Wednesday, May 16, 2018

MAY THE MAY BELLS RING JOYOUSLY FOR LOVE AND HAPPINESS


Four photos above of Gunabul Homestead Functions House/Restaurant
Eagle Heights Mountain Resort Hotel....Tamborine Mountain
Eagle Heights Mountain  Resort...and the view from the resort to the east to the Gold Coast


It was meant to be kept secret, but it doesn’t matter now.  I received an invitation to Harry and Meghan’s nuptials. Unfortunately, I had to graciously decline, not only because my passport is out of date - it’s also too far to drive.  With fuel prices the way they are...well, you understand. 

Physically I won’t be one of the guests on Saturday, 19th May, but I’ll be there in spirit.  I intend being glued to my TV not missing a minute as the couple make their vows in St. George’s Chapel (no relation, as far as I’m aware).  May Harry and Meghan’s future together be happy and fruitful.  

I don’t care if I’m slammed for making the above comment.  I speak for myself, and in this instance, as in other instances, it is my opinion...it is how I feel.  I’ve no one to answer to, or share my television-watching with other than Remy and Shama.
 
My two furry, much-loved mates told me that they are happy to watch, too, as long as I excuse them if they have a cat nap or two during the proceedings.  I said that would be just fine...I’ll try not to disturb them.
  
I’m a romantic at heart, and freely admit to being so.  I don’t like cynicism or sneering sarcasm - both are energy and time-wasters.  To put it bluntly - I abhor both.  There is far too much unnecessary nastiness being tossed around these days, in my opinion.   It flatters no one.

The soon-to-be-wed couple have had a load of both thrown at them from every angle; most being bandied around by members of Meghan’s family. The rock-throwers need to get over themselves.  They’ve had more than their 15 minutes of fame...move on...there’s nothing more to see here...there is nothing more we need or want to know.

However, the slime keeps coming like an endless lava flow.   

There’s more drama pouring forth hour after hour than “The Bold and the Beautiful”, “Days of Our Lives”, “The Young and the Restless”, and the rest of the soap operas mixed together!

Who needs Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now and other streaming services at present when we can binge freely on all the drama?

One can almost see the joy oozing like putrid puss from the pores of the media...they’ve never had it so good!  They’re salivating.

No family is perfect. Mine certainly wasn’t.  Although, it is pretty near perfect now – with only three members – my two furry rascals and me.  They’re all I need.  

Meghan Markle’s family, other than for a few exceptions, are proving to be the family from Hell!  The individuals concerned are embarrassing themselves more than anyone else.  It’s time they just shut up and pulled their heads in.  It’s become a comedy of multiple errors.

On the other side of the palace fence, the Royal Family is not perfect, either.  It never has been going back centuries ago.

Even though born into a different circle to you and me, like us, they’re human, with the strengths and frailties that go with being human.  Not exempt from dramas, they’ve had their share, and much more. And, I’m sure there are myriad other stories they prefer to keep a lid on...well away from the prying eyes of the media, who are have a multiple of field days.  Unlike the Royal family, your life and mine has not yet been discovered by the impertinent nosiness of the media.  Let's keep it that way!

There’s always a shadow lurking, ready to pounce, eager to ruin the day, any day, with controversy, whether it be fact or fiction.  Gossip-mongers prefer the latter. 

I hope, as Harry and Meghan get hitched, there are no hitches.  Security is at all time high level.  Let’s hope those with evil intentions are stopped in their tracks before any harm is done, to anyone.  It’s terrible we have to think about such dire things occurring, but it is the world in which we now live, unfortunately.

Neither Harry nor Meghan had a choice as to who their parents would be, similar to you and me.  None of us get to pick who our biological parents, or who our siblings will be. Blame all the problems, if and when they happen, on the successful sperm that made it through without getting lost along the way.  It’s to blame, not Harry...not Meghan.  Same applies to the rest of us.  There’s no point whingeing...it is what it is!

I wish Harry and Meghan well.   I hope their future together is happy and fruitful....in all ways.

Through the years when I was cooking professionally I catered for many weddings, particularly when I was the cook (not chef...I wasn’t a qualified chef with papers. My qualifications were from years of experience cooking in commercial kitchens) at Gunabul Homestead Restaurant and Functions House in Gympie in the four years before I moved here to where I now live.   

Along with the restaurant-functions' facilities and retreat accommodation,  an 18-hole, par-three golf course completes the Gunabul Homestead experience.

