Monday, July 30, 2007

Arrrrrgghhh! Frustration!

I've been ordering and purchasing a lot of music lately through Amazon. Also, I've been burning CDs for a friend. There's been a flood of music going on around here at my cabin!

Yesterday, while sitting enjoying a sip of wine and conversation with my music-loving friend, a thought flashed through my one side and out the other, leaving a trail, but not a clue as to the name of the thought! Since that "flash" I've been tearing my hair out trying to think of a particular rock group. I had taped, onto reel-to-reel, years ago, a borrowed album of not an extremely well-known a band. They weren't a "commercially-popular" group, but they were excellent. Of course, the reel-to-reel tape player is long gone, as are the is my memory of the particular group's name! And ever since its teasing, fleeting appearance in my mind yesterday, leaving behind not a trace of a clue to its name other than a vague, foggy image, I've been tormented, trying desperately to recall. Isn't this kind of thing so damn frustrating?

As I've been going slowly insane here trying to remember, I've been searching the Net in an attempt to trigger some movement in my brain. I've come up with a list of pop/rock music from the early to mid-seventies that still stands up today....see what you think...

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg - The Rolling Stones
  • The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies (always has been a big favourite of mine)
  • Already Gone - Eagles
  • Annie's Song - John Denver
  • Another Park, Another Sunday - The Doobie Brothers
  • Back Home Again - John Denver
  • The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me - Gladys Knight & The Pips
  • Billy, Don't Be a Hero - Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods (this is a bit "whatever" but it reminds me of a special time in my it always brings back memories when I hear it)
  • The Bitch is Back - Elton John
  • Bungle in the Jungle - Jethro Tull
  • Call on Me - Chicago
  • Can't Get Enough - Bad Company
  • Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe - Barry White
  • Carefree Highway - Gordon Lightfoot
  • Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
  • Clap for the Wolfman - The Guess Who
  • Come and Get Your Love - Redbone
  • Come Monday - Jimmy Buffett
  • Country Bumpkin - Cal Smith
  • If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot
  • Daybreak - Nilsson
  • Devotion - Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Distant Lover - Marvin Gaye
  • Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me - Elton John
  • Dream On - The Righteous Brothers
  • Fly Like An Eagle - The Steve Miller Band
  • Take The Money & Run - The Steve Miller Band
  • Piano Man - Billy Joel
  • Ricky Don't Lose That Number - Steely Dan
  • Do It Again - Steely Dan
  • Dirty Work - Steely Dan
  • Reelin' In the Years - Steely Dan (Oh! The whole album "Can't Buy a Thrill")!
  • Feel Like Makin' Love - Roberta Flack
  • Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Free Man in Paris - Joni Mitchell
  • Haven't Got Time For the Pain - Carly Simon
  • Help Me - Joni Mitchell
  • Hooked On A Feeling - Blue Swede
  • I Can Help - Billy Swan
  • I Feel a Song (in My Heart) - Gladys Knight & The Pips
  • I Honestly Love You - Olivia Newton-John
  • I Shot the Sheriff - Eric Clapton
  • I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song - Jim Croce
  • Joy (Pt. 1) - Isaac Hayes
  • Lookin' for a Love - Bobby Womack
  • Midnight at the Oasis - Maria Muldaur
  • Midnight Rider - Gregg Allman
  • Mockingbird - Carly Simon & James Taylor
  • My Thang - James Brown
  • The Night Chicago Died - Paper Lace (this was on the same compilation album as "Billy Don't Be a same memories of that time)
  • One Hell of a Woman - Mac Davis
  • Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues) - Three Dog Night
  • Please Come To Boston - Dave Loggins
  • River's Risin' - Edgar Winter Group
  • Rock and Roll Heaven - The Righteous Brothers
  • Seasons In the Sun - Terry Jacks - (based on a Jacques Brel song)
  • Je t'aime - Jacques Brel
  • The Show Must Go On - Three Dog Night
And as "The Show Must Go On" could this list! So much good music came out of the early to mid-seventies. Not to mention "Vanilla Fudge" who, of course, formed earlier than the seventies...but they, too, were great. And of course, if I insist on writing about music of that time, who could or should ever forget "Time" and "The Time Has Come" by The Chambers Brothers? Or Crosby, Stills, Nash (And Young)...The Moody Blues! And still...there is Tangerine Dream....and I've not even mentioned David Bowie, yet! Just as I wrote that, Santana poked his head around the corner!

And how-about the "Easy Rider" soundtrack!!! Oh! Dear! How could I even think of leaving out Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks"?

Did I hear someone mention "Canned Heat"? And of course, Deep Purple had to join in!

*Cough*...excuse me! Who opened The Doors and let Hendrix and Joplin in?

I shouldn't start on music...I never know where to end! Same goes with books...I'll have to formulate a list of books and authors soon, too...just to stir up the pot even more!

In the meantime, I'll keep tearing my hair out, strand by strand, until I can remember the name of the band that originally started all of this!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Up And At 'Em! Don't Let The Moss Grow Under Your Feet!

I fell down a hole...well, actually, I was pushed, but I'm back, full of vim and vigour. I've fallen into holes much deeper, darker and more dangerous before and have always managed to climb back up again. This time was no different, probably just with more determination! You can't keep a good girl down for long! I am released! I've seen the light, in the words of the evangelists of the world! (Can you hear the gospel singers in the background?) Clap your hands and sing along!

Enough of that nonsense! Let's get serious about some good food instead. Now, that's much more fun.

When I was living up in North Queensland, regularly my brother visited me on his weekends, coming from Mackay to wherever it was I was living at the time. He loved my meatloaves, so it became a "thing". I would have to make two meatloaves for him to take back home when he left. He would freeze one and use the other for his lunches and meals for the ensuing week. After cooking, split shifts, six days a week, I have no need to elaborate, I really looked forward to having to prepare the meatloaves!!! Needless to say, I've not made a meatloaf since, but enough time has transpired and the thought of a tasty meatloaf meal is making inroads into my mind. Knock! Knock! Okay! Okay! I can hear you!

I have a feeling meatloaf is going to be on my menu in the not too distant future!


1kg or 2lbs ground beef (or half & half using beef and pork mince)
2 eggs
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (up to 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon Italian herbs or mixed herbs
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 onion, diced finely,
1 packet dried mushroom soup (or French onion)
1/2 cup tomato sauce/ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
8 slices cheddar
8 slices ham
8 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, herbs, garlic, onion, ketchup, Worcestershire. Mix well, gradually adding the milk (if it seems too moist, add bread crumbs until it is a consistency that will form a loaf without flattening. Spray a large baking or roasting pan with a non-stick spray and press the meatloaf out. Layer cheese slices and ham, covering the center line of the meatloaf, then close it together and tuck in the ends, forming a loaf which is oblong. Criss-cross the bacon strips to cover the loaf. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or so.

Let rest 15 minutes, then cut and serve hot with vegetables and gravy, or cold with salad.

