Friday, 31 October 2008

And so begins summer...

Snow in October?
Sadly, no. In actual fact, our front garden caught on fire.

The flames were as high as the house, apparently. I didn't see them because I was feeding Lily with the front blinds down (to block out the hot western sun). What I did see was an enormous cloud of smoke blowing past in the wind. When I went outside to investigate there were people in our front yard trying to extinguish a fire with our hose. Stupidly (in hindsight) it was connected to our rain water tank and so it wasn't helping them very much. I tried to help reconnect it to the mains, but the smoke was going inside and Lily was upset and so they ushered me back inside to care for her.

Not long after, two fire engines arrived and the fire-fighters took over. They covered our garden in a fancy new foam to stop the fire from re-igniting.

Then the police came to investigate. At first they thought that something in our bins caught alight, but then they realised that it was only the lids that had burned when they were blown into the fire. The final conclusion was that someone had flicked a cigarette butt from their car and it had started the fire.

I am not fond of the habit of smoking, or of some smokers.

I am very fond of the random passers-by who stopped our house from burning down. And of our neighbours who helped them.


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Breathe, breathe, breathe

To do
  1. Finish preparing documents for annual (phd) progress review by 7 November.
  2. Finish re-writing chapters 1-3 in time for review. (Ha!)
  3. Care for sick little person. Move towards getting more than a few hours sleep at some point in the near future. (Double ha!)
  4. Continue to assist ACT Greens with confidential task... (vague, I know, sorry).
  5. Help grandparents re-draft Will and Powers of Attorney. Do same for us now that I think about it.
  7. Respond to growing flood of emails from students regarding upcoming exam. Remember own time limitations and try not to agree to do too much.
  8. Figure out when on earth to mark above mention exams.
  9. Stop stressing about Christmas - despite having (crazily) agreed (actually offered!) to host three consecutive family events over two days.
  10. Turn 30.
  12. Celebrate (10) with a low-key afternoon with friends. [Remember not to go overboard in preparations and that one kind of cupcake will be quite sufficient].
  13. Purchase birthday present for brother-in-law.
  14. Tackle disaster zone that is study/studio after the great house re-arranging fest that was last weekend. Take opportunity to throw out more stuff.
  15. Send photos of Lily to family members before they are completely out of date.
  17. Revise handmade Christmas list in light of above list, and start on some of the sewing projects - particularly the felt food for the little people.
  18. Consider writing a real blog post sometime in the future. [Pictures of fabulous op-shop (thrift-store) finds and yummy food will have to sit patiently in my camera until then.]
I hope that you are all well!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Veg*n Meal Plan Monday

Sorry that this is a little late. Lily is just getting over a cough and has been napping on my lap a lot lately - limiting my free time considerably. She is asleep in her hammock now though and so I thought that I would quickly post our meal plan for the week. I should be getting started with dinner, but the Farmers' Outlet doesn't open until 2pm and so I don't have any veggies in the house yet (because Lily slept right through the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning).

Dinner: Tempeh burritos with guacamole (adapted from Feeding the Whole Family 159)

Breakfast: Weetbix and Carman's muesli with soy milk
Lunch: Blueberry bagel with almond butter
#[Go to shops and buy real food!]#
Dinner: Yakisoba

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt and grated apple
Lunch: Tempeh salad with tahini dressing
Dinner: Morrocan tangine (Vegan with a Vengeance 178) with couscous

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt and grated apple
Lunch: Beans, mushrooms and a toasted sesame bagel
Dinner: Mediterranean quinoa (adapted from FTWF 143)

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt and grated apple
Lunch: Tangine leftovers
Dinner: Stewed tofu & potatoes (VWAV 147)

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt and grated apple
Lunch: Quinoa leftovers
Dinner: Friday night pizza

Friday, 24 October 2008

Toddler sensibilities

I went to a clothes swap the other week. They are all the rage these days and I can see why. You go along with a bag full of clothes that you never want to wear again and come home with a bag full of new clothes that you do. In between you get to catch up with friends and eat yummy food. What's not to love?

However, that isn't really the point of this post... What I wanted to tell you was about the denim peddle pushers that I obtained at said clothes swap. You see I took them home because they seemed to fit me quite well and they had a bit of stretch in them, which made them really quite comfy too. Sadly, however, the waist band on them is a little bit too big - meaning that they do that terrible slide when I squat down.