Rarely a weekend passed without a wedding party enjoying the venue.  Some ceremonies were conducted in the garden, too.   Often, two wedding parties were held on the one weekend.  There was no time to spare for the faint-hearted!

Having to cater for two weddings a weekend, along with Friday night service, certainly kept me on my toes.   It’s little wonder my hips are now complaining!

When I left Gympie in 2002*** and relocated here to the mountain to live and work, I became one of three cooks (one of whom was a qualified chef...she had her papers.  All I had were the daily newspapers) at the Eagle Heights Mountain Resort.   

***  (I'd returned to Gympie in 1998 - after having left back in 1965 -  to be closer to my now late brother who was in a Brisbane hospital receiving treatment for cancer. I didn't want to go back to city living...the town of our childhood and teen years was the better option)

Each weekend at Eagle Height Mountain Resort-Hotel was also taken up catering for wedding receptions, all of which coincided with the regular restaurant trade, which began with breakfast, continuing through to lunch, and then to dinner.

Brides and grooms...I’ve seen many of them.  Some of whom raised an eyebrow or two, for one reason or another.  I’ve prepared the fare to satisfy hundreds of their hungry guests.  

Meghan Markle is not alone with renegade, out of control family members.  

One wedding reception at the Eagle Heights Resort included a potent aunt of the bride - “potent” not in a positive way.  The woman was like a rabid dog!  

Under the delusion she controlled the whole show like a deranged, crazed conductor, she almost ruined the wedding and reception for everyone, particularly the young bride and groom.   

However, before succeeding in doing so, the aunt was taken aside, and quietly, but firmly, told to sit down and shut up...or else....

Meekly, she did what was requested of her.

I’ve a few funny stories from weddings I catered for through the years.

Cheese Bites: Beat 2-1/2c shredded Cheddar, 1/2c butter, 5tbs evaporated milk and 1tsp salt at med-speed until blended. Gradually add 1-1/2c plain flour, 1-1/2c grated Parmesan and 3tbs finely chopped basil; beat just until combined. Turn dough onto floured surface. Divide into 3 equal portions; roll to flatten each to ⅛ inch thickness. Cut with star shaped cutter. Place 1-inch apart on paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 190C, 11-14mins, until golden; cool on sheets on racks.

Feta-Covered Olives:  Drain 250g pitted black olives; pat dry.  Combine 240g cream cheese, 1c crumbled feta and 1-2tsp finely chopped dill. Place 1/2c finely crushed hazelnuts or nuts of choice in a dish. Mould 1tsp mixture around each olive; shape into ball; roll in chopped nuts; set on serving platter; chill until firm.  

Lemon-Elderflower Cake: Preheat oven 180C/160C fan. Sift 75g SR flour and ½ level tsp baking powder into a bowl, add 175g butter, 175g caster sugar, 3 med-eggs, 1tbs elderflower cordial and zest of 1 lemon; beat with wooden spoon until smooth.  Spoon into 2 greased and base lined 20cm cake tins. Bake 30-40 mins or until cooked; turn out on to wire rack. Place juice of 1 lemon, 1tbs elderflower cordial and 55g caster sugar in saucepan; heat gently until sugar has dissolved. Whilst cakes are warm, make a few deep holes with a skewer; drizzle elderflower syrup over both cakes so it soaks in.  Place 115g icing sugar, 40g butter and 1-2tsp elderflower cordial into bowl; mix well until smooth. Sandwich the two cakes together by spreading with icing mixture, and then 2-4tbs lemon curd. Decorate the top of the cake with a thin glace icing made with the icing sugar and a little lemon juice. Finish with edible flowers.

Blushing Bride: Combine 1 bottle rosé, 1c lemonade, 1/2c peach nectar, 1/2c vodka and 1c raspberries; let sit overnight. Before serving add 3c club soda and crushed ice. Garnish with mint.

Elderflower Cocktail: Add 6 ice cubes to shaker; add 60ml Bacardi, 20ml Elderflower cordial, 25ml hand-squeezed fresh lime juice; shake vigorously; pour straight up into a glass. 

      

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A MOTHER IS ALWAYS A MOTHER – SHE WILL LOVE YOU NO MATTER...






When Thumper first encountered the young Bambi, he commented, “He’s kinda wobbly!”  Thumper’s wise mother gently reproved him by saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”  (Poetic licence allowed in the use of the double negative).  There was nothing negative about the friendship formed between Thumper and Bambi, though. Thumper heeded his Mum’s words of wisdom. 