(Using the base meatloaf recipe and not stuffing with ham and cheddar is just as good, of course. The above is just a fancy twist on the basic meatloaf...and there's nothing wrong with the "basic meatloaf")

Chicken Saltimbocca

6 (3-ounce) chicken cutlets, pound to flatten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 paper-thin slices prosciutto
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 (14-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 Sage leaves
Crushed garlic

Place the chicken cutlets flat on the work surface. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1 slice of prosciutto, a sage leaf on top of each chicken cutlet. Squeeze the frozen spinach to remove the excess water. Season the spinach with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, toss the spinach with 1 tablespoon of oil and crushed garlic to coat. Arrange an even, thin layer of spinach on top of the prosciutto slices. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over each. Beginning at the short tapered end, roll up each chicken cutlet. Secure with a toothpick.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chicken broth and lemon juice, and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Simmer the cooking liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes. Season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove toothpicks from the chicken. Drizzle the reduced cooking liquid over the chicken and serve immediately.

Sauteed Squid

Extra-virgin oil and some butter
500g/1lb clean squid with tentacles,
bodies cut into 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick rings
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
A load of freshly crushed garlic
A couple of tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Pour some oil and about 1 tablespoon into wok. Heat over medium heat to 350 degrees F. Mix the flour, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Working in small batches, toss the squid into the flour mixture to coat. Carefully add the squid to the oil, pour in some lemon juice and saute' until the squid turns opaque...this only takes about a minute (about 1 minute per batch). Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the squid onto a platter or individual serving dishes. The serving platter or individual dishes can have either rocket or shredded lettuce as a base upon which to lay the cooked squid. Decorate with lemon wedges.

Hopefully those recipes should put a smile on our faces. Today is a new day. Yesterday has gone and only fading memories remain. The future looks bright and breezy. I might even go down to the coast for a couple of days. These sunny, clear blue sky days we're experiencing at the moment are tempting and teasing me. A couple of walks along a wide stretch of sandy, golden beach are perfect natural elixirs. But then, I have some magical areas up here on the mountain to explore as well. I've charged not only my batteries, but those of my digital camera also, so I might do a wander and see what I can discover. Oh! Decisions! Decisions!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Into An Abyss

Love Lost with Dignity

In the deep of night like the ancient call of the dingo

My heart howls in the darkness I weep despairingly

Wondering why my precious love you chose to forego

Tenacious images of you tease my mind persistently

Times past, times to come and today a lonely journey

Forever seeking with hopeful breaths of expectation

Through the frenzy of life blindfolded by melancholy

I exist in an artificial world surrounded by frustration

No longer do I love you as I once did yesterday’s gone

Hours of tears hurt pain greet the light of a new dawn

Another day my love deepens in irrational capitulation

In the game lovers play I am but an incompetent pawn

.....Sketch and poem by Lee...

How shall I begin? I've been "missing in action" the past couple of days. Real life raised its ugly head and I pulled mine in!

After going out for a couple of hours this morning, I came home and started working on a new painting, but first I had to clear up the mess around my paint table and easels. It's so long, it seems, since I've picked up my paint brushes. The time has come to become lost in the world of acrylics, brushes and canvases again. I'm a bit disgruntled as the painting I had been working on (incomplete) is destroyed! Not by me, although I feel cranky enough about it to destroy it! I'm not sure if I can save it, which is unfortunate as it was coming along well. Somehow, mildew decided to make a home on the canvas. Instead of the interesting scene that was unfolding in shades of mauve, lavender and purple, amongst other hues, black spots and stripes have taken over! I'm not sure if I can salvage the painting, but when my mood suits, I will give it a try. Failing success, I probably will have to 'gesso' over the whole thing and start again. I'm afraid I have little patience when things go wrong like that, so I'll probably put it aside for that "rainy day". The way the drought is going here, that could be forever!

I was talking with a guy when I was out this morning (not so strange!). I have no idea who he is but he was 'manning' one of the Landcare stalls at a "Tamborine Mountain Landcare Community Awareness Day". I asked him why he didn't have brochures on Hinchinbrook Island as he had brochures on just about everywhere else in his display. I was interested in his reply...."Hinchinbrook Island is a 'she'".....

I smiled at him, telling him I had once lived on the island and agreed that that could be true, and I related an experience or two that I had had.

I've never liked Fraser Island, having spent a fair deal of time on Fraser when I was living at Noosa. Without fail, every time I stayed on Fraser Island (and we never "roughed" it as an aunty lived there at Happy Valley...she had a three-bedroom house, billiard room and all the mod cons), my personality changed. It was as if a dark, looming threatening
cloud descended over me. I couldn't wait to leave Fraser Island, eventually foregoing any further visits there. Once I arrived back to the Double Island Point/Coloured Sands part of the coast heading back to Noosa, the dark cloud lifted and disappeared. Everything was bright and breezy once again. Strange, weird, I know but that's how it was.

The moment I set eyes on Hinchinbrook Island and stepped ashore, a wide smile broke across my face. I felt I had arrived "home". I experienced the same feeling when I first saw Newry Island and ran up the beach after alighting from the boat.

This guy this morning understood what I told him. He said Fraser Island was a "he". An Aboriginal thing apparently. He loves Fraser Island, as did my ex-husband.

When I first arrived on Hinchinbrook Island I was told that there was a "spirit" on the island, that some strange things had occurred in the past. My answer to that at the time was, "No problems! It is a "she" and now that I am here, those things won't happen again. "She" is happy I am here and will know that everything will be all right." And it was, no unexplained events occurred during the duration of my time on the island...other than certain behaviour by humans!

I can't explain "it", but the conversation this morning I had with the stranger, who understood what I was saying, made me, and to him. It was interesting.

Another area that gives me the creeps is "Funnel Creek", between Miriamvale and Rockhampton, on the old highway. It gives me the strangest of feelings, and the times I've been there, I couldn't leave the place quickly enough.

Starting off this post, I thought I had nothing to write about. It would appear I've proven that idea to be wrong!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Eighteen

Love has many faces. Love can be joyous, and then as quickly it can become very painful. Sometimes it’s heartless and controlling. Other times it makes one want to soar to the moon and stars beyond. Love can bring out sides in us we didn’t know we had. Love is many-faceted. A first love can be both beautiful and tortuous. It can break one’s heart momentarily in some cases or endlessly in others. In some cases, the hurt remains until the next candidate steps within one’s circle or aura, breaking down the flimsy, fragile barriers erected. Some will ask you to walk beside them throughout life, while others will only want you for a short stroll. I took quite a few short strolls. We all have the right to be wrong now and then. Sometimes I was more wrong than I was right, but no harm was ever done or caused and it was a lot of fun!

The most precious and lasting love is that of a child, I believe.

