Life and love

Love, loss and time for nostalgia

I have been thinking a lot about loss. Loss of business, loss of life and life as we knew it. We are going through difficult times. We are unable to see family unless they live with us, some of us are struggling to make ends meet, others are worrying about our health or the health of a loved one. Some are feeling the impacts more than others, and mood swings are a common thing. (for me anyway)! In our region, and other fire impacted regions, people were already traumatised due to the effects of the bushfires. Life does not stop for them and they must get on with it, often without access to any help.

Many are finding that creativity helps. People are cooking, gardening, painting, crocheting, renovating and jigsawing. Zoom is the new best friend of many. I wish I had shares in Zoom.

The hardest part for me is hearing of the massive loss of life, especially at the volume that Europe and the US is experiencing. Apart from the constant media reports, we are almost removed from that, and in comparison we are doing very well here in Australia.

But what about the positives? The sky is clear, pollution is down, people are making an effort to connect in different ways. Sure, nothing beats a hug but when we can’t see our friends or family in the flesh, we try harder to make the time to talk to them. We crave what we can’t have.

Aunty Louise with me as a bub

My Aunty died last week, she was my fathers only sister. I hadn’t seen her for years but I remember visiting her home as a child and spending time with my cousins. Her daughter asked mum if she had any photos and mum remembered that she made me a scrapbook and in that book was a photo of my Aunty Louise nursing me. She was wearing a super cool spotted dress and she was beautiful. I turned my middle room upside down to find that photo. In the process, I found many other photos. The scrapbook contained photos of my sisters and I, along with my brother. I got emotional seeing James as little Jamie, and then I found the poem. A little poem I wrote as a 9 year old about how much I loved my little brother. It wasn’t a great poem so I wont share it but I was only 9.

The poem

I sent the photos and the poem to our family page and it seems I wasn’t the only one having one of those days. My sister was missing her son who is living in Queensland. We were all missing someone or some time when life was a little bit fuller.

Jamie and I

I thought about my businesses. Grace came home and I talked to her about it. Those of us in business often treat our businesses as our baby. We nurture them, love them, get disappointed in them and we don’t want to let them go even when we know we should. I love my business, but I believe as a business owner, I am coping during this pandemic because I have learnt the hard way that a life is irreplaceable and a business is replaceable. I would live in a tent, give my business away and live without if it meant one more day with my brother, one more family Christmas with my brother in law Steve shucking the oysters. One more day of family bickering and naughty children.

Just one more day.

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Eat local

I thought I would share this article on my blog as I wasn’t just running late for deadline, I totally missed it. It was written on 20th December 2019.

I am running a bit late this month with deadline upon me. I spent all day working in the café with food; baking, cleaning up and baking again. My grandmother always said that a good cook cleans up their mess. I am not sure they teach this at chef school but it works for me. I get overwhelmed when I am surrounded by dirty dishes. I am overwhelmed by lots of things these days, and trying to stay a little organised keeps me sane in these crazy times.

My main source of stress comes from thinking about the future of our food sources and the impact of drought on our environment.

Now more than ever we must eat local and support our farmers and producers. I think about this often, in fact even as a young child I was fascinated by my grandmother’s vegetable garden, by our pigs, who ate our scraps, by our chooks and ducks, and by the dairy in Krambach where we took our buckets to fill up with milk. We would get a spoon and eat the cream from the top of the bucket. This was what growing up in the country meant to me. Just today while I was cracking quite a few dozen eggs, as I admired the dark yellow beautifully formed yolks, I thought about where these beautiful eggs came from. I thought about the healthy chickens wandering happily with their friends, going about their business, and kicking dirt with their feet. Our eggs come from Idlewilde farm in Elands. Like much of our produce, they don’t travel far. During the recent bushfires, this farm was almost lost. These guys were already struggling with the drought and then the fires hit. Unfortunately there are many more stories like this. Our dairy source is threatened as dairy farmers are unable to feed their cattle, there is no water, many of the paddocks are burnt. Cows that were once milked will become the beef on our table. This doesn’t seem right to me. I grew up on this land, and we just didn’t eat the dairy cow.

Last week I met Joe, he had been cleaning up on his farm at Cappara after losing everything, including his bee hives. I gave him a beer and he told me that he hoped they would return eventually. He was positive but tired. Farmers have been battling the drought for a long time, and they work hard. Emotionally they are drained. Our food sources are threatened, so what will we eat? It worries me. We are not the food bowl we were a few years ago so how will we survive into the future? I hope that it will rain, but if the rain doesn’t come, we may all be eating imported food. Let’s support our farmers and producers when we can. I understand that our local food is a bit scarce at the moment, but farmers are a resilient bunch, hopefully they will rebuild.

