Monday, January 31, 2011

Circumstances beyond my control

Rob and I had promised each other not to buy any more books until we're in the hut and have a book shelf for them! But circumstances beyond my control led to the acquisition of two new books.

I'm not sure I've told you this before. The (opps I mean one of the) highlight of our week is library night. We scan the library website looking for new books, or if they don't happen to have it, we get them to buy it. Then we wait patiently whilst it sits on our holds list until one day the magic email arrives. Your hold is ready for pick up. I'm not sure why it's so delicious to know you are the first person to read a new library book. So you can imagine my delight when Monty's latest book turned up for me. Just as an aside, I do have a slight crush on Monty, I mean what's not to like, he cooks, gardens, loves dogs, writes well, is pleasing to the eye, and can get away with wearing braces! I took it home the night before my brother's wedding. So I only had a quick flick through the lovely thick pages of this book of simple home food, with recipes that make use of garden produce. I looked forward to having more time to savour it. We arranged for a puppy babysitter during the wedding and went off confident it would all be ok. On our return, our poor puppy babysitter looked a bit sheepish. Claudia had snuck inside and munched on a book. Apparently she was only on her own for a few minutes! You guessed it, Claudy had munched most of the front cover off. There was no hiding the fact with the obvious tooth marks. So we had to buy a new copy and fess up at our next library visit (well actually to tell the truth we waited an extra week). Picking a friendly librarian she laughed it off, joking at least it wasn't a dog training book! So we've added Monty's book to our collection, albeit a slightly personalised copy!

Then a lovely friend gave me this book for my birthday. I can't describe it better than the SBS website.
"From the Margaret Fulton of France comes the ultimate guide to French cooking. Concentrating on simple quality ingredients and divided into regional specialties, La Cuisine is a beautiful and functional companion for any kitchen. Francoise Bernard set out to make classic French dishes accessible for everyone, paring away unnecessary flourishes to get down to a recipe’s true essence. For forty years she published and taught the principle that good food can be simple, easy, and economical. Among her rules: No recipe must have more than four steps, ingredients must be easily available, and each recipe must not have more than one tricky technique."
It's amazing, all my favourites are in there, and a zillion more I should try. So spoilt. Can't wait to cook from them both in the hut kitchen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The first hut party

So my birthday week continued onto the weekend. We invited some friends to check out the progress of the hut. These are the friends who have listened to our plans for our little home over the years, so it was a pretty special to sit and share food with them inside it!

I love that we can organise this sort of feast in less than a day. After a few phone calls we had a time, the location and everyone was going to bring something along (mostly from their own vegetable gardens). Aren't the best parties spontaneous? I also loved that one of our friends parents were visiting from Andorra, so we got to meet them, and our other friends had some visitors from France so they came too. We got to the hut early and swept out our bedroom moved in the picnic table, laid a cloth and put out some cutlery and plates and that was that.

So what did we feast on? Slow cooked then bbq'd lamb shoulder (so good we have to do it again this weekend), hummus, beetroot dip, cucumber, mint and yoghurt salad, radish and zucchini salad, green salad, olives, zucchini, tomato and cheese salad, and pitta bread. We drank bubbles and home brew beer. The five dogs lay sleeping in the shade around us. Alot of the conversation was in French as more than half the guests were fluent. I only know a few words but that didn't matter, it was fantastic to hear it, and either a hand gesture or translation allowed us to understand eachother!

We moved onto a cheese course (Tasmanian of course) and then thought before dessert a little mid afternoon walk was needed. Rob had cut a path in the long grass to the dam, so the five dogs all got to cool down and chase sticks and then shake muddy water all over us.

Moving back to the table we had my birthday cake, Maggie Beer's cumquat cake from Maggie's Harvest. Unfortunately we didn't take a photo. But it was a beautiful thing. A dense vanilla cake with a filling of sauterne soaked dried cumquats and the most amazing orange scented buttercream icing. We decorated it simply with a a few leaves, flowers and fruit from our cumquat tree. The table went quiet as we ate.

Afterwards we sat outside in the late afternoon sun on folding chairs, drinking tea, chatting about our orchard or the wedge tailed eagles swooping in the trees. This is what it's all about really for me. I said to Rob afterwards, I was so happy and relaxed, and it was a perfect afternoon in terms of weather and company, and he was in total agreement.

Nearly exactly four years ago we parked next to a for sale sign and walked up a simple bush track that opened up into the north-facing slope of pasture that is the block. Nigella ran ahead porpoising her way through the long grass. We knew we wanted it straight away. This was where we wanted to build our home. I know I shouldn't be so attached to physical things, and especially after the last few weeks of great loss of property to flood waters in Australia, I shouldn't let it dictate my happiness. But Rob and I planted our hearts at the block then. Sorry for the sentimentality, but it's true. It's been hard not to live there right away. Sunday was a glimpse of what we dreamed four years ago, a little hut, in which we could welcome friends and family into, and share a meal together. I can't wait for the hut to be finished. Hopefully it's not that far away now.

The builders have been busy last week, finishing the frame, wrapping the hut up in blue insulation and all the wiring has been put up for lights and power. Rob took these photos through the windows one evening.