It was a week-night. I can’t remember the reason why, but I was sleeping over at John and Shirley’s home. Andrew, their younger son was around two and half years old at the time, I guess. He no longer slept in a cot, having progressed to a bed. The night of my stay-over he was to return to sleeping in his cot while I stole his bed for the night. Both the cot and his new bed were in the same room. Sitting on the sofa in the family room, enjoying a scotch, while chatting to Shirley, who was in the kitchen preparing dinner (both rooms flowed into one, without a separating wall), the two boys, Gavin and Andrew were playing on the floor in front of me. Shirley, in her usual, calm, modulated way told Andrew it was time for him to go to bed. Without any ado, Andrew heeded his mother’s gentle words. Next moment, I felt tugging on my left arm.

“ ‘ee…’ee! Come on, ‘ee!” A little voice pleaded to me. Andrew, in all solemnity, continued pulling at my sleeve. His still babyish face upturned, his eyes wide, innocently begging me. “Come on, ‘ee…’ee!”

Finally, I realized what he wanted. I raised my eyebrows at Shirley and smiled, “I guess I’ll see you later. An early night for me…it looks like I’m off to bed, too!”

Mop-topped Andrew decided if he had to go to bed, so did I, seeing I was sharing his room and sleeping in his bed!

Placing my glass on the coffee table in front of me, I followed Andrew into his bedroom. Eagerly, he climbed into his cot. After tucking him in, I climbed into his bed. It was 6.45pm. Not wanting to disturb the equilibrium, I feigned sleep until I was certain he’d fallen into slumber. Fearing if I stood up, I would wake him, I slithered off the bed like a snake, creeping along the floor on my stomach until I reached the hallway, where I stood up, shook myself off and re-entered the family room. Shirley handed me a refilled glass of scotch and we laughed. The innocence of a child is a wondrous thing.

After my mother passed away, I was heartbroken. I went through a difficult time, personally, but I kept my pain and sorrow to myself, only succumbing to my tears and grief when I was alone. No one else could understand my innermost feelings. My boss, John, understood what I was going through to a degree, probably more than anyone else did, but I didn’t want to burden him with my pain. He had his own life and family. My grief was my own. I had to work through it myself, my way. Without my asking, John had been there for me when my mother died and the days leading up to and after her death. It wouldn’t have been fair of me to expect more from him or his family, a family to whom I was very close. Once back to my daily life in Brisbane, I felt myself falling further and further into a bottomless black pit. I didn’t know how to stop my descent or how to climb back up out of the dark depths. On the outside I put on a brave face, hiding my pain from all. Inside I was being torn apart. That is until one Saturday afternoon a couple of months after Mum died.

I’d lain down on my bed around one in the afternoon to have a nap. In a very vivid dream, which I remember verbatim to this day, my mother came to me. She stood at the end of my bed as clear as if she was, in fact, standing there. Smiling at me, she said, “I’m okay. I’m fine.” Upon waking, I continued to lie on my bed, digesting what I had just “seen”. The vision of my mother, in my dream, had been crystal clear. I questioned whether it had been a dream or had she really “come” to me. It mattered not either way. The “dream” calmed me and I found inner peace. I began to look at life more clearly. Everything began to fall into place. I found my way back up out of the deep hollow into which I’d been falling with the help of that dream. The dream was not a subject of discussion and I told no one about it.

With the year rapidly drawing to a close, Christmas was only a couple of months away. Randall was due back in Brisbane from New York in a few weeks. My head was spinning. I knew I still loved him, even though my life, and his, had taken many different paths and crossed numerous bridges along the way. And I was not fooling myself that there were still more to come, good and bad.

Robert took me to dinner one night about a week before Randall’s return home. This time we didn’t go to our regular haunt, the “Matthew Flinders’ Restaurant”, but instead, we went to the Breakfast Creek Hotel, instead, for one of their legendary thick, juicy steaks. Over dinner Robert told me he was in line for a diplomatic posting if he was so inclined. He continued by saying, “You would make an excellent diplomat’s wife, Lee.”

Being caught off-guard, I didn’t know what to say in reply. I was taken aback. I smiled and gave a soft chuckle of embarrassment, tossing aside what he had said more or less as a joke. However, I realized at that very moment, as he looked directly into my eyes, Robert wasn’t being flippant. He wasn't joking, far from it. He was serious. His feelings for me were deeper than I had imagined. Continuing, he told me he was there for me if things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to after Randall’s return. Dear Robert...he was such a gentle man. He had been a confirmed bachelor all his life other than his brief engagement to June Dally-Watkins many years before and there he was, in not so many words, offering his hand to me. We never did dine together again. I did see him later on, but not in the social manner that had become our regular dinner outings. He was a good person.

I didn’t meet Randall at the airport the day he flew into Brisbane, instead I remained at work. His mother invited me to dinner at their home that evening. The day dragged for me. My heart pounding in anticipation throughout the day, gathered in momentum as the afternoon progressed.

Randall telephoned me from the States a couple of weeks before his departure with instructions to book a holiday rental for us at Noosa or its surrounding area. John kindly drove me up to Noosa where I visited various real estate agents in search of suitable accommodation. I found a perfect little cottage high on densely-vegetated sand dune at Sunshine Beach. “Anna Capri” stole my heart at first glance. Perched high on the dune, stairs, fringed by shrubs and trees, led from the one-car, street-level garage up to the house. Painted white, “Anna Capri” had views from Sunshine Beach, south to Coolum and beyond. The point at Point Cartwright, south of Mooloolaba could be seen in the far distance. It wasn’t a fancy, flash new house, having been built probably back in the 1940s or thereabouts, but it was cosy, clean and bright. It was just perfect. I fell in love with “Anna Capri” the moment I set eyes upon “her”. I knew the cottage would be an ideal place for Randall and me to re-discover each other and to learn if, perhaps, we had a future together. Paying the agent a rental deposit, I booked “Anna Capri” for a week, to commence the Saturday after Randall’s planned return on a Thursday. The count-down to his arrival had begun in earnest.

Arriving at Randall’s parent’s home in Geebung that Thursday afternoon, I was filled with mixed emotions. So many “what-ifs” did battle with each other in my mind.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another Day In Paradise.....

The curtain rose on lunch at 11.30am, to much applause….reluctantly the curtain came down shortly after 6pm, again to applause. However, our steps weren’t as sprightly as they were at the beginning of the afternoon. The reason…we were weighted down by the intake of food! This, of course, was balanced by the ingestion of champagne, wine…and Tia Maria coffees.

The sun made its path across the sky, suspended like a pendulum, but we were ignorant of its presence. Whatever happened in the outside world this afternoon affected us not. Engulfed we were by what was in our immediate surroundings. One could not blame us for such lack of interest in what was happening elsewhere. We were far too intent on what we were doing within these four walls.

A small antipasti of char-grilled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, feta-stuffed large green olives, black olives, dill-pickled cucumbers and puff pastry squares filled with a mixture of blue cheese, shredded Parmesan, grated mozzarella, ricotta and diced bacon began the indulgent feasting. With these tasty tid-bits we sipped on sparkling rosé, followed closely by a bottle of champagne.

Entrée and main, as I mentioned in a previous post, consisted of Prawns and Calamari Creole and Veal Oscar. By the time we’d ploughed our way through those two courses, the sun was on the wan and our bodies were screaming for a break! Heeding the request, as is my may, time was allowed to drift away between courses, so dessert came….much later.

