Friday, October 28, 2011

Bali Hai

It's a whole new world. An oasis of frangipani trees, pink and apricot bouganvilleas, and red hibiscus; of enormous white towels, smooth sheets, and mountainous beds; of paths lined with fluttering flags, stone lanterns, and votive candles in the evenings; of breakfasts of noodles, cereal, rice, tofu, miso, doughnuts, pancakes, eggs, bacon, and a rainbow of cut fruits. There are a pair of gold-dressed dancers and a gamelan in the lobby each evening, greeting the guests as they arrive back from a hard day's touristing, snap-shotting, t-shirt buying and hair-braiding. It's quite nice, I must admit, but not what we are used to. As Chef-D said, it's the kind of place we normally scurry past and feel dirty.
Outside our resort, our enclave, we enter...I don't know... not quite the Bali I expected, but what must pass as Bali for many visitors here. Not a paradise, that is for sure. Oh, there are palm trees and beaches, mangroves and sunny skies and sea breezes. But the streets are much scruffier than I had expected, mostly from the dust and stone and chaos of endless construction, the mangroves nearby are full of plastic detritus, and the blue sky at the resort fogs up at dusk with an insecticidal smoke that my inner-ecologist cringes at ('For your comfort...')
We have not been far afield yet, we've had a brief glimpse of some rice fields full of whirlygigs and flags flapping to scare birds from the ripening crops, while in other fields sickles flash in the withering midday heat as people gather the grains. We've been to see one holy site so far (Tanah Lot) where we sizzled on the concrete paths like damp sponges on hotplates. Mostly we have just hung out by the pool, which is actually a novel holiday experience for us, so why not?
Today's photo is of the view from our lovely large balcony (after our last room in Singapore, this place is not just spacious, it's practically palatial.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Salamat, Singapore!

'I don't want to say it,' Chef D said.
'Say what?' I asked.
'That they're taking the piss.'
That was our response to our room in Singapore. It's practically the size of a shoebox; in fact, our shoes on the floor get in the way because there is so little room for them. Our bags on the floor only just fit in between the wall and the bed. I have enclosed a picture of the entire room, taken from the back of the bed at one corner and pointing towards the far corner. We have actually spent many nights in smaller, crappier rooms, but they were in Japan when we expected it, or in placed like Laos where it was a charming and romantic bamboo hut over the Mekong river (never mind the pigs out the back and the chickens foraging underneath. That is what we backpackers like to call charm: the rural idyll.) I think it's just the price paid for the room which irritates. Nevermind; the waitress at breakfast (where the 'cereal set' was cocopops, and the orange juice some sort of fluroescent powder of sugar, colouring and preservatives in water) sang 'twinkle, twinkle, little star' to our girl and danced around the table for her, which makes all souless rooms somehow seem lighter and brighter.  SP, our little Goodwill Ambassador, charms the pants off everyone where ever we go. I think it's the blonde curls, which have gone even curlier and more ensnarled in the humidity.
I like Singapore. We haven't spent much time here in the past, but I like to daydream about living here for a while, one day (unlikely). Every spare pocket of land sprouts a little garden. And these gardens don't huddle, or cower by the roadsides. They spring up, and spill out in verdant and luxurious growth. I always find myself taken hundreds of photos of plants whenever we travel, and here is no exception. We've already been to the Zoo and Sentosa Island, and tomorrow we are going to the Botanic Gardens. My camera will probably burn out there from overuse. What is it about orchids that makes me go ahhhh...?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My new toy

So this is a bit of a silly post today. I have a new toy and I am trying to learn how to use it! It's a tablet of the android variety and as I am coming from a strictly PC background I am on a steep learning curve right now! I would like to have full command of this thing before we go away next week so we can take full advantage of it.
Speaking of which, would you like to know where we are going this time? We are off to Singapore first for four nights. We plan to visit their fabulous zoo and the Botanic gardens, and eat our way around that steamy city. Then we are going to Bali -Indonesia is our last remaining great south east Asian unknown - to meet up with family. There, we will do some more eating, and mosey our way around this most famous - or infamous - island looking at beaches, temples, palaces, rice paddies and so on. The usual, in other words. We have 12 nights in Bali in total. After that we are off to Thailand, to Chaing Mai province and Thaton as usual, to visit Susan and Yuki and the menagerie. We have 11 nights, I think, in Thailand. And finally on around the 27th day we will be heading homewards, back to hot and dry South Australia, where I'm hoping the veggie patch will be burgeoning and overflowing and not too frizzled.
To celebrate successfully working out how to blog on an app, and take a photo with the tablet and upload it and everything else, here's a picture of a vase of flowers from MIL's garden: early sunny yellow roses and crisp white bundles of 'snowballs'.
Let's see if this will work...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Native grasses

I've been digging holes in the nature strip again, scraping away a thick layer of dolomite and removing it, bucket by bucket, and filling the voids with compost and a fertilizer-free coir peat. Underneath the dolomite is clay. I started my nature strip intervention back in January this year because I was sick of looking at gravel and weedy gazanias. This is what it looked like along our fence when I was partway through replacing the dolomite fill in front of it.