Last week while I was sweeping the floor, I squatted down to use the dustpan and brush while wearing my 'new' peddle pushers. The slide occurred and the top of my bottom was exposed. Just them I felt a little hand on my backside and Lily declared: "Mama's bottom!"

"Yes it is, sorry," I replied.

"Put it away!" she told me, firmly.

It seems that I had offended her...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

On my desk...

Sadly there is nothing creative on my desk today. Instead it is covered in tax-related papers (yes, we finally did our tax and we are actually getting a refund - yay!). Hidden amidst the mess are also a couple of fun new purchases - some tailor's chalk and a big fat fancy sewing ruler. Next to my sewing machine is also a print out of Hollabee's fabulous tote bag tutorial. I actually made a tote for a four-year old's birthday present last week and (crazily) failed to photograph it before gifting it. The sad part about that was that I was actually pretty proud of the bag - although I was concerned that it might not be very suitable for the actual (4-year old) recipient since I was quite tempted to keep it...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

19 months

Dear Lily

Last week you turned 19 months old. (I am sorry that I am writing you this letter so late. Last week was pretty busy and so I am little behind schedule.)

Last month you continued to morph into a little girl - leaving your baby-self almost completely behind. It has been amazing to see you grow up so quickly. I would be getting all sad and nostalgic about my little baby, but you still seem quite little and fragile when you breastfeed and sometimes when you first wake up so it is still OK for now...

However, it is also lovely to see your big-grown-up-self enjoying being out in the world. I have written before about how socially confident you are and how much that came through while we were on holidays in Vanuatu. Often we would be eating out and you would climb up and "dine" with other families for a good part of the meal - seemingly completely comfortable to just fit in with total strangers. The more familiar people in your life are also becoming increasingly important to you. You will frequently mention family members or friends that we haven't seen in quite some time and ask if they are coming over or if we can go and visit them.

You are also extremely confident around animals. Actually, this is an understatement. You simply love animals and will hang out with them and 'cuddle' them at any opportunity. I am always worried that you will go racing up to a vicious dog with disastrous results, but thus far you have shown remarkably good judgement. Your favourite animals are, of course, Midnight and Freya, and you ask to see them several times a day even though you know full well that they live in Sydney.

I also love it that I can now have conversations with you. You are incredibly articulate. For example, yesterday we were in the car waiting for your papa to finish the shopping (we had been sitting in the front seat so that you could have a feed). You climbed into the driver's seat and said to me: "This one; papa's car."
"Papa's car?" I said. "Why is it papa's car?"
"Papa drives it."
"Well that's true," I replied. (Although I also do drive it sometimes when he is at work)
"Lily drive it too?"
"No darling, you can't drive it. You're too little."

Then you looked at me with a conspiratorial grin and said, "Let's turn it on."

Cheeky monkey!



Driving into Sydney last week P and I were both overcome with a desire to move back. I am not really sure what it was that struck us both so suddenly. Certainly proximity to some family was part of it, but we have a lot of family here in Canberra too. The milder weather is appealing - particularly in the depths of a Canberra winter - but I also like the seasonality of Canberra with its dramatic autumn colour and drawn out Spring.

I guess the fact that there are so many Universities also added to the appeal (in addition to the fact that my PhD is actually based at UNSW). However, at the end of the day, it was probably the fabulous beaches that pushed us over the line.

How good is a day at the beach?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Veg*n Meal Plan Monday

Another week, another meal plan:

Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Iku in the car (nori roll, rice ball & tofu pocket)
Dinner: Kale pie, salad & a tahini dressing

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with grated apple and soy yogurt
Lunch: Pie leftovers
Dinner: Chickpea & eggplant curry, dahl & brown rice

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with grated apple and soy yogurt
Lunch: Rice paper rolls
Dinner: Yaki soba

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with grated apple and soy yogurt
Lunch: Curry leftovers
Dinner: Nori rolls (brown rice, shredded veggies and tempeh)

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with grated apple and soy yogurt
Lunch: Nori rolls
Dinner: Calzones (veggies in chickpea gravy)

Breakfast: Pancakes & a fruit smoothie
Lunch: Beans, mushrooms & avocado on toast, with country fried potatoes
Dinner: Roast vegetable salad

Did you make a meal plan this week?

