Category Archives: Thoughts

On Snow


And Lo! Italy donned a white velvet cape, a luxurious garment;  dove-white and soft to the eye. It sparkled when the sun came out, like milk diamonds.

It lay across houses and hills. It alighted on pine needles and berries. It washed over mountains and formed on fence posts like waves about to crash – and stopped there, mid-crest.

It flowed like a river of cream down the roads and paths and tracks and cracks.

Laying in folds across neatly stacked fire wood and forming small tufts along windowsills

It is so grande that it begins to drag on the ground a little. Here the river of cream was pushed back to make way for the cars that are  dug out of the hills of sparkling white. Driving cautiously, topped with precarious mounds they dirty the pristine garment beneath their wheels.
Little jewels of light shine from within the postcard houses, the steepled churches, the antique brick cottages.

Necklaces of pointed ice dangles from sloped shingle roofs, beautiful as they are deadly.

  The wind ruffles the garment as it passes by. It  brushes past the imperial pine trees and small clumps of white shake themselves loose to hit the ground with a dull whump! or a soft pfff.

And the girl from Australia gazes apon Europes winter cape with wide eyes. It coats her hat and tries its hardest to smother the tenacious winter berries.

(Or perhaps they’re flowers?)

She nibbles tentatively on it, humming ‘Glad to have a friend like you’ under her breath. It dampens her gloves.

After she watches it from inside the warm house with her hands wrapped around a mug of chai tea as it she tries to put into words her first experience with snow…

….

Note: My camera seems to be working again folks, so all these photos are taken once again with my wonderful little beast…

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In Which Miss Nom Talks About Couchsurfing

So its time I told you all about Couchsurfing.
Gather round, sit down, would you like a cup of tea?
Are you comfortable? Good, then let us begin.

I first heard about Couchsurfing a few years ago. Now to explain the image that popped into my head on hearing this combination of words I first have to tell you about something in the Guiness book of Records.
There is, in said book of incredible feats, some gentlemen in England who took a couch and made it into a car. A car which you can drive on the road, complete with a pizza tray steering wheel. It has vehicle registration.

They are in the Guiness world records for highest speed achieved by furniture; but between you and me I think the old boys at the Records department just wanted to put this fantastic piece of invention in their book.
Now you can imagine that when I heard someone say ‘Couchsurfing’ I immediately pictured a vivacious and plucky young fellow sailing bravely atop the ocean on some sort of couch-surfboard. That is just the way my mind works.
Unfortunately so far no one has invented a couch-surfboad.
Fortunately someone did invent Couchsurfing.
It is, in essence, a way to travel and meet people.  You stay on someones couch or spare bed or hammock…. And you spend a few days with this person, or people or family.
But more than that. It is a way to immerse yourself more in the culture of the country you are travelling in than when you stay at a hotel. A way to meet the locals, to meet like-minded people and to be reminded that not everything in this world is a business transaction.
It is free. And it is wonderful.
To begin is simple: you join. You make a profile of yourself. Of your likes and dislikes, interests and experiences. You put a photo of yourself. Then before you head to a city or a town that you will be staying in you look at people in the area. People with similar tastes to you. Or different, but something you find interesting. You can send a message to this person telling them why would like to meet them and the fun begins. Of course they have no obligation to accept. But its fantastic to be a host too. A way to travel without leaving your house. To meet interesting people and share your life with them for a moment.
But how safe is it, you ask.
Pretty darn safe, actually. After you stay with someone you leave feedback on your stay. And they leave feedback on how you were as a guest. So when you are looking for a host you simply read about other peoples experiences with them. And if you are, like me, a woman travelling alone, you stay with people who have had lots of guests. And you read about them and you trust your instincts.
In the words of one guy I told about it, and I quote -‘Ah! Its like Ebay!’
Well, sort of, but not really…
Of course occasionally people may be less than great but then they have bad feedback on their profile and you simply dont stay with them… But so far, let me tell you, every experience I have had has been amazing.
I have cooked and danced with these people. I have been to islands and natural hot spring. To concerts and bars. I had a picnic on a bridge in Florence and explored the valley of temples. I have shared stories and met people from all over the world. And my experiences (so far) are just in Italy.
Travellers from Spain, Turkey, Isreal, Syria, Romania, Hungary, America, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Iceland, Ukraine, Nepal, Norway, Germany, Africa and Belgium. I have met people from all over Italy. Young people and old people. Doctors and volenteers and bus drivers. University students and english teachers. Marine bioligists and concert musicians. A single mother who is a physological journalist.
In the last four months, since I started travelling so much of my journey has been with couchsurfers. And couchhosters.
But wait – there’s more.
Let me grab a hunk of local cheese from the fridge… Would you like a slice? I have some fresh sourdough breading knocking about.. Delicious, wot?
Ok. So say you feel a little uncomfortable staying in someones house. Or say you have a gorgeous hotel already set up in London (or Bangkok or Timbuktu) but you would like to meet some people. A traveller or a local. You can. People can put a little coffee-cup symbol on their profile to let you know that they would like to meet for a coffee. Or a tea. Or perhaps to show you around their favorite part of London (or Tokyo or New Orleans)…
Say you would like to meet some people in your own city or small town but you are fresh out of couches or have a difficult housemate or you live in a shoebox size house… No problem! Just pop that little coffee symbol on your profile and a note about meeting people and you can meet travellers from around the world and show them YOUR favorite bookshop or rock climbing place. You can tell them of your trip to Norway last year and they can tell you how they just couchsurfed their way across Brazil. You can meet new friends like this and the world seems a friendlier place.
There is some cynical part of us in this day and age that forgets that people can do acts of kindness, not for monetary gain or work exchange, but simply because its a wonderful thing to do.
And people of every race, of every religion, of every country are sharing their homes with the world. And you can too. It may just change your life…


