Monday, April 30, 2012

Moroccan Lemon Chicken - Next Life I'm Coming Back with Me as My Wife

Next life I want to come back with me as my wife.  Why? Well for a start, it's a dang good restaurant here at the Beach House and I am the chief cook and bottle washer.  This is a low budget and fabulous meal that serves 4. I popped this one up on Face Book last week and there were recipe requests, so here it is. I call this cooking with cans.  You can have most of this stuff in your pantry and freezer, even the garlic and onion.  Just waiting for one of those times when you have no inspiration at all and the thought of providing yet another meal for your hungry family, is enough to make you want to jump ship.  The only thing you need to buy in fresh is the coriander and hey, if you  forget that, you will be forgiven, cause it wont matter if you leave it out.  Come to think of it, I don't think it was even in the original recipe.

This slow cooker arrived at the Beach House last week and  it has liberated me.  Don't know about you, but I can't seem to get my act together in the mornings.  Something about naughty little kiddos dragging the chain.  So I usually find myself putting the food in this thing the night before, switching it on in the morning and not thinking about dinner again until it's ready to serve.  Heaven!!!!!!

This recipe comes out of a fabulous book called Northern Beaches Cooks, put together by a group of mum's and dads just like the recipes are easy, doable and very fabulous.   I see myself as a Northern Beaches Cook and this recipe book is so me.  I cook lots out of it.  

I'm trying to get more of these types of spices into our weekly diet, as they are intense with antioxidants and other goodness, which is what I am after in my week day wonder type meals.  We seem to lose it a bit on the weekends, but I figure I at least want to eat well mid week.  

You can see I did actually put this one together in the morning as Mr Beach House, God love him, did the school run that day.  This day it was PJs until school pick up. Sooooooo nice!!!!!

We are having the left overs from this tonight, made into soup, after a bleak day on the beaches out amongst it.   

When family day falls on a cold day in Sydney you have to go with it.  Being together out in the wilderness, means we love each other a little more now than we did this morning.  We ate our sandwiches in the rain and had a laugh, which has set me up nicely for yet another week as the CEO of the Beach House.  I told Mr Beach House on the drive home, I need more excitement in my life.  Wonder what I'll come up with!!!!!!  Baby land is over for me and I want more now!!!!!

Nothing like a gourmet sanga by the grey sea, to add excitement to ones life!!!!!!! Hmmm I need to get out more!!!!

Moroccan Lemon Chicken
serves 4

1 tablespoon each of ground paprika, ground turmeric, ground cumin
10 chicken drumsticks
 tablespoons olive oil (only if cooking in a conventional oven)
1 onion sliced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1x 400g can chopped peeled tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1 preserved lemon cut into strips
 10 black pitted olives
salt and pepper to taste 
1 bunch flat leaf parsley or coriander chopped 
Couscous or quinoa to serve serve

If cooking in the slow cooker put all ingredients in except the parsley or coriander and cook on high for 6 hours. Add the parsley just before serving.  

Left overs tip:  Remove the chicken from the bones and break up. Reheat and serve as a soup.  Add a cup of water or two and salt to taste, if needed.  So yummy

To cook in a conventional oven
Preheat oven to 180C or 350 .
Place spices in a plastic bag.  Add chicken and toss to coat.
Heat oil in a large pan over a low heat add chicken cook until browned.  Put into your casserole dish.
Add onion and garlic to pan and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Put into casserole.  Deglaze pan with chicken stock and pour into casserole dish.
Add remaining ingredients except parsley or coriander and to casserole.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Turn chicken and cook for a further 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

15 minutes before serving add parsley or coriander.

Serve with cous cous. or quinoa.

Serves four.  Use the left over sauce and any chicken to make a fabulous soup by adding 1-2 cups of water to it.  I love a meal that does for 2 nights.......Doesn't take much to please me people!!!!!!

Recipe Source Northern Beaches Cooks with amendments that work for me

Today I am partying here
The Blackberry Vine

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Pink Frosting and A Whole Lot of Love

I have had the best day full of love and little girls.  My mum sent over a slow cooker last week and it has liberated me from the kitchen.  Dinner was on and cooking away by 9.30am.  That was about 8 hours ahead of schedule.  So instead of twiddling my thumbs, I decided as we were home for the day, I was going to make it count.