Friday, 17 October 2008

Bad blogger...

Sorry, I have been a bad blogger.

It is not so easy to blog when you are staying in someone else's house - especially not when you are trying to get lots of work done on your PhD.

The good news is that the PhD is actually coming along well! I had a meeting with my supervisors on Wednesday and they told me that I was going well and was on track to complete on time.

[pauses for effect...]

Yes, I do realise that they may simply be insane, but all other evidence points to the contrary so I have decided to take to take them at their word. So: Yay! I can't properly explain how relieved I feel after hearing such positive feedback. I was so close to throwing in the towel the other month. I felt absolutely overwhelmed by it all and was just thinking that it was all too hard. Now I feel all motivated again. It is wonderful.

However, on the blogging front I have been very slack. I haven't even taken a single photo all week.

Here are a few things that I should have photographed. Lily:
  • putting her hands out to Midnight (the dog) for 'kisses' (eww);
  • playing in the water at Balmoral Beach with her grandparents (of course, I wasn't there - I was writing my thesis, so at least I have an excuse for this one);
  • riding on the ferry;
  • going off for a walk with her grandparents and Midnight to the dog park every morning, riding on grandpa's bag in the Ergo;
  • (finally) learning to be 'nice and gentle' with Freya (the cat);
  • floating her new boat on Grandpa's pond; and
  • both of us having dinner with my mum and brother in Hyde park at the Sydney Good Food Month Noodle Market. I never did get to try the tapioca pudding with blackberry compote, but the Japanese vegetarian pancake was yummy and Lily loved the noodles.

OK. Normal posting will resume on Sunday when we get home. It is really just too hard from here...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

VEGANMOFO - Veg*n Meal Plan Monday

Well I really fell off the wagon there didn't I? Umm... sorry about that.

However, at least I am back with Veg*n Meal Plan Monday.

Sadly we are, once again, out of town for the week and so we won't have complete control over our meals. Fortunately, Lily and I are staying with my Dad and Stepmother and so I will still be able to do some cooking etc. (P will be in Samoa for work).

So, here is a slightly patchy meal plan for our week (which may be significantly altered depending on the inclinations of our hosts and the availability of ingredients in Sydney):

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt, grated apple and extra fresh fruit
Lunch: Tempeh sandwich with tomatoes and tahini sauce
Dinner: Stir fry of Asian greens & tofu over brown rice

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt, grated apple and extra fresh fruit
Lunch: Stir fry leftovers or a quick salad & avocado sandwich
Dinner: Red, Black bean & lentil chili over quinoa

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt, grated apple and extra fresh fruit
Lunch: Chili leftovers
Dinner: (Rocket & walnut) pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes
Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt, grated apple and extra fresh fruit
Lunch: Pasta leftovers
Dinner: Something in town - maybe Peace Harmony or Wagamama?

Breakfast: Bircher muesli with soy yogurt, grated apple and extra fresh fruit
Lunch: Iku Macro burger (yum!) and sago pudding (double yum!) [Actually this is what P and I ate on our wedding day between the ceremony and the reception. I was SO HUNGRY and it was so good.]
Dinner: Rosemary red soup (we didn't get to make it last week)

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Can't blog

I didn't blog for "VeganMoFo" or "On my desk" yesterday because I had a huge day of PhD writing where I actually got quite a lot done. It was really satisfying!

The only problem is that now I just can't seem to catch up with myself. I am feeling utterly exhausted; sore from doing my first yoga class in over 2 years; overwhelmed by Lily's mood of intense crankiness and neediness (me thinks she is teething); and a little sad about my desire to keep working on the PhD while not having any time.

Of course, it may simply be that I have PMS...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Bircher Muesli, soaking grains and fermented soy

Recently I have become more aware of the importance of soaking grains for at least 12 hours before eating them. Apparently grains are actually quite difficult to digest in their dry form and by soaking them for at least 12 hours and allowing them to begin the process of sprouting we are able to make them far more digestible. Here is an interesting article on the subject if you want to read more about it. (Here is another one).