During the planning, preparing etc., my plan fluctuated and I finally decided upon rhubarb and apple crumble served with hot custard for dessert. After all, it is winter and the days have been pretty chilly of late, so a hot dessert seemed very appropriate. Not to mention, rhubarb grows here on this property where I live. Oh! Dear! I did mention it!

By the time, the Tia Maria coffees were presented us three were beyond hope or caring! So, too were our stomachs! What fun! What the hell! You’re dead a long time and these small pleasures should be enjoyed now…while they can be enjoyed! That’s my philosophy and I’m sticking with it!

Full of good cheer and good manners, my two guests left. Having bid them farewell, I came back inside, pumped up the music. I filled up the kitchen sink with soapy suds, a few times, and my attack on the dishes had begun in earnest. It’s amazing how quickly one can get things done while urged on by the sounds of Shel Silverstein, The Marshall Tucker Band and Bruce Springsteen and Gram Parsons!

Presently, I sit here, sipping on Tia Maria. All is washed sparkling clean (except me!). Of course, nothing is put back to its rightful place. Damn that…they can drip-dry until morning, The final step in this exercise will be done then. I’m not that organized or particular! Who cares, anyway? It is me who has to do it and I don’t feel like doing anything more this evening other than to enjoy the music and this drink by my side.

It was a wonderful afternoon. I don’t know what we talked about, but we discussed it all in depth, whatever it was, with much laughter and little pause to take a breath. The problems of the world we did not solve, but I’m sure we could have done so, and could do, if anyone ever listened intently to us.

I’ve had good years. I’ll have many more, I hope. I’ve had soft places to fall. I’ve fallen onto hard places. Sometimes they’ve come up to meet me or arrived uninvited, but I’ve never let them defeat me. Hurdles I have jumped over deserving of Olympic Gold. I’ve picked up the pieces, glued them together and started all over again, many times. Between happy times, the sad times sneak in, between anger and frustration come understanding and empathy. The splendour of life wins, every time.

And then at the end of the stroke of midnight, a new day begins. This my 501st post, so that also means I've begun my run-down to my post Number 1000!!

Take a deep breath everyone!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's The Big One...Number 500!

Lonely Illusion

When feeling lonely it is better to feel lonely alone

'Tis heartbreaking being lonely amidst a crowd

Descending into bottomless lurid crypts unknown

With no one to listen to the cries she cries out loud

Standing aside looking in viewing a life mislaid

Imagining different chapters diverse paths taken

Mercurial rare random glimpses of love betrayed

Afloat in a fickle mist of dreams so long forsaken

The future is known already written on the wind

Past not forgotten remaining to torment and haunt

Piteous wails like the woeful sound of a lone violin

With solemn perverse mockery often they taunt

Unrequited loves misplaced passions burning heart

Cursed by a hostile antagonist thrust into seclusion

Damned by rejection a once blithe spirit torn apart

Melancholy realization of life’s shattered illusion

Poem by Lee

This is post Number 500!

It's time to bring out the streamers! Pop the cork on a couple of bottles of champagne! Let's blow up some balloons! Yeehaaa!

My mind is a blank. I wanted to tell you a story, but I can think of not one amongst my many hidden away in the depths of my memory.

I read an article last weekend about "on-line" dating. Has anyone succumbed to joining such a dating service?

A friend of mine has, a few times, and she keeps trying to talk me into doing so. I stand firm and determined in my resolve not to do so. I have nothing against such sites. They're just not for me. I admit at times, just out of curiosity, I've scanned through RSVP's site, but I will never join in, nor put my profile up for all to see.

These dating services are growing in popularity from all reports, particularly in this state of Queensland with its high concentrate of single men in the central and northern regions working the mines and in the construction and engineering industries. Also the Sunshine and Gold Coasts have high membership due to people who have made a lifestyle change. They're often separated or divorced.

I guess as we grow older our choices of meeting people become diminished. The pubs and clubs hold little appeal. So, where else does one go to meet people of similar interests? Sporting clubs, for some, I guess...I'm stumped...I'm not the one to be giving advice on where and how to meet people as I'm the world's most dedicated recluse!

I can see nothing wrong with meeting people through the internet as long as all the guidelines and safety requirements are utilised.

As the Relationships Australia Director of training Paul Simmons said..."The important thing is not how people first meet, it's how they move on from that point."

I agree. (What is a "Relationships Australia Director of Training, anyway?)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Past, Present And Saturday's Lunch

As I sit here typing thing post, "Swan Lake" is playing in the background, which followed "The Nutcracker Suite", I'm reminded of the time I saw Rudolph Nureyev dance.

It was 1978. He was coming to Australia to perform at various venues throughout the country. My husband reluctantly agreed to go along with me. I told him it mattered not if he did. It would be his choice. I was definitely not going to miss the opportunity to see Nureyev, as I knew I wouldn't get the chance to do so again. Unbelievable as it is, at that time Brisbane didn't have a suitable venue to stage a full-scale ballet. The only venue available was the old Festival Hall that had started its days off as a boxing-wrestling hall and later it hosted many rock and music concerts. It was hardly suitable for ballet, but that's all we had at that time. The smaller ballet "Giselle" was the chosen ballet for Nureyev to perform during his visit to Brisbane. The male role in "Giselle" isn't huge, but I didn't care. I was prepared just to watch Nureyev standing still as long as I was able to do it seeing him up, live and personal!

I will never forget my feeling of total awe when he first appeared on stage. That man certainly did have a presence. His arrogance, his brilliance glowed like an iridescent aura engulfing him. It radiated throughout the audience, taking over the whole of the premises. I gasped. My eyes filled. I remained entranced throughout his performance. I doubt I noticed any of the other dancers on stage. I was enthralled. He was magnificent.

Our seats were up on the left-hand side of the stage, offering perfect vision and closeness to the performers. Come the end of the ballet, all the ladies in the front rows, dressed in their "ermines and pearls" (which, I must add, were grossly out of place in Festival Hall) applauded. Without warning, even to myself, I lept out of my seat, and called out loudly, "Good on you, Rudy!"

Somewhere in the distance I heard my husband's voice..."Honey!" I hardly noticed.

Rudolph Nureyev turned, looked up to me. He smiled at me and bowed. I stood there transfixed. Nureyev had smiled and me!

I floated out of the hall and was in a trance all the way back home!

"See!" I told my husband. "I didn't plan to yell out like just happened, but I'm glad I did! He heard me! And he responded! So much for sitting in the front rows all dressed up in finery! Those ladies didn't get an acknowledgment from Rudy...I did!"

So much for lady-like behaviour!

Back to earth...the pictures above are similar to what I am serving for lunch this Saturday. I have friends coming for a leisurely afternoon of fine dining and wining.

I'm doing some mezze/tapas to begin with while we sip on champagne. They will include "Four-Cheese Tarts" similar to those above but topped with mozzarella, blue cheese, parmesan, riccotto and diced pancetta. Also to be served are artichokes and green olives marinated in lemon juice, garlic and sage, alongside a red lentil and chilli dip.