I will continue to support local producers as long as they have food, and as consumers you can shop at farmers markets along with many local butchers and fruit and vegetable shops that source local produce. Dine in establishments that support local.

Eat well, eat local.

Feature photo by Les Mulder of The Edible Forest Wherrol Flat

Business

A few thoughts on leadership

As a business owner and leader of a small team, I have spent years getting better at leadership. I have been reasonably successful and I occasionally fail but the most important advice I would give, is to learn by your mistakes and understand that we must occasionally fail to succeed.

The best thing someone ever did for me is to tell me I wasn’t a great leader, this just made me all the more determined.

Following on from some recent discussions I have had about leadership and what makes a good leader, I have gathered my thoughts and followed a few of my favourite leaders to come up with my take on good leadership. Here are my conclusions:

1. Good leaders tell it how it is, nip it in the bud and move on.

2. They must be respected enough to be followed into battle. Respect and like are not always the same thing.

3. Without a team, there is no leader. Whether it be the workplace, a sporting team or a committee, a good leader can hold a team together and attract people into the fold.

4. Leaders are communicators.

5. Leaders trust their team enough to make them succeed, they relinquish control when they need to.

6. Good leaders don’t want what is best for them, they want what is best for the business/team/group that they represent.

7. Good leaders are real, they understand that people like to be heard. They can be vulnerable and understand that real people are not designed to be positive 100% of the time.

8. Good leaders can visualise the big picture while always keeping an eye on the small things that matter.

9. In the year 2019 and beyond, a good leader will fight for a better world. They are the people in communities that others listen to. In my opinion, they must fight for Climate Change and put the planet and people ahead of profits.

10. A good leader will respect and learn from other good leaders.

11. A good leader knows when to step away and let another leader take over.

12. Leaders inspire others, they must take responsibility for how their actions affect others.

At this moment, I am holidaying with my sisters and niece in Greece. A good leader trusts their team to manage the operation while they take important time out with loved ones.

Yamas!

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Hot Cauliflower soup to warm the Winter chills.

Who doesn’t love a nice healthy soup on those Winter evenings? I love cauliflower. You just can’t go past a good old fashioned cauliflower bake with cheesy white sauce, or some roasted cauliflower and garlic. Many people are lowering their carbohydrate intake and cauliflower is also a great alternative to rice, especially if you have a thermomix. I cook fried cauliflower rice in the wok or serve it steamed with curry. My sister Andre and I are huge fans of the Cauliflower puree that is served at Movida Aqui in Melbourne alongside the Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez.

I don’t often use a recipe for soup, but a few of my friends asked for the recipe when I shared this photo the other night so I thought I would revisit my kitchen and type up a recipe. Its easy to make and very tasty, especially served with a lovely sourdough (less carbs than white bread).

You can adapt the recipe by adding other vegetables or today I am making a Moroccan style cauliflower soup using Herbies Baharat added when sauteing. Its brassica season so make the most of some local produce.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium brown onion
  • A few cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 a leek or a few sticks of celery
  • 1 cauliflower
  • butter or oil to saute
  • Approx 1.25 litres stock – vegetarian or chicken (home made is best)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional – a few potatoes/and or pumpkin
  • Comboyne Culture Bluembert to serve (optional)
  • Flat leaf parsley to serve

Method

  • Chop onion, carrot and leek/celery to rough dice
  • Finely chop garlic
  • Roughly chop cauliflower
  • Chop potatoes and/or pumpkin into smallish dice
  • In a large pot add garlic and onion with butter or oil and saute gently on low heat
  • Add carrot, leek/celery and continue to saute until all is soft
  • Add cauliflower, potatoes/pumpkin with stock and salt &pepper – cover the vegetables
  • Cook on low heat until vegetables are soft
  • Blend with stick blender in pot or in food processor
  • Serve with chopped parsley and a few slices of cheese

Easy! Now sit in front of the fire and enjoy.

You can purchase Herbies Spices and Comboyne Culture cheeses at Bent on Food

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Writing about nothing much

When the alarm went off at 5.15am this morning and I heard rain on the roof, I didn’t want to get up, but as I do every Thursday, I hopped out of bed, washed my face, got dressed and went to my pump class. I cant say I enjoyed it as much as boxing yesterday, but I felt a sense of achievement in having made the effort. Afterwards I had a quick coffee with my gym buddy and went to work. About an hour into being there, I remembered that this was my day off, the only one I have rostered off for the next two weeks while my trusty front of house supervisor is having a well deserved break. So I went home.

Then came the quandary; what do I do today? This is how every day off goes for me. My busy mind fights with my need to relax, and relaxing never wins. That is of course if we define relaxing as doing very little. I like to achieve something every day, and that doesn’t just mean making the bed, which is done every day in our house.

