Monthly Archives: October 2011

Chillin’ In Crystal Waters



Lets backtrack a little bit. Before i left the country i had a month from when i finished work to when i left the country .After spending a mad two weeks in Brisbane seeing off all my friends i packed my stuff and headed up to Crystal Waters.
For those of you who dont know Crystal Waters is where I grew up. Its a Permaculture village in the Hinterland inland from the sunshine coast.

Life moves at a different pace here.

Walking down the main street of Maleny, the local town, may take you half an hour. This is not because it is a particularly long street or even because it is crowded. No. Rather you know every second person. And they want to know how you’re going and then Your Mum wants to tell them how your going away on a big trip to Italy and Spain and they’re all lovely and giving you advice and telling you that they’re jelous.
The property where i grew up with my Mum and sister is a 1 acre block of land with scattered small houses, proliferous gardens and abundant wildlife.

There are no dogs or cats allowed in CW so the local animals have a bit of an attitude. Its great. Sometimes the kangeroos will stand on the road in front of the car and just stare at you with the best ‘dont mess with me, sista!’ face on cause they know you’re not going to drive into them. Unfortunately the bitey insects are also abundant but this is part and parcel of living in the country. Ticks are a small price to pay for a sky FULL of stars, if you ask me..

    I slept in a little hut out amongst the gardens which is open to nature and woke up naturally. I had the intention to wake up a little earlier each day until i was waking up with the dawn. In brisbane if left to sleep without an alarm i would probably wake at about ten. And getting up at 8 for work as i did most morning for the last 2 years would leave me with six hours sleep. I had reached a point where i had the ability too sleep for six hours a night, work sixy hours a week and just nap in the afternoons to keep me going.
The first night at Sunrise Paradise, as we call Mums house, i slept for 11 hours. Mum and me and tea on the deck and i started cleaning and asking to help as Mum made breakfast and she said, ‘You’re on holiday now. Relax a bit.’
My chef training made my fingers itch at doing nothing, a small voice whispering in my head, ‘Time to lean, time to clean.’  I ignored it.

Tuesday we went to visit Les, the baker at the local wood-fired sourdough bakery. This bakery has made me a bit of a bread snob from a young age as the bread here is fantastic. Its made by hand from a natural leven (if you dont know about sourdough you should check it out – its amazing!), dont believe me? Here I am eating a loaf straight out of the oven, still warm and crusty..

Then my younger brother Tumii, my good  friend Ned and Neds younger brother Rueben  and I all decided that swimming in the freezing cold creek was a good idea.
Ye gods it was cold! I started a water fight, like the mature adult i am, and we splashed each other till our blood started flowing..
Then we played a crazy game that involves getting two feet on the top level of the kids play house nearby. Shit gets really hectic then because one person or ‘guard’ is protecting the top level and if they touch you, you must go back to base. Its tactical, teamworky and totally mad. Before long the cold of the river was long forgotten and we were sweaty  and laughing.
Les made us fresh coffee back at the bakery with a local coffee that was damn good. I tried to pay him and he laughed me down. Life is hard. We swung on the swings and then Les brought us the most amazing thing. He had taken the leftover pieces of bread dough and baked them in the blazingly hot woodfired oven till they were like puffy chewy parcels of amazingness and we ate them with this bowl of olive oil with soft fetta mixed into it and pieces of dates. It was glorious.
Olive oil with fetta and dates.. Why have i never discovered this before?  We ate with our fingers, oblivious to the hotness of the bread or the oil that coated or smiling faces; so good was the experience.
I spent three days with my father and my other younger siblings. My got up every morning at 6 am and went down to the field for ‘Warrior Training’ which was lots of different excersises. We picked wild berries and wrote a nonsense book and i had afternoon naps everyday. I made a giant pot of Harira soup and between us all it was gone in two meals. Seriously, like ten litres of the stuff. Five kids and two adults + me. Insanity.
My amazing boyfriend came down to visit from Brisbane.. We made a fire in the potbelly stove and stayed up late talking and I rose at six to have an early morning cup of tea with Mum before making  Spanish eggs. My breakfast specialty. Well, one of them… Here they are in all their glory.


We at them at a table out in the garden with Les’s bread and it was goood.