At the age of four years I went with my mother to view Disney’s “Bambi” movie.  My tears flowed like monsoonal rain when Bambi’s mother died.  

At that point in my life I didn’t care about double negatives; I’d not a clue what they were; but the thought of losing one’s mother I understood.

I’ve read “Little Women” (and its sequels) numerous times; similar applies to the movie.  June Allyson’s portrayal of “Jo March” remains my favourite film characterisation.  “Marmee”, the patient mother of the four March sisters was the quintessential mother – an embodiment of hope and love.

 
Faced with adversity, the tough determination of Francie’s mother in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” inspired. 

The bond, respect and love between Lorelai and her daughter, Rory, in the “Gilmore Girls” made for pleasurable viewing. 

M’Lynn and her daughter, Shelby, from “Steel Magnolias” offered no apology for their behaviour. They just went ahead and ripped out our hearts, leaving us distraught in the meantime. 

The three mothers in “Big Little Lies” made us want to join their coffee circle. 
Dorothy’s mother, Sicilian Sophia, in TV’s, “The Golden Girls” frequently caused Dorothy, Blanche and Rose to wish they could send her back to Sicily. 

Imagine living across the road from meddling Marie Barone, Ray’s mother in “Everybody Loves Raymond”.  Although irritatingly intrusive, she did make us laugh.

Indomitable “Roseanne”...so charismatic and always right...just ask her!

Let’s not forget Mrs. Bennett, the mother from “Pride and Prejudice”.  She may have wanted the best for her daughters, but she was enough to scare the most ardent of admirers away. 

It’s all very well to tell someone to “get stuffed”, but to actually take it to the literal extent like Norman Bates did with his domineering mother, Norma, is really going overboard. 

Stepping into modern day, while taking myriad paces back in time to a fantasy world of ancient dynasties vying for what looks like a very uncomfortable throne, the violent, no holds barred game played in “Game of Thrones” by the vicious, conniving, game-playing, evil mother, Cersei Lannister, who constantly schemes, tossing principles aside, not caring who gets hurt, or killed takes the cake.

The above are just a few of the fictional mothers who have kept us entertained through the years.  However, let’s pay homage to the real mothers; our real-life mothers - without whom you and I wouldn’t exist!

Agatha Christie wrote: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity.  It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

Jackie Kennedy said: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”  

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums, grand and great...Sunday, 13th May....

Make every day a Happy Mother's Day.....

Almond Berry French Toast: Spray 9x13 dish. Cut 1 whole wheat baguette into 1-inch cubes; arrange in single layer in dish. Whisk 8 large eggs, 8 large egg whites, 2c milk, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2tsp cinnamon and 1/3c pure maple syrup. Pour over bread; make sure liquid saturates the bread. Scatter 2c fresh blueberries or berries of choice on top; sprinkle with 1/3c sliced almonds and 2tbs brown sugar; cover; chill overnight. Place, uncovered, in 175C oven; bake 40-50mins.  

Mamma Mia Quiche: Grease bottom of 9-inch pie dish.  Peel 2 medium kumara; slice into 1/8th inch rounds. Layer dish with rounds, base and sides to form “crust”; halve slices for sides of dish, if needed; spray slices with oil; season. Bake 20mins in 190C oven. In pan over med-high heat, add 1tsp olive oil; add 1 small chopped onion. Sauté 1min; add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1c halved cherry tomatoes. Cook 2mins. Add 4c spinach; cook until fully wilted. Remove from heat; set aside. Tofu filling; blend 374g tofu, 3tbs nutritional yeast, 1tbs olive oil, 1 garlic clove and ground sage in a food processor/blender; season. Blend until smooth. Add filling to vegies; mix gently. Once crust is cooked, add filling; smooth out top. Bake 30mins, or until filling starts to brown.

Mum’s Muffins: Spray muffin pan. Heat 1tbs x-virgin olive oil in saucepan; add 1-1/4c raw quinoa; sauté 3-5mins; stir often; add 1-1/4c water and 1tsp salt. Bring to boil; cover; simmer15-20mins until water is absorbed and quinoa tender, but not mushy. Set aside.  Cook 240g sliced mushrooms and 3 shredded zucchini in pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Sauté 10-12mins until liquid is gone; set aside. In bowl, combine 6 large beaten eggs, salt; add 1c shredded cheddar; add vegetables and quinoa; mix well. Fill muffin pans about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle crumbled feta on top of each muffin. Bake in 190C oven 20mins, or until eggs are cooked.  Makes 18. 

