Sunday, October 31, 2010

Madame Bovary - Updates

Frances from Nonsuch Books has been hosting a read-a-long during October, and this past week saw the final reviews get posted. Well, all but mine, I guess.

I've been following the posts of many bloggers, and it's because of those reviews and comments, that I've decided to take my time with MB. I've been blown away by the depth of the reviews, some of the analysis has been as powerful as the text. I really want to get the most out of reading this classic, so I'm not going to rush through it. I'm going to be pretty busy the next two weeks so I'm going to put up MB and return to Murakami for my travel reading.

I promise to return to MB after Nov 12..

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Fillins #197

Australian Blue Tongue Lizard because he has a blue tongue

1. While the cat's away the blue tongue lizards (native harmless and gentil lizards) and the native birds are happy playing in our yard!
2. Blue tongue lizards are Australia's best organic controllers (eating snails and slugs) - fabuloso!
3. Children are also good pest controllers - picking up interesting bugs and squashing them.
4. I love to see my dog's face when I get home from work or shopping or what have you.
5. This may seem odd, but I don't celebrate Halloween, in fact I go to the movies to avoid it. (sorry to those who do, but it's just not very Australian).
6. It is Australian to celebrate summer (and spring) evenings with a glass of wine/beer out on the back verandah while the BBQ is cooking dinner....and that seems like a fine idea to me! (like tonight)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to BBQ on the verandah at sunset, tomorrow my plans include hair dresser and reading Madam Bovary, and Sunday, I want to rest and cook.

For more Friday Fillins visit here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thyme for Reflection

Japanese Water Rituals
I don't know if you've every flicked over to read my 'about me' page, but sometimes I do just to revisit my thoughts and reflect on where I'm at with my goals. After having brunch with my girl friend yesterday I was encouraged to to be true to myself and my goals. On my 'about me' page I say.....
My blog header states that 'Thyme-for-Tea' is a spot for me to blog on life in my garden, where I grow things, read things, drink tea and ponder. These are all important aspects of my celebration of life and important aspects of me caring for myself, providing me with sustenance to carry on with advocating for others. I am also passionate about caring for the earth, because without her, we have no way to sustain ourselves.
So today (being a rainy day and great for tea indoors) I'm going to ponder here...
You know that recently I visited a retreat for a few days where I was challenged to think about what I eat, the choices I make and why I make them. Well, this week I've been reflecting that I've been a pretty conscious person, trying to be mindful of my place in the environment, for a while. But I cant say that I've ever been quite so challenged on my food choices before. I grow organic veggies for my self and my partner - probably more to protect the earth from the harmful effects of fertilizers, chemicals, and because we like the taste of home grown produce. I know also that by growing my own I'm reducing the carbon footprint of transport of produce around the world. But these are different issues to the one about what food we eat. I'm interested to know if anyone has read any good books about these issues???? some of the questions I'm asking myself are a) what's happening to my body when I'm eating things I didn't grow or make? b) what's in the food I buy? c) what are the environmental impacts of the production of the food I eat (like meat)? d) what's happening to the life cycle of the things I eat (like the chickens who lay the eggs or the cows who make my diary products)?

Sometimes when these types of thoughts are developing in my head I can become overwhelmed and paralysed by the challenge. That's why I included the photo's at the beginning of this post. When visiting Japan in 2007, I was in awe and totally affected by the simplicity of the water rituals. My understanding is that prior to entering a temple or holy place, you wash away the evil spirits by splashing yourself with the water at the entry to the temple. It's a simple process, a ritual, that symbolises the self making the offering to be washed clean before the holy. When my head is swimming with questions and thoughts, I am reminded of this ritual. Like a form of meditation, it can help clean the mind and I find, I can give the space necessary to process the questions.

So, on the question of food and choices. I'm trying to reduce or cut out my chocolate intake for a range of reasons (it's financial costs to me, to not support multinational firms with bad practices, to improve my own health etc....). When I was at the vegan retreat I learnt this recipe for a little treat. 2 parts raw almonds (or any nuts), 1 part dates (or any other dried fruit), 1 part sultana's (or any other dried fruit). Blend together until the nuts are finely chopped. Then roll into bite sized balls. You can then roll these in desecrated coconut if you like (I don't). If you used all dried ingredients, the balls will last quite some time. But if you like to use some fresh fruit, like some banana or mango, keep them in the fridge. Yummy!

This afternoon I'm heading out in the rain to feed by garden. I've been noticing that most of my root vegitables (beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes, raddishes etc) have bee struggling to thrive and have been very slow to develop. So after some time on line today, and a visit to the nursery, I've decided its time to inject some potasium and phosphorus, and repreat the blood and bone spreading more frequently. Because it's raining it's a great time to get out there for this job- as it will help it soak down to the roots.

I'm also concentrating some effort into developing my fruit crop this year. Last years peach and nectarine crops didn't set (which means the fruit didn't develop from the flowers). So this year I've been keeping a watchful eye on each step of the way. (I'd give you photo's if it wasn't raining today). The fruit have set and are now about the size of my thumb nail. So it's time to start the defence system against the dreaded fruit fly (which once it gets into your fruit, the fruit goes off and is spoilt by the lavae). So, when it's finished raining, I'll have to get out an spray with an organic and eco friendly insecticide called eco-naturalure. I've also got to set baits which attract the flies into the traps. Unfortunately with fruit fly, the traps aren't totally effective on their own, but they do provide the gardener with a sense of how big the fly problem is over the season. My hope is that I will have fresh home grown peaches for Christmas!