These are to be followed by Prawns and Calamari Creole, a dish I often cooked as an entree when I was cheffing in restaurants. It's green prawns, squid, capsicum/pepper strips cooked quickly in olive oil, garlic, chopped capers, a splash of lemon juice, a pinch of chilli and served "spitting" hot.

The main course will be Veal Oscar...flattened-out veal, sauteed and topped with crab meat and asparagus spears with bernaise sauce to finish.

Dessert is going to be a chocolate-caramel slice served with whipped cream.

And I won't be eating for a week after all of that!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Love...The Whole Damn Catastrophe

Not Me

Someone is crying could it be me
Every ounce of my love I gave to you
In haste and in panic you did flee
Sadly you must know this to be true

I thought I heard your name today
Echoed faintly through trembling trees
My heart asked why you didn't stay
One day I pray you'll tell me please

Neither the sun nor summer breezes
Soothe the pain of love's lost passion
I hurt I cry when the moment seizes
I'm not to blame my love I can't ration

(Poem written by me in a moment of weakness)

As I sit here waiting for my floors to dry, I began to ponder on "love". Don't ask me why. I won't tell you. Just humour me...come along for the ride!

Love is strange
It's heartache and pain
Love is controlling
It's rarely a many-splendored thing

I didn't mean that to rhyme, but does, sort of...don't you think?

What is "love"?

Is love more often confused with infatuation and passion? Does lust hoodwink us into misunderstanding our true feelings?

Your heart pounds and does cartwheels. Butterflies take up residence in your stomach. Your knees grow weak.

Wherever possible you slip your lover's name into conversations, whether it's appropriate to the subject of discussion or not.

You stare at the phone, willing it to ring, only when it does it's someone with an unintelligible accent trying to offer you a better deal from a communication's server or a "free lunch" of some other description.

"Messenger" rings in the deep of night, stirring you from a dream-filled slumber...only it isn't him or her. Disappointingly and annoyingly, it's some lonely, lost stranger you have no desire or interest in getting to know.

Love is never like it is in the movies or novels where the scripts are already written.

Love can be harsh, selfish and cold. Love can be heartless.

Love can be all those things and more, but it can also be warm and wonderful...if you find the right person to love....and who loves you.

The floors are I can re-enter my kitchen and make myself a much-longed for cup of coffee. I think I'm going to love this cup of coffee...I've waited all morning for it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Blame It On Robyn!

This is for Puss In Boots, aka Kat’s Cradle…aka Robyn who put me in a Meme regarding music that means a lot to me and causes me to remember special moments in my life. I’m afraid my list is endless, but I will try my best in giving you some of my favourites.

Concierto de Aranjeuz by Rodrigo…by classical guitarist Julian Bream (or any other, for that matter)

Although the person who introduced me to it ended up being the biggest jerk out, I do thank him for drawing my attention to this exquisite piece

Clair de Lune by Debussy….by many.

I always imagine drifting across a calm, peaceful lake in a punt, with me dressed in a long, white flimsy dress, with soft green embroidery adorning it…trailing my hand in the cool waters, with a warm sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing.

Dancing With the One You Love…The Amazing Rhythm Aces

It brings back haunting memories of a special time.

A Soft Place To Fall…Allison Moorer

One of the most sensual, romantic songs that reminds me somewhere in the world there maybe that “special” person.

The Last Farewell….Roger Whittaker

I’m always reminded of one romantic night sitting on the deck around the pool on Hinchinbrook Island after all the guests had retired for the evening and being serenaded by a certain someone who was to play a special role in my life for a couple of years. He played guitar and had a wonderful singing voice. Our first “date” and a sure-fire way to a girl’s heart!

The Closest Thing To Crazy…Katie Melua

Just because….

Always On My Mind…Willie Nelson

Special moments…to many to list

Spirit….the whole CD by Willie Nelson

The first time I heard the whole album it immediately resonated with me…I was going through a difficult time and somehow it helped.

West Texas Heaven…the whole CD by Kimmie Rhodes (Same comments apply as above and I always play the two CDs together…or rather, one after the other!)

Breathless…the whole CD by Kenny G

Every time I play this CD reminds me of wonderful weekends I spent in a little cabin right on the beach at Rose Bay, Bowen, looking over the turquoise water out to Gloucester Island. Bowen has some of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland, if not Australia. I have very fond memories of those times I spent at that cabin, which coincidentally was called “Laguna”.

London Homesick Blues…Jerry Jeff Walker

This always reminds me of a good friend who introduced me to some very good music. We spent many hours listening and recording while sipping on a wine or three. He went back to his wife and another life…silly fellow!

Me & Bobby McGee…Kris Kristofferson, harmonica by Jackson Browne

Sunday Morning Coming Down…

Help Me Make It Through the Night

Loving Her Was Easier All by Mr. Kristofferson!

Defying Gravity & One Endless Night…Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Still Feeling Blue….Gram Parsons

Streets of Baltimore…Gram Parsons

You Still Move Me…Dan Seals

I Could Go On Loving You….Kieran Kane or Alan Jackson

Kickin’ Back in AmsterdamKevin Welch

You Needed Me…Ann Murray

A Bushman Can't Survive...Tania Kernaghan and Lee Kernaghan

The Universal Soldier….Buffy Sainte-Marie

Dark End of the Street…The Flying Burritos Bros


I've Been To Bedlam.....both by Jack Clements

See…I warned you! I could go on forever and ever and a day...and I almost have!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weekend Delights

I’m tossing up what I’m going to cook for myself over the weekend. The chilly weather is being very persistent. A thick, flavoursome stew is tempting, but then, so is a tender, juicy steak, Diane-style. Writing about “Lucky’s” expertise at table-top cooking and his masterful presentation of Steak Diane has whetted my appetite. The idea of flaming the steak is drawing me closer to the pan. I might have to sip on a brandy or two while I make up my mind!

In the meantime, I’ll tell you a little story.

When managing the restaurant at Noosa a few years ago, as well as waiting on the tables, I helped the chef prepare certain dishes.

It was a Saturday. I’d prepared a stack of sweet crepes. I filled them with a mixture of shredded coconut, bananas and dark rum, ready for the evening, when they’d fulfill their role as part of the dessert selection. Come time for their serving as dessert, they’d be presented with whipped cream. Just before opening at 6pm, I finished making and filling the crepes. Once the chore was completed, I placed them on shelves on the right-hand side of the cold room, which at all times was reserved for desserts and ingredients pertaining thereto.

The restaurant cruised up the Noosa River, Friday and Saturday nights and also Sunday lunches. It was a riverboat. The rest of the time, it was dockside. The moonlight shimmered across the water, as our dinner guests dined by candlelight. Soft music wafted throughout the restaurant, not interrupted by the deep muffled drone of the “Laguna Belle’s” engine.

The tall gums along the shores of the riverbank, silhouetted against a silvery sky, stood as proud protectors directing our path. The evening’s ambience was palpable and tangible.