Cynthia Lair (in Feeding the Whole Family) also argues that soy products should only be eaten in a fermented form or with a digestive (like fermented soy sauce or, preferably, miso). The reason for this is that the phytic acid in soy beans is also quite difficult for the body to digest and it is neutralised by the fermentation process. Ms Lair also points out that cultures that have traditionally eaten soy products have always followed these rules as well as eating a lot of sea vegetables. The relevance of the sea vegetables is that they are high in a number of essential minerals, such as iodine, that may be leached from the body when you consume high levels of soy products. (I'll write more on sea vegetables later. Here are a couple of other articles if you are interested. The first one seems a little extreme to me, but you may find it interesting regardless.)

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of explaining our recent decision to eat Bircher Muesli for breakfast instead of porridge. You see, although we could soak our porridge oats overnight, I am not fond of soy yogurt in porridge and I am trying to reduce my consumption of unfermented soy (like soy milk).

Melissa asked for a recipe and so I thought that I would share ours with you. However, I think that this will be a process of experimentation and so I may have to revisit this recipe when a bit more time has passed.

1.5 cups of rolled oats
water (or apple juice)
green apple (grated)
mixed nuts or LSA
soy yogurt
fresh seasonal fruit (such as strawberries, blueberries, mango or banana)

Soak the oats overnight in the water or apple juice (just cover them and place in the fridge if you are using apple juice). Some recipes recommend the addition of lemon juice, but I am not sure why...
In the morning mix in the yogurt, grated apple and nuts. Top with fresh fruit and enjoy.

You can also add a sweetener like honey or maple syrup if you want.

Monday, 6 October 2008

VEGANMOFO Day Three - Veg*n Meal Plan Monday

This week I have decided to do a bunch of recipes from a new cookbook in our house - Feeding the Whole Family, by Cynthia Lair [FTWF]. This is the first non-vegan cookbook that I have bought in the 15 years that I have been a vegan and it is not even vegetarian. However, a majority of the recipes are vegan or easily 'veganisable' and I really appreciate her focus on wholefoods and seasonal produce.P and I have been gradually changing our diet over the last few years to better embrace our values of "ecotarianism" and as we have done so we have also been discovering some of the benefits of eating a diet that is much higher in wholefoods. I was becoming frustrated that so many of our cookbooks didn't make this an easy task - by asking for the addition of processed foods or combining produce that doesn't come into season at the same time, etc - and so I decided to purchase this cookbook. I am really glad that I did too. Not only does it have a heap of really great-sounding recipe, but it also has a fantastic introduction section that covers nutritional issues in a way that really speaks to me. If you want to try a few of her recipes, then you can find some here.

More on this later... For now, here is our meal plan for the week:

Dinner: Brown rice sushi with avocado and tempeh (FTWF p.108 - although this is already a regular dish in our household, I thought that we would try her recipe)
Note: Soak Kidney Beans

Breakfast: Bircher muesli (soaked oats & barley) with grated apple, soy yogurt & LSA
Lunch: Sushi
Dinner: Red bean and Quinoa Chili (FTWF, p.151)

Breakfast: Bircher muesli
Lunch: Tempeh club sandwiches (FTWF, p.112)
Dinner: Thick potato, cauliflower and dulse soup (FTWF, p.130)

Breakfast: Bircher muesli
Lunch: Chili
Dinner: Tofu, Kale Supper Pie (FTWF, p.162)

Breakfast: Bircher muesli
Lunch: Pie or Soup
Dinner: Rosemary Red Soup (FTWF, p.128)

Shopping List
Farmers' Outlet
Carrots x 6
Green Apples
Bay leaves
Potatoes x 2
Celery x 1/2
Green Capsicum
Salad greens

Tempeh x 2
Brown rice vinegar
dry dulse
umeboshi vinegar
soy milk
soy yogurt

What is your meal plan for the week?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Our social butterfly

While we have been in Vanuatu it has really come home to P and I how much more social Lily is than either of us. While we eat our meals she wanders the area making friends with other diners and all of the staff. She will even climb up and 'dine' with other families if they take her fancy. It is quite amazing to watch.

We went to Hideway Island yesterday afternoon to go snorkeling with an amazing array of colourful fish and to take a peak at the beautiful coral. Afterwards we caught the ferry back to the shore and waited for our friend to pick us up for dinner. A group of children were playing on and around the jetty - jumping off into the water and playing around with a soccor ball on the sand. Lily went over and made yet another group of new friends. It was hard to tell who was more fascinated by whom.

