Thursday, January 14, 2021

IN THE PALM OF MY HAND...

 




 


 

Acrylic painting by me of Ghost Gums

Family trees – often they make it difficult to see the forest.

 Some folk go to extraordinary lengths, out on a limb, to dig up trunk loads of information; multitude limbs to root out their ancestry.  With the intention of learning about who went before them they branch out in every direction, pouring over clusters of data. Nothing is left swinging.  Persistent in their searches, their interest is perennial.  Their assiduous, dogged determination to discover everything they can about their lineage - from where it stemmed – is unyielding. 

Tirelessly the seekers stalk sites in search of answers, barking out questions.

 In the wee small hours off they lumber to slumber, only to wake a few hours later to begin digging again, feeling renewed like an evergreen.  Their curiosity remains perennially fresh. 

At times the deadwood is tossed aside or ignored, usually for good reason.  Most families, whether they like to admit it or not, have a skeleton or two hidden away in their silky oak, pine, mahogany or cedar cupboards.  There’s no point selling the cupboards on Gumtree.  Skeletons are adept at finding somewhere else to hide.  It’s a haunting thought, but they will remain to haunt...if you allow them to do so.   Perhaps there’s a spray available that eradicates skeletons.  Termites may be the answer. They could be coerced into embracing a liking for bones instead of wood.

My family tree is non-existent these days. Deforestation occurred years ago.  I’d better tread carefully, or I’ll be blamed for global warming!  

There’re no trees or branches blocking forest views in my insignificant corner of the field.  I’m the sole tree left standing. I’m probably more like a shrub these days, than a tall, straight, strong tree.   So far I’ve dodged the chainsaws. 

Branches of my family tree have been lopped back so far there’s no chance of regrowth. I don’t pine about the situation. Content I am being a gnarly, old, sole soul.

 I’m not unlike the Wollemi Pine – I’ve outlived dinosaurs.  There is a saying - “No man is an island”.   I’m a woman, so the saying doesn’t refer to me.  I enjoy being an island, and in no way do I feel deserted.  

“Deserted” is from where the term “desert island” originated.  As they do, people got lazy along the way and dropped off the “ed” at the end of the word.  It’s no secret I love tropical islands having lived on two back in the 80s and early 90s.

Actually, by having no family - no branches – I suppose, instead of being a shrub, I’m a palm, which, in fact, makes me a herb.  I’m herbaceous because palms are herbaceous – a non-woody plant.

There’s nothing wooden about me.  Pinch me, and you’d discover this to be so.  I am fleshy as opposed to woody!  Wouldn’t you know it! 

 My affinity to palms has been long-standing.  Growing in our yard when I was a kid were three palm trees.  We called them “monkey nut trees”.  The truth could be I descended from the Planet of the Apes! Now, that’s a thought upon which to ponder.  

As well as the she-oaks that grew on the foreshores of both Hinchinbrook and Newry Islands, which were my hang-outs for a while, were palm trees.  I never learned how to scale them, but I was proficient at scaling fish – and eating coconuts.

My mind works in mysterious ways.  Don’t question why or how. I don’t have the answers.... 

 

Salmon with Crispy Coconut Kale: Rinse 1c jasmine rice in cold water; drain. Place in saucepan with 1c coconut milk, 1c water and ½tsp salt. Bring to boil; stir. Reduce to lowest heat, cover; cook 15mins. Remove from heat. While rice is cooking, heat oven to 200C.  Combine in sealed jar, 1/3c melted coconut oil, 1tsp sesame oil, 2tbs coconut aminos or tamari, and 1tbs Sriracha. Shake until emulsified. Place 3 cubed kumara on baking sheet. Drizzle with 1tbs melted coconut oil; sprinkle with paprika. Toss to coat; bake 30mins, or until tender. Place 1 bunch trimmed kale, sliced into strips and 1c coconut flakes on baking sheet. Drizzle with 2/3rd of dressing. Toss until well coated. Drizzle 4 salmon fillets with 1- 2tbs of remaining dressing. Bake salmon and coconut kale mixture during last 15mins of sweet potato's baking time. Don’t let kale burn. Serve over fluffed rice with an extra drizzle of dressing.  

