Sunday, November 15, 2015

Some cookbook recommendations + Life Listlessly stuffs

I'm sure I've mentioned this once or twice (or even 10 times), but my least favourite job is menu planning. Every week on Friday night (if I'm being good) or Saturday morning (and then we're in trouble), I sit down with Inspector Climate and try to figure out what we're going to eat  for the next week.

I really don't enjoy it. I get sick of food quickly, and so I don't like eating the same thing frequently, but I also go on jags where I really like something and it's all I want. It makes me cranky menu planning.

So, one of the ways that we try to combat the cranky is buying cookbooks and this year we have three that I've been using A LOT and highly recommend for yummy delicious food. It also means that I've cooked a lot of new recipes that I haven't marked off on my life list. So I thought I'd share some of my fave cook books with you and also my favourite recipes from those cookbooks (I rate cook books by how many recipes I want to make over and over again. A cook book with only two good recipes, not a winner in my mind). I won't actually write the recipes out, but just notice the sheer volume per book.

Let's dive in:

1. Thug Kitchen – First of all, if you haven't seen the video clip for Thug Kitchen go google that right now. I'll wait. ... Secondly, this cook book is not for you if you are offended by a bit of cussing. This is a vegan cook book (I'm not vegan),  but the recipes are delicious. These are my favourites:

1. Vietnamese rice noodle salad – what's not to love? A lovely light summer dinner.
2. Vegetable-noodle soup with ginger miso broth – this was a STAPLE this winter. We made it a lot and it was warming and cosy and best of all SUPER easy.
3. Warm the fuck up minestrone – Did I mention the swearing? The soup was tomato-y and full of hearty delicious veggies. Plus worked out great gluten free!
4. Tortilla soup – I had never considered blending up tortillas into a divine tomato based soup... but I dig it.
5. Wedding soup with white bean ball and kale – This was another winter staple. We made it a lot and the white bean balls are super fantastic and they kind of melt in the soup and somehow even get more delicious.
6. Roasted Sriracha cauliflower bites – Just yum. I could eat (and have) a whole head of cauliflower this way.
7. Vegetable pad thai with dry fried tofu – This was just yummy.
8. Roasted chickpea and broccoli burritos – Yes please.

Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook. I was first introduced to Yotam from a cooking show that would play on SBS and so when I heard he had a vegetarian cook book out, I was pretty keen to get my hands on it.

1. Black Pepper Tofu – This recipes calls for 5 tablespoons of black pepper corns which terrified me, but it was AMAZING.
2. Multi-vegetable Paella – anything with grilled artichokes has my vote, amirite?
3. Very full tart – this is basically a quiche with sweet potato, zucchini, and tomatoes in it.
4. Brussels sprouts and tofu – two of my favourite things (although I try to only eat tofu every once and a while because I know it's not great for me and I know Jorge – the bastard – loves it).
5. Fried butter beans with feta and sumac – Oh, wise people does anyone know how to properly soak dried beans? Mine always don't turn out well. But this recipe is a good one.

After loving Plenty, when I saw there was a second book Plenty More I put it on my birthday wish list, and now I've been using it for a few months and I can officially say, it's just as good as Plenty. Yum

1. Rice salad with nuts and sour cherries – absolutely delicious
2. Quinoa porridge with grilled tomatoes – I've never been that into porridge, but thought I'd give this a try, it was good really filling and the grilled tomatoes were just AMAZING.
3. Squash with chile yogurt and cilantro sauce – yes please.
4. Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin – this is just...good and satisfying. I like to make it with yogurt flat bread as a main course. YUM.
5. Cauliflower cake – This is a savoury cake and it is crazy easy and crazy delicious. I like it with giant salad on the side.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Three things

1. A horse that we've had since I was six died at the end of October. He was 31. Gentle, kind, and with an excellent sense of humour. He could no longer eat hay or grass because his teeth were in such bad shape he couldn't chew it and it would fall out of his mouth in wet wads. He was my dad's horse and I can't imagine how hard this whole thing must be for my dad.

I'll be in my 50s before I've lived as much life without Rocky as I have lived with him.

For the past couple of years, every time we would go back home and visit, I'd tear up when it came time to say good bye because I knew he might not make it through the winter.

