In My Kitchen, February 2018.

The morning beach snap featured above might seem incongruous in a post about kitchens. This is the view just past the banksia trees and over the gravel track from our camping kitchen, around 30 steps away. On still days we carry the table and chairs down to the beach, placing them in front of an abandoned boat shed, and dine in style while watching the light shift over the bay.

Camping Buddha

From February to April, we travel between two kitchens-a camping kitchen by the sea and our home kitchen, the more demanding task master during this season of abundant garden crops. As the two kitchens are only 1/¼ hours apart, an easy freeway drive, we alternate every three or four days. When setting up the beach kitchen, we aim for functionality with solid metal stands, stoves and shelves and frivolous decor mostly sourced from local opportunity shops. I’ve tried minimalism and it doesn’t work for me.

In my beach kitchen I usually mix 1970s Chinese enamel ware and cookware with a few old Balinese sarongs ( my curtains) and junk from the local op shops. Old hippy mid-century retro Chinese vintage, with a touch of Greek fishing village might best describe the style. Things change each year, depending on what floats my way.

The beach suburbs from Dromana to Sorrento are loaded with vintage shops and ‘oppies’, Australian term of affection for a charity shop. Today I found some wonderful treasure to add to my beach kitchen. These Balinese placements were a steal and are both functional and decorative. They turned up in Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul),  Rosebud.

I can’t resist old dolphin bottle openers. Neither can my eldest son, who owns quite a few and displays them swimming together along a loungeroom cabinet.  These two have found a home in the beach set up and get a workout on hot days. Pass the dolphin.

An old preserving pan for $3 from another op shop found its way into our beach kitchen. So many uses and lightweight.

A birthday gift from my children, this wok burner is perfect for camping. With fierce heat and stability, it’s a joy to fire up a big wok full of mie goreng. This one will be added to our home verandah on our return.

A pile of books for a few gold coins. Freshly donated, all new looking and many unread, they were stacked in piles on a table, the eager volunteers keen to do their job and get them up on the shelves. I remarked to Mr Tranquillo that books on a table are far more appealing than those shelved in bookcases. Books on tables invite fondling, turning and perusing. He reminded me that it’s an old marketing ploy. When a line in a shop isn’t selling, you simply take it off the shelf and display it on a table. No price reduction, no promotion needed. This stash will live in the caravan and once read, will be returned to the op shop or perhaps the communal laundry, which has become a freecycle centre at our beach camp.

A  five-minute meal, a bowl of lightly curried mussels, French style, served with some chunky bread. Easy food from my beach kitchen.

Moules marinière à la crème et au curry
Moules marinière à la crème et au curry.

The secret is out- best op shops on the Mornington Peninsula:

  • Salvos, Dromana
  • Vinnies, Rosebud
  • The Rotary Warehouse, Capel Sound
  • The Habitat for Humanity, Capel Sound
  • Search and Rescue op shop, Blairgowrie
  • Jack and Andy’s, Sorrento
  • and plenty of smaller oppies in each small beach suburb along the way. 

‘She threw back her head and cried with pleasure

One woman’s trash is another one’s treasure’.

Thank you Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings for hosting this series once again.

Rod’s House. Decorating in Colour

I feel very connected to Rod’s house. I was there when he decided to buy it, though at the time, I preferred the white-painted, more feminine, pressed metal house around the corner. In hindsight, I’m glad he didn’t listen to me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We set out on that long road trip to the Wimmera District in 1997, travelling in an old mustard green 1976 Datsun, affectionately known as a Datto in Australia, a car not known for its style or class, then or now. When we first entered the house, I found the darkness oppressive: the house felt sinister, haunted even. Built in 1897, with walls made of thick, unadorned concrete, it was stark and foreboding. The house consisted of two rooms at the front and two at the rear, with a central entrance hall just inside the front door. Off one end of the back verandah, there was a semi functional bathroom (that hasn’t changed much) and at the other end, a derelict room. The only ornamentation back then were the fine wooden fireplace surrounds featuring swastika fretwork. Rod has more than compensated for those austere times with his strong colour treatments and decor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Corner of the living room. Swastika fretwork on wooden fireplace. The modern TV blends in easily with the myriad of paintings and the 1950s glass cabinet.

Rod’s decorating style could be called courageous, or outrageous.  He doesn’t follow trends although he has set many in his time. Rod’s previous house in a Melbourne seaside suburb contained wall to wall original framed Tretchikoff prints, Danish mid-century furniture, Sputnik record turntables and assorted retro gems. These were all sold off, once they became desirable and collectible. When Rod moved to this country house in 2004, he started again from scratch, seeking a new rural, eclectic and personal style.

ss
Entrance hall, looking towards living room.

