Category Archives: Cycling

Some days it’s all about the bike.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 11/28

Today’s recipe: Every day seasonal fruit muffins.

After a perfect morning in Amsterdam with my ‘dutchified’ Aussie friend I returned to the ‘bike’ car park at the station and I couldn’t spot my bike! Eeek. It’s your worst Dutch life nightmare … almost as bad as the frite van running out of fritsauce (egg mayo). No it’s worse. Definitely worse. Dutch life revolves around a bike!

As you see bikes are parked in all sorts of multi level ways. It’s Chadstone shopping centre without level and parking spot numbers! Even with my big green flower basket it took me an extra minute to spot it. So my sinking stomach turned into a big long satisfying breath. Oh how I need my bike for this bike life that I love so much! I’m quite attached to it ;)

Summer has definitely arrived in The Netherlands and it’s the happiest country in the world in the summer. The Dutch love the sun! The outdoor cafes are full, the kids are running around on the streets playing hide and seek until 8pm, there’s even more singing on bikes than usual and the day is light until 11pm. It’s nearly holiday season here which feels strange … summer, end of school year and yet it’s not Christmas or the New Year. There’s no feeling of rush in the lead up to this ending just joy because the summer season is beginning.

We’re cruising towards the end of the school year. Aside from the indoor art gallery the backyard has turned into a slime factory … every.single.night! I used to cringe at slime (no for months), aaah the mess. But you know if you’ve got a kid who needs to make things and feel textures within their fingers you have to choose. Allow creativity to flow in your house or don’t. She now has a slime shelf in the garden shed. What’s the alternative? Encourage passive activities? I’ve watched this Ken Robinson TED talk a few times, maybe the first time when this kid was toddling. I feel on the cusp of a sliding doors moment right now. In giving in here I chose to value creativity over control. That, combined with a few other decisions to ensure that protecting ‘childhood’ comes first. Gosh parenting can be challenging. Just as some ‘no’s’ are some ‘yes’s’ are worth so much …. actual pivotal moments. (We are going to start playing with making natural colours perhaps beetroot to start?! One step at a time, nothing starts perfect.)

Today I felt a bit low on the bike adventure part of this 28 day challenge on account of the lurking head cold. And then on my 15th km of bike travel today I remembered my daily life is the adventure and I just needed to let the day play out. It helps that my husband is away – there’s no one else to do the school or tennis runs on the bike.

I’m still on the ‘what’s in the fridge’ Buddha bowl (just add chili oil ;)) gosh I love the bowl full of different tales and tastes. I truly get better at making these each day … and how good are kraut and pesto as dressings. It was an in and out on the bike kind of evening so dinner needed to be simple. Gnocchi (not home made) with pesto. Pesto (basil, parmasen, pine nuts and olive oil). Actually the child who doesn’t love bread asked if they could have this meal cold for school lunch tomorrow … such a shame it’s all finished (and it’s a half school day – Wednesday)! I do want to make my own gnocchi one of these days. Perhaps a project for next week when my sister is here … hmm universe I need an Italian friend.

The easy gnocchi dinner (less than 10 minutes prep) was also a bonus because at the same time I could get the school morning tea (play lunch) in the oven. I make muffins every 2-3 days. I have it down to a 10 minute prep time. Recently one of my junior chefs has learnt to bake these muffins. She’s made them twice in the last week. The kids never complain and every day the empty paper comes home in the lunch box! Perhaps because the flavor changes, in the winter apples, dried fruits, last week bananas, blueberries and today raspberries.

Fruit flavoured muffins!

Ingredients:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (the recipe is 1/2 but 1/4 and the kids don’t notice it)
  • 1 whisked egg
  • 1 cap of vanilla essence (optional)
  • 1.5 cups of S.R.Flour
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • Desired fruit flavour

How I do it:

Beat the butter, sugar and essence. Add the whisked egg (if using banana add here).

Sift in the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon start stirring in the flour and slowly add the milk.

Once mixed add the fruit (play with amounts – no rules) and stir.

Bake in a moderate 170 degree oven for 15-20 mins depending on your oven. I need 4 a day and this mix makes 12! You can even freeze them. In the past I’ve made batches and taken 4 out the night before but in Holland freezers are sooooo tiny, like hotel fridge size. Enough space for frozen peas edible and a bag for falls (4 kids), de-caf coffee (for when my mums here) and ice cream (husband).