We explored the creek which has changed almost completely from the huge flood earlier this year. But i was happy to see that some of our old tree house still clings tenaciously to the tree. We were not bad builders for young teenagers. So many memories came flooding back from this spot on the river. Many nights of camping and swimming in floods and building tree houses.
One memory i have is of my two childhood friends, Jamie and Jarrah, putting out our fire in the ‘tradition way’ they called it, by pissing on it. We thought that was hilarious when we were kids.
Too many memories to list here.
I found some wild watercress! I was soo excited! Ive never seen watercress growing in the wild! But there it was.. Just chilling out in the gentle stream, soaking up aqua and being quietly delicious. I picked a small bunch and brought it home to have with dinner.


We made a chocolate and zuchinni cake with chocolate frosting and it was so damn delicious! But dont let me tell you.. Have a look for yourself…

Also i will put up a recipe for this. Make, i tell you. You’ll be surprised at how good it is. Slightly chewy on the outside, super moist on the inside and with a fascinating texture from the zuchini. Think carrot cake, but with a twist..
I spent the night visiting my long term friend, Rini and it was wonderful to hang out with her. She has two beautiful boys and we painted pictures, made carrot cake, watched the wiggles, jumped on the trampoline and made dinner together.

She is one of those friends that you dont see for years and yet when you do, you still click. I wish I could have seen here more in the last few years. I will have to remedy that when i return.
My sister, who is also my best friend, came up from Brisbane for two days so me and ned and her and Tumii could hang out one last time. We played a furious game of killer bunnies and then made plans for what we would do if the apocalypse occurs on 2012. Thats our secret, ladies and gentlemen. But make your own plans.
We went to watch the full moon rise over the dam and waited an hour before we realized it had snuck up behind a tree and was all disapointingly pale at 5pm in the afternoon. We had one last icecream at Colin James, the best icecream in Australia, and spent an afternoon in Montville where we sat by a beautiful view and ate bread and dips. I said good bye to my sister. This will be the longest we have ever spent apart in our lives. Damn you, Nils. I miss you.

 Cue thursday morning of my second week. By this point i am feeling relaxed. I am going to see my amazing friend Renee Blackwell today. We are going to hang out and i will see the extension on her studio and it will be a wonderful day. At seven in the morning i am woken by a horrible pain in my head.
I sleepily feel around my face and find the source. A fat little tick sucking at my brain juices. I expertly pull him out, squish him flat and attempt to go back  to sleep. After growing up in the country i get no reactions to ticks. He is perhaps my fourth since i arrived in Crystal Waters.. I cannot sleep. The pain is stabbing and feels as though it is spreading to cover half my head. I wake mum and for the next hour we try everything. Mums neighbour and an old friend of mine Sybil appears like a magical fairy with some ledum. Apparently the ticks are really bad this year, she says, and some people have gone to hospital with limes disease. After two hours i am still in intense pain. It feels like red hot irons are penatring my head right into my brain. I cannot sleep. I would seriously take a broken bone over this pain. I have feverish thoughts of getting limes disease and being unable to leave for Italy on sunday… My mum calls renee to say i might be late. Finally i give in and take some nurofen so i can at least sleep. My body will fix things.
It does. After three hours i wake up totally fine. No pain, nothing. Take that tick. My amazing immune system strikes again. But alas! It is too late to see Renee. We arrange to have dinner on saturday night.
I spend a lovely friday seeing Domanique, a childhood friend of mine, showing everyone how to make homemade mayonnaise, coriander pesto in a mortar and pestle and a giant pot of minastrone soup – ala Crystal Waters. It is fantastically delicious. We top it with the coriander pesto which is redolent flavor and pungently garlic-y and top it with grated pecorino.
Its hard to be us.
My last night i have dinner with Renee at a gorgeous restaurant in Maleny where we talk about everything under the sun, as we do. We are both a pair of chatterboxes. Renee has offered to come visit me in Spain next year. You can bet we will have a fantastic time. We head back to her house for a late night viewing of the extension to her new bead studio, which is gorgeous, as expected.