I had nicked enough flowers from the neighbour's and it was time to tackle the laundry instead.  That was largely under control by 10.30am.  I then ventured into the household finances folder for another hour, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  The creditors who were mean to me, didn't even make it into the hat for a chance at being paid this month.  So after checking some stuff off my to do list that has been weighing on my mind.........

It was time for the rewards.  By 12pm we had baked these little cupcakes and iced them just before lunch.  We had lots of fun with this pink frosting.  My mum noticed via this blog, that I was into piping icing onto cakes, so she sent this stuff over too.  I've never seen it in the stores here and when I asked her where she got it she couldn't remember.  I'll be Googling it though, cause I'm a convert.  I hate to think what's in it, but it looked pretty and I love the way it went on.  It easily did 12 cupcakes and by about cake number 9, I was getting it together.  The Beach house Brat thought it was her birthday for some reason.  Probably because her  mother randomly comes up with this kind of stuff mid I went with it and asked her if she wanted a birthday party for 2 on the deck.

So we set this up out the back and had a little play with her tea set.  This is the kind of thing which makes this motherhood gig so worth it.  When you have the time to stop and just hang out together.

As it was her 'birthday' I took a video.  I didn't muck around with movie maker today, so no music or credits.  She was so funny, because she was falling all over herself to eat a cake as I was icing them and then when I said she could, she hesitated.  Turns out she loves the frosting too.

Have a fabulous weekend and here's to making it count.

Today I am partying here

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vintage Doily Lanterns and Bunting and I'm Interviewing for My Very Own Housewife

Hello gorgeous people!!!!  

I have to tell you, I love it when my mother chucks stuff out.  Recently I was the recipient of more of her beloved 'junk'.  I am happy to say it's spring cleaning season over at my circa 1964 childhood home.  The age of said home, means most of the stuff that comes out of the back of her cupboards and drawers, is vintage.  At these clean ups, I can often be found with my hand out and  mum is only too happy her once loved stuff, is going to a good home.  Accordingly ladies, today we are talking doilies.  Those pretty little pieces of handmade lace that graced many a 1950'a and 60's table.

As we sat at her dining table....old as well...... I asked her what the heck she was doing with so many doilies  and what she did with them in her bee hived hey day.  "Well," she said "They go under things and also on cake plates, when you have guests."  Hmmmm, life sure was a lot slower then.  If my girlfriends drop around for a cuppa, they're lucky to get a teabag in a chipped mug, a biscuit and a good laugh.  But back then, it was different.  All by appointment and with good china, real tea and apparently lots of lace.  Suffice to say time has moved on, for better or for worse and as a result, these sweet little things have been sitting in the dark for the last thirty years.

Mum's parting words to me were.  'I'll give them to you, but you won't cut them up will you?'  She didn't say anything about glue though!!!!!  I've seen these little lanterns on pinterest, my new go to inspiration board...yes I know, I'm late to that party as well.  I'm still not officially a pinner, as I don't have the time.  In any case, I'd rather create than pin other peoples' stuff, but I love the concept and am such a voyer of human nature, that I do pop over there most days.

With these, there's no need to worry about the glue seeping through the holes, which it does readily.  Just wipe off the excess with a damp cloth and the rest will dry clear.  The other tip is to stretch the lace  well over the jar, so the holes open up to let the light through.

Being under strict instructions not to cut the doilies I also strung them up to make bunting.  Cutting them in half and stiching them to tape looks fantastic, but being the honourable daughter that I am....a promise is a promise and I used pegs instead.

Not so honourable however, that I don't knick flowers that hang over the neighbour's fence though.

These things looked luscious out my window and were calling me.  Life is sweet when a double red hibiscus shoved into a porcelain white pitcher can make your day.

My face book friends confirmed what I already knew and that is, stuff hanging over the fence is fair game. It just comes down to whether you have the nerve to take it.  Some people only do this kind of thing by night, but I started cutting at midday...oh the thrill!!!!! Please don't judge me dear reader.  I have to get my kicks somehow!!!!!!

