Pastry Perfection

It is bitterly cold here today. Wet. Gloomy. Grey. Cold. It feels like it could snow. Some would say a perfect day in doors by the fire and I just may get some time at home today. I imagine it is the best conditions for cranking up the stove and making and baking – warm, home cooked goodness that feeds the body, mind and soul.

I recently made pasties – a real favourite of mine. I love the fact that you can tweak the inner goodness with a variety of meats, vegetables and spices. Some days our pasties taste like genuine Cornish pasties and other days they have a samosa kinda feel, full of curry, cumin and chilli.

But the real love and perfection of the humble Pastie comes from the pastry. Plain flour, salt, chilled butter, a squeeze of lemon juice all blitzed together in the food processor and then enough cold water so that the “crumb” like flour mixture forms a ball. You must be patient with pastry. It needs to slowly come together and not overworked. It must be rested before it is rolled and shaped. it must be respected and cajoled into doing what it must, encasing the tasty goodness of the mixture. Making good pastry takes practice but it is a skill that every domestic goddess should have mastered. So on this winter’s day, light the fire, make a pot of tea and welcome a morning of baking and playing in the kitchen.

Kuchef ThermoCook Update

Pasta cooked the old fashion way – no Therm Cook!

It would not be fair of me to avoid updating my blogpost about the Aldi Kuchef Thermo Cook. You may recall that we purchased one as a Christmas gift and have been using it ever since. We have made soup, sauces, jam, chutney, curries, sorbet, smoothies. It has been an all purpose work horse and one that the older kids can use easily.

So the mid year recall was somewhat of a surprise. Our only issue had been that on a sustained  high temperature some recipes ( béchamel, curry pastes) tended to ‘catch’ on the inside of the stainless steel jug. This was nothing a good clean could not fix.

Following the recall instructions my handy workhorse aka Thermo Cook was sent back to the manufacturer and replaced. Apparently there had been issues with hot food being expelled from the machine when it was used at high speed – and I suspect someone has been burnt. But my new best kitchen buddy would not work – when assembled and plugged in, there seemed to be a fault.

My days of whipping every green bit of goodness into smoothies for the family, making fabulous no sugar sorbets and trying the wonderful Dulce de leche (decadent caramel) will have to wait. While I have days when I am missing my machine I do not miss the space it fills on my bench top. This is a Western world problem, no?

I wonder if you have had success with the Kuchef version of the Thermomix. The  second model has a new improved base and non stick jug. I would love to hear your Thermo Cook stories.

Happy cooking the old fashioned way…..for now.

Move over Sherlock – I am making my own Mind Palace

Confession. I only recently discovered the BBC series Sherlock. And the adventures of Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) have become family favourites. Sherlock is a quirky modern day man. He is socially awkward, genius and yet he is disarmingly perceptive. You would not want to make the wrong gesture or say an odd word in his presence because it would mean something, to him. He would ‘know’ you.

What I am intrigued by is the concept of the Mind Palace that is used throughout the script. Apparently this is a very real and old notion which assists memorisation and recall. Helmut Sachs has a great blogpost which outlines this idea of creating and using a Mind Palace.

There are so many strategies available to us to develop our ability to learn and remember things. I long to know more…..

FOMO

This idea resonated with me today. In the Western world we all have so much, yet many of us suffer from FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

If I make a decision to take job X I may miss out on job Y. Each decision and choice we make has a cost, an opportunity cost. But it is sometimes this fear of missing out, of wanting it all and working ever so hard to determine how we can have everything that eventually causes us to fall. Our fear forces us to fail.

FOMO is real. By His grace I can think of countless decisions I have made that have been a blessing but have also meant that I missed out. I chose to say yes to my man and missed a year of possible travel. I chose to say yes to have another baby and missed out on a big career opportunity. I suspect there are smaller things that I encounter each day that also force me to debate X and Y. But I don’t want fear or failure to be the guiding forces. Wise decision making. If you want to know more you can read it/ watch it it here from Tyler David : Wisdom in Decision Making. at the Austin Stone Community Church.

Talking about Talking

I am fascinated with the art of conversation. You will know that I periodically reflect here about my own adventures into making conversations – when I am bored, tired, disagreeable or being anti social. I have also walked away from exchanges with older women who have made the most amazing inroads into my life through a few moments of questions, answers and comments. I would like to be able to converse well, wouldn’t you?

American TV personality Barbara Walters says this about conversation in How to talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything (1970):

I happen to disagree with the well-entrenched theory that the art of conversation is merely the art of being a good listener. Such advice invites people to be cynical with one another and full of fake; when a conversation becomes a monologue, poked along with tiny cattle-prod questions, it isn’t a conversation any more. It is a strained, manipulative game, tiring and perhaps even lonely. Maybe the person doing the talking enjoys himself at the time, but I suspect he’ll have uncomfortable afterthoughts about it; certainly his audience has had a cheerless time.
A conversation, even a brief one, should have all the best features of any functioning human relationships, and that means genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception. Conversation can be such pleasure that it is criminal to exchange comments so stale that neither really listens. 


In our technology saturated modern world the art of conversation is growing stale, as we choose to text and have e-conversations in place of face to face ones. The humble conversation is at risk of dying a sad death, only to be remembered by those older than I. Let’s hope that by listening more and by genuine interest from both parties a real conversation culture will develop. Let’s talk about it some more, hey!

Hooking Up


Hooking up was the focus of a recent dinner time conversation with our big kids. We were hearing about  the party scene, people, parents, alcohol, rules and behaviour. So what exactly is ‘hooking up’? And how might you be hooked into a culture even when you are not participating directly?