I kept records of the metamorphosis of this house along the way, though some of my treasured files were lost to bushfire, or random deaths of hard drives. At each point along the way, the decor has been quite different. I walk in and wonder what happened to the huge blue and white Chinese urns, or the hand-made miniature bird cages, or the vintage toy car collection. Things are always changing, rotating, or are tucked away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The kitchen. Tiny 1940s kitchen benches and sink, modern stainless steel stove, black painted walls, cheap canvas French prints from the reject shop, other framed originals, pink man knife holder, a recent op shop purchase.

When Rod first moved in, he began painting the walls. For years they changed colour but lately, he seems satisfied with the chosen colour scheme, especially since the walls are no longer visible thanks to the wonderful art collection on the walls. The kitchen walls can still be discerned, with black, deep orange and pink featuring loudly. Not much sun enters the house, thanks to the deep shady verandahs, so important in semi- desert country. The colours seem right: they breathe life into this old house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Old 1950s kitchen cabinet gets the colour treatment.

Rod is quite partial to old chandeliers: this one features in the front passage way. There are other chandeliers in the sitting room and bedroom but these have disappeared under veils and bling. New lighting is coming, and once the electrician deals with the antique wiring, the veils are coming down.

entrance foyer chandelier
Entrance foyer chandelier
Like re-entering your mothers womb room.
‘Re-entering your mothers womb’ room.
Art and Bling. Living room.
Art and Bling. Living room.

The main bedroom has been given a gentler treatment. The bed now has white linen, the only white used in the house. The bedroom is entered through a black cloud of butterflies.The darkness and softer decor beckons. Excuse me while I take a short nap.

Through a veil of butterflies, sleep calls at any time of the day.
Through a veil of butterflies, sleep calls at any time of the day.
xx
A beautiful window treatment.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Is that a TV? Corner of living room.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Colourful cotton reels and a touch of bling.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Mr Tranquillo ( left) and Mr Rod enjoy an afternoon Pinot Grigio.

As you can imagine, there are thousands more photos. I hope you enjoyed the house tour Maxine, Susan from Our French Oasis , Loisajay , Peter at Tropical Bliss BNB, (who had a cactus juice dream about Rod’s house ) and you also, dear friend and reader. Please comment as I am sure Rod would appreciate any feedback. If I do a post on Rod’s house next year, I anticipate that many things will have changed.

Under a shady verandah.
Under a shady verandah.

Some of Rod’s pre-loved treasure is available at a stall at the Daylesford branch of the Mill Market. His stall, shared with an old friend Leah, is called Rocket and Belle. Drop in and say hello if you are in Daylesford. Cheap treasure abounds.

As an afterthought, I’m also adding this post to Ailsa’s Cheerful, her travel theme on Where’s My Backpack this week.

Garden Diary, March 2015

I know, dear readers and my good friend Helen, that I have mentioned my tomato glut in many other posts but I must mention two particular tomato varieties that featured in my vegetable garden this year. Firstly, the miniature yellow pear, which quickly became a triffid and bore fruit throughout December (unusual in Melbourne) and continues to do so. I attempted to weigh the crop but soon tired of this chore- many have been left on the vine as I couldn’t keep up with them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next tomato I promised to report on was the black-skinned tomato that my son grew from seeds purchased on eBay. They did eventually turn red and are in no way related to the more desirable Krim or Black Russian but go by the name ‘Indigo Rose’.  They are blue tomatoes engineered at the Oregon State University. They are prolific, long keepers and medium-sized but sadly, they lack true tomato flavour so I won’t be growing these next year.

Indigo Rose Tomatoes
Indigo Rose Tomatoes

My favourite tomato, Rouge de Marmande cropped poorly this year and the Roma has called it quits already and it is only March! The season has been odd- one very hot spell in December, followed be a cool summer. Even the basil is slow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cool summer has meant an abundant supply of strawberries : they have produced continually for months and early self seeding of radicchio, rainbow chard and cavolo nero. You win some, you lose some with each season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

self sown cavolo nero ( Tuscan kale- black kale )
self sown cavolo nero ( Tuscan kale- black kale )

This year Alberto tied up the leeks and spring onions onto stakes. Their seed is now ready. They make great architectural statements in the veggie patch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have recycled lots of household junk. This basic clothes airer is used to support cucumber vines. The legs bury nicely into the soil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I saved my disintegrating pool lounge chairs and turned them into shade houses to protect lettuce seed and young seedlings from drying out. I sow directly into the ground.

Frame of pool lounge covered in shade cloth.
Frame of pool lounge covered in shade cloth.

