Sunday, June 03, 2007

Australia (Part Two): a daddy dances and the wombat comes to visit

Sunday, May 27: Gardens and Neuroses

This morning, while the Man grumbled, we whooshed out the door to the Botanic Gardens. It was amazingly simple to get there, simple to park, easy to find our way into the heart of the Gardens, where the pond sat, ornamental and shallow, with the famous black swans cruising by. The drought has been difficult for the Gardens, which have worked hard to figure out ways of low-volume watering. The Gardens have flourished – the pond has not.

Even so, the boys ran and jumped and tried to pull plants straight out of the soil from sheer excitement (the Toddles), and insisted on reading label after latinate label (the Eldest). The Eldest especially liked the trees planted by King George and Queen Mary, a bit of historical data that brought home to me exactly how old some of the trees are.

My grandmother, uncle and his friend met us by the tea house on the edge of the lake, a spot that nourishes both intestines and spirit. For the Toddles, however, the appeal was simple: unable to eat the cakes, scones and other glutinous treats in the café (and, by extension, making the rest of us avoid them), he focussed on the more accessible treat: the water’s edge. He picked himself up, hopped off his chair and ran for the edge of the water, shrieking happily. I scooped him up, returned him to his chair and briefly managed to interest him in paper and crayons.

The boys drew happily for a while, until a sparkle from the water caught their eye. They ran around on the grass a bit, until the Toddles remembered his first love. Over and over, the child tried to divebomb the water, shrieking in joy as he ran, shrieking in rage when a parental arm rescued him. Let’s move to another spot, I suggested. Oh, you Americans are so neurotic, I was told. The water’s only a couple of inches deep – what’s the harm?

Gritting my teeth, I plopped the Toddles in his stroller (pusher), handed the handles to the Man, who quietly pushed the child while I pushed the Aged G’ma. Neurotic? Yes, but now neurotic and dry.

Monday, May 28th: The Scurry, the Flurry, the Dance...and the Wombat
Today has been a day of frantic scurryings and panicked moments. We’re off to Wilsons Promontory, but first we must have a barely comic drama.

The credit card has been stubborn. Clearly, the security people do not read this blog, and are certain that strange and possibly illicit purchases are being made with our American card. The Man, not having anticipated this turn of events (I am mildly scornful of this), has been approving each purchase manually on the card website, purchase by purchase. But when faced with a morning of pre-departure grocery shopping, the card balked.

The Man, already rather fragile over the cost of kosher meat here, freaked. It was a three ring circus freakout, complete with an infuriated little dance that the Toddles imitated (luckily, the Man had already left for a cooling walk when the Toddles came in and said, Daddy dance! and showed me). It would be three days before I would venture to tell the Man about the Toddles’ dance. And when I did, we were both holding our sides with laughter.

Late, late, late and having forgotten my jeans, we arrived at the Prom. I’d called the credit card people on the way there and sorted things out. We’d gotten lost and un-lost. Google Maps had wholly failed to mention things like what the hell was A440, vs M444. Or possibly vice versa. And then we arrived.

We had rented one of the Parks Victoria cabins, which I can happily endorse as an inexpensive (but book early!), civilized option. The two bedrooms were ready for a family much larger than ours, and we echoed around in them a bit, but the living/dining/kitchen was wonderful: compact and with a whole wall that was glass, sliding doors. You could actually open up the room to the deck, and feel the sea air washing over you as you ate.

Of course, if you did that, the wombat and possum haunting your cabin might try to invite themselves inside…fair warning, eh?
Here's what's cooking over here this week - all the recipes are new to me, lifted from Aussie (and possibly one English) magazines. I promise to write up anything that works! I'm also eyeing this from Gluten-Free Goddess. Looks like she's gone vegetarian again, which is good news from me. Not that we're vegetarian, but the Eldest is reconsidering his position on poultry and recalling his former life as a vegan. Alas. Hopefully this incarnation eats fish...