Coconut Fish: In bowl, beat together 1 egg and 2tbs pineapple juice. Spread 2/3c flour and 1-1/2c shredded coconut on separate plates, suitable for dredging. Add 2/3tbs oil to pan set over med-heat. Dry 5 snapper fillets. Dredge in flour; dip in egg; then coat in coconut. Working with 2-3 fillets at a time, add fish to pan. When coconut starts to brown, carefully turn over. When fish is cooked, remove from pan. Add more oil to pan if necessary; repeat with remaining fish.  

Lemon Salmon & Herbs:  Lightly oil a baking sheet. In bowl, whisk 2tbs  brown sugar, 2tbs lemon juice, 1tbs Dijon, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2tsp dried dill, 1/2tsp oregano, 1/4tsp thyme and 1/4tsp rosemary; season. Place 4 chopped zucchinis in a single layer onto baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; season to taste. Add 4 salmon fillets in a single layer; brush each with herb mixture. Place into 200C oven; cook until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 16-18mins, dependent on fillet thickness. Serve with lemon wedges.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Sunday, January 03, 2021

TICK-TOCK....TICK-TOCK....AS TIME GOES BY...

 





The sands of time ran out on 2020.   2020 roared by with a loud roar, and down the gurgler it went.  With the New Year under way, there’s something important everyone must remember. It’s important to start a new year off with a positive attitude.  Equally important is to continue the attitude throughout the rest of the year.  I hope 2021 treats everyone kindly.  Gently, gently does it...one day at a time. 

100 years ago... 1921, if you’re counting on your fingers...saw the end of the Spanish Flu.  History does repeat itself, so we’ve been told...I’m sure we’re all hoping similar occurs within the next few months, if not sooner....

By choice, I spent the Festive Season quietly and contentedly with my two best mates, who, like me, are indoor cats (I do sneak out once in a while...they don’t).   

As done in the past, I attended my landlords’ annual Christmas party on the Tuesday night prior to Christmas Day.  The evening was very pleasant.  I spent most of the time chatting with a lovely elderly, 92 year old gentleman.  The majority of the people in attendance I see only once a year...at that particular annual get-together.  The faces are familiar, but in many cases, not the names.  I’m pretty sure no one takes offence when offering their name for the hundredth time!   

Christmas Day, Boxing Day and at New Year my furry friends and I feasted on delicious king prawns – Aussie, of course, as we enjoyed each other's company.  My time was spent on reading, snoozing, crosswords, bingeing on favoured series and movies, snoozing, reading, snoozing, crosswords, bingeing on favoured series and movies...ad infinitum....Their time was spent on snoozing....

My furry mates were happy with their gifts.  I was happy with the gift of their presence.  

We Three Musketeers have shared 18 Christmases and New Year’s Eves.  They know the words to “Auld Lang Syne” off by heart.  We link hands and paws as they miaow along with me (I don’t miaow...I sing) at midnight every 31st December.  Carried away in the mood of the moment, they drown me out.  Shama is a coloratura soprano; Remy a lyric tenor. Well, Adele can relax.....as yet, I’m no threat!

2020 was a doozy of a year, wasn’t it?   It threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at us.  A year filled with sadness and concern, it dragged out every moment, but, oddly, the year flew by at a rapid rate of knots. Has the pace picked up now I am an old you-know what?  When I was many years younger than I am now, 12 months took much longer to pass by....or so it seemed.  Now, within a blink or two a year has passed by.

So here we are....having taken our first few steps, or strides, into January, 2021.   

Let’s make “empathy” an operative word for 2021... Let’s add “commonsense”, “kindness”, “good-humour”, and “solicitude” as well...

 

BBQ Prawns: Peel and de-vein 800g Aussie king prawns; leave tails intact. Mince 1tbs each fresh parsley, thyme, coriander and shallots; crush 3 large garlic cloves. Combine ½ melted butter, 1/4c x-virgin olive oil, 3tbs lemon juice, salt and black pepper.  Add prawns; marinate at room temp, 15mins, or in fridge, 30mins (no longer, or prawns will go mushy). Remove prawns from marinade; discard marinade. Thread prawns on thin skewers; grill on barbie until just opaque, about 2mins per side. Line platter with fresh spinach leaves; arrange skewers on platter; garnish with lemon.

