Winter: it’s all about the food

Winter has well and truly struck in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Melbourne. Every year I think us Melburnians enjoy the summer so much that we forget how torrid the winter can be. Now I know it doesn’t compare to some parts of the world, where winter very nearly knocks your socks off.

But here, well, we’re not really equipped for winter and each year we are taken by surprise when it drops below zero over night. We all freeze and complain about how freezing it is, with such fervour that anyone would think we’d been snowed in.

But I’ve come to reason that winter is all about the food. I hate the cold, I’m a spring and summer kind of gal, but I get through winter because I celebrate the amazing food that just doesn’t work when the weather is warm. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I visited the ‘Whole Larder Love’ blog. The man is a genius and his love of the seasons and the simple life he has created, is so authentic. You can feel it through his velvety prose and his beautiful photos. Specifically, the ‘Buckets of Rain’ post sent me directly in to my kitchen with the intention of cloaking myself in the warm comfort foods of winter.

To start, Roast Chicken. What is there to say about Roast Chicken, except that it definitely deserves the capital letters I have given it. When someone says they are going home for Roast Chicken, I say ‘say no more, my friend’.

And from that humble, but joyful dinner comes more winter culinary joy. In the form of the Pie. Chicken and Mushroom Pie, to be precise. And today I give you mine. Serve it with mashed potato and peas and then tell me how much you love me. Because you will.

Ingredients
250 gr mushrooms – any type you feel like
the left over roast chicken, stripped off the carcass
three sheets of puff pastry (or make your own if you are feeling especially homey)
1/4 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of olive oil
chicken stock (and preferably some gravy also saved from the roast)
a handful of fresh herbs (if you have them) – oregano, thyme, parsley

Method
Preheat your oven to about 175C
Grease a pie dish (big enough to accommodate your left over chicken, or to feed your family)
Line the dish with pastry so it is ready to fill.
Put a sheet of pastry aside for the lid of the pie
Thinly slice your mushrooms and pan fry in olive oil or butter and set aside
Heat the olive oil till you can see its very runny
Add the flour and stir vigorously and turn down the heat if you need to
Once the flour and oil are combined, and look like a yellowish paste, add your stock, a little bit at a time. (If you have some gravy left from the roast, add this first and stir through until very thick, then start adding your stock).
Keep adding the stock each time the roux starts looking gluggy, stir and continue until you have cooked out the flour flavour and can just taste a lovely thick and smooth chicken-y roux.
Add your mushrooms, stir through then add your chicken.
Give it a good stir so it is well combined, then fill your pre-lined pie dish with this glorious concoction.
Add your pastry lid, brush the top with milk (to help it brown) and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until brown and daring you to eat it.

Pour yourself a large glass of Pinot Noir and enjoy your pie. You will visit that happy winter food place and for a minute, you’ll be glad its so cold outside.

#100happydays fatigue

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Image via Pinterest

As many of you know, I’ve been taking part in the #100happydays, which is meant to foster mindfulness and a greater awareness of the small things in your life that make a positive difference.

 

On Friday I read an article called ‘Is 100happydays making you miserable?’. It was my lightbulb moment. To say it is making me miserable is probably a little extreme, but it’s fair to say, it was starting to become a chore.

 

Part of my efforts to become more mindful and more present, was a decision to disengage somewhat from social media. The problem was I’d just about be ready for bed and I’d remember that I hadn’t done my 100happydays post, so I’d have to get on Facebook again.

 

Then I’d curse inwardly because I wasn’t quick enough with my camera phone and had missed the perfect moment earlier in the day. But I wasn’t quick enough because I probably had the baby in one arm, and a basket of washing in the other, and food on the stove that needed to be turned off just before it caught on fire. But the point is, I was cursing myself. Surely that goes against what 100happydays is trying to do?

 

So then I’d quickly try and find something to post – I think the ‘love heart log’ takes the cake here. It was kind of cute, and it DID make me happy, but only because it meant I didn’t miss my post that day. Seriously, a ‘love heart log’?

 

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Last week I wrote a post on my love/hate relationship with Facebook. My participation in 100happydays was actually fuelling the ‘hate’ part of that post, because when I was done with social media for the day, I’d then have to get back on so I didn’t miss a day.

 

But there was also the performative aspect of it that didn’t sit well with me. You can choose to email your pictures in for privacy, but I chose Facebook and after a week or so I tried to change it to email so I wouldn’t have to get on Facebook everyday, but there was no option to make changes, once you’d registered.

 

One day I posted a picture of baking cookings with my daughter. It was a lovely thing to do together, no question. Later a friend told me she had wondered how I was able to get everything done and still bake cookies. Chaos followed that evening, because I’d lost time that I would have used to make dinner, but of course I’m not doing a follow up post on the baby screaming at the dinner table because she’s so hungry, because I’m 45 minutes late with dinner! Not so happy days, yes?

 

Then after I read ‘Is 100happydays making you miserable?’ I saw the inaneness of it all. I was off the hook. Now, I know the stats say that 75 per cent of participants don’t finish their 100 days, maybe it’s because they all got happy days fatigue, like me.

 

That’s not to say it wasn’t a worthwhile venture, it was. Because in the first few weeks I really got a lot out of it. Without a doubt, it did what it was meant to do, and I definitely take more pleasure in the smaller things, than prior to the challenge.

 

If it was #30happydays I think the success rates would be much higher, as when the fatigue sets in, you’d only have a few days or a week to go, so it wouldn’t be such a chore to finish. But also, 30 days is enough time to change a habit, so doing the challenge would still achieve its objectives of encouraging mindfulness and gratitude.