As a kid, my dad would read me a book, and then when it was time for bed he'd rub my back and tell me story. Sometimes they were about when he was young, other times were stories he insisted that our animals told him. This is one of them. When I was about eight years old, my dad kept Rocky at a barn where I also took riding lessons. One day during my riding lesson, my dad took Rocky for a trail ride. Rocky loved to go on rides, out of all our horses he was most excited when his saddle came out and he was always keen to go. But during this lesson, I was thrown pretty badly, dirt coated the inside of my mouth and I had a concussion. My dad says at some moment on the ride, Rocky stopped wanting to go any further from the barn – unusual for him – and was really pushy about heading back. Like he knew something was wrong, like he knew I was hurt. He always felt like the sweet older four legged brother. And I'll miss him so. The barn yard certainly will never be the same.

Image: Rocky and I, September 2012 | Kyle Hepp.

2. Two weeks ago, Inspector Climate and I put in an offer on a house in Tasmania. And just this past week, we got a building inspection done on the house. It failed. And now, we are going to retract our offer completely. To explain what was wrong with it could take days, suffice to say, the list was long and the cost of fixing it would be enormous. And it is ... devastating. We were talking about where we'd put furniture and what fruit trees we'd add to the orchard. The kitchen was absolutely stunning and I already had plans to add a claw-footed tub. And I know that there will be another place out there, that this one clearly wasn't meant to be, etc. etc. But the idea of starting over again, finding new homes to love is daunting.

3. Today is Inspector Climate and my four year 'getting married' anniversary.  It seems almost insane that it has been four years. We are not doing anything to celebrate at the moment, I had plans to go a fancy restaurant when I thought we'd be home owners as well, but we don't really feel like celebrating at the moment. When we first started seeing each other I remember every month was a milestone. "Happy four month anniversary", "Happy seven month anniversary" – we'd say to each other. And now, we've been married for four years. FOUR YEARS.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

For some reason, I thought this would be more fun.

[Wow, so this post turned into a bit of an epic tale. Apologies. Enjoy with a biccy and cuppa]

So Inspector Climate and I took our first trip to Tassie a few weeks ago to look at houses to purchase.

Yes, to purchase. We're done with renting. I want to be able to drill holes in the wall and paint things and rip up carpeting and have animals. I'm ready to be done with renting. Of course, whether we find our home quickly enough that we don't have to start off when we renting is another question. One I'm not fond of entertaining.

Anyway, we went to Tasmania to look for homes.

Have you ever seen the TV show Escape to the Country? It's a British TV show where urban couples/families are ready to move to the country and a real estate agent shows them a few properties that fit their requirements and one property that is the 'mystery house' – to expand their minds.

Well, we have been treating our real estate adventure like a series of Escape to the Country Tasmania.

We picked seven (yes, SEVEN) houses to go visit while we down there for two days. And the first three were – well they needed a lot of renovations – like a lot. Not just re-doing the kitchen but re-doing all the bedrooms, bathroom.  One of the houses the only part we liked as is was the hallway. We were feeling... discouraged.

The fourth property we saw had been our favourite from the beginning. And we found it overwhelming and intimidating. It still needed renovations – but the outside, which is what we had initially loved, had more than 30 fruit trees. That took it from being a cute hobby farm to being an orchard that would require A LOT of attention. Like a A LOT. My mom has 15 fruit trees and it takes up most of her time during harvesting season. Let alone all the pruning, thinning, and the rest.

And then a real estate agent suggested a mystery house. A MYSTERY HOUSE. It wasn't on the website yet, but the owner agreed to let us see it early.

It was... beautiful. It was a small house, with a decent number of fruit trees (although the real estate agent didn't know which ones) – turns out: a huge lemon tree dripping with lemons, cherry and apple! – it had wood floors and a beautiful kitchen. The house was bright and light. It was what we hadn't known we wanted in the first place.

We had one more day in Tasmania, we were seeing some houses in Hobart (which isn't where we want to end up) and then we asked the real estate agent if the Mystery House owner would give us a tour of the gardens. And we fell more and more in love with the place. Inspector Climate left convinced this was it, and I just needed to agonise over the decision for a bit more.

It took me over an hour to convince myself (with Inspector Climate's help) that spending $75 on a bag that I actually really needed was an ok purchase – I don't spend money well.

Anyway, we left Tasmania and the next morning we decided to make an offer. Inspector Climate decided to do a bit more research and in this dug up that the house can't be connected to anything faster than dial up internet. I mean, it could get mobile internet but it would be horrendously expensive and slow for us and we'd never be able to work from home or skype easily. We were devastated.

I felt... grief. We lost something we never really had in the first place. It was devastating. And for weeks there was nothing else on the market we even liked. The Mystery House kept coming up on our searches of the area – looking all perfect and beautiful – and we just had to scroll on by.