Harvesting at the moment in my garden:
  • Spinach
  • Silver beet
  • Celery
  • Lettuces (different varieties)
  • Rhubarb
  • Radishes
  • Snow Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Leeks
  • Herbs - lemongrass, parsley, rosemary, thyme, mint..
  • Fruit - Black Sapote (Chocolate Pudding Fruit)
This past week I made a delicious leek (home grown) and potato soup, a baby spinach (home grown) and balsamic BBQ Roo & BBQ eggplant salad, and stewed rhubarb (home grown) and apple for dessert.

Blogs I've enjoyed reading this week have included:

I don't like long posts generally, but that's where I'm at. Currently reading (playing catch up with the read a long with non such books) Madame Bovary, and for JLC 4, I'm reading Murakami's Dance Dance Dance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Mini Break

World Championships, Road Cycling.
30 Sept - 3 Oct 2010
in Geelong, Victoria.
View from our seating on trackside.
The first four days of my mini break was spent with my man and some friends watching the road cycling world championships. Our purpose for being there was to cheer on Cadel Evans. We weren't let down in anyway, as Cadel waged war on the track right up to the last lap. His 2nd to last lap was worth every effort we made to be there - it was awesome. Sadly though, things changed in the last lap. Over the weekend we saw under 23 elite men's race won by Michael Mathews, Aussie. The Elite Women's won by Giorgia Bronzini, Italy, and the Men's elite won by Norweigan, Thor Hushovd, followed in third by Aussie, Allan Davis. Cadel came in 17th.

It was beautiful weather, the atmosphere was electric at times, and the company was fantastic. Tour de France 2011 here we come!
So my next move was too say farewell to my man as he headed back to work, and I went to the beautiful region of Daylesford, Victoria for my 5 days in a vegan yoga retreat. I wasn't actually on a yoga retreat, but that's what the centre provides. I was actually WWOOFing. That is, I worked for my food and board. It's called the Willing Workers on Organic Farms scheme. I worked for four hours a day on what ever task I was given, and I had the rest of the day to myself for my mini break. Of course the work I was given wasn't too onerous and in fact very relaxing for me. I had to dust and wash down the front verandah of the centre - quite meditative.

Each day started with a walk in the village, followed by self serve breakfast - anything you wanted, as long as it was vegan (that is, no animal products like cheese, milk, eggs, honey). I then worked on my chores, frequently interrupted by others offering tea, toast, fruit salad, or fruit smoothies... my afternoons were spent, walking, reading, or at the famous mineral spa pools where one day I had the full on clay treatment and massage! One day I went to my first every yoga class and managed to most of it without tripping myself up.

In the evenings I found myself enjoying the company of other volunteers. We had all come for our different reasons, so we had much to learn from each other. I took the opportunity to learn some vegan recipes and talking about the choices we make each day about the food we put into our bodies. I soon found myself being challenged to think in more depth about food, animal products, the concept of a 'balanced diet' and my own well being. I've challenged myself to try and eat 2 days a week vegetarian (I'm not quite ready to do vegan and give up my cheese).

Here are some shots from around town... making the mini break all the more relaxing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Paris on a Plate

I've returned from my mini vacation - no I didn't go to Paris, but I did finish reading this neat little book. Paris on a Plate is a gastronomic diary, by Stephen Downes, Australia's most experienced restaraunt critic.

This is his diary of a return to Paris after his first visit more than 30 years ago. He has returned to Paris to see if the chef's of Paris are keeping up with their counterparts in Australia, and lucky for him, he was invited to eat for free at some of Frances most renowned eating places.

It's a fun little book to read - partly because he's prepared to say what he thinks, he's prepared to challenge those who think they're the best, and he share's his own personal experiences along the way. I enjoyed the way he was able to take me with him to those restaurants I will never be able to eat in, but he also took us places were we could see ourselves visiting one day. That's the fun part - think that one day I too could be visiting this place and sitting under the same wall of mirrors, or facing the same wall of famous art work....

I'll blog later about my holiday - but it was extremely bizarre to be resting in a vegan yoga retreat reading about Downe's experience of eating a calves head!

Friday Fillins #195

Tibetan Prayer Flags, Kathmandu, Nepal

1. Wow, it's my Grandmothers 91st birthday this week.
2. She's funny, generous and beautiful.
3. My favorite way to start a day is walking.
4. We decided to make soup with whatever was in the garden and he walked in the door holding a pumpkin.
5. I look out my window and see Saturday, blue skies, wind in the tree's, bee's in the blossom, the vegi's have gone to seed and the lawn needs mowing.
6. The completeness of the permaculture system and the decisions we make about what we eat - that is what I've been thinking about lately.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to cuddles with my dog, tomorrow my plans include seeing my french friends to discuss l'etranger at the Moroccan Cafe, and Sunday, I want to garden.

For more - see Friday Fillins