Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. -Maya Angelou

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wheels Whales and Wildflowers

If "the earth laughs in flowers" then springtime in Perth is hilarious. The highway verges are covered with banks of Geraldton wax with its tiny pink and mauve sprays and Golden Wattle full of fluffy yellow pompoms. The undergrowth is thick with wild freesia and whilst they may lack colour they make up for it with their sweet fragrance, a scent so strong its intoxicating as you drive past. A few minutes from our home in Armadale and high in the hills of the Darling range is a gem of a botanical garden called Araluen, an aboriginal word which means "singing waters" or "place of lilies". Creeks running through a long valley have created a cool moist climate and it a place of great natural beauty with waterfalls and deep peaceful pools surrounded by scarlet rhododendrons, white camellias and lilac wisteria. The magnolias and tulips were in full bloom when we visited and the garden was a patchwork of vivid colours. A tranquil place to linger and recharge our batteries after a hectic couple of weeks spent searching for wheels and our new home.

I lost count of the number of car dealers we visited in pursuit of the perfect "Ute" (bakkie).It made our heads spin as Tommy agonised over torque, manual verses automatic, load bearing capacities, gross vehicle weight and other sundry details of Nissan Nevaras, Holden Colorado's, Mazda BT50"s, Ford Rodeos and Toyota Hilux. My idea of a great drive is more primitive and based on colour and comfort. I spent a lot of time sitting in the cab and fiddling with switches, checking the air con,vanity mirror,legroom and storage facilities whilst Tommy's head was stuck under the bonnet.. We found a great buy but with an unfortunate number plate.....1 DIE 4WA and decided that it was one vehicle we wouldn't be seen dead in............forgive the pun. In the end we settled for a "pre-loved" silver Nissan Navara 3 Lt Turbo Diesel with adequate torque (no that is not a french pastry) to pull our motorhome .It feels enormous compared to the little Ford Fiesta that I used to drive but I am getting use to surveying the countryside from my elevated status.Our next step was buying the right rig (motorhome). After a lot of research online we decided on a Fifth Wheeler and the nearest dealer was in Albany. We drove south through  neon yellow fields of canola and giant Karri forests to reach this small whaling town on the shores of the great Southern Ocean. In the calm waters of the King George Sound we saw eight Southern Right whales playing with their calves, a wonderful sight. This is a favorite habitat for them as its sheltered waters are ideal for young whales preparing to take the long journey south to the deep icy waters of the Southern ocean around Antarctica. From 1820 hundreds of whaling ships left from this harbour to hunt the Humpback and Southern Right  and it was the last whaling station in the southern hemisphere to close in 1978. The whaling factory is now a museum and the town is very sensitive about its whaling past preferring to dwell instead on its claim to fame as the first penal colony in Western Australia in 1826 some three years before the Swan River Colony later to be known as Perth. On a more poignant note it was the last sight of land for the Anzac soldiers leaving Australia in their troopships for the Ist World War in November 1914. Many of them went on to die at Gallipoli, never to return, but the fame and resourcefulness of the Aussie "diggers" is now the stuff of Anzac legends.

Ultima Fifth Wheeler

 The "Ultima", it was love at first sight.. It looked even better in the flesh then in cyberspace. This was a miniature home on wheels,the bedroom complete with a double bed and skylight overhead to watch the stars at night.A shower and separate loo and storage space for our clothes.The living area has a slideout section down one side with a beautiful cafe style sofa which turns into a double bed for guests (book your time share now) and a cute kitchen in the rear end with built in oven, microwave and gas hob, fridge freezer and washer/dryer. Loads of cupboards for foodstuffs and a desk area with a pop up TV for entertainment. As a little girl my childhood dream, never fulfilled, was to have a "wendy house". Now I have one and this one has wheels too! The enormity of what we are doing strikes me .This is now a reality, this is our home for the foreseeable future, life on the open road as a "Grey Nomad" beckons, well less of the grey actually......... with a little help from my friends at L'Oreal I shall ward off the "grey" for as long as possible ......".because I'm worth it. 

 On the journey back  we stopped at a roadhouse to pick up some snacks.  I found an interesting treat called "RoadKill"  apparently the "champagne of jerky" The "Bloody Hot Chili" took my fancy and lived up to its name. The gift shop was a treasure trove and I found just the right Christmas present for my good friend Julius.
 A pack of 5 Dinkum Aussie Disposable BullshitBags

Directions: 1 Open Bag before opening mouth
                 2 Tuck open Bag beneath chin
                 3 Start "talking" Let the BS Flow
                      4 When full, seal bag and dispose of.

WARNING Do not attempt to dispose of your BS through any government agency since they produce more bullshit than they can dispose of themselves. We suggest that you send it to the major networks in return for all they send out each day.

Let me know how many you would like sent..................no charge for postage, just a handling fee.


Honey Fried Prawns with Sesame.

We had a dish of these at our local Chinese the other night, easy to make and very tasty.

Serves 4

12 large green prawns, peeled with tail intact.
I tablespoon sesame seeds
Peanut oil for frying
1 1/4 cups cornflower
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup chilled soda water
1/3 cup honey
Fried vermicelli noodles

Use a sharp knife and cut prawns along the back from top to tail. Remove vein. Place sesame seeds in a non stick frying pan and toast over high heat shaking the pan till seeds are golden. Transfer to plate. Heat oil over medium heat till hot.
Meanwhile place cornflower and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add egg and chilled soda water. Whisk with a fork until just combined. Dip prawns one at a time into batter and then drop carefully into hot oil. Deep fry 3 or 4 at a time for 3-5 minutes or until batter is crisp and golden brown. Do not overcook. Transfer to wire rack lined with kitchen paper to drain.
Heat honey over low heat till runny. Place fried noodles on serving plates and top with prawns. Drizzle over honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve.