Come time for dessert, I buzzed each table, taking their orders. To my joy, the majority of diners chose the Rum & Banana Crepes. I'd made a stack of them. Stepping into the galley-kitchen, I opened the coldroom door and reached to my right. The shelves were bare! Not a banana crepe was in sight!

“Where’re my banana crepes?” I cried. “Phil! Did you move them?”

“No…I’ve not touched them,” answered Phil, the chef.

“Jill!” I exclaimed to the kitchen-hand. “Did you move my crepes? I finished making them just before we opened…and I put them all here!” I said pointing to the now empty shelves. " I must be going crazy! Crazier than usual!” I continued.

“No…I’ve not touched them, either,” said Jill. “Oh….Oh….” She stopped mid-step and mid-sentence.

“Oh! My! God!”

On our menu as one of the entrées were Seafood Crepes. Crepes filled with prawns, fish, scallops, squid in a creamy sauce and then topped with a cheese sauce, finished under the salamander/grill/broiler.

I looked to my left. The shelves were filled with Seafood Crepes!

I went through the orders and then visited every table that had ordered the Seafood Crepes, offering my apologies and explanation. Not one person noticed that they’d received Banana and Rum Crepes topped with a cheese sauce instead of Seafood Crepes!

I deducted the cost of the crepe entrees off the relevant orders. One lass at a table of eight, laughingly told me, “I love your seafood crepes. I always have them when we come here. That’s why we brought our friends along with us tonight. We wanted them to try them!”

It’s amazing what a little moonlight,soft, romantic music and candles will do to diners while cruising along a river!

Banana Crepes
1 cup plain/all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

Whisk the flour and the eggs together in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the milk and the water. Add the salt and butter, and beat the mixture until smooth. Heat a griddle or frying pan to medium. Give it a very light spray of cooking oil. Drop the crepe mixture onto the heated surface. Using about a 1/4 cup of batter for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. "Thin is in" when it comes to the layer of batter.

Cook each side until the golden brown brown (about 2 minutes for side one -- batter will bubble; and 1 minute for side 2). Gently remove and place on a plate. Place waxed paper between cooked crepes to prevent sticking. This will make 8 crepes. 2 crepes make a serving.

3 large bananas -- sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons banana liqueur (optional)
4 Tablespoons dark rum
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Filling: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and melt the butter. Add the sugar and stir to make a syrup. Add cinnamon, bananas, shredded coconut and stir once more. Gently pour rum and banana liqueur over the bananas. Flambé the sauce to burn out alcohol. Add the walnuts, divide mixture with your eye into four portions and spoon each portion over a crepe. Close crepe, top with whipped cream.

Beef Stew:

1/4 cup olive oil 1 1/4 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
I cup of Guinness stout
1 cup of fine red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons butter

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. While the meet and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Steak Diane
Gently pound beef fillets to achieve a thin, even thickness. Season flour with salt and pepper.
Preheat a sauté pan with oil over medium heat. Lightly dredge beef fillets in seasoned flour, shaking off excess. When 2 tablespoons oil is hot, add beef fillets to pan. Cook until well browned on both sides and medium rare (approximately 4 -5 minutes on each side). Remove and reserve, keeping warm. Drain excess oil from pan; return pan to heat. Add 2oz butter, 1/2 teaspoon minced shallots and 1 crushed garlic clove. Sauté briefly; do not brown. Remove pan from heat and carefully deglaze pan with brandy. Return pan to heat, flame, and then simmer. Reduce liquid by 1/2. Stir in 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of beef stock powder or a couple of tablespoon liquid beef stock; bring to a simmer. Add 2ozs cream and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Season to taste. Garnish with minced chives. Add cooked beef fillets back to simmering sauce. Coat beef fillets with sauce and place on warm serving plates. Top with additional sauce and serve.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Reaching Out To The City Lights"..Chapter Sixteen

With the company’s acquisition of Rogtex women’s wear, my personal wardrobe grew, helped by being “Johnny On The Spot” when the new season’s ranges arrived in the showrooms. Opening the cartons of new designs was like Christmas morning. My office would be deserted as I’d rush to the Rogtex showroom to assist Mr. and Mrs. Head unpack, unfold and hang each garment carefully on the clothes’ racks. It was difficult to resist, so I didn’t resist. Having one’s own fashion store a few feet away from one’s office was a dream come true and being able to purchase at cost price, sometimes less, was a girl’s idea of paradise. Wearing the company’s products, including the panti-hose was great advertising for the company’s wares. Buyers from the city and far afield regularly visited our showrooms, so it was important to at all times be well-presented. I certainly wasn’t going to put up an argument!

Dr. Robert Wright, the dentist/Chilean Consul had entered my life, platonically. Shortly after our “Machu Picchu/Easter Island” launches I needed to see a dentist so I made an appointment with Dr. Wright. During that appointment he invited me to dinner, an invitation I accepted. For the next couple of years, Robert and I had a weekly, sometimes fortnightly dinner engagement. He always picked me up from my office. It was simpler this way rather than my going home first. We had all the facilities in our premises. I would change out of my daytime attire into suitable dress for our “date” around 6-6.30pm. From there we’d go into the city to the Gateway Hotel to dine at the “Matthew Flinders’ Restaurant”. Robert was a creature of habit, I think, but I didn’t mind as I grew to love the restaurant. We were always greeted warmly by “Lucky” (“don’t call me “Lucky Luciano”), the stocky, beaming Italian maitre d. “Lucky” was adept at what he did and I enjoyed watching him at his job. It became a habit of mine, (I must have caught Robert’s ways!) to always order the same meal, “Steak Diane” as “Lucky” table-cooked. I’ve never tasted Steak Diane like that prepared by “Lucky”. Carefully watching him prepare my meal, I “stole” his method and it’s locked away in my brain. When I was cooking in restaurants, I regularly let it out of its “pigeon-hole” and I always used “Lucky’s” recipe for the preparation of Steak Diane. Sometimes I’d order dessert and I’d always order Crepe Suzette, again just to watch him cook at the table. He had flair. “Lucky’s” dream was to eventually open his own restaurant. It was a dream he fulfilled a few years later by opening “Lucky’s”, a successful, much-praised trattoria in Fortitude Valley. During one of my visits to Brisbane when I was managing the Hinchinbrook Island resort, I paid “Lucky” a visit at his restaurant. As I was ordering my meal, he came over to my table. He remembered me from those years before. It was no wonder his business was successful.

Robert was good company, a gentleman. He was someone who had led an interesting life. We had much to discuss and were never without a subject to debate over dinner. I’ll briefly recap on the evening of the death threat against him. I have written about this incident previously.

