Isolation Cookery

Friends and a well-stocked pantry save the day.

On the 4th of January 2022, my husband and I were booked at a local vaccination site for our Covid-19 booster shots. This was five months to the day from our second Astra-Zeneca injection. We’d been feeling a bit hay-feverish and sniffly in the days before New Year’s Eve (no partying or fireworks this year, home in bed before midnight). Then on the 2nd of January, we twigged that perhaps we were symptomatic. 

Luckily, a neighbour had some spare RAT tests because there were none to be found when we phoned every pharmacy (it seemed) in Adelaide.

I smell a RAT

The tests both came up positive so we cancelled the booster appointment and instead, booked a PCR for ASAP. That ended up being two days forward on the 4th of January. We isolated until the test, went out for the test, came back and 32 hours later had a confirmed positive. 

For the first few days, I had a cough and a slight wheeze when I laughed. At least I have a hubby who can still make me laugh. Right?

The symptoms have passed. A little bit of congestion is all that remains now on day nine of our mandatory 10 day isolation period (10 full days from our PCR test date, as per the rule for South Australia).

So what were we to eat?

When we got the immediate positive on our RAT my first comment was, ‘Oh my Gawd, what are we going to eat.’

I knew I couldn’t be too unwell if I still had my appetite.

Like everyone, we have just been through two years of a pandemic that has made us shop like we were about to get snowed in for a week. We still retain a little of the lockdown mindset, even though in Adelaide we have not had much in the way of actual lockdown. And really not much COVID-19 infection, come to think of it. And we definitely never get snow. At least not down here on the Adelaide plains, just kilometres from the Gulf. And it’s summer, anyway.

Our neighbour Tracey has a plot in the local community garden where we also grow a few things. She kept right on top of watering and bringing our daily harvest of cherry tomatoes, fresh mint and basil.

When we’d forgotten some essentials in our grocery order, (Covid brain fog, I’m sure) our friend Kirsty kindly filled in the gaps and did a grocery, bakery and pharmacy run. Her 14-year-old son even texted me one day to see if we needed anything as they were about to go to the shops. How nice is that?

Another friend, Lia, brought handmade farfalle pasta and a piece of Ricotta Salata (salted ricotta which can be eaten fresh or aged), both of which her husband, Saverio, made.

So, clearly, we are being looked after by our peeps.

Here are a few things we have managed to cobble together during our isolation:

  1. Homemade farfalle pasta with ragu,  topped with grated Ricotta Salata.
  2. Cinghiale (wild boar) and venison sausage with lentils and tomato sugo. 
  3. Spaghetti with homemade Pesto Genovese (it’s summer in Australia; our garden has basil) tossed with pieces of chicken breast that we grilled on the Weber. 
  4. Chicken breast with lemon and oregano on the Weber and an oven tray of broccoli, diced sweet potatoes and potatoes. 
  5. Buckwheat salad with blanched peas and capsicum (red, green, yellow peppers) that had been pan-cooked, low and slow, in olive oil and shallot. Tossed with fresh chopped mint, grated raw carrot, yesterday’s leftover sweet potatoes and chopped dry-roasted almonds plus some crisped bits of shallot on top. 
  6. Pasta with pesto, broccoli, and more peas.
  7. Open sandwiches of Latvian rye, salted ricotta and homegrown tomatoes.
  8. Feta, beetroot, rocket, shallot and balsamic-glazed walnut salad with a pork and fennel sausage.
  9. Couscous topped with a beef, chickpea, carrot and celery stew.
  10. Hummus and crudities with crackers.

Our portions were smaller because we are moving less and we haven’t needed the calories. So a little has gone a long way. We thought we would need a second grocery order but we have tomorrow all planned (did I mention we also have meatballs in the freezer?) and that’s day 10. We’ve managed with little suffering! OK so we are out of biscuits to have with my afternoon cup of tea, but that’s probably a good thing.

