Wednesday, 28 May 2014

RAW Organic Green

A camelia makes a great Lotus in our fountain!

Roar!  I have just learned how to make food that's basically Raw!  Now, while I am not entirely convinced to turn Vegan Raw Foodist, I have begun to enjoy the virgin taste of Raw Food.  It may be very, very healthy, but what appeals MOST to me, is that it's absolutely a taste explosion!!  And the only requirement is a blender, and perhaps, a dehydrator.  These recipes are from The Rawtarian.  And they just happen to be gluten free, dairy free, egg free and sugar free.  

So I have gathered up my favourite raw food recipes - ha!  I have only been experimenting with raw food for 2 weeks now, and the only ones I have so far tried, are already my favourites!!  Whip them up in a matter of minutes!

Peanut Cookies (not)
Peanut Cookies
1 cup almonds
1 cup dates
1/3 cup tahini (I used black tahini, hence dark colour)
2 1/2 Tbspn cacao nibs (in health shops)
1/8 tspn salt

Process almonds in blender till fine meal texture is achieved.  Add dates and process till well mixed, adding tahini till all is well distributed.  Transfer to large bowl, add cacao nibs and stir well.  Roll mixture into small mouthful-sized balls.  
What?  Where's the peanuts?  Well, there are none, yet these little delectable balls of goodness taste full of the nutty-peas!  Store what you don't immediately eat, in fridge.

What I love about this new food fetish is that it is so darned EASY!

How about these super tasting, healthy little nutty crackers:
Almonds and zucchini/choko blended
Raw Crackers
2 1/2 cups walnuts (I used half walnuts, half brazil nuts)
2 1/2 cups zucchini ( I used half zucchini, half choko)
1/2 cup flax seed ( I used LSC)
1/4 cup hemp seed (I used chia seeds)
1/2 tspn salt

Soak nuts in water for 2 hours, discard water and rinse.  Grind in blender till meal-like. Place in bowl while you blend the zucchini till finely chopped (not mushy).  Add the two ingredients and all others into the bowl, stirring till mixed.  Add enough water (1/2 to 1 cup water) to make a spreadable dough.  Spread this onto a dehydrator tray (mine has big open mesh, so I lined them with a layer of muslin cloth).  Dehydrate for 2 hours, then score to create an easy cracker-sized breaking point.  Dehydrate for a further 10 hours or until crunchy and cracker-like.  Break into pre-scored shapes and they are ready to serve.  They are truly delicious!  Try them with guacamole, olives, tomatoes and feta!! 
Good, Better, Best:  Home-made crackers, olives and pesto.

Raw Food Green Mayo
Now this one is my own made-up recipe:
I took about 2 cups of garden greens (rocket, mizuna, Herb Robert and one small leaf of Swiss Chard, a few stalks chives and parsley).  Blend, scraping the sides down till all scrunched.  Add about a quarter cup of tofu, juice of 1 small lime or lemon, 1-2 Tspn tahini, salt to taste and blitz the hell out of it all.  The end result - something that looks like green mayonnaise!!  Delicious on raw food crackers!!

Guava paste spread in dehydrator to make dried guava fruit strips.

And to top it all off:
Raw Food Dessert Cakes
(from PETA's Animal Times - no photo as we ate them too quickly)
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups dates
1 1/2 cups raisins
6 Tbspn raw cocoa powder
2 tspn vanilla extract
Process first the nuts, then add remaining ingredients one at a time till each is well blended.
Press into muffin pans and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Raw Chocolate Frosting for the top:
2 avocados
1/2 cup agave nectar (I used Barley Syrup)
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn lemon juice
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
Blend all till a choc-latey paste is formed and put dollops onto each of the muffin pan bases.  Refrigerate and enjoy as and when a sweet treat is needed.  I actually halved this chocolate frosting as I only had 1 ripe avo to hand, and it was plentiful.

Tonight I whipped up a Date Slice (raw) in about 15 mins.  Great with our evening cuppa chicory.  The slice was a little fiddly (you have to press the base down!), so won't add that recipe just yet.  Need to learn how to toddle before taking on a marathon!  Click onto The Rawtarian and see how easy-peasy the meals are to make.  Go on, give it a try!

