Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adventures with a cucumber

I am a sucker for new home remedies. A friend has sent me an article that had recently appeared in the New York Times as part of a series ‘Spotlight on the Home’, entitled ‘The Amazing Cucumber.’ It gave a list of 13 ‘creative and fanciful ways to solve common problems.’ I just had to put them to the test.

I am rather a cucumber fan. For years I disgusted my children by eating toast topped with peanut butter and cucumber for breakfast every day.

Cucumbers contain many nutrients, the only problem being that they are present in such small amounts that were you eating only cucumbers, to get the recommended allowance of those nutrients you would need to eat 100 times the recommended serving size, about five kilos, every day. You could just eat the peel; this is where most of them are found. The serving size this data is based on is 52g of unpeeled cucurbit which funnily enough cuts into 13 slices.

Sneaking around the house with my 13 slices hidden in a bowl, I started by rubbing my bathroom mirror with a slice to prevent it fogging up ... since then no one has used the hot water so I’m not sure this will work. There certainly wasn’t any spa like fragrance wafting around as I had been promised. While there, I rub a slice on the crows feet around right eye, leaving other eye cucumber less for a true before and after test. One more slice is vigorously applied to the inner right thigh where it is going to work a miracle on cellulite.

On to clean the stainless steel in the laundry and shine my shoes. I think I can use one slice for each of these tasks. If anyone catches me at this, my name will be mud, again!

Back to the computer to check the list. The next item was about removing pen marks from surfaces. My walls and window trims were pretty good until I deliberately scribbled on them with brown marker. The marker is gone but the cuc has left some lovely green marks I will have to explain.

Its afternoon tea time and two other handy hints say that the cucumber will stop snacking binges and act as a ‘pick me up’. I can eat a few, I just have to try and remember which ones I used to do the cleaning.

Slices of cucumber in an aluminium pie tin are reputed to keep pests off your garden. What about the pests that like cucumber and aren’t at all bothered by its reaction to the metal? The rabbits here would probably eat the tin too but I will give it a try - tomorrow, when it’s not raining.

An hour after eating most of the recommended serving I am still hungry and fading but my breath is sweet (holding a slice to the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds works, possibly longer than the 30 seconds you hold your mouth shut. I’ll wait till the next episode of coffee breath to try this, must remember to ask the coffee shop for ‘cuc ‘on the side.’)

I could have a G & T or four and test the hangover cure but I have a dirty sticky laundry to clean and one shoe that is a different colour from its mate. Half my face and one leg are sticky and I am too busy to try a cucumber steam inhalation or to test cucumber juice on a squeaky hinge. I’ll hop in the shower, test the mirror story, and gloat over the miracle of the missing wrinkles and tightened thighs. And no, you are not getting photos of the resultEnjoy,


Monday, March 22, 2010

Busy, living in paradise

The girls walk at the beach every Monday. Today there was grey sky, lightly drizzling. The 3.5 metre swell of the weekend has been replaced with a calm smooth ocean and piles of shiny brown seaweed. The bins were full and the beach was empty apart from a lone swimmer and a figure in black practising yoga on the sand.
We have just hosted a week long surfing carnival here. The main street, the road to the beach and the bakeries that open early have all been extremely busy. Wicked vans are camped in every secluded spot around town and the ones not so secluded act like they are invisible.
Saturday night saw a concert held on the town oval that lasted nearly eight hours. The stamina of these kids that subsist on a diet of pies, juice, early mornings, extreme sports and late nights, often accompanied by alcohol, is awesome. Sunday morning all to be seen of the hundreds of party goers were a few asleep under bushes around town and a few more buying juice at the supermarket.
This is a phenomenon that happens in Margaret River at least twice a year. The locals not smitten by waves batten down the hatches and stock up on bread and milk the Thursday before while businesses keep extra staff on call.
I used to resent the intrusion to 'my town' and while the noise and rubbish do annoy me, I have come to appreciate these events that many of the local teenagers look forward to. Being three or more hours from the city, they don't often have the opportunity to party in large groups, meet new people, hear new bands and blow off steam. There is definitely an air of excitement all week - a buzz in the air from all the gorgeous young people having fun.
Today, the pace was slower. The sound disturbance from the concert had been negligible, the marquees on the point are being dismantled and the shire had extra people out on the litter run. The occupants of the last van in the car park had woken by the time we had finished our coffee and were enjoying their breakfast with the best view in the world. The one we are lucky enough to enjoy all year. We can go back to being a sleepy country town now, until Easter, any way!
Meanwhile, the garden and I are enjoying the rain,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stop the press...twice!

Just a quick note to congratulate the Purchon clan and welcome two new babies. A girl and a boy were born safely this weekend within a day of each other. Well done everyone especially the two first time mums and the first time grandma.

Lots of love to all, nirala

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Licking fingers

The sweetcorn is almost the last man standing in the garden at the moment and for the first time in years we have a successful crop. The scorching Indian summer has seen almost every other vegetable bolt to seed, succumb to mildew or dry to a crispy brown. The farmers' Market today was a little quiet in the variety of vegetables but there was plenty of corn. I had been looking for inspiration for a barbeque and seeing the great green stacks reminded me of a recipe...

Smokey Corn Cobs

6 cobs of corn - must have the whole cob, preferably with a 'handle' for easy eating.