Salsa Verde BBQ Prawns: Preheat bbq to high. Place 1/2c each, roughly chopped mint and Italian parsley in bowl with 1/2c finely chopped pitted green olives, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 2 finely chopped anchovy fillets, 2tbs finely chopped toasted slivered almonds, and 1tbs salted baby capers; add 125ml x-virgin olive oil, zest and juice of 2 lemons; gently whisk to combine; season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 2tsp oil over a pile of peeled green king prawns, season; toss to coat. Cook 2mins each side on grill or until lightly charred and just cooked. Transfer to a plate; cover to keep warm. Brush 2 red onions cut into wedges, 2 quartered lengthwise witlof (or Cos) and 180g thickly sliced haloumi with 2 tsp x-virgin olive oil; season; cook on grill 2mins each side or until lightly charred. Transfer to plate. Arrange onions, witlof, haloumi, prawns and watercress on a platter. Drizzle with salsa verde to serve.

 

 


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

WAITING TO EXHALE WHILE WAITING FOR GODOT...

 





The above title could be the theme for 2020, but don’t despair...it has been said often, and will continue being said...”good things come to those who wait”.  

Vladimir and Estragon (that’s “Estragon” not “estrogen”), the two main characters in Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for Godot”, waited for Godot to arrive, but Godot failed to do so. He didn’t even send a note of apology.  

Most of us, I’m sure, are waiting for 2020 to hurry up and come to an end, and for 2021 to arrive.  If there is a light at the end of what seems to be an endless tunnel, it’s the hope 2021 will be a better year.  We’ve been waiting and waiting for something to brighten and lighten the scene...for something good to happen. 

Around the next corner it could be...maybe accompanied by Godot...maybe not....

Even if it is difficult to find, there is a bridge over troubled waters. To reach the other side we just have to walk across the bridge, carefully taking one step at a time.  Unlike that legendary chicken we keep hearing about, we’ll know why we crossed the bridge. Don’t walk too close to the guard rail, though. If you do, you might fall into the troubled waters.  Remember your freestyle stroke if you fall. Promptly start swimming. Either that, or flip onto your back...float and go with the flow.  You’ll end up hitting the bank somewhere along the way. I don’t mean the Westpac, NBA, ANZ etc.

A loud, long collective sigh is needed.  People everywhere throughout the world deserve a break.

By a ‘break’ I don’t mean a vacation. 

To quote a joke...”I told my luggage we weren’t going on a holiday this Festive Season...now I have emotional baggage.

All I want for Christmas is...no, not my two front teeth....I’ve already got those...they are portable. What I want for Christmas is peace, goodwill, commonsense, consideration, thoughtfulness and happiness to sweep the world like an out of control pandemic extinguishing negativity, nastiness, selfishness, prejudice and hate.  No vaccine required.

Once again I thank everyone who shared his/her smiles and kindness with me throughout 2020.  I could list names, but there isn’t enough room to list every name. In truth, I don’t know everyone’s name, but I do know the generosity of spirit and the thoughtfulness shown by many is sincerely appreciated.  Good folk live up here on our mountain.

The IGA crew who are always friendly and good-humoured continued to make my shopping expeditions pleasant experiences.  They are to be commended, as are Gavin, Jan, Brooke, Shannon, Michelle and Barbara at the newsagency.  We are fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people in local businesses of various kinds...thank you.  Special thanks, also, to Barry, who went above and beyond; and to Russell who, very generously reached out and lent me his ear one day in an IGA aisle.  (I returned his ear, in case you’re wondering).  Also, I thank Jimmy and Morven who always make me happy when I see them.

Thanks to postman Michael, and the couriers, Jay and the other cheerful gentleman, whose name I must get one of these days. Without fail, they catch me when I’m immaculately presented at my most fashionable, stylish best, with not a hair out of place.   *cough*

I hope everybody’s Christmas stockings are filled to overflowing with love, good health, fun and happiness.

When 2021 arrives, it’ll be like Godot finally decided to turn up!  

Stay safe.  Be cool...be kind...be sensitive to the situations and feelings of others. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  May only good come a-knocking...open your heart, and let it in....