 
My Late Mother at the age of 18 years - Always in my heart...

My Nana...Mum's Mother...at age of 16 years...Always in my heart


Monday, April 30, 2018

A SLICE OF THE ACTION

Sunshine Beach
A section of Noosa's North Shore
Noosa North Shore...Forty Mile Beach
MG-Magnette
Randall and me in the Austin Healey Sprite...circa January, 1965

Goggomobil Dart
"Fire Truck" on Teewah Beach...Me and Troy, who was our chef when Randall and I managed a Noosa Restaurant...on a Monday...our day off.

Many years ago when I was a “we”, not a solo “me”, or just solitary “Lee”...when my then husband, Randall and I lived at Sunshine Beach, we purchased a four-wheel drive so we could drive, fancy free, along the North Shore beaches, from Teewah to Double Island Point. 

Back then, in the late 70s and early 80s, I drove a 1958 MG Magnette Varitone; a saloon/sedan, not a sports car. I loved that black and grey car with its wooden-panelled dashboard and leather seats.  It had style; it had class; a vehicle hard to surpass. 

We named the MG, “Remy”, the same name as one of my furry rascals...my male cat, “Remy”...who is presently, along with his sister, Shama, snuggled up asleep on "our" bed!
   
You may have already guessed...I like the name.  I used to love Remy Martin cognac, too, in moderation – although, a number of years have passed since any has passed my lips.

Years before Randall and I married – when we were still in our late teens and early 20s, an Austin Healey Sprite was our wagon of choice. Randall sold that little Junior Navy Blue chariot before he headed off overseas in late 1965 – an odyssey that was to endure for nine years.

Before the Sprite came along, a little white Goggomobil Dart was our fun machine– another story from another decade for another day, or decade.

At the same time the MG Magnette was part of our lives, we also owned a Ford Cortina Ghia – cream with a tan roof - having sold the mustard-coloured Volkswagen Passat we'd owned in the prior couple or so years.   

Somewhere in between and along with the Passat, the Cortina and the MG-Magnette, we also had a Holden EH Wagon.  

The Holden wagon was red, with a white roof. Imitation wood-panelling ran along each side, which made the vehicle not unlike the American Ranch Wagons of the Fifties. 

We christened the wagon “Tonto”, and I, because I was the one who drove it most of the time, was known as “The Lone Ranger”. ..a portent, perhaps, of what was to come a few years into the future.   (Previously, I’ve written about these vehicles).

Not wanting to take either the Magnette or Cortina over rugged bush tracks or sandy, salty beaches, somewhere  around 1981-1982, we purchased a 1948 Land Rover from a Noosa hinterland farmer, solely for off-road use.  With its steel box-section chassis and aluminium body, the vehicle had been well-maintained. Under its bonnet was a reconditioned Holden motor. 

Feeling like light-hearted teenagers once again, we painted the Land Rover fire engine red.

Going a step further, we sliced off its top, which made our converted Land Rover look like a high-rise sports car. 

We christened our freshly-painted and altered acquisition - “Fire Truck”.    (There is an anagram there somewhere....if you give it a little thought)!

The sturdy old Land Rover, having been given a new lease on life, gave us many, many hours of pleasure.

Not once did it let us down on our trips through the bush or along the beach of Noosa’s North Shore. 

In fact, on many occasions, “Fire Truck” went to the rescue and towed much fancier, newer four-wheel drives aka SUVs out of bogged conditions. 

Minus a top, our high-rise sports/fishing vehicle was naturally air-conditioned.

I can’t recall ever getting caught in the rain; no doubt we did one time or another.  If we had, it wouldn’t have mattered. 

 We never wore our “Sunday Best” when heading off to the beach for a day or more of fishing and camping.   Our best beach gear consisted of shorts, t-shirts, sarongs and bathing suits.  Nothing more fancy was required.  

And, it didn't matter if sand, salt, fish and bait enhanced the charm of "Fire Truck".  When we got back home to Sunshine Beach, we'd hose it out and then put the garden sprinkler underneath it and let the sprinkler finish of the cleaning job.