So instead of doing laundry and other boring things that make me wonder how the hell, a highly educated woman like myself,  ever got herself into this situation known as 'housewife'.  I foofed and mucked around with doilies and red flowers.  And if you know Mr Beach House, for pities sake don't let on!!!!!  He'll send me back out to paid work 5 days a week, which would be fine, if I like him could walk through the door each night to a clean house, a warm meal on the table and happy Beach House Brats.  Unfortunately, I'd still have to do all the other boring cr*pola that makes up the housewife's lot, as well as a paid job. Oh and there's his books that I do for nothing as well.  It's official, I need my very own housewife.  Anyone wanting to work very hard for absolutely no remuneration, but guaranteed fun and love, I'm accepting applications now. Email me!!!

And you are now wondering if Mr Beach House reads me.  Well I can definitely confirm that in the negative.  Apparently my father in-law does though, obviously lots of retired time on his hands and perhaps a penchant for a little vintage.  Anyway, he recently enquired as to whether Mr Beach House did too.  When the answer was "No" he replied, "Yes son, perhaps that's for the best".  So I am in that very convenient position where I can do all sorts of sneaky things, like foof around with red flowers and doilies all day and he will be none the wiser.

It can be our little secret!!!!! Hey grandpa????

It's ANZAC Day here in Australia and you can read all about what that means here if you like
Today I'm partying here

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Summer Wreath for Under $10

Hi How's it going?   Here's a quick wreath idea to put together for Summer, or if you are like us down here in the southern hemisphere, to mourn the loss of Summer.  I am feeling it keenly as the mornings and evenings turn cooler. After our rigorous afternoon at the beach, I was feeling all outdoorsy and weekendy, so I organised a BBQ for dinner last night.  I was foofing around and before I knew it, it was dark.  Mr Beach House was cooking by torch light and I was resetting the table inside.  

Actually, we really are lucky down here, our Winters are really only about 2 months long and are not harsh at all, but it is generally freezing, because the houses are not at all equipped for it.  Open plan, no curtains, heaps of glass to let the light in and floor boards are great for Summer, when the doors are flung open to the let outside in, but not at all conducive to retaining the heat mid winter. We all huddle around the fire place and I bet you can guess which is my seat on a crisp night.  I usually have a little hot body wanting to share with me too.

Anyway right now we are looking down the barrel of all that and it doesn't make me very happy, so I am mucking around with some projects which will prolong Summer thoughts for as long as possible. I found this idea on pinterest It's colourful, simple and very affordable. I think it would be lovely on the front door, to greet guests at a Summer party as well.

All you need is a foam wreath, a bag full of cocktail umbrellas and a little girl  to 'help', who gets very excited when I get any kind of craft out.  I have probably said it before, but this kind of craft is messless, so it's my favourite.

So all you have to do is push the umbrellas in until all the foam is covered and attach a colourful ribbon for hanging. So simple and all recyclable

It seems that I naturally go for colour in my decorating.  If you look at the shots of my home in the side bar, there is lots of it.  I love neutrals too, but colour in decorating adds so much interest and is such a great way to change a room on a budget.  

So cheerio ladies and happy days to you all!!!!!!  

Today I am partying here

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Last Days of Summer and a Family Pow Wow

When Mr Beach House announced this morning that he was going sailing, the Beach House Brats lost it.  They wanted him around and I love that even though he goes on like a bachelor with a wife and kids lots of the time, he cancelled his sailing plans and spent the day with us. 

 We are so lucky to have this playground at the end of the street and as Summer fades to a memory, we are squeezing every last drop out of it.  The surf was huge, so I was taking these shots with only one eye open.  I have given up trying to keep my baby safe.  He's learning how to be a man and that involves exposure to lots of danger.

They are in there somewhere

Hope you guys are enjoying your weekend. Sydney is turning on a stunner this afternoon, so I'm heading off to the back deck, rose in hand, to put my feet up, until the next mini crisis that is motherhood, is upon me.  At the moment all are happy and I'm counting on it staying that way for a while.  See ya Monday.  I've been crafting my socks off and have  a Summer wreath for under ten bucks for you to put together with the kids up next.

Today I am partying here

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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Battle Fields of France and ANZAC Day in Australia

Next week we will 'celebrate' ANZC Day in Australia.  I wrote this post last year about a trip we took to Northern  France. We took a train from Paris and  followed the ANZAC military trail for a day.  As I had only been blogging for 6 weeks at the time of first posting this story, I am re publishing it (with some edits)  in anticipation of that sacred day being observed in Australia next week.