So what does relaxing mean for me? Painting some furniture, baking, writing and reading are all activities that I love and that I do not do enough of, except maybe baking as it is often a requirement of my job. I get to paint albeit not as often as I would like, but its been a very long time since I have written this blog, and even longer since I have read a novel.

So here I am, writing about nothing really, but at least I am writing, still thinking about dusting, but focusing on my computer. I know that today the rosters still need publishing and the dairy order needs to be posted, but for now, I will write.

How about boundaries? Do you turn your phone off or not take calls on your day off? If you have staff do you encourage them to text you or call you and let you know of their progress or do you have some boundaries around this? Do you over commit at the expense of time for you? There is just so much noise in this age of technology, I write as my messenger dings another time. We are so contactable that there is almost never a break. When I walked Base Camp in 1999 there was no contact with the rest of the world for 21 days, when I was walking on the Camino five years ago, we had mobile range for much of the walk.

Do others find it hard to wind down? How do you achieve a balance? Do you block out time for the things you enjoy? Writing is a spontaneous activity for me, probably because I am not a real writer with deadlines, so its not something I can just pop in the diary.

I would love to hear your views on my post about nothing, with some tips on how to relax that don’t involve partaking in a glass of wine. It is Dry July and I have made a commitment.

By the way, the feature picture is of our dog Ben, he loves to relax. Be like Ben!

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Melbourne I love you

Sometimes it all gets a bit much; work takes over my life, I am craving a good Mamasita corn cob, and I need a week with my sister.

This is when I take my annual trip to Melbourne. Since my first visit to Melbourne 32 years ago, I was hooked. I lived in and loved Sydney for 18 years, I love the harbour, my friends and many aspects of Sydney, but there is just something special about Melbourne.

Our annual trip came late this year, we were just so busy, my sister has a new job and my work seems to be never ending, especially playing catch up after my trip to the UK in January. We were so excited to be going that my super organised sister had her bags packed 2 weeks before we flew out.

Brunswick Street

We decided to revisit our accommodation at the Mantra on Little Bourke Street, this was our Melbourne home for a few years running until we tried the Citadene last year. We prefer the Mantra because the rooms are big, it is in a great position and it is next to Movida Aqui, one of our favourite restaurants. There is no rave factor about this hotel, it just feels like home. The problem is, the very reason we moved away was still a huge issue for me. It may seem like a first world problem, but each time I stay there, I can hardly walk for a week due to the combination of hard mattress and soft pillow. We even asked for harder pillows, to be told they were not available because they are not at the level of providing a choice of pillows? But we were staying 6 nights.

Hosier Lane

Our first meal out was at Movida Aqui, where we always enjoy fantastic service and choose to be seated at the bar to be amongst it. Being a Friday night, the place was pumping but meals were delivered quickly and we were never without a glass of wine. We were happy travellers that’s for sure. Don’t you just love that first night of a holiday, full of excitement and planning all the experiences you want to take in, quietly realising that there are only 24 hours in one day?
We always order Carrillera De Buey – Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree. It is just divine with the cauliflower so smooth and tasty and the beef cheeks that melt in your mouth.  I always try to emulate it in the kitchen when I return home. The beef cheek is one of those cuts that has found popularity as it is wonderful when cooked slowly. I am not going to go through everything we ate but it was great start to our trip. We finished the evening with a very traditional Churros Con Chocolate – Spanish doughnuts with rich drinking chocolate, reminding me of Spain. I love how food takes you away, its like a journey through your plate.

Van Gogh

We have a favourite rooftop bar in Melbourne, its on Bourke Street and it’s called Madame Brussels. You walk into this dreary looking building, catch a rickety lift and arrive in this magic place, a rather fancy terrace that is all pink and fluffy complete with garden chaises, sun lounges and beautiful smiling staff wearing little vintage tennis outfits. The bar’s catchy name pays tribute to the Madame herself – a 19th century city brothel owner and entrepreneur famed for her sensational attitude and unconventional lifestyle. Disco music plays on the stereo and the sparking wine comes in vintage coupe glasses.  But wait till you see their jugs! When we get hungry we like to partake in a snack of “Mother of pearls gay sausage rolls with dead ‘orse”. It is a feast for the eyes and no trip to Melbourne is complete without a trip to Madame’s!

Brunswick Street

Another thing I love about Melbourne are the exhibitions, last year we were fortunate to be in Melbourne for the fabulous Versace exhibition and this year we went to see Van Gogh and the Seasons. We made the mistake of going on a Sunday, a bit silly when we had all those weekdays in Melbourne. We stood in line for quite some time but it was well worth it. I knew a bit about the artist, I knew he cut his own ear off, and that he was artistically brilliant, sometimes dark and sometimes light, but it was really interesting to listen to all of his letters to his brother and to get to know this brilliant artist and the tumultuous life he led. The seasons had profound meaning for Vincent Van Gogh representing the circle of life. He was a brilliant artist, it was somewhat sad that he had such a short life and died so tragically.

