Adventures Down South + Turning 30

on Life, Travel  

I’m not really big on receiving presents. The Boy and I have come to a comfortable habit of eschewing gifts in favour of travel and nice meals. So to celebrate our 30th birthdays (which are exactly 2 weeks apart!) we drove down to Margaret River, or as us Perthies call the general South West region of Western Australia, “Down South”. Known for its wineries, beaches and forests and generally more of a warm weather destination, in winter the region feels quiet and relaxed without the hordes of tourists.

With a week off of work up my sleeve we drove down on Wednesday morning, armed with just a small bag each, a bunch of unread Monocole magazines and a loaf of freshly baked banana bread to serve as both birthday cake and breakfast. We splurged just a little on a lovely suite with a kitchenette and a huge bath (a luxury when you have only a shower at home!), reasoning that it would be balanced out by the money saved making our own breakfasts and suppers. I was glad of the nice digs when my sneezing on the drive down escalated into a full on cold, which meant that instead of driving around the countryside tasting wine I had a quiet, relaxing (if somewhat sickly) retreat.

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Our nice digs at Gilgara Retreat

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I managed to enjoy an incredible celebratory lunch at Voyager Estate before things got too bad, but the rest of our gastronomic plans were abandoned in favour of makeshift but satisfying meals of banana bread, local cheese, bread and dates.Since my wine tasting plans were foiled we did some touristy things instead, visiting Cape Leeuwin (the most south-westerly point of Australia) and strolling along the 2km length of the Busselton Jetty on the way back to Perth. Most of the time I resigned myself to keeping warm inside, reading my magazines whilst clutching a tissue box and many mugs of camomile tea. Not ideal perhaps, but a break is a break and I was glad to be away from work and wifi.

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The lovely grounds of Voyager Estate (more on that meal later)
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Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
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Cape Leeuwin

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Busselton Jetty

I keep being asked how it feels to be 30, but the fact is I didn’t suddenly turn a year older or a decade older – the days blend into weeks, into months and years, and then you are where you are. It isn’t a sudden jump as much as a steady climb, an accumulation of routines punctuated by memorable experiences, both good and bad. That’s why I like to mark the passing of another year by sharing meals with friends and family over material presents – those are the experiences that slow down time and will be remembered.

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Head & Heart – June 2015

on Life  

Slipping in at the last minute for this month’s Head & Heart. Just a quick one, as June was a while ago now and I’ll be writing about July soon!

GRATEFUL

Perth winter weather – sure we’ve had some chilly days and a bit of rain, but having now experienced bits of winter around the world I can appreciate our relatively mild season. We’ve even had some amazingly warm and sunny days that don’t feel like winter at all.

THINKING

Calligraphy work – I somehow keep getting requests for calligraphy or lettering work, possibly because many skilled calligraphers aren’t to bothered about having a website or optimising it for search engines. My lettering website pretty much just has a few posts about how much of a beginner I am, but somehow that seems to be enough to convince people to hire me. I’ve started thinking about making it into a proper portfolio website and blogging there a bit more regularly, as well as getting back into consistent calligraphy practice.

EXCITED

The problem with doing this a month late is that the things I was excited for have already happened! By the end of June I was looking forward to my birthday, celebrating with friends, releasing Issue 3 of Side Project and having a nice week off of work to relax.

In the longer term I’m excited for our Mexico and Texas trip at the end of the year, which we’ve finally got around to booking tickets for!

DOING

Side Project Issue 4 – Straight from releasing Issue 3 and on to producing Issue 4! It’s hard work but we have a really exciting lineup once again. I’m researching and writing an article for this one as well as the usual editor stuff, so need to really get onto it.

Speaking at the Colour Society of Australia’s event, GIRLBOSS. I was so honoured to be asked to speak at this event about being a creative person and running a business, along with some other ladies I greatly admire. I’m not the greatest at public speaking but it’s something I’d like to do more of.