I am surprisingly calm for my last night in the country. Crystal waters has that effect. Have another cup of rooibos tea and a piece of sourdough toast. As Mum said, Tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of my life…

For more photos of my time in Crystal Waters check out …http://www.flickr.com/photos/missnom

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Rome – A Story In Parts – Part One – Honey Coated Clouds

I awoke without a single butterfly in my stomache. Not even a flutter.  My stomache, quite obviously, hadnt recieved the message from my brain that I was leaving the country.
Fair enough.
I mean my brain has better messages to be sending. Keeping me running must be quite hectic. But I digress…
I checked and double checked to see that everything was packed and after a lovely cup of tea with Mum we took some photos to mark the occasion and then set off.. Four kilometeres later we stopped at the community centre so mum could tell everyone that I was leaving. And they all took photos and there was hugging and goodbyes flying left right and centre and everyone was telling me that I was going to come back from Italy twice the size I left and I was saying I dont care… I mean Italian chubb is the best kind of chubb, right?


We listened to Paul Simons on the way to the airport, singing along to ‘Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.’
Mum was stressing out. Repeating advice that she had been giving me for the last two weeks. I told her that I was the one who should be stressing. I could go overseas and Australia could be bombed and then where would I be? I dont think that helped the situation, to be honest.
At the airport the check-in lady was super nice and helped me re arrange my luggage so I could take another bag on carry on and save myself $440. What a doll.
The airport is quiet on a sunday. No yelling or enthusiastic hugs or screaming children. Just the sound of trolley wheels on tires and gentle enquiries.
My boyfriend daniel and my good friend Adam came to see me off.. which was amazing of them. Daniel gave me the latest George RR Marting to read on the plane. I thought previously that I would cry at the airport but I was still calm. I think my brain was in denial.
I mean I’m leaving my boyfriend, saying goodbye to my friends and departing the country for a year and still my stomach is calm, my brain is keeping itself busy, studiously ignoring the oncoming situation.  Chef training is good for many things.
At the baggage check out I got taken into a side room where the guard apolagized profusely and said it was just procedure. A lady guard patted me down and they asked me where I was going. I said Italy and the guy asked me if I spoke Italian. When i said not yet he replied with ‘Too bad.. or you could stay with my family and they could cook for you in Tuscany.’
I flippantly replied that they could cook for me anyway… He laughed.
Then the guy who checked my passport said, ‘I was hoping I would get you. I wanted to tell you that you have a fantastic style.’ He enquired to what I did for a living and told me he thought I was a fashion designer. There you go. He told me to stay true to my ‘unique style’ and that the Italians would love me for it.
Its my red Dr Marten heels, I tell you, they entrance people.
My plane was late. By an hour. George, however, kept me entertained. For those of you into political fantasy you should most definately read George RR Martin. As long as you dont mind a bit of pillaging and general torture and whatnot. All that jazz.
I got a window seat! My luck is awesome! Australia is huge! No seriously, we flew over it for about 6 hours. And as you take off and everything shrinks to toys, and then ants it was surprising to see how square everything is. The farms stretch like a patchwork quilt as far as the eye can see. And then we flew over mountains that were so far below us (3000 metres, i think) that it looked like a crumpled velvet rug. Half an hour into the flight I was talking to my seat mate, an australian guy who was flying to Thailand. He told me of all the fantastic and crazy things he has eaten there. Most bugs, he says, are rubbish, but aphids are dang tasty. He was a laboror builder type who is almost at retiring age but nothing like you would expect from that description.. No meat and three vege for this fellow. He talked about Thai food till my mouth was watering. He visits 3 times and year and plans to retire there. His hobbies are golf and music and he refers to them as his two vices because of how much money he spends on them. He confided that he likes ramstein and I said that music was not age definitive and we talked about blues and jazz.
My feet got scary numb and I started thinking about deep vien thrombosis and walked around the plain lots. At about 6pm we emerged from a large cloud to the most entrancing fairyland. The most beautiful clouds I have ever seen. On my left jutted large cliffs of clouds, that seemed to be carved from marble and then gently puffed. At the base of this cloud cliffs was a pool of golden light. Little white puffy clouds floated just above the pool of light, their tops burnished by the shiny gold of the sun. They looked like glazed meringues. Below the glazed meringue clouds were heavy puffs of cloud that had sunk into the pool of honey colored light, suspended in a way that made the light look viscous almost, thick and so rich in golds and browns that I wanted to reach out of the plain and eat the clouds with a silver spoon. I bet it would have tasted delicious.
I slept and talked with my seat neighbour till we reached Bangkok.
Bangkok was nothing exciting. Easy in, easy out or something like that. Ahem.
On the second part of the flight it was night time and once again i was on the window side and got to discover the bad side of a window seat. As my feet started to go cold and numb i couldnt ask the couple who were occupying the other two sides to let me out as there were asleep. As was the rest of the plane. So i covered my legs with my large jacket and one at a time i put them up on the window seat. I dont think the attendants noticed that the charming australian girl was being all classy and putting her legs in the air while wearing a skirt. Long flight are not my cup of tea…
I arrived in Rome as dawn was breaking. I collected my luggage, all 36 kg of it and went to declare the knives in my suitcase.  Before I could even say anything The Italian security guard waved me through checkout, winked at me and said. ‘No problemo. Ciao bella.’