Staples that saved us

We generally have most of these items (and much more) in our pantry, fridge or freezer at any given time:

  • Homemade sugo or ragu in freezer
  • Tins of whole tomatoes
  • Dry roasted almonds (local only) for snacking or to cook with
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Tahini
  • Tins of chickpeas or other legumes/beans
  • Buckwheat
  • Few types of dry lentils
  • Crackers
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Pickles
  • Vinegars
  • All manner of condiments, herbs and spices
  • Flour and yeast
  • Olive oil (local only)
  • Locally made pork and fennel sausages
  • Latvian rye bread (‘rupjmaize’ from local Latvian community)
  • Potatoes
  • Dry pasta (various shapes)
  • Pesto (freshly made in season and some frozen for later)
  • Different cheeses for snacking or to cook and garnish with
  • Various cuts of meat or chicken in the freezer (meatballs too!)

The planning and preparation of good food is a highlight of our day, even under normal circumstances, and we would have been miserable if we’d not been able to do enjoy this during our isolation. We’re fortunate we have felt well enough to actually prepare meals.

I have a husband who takes charge in the kitchen and makes beautiful and delicious meals from what we can round up — even during a pandemic.

We are incredibly grateful for the kindness of good friends and neighbours during this period, without whom some of these meals would have been lacking.

Pesto, Peas and Broccoli

I’d love to hear how others have coped with cooking during a long lockdown or isolation. Who or what saved you? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Ciao for now, MLT

Creativity: it’s all around us

“Why is it important to be creative?” This is the question posed by my local writing group as a blog post topic.

I’ve thought about creativity for most of my life. I am the third of six children and early on I realised that my siblings could do thing I couldn’t, like draw,  dance, make up songs and play musical instruments well.

Our much-loved great-uncle Tom Doerer, was a successful cartoonist and newspaper man, who started his career as a copy-boy for the legendary satirist HL Mencken. Allan Holtz, a comic strip historian and author, wrote an very informative post regarding my great uncle here.

Our grandmother, Anna Mezzacappa, cooked with the radio on and sang along to the Italian opera programs in perfect pitch. Our grandfather, Giovanni Pergolini, was a tailor ‘un sarto’ who created beautiful coats and hats for us children out of seemingly little fabric, no more leftover scraps from his tailoring business.

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To me, these people in my life were ‘creative types’. My notion of creativity was tied to expression in writing, painting, drawing, sewing and musical ability.

My parents, Owen and Louise, however, were not what I thought of as creative. Our father studied accounting  and worked in project management finance for a contractor to the burgeoning US Space Program. Our mother was a nurse. They were both well-read, kind, funny and incredibly supportive of us six kids. They loved music and introduced us to the likes of Mario Lanza, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Neither could play an instrument and dad used to say he had two left feet on the dance floor.

My own path to creativity has been a slow road. I won a spelling bee in 5th grade. I remember my teacher telling me that to win, I would not only have to spell the words, but I would also have to use each word correctly in a sentence.

More than 50 years later I can’t recall my winning word but I do remember sitting in bed with my pencil and exercise book visualising verbs and nouns and subjects and objects. Fascinated with the combinations that could be created I’d fall asleep, pencil in hand, and awake with sounds and visions of ‘Ships sail on azure seas’  or ‘Rhythmic music is played on bongo drums’, ‘azure’, ‘rhythmic’ and ‘bongo’ being words I had studied.  To this day I have a recurring dream of waking up with my pencil poking me in the side.

I knew one day I would write. I didn’t know what I would write though. At University I studied one class in Creative Writing. I wrote short stories and sketches for the class. Although my writing was good enough for a beginner, I knew I couldn’t expect to repay my student loan as a Theatre Technician or a Writer.  Eventually, with a love of new, emerging technology and an ability to write I landed a contract as a Technical Writer. It turned into a 30+ year career working in different industries.

For some years I thought I had settled for a cop-out career and was suppressing a creative writer urge. But slowly, I began to see the creativity in the work I was doing, finding ways to turn technical information into language the lay-person could understand, or designing a graphic to appeal to visual learners.  I’ve worked for publishers, financial institutions, government IT departments, software companies, utilities, consulting firms and more. In each of these places I have worked with creative people.

I have come to recognize creativity outside of the traditional creative (Arts) industries. A large part of creativity is ability to solve problems, to connect the dots, to recognise patterns, to see what others don’t see, and to use that knowledge to better our lives.

The application interface that you love on your smartphone was designed by a creative person (who also knows how to write elegant code). Your favourite restaurant meal was conceived by a clever chef (and cooked by a team of passionate and creative people with great knife skills).  The botanic garden that you stroll through was laid out by a master horticulturist (and planted by a group of strong souls with an eye for beauty).