Hi All
Today is one of the most sacred holidays on the Australian calender.  It is ANZAC day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp.  The legend of ANZAC was born in 1915, when Australia  and New Zealand faced their first military battles side by side as nations. 

The Allies planned to break the stale mate on the Western Front in France by taking Germany through the 'back door' via Gallipoli in Turkey.  It was a complete baptism of fire for the ANZACs, as it was a badly organised defeat. It cuts very deep here in Australia, as the Aussies where commanded by the British and it was a fiasco.  On that first day, whilst the British troops were landed on a beach and saw little action, the ANZACs were dropped in the thick of it and suffered many casualties.  The only real success of the operation was the Australian planned retreat many months later, where not one man was killed.  There after in 1916, the ANZACs were sent to reinforce the Allies on the Western front in Northern France. 

Several years ago we visited The Somme in Northern France and I have to say it was one of the most moving days of my life.  It was only an hours train ride from Paris up to Amiens.  I booked it all privately online, and sent my Euros off into the ether on trust.  Our fabulous French guide Sylvestre, told us to be at the glass doors at Amiens station at 10am on that particular day. That's all the information we got and in typical relaxed French country style, he was there at 10am as promised.  We showed up a little before the designated hour and found a little cafe across the road from the station for a quick morning coffee.  As we entered, all 6 guys sitting around the bar stopped what they were doing and looked at us as if we had two heads.  We ordered our cafe, drank it quickly and left, hoping our day would  get better and believe me it did.

Next time we visit France,  we plan to spend a week up there. But if you have limited time, I recommend this day trip from Paris to anyone and a guide is probably the most efficient way to do it.  If you make the effort, I promise you will be moved beyond belief.

We all in this interiors blogging circle, know and love France for her beauty.  She is the absolute pinnacle of 
style and elegance, but she has a dark history, that has shaped her people and ours and made us all what we are today.
I am starting at the end really, in the town of Villers Bretonneux. As I write this thousands of Australians and French are gathering in that place to celebrate this decisive battle fought there in 1918, which was the beginning of the end for the Germans and consequently the war itself.

As you can see from the map, Villers Bretonneux was the last town before the major roads and rail line at Amiens.  Had the Germans got to Amiens, they were a short train ride into Paris. Their artillery was already within range of the outskirts of  Paris at this point.  But on 25 April 1918, it is no exaggeration to say that  the Australians stopped them along this road.   It was so decisive that the little primary school in Villers Bretonneux has a sign in it's playground that says 'Do Not Forget Australia' and a beautiful little museum which is an important stop on any tour of the Somme.

In 1918, the Germans were making one very big and successful push across Northern France in order to end the war.  The Germans had regained much of the Territory won, at such a high human cost on both sides, by the Allies over the four years of the war and had pushed the Allies back from Belgium all the way back to the Somme in the first few months of 1918. So the fact they were stopped here at VB, was the turning point to the Allies victory.

This tower I am standing on, is in the Australian war cemetery at Villers Bretonneux.  The church spire on the horizon was were the Red Barron was shot down in 1918.  It is disputed between the Australians and Canadians as to who shot him down, but he came down in the Australian sector of the front line, so of course we like to claim that one.

The tower at Villers Bretonneux was used as a high post by the French in WW2, as the Germans came through again in 1939.  Hilter with his Blitz Kreig, was able to do in 4 weeks what the Germans were unable to do in 4 years in WW1 and that was to break through to Paris. Those are WW2 bullet holes from German fire you can see behind the boys.

This rectangular monument adorns the entrance to all Australian war graves across the world.  It's curvature at the top is to the exact angle of the earth's surface. The idea is that it links all the war graves and the soldiers in them together.

The Australians were known for their sense of humour and their inability to conform to military protocol.  The Aussies named one of the main streets in the town of Peronne, Roo de Kanga, a deviation of Kangaroo, it is still named that today in their honour. They were larikins and may not have been able to salute officers and handle the military hierarchy of pomp and ceremony, but that is also what made them so tough and ingenious and so feared by the enemy.

Here the boys are lying in a shell hole at Mouquet Farm.
Mouquet Farm was another location, where the Australians had a terribly slaughterous and badly led defeat early in the war.  So many wasted lives, but they were still able to find some humour in it, referring to the area as Moo Cow Farm.

