Monday, May 31, 2010

I have a blue pot too

Like Tresna, I have a blue pot. It is French and heavy and sits on the top of the kitchen cupboard. In the summer it gets a little dusty because this is my winter pot. Almost too large to use on the gas, it simmers quietly on the woodstove, puffing steam. It takes its summer holidays out in the pizza oven, creating delicious roast meats and cooking huge pots of beans and has even starred in a cookbook!

Ten years ago we had a spell of very cold wet weather while I was catering for a residential retreat. It looked like the food would be lots of thick soups, hearty casseroles and warming curries. In the afternoon break, I had been relaxing with the weekend papers, ogling the advertisements from kitchen wholesalers who were offering Le Creuset at half price. I was mentally adding the larger casserole to my ‘must have’ wish list when someone in the room asked what colours they came in.It was soon time to start dinner – in a stainless steel pot that somehow didn’t seem as wonderful as before.

At the end of the job, the participants presented me with a heavy parcel containing the coveted pot which they had ordered from Sydney via express mail, as a thank you gift. It was an overwhelming surprise.

My pot has become a treasured old friend. It takes some looking after, as do all precious objects. I make sure it doesn’t get too hot on the stove top while empty and in the oven when it has its lid on, guard it against extreme temperature variations and never clean it with a metal scourer. It must be dried carefully before putting away so its iron rim doesn’t rust. If it ever does, I oil it. In return, it has given me many hours of long, slow and gentle cooking.
The pot lives up high in a place of honour with the remnants of my grandmothers’ dinner service.  I hope that like the china, it will survive long enough for me to pass down to the next cook in the family to use and care for and hopefully feel some of the warmth and generousness of the many meals they have served together.

Read about Tresna’s pot on her fabulous blog:

Happy cooking, nirala

Monday, May 24, 2010


I nearly fell off the chair laughing at the doctors’ the other day when I was told I needed to fling myself sideways and backwards onto the bed, lie there until the dizziness passed and repeat five times each side, three times a day. The doctor even handed me a printed sheet with the full instructions on the Brandt and Daroff exercises.

I had been feeling dizzy for a couple of days, a feeling of being drunk or sea sick. The diagnosis was benign positional vertigo. I had suffered from a cold the week before and apparently ‘debris’ had collected in my inner ear and was affecting my sense of balance.

This all seems to be a bit witchy.  It pleased me too in that if a little bizarre, it was a simple solutionlike banging the salt cellar so you can shake out the salt. The only herbal remedy that I thought to  administer is ginger for the nausea. As it is the inner ear that is affected, I don’t think ear candles would help much although I have found them useful after a cold.

The more I share the stories of the dogs leaping on me to play some strange game, the near misses of the head and the wall and the hysterical laughter from the unsympathetic partner, the more people fess up to having had the same condition and being given the same exercises. It is like a secret society of people who do crazy things.

Dizziness can be a symptom of many serious conditions (see the picture at left for another occasion) if you suffer from it regularly, don’t ignore it. And please, don’t be one of those people who deprive others of a good laugh.

Share the madness!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reading, writing, eating

It rained most of the weekend, with that dreary drizzle that doesn't seem much until you go out in it. How perfect it was for the 'Words Uncorked' Readers and Writer's Festival this weekend. Everyone was more than happy to be inside luxuriating in provocative debate, stimulating discussions, impassioned readings, wine and food and, being Margaret River, more wine and food.

Most creative endeavor is a lonely pursuit and living in the country adds to that isolation. We were lucky enough to sit with Tony and Maureen Wheeler, founders of Lonely Planet, authors Robert Drewe, Stephen Scourfield, rap artist Miles Merrill, editors, publishers and writers too numerous to name individually. Visitors came from the city and one couple on bikes were from Switzerland.
White haired retirees sat behind young women knitting, and a girl with dreadlocks rapped along side trendily dressed high school students and shy young men who rode bikes. Drawn together with the love of the written word, the mood was mellow, participants gently excited at the beginning of each session, passionate in their applause as it finished.          
What struck me most was the respect that expressed itself in  considered attentiveness: in the way people made room for each other to speak, move and participate as equals. The event was warm and welcoming to everyone. Heading out into the damp cool Sunday night felt a little like leaving family. I am lucky enough to live here, so I see these people often. The visitors I will carry with me as words I can revisit at anytime. The joy of connection is only a book away.

I was inspired to write a poem:

I hold my breath silent between words
Grey heads lean forward, hands clasped in supplication
A barrel altar of leaves trumpet fiery red
Drawing the eye, not the ear, aside 
Words, the last sigh of autumn
Drift on the carpet below

Go well,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tasty kisses

Extreme heat, cold or wind can make us all suffer from dry, cracked lips.If you have made ointment,you can make a very good lip balm that will protect and moisturise. The formula and method is almost the same.