The first thing I did was plant native grasses (Poa poiformis, Blue Tussock Grass) at each fence pillar, and thyme seedlings in between, so that it looked like this:

Then, in March, I started planting native plants into the nature strip by the road. And now, as I get digging again, and thinking more clearly about what I want to do out there, I'm inspired by the P. poiformis grasses by the pillars which are in full tall and swaying bloom at the moment. The thyme plants are getting bigger but are nowhere near filling out the space between the grasses yet. The little natives across the paths aren't doing much just yet, but they've only been in for six months and it's a difficult position. Oh, except for the Juncus ursitatus (Common Rush), bottom right, which is standing straight and proud and filling out at the bottom like a man who's eaten too many donuts. The gazanias will have to go. My neighbour told me they were nice the other day, so she might be a wee bit disappointed when I pull them up, but I did tell her, politely, that they were a 'bit weedy.' For the time being they are only remaining because they stop any other weeds from growing there. Mind you, the only stuff that seems to grow in that dolomite is self-seeded gazanias...

I did go a little bit gung-ho on the nature strip takeover to begin with, and now that I sit back and look at it I'm getting a few more ideas and a little bit more of a clearer picture of what I'd like. From now on, I'm putting in mostly indigenous plants out there (as opposed to just 'native') and I think I'd like lots of grasses in there, and rushes: Baumea, Baloskion, Juncus, Danthonia and Austrostipa. All waving in the breeze at passing cars and a bit ephemeral. And I'd like to plant all those little forgotten understory heathy and shrubby things I love. I already have a few from work, waiting for me to get them into the ground: Astroloma, Scaevola, groundcovering Correa and Myoporum. As much as I am looking forward to our holiday, I almost wish it wasn't in Spring because I want to be out there and digging.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My bug fighting kit

Weeks and weeks ago I planted a round of sunflowers and hollyhocks against the fence... and some buggers ate over half of them :X I was not impressed! So disappointing, to put all those hopes and sunflower dreams into the ground and have them disappear into insect bellies virtually overnight. Luckily for me, I had more on the go to put in at a later date. I got my gear together, and I was more organised this time. I have experience with this after the earwig epidemic in my garden last year.

I had sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis), cheap vegetable oil, and a bottle of ultra-light beer I found left in the back of the fridge after a party. Do snails like light beer? I hope so!

I also had a little stash of recycled tins and plastic containers. I would have liked to have more but I only remembered to start saving them up earlier in the week.

I use the containers, the beer, the soy sauce and the oil to make insect traps. Here's a photo of one of my efforts last year. I can't say for sure if they actually kept the insects away from my plants, but they certainly attracted a lot of bugs who fell to sticky - and beery - ends.

If you've never tried this before, all you do is bury your container with the opening flush with the top of the soil and add a good splash of beer, oil, soy sauce, or a mix of all the above and then sit back and wait. Every so often you tip out the bug soup and top it up again with fresh attracting gloop (be warned, bug soup stinks).

I now have a row of insect traps all the way along the fence, each about two feet apart, with my seedlings all planted nearby. I planted out a second round of butternut pumpkins today too (the first were also eaten) and I am so keen for them to survive the hoards that I have a beer trap, and an oil/soy trap for three seedlings.

So good luck, new sunflowers (Giant Russians and a solitary Prado Red);

Best wishes, hollyhocks;

Thinking of you, my coriander and dill.

I would have liked these babies to be a little bigger and more resistant to attack before I planted them out, but we are off on a month long holiday in only 10 days and so it was now or never. Pleasepleaseplease let them not be eaten this time!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Goodness me; I knew radishes grew quite fast but I didn't realise that I'd be eating them within five weeks of sowing them! I didn't buy these 'Easter Egg Radish' seeds, they were sent as a bonus in one of my many batches of seed purchases. Radishes haven't featured highly on my 'to grow' list (daikon excepted) as I remember disliking them when I ate them as a kid. I've never enjoyed that bitey/spicy thing they can have going on. When these seeds arrived I figured I may as well give them a go and I sowed a few of them in a Styrofoam tub with some French carrots. That was back in early September.

Yesterday I noticed the rounded red tops of the roots were starting to poke out above the soil so I pulled these five radishes out. Such colours! I am always amazed by the vibrancy of home-grown produce. It might be a little bit battered, bruised, insect eaten and inconsistent but at least it wasn't harvested months ago and left in a cold store before being transported in a truck across half the country (or further) and then left to languish under fluorescent lighting waiting for someone to buy it and consume what's left of it's nutrients... The other day I saw Mexican garlic for sale at the supermarket - and no Australian garlic option. I went home and looked up how far it had come: almost 14,000km (8699 miles). That's a long way for a bulb of garlic.