I see now that my parents were genuinely creative. My accountant dad dreamed of the future of space and used his considerable analytical skills to support that passion for the future of exploration. My mother managed a job and a household on a shoestring, cooked delicious and healthy meals and encouraged each of us kids to pursue our own diverse paths – all with no preconceived notion of how we should conduct our lives.

Why is creativity important? Our survival depends on it. Imagining new ways to not just live, but thrive, in an ever-changing world requires some divergent thinking. Fortunately, most of us are capable of that.

*****

This piece is part of the August 2018 Writers of Adelaide blog chain. To read what others in the group have to say on the subject of creativity, check out their blog posts:

Fontella Koleff
https://crossbordertales.wordpress.com
Ryan Peck
https://adelaidedad.com
Dean Mayes
http://www.deanfromaustralia.com
Kirsty Davis
https://kirstydavisart.com.au
Heidi Arellano
https://marissakeller.blogspot.com
Jennifer Sando
http://www.jennifersando.com/blog

Follow the group on Facebook here.

Suddenly, winter…

It’s the 21st of June and the winter solstice here in the southern hemisphere.  Adelaide is putting on a true winter day for us; cold, dark and quite rainy.

Each season brings its own wonderment – different sights, sounds, events, foods and attitudes. But the period from Australia Day on 26 January, until the end of April, is special in Adelaide. It’s the festival season and we spend so much time outdoors.

It was summer

Then it was autumn

Autumn stayed warm, but with cool nights.

Lunch with friends at Oliver’s Taranga vineyard

A perfect autumn celebration of continuous food and wine.  Seriously, we had to tell them to stop!  Delicious flavours and passionate crew hard at work all afternoon.

 

And then Italy

I was fortunate to travel to Italy again this year to study Italian and travel. I’ve documented some of that trip on my other blog here.

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And now winter

It’s time to recharge the batteries.  What’s not to like about baking, stews, soups, winter salads, wooly layers and rainy Sundays with cat snuggles. And a trip to Sydney is on the books.

Winter, I’m ready for you.

 

It’s Summer in Australia – where is MLT?

 

Well, for a change, I am not actually ‘at large’ but at home in Adelaide. I did have a very long trip to Europe which started in Italy (2 months there), continued to Switzerland and Austria then on to the UK before finishing with a few days in Dubai.

My companion blog ‘With my heart in Abruzzo‘ is where I am still writing about my adventures in Italy, with a focus on our time in Abruzzo.

Sadly, upon our return, Andrew’s mum was unwell so we headed up to Queensland to be with her and her companion. Hilda passed away two weeks after we got home. We were fortunate to be with her for the few days before, but we aren’t certain she was really aware of who we were. Her dementia had gotten worse than before we went away and we tried to just agree with her and make sure she was comfortable. Rest in peace dear Hilda.

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Hilda and I back in 1990

Back in Adelaide some weeks now we are contending with summer. It’s hard, I know, but seriously, it had been hot and sometimes uncomfortably so. I’ve had to resort to spending time at the beach or reclining with a fan blowing on me while I read books.

We’ve day tripped down the Fleurieu Peninsula to enjoy the coastal scenery, cooked a few summery meals, drunk some yummy wines and generally enjoyed ourselves.

My hubby, Roo, gardened and completed some painting and picture-hanging tasks while I relaxed and contemplated returning to work and dreamt up schemes for another adventure.

Batteries recharged, it’s time to get back to a routine.

So we are both back at work. I am doing a casual writing job that has started out full-time for a month or so then will slow down a bit to part-time.

I am planning another trip to Italy to continue my study of ‘la bella lingua’, this time for a month in Lecce, Puglia. That’s way down on the heel. I have not been that far south before and look forward to studying at the University of the Salento and exploring ‘il tallone dello scarpone’, ‘the heel of the boot’ that is Italy.

January is nearly over already. I hope you are all starting 2016 out right and enjoying life, wherever you are on the planet!

Tasmania – Freycinet, Hobart and the Huon

This is part 2 of a two-part blog on a recent trip to Tasmania. The first part is here.