We're going back down next weekend and finally there are few more promising properties to look at.

Next time on Escape to Tasmania tune in to see if Decoybetty and Inspector find their dream home.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sometimes, you just have to will it into being.

A few months ago, I wrote that Inspector Climate had a job interview for a job in Tasmania.

He didn't get it.

He got a better job – in Tasmania – instead.

My boss has said I can transfer offices and so, we're moving to Tassie, bitches.

(Bitches was just for emphasis...)

In fact, as this (wildly boring) blog post gets published, we're flying down to Tasmania to look at houses... to buy. We're not messing around, ladies and gentlemen, I can almost feel the kitty and puppy cuddles, they're so close!

It's... a bit unreal. The houses that we're looking at have established fruit trees, and a little land, and room for a dog, and some of them even have space for me to teach yoga on the side (I KNOW, right?).

It feels so grown up to be talking about buying a house. But it also feels a bit overwhelming to be considering leaving the city I've called home for the majority of my 20s. How will I make new friends? Will I finally have to drive on the left side of the road... by myself? What if I never see some of my favourite Melburnians again (Kirsti! You'll come visit, right?). What if? What if? What if?

Look out, Tassie, we're coming soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shall we vista?

In the last week of our trip back to the US, we did something that has been on my to do list (and life list) for a long time: road trip up/down the coast of California. So my parents and Inspector Climate and I flew into San Francisco and rented a car (a car is using the term loosely – it was a Yukon and the biggest thing in the entire world).

I have family in San Francisco and so we visited with them for two days and did a little sight seeing. One of the problems of being an expat is that when I go home, I really want to go home – to my parents farm to lie on the couch with dogs which means that Inspector Climate (or I) rarely gets to see somewhere new. Inspector Climate had never been to San Francisco, and my parents and I had never seen the Muir Woods and so off we went to frolic amongst the Red Woods.

And boy, did we frolic.

May I take this opportunity to give a travel tip: get there early or take a shuttle from San Francisco (no, just get there early). Because we arrived before 9am the park was free (not that I mind paying for National Parks, but you know), but more importantly, we had the place to ourselves. We took a walk and barely saw a single person for the first 1.5 hours and as we looped back around, the park was really starting to fill up.

Also keep an eye out for wildlife! We saw a deer just wondering about in the woods, and then saw two fawns drinking out of a creek.

I have a certain love – that my parents seem to have passed down to me – for big old trees. Trees that are thousands of years old and seen so much and experienced so much make me feel small and insignificant in all the best ways.

They remind me why I do what I do (nature conservation / climate change fighter). It's for the trees, ya'll.

What we soon called 'assuming the position':

After two blissful days in San Francisco, we repacked the Yukon and hit Rt 1. It was everything I thought it was going to be...and a little bit more. For all you Australians out there, driving down the California coast is like the Great Ocean Road, but on steroids.

It did get to the point where it was a bit like, 'Oh, another beautiful vista? I mean, I guess we'll stop...'

The trip not only fed my love of big trees, but also my love for cliffs (if one remembers my trip to Norfolk Island – one will also remember my love for cliffs...why am I talking like this?).

And also for incredible feats of engineering:

Right, like we get it? Enough with the beauty.

Oh, that's just a casual waterfall INTO THE OCEAN.

And once we had driven past the beauty and the cliffs we came to elephant seals. They used their fins to cover their bodies with sand. It was adorable.

But besides the absolute beauty that was the coast, I have to say it was the quality time with my parents that I most enjoyed. My parents last did the drive down the California coast in 1970 and as we drove along they were reminded of adventures that they had gone on. And I don't know if it because I just turned 30 (did I mentioned that I turned 30? Gulp) or if it is my parents approaching 70, but they're suddenly much more open with me about their past and there struggles as adults.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spotting a Decoybetty in her natural habitat

This last trip back the US was four weeks of being with family, which hasn't happened since 2009! I got to spend two weeks in New Hampshire on my parents farm, a week in Cape Cod with my brothers, and a week in California (post to come soon!)

If I had my way, I probably would never leave my parents farm when I went back to the US to visit.  Sitting with two dogs on a couch? My idea of heaven.

My mom's garden was going into serious overdrive while we were there. I made a giant thing of fridge pickles and there were bags and bags of cucumbers that we also picked and made plates and plates of cucumber salad.

Inspector Climate was champion plum picker. With the help of a dog, of course!

We also picked pears, apples, zucchinis, pumpkins, and tomatoes. And green beans. And corn. And, and, and!