My summer cold is finally beginning to loosen its grip and the sun’s rays are promising sandy feet, ocean air and salty beeezes. But first tomorrow, as you may recall it’s market day on Wednesday. A new Spanish friend is joining Lexie and I on our coffee and market adventure tomorrow … hmm I wonder what will be in season?

Finding my own way!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 10/28

Today’s recipe: Roasted eggplant inspired ‘what’s in the fridge bowl’.

As a kid I was always moving my furniture around. I never asked of course, my parents would have said no! I just heaved it around by myself with my door closed, sometimes trying a variety of new arrangements. As a homebody (when I’m not travelling) my nest is my sanctuary. A sanctuary that reflects my love of family, creativity, food and travel. One that every now and then I like adjusting when the feel and the aesthetic doesn’t match those loves. I’m still that kid, I close the door and start shifting things around on my own.

I guess I could follow a food plan for this movement inspired adventure but that’s not really me. I like to find my own way … making it up and changing it as I go. I do take inspiration from people of course and I’ve followed programs before but this is a story about more than simply cooking. It’s a story about creating a connection with food and the community I live in. And I have enough knowledge and resources to get going on my own.

On Wednesday I bought my eggs from a farmher at the market. I asked her about her farm and she explained they call themselves ‘Het eigenwijze ei’. She explained that eigenwijze means they do it their way, it has a connotation of stubbornness and being head strong. For them that means no antibiotics, free range and no labels or affiliations, they sell at markets. Familiar? Yeah that’s me! Doing things my eigenwijze. I find things are more sustainable and suited to my life when I find my own way. It also fuels my need to create stories that give meaning to how I move through my days.

I chose the eggplants I roasted yesterday because they are in season. Market produce is a wonderful reminder of the season. I also happen to love eggplant, I ate it every day in Italy. If you order a side of veggies in Italy you’ll always get a plate of grilled seasonal veg. Generally eggplant, capsicum and zucchini. It may seem an odd way to shop, to find an ingredient first, but I enjoy building a meal around a taste or veggie I’m hankering for. Initially I thought I’d roast it in cubes as I always do but then I googled and found a different way to roast it. A way that utilized the ingredients I already had.

As with all things in life simpler works better for me. Basic maths that starts with creating time, knowing my values and working within my capacity. There’s no point starting with algebra. Sometimes I find cooking can become a bit like algebra. Too many new ingredients and rules … it’s not sustainable for me to start with everything new. I’m better building on what I know or have, gently.

Just like moving my room around when I was a kid it’s still easier to move around what I’ve got and then add slowly to that.

Eggplant inspired ‘what’s in the fridge bowl’

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a roasted eggplant from yesterday
  • Left over zucchini noodles
  • Chopped pickled beetroot (fridge staple)
  • Fried haloumi
  • 1 egg
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Lambs ear lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Dressing: tahini paste, sesame oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Basically I started with the eggplant in the middle and then poked around the fridge to see what was in there adding what I found.

Nothing happens overnight does it! And connection can’t be rushed, sure it can take some extra effort but we shouldn’t have to push too hard. My door is closed as I take my space to sort my sanctuary but also – it’s open to finding what I need. A little addition here, a little subtraction there. Basic maths.

Buen camino,

Why compete or compare? Let’s not. Say ‘no’, start there.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 9/28

Today’s recipe: Roasted eggplant.

I’m often saddened when I read posts about FOMO or feeling bad about what others post or the need for posters who have audiences to say ‘this is my highlight reel’. Seriously … WHY? Why be scared of missing out? Or why compare ourselves we others lives. Why do we need to be told that we shouldn’t feel bad because of what you post? What has happened to us? Why can’t we separate what we see with what our own reality is? Honestly … it perplexes me. And you know why? Because why would anyone have it better? We ALL have feelings and stuff right? Or are we special? Are we the only ones who in a day can live through every emotion that exists?

I took this photo from my bike (because this is a bike adventure series). I was balancing the fruit and veg in my basket and my panniers. My youngest … my baby, with his hands on my hips as I dunk him on the back of the bike was singing his heart out … we’d been at the market (real food) … shopped with bags I’d re-used (zero waste) … to the left a violinist was playing (romantic and European) … the season is summer (smiles in The Netherlands) … summer also means festivals and food vans (reminds me of Berlin Lix) … I was on my bike (my carbon omission free transport)… shopping done (food till next market day) … my daughter was smiling (tough week) … my husband is hiking in the ALPS (he loves that stuff, he even posted a story, he never does that, so happy for him) … dinner was covered (same recipe as last Saturday) … I’m writing (you’re reading) … that’s a whole lot of good stuff there! And sure, neither of us, husband and I are on our career trajectory (adjusting that)… we’ve had some shit to deal with since arriving here (that’s life) … our family isn’t close by (I miss my mum) … our identities are being challenged (starting fresh) …. we are having to make a choice, here or home (where’s home?) … but THIS, in this bike moment … it’s all ok, more than ok … this is as good as life gets.