Looking across Coles Bay to Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Looking across Coles Bay to Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

We left Cradle Mountain National Park mid-morning with our next destination being the east coast of Tasmania, specifically Swansea. Our friend Amanda had booked us into a little cabin that had a fabulous view back across Coles Bay to Freycinet National Park. With the short days and our stop in Bicheno to buy food supplies, we arrived at Hamptons on the Bay just after dark, but not before stopping on the road to catch the last light in the sky looking east.

Freycinet Sunset
Freycinet Sunset

Next day we headed off in promising sunshine towards Freycinet National Park where we planned to walk from the visitor’s centre across the saddle and down to the famous beach at Wineglass Bay. We weren’t on the road long when a large grey cloud came into view. By the time we got to the park the rain was coming down in sheets. Roo and I were prepared with sturdy boots and coats that kept us dry in Patagonia 18 months before. But Amanda was forced to don my emergency white poncho so her down jacket did not get soaked! It was a ghostly sight her flapping around in the wind and rain behind Andrew as we made for the top of the climb.

Ghostly Gal with Roo
Ghostly gal with Roo

The rain let up for a bit and we were able to see the freshly washed trees and plants glistening. It wasn’t overly cold but very damp and fresh by the top of the saddle from where you can see out to Wineglass Bay. But as we got to the top the rain just pelted down again. Having done this walk before we knew that there was a bit of clambering downhill to the beach and that it was slippery with loose rock, even in the dry. We made the decision to turn back as the rain showed no signs of stopping.

During the break in the rain, we did capture some scenes of the surrounding bushland.

After our aborted hike, we headed back out the National Park Road towards the highway. On our way in we had spied a sign for fresh seafood so we decided to pull in and have a look as it was almost lunchtime. Fresh seafood is naturally a feature of an island and Tasmania’s clean waters are a boon for fish lovers. To our delight there was a big undercover seating area attached to a basic kitchen where three women were shucking fresh oysters, cooking fish, steaming mussels and frying potatoes. We ordered up a few trays of food without hesitation and dug into a feast of fresh seafood. This more than compensated for our curtailed hike and there were smiles all around the table.

The next stop on our trip was on the way back to our accommodation on the Tasman Highway (we’re talking two-lane road here, not some superhighway). Having passed the vineyard and olive groves on our way up and down to town and the National Park, we were keen to try the local wines and olive oil produced by Freycinet Vineyard. The main vineyards are tucked into a protected valley that gets plenty of sun. The olive trees are close to the main road and you drive through both vine and orchard on your way to the cellar door tasting room.

We were greeted by the smiling and cheerful Jennifer, a young German woman on a working holiday visa who was living locally and working in all capacities around the vineyard.

Pinot Noir grows well in Tasmania and the 2013 Freycinet Pinot Noir was a revelation with the right ratio of spice to cherry.  Also available for sampling was the cold-pressed, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil. We enjoyed its rich taste and fragrance so much we bought a bottle for comparison with the warmer climate, local South Australian olive oil we use at home.

Autumn colour on the vines
Autumn colour on the vines

Late afternoon
Late afternoon at Freycinet Vineyard

Our last stay of the trip was to be at an Air BnB apartment in Hobart. We left the east coast and slowly made our way down the coast on a mostly sunny afternoon. In and out of rain showers we were treated with many rainbows that never failed to thrill us like little children.

We arrived at our apartment with plenty of daylight and were treated to a spectacular view of Mt Wellington from the big expanse of glass in the dining and lounge areas. It’s notoriously cold and windy up on the mount and we watched the weather change over the next few days. Sometimes the top of Mt Wellington was visible but the middle was shrouded in fog. When the cloud and mist blew away, there’d be a lower line of snow dusting the slopes. Just a spectacular position we had (even if we did feel the full brunt of the wind on the windows which seemed, at times, like they might blow in).

Mt Wellington - snow line
Mt Wellington – snow line

Mt Wellington - mist
Mt Wellington – mist

While driving down to Hobart we decided to try our luck at getting a reservation at the well-known Da Angelo Italian restaurant in Battery Point. Fortunately, they were able to squeeze us into the big welcoming dining room on a packed-out, cold Wednesday night. I had dined there a few times in 2000 when it was new, and had never been served a dud meal!