According to Adelaide Mena and Caitlin Seery La Ruffa many college students don’t even know what this ‘hooking up’ means. And there is danger, anxiety and alarm surrounding the burgeoning culture to “hook up” with anyone in an alcohol fuelled environment.
The teenagers at dinner could talk about behaviours, attitudes and individuals who embraced this “hooking up” culture. The underage party, permission notes, drinking, supervision and reputations were all up for discussion. So what plays out at a tertiary level?

When somewhat drunkenly bringing someone back to your dorm is the norm, how are bystanders (in a dark, noisy, crowded space) supposed to distinguish good intentions from bad? How can an onlooker see the difference between a young man genuinely seeking to help his friend get back to her room safely and one pretending to be a good friend, only to take advantage of her once there? One of us had the horrible experience—twice—of being witness to a friend’s assault in the very next room and being powerless to do anything, not because of physical inability, but because by all external appearances what was happening looked just like any other weekend night.

The Gospel Coalition offers this piece with links to follow up. In a culture where boys will be boys and girls go wild, we must all be part of the conversation.

I HEART my Room, too

This book has been well loved in recent weeks. We have just had all the kid bedrooms painted. We have been pragmatic about paint colour in our home – every wall now has a lovely lick of Antique White USA and double strength on all the skirting boards, window and trim. The look is light, bright and fresh. Megan Morton, Jason Busch and Penny Shek have produced a lovely Australian take on making kid’s rooms shine. Some of the rooms are striking in their size, shape and design. But mostly it is the clever combination of fabrics, bedding, a great blind, treasures carefully and artfully arranged, stuff well organised and curated that makes the room work. So if you are looking for inspiration for a new kidlet room this could be it.

A word of advice from someone with five children (16- 5 years). The ideas, design love, colour scheme and dreams of children change quickly. So make a point of using your space creatively, organise stuff- less is more. Create a neutral base with a white or even a dark charcoal and allow colour to brighten the room with a great bed cover, cushions, a favourite rug, artwork or lamp. Find a space to sleep in, a space for folded or hanging clothes, a seat for read in or nook for hiding in, a surface for writing, drawing or organising ‘stuff’ and an area of the wall to hang precious images, art and certificates.

Remember you will probably be the one straightening the room up, yes on most days. Make it easy for you and simple for the kids to work in and live and love.

Breakfast Crush

This is for those of you who love oats, who like a substantial breakfast and may have been cutting down on those refined sugars. I have been making muesli, granola and the like in many different versions and incarnations over the years. Each time I try to cut out the oil or the sugar, reduce this or that hoping to make a better healthier batch of breakfast love. But it was Sarah Britton’s granola that inspired this most recent offering. And just quietly I love it. Love. It. Really.

As usual there were a few changes, just a few tweaks. I didn’t have any flaked coconut so I used desiccated coconut and I was generous with my rolled oats. What I have enjoyed for breakfast is the coconut oil – it has transformed the toasting process. And if I am honest I think the addition of sea salt just makes the toasted almonds sing. So this is my new breakfast crush. I am fussy. I like breakfast, but I get tired if it fails to perform or deliver that wow, yum factor.

This has it all – Breakfast Crush Granola.

Breakfast Crush Granola
Ingredients:
4 -6 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds, chopped roughly
1.5 cups desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp. finely ground sea salt
1/3 cup liquid honey
4 Tbsp. coconut oil
Directions:
1. Preheat over to 180°C.
2. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, whisk oil and honey together.
3. In a large bowl combine oats, almonds, coconut, and sea salt.
4. Pour oil and honey mixture over dry ingredients and stir very well to coat. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and stir. Place back in oven but remove and stir every 5 minutes or so until the oats are golden brown (approx. 25-30 minutes).

The Promise

FINALLY. The kids are back to school today. Yes, after three weeks the routine has returned and I have to admit I am so glad. Just quietly I think they are too.

It has been a different holiday for this family of seven. My man worked through this school holidays, taking just a long weekend in the middle. The weather here has been awful. Cold, wet, stormy weather, true to winter in the southern part of Australia. Our home has been partly painted so we have experienced the aftermath of a pseudo renovation – think weeks of unpacking and reorganising kid’s chaos. And I have been tired. Maybe it is the winter blues, perhaps it is midlife discontent. Just maybe my fight for joy has been superceded by being overwhelmed by the ordinary, staring at four walls and the groundhog day nature of domestic life with a large family. “Mum, where are you Mum!” I know you understand – the days when every child calls your name twice, all at the same time. When the needs and wants turn into commands, when the boredom is offset only by another movie because it is so wet and cold outside. The kids want sugar and you want wine – at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Looking over my holiday snaps I was struck by this image. Looking over the river in our beachside town. It was an ordinary day – we were attempting a family walk, with grumbles  and stumbles and cajoling along the way. And there was a rainbow. In the midst of the greyness of the day, in amongst the familiar scene of Port Fairy there was a promise. Hope. Beauty. Colour.

I realise there are daily reminders in creation, in the words I read, the people I meet that all provide me with hope, encouragement and a new way of looking at life. I just have to be willing to see them. The little ray of sunshine that causes the bow in the sky. The presence of joy that is there if I will see.

You make known to me <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-14104A" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 12px; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>the path of life,  in your presence there is <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-14104B" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 12px; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”>fullness of joy; at your right hand are <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-14104C" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 12px; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”>pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

My Life in an Instagram

Life in pictures. It is a neat concept and one that I have only recently been observing as I have started to use Instagram more. Do you use Instagram? I wonder what advantages you find posting pics rather than words or status updates? Have conversations via hashtags?

I love this snapshot of part of my life last month. All @7mouths2feed.