Our bedroom window

The second bedroom window

Our bathroom window (which won't be frosted)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Birthday week

My favourite breakfast at the moment, Companion Bakery sourdough with Reed avocados and little cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes look like rubies.

Claudia helping us make our bed! She is definitely a snuggle pup.

I was quite spoilt on my birthday, we went out for lunch and dinner. This is the beautiful Sushi platter and grilled eel sushi we enjoyed at Orizuru in Hobart for dinner. My family and friends spoilt me with lovely gifts, and we had a bit of a shopping trip yesterday to buy new gym gear- surely it makes me more believable in the weights class?!

The builders are back at the hut after their Christmas break. Framing windows and setting up all the electrical wires. It looks very confusing, but it means we're one step closer to a finished hut.

Finally the dogs have been enjoying the return of summer weather with our daily beach trips. They run and splash, chase sticks and each other. Very funny indeed. When it came time to leave the other day and I pulled out the lead, Claudia deliberately walked just out of reach into the water and sat. She wasn't quite done yet thank you very much!

I'm going to make the most of our last few days of holidays, with maybe a few more birthday celebrations thrown in. My birthday treat to myself is to take Rob down to Cygnet to have dinner at Red Velvet Lounge tomorrow. I've been looking forward to that all month!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nothing is new...

Pre-loved retro furniture. Our myrtle chest of drawers arrived from the big island. We've realised that as well as replacing the handles with these ones that someone had painted it yellow! Ahh. At the moment it's in the living room of the flat, a handy spot for our music system and our Huon pine penguin family.

A plagiarised salad. Last week we had lunch at Tricycle, and ate a version of this salad. It was excellent. We couldn't wait for our next visit, so at the farmers market on Sunday we picked up some Tongola goats cheese "Curdy" and some beetroot. However the "hero" of the dish are the freshly shelled and toasted hazel nuts. It took a while because for each one I shelled for us to eat I had to give one to Claudia. She's taken after her big sister, they love hazelnuts and walnuts.

A puppy who loves to swim in the dam. Just like her older sister Nigella. Complete with Alligator impersonation snapping at the water.

Ok a little fib, a few new things at our place. A Christmas present to us. Bison stoneware I picked up on my trip to Melbourne. This blue, we have decided, is our colour for the hut. They are beautiful things.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I have no excuse for my lack of blog posts since Christmas. Although still on holidays, I have felt exhausted by the last couple of weeks. Apart from Christmas festivities in Launceston and Hobart, the last couple of weeks have been full on in terms of time with my family. I don't think I've mentioned it here before, but I am the eldest of 5 siblings. I'm not sure what my parents were thinking or how they coped, but they had the 5 of us in 6 years! My youngest brother has been engaged for a while now, and his wedding was last Saturday. This meant that the entire clan started to gather. One of my sisters has been living in the UK for the last 4 years, so she took the opportunity to come home for an extended stay, turning up in Tasmania in early December. It's been great to catch up with her, I haven't seen her since her move and we are the closest in age, being only 15 months apart. It's funny how a relationship can pick up where it left off, and how well we know each other. Her Irish boyfriend flew over after Christmas to meet us all, a lovely and amusing fellow, he seemed to cope with us all pretty well.

As well as these visitors, the bride and groom-to-be also stayed with my parents (we live in a little flat attached to my parents house) as they are selling their house in Burnie so it was pretty busy. Throw in a hens party, a couple of birthdays (Dad and my other brother) and our friend coming to visit for a couple of days and we were pretty exhausted by the wedding. My 87 year old grandmother and my aunt also turned up from Melbourne on Thursday, both very excited not only about the wedding but have I mentioned that my youngest sister (who lives around the corner from us) is pregnant? Oh yes, the first grandchild is on its way! They had knitted some beautiful little outfits.

The family dinner before the wedding was pretty hilarious, all of us at the table talking, dogs running around, and then one of us brought out Dad's wedding suit (ok it may have been me). A very special 1970's flared burgundy suit, still in pristine condition with matching pink shirt and burgundy tie and red shoes. Rob couldn't resist (and much to the horror or perhaps delight) of my female relatives stripped in the living room to try it on! It fitted perfectly and he nearly wore it the next day!

The day of the wedding was hot (well for Tasmanians) but the whole day went well, a radiant and completely relaxed bride, my brother his usual laid back self! The reception was fun, and revealed a side of my brother-in-law I'd never seen before- a dancing star! He had us in stitches with his routine of moves (the shopping trolley, lawn mower, zimmer-frame, sprinkler, emergency exits) and had us all shedding our inhibitions and grooving on the dance floor.

The next day most of the wedding guests and the newly married couple came around to my parents (ie our place) for lunch to send them off! Yesterday my sister and her boyfriend left for the mainland, and this morning my grandmother and aunt headed off. So finally we have returned to normality. Thank goodness I still have another 2 weeks of holiday!

In amongst all the shared meals, visits, and outings, whenever we could we snuck off to the block. Not much has been happening building wise. But Rob has been cultivating our vegie patch and my flower garden. Although it looks fantastic, he's a little disappointed as it isn't as obvious now how much digging has occurred, as all the spade sized clods have been broken up. While he works I sit and read or dream in the hut with the pups.
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