 

Christmas Prawn Salad: Cook 300g penne pasta al dente. Refresh under cold water; drain. Dressing; whisk together 2/3c sour cream, 1-1/2tbs tomato sauce, 1tbs lemon juice and 3tsp Worcestershire sauce in bowl. Arrange cold pasta, 1kg cooked, peeled, deveined prawns, tails intact, 1 halved, thinly sliced Lebanese cucumber, 1 thinly sliced avocado, 60g baby leaf salad mix,1 bunch finely chopped chives, 1/4c small mint leaves and 2tbs coarsely chopped dill on a platter; season. Drizzle over dressing; scatter with extra dill; serve with lemon wedges.

Mango-Blueberry Christmas Trifle: Peel and slice 2 mangoes. Wash and drain 2 punnets blueberries. Into serving bowl place a layer of sponge cake or panettone slices. Sprinkle over some Marsala or sherry.  Have 500ml of vanilla custard on hand. Spread a layer of custard, then fruits over sponge. Continue layers; finish with fruit; reserving some for the top.  Chill several hours or overnight. Before serving, cover fruit with 150ml whipped cream.  

 

 


 

 

Friday, December 18, 2020

THE CLOSER IT GETS....




   Reflections

  Orchid Beach, Hinchinbrook Island

Christmas afternoon...Hinchinbrook Is. My late brother Graham wearing silly glasses part of the Christmas stockings fun items.  Beside him is Bronnie, another of my resort staff.. Cooling off after a large lunch. and the earlier escapades! 


                   
Grumman Mallard Amphibian Seaplane

de-Havilland Beaver Seaplane...(Both seaplanes owned and operated by Air Whitsunday flew to and from the island.





 

 

My memory bank is in over-drive at this time of the year, reflecting on times past; about family and friends no longer here. Alone in my memories of them, I am.

Alone am I in memories of good times shared...but not lonely....


Christmas Day, 1986, at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island quickly approached. 

The Cape Richards resort was booked to the limit. My staff members, some of whom were experiencing their first Christmas away from their families, held mixed emotions. Excited with the prospect of spending Christmas on an island, they were also sad at not being around the Christmas tree exchanging presents with their loved ones. 

Sensing their feelings, I warned the guests ahead of the day that once Christmas lunch was over in the restaurant it was then to be my staff's 'time' as the staff, too, must be able to enjoy Christmas Day.

The guests were very understanding.  

A long table was set out on the large deck surrounding the pool in eager anticipation for the staff luncheon, and ensuing afternoon celebrations.

 

As decreed, the guests had arrived promptly at 11.30am to begin the celebrations.  They were to dine in the restaurant, not out on the deck.

A huge feast of hot and cold delights, including a mountain of fresh seafood such as oysters, prawns, crabs and fish...was on offer.

After bouncing back from our Christmas Eve celebrations that had carried on into the wee small hours of Christmas morning, the guests, my staff and I were ready for a hectic (for my staff and me), but fun (for us and the guests) day.

I had ‘nominated’ David, my head chef to be Santa Claus.

To those of you who may not be aware...Hinchinbrook Island is in tropical North Queensland. The weather in December (summer) is hot, and humid, as it always is at this time of the year.   December, 1986 was no different.

David was not a slim young man by any shape or form, but he had a sense of madness and humour as large as his body. Willingly he accepted my decree without putting up a fight.

I had great fun dressing David in a Santa's costume (which from memory I’d hired from a store in Ingham, on the mainland)...cushions were added to his already bulky frame.

I'd organised small gifts for the guests, some of whom were children, excited not only at the prospect of Santa, but also excited to spend Christmas on a tropical island.

My now late brother, Graham, was a member of my staff at the time. For once, he had to obey me as I was his 'boss'!  (Just kidding).

Graham volunteered to be Santa's Helper.  Some help he turned out to be!

A huge laundry sack/bag was loaded up with presents.

Graham appeared on the scene with a ladder to enable Santa to climb upon the rather expansive roof of the restaurant/bar/kitchen.

Of course, this all occurred in the heat of the midday sun!

What do they say about "Mad dogs and Englishmen"?  We were neither, but we were insane Aussies!

David aka Santa, in all his glory ran around the roof, "Ho-Ho-Ho-ing" all the way, much to the delight of our guests...children and adults alike.  

Among my guests was a Japanese family, who had flown in from Tokyo to spend Christmas at the resort.  I bet they've never forgotten the sight of Santa upon the roof in the heat of an Aussie summer!

The time arrived for Santa to descend from the roof to begin distributing the presents to the guests gathered together on the deck surrounding the pool.  Cold drinks in hand, they were enjoying Santa and his Helper’s antics.  