Pears are interesting because they ripen from the core outwards, you're supposed to pick them when they're not ripe and let them ripen off the tree.

One of my parents' dogs takes his job of protecting the farm very seriously. And most nights could be found sitting outside the kitchen door surveying his land. The other dog would be running down to the orchard for post-dinner snack and go pick himself an apple or plum off the ground and bring it back up to the house eat it. Hilarious.

Just a few apples. In fact, we took 30 pounds of apples and turned into apple butter and apple sauce (recipes 37 and 38 on my life list to cook 100 new things! Expect more of these coming soon). My mom and I (and Inspector Climate helped too with the peeling, coring, and slicing and dicing) spent hours in the kitchen preserving the abundance of produce.

I felt like I spent most of my time in New Hampshire with sticky hands from peeling so much fruit.

Just some of the bounty. We also made plum jam, which holy moly was good!

The green of New Hampshire seriously rejuvenates my soul – cheese alert! – but it is one of those things that I'm completely not aware of missing, needing, or craving until we start to drive north from Boston. And then, suddenly, the mountains come into view, and the green leaves on the miles of woods, and despite the jet lag and the exhaustion I feel a burst of energy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

When coming home isn't the same as going home.

This morning at 7:40 am, I arrived back in Melbourne after a four week visit with my family in the US. To say that I did some crying on the flight, and in the airport, and very nearly when going through customs is an understatement.

So yes, I'm jetlagged, I'm tired, I go back to work tomorrow, and although Monday didn't exist for me, it appears that while Inspector Climate and I flew over the pacific ocean Australia got a new Prime Minister! Big day, ya'll.

I have so many exciting adventures to share of our trip and also coming the upcoming weeks and months – Big News (I'm not pregnant) – in fact. But at the moment, I'm feeling... sad.

You'd think that after doing something for nearly a decade that one would become better at it – but every goodbye at the airport feels more permanent, more acute, and more painful then the ones before.

I don't handle jet lag well, and for the first time I think I'm putting the pieces together on why that is: I'm not just dealing with jet lag, but a cocktail of grief and exhaustion (most definitely on the rocks – I'm sorry for that, I couldn't help myself). And just maybe it is the grief that I'm the slowest at getting over. It isn't surprising that the symptoms of grief are similar to those of jet lag: tired well before any normal adult should be going to bed, lethargy, waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to sleep.

When I'm living my life here in Australia, I feel so – and I'm sorry for using this word, but it's true – blessed that I am able to do it. That I live in a place that for whatever reason inspires me to be the best version of myself (most days). That I have a job I love, and am married to truly saintly human being – who I never would have met if I had not been here. I can't really imagine not living here.

But when I go home, and I am surrounded by truly green things I feel so refreshed, rejuvenated, and whole.

I'm not sure if other expats feel this way as well, but homesickness is the hardest to bear the two weeks prior, during, and the two weeks post going back home.

I'll leave you with a picture of me fighting (and losing) jet lag once I'd gotten to the US – but it was much more bearable because I had my parents cat to keep me company in the wee hours of the morning.

Monday, June 08, 2015

My love for Tassie grows

I had to go to Tasmania for work last week, and coincidentally so did Inspector Climate (which by the way, I used to blog so much that sometimes I would almost introduced Inspector Climate as his pseudonym to people in the real world. Now I can barely type it). We decided to make a little weekend away, we spent one night in Hobart and then headed to Dover. 

I asked some colleagues at work where we should go out to eat and they suggested Ethos Eat Drink – you was delicious. What I didn't realise was that it was a set menu, six course meal, for $90 per person, which seemed a bit steep until they said that a. they could 100% cater for this gluten free vegetarian and b. all the food is locally sourced and they change their menu as to what they have available on a daily basis. I was in. It was divine. I did have one brief moment of panic when the first course they brought out was a single potato chip per person.

The next day we drove south to Hastings Caves – unfortunately due to my poor photography skills none of the photos do the cave the justice it deserves. I often feel like this when I travel, that I just want Kyle Hepp with me all the time. Not only so that she can teach me how to take stunning photographs as we go, but also because I can only imagine she is divine travel companion. Anyway, the cave is massive and the stalactites and stalagmites are simple beautiful.

Descending into the cave feels like entering Middle Earth with otherworldly creatures just around the bend.

We stayed at a delightful (seriously, Beryl was just so lovely) not-quite-bed-and-breakfast called Thelma Retreat. It was the off season while we were there, but normally there is a tea house where they mill their own flour (read as perhaps my version of hell) and serve morning and afternoon tea. She did bring us some homemade gluten free scones and some home-milled flour muffins upon our arrival. Delish!