The daffodils are out - and it's just on Winter!!!
My pretty South African Princess

The beautiful protea.
Wow, thank you Rachel and Patrick, our two Helpxchangers who put me onto this little journey of raw food discovery.  Sweet!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Toilet Town

What's not to love?  Kawakawa in New Zealand.  Another roadside attraction.  
Simply put; stunning!  
Functional art.  
Where architecture meets lavatory.  
Ablutions were never so arty farty!
Where restrooms become art gallery.
Toilet Town.  
The toilets are truly the highlight of the town.
All else is crappy.
I shall have to stop all this toilet talk.
Lest I digress into kindergarten humour and become potty about it.

Sculpturally Organic.
It makes for totally fascinating reading; this Austrian expat, Hundertwasser, lived there for about 25 years.  Not sure why.  But maybe that is why he began the project, simply to create a little beauty in what is essentially a non-event little town.  Sadly, Hundertwasser died a year later after completion, aged 71.  When we stopped for roadside relief and a photo opp, there were several tourists already snapping photos of the iconic ablution block.  Apparently it is the most visited toilets in the Southern Hemisphere (and also the most quirkiest and beautiful).  Inside gives one a sense of being in church, one instantly feels the need to whisper.  There is a sacredness about the place, a giant art installation in a gallery with no monetary entry fee, only a deposit of human waste.  Amazing!

Entrance to toilet

Tomb-like and sacred.  

Ethereal quality of old recycled bottle window.

Warm tones, soft edges.
I really loved these toilets.  Fell in love.  Love at first sight.  Wanted to take them home with me.  What a character Hundertwasser must have been!  A real Dr Seuss of Architecture.  Or Art-chitecture.

Functional and aesthetically pleasing

Many volunteers helped to transform this tired old public toilet block into 
Hundertwasser's vision of perfect recycled art.

The thrown.  See and feel the Luuv as you sit and Poop.
Apparently our man, Hundertwasser was very taken with the idea of human fertiliser (poop) and the potential of our dead remains to return itself to the earth (without the costly, unsustainable, chemically-saturated options of burial as we know it to be today).  So apt that he designed these chambers of poop-dom.  A royal Poop Chamber.  Charming.  Quaint.  

Post-It Note to self:  Think of all the alliteration toilet talk to describe such a place of wonder:
Crap Castle
Doodoo Dungeon
Peepee Palace
Kaka Quarters
Fecal Funerary
Stool Stable

What can you come up with?

Play of light on the surfaces is almost tangible

Queen of Poop Palace at attention.
Attentive to the Love.
Loving the attention.

Colourful mural in Kawakawa.

Toilet Town:  You just gotta go.............

Friday, 23 May 2014

Top 11 Winter Tips

The blooms have all gone.  Face it.  Reality check: it's Winter!
So, despite the fact that I have early-cheer and daffodil blooms in my garden, and it feels a little like spring during the day, the calendar month tells me we are slap bang on Winter!  It's just nature being confused.  Freezing mornings and nights with a generous dose of balmy, ofttimes, short, hot and sunny days.  I used to always resent winter.  Even hated it.  Longed for summer to return.  I'm one of those solar-powered creatures that needs sunshine to springboard me into good mood, energized and buoyant.  I was always the miserable winter girl, rucked up with 6 layers, still shivering, pale, cowered and gloomy.  But 20 years on, I have learned to embrace the New Zealand winters with slender welcome, even looking forward to it for the joys it brings.  Fires.  Coats.  Boots (I am definitely a BOOT girl).  Soups and Stews (Love them!!! Such humble, nutritious peasant  food with big gourmet taste).  

We look forward to ordering our fire wood early February, ritually stacking it in preparation for the long winter ahead.  There's a thrill knowing that you can enjoy the last of summer while your wood lies in waiting.  As the mornings get colder, and darker, I have yet another ritual: I NEVER turn on electrical lights to illuminate my early morning meanders.  I switch on my solar powered torch and find my way safely downstairs to the kitchen, where I light a candle and a stick of incense to set the scene.  I do a little Tai Chi while waiting for the kettle to boil, then I take my coffee (organic) and sit in our massage chair.  The cat waits impatiently while this is all going on, and the moment I sit, she hops onto my lap and cuddles herself into a comma.  I receive purr therapy, a back massage and I meditate on the day's coming events till my coffee and massage is finished (usually 20 mins).  By this time, the day has brightened to reveal itself.  It's my cue to prepare for the day.  Post haste

It's little daily rituals like this that make winter totally bearable for me, and a few survival tactics I have developed over the years.

