contamination.

The marinated olives were quite nice. This was a dish Rob ordered, so I never asked about whether the bread was vegan, since he’s not.

Then my ‘Taste’ was a real disappointment. It came out with a white coloured sauce beside it. This is the dish I was told ‘yes, definitely’ to my question of being suitable for a vegan. Rob tasted it for me and clarified that it was actually a cheese sauce. I gave a corn and capsicum fitter a bite, declared it egg, and put it back down again. I won’t go into Rob’s disappointment at me refusing ‘good’ food. But then he tried a bite too, and even though he loves egg, he said these were not very good. He did eat two out of the four though. When the waiter reappeared, I asked him if they had egg in them, just to confirm my suspicions. He went away and confirmed that there was egg ‘just to combine the ingredients’. HELLO! NOT VEGAN! I just nodded my head but said no more; my consideration for the dining experience of my companion. I’d already over-stepped his preferred line by even questioning what was in my food.

And the pizza? Well, I generally find veganised pizzas quite nice. But with this gourmet variety, I found it only just doable. And given that they had no idea what vegan is, I actually have no idea whether it really was, as ‘milk solids’ can be hidden in both the base and the sauce. The flavours were okay, but overall it was quite dry, especially the mushrooms which were a dried variety to begin with.

I ate it. I needed to be fed, it was in front of me, we would be paying for it, and it really did save ruining the night by creating a scene and then tramping all over town to repeat the experience. But I know most other vegans would have demanded their money back. I wouldn’t be going back there, unless it was just to drink. Then I’d have to do a LOT of research to know what it was I was drinking! Bon Apetit hey?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


So what do you do when you’re on holiday? At the start of this blog, I said that what I like about holidays is the simplification of life – you can only do what you can carry and/or what is available in your location.

I didn’t come to Port to do any ‘activities’ as offered by the location though. Rob is at the airport, stuffed in a classroom, doing work. My being here is incidental to that, and I’m ‘on call’ to pick him up whenever his day there ends (always afternoon, but a bit random). Plus, I’ve been here before and done the ‘activities’:

Riding camels on Lighthouse beach with Michelle…

…and the fun and games at Fantasy Glades (now closed I believe).

Back to the present: the first day we were here we went for a long walk, from Shelly beach (well from our apartment actually) almost to the lighthouse, and back again. This is an amazing part of the coast, where the ‘rainforest’ (I do believe it’s regrowth) actually meets the beaches.

Lush and green, with interesting textures and shapes:

Despite how the much Bitou Bush has taken over:

Forest behind the coast is how it should be. I had never really thought about it until I was flying over Port, but our practice of building right on coastal locations, though convenient to our desires, does seem a bit wrong. Seeing all the swamp land behind the sand dunes, it seems to me that the swamp is there for a purpose. And from the air Port looks like it has been built on a swamp – all around the town that’s all there is! I had been told this before (I actually lived here once upon a time), but never really believed it. Nor did I go exploring.

I think this photo shows the water reservoir for Port, but all around it looks like swamp, like everywhere else that isn’t built up in this region. Even the airport was swampy in the grass areas! And it does seem that Port is suffering beach erosion, just like Old Bar. Here’s Town Beach, which looked smaller than I remembered it:

So, other than walking and beach viewing, what the hell am I doing with myself?

Well, I decided to tackle the cooking in a better way than ‘heat in pouch’ meals. Which meant shopping for resources, which took time, of course! A really cool blue scanpan knife from House. Cutting board and containers to contain leftovers for Rob’s lunch from Go-Lo. A large $2 bowl, salt, pepper and cumin from the Reject Shop (and yep, they had reject service to go with their reputation). Crap products, but the best option when you need cheap. We will actually have to leave the bowl and containers behind…

I also found a pair of thongs for myself:

Killed a bit of time reading on the beach:

Yep, there were showers out at sea on this day:

And showers on the land yesterday, so I finally got the washing done (took a good two hours!). There was a fantastic tiny secondhand bookshop combined with coffee shop nearby, which was a much more pleasant environment than the laundry, so I had a cup of green tea, and although I didn’t need a book to carry around, I picked one up anyway:

And food is an activity too, isn’t it?

Dinner at Sara’s Kitchen.

Tofu sushi for lunch, with a ginseng drink.

Yummo treats:

And tested out some recipes:

Cold Sesame Noodles

(served with Asian bean and kumera bites – remind me not to have these again, though I do know their veggie bites are yum).

Quinoa tebbouleh (with falafels purchased from Coles)

And cleaning up the mess of course. Here’s a photo of my work area:

(view from the toilet)

And cups of tea in between of course:

And until today, not much computer time:

Because of the dismal lighting, I’ve not been sewing or reading at night. We’ve actually been watching TV, exactly what this room was set up for:

(yup - that's the bench that is *meant* to be the kitchenette - microwave behind TV, bar fridge beside microwave. No more powerpoints available for the kettle or toaster)

To the extent that we even watched the footy last night (we NEVER watch foot ball!). I fell asleep when it was 10:0 in favour of the Maroons. Then Rob woke me when it was 12:10. And although there was a chance there for a moment, the Blues just couldn’t do it. I missed all the action hey?