Of Pudding and Quinoa

I am slipping…
Five days after I finished my cleanse, with the intention to maintain mostly healthiness, my mind is reverting back to its old tricks. And unfortunately, my mind knows me really well.
But lets rewind.
After about a week of no sugar the energy took hold. It was wonderful. The sunday after my last post I worked a twelve hour day, with only a small break and when I got home I was so full of beans I helped my housemate clean the house till 3 in the morning. And it wasnt that hyped, edge-of-your-brain awakeness that comes from coffee or lack of sleep, but rather a clean full-bodied awakeness. It was wonderful.
It was my little (not-so little anymore!) brothers seventeenth birthday that week and so I organized to head up to Crystal Waters, the home of my youth, to have dinner with the family.
My brother is an awesome boy. Forget your normal lazy, fairly uninspired, drinking seventeen year old. He has been doing homeschooling for some time now and does it with zest. He takes lessons in everything that inspires him. And he and my good friend Ned walk everywhere.
In fact me and Tombs*, as i affectionatlely call him, discussed next year walking the Camino de Santiago de Compastelo. For those of you who know not, this is a pilgrims walk in the north of Spain, spanning some 780 miles and taking about 30 days. THIRTY DAYS OF WALKING. YE GODS. However it is not an insane hike through the amazon jungle, it is a walk along a road walked by thousands of people for hundreds of years. It passes through towns and cities with albuergues (hotels) for travellers on the walk. They say that once you do the first five days the rest is easy.
So I am keen. I will have to spend the next half a year getting madly fit. Which means walking everywhere in Italy.  SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN.
We enjoyed a large feast and talks round the campfire (hot damn, how much I miss campfires!) and then me and Tombs went for a seven km walk at ten in the evening. Cause, y’know, the healths were filling me with energy.
Some of what we ate that night: Vegetable curry (redolent with spices)
Two large free range whole roast chickens (tender and melt in the mouth with a crispy golden skin and fragrant with lemons)
Baked vegetables
Quinoa, mint and orange salad (amazing! recipe on its way)
Spiced nut rice (dang! I have to make this stuff!)
And locally picked salad followed by a baileys cheesecake.
Which I did not eat, with a massive feat of willpower, due to two things; it contained sugar and I was off that, also I purchased THIS TOTALLY AMAZING STUFF. It is called Cocoapure and if you havent tried it/heard of it, you should really try and hunt some down.
It is made of raw cocoa, raw coconut oil, raw vanilla and sea salt and it is all organic, BUT IT TASTES LIKE GLORY IN A JAR.
No joke. It is as good as nutella and I am not just saying that. It is a soft, spreadable dark and sensual thing and I ate it with some gourmet dried strawberries.. Mmmm…Honestly, who needs sugar anyway?
Fast forward.. I did good on my three week cleanse and only broke it once to taste the Saffron Mouse Cheesecake that I made for my housemates twenty first birthday.. But more on that later. Recipes will be forthcoming.
Two days back onto normal eating and I was rocking the health. And then.. I lost it completely. My friend Katrina came over for late night cooking and we made Quinoa Fridgezotto filled with butter, camembert, white wine,s mustard and chicken.. Also chocolate self-saucing pudding with ice cream with that ate we gorged on until food comas were had by all… Dang, boys and girls, but chocolate self saucing puddings are a thing of wonder.  Magic (aka science) makes fantastic things happen in your oven that result in foodgasms for everyone..
The next day I made Caramelized Onion Baguettes from scratch in my housemates Kitchenaid. Thats rights, my housemate has a Kitchenaid – be jelous.  And wow, it was easy.
We then headed on over to our friends for dinner bringing fresh bread, leftover chocolate pudding (thats right, we made two) and some polenta. Sam made us marinated grilled Kangaroo and oven-baked sweet potato chips which we devoured with great gusto alongside the warm bread slathered in butter.. Its a hard life, let me tell you.
And then more chocolate science pudding. This time with cream. Oh no. So now I am slipping. Iced coffee at work yesterday, singapore chilli stirfry for lunch (oil and sugar for everyone!) and then I came home and made a midnight goats camembert omelette followed by a handful of chocolate coated ginger. And believe me i would of had it with a glass of milk if there was any milk left in the house.
So. Herbal tea this morning. Life is a high road. I can walk it. It doesnt have to be extremes. The Vale of health on one side. The Valley of Indulgence on the other. No need to choose one or the other..Just let me get my balance.
Recipes soon… Miss Nom


