How to really grow food in your backyard Here I share with you the secrets that have transformed me from a gardener with a not-very-productive vegie patch, to growing most of my family's fruit and veg.
Traditional Foods My health has dramatically improved after changing my diet for a more traditional way of eating, as advised by Sally Fallon.
Food Flower Poster Forget the food pyramid! It was developed by the agricultural industry, not by nutritionists. Instead, print this Food Flower poster, which shows a visual guide to choosing nutritious and satisfying traditional foods.
I've got the hang of how to pack when we are travelling. I can live out of a school sized backpack, though I'd like to add in a portable hotplate because I don't like eating out for every meal and I get sick of salads.
We only had one jetlagged week at home before jetting off to Brisbane for our next tour. This drawing captures the madness of that week. You wouldn't think there could possibly be so much to do to get out the door. After all, we are seaoned travellers - surely it's just a matter of unpackng from our Europe trip, topping up our supplies, and repacking for Brisbane? But life conspires...
Just before we came home Roe, who has worked tirelessly and magically behind the scenes on the Grimstones, juggling all sorts of administrative wonders and taking booking after booking on my behalf, told me she is moving on. The food industry calls her and she has a magnificent job there. I totally understand... and yet, it was a very nasty shock to the system.
On the flight home, we cooked up a plan, and I made a proposal to Strut n Fret to take on our new bookings. With one meeting the deal was sealed and I am absolutely rapt. They have infrastructure to handle accounts and contracts that Roe and I just don't have - and this could mean I can really get away from the computer and the accounting books if it all goes well. Fingers crossed - I may even find more time for art with this new plan...
As well as sorting out our administrative future, I whipped out a funding application, did hours and hours of computer catch up - 150 emails to sort and a new 50 or so arriving daily - OUCH. Meanwhile we had a nasty freight drama in that the freight company wouldn't pick up our boxes from France until they had a certain piece of paper that was just damned well eluding us. Very stressful - we cut a fine line but in the end we DID get our boxes to Brisbane in time. Phew.
I was one happy girl when we finally sank into our seats on the plane to Brisbane. Everything taken care of - a lovely relaxing weekend ahead, and then a week of shows shows shows at the Judith Wright Centre.
￼Walking down the cobbled streets of Dinan, I popped into one of the little shops, and found the most incredible treasure haven! An old- fashioned haberdashery. The button shop.
It was more of a museum than a shop, an incredible collection of old homewares, artfully arranged in a jumble of goodies - giant jars of buttons, drawers open spilling out lace, ribbons and feathers.... old wooden clogs on the floor, and hat box after hat box stacked in every corner. I really wanted to take photos, but no photos allowed. The woman who runs the shop did let me draw it though, and here's the result. I'm so glad I did - I discovered so much more detail through drawing it than if I'd just snapped a pic.
While I sat in her shop, sketching away, she felt inspired to show me all sorts of treasures. Upon hearing that I am a marionette performer she pulled out a magnificent ancient marionette that she usually hangs in the window at Christmas time.. he was exquisite. I wished I had time to stay for hours, but I had to rush back to the hotel for my pre-booked baking session with Farah, and we were only in Dinan for a few short precious days.
Before I left the shop, the owner came over and gave me a tiny book filled with photos of her shop - it's a 2009 calender and I was so touched! Lucky me! The shop inspires me - I need to take all my craft and art materials, my sewing stuff, and arrange them just as beautifully.... In fact, I'm thinking of a new and empty set of shelves (cast off from my mother who now has a new kitchen), which are sitting in our studio just waiting for a good clean up and lick of paint...
Just walking down the streets in Dinan is absolutely amazing. I can't believe these buildings have been here for centuries - they look so delightfully handmade and crooked, leaning to one side or jutting out over the street as they go upwards. I have never been very into Tudor style architechture but I fell in love with it here as I saw all those handmade little buildings. And then every now and then is an amazing castle, majestic and grand with moss filling the cracks in the stone and mud. Beautiful.
I can't believe the way they serve mussels here. In Australia when Paula makes me mussels for dinner, it's a scoop of tomato sauce with about 6 mussels floating in it. Not in France. When you order mussels they fill a good-size saucepan per person with delicate little mussels, add in a sauce of cream, fish stock and some sort of flavouring (I had tumeric in one restaurant, in another I had onion, apples and apple cider added - yum!), steam the mussels in the sauce, then put the entire pot in front of you. They give you a sweet little old-fashioned tin bucket in which to put the shells. The mussels taste so delicate - not the strong fishy flavour I'm used to in Australia.
There's a dessert here I've never seen in Australia. It's called Floating Island (though on the less-sophisticated menus the translation might be "Fotting Island") and consists of a shallow bowl of custard into which a large ball of sweetened beaten raw egg whites is served, topped with some chopped nuts and toffee sauce. The French really do know how to use egg yolks in everything, and now from my nutrition studies I understand the importance of egg yolks, especially the raw ones. They must end up with a lot of egg whites left-over, and I think this is their solution!
I've made friends with Farah, a Moroccan woman who runs the hotel we are staying at. It was she who decorated the room so delightfully. She gets up at midnight to prepare a croissant dough for her guests' breakfast, up again at 3 to roll it out, and up again at 6am to bake the croissants! I wanted to learn her technique but ended up passing when I found out the above baking schedule. She did offer to teach me to make other sweets, and I spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen with her and her son, learning the delights of French apple tarts, Moroccan biscuits and flat-breads. She'd pop down to our room in the morning and deliver us some extra goodies left-over from our baking session, and even mentioned that if I ever wanted a job.. well I'd be welcome! The only drawback to this magnificent baking schedule is that I was very much obliged to eat the produce (yum) but since it's all made with white flour and white sugar, they didn't agree with me very much.
I got a nasty outbreak of pimples, which was a bit of a horrible shock since my skin has been just about perfect for a year now. What with the Fotting Islands popping up everywhere, desserts automatically served with every set menu (this is France we're talking about - how could I travel all that way and not eat the desserts?!), and the constant stream of sweet treats from Farah, there seemed to be no way to avoid a daily serving or two of white sugar. My body really isn't used to that, as I've pretty much eliminated refined sugar from my diet at home, and I think it's gone into some kind of shock. (It wasn't until I'd been home for two weeks that my ￼ skin recovered)...
We left Pinerolo absolutely exhausted!. The stimulation and inspiration of all the puppet shows, getting to meet other puppeteers, learning so much more about marionettes, and spending day after day with Sergio and seeing his magnificent work was all just mind blowing. Everything was good and we were on a total high, but we couldn't possibly sustain it. We just needed to hang out in bed for a few days. We promised ourselves a quiet time in Dinan, after the humungous day of travel it took to get there.
I fell in love the the hotel right away. It's an odd mix you wouldn't find in Australia, with the room being rather small and basic (not even a desk to write at), but being incredibly fancy and la-di-da. I loved the chandelier, and the ornate stone and blue velvet bedstead with satin covers, and in the bathroom was a vintage- style double sink! It reminded me of the budoir feeling I created for Velvetta's sewing workshop. We were very happy to spend a day hanging out in bed there.
I couldn't believe that in France we were served meals that didn't really involve white flour. There might be some bread on the side, but you didn't have to eat it in order to have had a good meal. My first meal was the best - a salad of dressed lettuce, tomato and croutons topped with lightly cooked morsels of chicken liver and a poached egg. I don't like liever much but this was delicious - was it really liver? I must learn to cook it like that!