We were not disappointed. Da Angelo serves classic Italian dishes plus speciality dishes from the Molise region of southern Italy. We dined on gnocchi, pizza and my favourite, the Stracciatella soup, a chicken broth with lightly beaten egg, parsley and parmesan cheese.

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On Friday we drove south towards the Huon Valley with no real destination in mind. After a chance discussion with a local, we stopped in Kettering to sample some chocolate in an unlikely little shop attached to a cafe, the whole thing a former service station.

Inside Nutpatch Confectionary is a colourful array of chocolates made by John Zito, a former schoolteacher turned chocolatier. He doesn’t advertise and doesn’t need to. His chocolates and nougat receive orders from far-flung places and he keeps busy. But not too busy to have a chat with us about his craft.

John Zito, chocalatier
John Zito, chocolatier

Chocolates at the Nutpatch, Kettering
Chocolates at the Nutpatch, Kettering

the Creme Brulê chocolate
THE Creme Brûlée chocolate

We are so glad we stumbled upon Nutpatch and were able to, ahem, help the local economy by buying a few items for ourselves and as gifts. That Creme Brûlée truffle was an absolute stunner.

As John was born in Italy and has a connection to the motherland, we naturally spoke of things Italian. When I told him of my Abruzzo heritage he asked, if I liked pecorino. I replied, “the wine or the cheese because I like both”. Well he didn’t know about the wine but he suggested we drive south through the next town, Woodbridge, and look out for Tasmania’s only Sheep Milk Cheesery called Grandvewe.  We found it easily, just 3 kilometres out of town. Inside we tasted a range of very delicious sheep cheeses, but the Pecorino was unfortunately sold out. We liked all the cheeses and I was surprised to find out that 98% of lactose-intolerant people can tolerate sheep mild cheeses with no problem. My favourite cheeses were the manchego-style Primavera and the vine-wrapped Pampino. Again, we helped stimulate the local economy by taking some cheeses with us.

The daylight almost over, we headed on for a drive along the valley, stopping to buy apples and find a cafe for a somewhat late lunch/snack.

Always thinking about the next meal, we stopped at a country butcher and bought some pork loin chops as we already had apples. Next stop was Pagan Cider along the highway at Cradoc. We tasted the standard Apple, Pear and Cherry (Cerise) ciders as well as some sample batches of fruit blends and a high alcohol number called Woody. Needing some cider to braise our pork chops and apple with back at our BnB meant that we purchased a few bottles.

Our day in the Huon Valley ended up being a very relaxed day ~ sometimes no plan is the best plan of all.

 The Apple Isle
A reminder that Tasmania has always been known as ‘The Apple Isle’

Sheep cheese tasting at Grandvewe
Sheep cheese tasting at Grandvewe

The girls - sheep at Grandvewe
The girls

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A cafe along the way

We’d arranged to be in Hobart on a Saturday so we could visit the market that sets up in Salamanca place. I remembered, from my time living there in 2000, that the markets were full of locals and tourists, with the locals were buying fresh fruits and vegetables from Hmong families. The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. They have been growing and selling in Tassie since the 70s. I was pleased to see the beautiful array of greens and seasonal fruits still proudly displayed. In 2000 there were older ladies selling with their grandchildren doing all the talking in English. Fifteen years later it seems the kids, most University-aged or just younger, have taken over the stalls and were now giving granny a break.

The craft, pottery, silver work and woodwork area of the market used to be a great place to pick up a nice gift or special item for you home. It seems now though that there is more tourist-oriented ‘stuff’ and the real artisan goods are a little harder to find. Maybe it’s a sign of economic times. There were some exceptions though and were some beautiful hand-woven items like woollen scarves, ponchos and beanies.

The best thing about Salamanca Place for us was lunch at a restaurant around the back in Salamanca Square. SMOLT is decorated with a sort of Danish modern vibe, but the menu couldn’t be sunnier or more southern European. The menu is an eclectic mix of Spanish and Italian influences and its focus is on fresh seasonal ingredients. The sourdough bread is delicious, dipped in local olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.