My top 11 Winter Survival Tips:
1.   Stay warm.  The humble hot water bottle, not only a sustainable source of bed-time heating, but also, so cosy and welcoming.  
2.  Put an extra blanket/cover on your bed.  This allows you to keep your windows open a smidgen, allowing fresh air supply while sleeping while the extra layer still keeps you warm.  The fresh air provides oxygen to invigorate us while sleeping, so we don't wake up feeling drowsy.
Naughty little Shanti-Lal!  I found her huddled in this small basket on my kitchen counter (filled with potatoes) !
She is definitely not allowed on tables or kitchen counters, but had to snap a pic before shooing her out!!

3.   Soups and stews are a great winter standby.  Economical and sustaining.  Herbs from the garden elevate an ordinary dish into something special.
Ripening bunch of bananas, ready for winter snacking

4.  Herb teas are great to warm the body and boost the immune system.  Lemon and honey, bay leaf (boil 5-6 leaves in 2 cups of water and sweeten with honey), lemongrass (same as previous, simply chop up a thick stem of lemongrass, can use the top bit of leaf as well) or whatever is left in the herb garden.  Why not try rosemary tea?

Freeze soft fruits in ice cube trays for adding to smoothies or fruit juices 
5.  It's a good time to used up all the herbs from the garden that won't survive the winter and prepare pestos; coriander, parsley or basil.  I use a basic reicpe which seems to work well.  Blend one or two hands-ful brazil nuts, then add 2-3cups herb leaves, blitz, adding half or more cupful of olive oil.  A twist of salt and 1 Tbspn lemon juice.

The wonder of a banana flower-fruit

6.  Merino thermals are the BEST!!  After wearing horrid polypropylene from outdoor camping shops for the first 10-15 years of being in New Zealand, I bought my first merino wear from opp shops ($4-$6).  What a life-changing experience.  They keep you warm and winter becomes a bearable, pleasant season!
A field of Van Gogh sunshine!!

7.  Fruit salads.  I know that sounds contra to common sense.  Fruit salad is normally associated with summer but there is so much fruit available heading into winter.  Feijoa scragglers, guavas, persimmons, apples, bananas and yaccon etc.  I also add sliced dates, cinnamon and puree from pre-preserved fruits.  Deliciously immune boosting food.  Throw in a few juiced ice cubes to add flavour.
Food, glorious fruit!

Autumn Delights creep into winter

8.  Make a list of house maintenance chores that you never got to do in summer as you were too busy in the garden or on the beach!  Winter is a great time to catch up on those chores like painting indoor areas etc.  I find winter is also great for starting a project - paint a picture, sew or create something new out of something old.  Project yourself......
Buttery nuts for our soups and stews

9.  Purchase or sew a fat drought excluder for doors that don't seal too well.  I used an old pair of Mike's corduroy pants, stuffed it with an old pillow inner, added half a cup of barley rice and sewed it into segments.  Sits squarely on the ground, against front doors to exclude sneaky breezes.
Brassicas - good winter garden staples.  This is a purple broccoli.

10.  A good read can help keep the winter blues away.  Nothing better than going to bed early with a good book and cuddling up to your hot water bottle!  Bliss.

11.  I stock up on winter remedies so that I have a ready supply before I will even need it.  Propolis throat spray, propolis/honey lozenges or sage lozenges, ear candles (to relieve nasal congestion),  essential oils for burning or massage (eucalyptus - decongestant; tea tree - anti-viral and immune stimulant; lavender - antiseptic, calming, headaches; lemon -antiviral, immune-stimulant and expectorant; cedar - promotes oxygenation at cellular level; citronella -decongestant, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, colds and flu)
Take cues from cats - they sleep twice as much when it is cold.  Ours sleeps all day and night. Winter or Summer.   Period.   ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

We have just had a HelpXChange couple for a week, what a great experience.  Our first introduction into Vegan Raw Foodism.  They shared many of their raw food recipes, some of which I will definitely be trying to emulate later on.  Wow, there's some crazee-good raw desserts out there!!  Bring on theYum Factor!