VEGANMOFO Day Two - Vegan dining in Port Vila

While we have certainly not starved, we have found it a little challenging to find good vegan food here in Port Vila. For my first (and, possibly, only) VEGANMOFO post from Vanuatu I thought that I would share our experiences in case they might be helpful to any other vegans (or vegetarians) traveling here.

Day One: We went to Nambawan Cafe for lunch and shared a large vegetarian pizza (asking them to hold the cheese). It was fairly good really (all things considered) - the sauce was tasty and it was piled high with a topping of mushrooms, tomatoes, capsicum, onion and zucchini. We also had fruit shakes, which were very yummy (if incredibly expensive).

For dinner we ate at the Sebel (our hotel) and ordered the only vegetarian thing on the menu - a tomato risotto (once again asking them to hold the cheese). It was very yummy - filled with beans, spinach, semi-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. Protein was a little light on for the day though...

Day Two: We had bean burritos at Jill's American Cafe (asking them to hold the cheese and sour cream). They were fine. The salsa was tasty and the beans were a welcome source of protein, but essentially the contents was a heated up can of four bean mix and some corn - not exactly gourmet, despite the high price tag.

For dinner we headed out to find a Chinese restaurant that had been recommended to us - Bamboo Royal. Unfortunately poor little Lily fell asleep in my arms before we arrived and so we went back to our hotel and ordered the risotto via room service. It was just as yummy the second night in a row, but I was sad to have missed out on some fresh vegetables and tofu.

Day Three: We had lunch at Chill Restaurant - a very swish-looking place on the harbour. We ordered the vegetarian pizza (no cheese), excited by the promise of tofu. However, when it arrived the little cubes of unseasoned tofu were strangely out of place on the pizza of pumpkin, pine nuts and mushrooms. It was nice enough, but both of us were left a little unsatisfied.

For dinner we had the Pad Thai at a restaurant on Iririki Island Resort. It claimed to contain prawns, shrimp, tofu, herbs and asian greens so we asked them to hold the shrimp and prawns and any other fish-sauce etc. They kindly asked us if they should also exclude the oyster sauce and egg and we gratefully agreed. Unfortunately the tiny portion of pak choy stalks, cucumber and noodles that arrived was far from satisfying. We enquired after the missing tofu to be told that they didn't have any... It would have been nice to know that before ordering and paying $50 for two plates of very little. When we had finished, Paul asked me what I was having for dinner. Hot chips turned out to be the answer.

Day Four: We went back to Nambawan Cafe for lunch - this time to meet up with an old friend. We order the Big Fellow sandwiches with mushrooms, tomatoes, grilled eggplant and alfalfa. When they arrived the eggplant had become grated carrot and they were really not particularly big. The soy latte to follow, however, was yummy and so I wasn't too fussed.

For dinner we set out early and found Bamboo Royal. The fresh veggies, tofu and yummy steamed eggplant were a very welcome change from all of the simple carbohydrates we had been eating, but it is hard to eat Asian food outside of Asia or Australia - since both places spoil you in terms of quality and value for money...

Day Five: We went to a little French Patisserie for lunch lured by the promise of relatively cheap vegetarian rolls ($5 each). Sadly on closer examination they ended up being vegetarian versions of a cocktail sausage roll. I ordered four between us and we ate them in a manner of minutes. "What are you having for lunch?" Paul asked me. Once again hot chips ended up being the answer.

For dinner we ate at our friend's house - pasta with veggies and tofu. Ah the pleasure of eating until you are actually full! It will be a joy to get home to our kitchen and wholegrains.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

VEGANMOFO - Vegan Month of Food

Somewhat rashly I have decided to join in this year's Vegan Month of Food. The general idea is that participants will aim to put up a post about vegan food every week day for the month of October.

Once we get back to Australia I think that my contribution will mostly consists of posts about actual food. However, for the remainder of our stay in Vanuatu I may have to be a little more creative...

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

On my desk...

On my desk today is Lily's almost completed Mamma Bear, our ancient iBook, and my new favourite toy - an Ipod touch (a surprise gift from P - isn't he lovely?).

Mamma Bear still needs her apron (which is waiting at home) and still needs to have her little arms stuffed. I did the stuffing in the car on the way to Sydney and didn't quite bring enough with me...

More on my desks here.


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