A chunk of Smolt's divine bread dipped in oil and balsamic...
A chunk of Smolt’s divine bread dipped in oil and balsamic…

We shared a tasting platter of oysters, jamón croquettes and lamb cutlets to start then I chose the grilled Tasmanian salmon, faro, freekeh and du puy lentil braise, chimichurri, chorizo, herb salad for a main dish. Roo and Amanda both chose the pappardelle with a lamb ragú. We were quiet and contemplative once the food arrived with the only talk being the occasional “oh my gawd this is freaking awesome” spoken in reverential tones.

That bread
That bread

Tasting plate
Tasting plate

Grilled samlon
Grilled salmon

Pappardelle with lamb ragu
Pappardelle with lamb ragu

Smolt was a culinary bliss point on an island full of great food.

Amanda departed for the airport later that afternoon. We drove the next day to Devonport and caught the ferry back to the mainland. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to Tasmania again.

As I prepare to close part 2 of this post I am keenly aware that I could write 10 more posts about the 10 days we spent in Tasmania. It is truly a spectacular place and Australia’s crown jewel.

I can’t wait to go back…

A belated wish for 2014

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Greetings from my desk, complete with my new fit ball/desk chair.

The year 2014 and I have gotten off to a rocky start. Already we’ve had some ups and downs.

Roo and I arrived home from our marvellous time in Argentina and Chile, documented here, on 30 December after a long flight. Santiago-Auckland-Sydney-Adelaide. That’s 18 hours of actual flying, but about 24 door-to-door. Ouch!

So we didn’t make it till midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was all I could do to watch the fireworks on TV in Sydney, which is of course a half-hour ahead of us here in Adelaide. My head hit the pillow at 11.47 pm and I was out!

The first week back was filled with restocking the house with food after 6 weeks away, doing copious amounts of laundry and generally tidying our personal effects.  As well, I had registered for an intensive 5 day training course (Certificate IV in Training And Assessment) that required me to do some pre-work in the form of watching some training videos and completing some workbook exercises. My computer decided to give me grief as I was starting my pre-work for the course. Stress levels rose! But I sorted it and averted any major computer or personal melt-down. Suffice to say that first week was full.

Week 2 was my intensive course week. From Monday through Friday, 8.30am till 5.pm, I was in a room with other learners cramming six months of coursework into our five days. This included giving two presentations on which I was judges against a long list of criteria. Because of the compressed time to complete the course there was homework and preparation every night. Half way through the week I started itching. My back felt like I had a spider bite or a bad mosquito bite. However my course did not allow me time to scratch or see a doctor.

My presentations went off without a hitch and I received some feedback that I can use to improve my delivery and my engagement with learners.

Saturday morning I rode my bike to the doctor. One look at my back (and front) and he declared, “Oh, you’ve got shingles”. Great, thanks! My chicken-pox virus from circa 1958 had been percolating along just fine until a point of low immunity when it decided to rear its ugly, red, itchy head.

Meanwhile, on the Friday morning of my course, Speedy the wonder cat was found licking his wounds in the potting shed. He was nowhere to be found when it was time for he and brother Jose to come in the night before. It seems he had a run in with a car, motorcycle or bike. He was limping and had some visible abrasions and a minor cut on one leg. He is a curious and fearless cat, but this has slowed him down for a few days. Roo got him checked at the vet and it seems he’s on life number seven or six of his allocated nine about now…

So that’s where we are now. Fourteen days into the new year and I have gained the qualification I was working for and gotten a disease as a bonus! The cat has had a near-miss but survived another day. The good with the bad.

I do have some hopes for the year. Being healthy is high on the list. Eating well from what each season has to offer is always there. Writing and reading more are also up there. Appreciating the moment, just being, is also high up. And engaging with friends and family and followers, in the myriad of ways and means we have at our disposal, is a goal.

I need a nap. Peace everyone!

Homemade Pizza ~ Fleurieu Style

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Perfect Pizza

For three years now I have been studying Italian with the same group of people and the same teacher. From time to time different members of the group get together socially. The latest such gathering was at the country house of fellow student Maura and her husband Vic. The property is on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, about an hour south of Adelaide city. Maura and Vic have had a wood-burning oven built on their property, and we were invited for that most-iconic of italian meals, pizza.

The drive to the property is beautiful on a winter day. The normally dry hills are now green after some substantial rains over the last weeks. Animals are in abundance on the back roads: kangaroos, cows, alpacas, sheep, ducks, geese and a profusion of native birds. We passed signs for koalas and surely they were up in the trees as we zoomed past.