100gms salted butter, softened

4 tsp smoked paprika, Spanish if you can get it

4 drops of Tabasco

4 tsp light brown sugar

Blend the butter, paprika, Tabasco and sugar until you have a rich smooth orange spread.
Peel back the outer leaves of the corn, working around the corn until the cob is exposed and remove the corn silk.
Generously spread the cob with the butter mix. It should fall into the spaces between the individual corn seeds.
Begin to re wrap the corn in its husk, again working around the cob and smoothing over the butter.
Make sure that you have at least two layers covering the butter and then remove any green husks you didn't need.
Tear a strip from top to bottom from one of the discarded husks, about 2 cm wide and tie at the top of the cob. Trim the ends of the tie.
Continue with the rest of the corn.
Place the corn in the refrigerator until needed.

To cook, place on a hot barbeque grill, turning so it is evenly browned. You can also microwave the cobs but they tend to steam rather than roasting and you don't get the additional smoky flavour.

Let each person 'peel' their own cob to enjoy the caramelised spicy sugar and dripping melted butter.
Any extra butter can be served with the corn. Provide lots of serviettes, there will be plenty of sticky fingers!

Any extra corn husks can be dried and stored. Soak for an hour in warm water to revive and use them as a wrapper for tamales or any other steamed morsels.



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Return of the hubble bubble

You may remember that a while ago I set up a little trial to see if I could brew a natural citrus enzyme cleaner. Its been three months and a couple of days through the hottest summer on record and I reckon if anything is going to be fermented, it would have done so by now. There have been no signs of anything happening in the jar for a while now so I suspect it has gobbled up all its sugar and settled down. Time to open it up... I put it into a muslin lined sieve over a bottle to strain. The lemon chunks turned to lovely slime when I poked them with my finger. After it sat in the sieve for a while, there was almost nothing left except every vinegar fly in town had come to see what was happening! The smell is pleasant, fresh, lemony, slightly alcoholic and slightly drying to your skin. It looked cloudy at first but settled to a lovely clear liquid.

I set off with a little undiluted brew and some paper towel and tested it on glass, enamel, ceramic tiles, plastic, stainless steel and laminate flooring. It was brilliant on the stainless steel stove hood, cutting through the grease and a weeks dust easily and polishing up nicely with a dry piece of towel. Magic on the bathroom mirror too - no smears. Best of all was the dreaded shower screen where with a little extra elbow grease it cut through the build up of soap scum. The tiles and the laminate floor dried nicely, I was afraid that any remaining sugar residue may leave a sticky residue but it didn't.

I imagine that if you dilute the brew with hot water for greasy areas, you wouldn't have to rub quite so hard. For floor surfaces it is would be great used with a microfibre mop. I am going to add 1% of lemon scented gum essential oil to the bottle to add disinfectant and antibacterial propertiesto it and use it as an all purpose cleaner. It is certainly environmentally friendly and cheap and easy to make. I have another brew due next month that I have made with even less expensive white sugar.

You are not going to see before and after photos - I need to mop the other half of the kitchen floor; explain why one light switch is cleaner than the rest; why there is a nice clean circle of glass in the middle of the shower screen; why only the front of the stove and the handle of the refrigerator are clean. Who am I kidding? I'm the only one who will notice and I can ignore it for days if need be. I'm going to put on another brew to use up the last squishy lemons that would otherwise end up in the compost.

May your cleaning be painless,


Monday, March 1, 2010

Lessons on the river and in the garden

It's hot, its been hot for quite a few days in a row now. The gum trees, and some of the deciduous trees around us have responded by dropping copious amounts of leaves that soon build to a fire hazard if I don't rake them every couple of days. The garden is suffering, what hasn't been scorched has been attacked by mildew and fungus.

I went with some trepidation to look at the fig and the olive tree who grow near the back fence and receive little or no water all summer. They were thriving - it was near perfect conditions for them! Big juicy figs that you can barely get your hand around and branches beginning to bend with the first pickable crop of Kalamatas.

They were planted six, maybe seven years ago but were always overshadowed by the neighbours Marri trees. Sadly, last winter they cut down all the trees on their block, changing the conditions and the views for us. Azaleas and hydrangeas, clivias and violets all shrivelled in the bright and exposed conditions but the two slow and sickly trees began to pick up.

I had been planning to write about drying figs today but as the story of the trees emerged my mind began to think about the effects of change. Two days ago I stood on a barge and watched Nerys' ashes float downstream accompanied by a flotilla of roses. I stood with Nerys' eldest daughter, she had lost her Ma and I had lost my best friend and mentor. Everyone there was missing a huge part of what made them who they were.
It's always hard to grow up. How much harder is it when we lose our wise elders and have no magic touchstone when we need direction? We become the older generation so shockingly suddenly that we feel totally unprepared for the job. What we need to treasure is those facets of them that we have admired and take them for our own. We can call on the wisdom we know they would have applied to life and help each other remember.

Still, thanks to the neighbour who let the light in, the figs are ripe. Thanks to Nerys and my mother, and all the wise women in my life, I know how to pick and preserve them and how to cook with them too. I know about sticky fig sap and itchy fig leaves and what happens when you eat too many. This I can pass on to my grand daughter and hopefully I can learn to become her wise elder as we grow up together.