25 Jan 2015

hello to 2015

And hello again to you!

Some flowers from my garden. Aren't the red carnations striking? All these pics were taken over my summer holidays.

It’s a bit deflating to look back on last year’s culinary resolutions. This is perhaps why one shouldn’t make resolutions: at this time of the year, you’re buoyed by holiday energy and feel you can and should do anything. Then it’s October and you realise that real-life routine has taken over and you’re on one big rodent-wheel of pay-goes-in, pay-goes-out, and you still haven’t learnt to do weekly meal plans, or bought inspiring new exercise clothes, or stopped tearing out recipes from magazines (nor started making said recipes), or …

Or is that just me?

My resolutions weren’t even lofty or challenging. Make pizza — I defrosted the freezer over the holidays and found a neatly labelled container of three small portions of dough, ready to thaw and roll out and make into pizza. The container was dated January 2014. Oh dear. Other things on the list — custard, caramel slice, Asian sauce – none were made. What happened?
I picked lots of zucchinis. And gave them away, too, to my friends, hairdresser, beauty therapist, and manager. No one was spared (except my parents, who had their own).
Juicy grated zucchini for a cake:

I don’t know. They just got lost. Last year seemed to go by in a monotonous weekly cycle. It this is Tuesday, it must be yoga; Wednesday, pay-day; Friday, mortgage bill and grocery day. Weekend — and what? Then start all over again... I got to the end of the working year, tired and grumpy, and realised everyone else had taken a fabulous vacation or had a baby or retired or did something exciting with their life. Me, 2014 was the year that went by in a grey blur of routine. That was quite a sad realisation; that I’d wasted 12 months. Mostly I am contented with my simple life, but sometimes I get the feeling I am missing out — or not making things happen.
I bought a new mini-loaf tin, and made lots of little cakes!
Before we look ahead to 2015, let’s go back to my culinary resolutions and tick off two things that I did make a good stab at: gardening and shopping (oh, three; I ate lots more potato this year, mostly roasted with loads of salt and fresh sage leaves from my garden. Yummmmm…).

As many of you would know, dad built my beautiful new garden beds. I am already a more productive gardener, and I now have renewed energy and purpose. I love being in my vegie garden — even if I’m not actually doing any gardening, after being cooped up at work all day, it’s so calming to walk along the narrow-but-neat pathways, looking for weeds to pull or pea tendrils to encourage towards a support. Every day of my holidays I was out there. With borders of carrots and beetroots, and corner clumps of marigolds, pyrethrum and lobelia, and bees buzzing about, it is exactly how I dreamed it to look — so I am one very lucky, happy garden girl. I am motivated to keep enjoying this beautiful space, making it work and earn its keep over winter.
Some mouldy peas; before and after.

My focus on local/Australian shopping was sharp. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it took a bit more searching on the shelves. Sometimes it was downright frustrating; finding Australian garlic was not just something I became obsessed with, but was a source of concern and denial for some of you, too. Sometimes I had to admit that I liked the quality of the imported stuff — I am yet to find an Australian brand that bests Italian tinned tomatoes, so essentially rich for home made pasta sauce. And mum has said it was impossible to find Australian-made glace cherries for her Christmas baking (I think they were Spanish). But at least, I hope, I am a more conscious consumer.

I’ve taken this approach not just in my pantry but in my laundry and bathroom, too; I’ve found Australian made and animal/earth friendly cleaning products that I am pretty happy with and don’t cost a bomb. I’m not 100%, and I have to stop myself from getting so caught up in reading labels and trying to be ethical that I deny myself some of the simple pleasures in life — I can get a bit obsessive and rule-driven — but it’s an excellent lesson in reading the small print and seeing the bigger picture.
Runner beans, yellow curly beans, and sweet sugar snaps also featured heavily in my summer kitchen.

So do I want to try resolutions again? I do, just less specifically. Having joked about it earlier, I do want to get better at meal planning — I tend to buy lots of colourful vegies (when I’m not picking my own or getting supplies from dad) without any recipe in mind, and end up not quite knowing what to do besides stir-fries or Ottolenghi-style bowls of warm or roasted things tossed with leaves and greens and puy lentils or chickpeas and some dressing.
A simple dinner featuring my golden beetroot, which were meltingly tender, and busting out with that earthy beetroot taste.
This is undoubtedly easy and delicious and can be full of variety, but I’d like to work my way thru some of those torn-out recipes for slightly fancier, more considered and “put-together” dinners.

Then again, I like the idea of a table of small bowls and plates with different tastes and colours, a little like a tapas spread. Maybe I’ll explore that, especially in the warmer months of lighter eating.

I’m tempted to say my next resolution should be to “get a life”. And I guess it is. I can get too bogged down in the financial responsibilities that I know we all face — mortgage, winter heating bills, insurance and petrol; all those tedious essentials — that I forget to look up and enjoy life. That’s what happened last year.

So while the European jaunt is still financially out of reach for a couple of years, there are plenty of things I can do and small treats to savour that won’t break the bank. Nothing silly like bungee jumping or taking up a new sport (though I could ride my bike more). Just things to break up the working week, or to get out of the house on the weekend. There’s always a new cafĂ© to try for the occasional lunch; Hobart has a great roster of festivals and events and markets throughout the year; and day trips to the Huon Valley and New Norfolk and attractions like Mona are too easy. A “staycation”? I can do that, surely. No battling my airport-anxiety this way, either!

My purple podded peas. So beautiful!

So. Not an extensive, prescriptive list of resolutions; more a nudge towards not putting life on hold.

What about you? Did 2014 live up to your expectations? Do you have any resolutions or plans or dreams for 2015?