To make fried noodles cut vermicelli in 5cm lengths and deep fry in hot oil until puffy. Drain on paper towel.

Makes a great starter.....yummy!

Catch yer later.......................................

Friday, September 3, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Well crammed into a metal canister for 11 hours and flying at the speed of 550 mph over 6,000 miles of ocean does eventually get you to OZ, but there is no sign of the yellow brick road. The wonderful Wiz was not there to meet me, but a stern Chinese immigration official stamped my "spouse visa" and told me I had not ticked the boxes correctly. You must tick inside the box! Not an auspicious start to my new identity as an Aussie. Fair go's mate, I expected a better welcome than that. At least a rousing chorus of Advance Australia Fair, even a few bars of Waltzing Matilda to greet my arrival, but they didn't seem too excited to see their new migrant. Even the blond hulk of a customs officer wasn't interested in my secret stash of chocs.

A week ago Chocolat's walls were reverberating to the sound of ripping tape as everything in the house was turned into brown paper parcels. Elliot's are Amazing, nothing escaped the brown scourge and if it didn't move it was wrapped. By the third day it resembled a post office with a serious sorting problem. And then it was all over. One red Studebaker 293 boxes and the collected memories of 20 years safely packed away in the container bound for Fremantle on the good ship Darwin and Tommy and I left standing there with a suitcase each of dreams.

Exhaustion overwhelmed us but we had a safe haven in the Italian quarter of Schonies where we were pampered and loved for our few last days by the Tonins. We took a meandering trip around the Karoo, visiting Tommy's old haunts and spent time at Graff Reinet and visited the Valley of Desolation. From the top of the Ouberg the Groot Karoo with its stark beauty stretches for miles in all directions. Spandaukop like a flat topped sentinel stand guard over the small Karoo dorp. In the days of the Boer War the commandos used it as a lookout and a refuge from the British. There was a secret route to the top but the climb must have been treacherous. The valley is enclosed with huge dolerite columns of stacked rock and its a dizzying drop to the bottom.

I had a small silver angel medallion in my pocket.It was given to me by my precious sister when I was going through a particularly dark time. One word, HOPE, was inscribed on the back. On a whim I threw it as far as I could into the chasm. Two courageous and wonderful people who are dear to me are battling cancer at the moment. Maybe a tiny piece of HOPE in the midst of desolation is what is needed to turn the tide in their favour. I pray so.

Now I am busy settling into the Aussie way of life which can be confusing at times. The attitude of officialdom is pedantic at best but there is a strange and rather endearing whimsical side. Here we have "pre-loved" cars not second hand, and go to a garden center and you can buy tiny seedlings called "fairies". it all comes tumbling down of course when you go back to the car park and find a car parked next to you with FIWAOFOM on its bumper. "Fit in with Australia or **** off mate!" Now that's more like the Aussies I know!

A visit to the local supermarket to buy groceries is mind boggling and time consuming. I spent an hour just looking at the choice of vegetables many of which I didn't even recognise. Dorian fruit ,like a large shaven hedgehog looked interesting. I am told it tastes heavenly like creamy sweet custard if you can get past the smell, which is like a combination of sour milk, old tackies and dog poo. In Malaysia where they grow you are not allowed to take them on trains they are so pungent.Reminds me of that tale in Jerome K Jerome's book Three men in a Boat when he repels people from his railway carriage with the smell of his strong cheese. Its hilarious and a book that deserves to be read at least once a year...I digress. I think I'll pass on Dorian fruit and save that experience for later.

Now the wine is another matter. The rule of thumb here is not to buy cheap, the cheaper the wine the more ridiculous the name. How about a drop of Dancing Chook, Rusty Ute or Kanga Rouge? No. Well here's a nice Chardonnay called Slippery Fish....one critic is quoted as saying " the best thing you can say about this wine ...is that's its wet".Mind you I have drunk some delicious wine from Margaret River called Greedy Sheep and Swooping Magpie, so its not all bad. I'll keep you posted when I'm sober.

I am awake most mornings at 3 a.m., jet lag lingers. By lunchtime I am ready for bed. In-between I have managed to make some delicious Kumquat preserve made from cute miniature oranges like drops of sunshine. The trees in Tommy's garden were laden with fruit so sweet I couldn't resist making a batch. This preserve is delicious on toast for breakfast but is also great with cheese and biscuits to round off a dinner party.

Kumquat preserve (Spread some sunshine on your toast)

Rinse the fruit well and soak overnight in cold water.
Drain and weigh the fruit, you can leave them whole or slice into little rings.
Put into a heavy based pot with the equal weight of water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer till the fruit is soft, takes about +- 20 mins.
Add the same weight of sugar and bring to the boil again. Boil till setting point is reached . (Jam crinkles when dropped on a cold plate and pushed by your finger. Don't burn yourself!)
Pour into clean glass jars and seal with melted candle wax.
Keeps well.
Try it folded into bought ice cream and refreeze. As a filling for a sponge cake with cream, or even as a base for orange sauce with roasted duck.
Hm mm......now that's lip smacking.