Yes, look closely, there are kangaroos...
Yes, look closely, there are kangaroos…

When we arrived the dough was rising and the wood oven was fired up. Maura began rolling out the pizza bases, Vic cooked the pizzas and we all enjoyed them enormously.

The afternoon finished with Vic bringing out his piano accordion and playing a few tunes. Another classmate’s husband Nick also displayed his playing skills. We’re pretty sure we saw a glint in wife Nicoletta’s eye as she watched her long-time husband  caress the mother-of-pearl keys…

Learning to be a better blogger in Abruzzo

I have to admit that the idea of going to Abruzzo to learn more about the art and craft of blogging has struck some of my friends and colleagues as an odd thing.  To be honest, most of them have never heard of Abruzzo. Unless, of course it’s just the humorous mention of  it by a character in the recent Australian film ‘Red Dog‘.  The mine worker, Vanno, is always singing the praises of his homeland in Italy, “Ah, now in the Abruzzi…” followed by any of “…the women are the most beautiful” or “…the food is the best in the world” or “…the scenery is fantastic”.  As a migrant in a desolate, woman-less, remote mining outpost of Western Australia in the 1970s it’s easy to see how Vanno would have a sense of Abruzzo as a paradise on earth! But there’s a lot of truth in this idealised vision of our character’s homeland.

From a cousin's house in Morro D'Oro, Teramo, looking back towards the mountains.
From a cousin’s house in Morro D’Oro, Teramo, looking back towards the mountains.

As someone who also has heritage in Abruzzo, I seem to have an attraction to web sites or blogs that discuss Italy (refer previous post here) and more so if the content mentions the word ‘Abruzzo’.  So when I learnt of the Let’s Blog Abruzzo event (yes I have been following the blog of one of the organisers) I thought, “what a wonderful alignment of the planets”.  A visit to Bell’Abruzzo. A room full of people all interested in Abruzzo food, wine and tourism. A room full of people who know so much more than me about blogging. A session to help me with my photography. A list of sponsors who produce food and wine that we will be able to taste. An opportunity to meet people whose blogs I have been following for ages. It was a ‘no brainer’…

I am so looking forward to seeing family, attending the conference in a part of Abruzzo that I’ve not been to before – the hill-top town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio – and immersing myself in all that Let’s Blog Abruzzo has to offer. Ci vediamo presto!

Summer, where did you go?

Oh dear, I hope that three months between posts is not the new normal. But it has been a full three months as expected back in my January post.

A frantic pace was maintained by Roo, Giulia (la cugina) and I with performances and events galore during the March Madness season in Adelaide.

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I Cugini, Giulia and Lou

Giulia’s two month visit has come and gone in a flash. We managed to get to Melbourne together for four days and to meet up in Sydney after Giulia’s Outback Tour.

Giulia and I volunteered as marshals for the Adelaide Fringe Opening Night Parade and that was a blast to get a front row view of the homegrown colour and spectacle that we have all come to expect from the parade.

Roo, bestie Kat and I saw Neil Young with Crazy Horse and were blown away by the musicianship and Neil’s strong clear voice. A truly heartfelt performance.

At the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Giulia and I saw a few performances but the standout for me was one I had not planned to go to but am glad I did – the wonderfully skilled dancer Sylvie Guillem.

The summer was very hot this year so our garden was not as generous as in previous years. We did manage some decent tomatoes though. And I once again made the recipe called Tomato Party from Plenty, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Tomato Party!
Tomato Party!

Before Giulia left we got in a few more day trips, to wineries in McLaren Vale and as we usually do, we popped over to Port Willunga for a little beach walk.

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Port Willunga Beach cliffs

Since G wasn’t flying back to Rome until the evening we decided to have a good day of bike riding to tire her out for the journey. We rode to Henley Beach then home again and had a beautiful day for it.

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Bike ride along coast – West Beach, Adelaide

Daylight savings has now ended and my bike ride home will be in the dark. The view from the bikeway over South Road at Glandore makes for a lovely end to a work day.

We now have a beautiful Indian Summer in progress but it’s just a matter of weeks before the real chill settles over Adelaide. It’s all good!

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Almost home when I get here…