Musings of the Gazebo Variety

Good morning and welcome to my thoughts.  Right now i am sitting in a gazebo out the back of my house, on a couch so worn and tatty it would look more at home in a crack den. But the light  falling through the lattice shade gives it a little life, a sort of preloved beauty.
My housemates giant doberman, a dog that more closely resembles a small horse than a dog, is gently nibbling on some grass. I believe he thinks no one is watching… Since when do giant dogs nibble on grass, anyhoo?
All in all it is a lovely saturday morning, and i am enjoying it all the more due to the fact that i am a chef and to not be at work on a saturday morning is a glorious thing in itself. I am on a cleanse at the moment.
No dairy will pass my lips,
Keep the sugar far away
no coffee will i sip
processed wheat is kept at bay
Or something like that.. But its not all (badly written ) poetry here in the world of my cleanse. I have been having mad sugar attacks (somewhat like badger attacks but a little less severe) and restraining myself from launching at the spare hot chips so golden and tantalizing in the bowl.
Now heres the thing. I used to eat quite healthily (is that a word?) but then i worked at  a restaurant where i was a dessert chef for over a year and then i got somewhat madly addicted to sugar. And my training occured in french and italian restaurants and now my brain tries to tell me to put butter on everything and that some white wine and cream will definately improve almost any situation.
‘Oh darling you broke your leg? Pour some white wine on there, reduce, add a little cream.. just a bit more than that, there you are… Now you’ll be fine. Not to mention delicious.’
Anyway. Theres no way Im giving up any of this stuff for good but a lessening is a a good move. Excess sugar makes you lethargic, prone to energy crashes and a little fidgety. And thus, when a workmate of mine told me she was doing a cleanse i decided to join her for the next three weeks. Im doing something a little different to her, but it honestly helps when you have someone else doing it with you. And now there are three of us at works healthing it up.
Today is day six for me and im feeling better today. Its hardest at work when im surrounded by all sorts of evil temptation. I will update soon about some of the food i have been eating..
But on to news of travel. I am planning on leaving in september but one thing has kept me from purchasing tickets; I lost my wallet some while ago and have been in the process of replacing my ID. And that, as anyone who has experienced it knows, is a long and laborious  process. But finally, not two days past I aquired my photo ID and now I just have to get my passport and then my visa.. Then day of days! i wil be able to purchase tickets to Rome! and adventure awaits!

Signing out… Miss Nom