During the time Robert (remember, he was the Chilean Consul) and I were “seeing” each other, Allende was kicked out of power in Chile. One Wednesday evening, we had just begun to place our meal order when Robert was called to the office of the restaurant. He returned to our table saying we had to leave immediately as there had been a threat made against him! He instructed me to go one way to the car-park where, by habit, he always parked his car, as he went in another direction. Arriving at the car, I stood wondering to myself as he unlocked the car door whether or not I should climb in the car with him. My mind actively raced through all the movies I had seen where cars blew up when the key was put in the ignition! I felt it wouldn't be very 'kosher' for me to mention this to him at that particular moment. Caught between “the devil and the deep blue sea”, I thought to myself, 'What the hell! If it's going to happen it's going to happen and I shouldn't allow myself such thoughts." I felt it would be a very cowardly thing for me to do to allow him to proceed while I ran! So, I got in. As you can see, the car didn't blow up! It was a telling moment.

Robert drove me home along a different route, this time, along Coronation Drive, instead of his regular route, Milton Road. He told me the Federal Police were following us at a distance and that they would have done all their checks on me etc., to ensure I wasn’t a threat to his safety. As we were driving home the smell of petrol permeated the cabin of the car. Again, my mind went into overdrive. Finally, I just had to say something, so I brought the petrol smell to his attention. He had a can of motor mow He chuckled, informing me he had filled up a can of mower fuel that day and the can was in the trunk of his car, hence the heady aroma! He deposited me safely to my door, planted his customary peck on my cheek, and then went on his way! Eating dinner definitely wasn’t on that evening’s agenda.

Around this same time, protesters were waving placards through the streets of Brisbane over the events in Chile. They’d discovered the Robert’s premises in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley so set up camp outside on the sidewalk in noisy protest. Robert, who was a grey-haired “Anglo-Saxon-Protestant, Brisbane born and bred, closed his surgery that was on the second floor and unnoticed by the madding crowd weaved his way through unscathed. I think protesters should do their homework before they start wringing their hands and screaming loudly about issues they clearly know little about. The incident with Robert was proof positive.

I knew Robert liked me, but I was soon to discover the depth of his liking.

My job with Kolotex was keeping me very busy, but missing the “footlights and the smell of the cooking oil”, I began working a couple of nights a week at a small Italian “hole-in-the-wall” on Milton Road, Auchenflower, not far from where I lived. “Spagalini’s” was owned and operated by an ex-Canadian, Casper. It was simple, uncluttered, with a few tables covered by red and white-checkered gingham tableclothes. Casper catered for “dining-in” customers as well as “take-aways” (“take-outs” to those in the Northern Hemisphere). I often grabbed a container of Lasagne, pasta or pizza on my way home from work at Kolotex if I’d had a long day, so being a “regular” I became friendly with Casper. One night we were talking as I waited for my order and I asked if he needed any help. He said, “Yes”, so that’s how I got the job. The magnetic tug of food-preparation and food-service was strong and I succumbed once more to its lure. And the extra “cash” money was a big plus!

A couple of months after my mother’s passing, “R” aka “Randall” (this seems like a ceremonial unveiling, doesn’t it?) telephoned from New York. He was planning his return to Australia, to Brisbane and to me. This announcement came as a surprise to me. My life, as it had been, suddenly was in turmoil.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Blame It On The Moon...Blame It On Whatever! Let's Crank It Up!

I don't know whether I was born cranky, or life has made me this way. More likely it's some of the humans that inhabit this earth that have caused my angst. This past week or so, I think I've been crankier than usual! Perhaps I should get it "off my chest" and then I'll feel better, renewed to begin again with a much better frame of mind. Big things and little things make me cranky. I'll list a few, in no particular order.

Terrorism and those who partake in it
The envy and hate that causes such acts and intentions of terrorism
Those who leave the table without putting their chair back in place
Phone calls from "Call Centres"....(I told one caller, politely, the other evening, "I don't accept these calls", to which I received this answer, "Just listen to me!" I promptly, firmly and quite angrily replied, "I don't HAVE to listen to you!" And I slammed the phone down! I wasn't polite then, purposely!)
People who suddenly ignore you without rhyme nor reason
Those who do not acknowledge receipt of gifts
Unexpected knocking on my door
Those who do not understand nor respect the feelings of others
Being taken for granted
Bad table manners
People who talk to hear their own voices and don't give time or effort to listen to another
Running out of wine
Slow and careless drivers
Biting my tongue...literally!
Those not sensitive to the feelings of another...or have I sad that in so many other words?
Bad spelling
Making own
Breaking something valued, if only valuable to myself
False snobbery

That should do me for now I'd better stop before I convince you completely that I'm a cranky person. I'm not...only sometimes! I think this is one of those "times". I can be as changeable as the wind. And the wind has certainly changed a few times this past week!

One bright spot upon my immediate horizon is I have fresh fish fillets to be cooked and eaten later. My landlords called by with some of this morning's catch. That is something to look forward to, as simple as it may seem.

See...already I'm feeling much better!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I, Myself And Me!

"Gone But Not Forgotten"...painting by Lee

This morning a friend visited. Together we shared some wine, cheese, salami, olives and smoked mussels as we chatted, laughed and listened to music. He gave me a CD of his for me to burn for my enjoyment...Doug Ashdown "A Career Collection 1965-2000". It includes "Winter In America", which is one of my all-time favourite songs.

Years ago, my first husband Mervyn and I shared a table with two strangers late one night in a candle-lit, small, downstairs club in Brisbane called the "De Brazil". The four of us talked as we sipped on scotch for an hour or so until suddenly the two left our table and suddenly appeared on the small stage. It was then we discovered our fellow imbibers were Doug Ashdown and Lee Conway. I will never forget that evening. It was one of the greatest "jam sessions" I've ever witnessed. They propped themselves on a couple of stools, guitars in hand, and branched out into song. The "De Brazil" didn't open its doors until 10pm, closing around 3.00am. It was a fun place owned and operated by one, Johnny Morris, who performed nightly at the National Hotel until 10pm, after which he then proceeded onto his own club to do similar interspersed with guest artists.

I've gone a little crazy with Amazon at present. A delivery arrived about an hour ago of CDs I had on order. "Bruce Springsteen Live In Dublin", a double CD set, which is blasting forth from my stereo at present, to be followed by Lucinda Williams' latest, "West". I'm awaiting the arrival of several CDs. Two each by Ricky Van Shelton, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff Walker and The Marshall Tucker Band. I've got a few more in mind, as well, including a couple by Shel Silverstein, Lee Hazelwood and Guy Clark. It's time I added to my music collection because I've not bought any CDs for a while. Amazon and others of its ilk seem to be the most suitable way for me to purchase music as I'm not one who likes to frequent shopping centres. Plus, it is far cheaper buy on-line, even including the freight charges. Not only that, there is a far wider and more varied choice than what is available in stores. I like to veer off the "mainstream" in most cases.

So, here I entertaining me, not quite in the background, more in the foreground, a glass of red wine to the right of me and feeling quite at ease with my immediate surroundings. I think I'll have a little party with me and me. It's been a while. It's due!

I'm in one of those "moods". "He" whom I wish was here, is not here. "He" is but a fantasy. "He" is never here! I think "he" doesn't exist, but in my own mind. It's probably the best place for "him" to be! There's no room in my bed, even though it's a king-size. With the cats and me...there's no room for anyone else!