The Great Whites do sleep in winter.  Yay!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Utopia: Closed for Renovation

Closed for Renovation

Utopia, or Eutopia, according to the Google Dictionary:
noun: utopia; plural noun: utopias or eutopia
  1. an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.
    synonyms:ideal place, paradiseheaven, heaven on earth, Eden, Garden of Eden, Shangri-La, Elysium, the Elysian Fields, Happy Valley, seventh heaven, idyllnirvanabliss

On our sojourn North, we took time to stop off and see some magnificent sights along the way.  Eutopia is a roadside attraction befitting a Peter Jackson's Hobbit film set.  It is a restaurant in a place I quickly forgot the name of.  Trust Google to remember for me: Kaiwaka.  Literally, it means the canoe of food in Maori.  The restaurant has this organic shape, half boat/canoe, half village.  I begged my driver to stop for a photo opp.  He reluctantly agreed, as he needed a toilet stop, so while he wondered off in search of an ablution facility, I nosed my way around this fascinating little structure.  Marvelling at the creativity and hours of time spent making a vision, a reality.  The stuff dreams are made of.  But for real.

Detail on the side of the structure

Phallic church-spire mushrooms growing out of the roof
The extent of this dream-like sculptural dwelling is so out-there, that one wonders how the creator got legal planning consent to build it, given all the red tape that usually accompanies building permits.  I had the distinct sense I was a peeping Tom, walking around the peripheries, snapping shots over and through barriers and windows and openings.  Wish I knew more about the buildings history.  I found out on the World Wide Web that the designer and creator is Peter Harris, who has just on-sold the business.  I felt it would have been sad to give up something that must have consumed so much time and energy to create.

Inside the restaurant

Elves and mystical trees hugging cylindrical towers

An elf forms part of a pillar

The elf girl-child pillar
Time seemed to stand still, while I wandered around in a reverie of bliss, snapping bits of magic that appealed to me.  I felt drawn in to the creator's vision, of what he was trying to convey.  Wonderland.  A place where no screens dominate, just imagination.
Mystical, magical spaces

Stained glass window formed with glass half-marbles
Church-like, sacred and precious.  These were some of the emotive thoughts I had.  I dared not touch.  Like a kid in a glass warehouse.  "Look, but don't touch!".  An object of great beauty.  I may have missed that feeling of awe if I had had a companion - "Look here.  Look there!"  
And I could have easily missed out on that special feeling.  Reminds me of a fragment of memory as a child, no more than 3 or 4, lying prone on a church pew with my head on my mother's lap and gazing up at the magnificence of the stained glass windows.  The light coming through seemed to come in shards of colours where dust motes danced.  
I am sure too, that I would have missed entirely, that sense of slendour, had the restaurant been filled with patrons.  I am thankful I could explore unhindered.  In my own time and space.
Lock and chain.  Doors leading to the dungeon?  Dragon's lair?  Rapunzel's tower?

The imaginative entrance
I guess another reason that this functional sculpture appealed so much to me, is that I live in a make-believe world of kindergarten children.  Daily, I share in their fantasies, their hopes, dreams, thoughts, fears, visions and imaginations.  My little friends would have shared my sense of awe and wonderment.  They too, would have been inspired by the creative touches, to dare to dream or imagine who or what would live here.  Layers and layers of discovery.

Beaded windows and daubed walls remind me of Africa

Reflecting on reflections.  Church-like.
I vaguely at some point, heard my name being called.  I was so reluctant to be called out of my reverie of amazement that I shamefully kept quiet.  I did not want to be found.  I did not want to be drawn back into a world of reality.  Cars.  Time keepers.  Deadlines and destinations.  I waited for a second call.  Guiltily, I answered back with a faint little  "Here I am..."  but I knew that my voice would not carry wide and long.  It was coming from a place far, far away.  A place of inspired imaginings.  
Toilet block out back

Even the wooden door invites the senses

Shuttered windows your own risk!
Eventually, I realised that my dearly beloved may raise the alarm and send for a rescue squad if I remained in my little reverie on my own, so I reluctantly emerged.  "What?  You called?  Yes, I heard you.  Didn't you hear me answer?  I did....."

So, I really did find Eutopia.  But it was closed for renovation.  Lucky, for me!