15g beeswax beads
5gm cocoa, shea or mango butter
60ml oils of choice, see below* 
1/2 teaspoon glycerine

Gently heat together the first three ingredients until combined.
Do not overheat.
Cool slightly before whisking in the glycerine. This is made easier if you warm it slightly by placing the whole bottle in a mug of hot water before measuring.
Pour into small jars while still soft.
The lip balm may be flavoured by adding one or two drops ONLY of peppermint or spearmint essential oil before pouring.

Nerys once gave a an after dinner mint version of this for Christmas to which she had added chocolate buttons. It was good enough to eat and made me consider how many chemicals I had ingested from wearing lipstick over the years!

*The oils you use is for you to choose.  Almost any fixed (seed) oil can be used but do include either almond, olive or jojoba and some wheat germ for its vitamin E. Any oil suitable for eating can be used but these three are especially good for dry skin. Beware of using nut oils for people who may have allergies. I have one client who is gluten intolerant and insists on cream that doesn't wheatgerm oil.

In summer you may like to increase the amount of beeswax slightly if the balm becomes too soft in the hotter weather. You can also add a half teaspoon of warmed honey or aloe juice combined with the glycerine if you need to heal badly cracked lips. Don't be tempted to try to add too much as it will separate out of the mixture, sitting on the bottom as healthy sludge!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers Day...

I have just read a list entitled 'What real mother's want for Mother's Day.' It was the usual mixture of the mundane and the ridiculous.

Mother's are forever. Whether you are six or sixty, each May, we are presented with the dilemma of how to acknowledge our mother.
Nowadays it is a reminder of how much time she has played that role for me and an attempt to show my thanks for the advice always on the end of the phone; all those clothes washed; lifts to the station and the endless meals shopped for, cooked, served and cleaned up afterwards.

As my mother ages, I find our roles are beginning to reverse and I often take the role of caregiver. While she was visiting recently and I was cooking dinner for everyone, I overheard her remark to a friend that I was 'a treasure.' That she has the same opinion of me that I have for her is the best gift this 'real woman' could receive.

I hope all you mothers (and fathers) receive one as welcome,

Happy Mother's Day,

P.S Fresh flowers, tickets to tropical islands and phone calls are also welcome at my place!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nanna's magic cream

For many years now I have made a range of herbal products including a beautiful green healing ointment. Over the years the formula has changed and the current version contains 11 essential oils, 6 tinctures and extracts of 17 different herbs, chosen for their varying properties, nearly all grown in my garden.
Ointment is a simple way to preserve and concentrate the healing power of herbs. The ingredients are easily sourced from your local chemist and health food shop. The equipment needed is minimal and can be found in most kitchens.
Choose your herbs for the properties you wish to bring to your ointment. I like to always start with comfrey, lavender and rosemary. You will need to make a herb oil and if you like, a tincture, starting at least 10 days before you wish to make the ointment. If you make your oil extraction in advance,  keep it in the refrigerator until needed. Tinctures keep well at room temperature but store out of reach of children.


Stainless steel jug or saucepan
Measuring jug
Plastic or wooden spatula
Clean jars with tight screw top lids to hold a total of 300gm.

120ml herb oil
20g beeswax, beads or block
120g lanolin
1 Tbsp or 30ml tincture of choice or tincture of benzoin (optional) 
2tsp or 15ml essential oils of choice

  1. Very gently melt the beeswax and lanolin together over a gentle heat. If you have a stainless steel jug, this works really well as you can melt and pour in the same container. Use a heat diffuser under the pot if you have one.

  2. As soon as the mixture is clear, turn off the heat. Remove pot to a heat proof surface and leave for a minute to cool slightly but not harden. The lower the temperatures, the more properties of the herbs are retained.

  3. Slowly stir in the herb oil, which should be at room temperature. If the mixture starts to look lumpy, sit the pot back on the warm stove but do not reheat.

  4. Add essential oils and tinctures and mix until incorporated.

  5. Pour into jars and lid. The ointment is at its best for nine months but I have used older pots on the animals with great results. Unopened will keep for much longer.

Any type of ointment can be made by the above method. Please note that wax based ointment is not suitable to use on burns, eczema or psoriasis or any conditions which require the skin to breathe. If any  adverse reaction or sensitivity is noted, discontinue use.
I use my multipurpose ointment on bites, grazes, blisters, cuts, nettle, nappy and reef rash, piles, stinging tree injuries, cracked feet and nipples and to draw boils and splinters. I have used it on chickens’ combs to cure stick fast fleas, on bald guinea pigs and injured dogs and cats with great success knowing it is a safe product  My son swears it cures mouth ulcers and my granddaughter is comforted by a dose of ‘nanna’s magic cream.’
The original formula was originally created by Nerys at Rivendell Farm. To take the lid off a pot and inhale the scent of the essential oil blend is a reminder of soothing words and gentle hands for our families and friends and many clients over the years. It is a wonderful reminder of the skills taught to me by an amazing person.
Green Healer (nanna’s magic cream) will soon be available via my website.
Go well,