I scrubbed them off and sliced off the end off a couple to taste. They still had that typical spicy radish taste that I remembered, and everyone else in my family refused to try them. But that was eating them raw, and for lunch I fried them off in a hot pan with some butter and sweet soy sauce, and a whole heap of Greenfeast peas and Aquadulce broad beans out of the garden and it was pretty good and not at all 'radishy,' so I think overall radishes deserve a second chance and I'll continue to grow them in the garden. Too easy!

Incidentally, I thought that white radish might have been a ring-in but when I googled 'Easter Egg Radish' I got a tonne of pretty pictures with reds, purples and whites so it seems that's just how they come. Random and bright, can't do much better than that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Indoor camping

I am sparing you all my over-excited ramblings about home grown mushrooms tonight ( I think I might be the only one who cares. And there are none in the box right now, anyway), and say instead 'look, look! I actually made something!' Sewing and crafting are one thing that has been missing in my life since SP fell into it, and, I confess, that I tried to cut out the first fabric triangle for this project while my 19 month old was awake and roaming about and I very quickly remembered why I don't do this kind of thing while she is around normally. Got just a wee bit frustrated. Lucky for her that she's cute! Ahem. Long story short, I put the scissors aside until she was in bed later that night.

I told you the other day that I've developed an obsession for children's indoor teepees (and outdoor bean teepees). I've even been collecting pictures of them. I decided I was going to have a go at making one myself, since it was only a few dowels and a couple of big fabric triangles, and I have a sewing machine gathering dust in the back of the cupboard. It was actually pretty easy to construct (once the SP was in bed!), just don't look too closely at the seams!

And I'm pretty sure my wee babe likes it and will have fun with it for years to come;

It even kind of folds up so we can store it more easily if we want to;

If I was a really dedicated blogger I'd draw up little 'How To' diagrams and write out instructions, but there are tutorials out there on the WWW already and I didn't follow any of them myself and I don't expect that anyone would really want one from me. But here's a couple of details just in case you are interested:
Materials were 4 x 180cm wooden dowels (18mm diameter), 1 x rubber band to hold them together at the top, and 2m each of three different cheap fabrics. I made the pyramid shape with the dowels and measured up the sides and cut my fabric to size. There are three, equal sized triangles of fabric for the back and sides and I used leftover fabric to make the door at the front. I stitched the sides together (with French seams which was probably unnecessary and a waste of time), leaving a hole at the top for the poles. I draped the fabric over the poles and hand-stitched the fabric to the poles along the seams in a couple of places to hold the whole lot together. That was it, pretty simple if you're at all craft-minded (and your eyes will be glazing over if you're not!)

The project was not quite as cheap as I would have liked. The dowels were a bit over $6 each, fabric varied between $4-$10/m and cost about $40 all together, all up the project cost a bit under $70 and about 4 hours of my time.

Gosh, feels good to actually make something! I should do it more often.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Easy peasy mushie pizza

After a long and busy day at work, what better for dinner than pizza? That would be pizza with home-grown mushrooms!

Aren't they lovely underneath?

And, because I am a nerd, I weighed them because I'd like to know if we get any real 'value for money' from this mushroom kit (the kit was $18).

I made a super easy yogurt pizza dough after reading about it on Fat Mum Slim's blog (one cup of self-raising flour and one cup of Greek yogurt, that is absolutely it!) and chef D put the rest of the pizza together out of random ingredients found in the fridge and pantry... bacon, two types of cheese, tinned tomatoes, baby spinach. He cooked down the mushrooms and spinach a little first.

Popped it into the oven - 200 degrees Celsius (390 Fahrenheit) on fan forced - for about 15 minutes until it was golden about the edges


We ate the lot. No leftovers for lunch tomorrow, oops!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two parter

Tonight's post has two halves which have absolutely nothing to do with each other :)

First up? I have become a bit obsessed with these:

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Oh yes. Teepees! Specifically, cute little fabric indoor teepees for kids. I am on a mission to make one for SP. I bought four 1.8m wooden dowels the other day, and today I had a whole entire afternoon to myself to go shopping in the city and I got some fabric to make the outside of the teepee with. I've decided on a bit of a retro, green theme.

I apologise for the crappy photos, this seems to be becoming a recurring Saturday night theme (uploading bad photos, that is). So tonight I have put my dowels together in a teepee shape and measured the triangles and have drawn up a wee diagram. I'd love to get cutting and sewing tonight too, except my sewing machine is all packed away and it's 11:48pm and I'm off to a friend's wedding tomorrow, so I think just this once I shall have to be sensible and put the scissors and thread away for now. I am looking forward to working on my project during the week, though, I haven't really done anything creative in aaaages.

And now, for part two, and what else would I talk about on a Saturday night other than...wait for it... mushrooms! How cool is this?!

One week ago:

Two days ago:


Looks like it's the Portabello half which started before the white half. Chef D will be pretty happy about that; it's the brown Portabellos which he prefers. I think we might be picking the first of our mushroom in just a couple more days.