MAKING

Wedding invitations! One of my closest friends is getting married soon, so our team of bridesmaids spent a day printing, cutting and constructing the various pieces of her invitations. I was stressed out designing them but luckily my friend is the easiest client I could hope for. I’m considering creating some calligraphy wedding stationery sets to sell, but that’s just another thing to add to the list!

READING

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle – a fantastic book tracing back the cost of the fashion industry on both people and the environment. This was such an eye opener for me that I really need to write a proper review post. Here’s a quick grab:

Ask yourself: are you prepared to keep supporting lower garment prices, no matter what the consequences? Every pound spent in a value-fashion retailer when you can afford to shop elsewhere is a vote cast for a particular way of working the fashion-supply chain. Is that really what you want to support?

 


Join the fun by writing your own Head & Heart post for the month and submitting over on Helen’s blog at Lime Tree Bower.

Home-brined Olives – Part 1

on Food, Home  

Lining our verge are three big olive trees. I’ve watched the small green fruit get bigger and darker, until the branches started drooping with the weight. I often use the branches as part of a foraged table arrangement, but only recently decided to have a go at brining olives for eating. The homemade version is inherently slow, taking several weeks to become edible, but I’m told the wait is worth it.

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My (very fruitful) olive tree
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Freshly picked ripe olives

I didn’t always love olives – as a kid I picked every speck of the little black olives off my pizza. But as an adult I love saltiness and unmistakeable flavour, on their own or as part of a dish. I hadn’t thought about how olives were prepared until a friend picked one, tasted it and exclaimed at the bitterness. After some research I realised that it takes time and work to transform the bitter fruit into the form I’m familiar with. Commercially sold olives usually cut through this process through the use of lye (caustic soda), then treated with various other additives to improve the uniform look and shelf-life.

For those who don’t want to mess around with lye, the process of removing the bitterness and preserving olives is a slow one. Opinions and methods vary by region and from person to person – estimated times seem to vary from 3 weeks to 3 months, with different levels of effort required. Hedging my bets, I’m trying out three different approaches in the hopes that at least one will work (hopefully the easiest one!).

After picking and washing the olives I sorted through each one checking for blemishes or signs of bugs, making a shallow incision on two sides. Cutting (or smashing) olives is supposed to help the bitterness seep away more easily. I chose not to remove the seeds, because who has time for that?

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Soaking olives, fully submerged

I then put them all into a big plastic cake container, covered with tap water and weighed down (rather ingeniously I thought) by the container insert. The olives need to be completely submerged through the entire lengthy process, so need a covering to prevent them bobbing up to the top.

Each morning I drained the container and replaced the water, for a week. At this point my olives were smelling much more familiar and the incisions slightly expanded.

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Olives after soaking and changing the water each day for seven days

I boiled a pot of brine, adding enough salt to be able to float an egg. After cooling, I decided to try out a few different curing options hoping that at least one of them will be successful.

The first jar of olives I filled with brine and topped with olive and a sprig of rosemary to keep the olives from floating. This one will sit on the shelf for at least 3 weeks (some say more like 6-8 weeks) before they will be ready. At this point I’ll be able to drain, wash and marinate them.

The second I filled two-thirds with brine, the rest with olive oil, rosemary, bay leaves and chilli flakes. This should take a few weeks on the shelf as well. Although this is the easiest option, I’m not sure the end result will be too salty or remain too bitter!

For the last jar I decided to follow Laura’s method of soaking in brine, changing weekly for anything up to 8 weeks. I have my fingers crossed that the more neglectful methods will be fruitful, but I feel pretty confident that at least this jar will turn out edible.

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Jar #1 – storing in brine topped with olive oil and a rosemary sprig for 3-6 weeks

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Because I didn’t put them in the right order for photos – jar #2, jar #1 and jar #3, left to right

Now we play the waiting (and re-brining) game. I’ll report back in a few weeks once these bitter fruits have developed into salty delicious olives ready for eating.