And here’s the pillow end of the old pool chair, ready to provide some instant shade wherever it’s needed.  No land fill, no tipping fees- just re-purposed junk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo do list:

  • remove shade cloth from the hooped frames now that the weather has turned mild.
  • make more compost
  • sow autumn vegetable seedlings, lettuce, carrots, spring onions, brocolli.
  • transplant self-sown seedlings as keeping them in the same bed will deplete them of goodness. Crop rotation makes sense.
  • remove bird nets from raspberry beds and cut back some of the canes.
  • pick all the grapes.

A good visitor to my veggie patch is this little ladybird beetle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe veggie patch has also benefited greatly from the manure provided by our cows and hens. Here is young Dougie Dexter begging me for another cow lolly ( acorn).  I would like to sell him and his cousin Oh Danny Boy but I don’t want them to end up on a BBQ!

Dougie Dexter
Dougie Dexter

Not only does this post from a monthly record of food gardening activities, it also features in the Garden Share Collective, kindly coordinated by Lizzie. Follow the link to see other amazing gardens throughout Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom.

Take Me to the River

Sitting on the banks of the ancient Murray River, the day is hot and still: I pass the afternoon with a glass of vodka and Passiona on ice, sunning my legs, followed by a dip in the water,  while chatting with my daughter/best friend. Oh Happy Day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m on a mission to explore the many beaches and banks of the Murray River, camping off the grid where possible.  As the river is 2,508 kilometres in length and runs through three states of Australia, this could be mission impossible.  Earlier Murray river posts can be viewed here and here.

Isolated beach on the Murray River
Isolated beach on the Murray River

This time, we set up camp on a sandy bank between Cobram and Yarrawonga in Victoria, one day after a holiday weekend. We had this glorious beach to ourselves, bar two canoeists heading down stream, and one tourist passenger boat. I’m glad I wasn’t perched on the throne of my river view toilet/shower on that occasion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks to Kyle, who should be cloned and packed away in everyone’s tool box, we had hot water on demand, many other unusual and handy camping gadgets, as well as ready help with anything to fix or adjust. His gadgets included a vacuum cleaner, a high pressure hose, an electric fan, radios, mobile phones, tablets and iPads, shower pumps and portable fridges, to name just a few. Solar panels supplied power to the 12 volt battery systems that had already been charged by our vehicles in the trip to the river. An inverter took care of converting 12 volt power from the batteries to 240 volts for those appliances that required mains power.

Our hot water service was fired up each morning and evening. Cold river water is poured into a funnel inserted in the top of the keg which is then heated on the campfire. A short time later, boiling hot water comes from the outlet, providing enough for showers and dishwashing.

Kyle's reprurposed stainless stell keg hot water service.
Kyle’s repurposed stainless steel beer keg hot water service.

Camping trips require good but simple food. Sometimes we cooked on gas or used Kyle’s Dutch ovens, partly buried in a shallow layer of hot coals with more hot coal on the lids enabling roasting, casseroling and baking.  Lunchtime catering on hot days consisted of sandwiches and salads: the kids picked out the bits they liked. The pescatarians ate stuffed peppers with leftover Pesto Mac ( a variation of Mac and Cheese for pesto lovers) as well as curries and salmon burgers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The family took the week off, cashing in on Melbourne Cup Day Holiday to take time out in a great month of the year. What did the kids learn? The oldest (10)  learnt about solar energy and sustainability and the basic law of physics, via the water heater service. He observed our camping solar panels in action and asked the pertinent question, “If this is the sunniest spot in Victoria, why aren’t there more solar panels around? This area could produce enough power for the state of Victoria!”  Good question Noah.  A child can see the common sense in solar energy after a camping trip like this.

Are our political leaders slow learners, are their heads buried in the sand or inserted into another orifice of the dirty brown coal industry providers?  At 10 years old, kids ask questions, at 18 they vote. At 50 what will their world be like without a radical change to address climate change?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The younger ones learnt to use the currents of the river to move downstream (with safety jackets on). They watched the full moon rise each evening. The girls found some instant $1.00 fashion in the op shops of a nearby town. The children had no need for shoes, they were always hungry, and they played and looked after each other. The cards came out, Ollie found a handmade sling shot, Lottie found an off cut of redgum wood which became an oiled cheese board. They skip jumped rocks on the river and dug vast holes in the sand and joined in night-time campfire conversations about dreams.

We wound up with a moonlight ballet concert on the beach, spot lit by one of Kyle’s camping toys, with Daisy doing a great dying swan act on the banks of the river. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How nice it would be to take a tinny or kayak down the river from Yarrawonga to Cobram.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Song plants to go with this post, because camping is also about singing:

  • Take Me to the River, Al Green, nicely covered  by Talking Heads.
  • I See the Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival.
  • Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky -you know the one!
  • Oh Happy Day,  18th century gospel song first popularised by Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969.
  • Love is a Battlefield, Pat Benatar, a good tune to dance to in the wilds.