Monday lunch:
spiced black and white beans
tomato, cuke, avocado salad

Tuesday (lunch)
tomato, kalamata olive and tofu pasta (see below)

Tuesday (dinner)
chicken soup with leftover chicken, ginger, lemongrass and dumplings (aka leftover burgers)
gingery glazed carrots and cranberries

Wednesday (dinner)
chargrilled white fish with greek salad
herb-y potatoes

get fed by family!!

Friday (lunch)
sushi rice balls, stuffed with??? lox? avocado? cucumber? random things from fridge?

Friday (dinner)
ya got me. Can't think that far ahead. Considering french onion soup with garlic croutons, to use up the onions and lousy GF bread that we bought. With chicken leek sausages from the local (ruinously expensive, make their own sausage) butcher.
Tuesday's lunch will be adapted from a recipe by The Splendid Table. Here's the full recipe, I plan to tweak and play with it, but this is it in the original. Note, please, that I foolishly believe that one can substitute feta with an equal amount of firm tofu, dressed with a splash of lemon juice and dash of salt. And, of course, I'd replace the pasta with rice pasta, again the same amount recommended in the recipe.

Bow Ties with Feta, Olives, and Golden Raisins
Excerpted from From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine. Text copyright 1995 and 2007 by John Ash and Sid Goldstein. Used by permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco.
Serves 4 to 6
The interplay of salty olives and feta with sweet golden raisins makes for an intriguing palate teaser. This combination evokes memories of a long-ago summer spent in Greece.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced small red onion
1 cup slivered red or yellow bell pepper
2 teaspoons thinly sliced garlic
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, including juice
2/3 cup pitted, slivered Kalamata olives
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons rinsed capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano chile or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces bow tie-shaped dried pasta, such as farfalle
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sauté the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives, raisins, wine, capers, basil, and chile. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and parsley. Top with the sauce and feta and serve immediately.

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and parsley. Top with the sauce and feta and serve immediately.

Note: made this tonight. Didn't have raisins, didn't have wine - left them out. Used the tofu/lemon juice sub for the feta. Forgot the parsley. The whole thing took 15 minutes to make, start to finish, and the guys loved it. They even took a rare pause between mouthfuls to say so, and I was touched. Good lads, those ones.

Next up...Wilsons Promontory and hiking. In the rain! Because, dammit, we're here.


country girl said...

I'm exhausted just reading all you are doing plus the cooking. Sounds like a delightful vacation; maybe not a vacation for you with all you have to contend with.

One thing I've learned from traveling is to always call my credit card company before I leave the country so they will authorize the charges. They are so appreciative when you call. Rarely do I call an 800-number and find the person on the other end being appreciative. Sort of a special treat in this modern world of phone menus.

dykewife said...

poor tot! all that water and not a drop on his feet. lol

it sounds a whole lot like you're going to have to visit some place wet that doesn't invovle a bathtub just to keep him (and by extension, you) sane.

Anonymous said...

I'm hopping the next Quantas flight and coming over for dinner. That pasta sounds wonderful.

SO GLAD y'all are having tons of fun! This will defitnitely be a journey that will be a fond memory for all.

What is it about kids and ponds? Big brother was the same way too, according to my parents. We had a creek in our backyard and they said he'd find a way to "fall into it" every day...LOL!

mama o' the matrices said...

Glad it looks good, Lois! I've updated the recipe to show what I did (as opposed to what the recipe suggested) got a happy thumbs up from my crowd. Or it might've, if their mouths weren't so full and their hands so busy shovelling it in.

dw, yes. Small boys seem to require water to fall into, roll around, and generally make them a specific combination of wet and filthy. We must make this up to the Toddles - maybe I'll find him a nice muddy rain puddle somewhere...

and country girl, yes! Something like this has happened on nearly every vacation we've taken. The Man, being the Great Financial Master of our destinies (ahem), seems to have, shall we say, a long learning curve on this one.

But we love him anyway...