Let me paint you some pictures of my day.

I could tell you about each photo or we could just talk about our days. There’s no perfection, there’s just life. Every day life. I bet both of us experienced some similar feelings. If you’ve read this far I presume we’re already connected in some way so let’s make a deal … let’s be working on our own nests. Moving forward, moving our furniture, learning to say no, learning to let go, learning to care more, to care less, be honest about what we need, slow down, speed up, walk, ride, dance, run, swim, talk, paint, write, cook, sew, love … whatever we need to move forward with … let’s work on that, let’s move and not worry about what others are doing. Let’s just agree to not compete or compare. Sounds easy right? But dig deeper. Every time we speak or act … let’s ask ourselves the question am I competing or comparing? Because if we are we’ll always be a step behind ourselves. And don’t we want to be present and contented with ourselves? In our own life.

Today I had a conversation with a fellow writer. One of my favorites actually and I shared some of my story ideas. And I didn’t care. I used to be protective of my ideas and today I shared them, gave her my quotes, analogy’s, everything. If she runs with and writes something because she read them … boom that’s a win. Neither of us own ideas. Especially those of us who write about and live life. We learn by experience and our human experience is actually not that different. We’re bound to cover the same ground. But when we share and talk without being held by the constraints of competition or comparison or even fear we choose a deeper path. I prefer those kinds of conversations, the ones we walk away from feeling good.

All competing and comparing does (with ourselves or others) is to stunt us and hold us hostage from living freely in our own lives. And for those of us who are parents … it can stunt us from hearing our own kids.

Recipe time – Roasted eggplant.

The head cold is still lingering. It’s why you’re not seeing hiking photos! But motion is in my mind, determination is in my day and because I write this blog – honesty matters, so I’m cooking.

My Buddha bowls haven’t been in play this week so I’m prepping. The week’s bowls (well 4 of them) will have eggplant at the centre.

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant or aubergines (I had two to use)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary

How I prep’d them:

Slice the eggplants in half. Slice into the flesh diagonally creating diamonds … three diagonal lines left to right and swap.

Top with salt, let sit … at least an hour.

Squeeze and wipe the salted juice off.

Coat flesh with olive oil and place upside down on a twig of rosemary on a tray. (I use and re-use baking paper.)

Bake for an hour.

Serve as a side with a lemon or some balsamic & oil or I’ll show you how I use them through the week in Buddha bowls.

Buen camino,

Fran xxx

What happens to writers as they expose themselves is purposeful, they are growing themselves by writing.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 7/28

Today’s recipe: A Dutch Sweet Sandwich.

Wednesday’s are a half (school) day here in The Netherlands. The kids finish at 12.30 and are home in time for lunch. I often still send them with lunch on their bags on a Wednesday – even after almost a year of living here. Old habits! It is one of my favourite days and one of my favourite ways to lunch is as the Dutch do. The table is laid out with the toppings, a boiled egg, bread and everyone makes their own (even the little hands). As a treat the milk is chocolate flavoured and mine love when it is served warm. As a special treat after the first sandwich there is a sweet treat! A sweet Dutch sandwich. It’s even sweeter for me because it reminds me of my childhood, growing up in Australia in a migrant Dutch family with a table full of kids.

Wednesdays are also the mid week market day in my village. After using all the left over veggies in the cous cous last night I needed to top up the shelves. For something different I asked my Greek friend Lexie to join me. We started with coffee and a chat (naturally) and then proceeded to shop for our fruit and veg. It was a super cool way to hang out. She was surprised by my reusing of paper bags and I was surprised that she smells the produce before she buys it! Of course she had me smelling the produce and I had her promising that next week she would re-use her bags.

We bought donut peaches it’s summer here peep’s! She also bought beans, loads of them. We talked about how she will cook them and I bought rhubarb and talked to her about how I will cook that. I didn’t buy any beans and she didn’t buy rhubarb :) Creatures of food habits that we are! Maybe next week. I think I will stew her a sample of rhubarb to try on her Greek yoghurt. We both agreed we would shop together at the market next Wednesday. And oh how we laughed during the morning!