 

So on the Happy Days theme, I’m just going to be cool with it all. Cool with not finishing, cool with not recording every happy moment, just cool. Like the Fonze.

 

Keeping chickens will make your life better!

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Keeping backyard chickens will always add a bit of colour to your life. Taking part in #100happydays is really helping me appreciate the small things in life. I’ve made a commitment to notice the small things that make life a little bit better. And the lovely girls that we share our backyard with, do just that.

 

We’ve had Myra, Molly and Maisy now for about 18 months, and I admit that I often take them for granted. But sitting outside this week, enjoying the winter sunshine, I watched them scratching around and generally getting on with their chicken lives.

 

It has to be said, they are the funniest, oddest, most endearing creatures I’ve come to know. There are so many great things about keeping chooks in your backyard, here are a few:

  • Fresh eggs, of course! Who doesn’t love a weekend breakfast of eggs. There is nothing quite like the feeling of listening for the crow of one of your chooks to signal a fresh egg has been delivered for your breakfast. And without a shadow of a doubt, eggs laid in the backyard taste better than those you find in the supermarket.

 

  • Their chook poo provides soil that is incredibly rich in nutrients. This summer, our tomato patch was better than it has ever been, largely due to the nutrients in the soil that was raked through a couple of months before planting. It was all from the chicken house. So cleaning out their house might not be top of your joy list, but the compost will have a little party each time it’s done.

 

  • If you want to live a bit greener keeping chooks is a great way to do it. All our household scraps go straight in to the chook tin and get delivered to the chooks after breakfast the next day. So by giving them your scraps you provide them with their food, and you reduce your waste (and landfill). So it’s a win-win.

 

  • If you have kids and live in the city, its a great way for them to learn about the farm-to-table cycle. This simple act of waiting for the chicken to lay an egg for our Saturday morning breakfast shows them that food doesn’t just materialise at the supermarket, that there is a whole process that happens before food lands on those shelves.

 

  • They are a low maintenance and affordable pet to keep. You need close the door to their house at sunset and let them out in the morning to keep them safe from foxes. (If you’re away a bit, you can even buy an automatic door that will close at sunset and open at sunrise.) They need fresh water, and every couple of weeks their house needs a clean. That’s it. Low maintenance and low cost.

 

  • If you’re having trouble switching off or you’re stressed about something, go and spend ten minutes watching the chooks scratch around. You’ll be in a trance in minutes!

ImageYesterday’s loot – two days worth of eggs

Do yourself a favour, get yourself some chooks. We’re all weighed down by our modern lives and making an effort to get lighter will make your life better. Simple things, like backyard chickens, make life richer.

Decluttering versus sentimentality

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Image via Pinterest (alifesdesign.blogspot.com)

Decluttering, it seems, is the new buzzword. Holidays come around and every man and his dog plans to declutter. I’ve said it myself, (ahem) several times. I’ve done it in varying degrees, but obviously not enough, because I wouldn’t need to keep revisiting it.

Why are our houses so cluttered? What is it with our preoccupation with things, with stuff? I’m not sure I can answer this in one blog post, as I suspect the answer is complex and layered, and varies for each individual person. I’d say a lot of our own individual history informs our behaviour towards ownership and the collection of goods.

My Mum was a hoarder, not the psychological-illness-type of hoarder, but hoarded enough to qualify for the title. And my siblings can verify this as clearing out her place after she died was a joint effort. Even though the task was monumental, in a way I was grateful to her for holding on to lots of the things we came across.

There were lots of old photos, but there were cards that we’d made as kids, pictures we’d drawn for her, school reports, behavioural cards (from being badly behaved at school!), newspaper articles that were relevant to our family. But also paraphernalia that related to her story, letters between her parents, photos of their family dog, so her story, but also our back-story.

And now I have at least a couple of boxes in my garage of the same things – school diaries, photos, letters between friends, letters between my husband and I, before I joined him in England. And I have boxes in each of the kids rooms with their hospital bands from when they were born, cards from their birth and first birthdays, their coming home from hospital outfits, a couple of outfits bought just for them that I can’t bear to part with, odd pieces of paper, like the first time my daughter wrote her own name, the first drawing that was clearly a person.

I’d never dream of getting rid of these things, and I lug them around, from house to house and curse myself for being a hoarder as well. But then there are things like the shelves and shelves of books, that I’ve read once and am pretty certain I won’t read again. But for what ever mysterious reason, I can’t bear to part with. Racks of clothes in my wardrobe, that haven’t seen the light of day for a very long time (when your clothes are gathering dust in the wardrobe, it really is time to let go).

And here’s the thing, I’ve gone on decluttering frenzies and delivered bags of clothes to the Salvos, only to look for an item to wear the following season and then realise it’s gone. Then I curse myself all over again for trying not to be a hoarder. So how do we strike a balance?

When we were clearing out Mum’s place, between us, we probably found at least 20 sets of keys. There were also padlocks, not of the same number, but more than the average person could use in a house for one. Some had keys inside, some didn’t. Funnily enough, I still have some of those padlocks and sets of keys from Mum’s kicking around my place now. I don’t even know how I came to bring them home. Like Mum, I probably thought, ‘I’ll need that one day and then I’ll be really annoyed for not keeping it’.

But alas, I’m not giving up my quest for a minimalist home, I just have a feeling it might be lifelong quest.

Got any tips for letting go? Pray tell…