Don't misunderstand me...I'm in a mellow mood, a good mood. After a few more wines, I'll even be better!

In my fridge a thick rump steak awaits my attention. Some fresh mushrooms also are begging to be sauteed alongside the steak. My mouth waters at the thought, but it will have to continue doing so for a while as I'm not yet ready to begin cooking or eating. The time now is for music and partying...all that can come later.

After all it is Friday...time to party!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Don't Come the Raw Prawn With Me!

I thought I'd lean towards the ocean today, seeing it's chilly and very windy outside, therefore not being a good day to spend at the seaside! We can pretend. So get your spades and pails at the ready, grab an imaginary beach umbrella and let's head to!

As a child, I was never far away from the beach and regularly dined on all its wonderfully delicious bounties.

Also living on Hinchinbrook and Newry Island has really spoiled me with regards to fresh seafood. Having a license to buy, I bought directly from the visiting trawlers to Hinchinbrook Island. When I lived on Newry Island, I didn't have a license to buy direct from the trawlers as I did on Hinchinbrook, but I managed to work out a far better scheme with the Newry Island trawler-men. I think I've written about this previously. No money changed hands in exchange for fresh seafood. The trawlers and I operated on a contra/barter system. For a case of beer, for example, I received a large bucket or two filled with fresh prawns/shrimp and/or whatever other fresh seafood they had at their disposal. It was a great deal! So, here we go....let's pretend we're on an island in the turquoise Pacific Ocean somewhere...fare from the cares of the world.

Pancetta-Wrapped Sea Scallops:

500g (1 pound) large, fresh sea scallops (around 20 medium-large scallops)
4 oz. thinly sliced pancetta/prosciutto/bacon
20 rosemary sprigs, with the needles removed from the bottom 1-½-inches to 2-inches
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. coriander/cilantro-flavoured olive oil (optional, just plain olive oil will do)

Wash and dry the scallops; wrap each around with a piece of prosciutto. Pin together with a rosemary skewer, brush both sides generously with the mixed oils and grill for around 3 minutes on each side, arranging the skewers with the needle ends on a piece of foil to keep them from burning.

Serve with lemon juice and coriander/cilantro-garlic butter as a dipping sauce, or just squeeze a lemon or lime over the scallops and drizzle them with melted butter.

Sea Scallops In Sweet Chilli Sauce:

Only marinate for 10 minutes, any longer will cause the lime juice to "cook" the raw scallops and the flesh will become mushy when cooked. This recipe can also be made with prawns or a fillet of fish.

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1-tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger

750g/1-1/2 pounds sea scallops
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons chicken broth/stock
2 teaspoons fish sauce

Hot steamed rice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped coriander/cilantro

Combine marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add scallops and stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain scallops and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a wide nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat the bottom. When oil is hot, add scallops, and pan-fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Combine sweet chilli sauce, broth, and fish sauce in a small saucepan; heat to simmering. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Serve scallops with rice, drizzle with sauce, and garnish with coriander/cilantro.

Ginger Prawns
2tbs/30ml oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-inch/2.5cm piece ginger, finely chopped
6-8 large prawns,/shrimp peeled and deveined
1tbs/15ml light soy sauce or fish sauce
1tsp/3ml sugar
2tbs/30ml stock
2 spring onions
1 small onion, sliced

In a wok or frying pan, heat the oil until a light haze appears. Add the garlic and fry until golden brown. Add the ginger and stir. Add the prawns, stir thoroughly, then add the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and stock or water. Stirring continually, cook unmtil the prawns are opaque and cooked through about 2 minutes. Add the sliced spring onions and onions, stir once, remove from the heat and serve.

Prawn/Shrimp Mango Stir Fry

500g/1lb prawns/shrimp, shelled
1 red capsicum/pepper, cut into thin strips about 2" in length
450g/1/2 pound asparagus cut into 2" lengths
2 heads of baby bok choy, leaves separated and larger leaves split lengthwise
1/2 mango, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 heaping teaspoon of cornflour/cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of broth

Sprinkle the prawns/shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Let it stand for 15 minutes, then pat the shrimp dry. Heat your wok until you see wisps of smoke coming from the wok, then add 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok by pouring it around the side of the wok and letting it run to the bottom. When the oil is shimmering and moving, add the prawns in a single layer. Let them sit without tossing them for about 1 minute. You are trying to sear them and get some color on them. Then flip them, let them cook briefly on the other side, then remove them from the wok to a plate. They aren't going to be done at this point but you will cook them further at the end. Add the baby bok choy to the wok, again in a single layer with the stalk end towards the bottom of the wok. You're trying to keep the part that will take the longest to cook in the hottest part of the wok. Again, cook these without moving them for at least 30 seconds, until they have some browned areas. Then remove to a plate. You will need to add more oil to the wok at this point, then add the ginger and garlic, and then right away, the asparagus. Toss the asparagus for about 30 seconds and then add the peppers. Continue to toss until they have begun to soften. Add the bok choy back to the wok and add the soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir and toss, then add the sherry. Stir and toss, then add the chicken stock. When the chicken stock starts to simmer, add the cornstarch dissolved in the chicken broth. Then add the shrimp and stir. As soon as the sauce comes to a boil it will start to thicken. Stir until the sauce thickens and becomes glossy which happens very quickly. Add the mango, cook about another 30 seconds, then serve over rice.

Fish Fillets Wrapped in Spinach with Lemon-Ginger Sauce

250g button mushrooms
60g butter
4 shallots, whites and part of green finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 bunch English spinach
4 large fish fillets (white fish such as ocean perch)
60g extra butter
1/4 cup dry vermouth
90g butter, extra
1/4 cup lemon/lime juice
3egg yolks
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons horseradish cream
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, extra

Wipe over mushroom caps, remove and discard stems; finely chop caps. Melt butter over low heat, add mushrooms, shallots and ginger; saute slowly just until mushrooms are tender. Wash spinach, dry and remove stems, leaving leave whole. Place fish on board and completely cover with the spinach leaves; spoon mushroom mixture evenly on top of spinach. Roll fish up tightly, from narrow end and secure with toothpicks; tie fish securely with string.

Melt extra butter in baking dish; add dry vermouth, then fish; bake, covered in moderate oven, 180C, for about 20 minutes, or until fish is cooked. During cooking time, baste fish frequently with butter and vermouth. While fish is cooking, prepare sauce.

Melt extra butter in saucepan; add lemon/lime juice and combined egg yolks and cream. Whisk over very low heat until sauce has thickened. Do not allow to boil. Stir in horseradish, extra ginger, and salt and pepper to taste.

At serving time, place a large spinach leaf on 4 dinner plates. Remove fish from oven and, using a very sharp knife, or an electric knife, cut fish into slices. Place slices on plates and spoon sauce alongside the fish.

I hope these tempt your taste buds. And for those of you who can't eat or don't like seafood, I'll take care of you next time....nicely!