My favourite Dutch Sweet Treat Toastie!

Toast with peanut butter, sliced strawberries and mint! I don’t always add mint but there’s mint in my window sill and this morning Lexie had me smelling the mint at the market. It does have delicious smell don’t you think? It’s really beautiful as it hits your nose when you take a bite.

Eating peanut butter today was a bit like chilling with my slippers on. I love it! I can’t have it in the house because my husband is allergic …. but while he’s away I can relax ;).

Food it truly is one of the is one most wonderful ways to create memories and build relationships. I bet we can all share a food memory that makes us smile. My strawberry sweetie reminds me of my dad. He is the man of the Dutch strawberry sandwich, he even adds an extra sweetener … he tops his with sugar! The guy is 74, he’s never quitting sugar. But it was nice thinking of him and his strawberry sandwiches. I must call him. I don’t do that enough.

This little adventure of mine, the one where I’m letting my bike and food connect me to my day and community led to one of my proudest moments of the week! The one where I gave the kitchen to the junior master chef and guided her through my muffin recipe (including how to clean as I go). I then left her to cook dinner (she didn’t clean as she went). With great pride she plated up individual bowls of spag bol and each bowl was licked clean. Feeling pride is important don’t you think? She’d a tiring morning so I’m glad she got to feel that this afternoon. Also glad she had the space to feel and paint (below) how she felt. We all feel, happy and sad, energetic and tired, stressed and calm. We have a saying for clean bowls at our house ‘Opa clean‘. Opa, my dad, literally licks his plate clean. Oh wow there’s another dad story, I really must call him.

Can I go back to the first week of the project bit? Yes, it absolutely had been a week. Can you believe it? Somedays, I do wonder if I’m a nutter? Exposing a little of myself each day, perhaps sometimes even more between the lines than you read. What happens to writers as they expose themselves is purposeful, they are growing themselves by writing. Because you see the writing opens them up just a little more every time. Well that happens to me anyhow. Maybe some of you writerly types relate?

I decided this would be a 28 day project because it took me 28 days to walk the camino. And boy did that camino give to me. It taught me that in 28 days if you stick with something you can move a long way forward. 800kms across a country in fact, 28 girls with the freedom to go to school and a manual; a new way for me to get things done. So for memories and the one week anniversary’s sake I read the words I wrote on day 7/28 on my camino. Here are some of them …

‘We are always looking for way markers on the camino. Scallop shells, yellow painted arrows, sometimes concreted paths have bronze scallops or tiles and there’s the odd cairn. Some days arrows are lovingly created with rocks and adorned with flowers. We need these markers to help us find our way along the this path. The sweet path that’s winding it’s way through this romantic countryside. Way makers, hmm a nice take home from the camino to everyday life I think.

It’s easy here on the Camino to find my path. I’m looking for the scallop shells and yellow arrows and now I’m also looking for welcoming chairs and tables, inn keepers who smile and I’ll also be looking at rooms if it doesn’t feel right. Maybe the lesson here is that life can be simpler with the right way markers.’ ~ Fran Camino reflections.

And you know what I know? And what I remind myself if doubt creeps in? I simply remind myself that I’m not a nutter for dreaming because I’m a dreamer and I’m finding the right way markers. I know that because the people, the food, the connections they are all yellow and they pointing this way. I am giving to the people that matter the most, including myself. I feel a new sense of freedom because I’m unafraid of doubt. It’s one of the new strengths the camino gave me.

Buen camino dear friends,

Fran x

The postman delivered the most delicious gift to my day.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 6/28

Today’s recipe: Stewed rhubarb sweetened with orange.

Adventures on the bike are a family affair here. This morning lover and life partner, the supportive one who held down the fort while I hiked the camino left on his bike. Yes he is wearing the very same backpack I took on the camino. And he’s on his way to catch a train – to catch a plane – to catch a date with a mountain. A monster mountain massif actually, Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak (4,807 metres). Over the next few weeks he will hike his way around it while taking in spectacular views from three countries Switzerland, Italy and France. I’m super excited for him and phenomenally proud that this is the life I find myself in, the one we’re building. One where prioritising adventure has firmly taken a front seat. Me, I’ll be here happily holding down the fort and adventuring on through my days. Everyday life kind of adventuring. Can I share with you some deliciousness the postman delivered on Saturday afternoon? Yes! Cool.  Oh and I know post on a Saturday! It does get delivered on weekends in The Netherlands (through the slot in the front door which I also love!).