Welcome to Italy.


Farewell Brisbane…

My last two weeks in Brisbane was a wirldwind of socialization, relaxation, last minute shopping (sleeping bag, MP3 player, jeans, purple velvet corset – just the essentials…) and a rollercoaster of conflicting emotions.

Travel is exciting. Leaving your amazing friends seems like a bad decision when you are making burgers from scratch, having woodfired bbqs or drinking cider on the porch and talking late into the night…
My first night off i laid down for a nap and woke up 11 hours later. If you work for over two weeks without a day off your body will catch up with you eventually. And knock you out. And rest you up, weather you want to or not..
My going away party was a masquerade drinking and dancing bonanza and I still have the beautiful purple venetian mask packed in my suitcase with the intention to wear it to a real masquerade ball in Venice when I get there. Wish me luck.
My friend Sam and I planned a bbq in the park (well mostly him, to be honest) and it was a natural migration from the couches we slept on after after the party to the park and a fantastic afternoon. On our menu were Slamburgers (sams lamb burgers with mint and fetta), ambrosially good marinated Kangaroo, still bloody and and eaten with much gusto, vegetarian skewers in honey mustard marindade and sausages galore.
To  work off the oncoming food coma we took to beating each other up with roleplay weapons and playing like giant children in the play ground and then collapsed onto the grass.
*A special note to be made to the most fantastically girly hand-in-hand skipping i have ever seen two men do in public. We laughed till our sides hurt.
I went out to dinner with my friend Celria to Urbane. Over the last year she has been my restaurant eating partner. She is as excited by devouring gourmet food as me, while most people just stare at me and gasp, “You spent how much on one meal?!”
This time we went to Urbane for the twelve course vegetarian degustation. Celria convinced her friend to join us and we nibbled our way through twelve courses of exquisitely presented art-on-a-plate. It was definately not the most delicious food I have ever eaten but it was never-the-less  fascinating, exciting and deliciously indulgent. An experience.
There was a savory course that was a sweet egg shell made from a crispy candy filled with corn custard nestled in a bed of dark chocolate twigs. Damn! I love me some of those dark chocolate twigs.
To finish the whole thing off they brought a real bonzai tree out to the table with chocolate truffles hanging from the branches;  it was totally adorable. I also had a glass of french white wine and I cant for the life of me remember what it was called. Which is sad. Because it was lovely. Urbane website, I shall check you out soon. Be warned.

For the last few years I have played board games every tues like their going out of fashion. So to sate our insatiable board game hunger we farewell’d our boardgame tradition off with a whole day off board games topped off with a night off eggplant adventures (Warm smoky Babaganoush with fresh sourdough bread followed by piping hot moussaka) to convince everyone that if you think you dont like eggplant you simply have never had it prepared awsomely enough. The masses were converted.

The boardgames continued. At around midnight, just to test the limits of everyones stomach capacity we gorged ourselves on sticky date pudding with runny cream. Weep with jelousy.
They say parting is such sweet sorrow and there is nothing like leaving everyone you know to remind you of the truth of this statement. Ill be back – but in the mean time I’ll miss you all like a gap in the mouth were a tooth used to be…