Month: March 2013

Use what you have

The food we grow in our local community garden goes a great way to relieving the pressure on our grocery budget, however its sometimes requires a bit of creativity and eating out of our comfort zone. At present the garden is producing some lovely daikon. I was so excited when I pulled out this beauty the other day (isn’t harvesting root veggies like uncovering buried treasure- you never know what you’re going to get but you know it will be good)!


What a thing of beauty! The only problem, of course, was what to do with it?! I knew daikon was often used fresh grated as a condiment but I wanted something that would last some time if my husband didn’t enjoy it (there’s only so much a gal can eat on her own!). Kimchi was the answer. I first discovered kimchi when I was living in China and would frequent a local Korean restaurant for a change of cuisine. I love the stuff. Fermented foods do wonders for my body and kimchi just tastes bloody good. So I got to researching recipes, picked up some Chinese cabbage at the markets, dug out some carrots, chilli and ginger from the crisper, and started fermenting. It worked a treat. I used the entire daikon and rediscovered my love of kimchi.



Being frugal can force you to use what you have, push your skills and limits, and often results in serendipitous moments. What wonderful discoveries have you made using the things available to you?



A Great Escape

It’s been a rough few weeks in the downtown downshift household. We all go through these periods when things get a little tough and it helps to have coping mechanisms. Our daughter was booked in for surgery with a lengthy recovery period to follow so I decided to be proactive and get myself on top of things beforehand.  I stocked the pantry and freezer, cleaned the house inside and out, then tackled my own physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion by running away to the Blue Mountains for 24 hours.

It was bliss. I got up early on Sunday morning (not hard when you have a baby) and jumped on an 8am train arriving in Katoomba at 10.20am. I had booked myself into the Carrington Hotel which is just a short walk from the station. I chose the Carrington because of its location and of course its wonderful history. Originally opened in 1882 this gorgeous old hotel was reopened in 1998 after an extensive restoration, a condition of which was the retention of one wing in original condition. This is where I stayed in a Traditional Room (the least expensive room on offer), complete with marble fireplace and ladies and gentlemen’s bathrooms at the end of the hall- that’s right, no ensuite! The bathrooms have the original deep claw foot baths and wonderful etched mirrors.



I am a big fan of Agatha Christie novels and a traditional room allowed me to immerse myself in the environment I had read of so often in my favourite books. Speaking of books I spent a great deal of time reading, ensconced in this lovely armchair by the fire in the Lounge, flowing effortlessly from one chapter to the next, the only interruptions my trips to the excellent cocktail bar. First of all, however, I treated myself to a massage and facial package. An extremely rare treat that left me floating back down the stairs feeling as though I’d been put back together again, soul and all, ready to relax and enjoy myself.



I devoured lunch at a café on the main street and spent much of the afternoon perusing the antique shops and vintage clothing emporiums. I didn’t buy a single thing but it was so nice to look at leisure without worrying about inconveniencing my other half. I picked up some crackers, taramasalata, cheese, strawberries, and chocolate at the local supermarket and ate a picnic supper on my bed whilst watching Midsomer Murders. I even treated myself to a cheap bottle of plonk. Divine.

Dining Room

The next morning I breakfasted in the Grand Dining Room (so beautiful, look at that ceiling!) before checking out and leaving my bag at reception. I jumped on a tourist bus to visit a few of the local attractions starting with the historic house and garden Everglades. I was the first visitor of the day and had the house and gardens to myself for an hour. I took full advantage, exploring and stopping wherever I liked to sketch and document with photographs. Then it was back on the bus and around to the Three Sisters and other scenic viewing spots.



Three Sisters

I also popped over Scenic World and completed their 2.4km Scenic Walkway. Normally I wouldn’t pay to do a walk but one of my cousins was lost in the bush for three days after losing his way on an overgrown track in the Blue Mountains and I wasn’t about to put myself in a similar situation. Plus the elevated boardwalk meant I could wear my ballet flats rather than pack another pair of shoes.


I took the train home again in the afternoon, savouring the last of my uninterrupted reading time. By the time I walked in the front door I was realigned and ready to face the next few weeks head on. So far my daughter’s recovery has been less than perfect but I know we’re coping better than if I was an exhausted wreck. My little escape also reminded me how important it is to take care of myself. It was surprising how quickly I felt like myself again just having time-out. I need to make it more of a priority and now I know gardens and books are surefire ways to do so. How do you centre yourself in difficult times or just look after yourself on a day by day basis?