This German pill box was on the farm of our tour guide's grandmother.  Thus he was able to dig it out and he had installed electricity so we were able to go down the first few steps into the bunker. The older French understandably don't want to promote the area for it's war history.  They just want to forget it.  There are thousands of tunnels in this area, but most are on private land and have been sealed.

The Germans built such strong posts because in 1914 as they believed this was their new border with France.  The Germans were very well dug in at the beginning of the war and that is why the Allies only gained such little ground  for such huge losses.  The heads thought that the artillery bombardments would  debunk the Germans so the infantry could just jump over the trenches, walk across no mans land, and take the German held territory.  But the German system of bunkers was so good, that apart from nerves due to the bombardment, the Allied artillery barely touched them.  The artillery shells were inadequate to penetrate the concrete so the Germans were well protected underground during the Allied bombardments.  The Allies were ordered to attack after these inadequate bombardments.  As the Allies ran across no man's land they were mowed down by the German machine guns.

This pill box was on the border of the Australian and Canadian sectors, so our tour guide concluded that it had been captured by either of those two armies. The Allied helmet dug up by Sylvestre complete with bullet holes, a poignant reminder of what happened in that bunker as it was over run.

Inside the German Bunker. A very eerie feeling

This is another example of the German's ingenuity with concrete.  This would have originally been the cellar to someones home.  It was shored up with concrete and used as a German bunker on the front line at Pozieres in 1916.

The same German bunker as above, note the concrete pylons.

The fields of Pozieres, were Australians first saw action in France in 1916, Some 5000 Aussies were killed on the first day of fighting, here in these fields.  At this stage of the war the Australians were under Allied command and not their own.  The Generals commanding the battle, were several miles back.  It all looked good on paper, with their flat maps and plans of attack. The communications were usually cut off early in the battle, so the men were told to follow orders that were completely out of touch with the reality of what was occurring at the front.  Asking men to do the impossible .  That is cross open low ground under direct machine gun fire that the Allied artillery barrage had not dislodged.

Walking with dead bodies at Pozieres

The Australian memorial at Hamel, another great Australian victory in 1918, led by their own General Monash.  It is interesting that this was the only war memorial the Germans destroyed in WW2 as they passed through Northern France in 1939, as it was originally an Australian  solider bayoneting an eagle, a sacred German military symbol, which was a great insult to the Germans.

These trenches at Beaumont Hamel were perhaps the most moving of the day.  The battalion that fought on this part of the front line was from Newfoundland in Canada.  It was a complete slaughter for the same reasons that so many Australians were killed at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm,  the Germans were very well dug in in Bunkers.  After a sustained bombardment on the German positions, the Canadians were told to just walk across no mans land toward the Germans.  This was the complete naivety of their orders and 85% of the Canadian battalion was killed in the first 15 minutes of the battle.

The only good part in this story, is that the Canadian Chaplin from this battalion returned after the war to negotiate with 250 different land owners to purchase their land, so that it could be retained as a memorial to that disastrous battle.  These are some of the only trench systems remaining in Northern France, thanks to the foresight of that Chaplain.  Immediately after the war the whole of northern France looked like this but without the grass.  The government offered a bounty of several French francs for each hole filled in and several more again for any bodies retrieved.  Often the bomb craters were corruptly covered over with slabs of metal or concrete and then peppered with soil.  According to our guide, it is not unusual to slump into one of these depressions when driving around some towns or for a plough to hit a slab of corrugated iron out in the fields.  The German bunker system was extensive and has not been completely filled in.  Hopefully one day it is all opened up and preserved. 

You can just make out the moose in the centre, at the top of the Canadian memorial at the top of the monument.  The reason the trenches are roped off, is because there are so many unexploded shells.  In Northern France some 35 people are killed or injured annually, by exploding shells.

Here are some shell casings collected and piled up in a suburban backyard.  They are everywhere.

This was a German war grave we visited, an equally haunting and sad place. 

Thanks for coming this far with me.  I hope you have learned something and enjoyed your little trip to the battlefields of Northern France.

Almost 100 years on we will be honouring our servicemen and women next Wednesday.  We will be attending our local RSL, where our son will play in the band during proceedings and then he will march through the streets wearing his grandfather's and great grandfather's service medals.  A proud and sombre moment for us.
 For more travel stories go here

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