The freedom felt when we climbed aboard “Fire Truck” was immediate.  More often than not smiles and waves greeted us as we drove through Noosa Junction towards Noosaville en route to Tewantin and the ferry. Once the river was crossed we bounced along the rough track that led to the beach. 

With the wind in our hair, the sun warming our bodies and the ocean’s incomparable aroma filling our nostrils as we drove along the beach, there wasn’t much wrong with the world.  If there was (there always is), we felt exempt from external controls and restraints over which we really had no control – even if the sense of total freedom was only temporary. 

Everywhere you look, and everywhere you go these days the place is inundated by SUVs - big, shiny and new SUVs.  I wonder how many, if any, are used for off-road exploration - their original purpose.  Or are the sparkling “beasts” for the most part only for show?

One day a few weeks ago as I was driving back home from IGA (which is only a distance of 3 or so kilometres away), to my dismay, and agitated annoyance, a huge, glistening SUV aggressively tail-gated me most of the way; urging and pressuring.  

Breathing down my neck, his unnecessary intimidation continued unabated.  My eyes instead of concentrating on the road ahead were mostly concentrated on my rear vision mirror, for the reason of which I am sure you are aware.

I wasn’t travelling at a snail’s pace, which is very annoying if you're travelling behind someone who does, when there appears to be no apparent reason for them to be travelling at a slow rate.  I freely admit, it annoys me.   Usually, those who do creep along are tourists, with their heads swinging back and forth, mouths open, like those side show alley clowns.  And, strangely, not one of them know how to use their indicators...either that, or, perhaps, their vehicles don't have indicators.    

I do digress....

The speed limit along the particular stretch between where I live and North Tamborine where the supermarket is, is 60kms per hour.  I definitely wasn’t travelling below the speed limit.  The only times I do travel below the speed limit are when the situations make it necessary to do so.

If, perchance, the other day, I’d cause to stop suddenly, the idiot and his vehicle would’ve crashed into and over me and “Lady”, my little Toyota Echo.

Eventually, although I shouldn’t have had to do so, I found an area that allowed me to safely pull off the road; indicating what my intention was.

The impatient, ignorant clown roared past at a rapid rate.  
  
If he’d followed me into the area, I bet it would’ve been the first time he’d taken his SUV off-road. 

I felt like giving him a large slice of my mind, not just a piece!  

Feeling no shame, I admit, as he sped past, I did give him a recognisable “finger”.... thrust with powerful purpose out my driver’s side window.   The meaning of my gesture would have been impossible not to recognise or understand....if the idiot could see beyond his blinkers, that is.

Savoury Kumara Slice: Preheat oven 200C.  Line a 17cm x 27cm slice tin with paper: leave an overhang on all sides. Cook 400g kumara until just tender; drain; set aside.  At the same time, cook 4 bacon rashers in a frying pan to brown; cool. Whisk 6 large eggs and 1/2c milk; add kumara, bacon, 1c grated cheddar and 1/4c chopped parsley; season. Pour into prepared tin.  Arrange tomato slices over top.  Bake 35mins or until set; serve warm or cold.

Salmon Slice: Preheat oven 170C. Lightly grease 2L capacity baking dish. Place 2c cooked white long-grain rice, 1x415g can red salmon, 1x375ml can evaporated milk, 2 lightly whisked eggs, 2tbs olive oil, 2tbs chopped dill, 1-2tsp curry powder and 1/2c grated cheddar in large bowl; season; mix well. Pour into prepared dish; spread to edges. Sprinkle with grated cheddar; bake 40mins or until set. Cut into pieces.  Add corn kernels and grated zucchini to mix, if desired. 

Apricot-Coconut Slice: Grease and line 18x29cm rectangular slice tray with paper. Finely crush 200g plain biscuits, such as Marie biscuits; add 250g chopped apricots to crushed biscuits. Melt 125g butter and 80g brown sugar. Add crushed biscuits, chopped apricots, 50g desiccated coconut and 200g condensed milk; mix well. Spoon into prepared tray; press down firmly. Sprinkle with coconut; chill several hours. Cut into slices.

Date-Lemon Slice: Preheat oven 180C.  Grease and line slice tray. Melt 125g butter and1tbs golden syrup. Combine 1c plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, 1c coconut, 1c chopped dates and 1/2c caster sugar. Pour over melted butter-syrup; mix well; press firmly into slice tin. Bake, 20-25mins. Spread lemon icing over warm slice; sit 20mins before cutting into slices