Both David and Graham were putting on an award-wining act...no rehearsals required.

Enjoying the limelight, the two comedians were in their element.

Santa's Helper, ladder under his arm, was at one end of the building, propping the ladder against the guttering to enable Santa to climb down, except every time Santa's Helper was on one side of the building, Santa was on the opposite side. They just couldn't synchronise their movements and positions.  Their coordination was sadly lacking!

The back and forth, and round-about from one side of the building to another, went on for many minutes.

As time went by, the guests’ laughter grew louder, and Santa's face grew redder from, not only the heat of the day, but from his bulky attire. The colour of his face matched the colour of Santa’s outfit.

Those of us watching the hilarious antics had tears running down our faces, pains in our stomachs from laughing as we gasped for air!

Finally, Santa, still on the roof, and his Helper standing below, connected where the radio mast stood aloft on the roof above my office.  Against the wall were a number of gas bottles that serviced the restaurant kitchen.  It was there the two performers finally linked up!

As Santa began his descent, he dropped the sack full of presents. Naturally, it landed on the head of my brother...a perfect finale to the impromptu production.

Eventually, the presents were distributed with much ado.  Santa insisted on asking each guest, young and old, if he/she had been good during the year.

Champagne corks popped and the liquid amber flowed freely.

The fun continued throughout lunch. I've never seen such happy guests.  Everyone was in a joyful mood.

I'll always remember, in particular, the Japanese family. I'm sure they'd never experienced anything like it before, nor would they have since.


Prior to that wonderful day, Christmas Eve had been full of good cheer and much gaiety as the staff and guests mingled around the bar before and after dinner.

David, my chef, who was a character much loved by staff and guests alike was in full form, regaling stories to everyone within earshot.

At around 2.30am Christmas morning, he jumped up, letting go of an apt expletive or three, stating he had forgotten to put the whole suckling pig in the oven! The cooking process was to be long and slow, so all systems were immediately on "GO!"

Christmas lunch was to be an elaborate buffet complete with the traditional fare, accompanied by an abundance of fresh seafood, as described above
.

As the revellers meandered their merry ways back to their cabins, David and I were left to keep watch on the forgotten pig roasting away in the oven!

I managed to slip in about an hour's nap before rising, showering, dressing and racing back to the restaurant.

I had told my two chefs I would prepare all the salads, freeing them to attend to all other preparations.

With the adrenaline flowing at high speed, I gave no thought to my lack of sleep, and the previous late night's indulgences.

Once Santa’s rooftop escapade had come to a crashing, but hilarious end, lunch was a major success.

Around 2.30 pm, once sated, like drowsy satisfied goannas, they drifted off to wherever they could find a welcoming bed, palm tree, or shady she-oak to digest their gigantic meal.

The fun commenced for us after the last guests left. 

With no opportunity to visit stores on the mainland, I'd decided the best Christmas presents I could give my staff was a bottle of their favourite alcoholic beverage. I gift-wrapped a couple of cartons full of Scotch, rum, bourbon, gin, vodka, and whatever else took their fancies. 

I'd commandeered the skipper of the contracted island boat, the “Reef Venture” to purchase Christmas stockings. One stocking filled with party treats was for each member of my staff.

Once the resort guests had left, we all gathered around the decorated table out on the deck, and settled in for a fun afternoon.

My staff presented me with a beautiful set of crystal Scotch glasses along with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black with which to christen them.

Poppers and slime, funny eye glasses, plastic rings and all such goodies from the Christmas stockings soon made a fine mess of our surroundings. The pool was too inviting and we couldn't refuse its offer. We all ended up in the pool, splashing, talking and laughing.

It had been a wonderful Christmas afternoon for us...so wonderful, in fact, dusk had long fallen. We had forgotten all about our guests....

Fortunately, having eaten so much of the delicious feast offered at lunchtime, they arrived late, some not at all, for dinner...which was a re-arrangement of the luncheon fare.

Everyone had had their fill, and more, earlier so they had little appetite at dinner.  Soon sleepily, though happy, the guests wandered back to their respective cabins leaving my staff and me to clean up, and get rid of the debri as we reminisced over a wonderful day spent together as a 'family'.

Ahhh...the halcyon days of island life!