The next day, we drove to Cockle Creek and did the walk to the southern most of Australia.  It's about 4 hours round trip. We had just been talking about how we hadn't really seen any wildlife, just a few birds, when we came across Mr. Pademelon. So cute!

Stop being so cute!

The wind was hollowing by the time we reached the southern most tip (where, it turns out, one is closer to Antarctica from that point that s/he is to Cairns which is pretty crazy! Australia is a very big place). We have all the fashion sense in the world.

We packed so many warm clothes for this walk: fleece, down jackets, rain gear, extra pairs of socks, hats and fingerless gloves and we actually got too hot. Like, way too hot.

I even practiced my left-side-of-road driving skills – I don't know if everyone is as afraid as I am of driving on the other side of the road (I'd imagine not), but I still cringe when a car is coming the other way. You'd think I'd be used to that by now!

It was so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of The Everyday. I read books and we watched Mad Men (we're only just starting to watch - a bit behind the times, per usual). While we were away, we were talking about how we use my blog as our memory bank of all the trips we've taken and all the fun adventures we've had, so after landing back in Melbourne this morning I promised myself I'd make sure I posted this right smart.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Let's keep this Strictly Ballroom

Over the past weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of being given ticket to see Strictly Ballroom: the Musical by Nuffnang (thank you Nuffnang!).

I have always loved Strictly Ballroom the movie. I remember watching it as a kid and just wishing I could dance like that (listen to the rhythm), that I would meet some cute Australian who would sweep me off my feet (Oh, hey, wait a minute...).

Well, that last part is true, but only when I realised that they were Australian. It just never occurred to me, I just figured they were from some other part of the US that talked a bit funny compared to me. Whoops.

Anyway, like the truly terrible blogger I've become I didn't take a single picture of the theatre (which was dazzling-ly sparkly as one would imagine) or of Inspector Climate and me dressed up for a rare night out on the town (I wore make up ya'll!).

But the show was so much fun! The singing, the dancing, the enthusiasm – I came home tapping my feet and singing 'Time after Time' – as you do.

Anyway, if you're in Melbourne and get a chance to see Strictly Ballroom, do it!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Be careful, you might just get what you want...

Inspector Climate and I have a dream to one day move to Tassie have a house on a bit of land with a chicken coop, small possum proof garden, a cat, a dog (or three), a lion cub, and some established fruit trees.

We talk about it a lot. It's the answer to my 'I want a puppy now' and Inspector Climate says 'someday, when we have a house in Tassie.'

But when I start thinking of life beyond the house in Tassie that's when things start getting ... unsettling. My parents are getting old, they live on a big property in the United States and I love their house and farm. I used to tell people that when I grew up I was going to kick my parents out of their house and live there instead.

And the truth is. I would. I really would. But there are no jobs where my parents live. So I can never really reconcile how we could possibly live there. But I would like to go and help my parents out when the time comes that they can't take care of the farm on their own.

The other unreconcilable part of the equation is once we buy a house in Tasmania (ok, ok...IF we buy a house in Tasmania) and we get the puppy, the kitty, the garden and the chooks how can we just up and leave it? We maybe could rent it out and then go live in the US – could we take the animals? But if I live in my parents' place could I ever leave it to come back to our house here in Australia? WHY AREN'T THERE ANY ANSWERS, LIFE?

I work myself up into a state of panic about this about once a year. I end up sitting up in bed sobbing unable to conceive of any possible solutions and Inspector Climate rubs my back and asks me repeatedly if I want a hankie. Which 'No I don't ok. I feel miserable and I want the full snot filled miserable experience, thank you very much'. (Ahem, my yearly panic may have happened last night and is feeling particular fresh in my mind).

The rest of the time, I'm able to compartmentalise that feeling of panic into 'future Decoybetty's problem'. The future is adventure, it'll be fine – just stop thinking about it. STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. No, really. Stop it.


Inspector Climate is about six months away from finishing his PhD. AND he just had a job interview for job in Tasmania. Which is like the most exciting thing EVER. I asked my work place if there was any possibility that I could transfer to Tasmania and they said 'why yes, that is possible, hypothetically.' By Christmas I could be getting the best present in all the land... A KITTEN and a PUPPY.

So what exactly happens when that future you've been planning for, pining for, working toward starts to solidify and becomes well, reality?

I don't know. But the good news is maybe I'll finally have something to blog about!

How are you?