Stagger Lees

We enjoy heading down Brunswick Street for a bit of retro shopping and a meal at Stagger Lees. We love this place with it’s fabulous coffee and interesting menu that rarely disappoints. The head chefs name is actually Chris Hamburger! Surely he has changed his name to this? My very favourite is Smashing pumpkins – roasted butternut pumpkin, poached egg, crispy kale, romesco, smoked almonds and pomegranate, I love to add trout. It is so tasty. Every place in Melbourne seems to tell a story, like the bar across the road called Naked for Satan because apparently the original owner would brew naked, get a bit drunk and run around with no clothes on. Stagger Lees was named after a pimp from St. Louis. He infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red stetson hat and since then over 400 musicians and artists have retold the story of Stagger Lee; the ultimate bad-ass.

You cant go past Mamasitas on Collins Street for the most amazing Mexican food, a favourite being paprika corn on the cob. They do the best popcorn icecream and it has a fabulous vibe. You may have to line up for an hour to get in, we were so lucky this time and managed to snag a table straight away, but the line is often long.

Hardware Societie

We always go to another one of our favourite little cafes, Hardware Societie and this time we met with my lovely previous staff members Bella and Maitlan. This place does funky food and fabulous coffee, with a pretty little fitout, complete with butterfly wallpaper.  I tried the fabulous Duck rillette eggs benedict which was divine, and according to Bella, the French toast was pretty good too. You line up here too as you do with all the popular Melbourne restaurants, once you get in, the meals arrive quickly.

Hosier Lane

Melbourne is particularly famous for its murals, there is one up just about every lane, but International visitors flock to Hosier Lane to be photographed in front of one of the many murals that are part of a youth project. I find them fascinating and they add so much to an already cultural city.

One day, we took a trip down to Gisborne to see one of my fellow Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan stockists at her beautiful shop Gisborne French Provincials.  Joolz and I became great friends during our training trip to Oxford, it was great to catch up with her, and only an hour or so by train from the city. Day tripping is easy in Melbourne and so cheap. 

We decided to leave Chin Chin until our last meal, as it is really special. The Executive Chef, Benjamin Cooper is from Taree. The food is brilliant. we waited 2 hours for a table which is normal for this popular place, but it was well worth it. Chin Chin is modelled on the dining halls of South East Asia. Caramelised sticky pork with sour herb salad & chilli vinegar, Crispy skinned duck with bok choy, lup cheong, shitake stir fry & ginger soy and Corn and coriander fritters with iceberg lettuce & chilli jam are just a few of our favourite dishes. This time we went with the “Feed me” menus, so glorious food just kept coming out to our table. This place is a work of art, seating around 200 customers, with every staff member on the ball. I especially love listening to the banter from the kitchen, with Chef Benjamin on the pass. It is music to my ears.

The loveliest part of my trip is being able to spend this valuable time with my beautiful sister Andre. We really enjoy our trip, we love the dining experiences, the cultural experience and a spot of shopping. I look forward to next years trip, time to start saving!

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My visit with Annie Sloan – A story written for Manning Community News with intro by Di Morrissey

Wingham businesswoman, Donna Carrier, runs a cafe and small art studio using Chalk Paint created by Annie Sloan to transform furniture.  Here Donna shares her trip to England to study with Annie Sloan in Oxford.

Chalk Paint™ is a decorative paint developed by Annie Sloan 25 years ago. It very rarely requires any preparation, such as sanding or priming, and can be used indoors or outside, on just about any surface. It can revitalise old furniture, walls, ceilings and floors with ease. It’s easy, fun and makes amazing results accessible to everyone.
Annie trained as a fine artist and turned to decorative work after university in the mid 1970s, while being commissioned to paint murals in houses. By 1987, Annie had written the phenomenally successful book The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques, which is considered to be the industry bible on the subject. Unable to find the paints that she wished to work with, Annie used her knowledge of colour, paint, pigments and art history to develop Chalk Paint(r) in 1990. In 2000, Annie set up a shop in Oxford to showcase Chalk Paint(r), run courses, and offer interior design services.
Born in Australia to a Scottish father and a Fijian mother, Annie moved to England to a farming life in Kent when she was ten years old. With spells in Southern Africa and connections to France, Cuba and the US, Annie has lived in Oxford for the last twenty five years.
Here Donna recounts her trip to Annie Sloan in Oxford.


http://www.manningcommunitynews.com/2017/04/a-passion-for-painting/