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Moving Forward (again)

on Life  

I think I’ve used this title before, at various points in this blog’s (actually rather long) history. Usually it’s a conscious decision to leave something behind and embrace something else from that point onwards, although it doesn’t always work out the way that I plan.

The choice to leave ChiGarden quiet for almost three months was due to general procrastination which then evolved into the question – why am I doing this anyway, and is there something else I could be spending time on that will have more impact? The fact is that by your standard metrics for a ‘successful’ blog, this one is a bit of a failure. With 440 posts over six years, I think I have perhaps a handful of consistent readers (mainly friends), plus a few people who drop by via Twitter or Pinterest sporadically. Sometimes I feel as if I’m projecting these thoughts into the void and no one really cares but me, which is both saddening and freeing at the same time.

My main aim with this blog has always been to mess around with website layouts, improving photography and writing skills, and keeping a journal to look back on. It still serves that purpose, but there are other pockets of the internet where I can funnel my energy with more focus and move toward more tangible goals than internet fame and validation from strangers. Focus is my theme for this year – more on that another day – and I’ve found with writing at I’m trying to spread myself too thin.

I thought I’d maybe announce a hiatus on ChiGarden for the year whilst concentrating on other endeavours, but I’ve found that I’ve missed simply journalling about whatever grabs my interest! Here I can be free to pretty much write a stream of consciousness without worrying about crafting a personal brand or furthering particular goals.

So I’ll still be writing here, although posts might be sporadic, less frequent and possibly less ‘crafted’ whilst I shift my priority elsewhere. I think this space will always be too important and cathartic for me to let it go entirely! Thank you to that handful of loyal readers who keep stopping by to read my meandering words.

Do you ever stop to wonder why you continue to do something – whether it’s out of habit or because you actually need it?

Slow Food – Bush Tucker

on Food  

When I’m asked for an example of an Australian dish, I’m always a little stumped. Most of the things we think of as Australian staples were appropriated from immigrants or British settlers. It’s easy to forget the native foods, the bush tucker, that were cultivated and used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years before imported crops and meat pies came on the scene.

A couple of weeks ago The Boy and I attended the Bush Tucker meets Valley Produce event run by the Swan Valley and Eastern Regions Slow Food Convivium together with the Maalinup Art Gallery, where the event was also hosted. As with previous the Slow Food events we’ve attended, the idea was to educate guests through a meal showcasing local ingredients and traditions, as well enjoying the experience of sharing good food together!

Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.

Slow Food International

The meal began with an introduction from Maalinup owner Dale Tilbrook, who spoke about the Aboriginal history of the area and the traditional foods we were about to eat. The food was prepared by Dale, Slow Food chef Vincenzo Velletri and their helpers, and included a modern fusion of local and native ingredients. I find fusion dishes sometimes a bit hit and miss, but these were prepared with knowledge and sensitivity to the traditions and ingredients. They were well complimented with Edgecombe Brothers wine and Bitter Bush essences with soda water (tip: the lemon myrtle tastes like lemon lollies despite not having any sugar in it).

Pizza Bianca with smoked kangaroo and wild lime olive oil
Bush tomato mousse in a pastry case
Pizza Bianca with emu and pepper berry chorizo

It’s a pity how uncommon indigenous ingredients are, when they grow well in the Australian environment (obviously) and actually taste really good! I suppose it can be confronting for some people to eat kangaroo or emu, although they are also much better suited to the land here than pigs and cows and much healthier. I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of every dish (and I did manage to drop jam all over my poor camera), but here’s a selection.

Kangaroo tail brawn on crostini
Asparagus creme risotto

Eating local, seasonal and sustainable food has become increasingly important to me, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them, and the reason that I love these Slow Food events, is that I believe in supporting people who do good work with actions (and money) rather than just words – it’s the only way they can continue to do good work.

Emu ravioli with saltbush butter
Oven roasted, lemon myrtle marinated prawns

The meal ended with desserts celebrating the quondong (native peach) season – vanilla pannacotta with white quandong halves in peach schnapps, and quondong jam tarts with wattle seed cream. I learned about some new local flavours, was reintroduced to others, and it was a pleasure as always! It’s left me wondering where I can get some of these bush tucker plants to attempt to cultivate at home – maybe I’ll have better luck growing native wild limes and bush tomatoes than I have with the European varieties?


Minimalism vs Tech: To-Do Lists

on Life  

There’s nothing that wastes time quite like exploring apps for getting things done. Everyone has their own take on what makes a great to-do list, and some have expanded to (or from) complex project management applications.

I’ve tried out my fair share of to-do list apps and solutions, but most tend to be far more complex than I need them to be. This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, just what works for me personally. If you have any recommendations of your own please add to the comments below!

For ad-hoc lists on the go – IOS notes

Often I’ll think of things I need to do whilst waiting for the bus or otherwise on the go, so the option to jot things down quickly on my phone is a necessity.

Up until recently I was using Wunderlist, but the recent updates to the Apple’s default Notes app now allow you to add checklists within notes, serving my purpose for simple ad-hoc lists. Since it’s far simpler and an app that iOS won’t let me delete anyway, this is now my quick list of choice.

For projects & Collaboration – Trello

At work and for Side Project magazine, where a bit more power is necessary, I use Trello – a free, multi-platform, cloud-based app that I mainly use in a browser. The premise of Trello is to have boards, each of which hold multiple lists which appear as columns across the page. In each list is are cards, which can contain checklists, comments and attachments, and can be assigned due dates and a person responsible. Cards can be moved between lists, and archived as they are completed.

This sounds complicated, but seeing everything laid out visually can be a huge help to see what needs to be done and who needs to do it. Clever filtering and tracking of when cards are added, moved and deleted (and by whom) help to get more specific in more crowded boards.

I’ve started trying to use it to plan out blog posts for ChiGarden as well, and to bring across any of my ad-hoc lists that need to be put somewhere safe longer term. I think your average person wouldn’t need this level of detail for personal use, but if you run a blog, are planning a wedding, building a house or just have a lot going on then it’s worth checking out.

FOR short term to do lists – good old pen & Paper

As much as I like playing around with apps, sometimes a low-fi solution is actually all that is needed. All those fancy digital options just can’t compare to the satisfaction of scribbling a bunch of items on a pad of paper, then ticking each one as it’s completed and tearing off the sheet at the end. Having my list physically there in front of me, without having to open an app or a browser, is a much better short-term prompt than scheduled reminders about due dates. And of course I do love any opportunity to practice a bit of brush lettering. Good old pen and paper is my to-do list of choice for short-term lists to be completed within a day or two.

For me at least, this is a good example of realising when technology hinders rather than helps. I did try to make digital lists for the day work, but it isn’t as satisfying and isn’t really any easier to put together. Maybe it’s a bit less high tech and fancy, but the simplicity and the physical nature of a pad of paper and a pen are all that I need in this circumstance, so anything trying to be more than that is simply unnecessary.

What do you use to keep track of your things to do? If you have a favourite app or paper notepad, I’d love to hear it!

These Minimalism vs. Tech posts are all about exploring the tension between essentialist ideals and recent technology, from my experiences. You can read the intro here. More coming up soon!