I’ve been looking for a book to read. I’ve scoured the kindle, wandered around shops, looked at my shelves for a re-read but nothing. I could have asked online for recommendations but then I’d have to be sure I’d take the advice on board if I was going to ask people to contribute their time by replying. *Opinion alert* Have you noticed the mandatory question that seems to be popping up on IG posts? I get it, they are the accounts that are building a community and there is absolute value in that, some of my dearest friends have come from meeting online.  It’s just that sometimes it feels a tad disingenuous. Or maybe it’s me and my cynical rebel heart. Do you really want to know what 14,000 (or even 50) people you have never met prefer to wear to the beach? Or, their best advise for travel packing … when you already profess yourself as an expert at travel and you’ll be telling us how to do it next week anyhow? It’s a bit like newsreader school. You know how newsreaders all have the same tone. I actually notice a lot of ‘said’ questioners complaining about their use of online time, telling us to get ‘offline’ or alternately their ‘lack’ of time … perhaps toning down comments for the sake of comments? Unless of course you are genuinely interested (connecting or curious) and not creating noise for noise’s sake. And if it’s your job i.e. you are doing it to sell … the complaining is even more disingenuous and disrespectful to the people who give you their valuable time by answering your questions.  I tend to go by the motto ‘if what and how I’m contributing or doing with my online time feels wrong – it probably is, so I change something’. *End of opining*. Wow, that is a new thing for me, I’m practicing opinion writing.

“All my life, my heart has sought a thing I cannot name” ~Hunter. S. Thompson.

Today I want to make this a relatively short’ish post ;). Stop getting sidetracked Fran … back to the deliciousness of that mail. Wait for it (insert drum roll) … it was a hand written manuscript from a friend. I kid you not – a 149 page first novel, a labour of love. Can you imagine the honour that goes with the privilege of being entrusted with someone’s vulnerable work? Naturally, the first thing I did was hug that parcel with it’s priceless contents. I planned to open it and read non stop tomorrow but this head cold is lingering and today was the the right time. It’s more than I could ever have imagined. It’s that novel I was looking for in the past few weeks. The kind of story that takes you on a ride, the exact one you were reaching for. It’s honest, inspiring and true. I can feel the character … and I’m only 10 pages in. In these next few weeks in the quiet of my days with my husband away I’ve decided to read for a 1/2 hr each morning, to slow read it. Enough time to step into the book and for the words to sift through my day, taking me on a wonderful and mystical adventure over a period of time rather than read it super fast (my usual MO). It’s the most honourable thing I can do with this gift that has been entrusted to me.

The writer, I haven’t met her in person we met online through IG and through sharing words we’ve formed a deep friendship. The above quote is in the opening of the book and dear writerly friend I get that. Perhaps like the feeling I had in the photo underneath it with my littlest as his hands held me, trusted me – it’s the feeling of a love affair with life and all its meaning. One that grows the more you choose to step into it.

It’s a book that sings of connection, trust and contentment. Connection with life in the natural world and a contentment with self because of that trust. Writerly friend, as I took the Rhubarb from the fridge, the stalks my son chose from the market last weekend some of your words sang through my mind ‘…look deep child, when you work earth in your garden …’. It was when I was read these words I decided that I would cook the Rhubarb today. I imagine your character growing Rhubarb in abundance. I never know where my food story will come from but dear friend today you provided me with it and so much more. Thank you for sharing your words with me.

Stewed rhubarb sweetened with orange.

This is an easy one! I think my son had dreamed of Rhubarb pie when he chose these gorgeous stalks. I am sure he will also appreciate this little dollop of stewed sweetness tomorrow on his breakfast or perhaps on his yoghurt after school today.

Slice the rhubarb into stalks that fit in the pot. Pop into a pot with a squeeze of Orange. I ended up using the whole orange to ensure it didn’t stick. The sweetness was perfect. Yo could also us  a little water.  Stew at medium heat. It’s a watch the pot and stir kind of dish, otherwise it might stick. It took about 20 minutes to stew down for me today and it keeps perfectly in the fridge. It can be warmed on porridge or eaten cold. Your choice.

Today was stewed Rhubarby sweet. It consisted of short bursts of time spent dedicated to wondrous things. It is wondrous to have a home to create a nest in. Stories to read. Friends to treasure. Time to give oneself. Dreams to dream. Memories to ponder. Philosophies to share. Music to hear. Words to write and people to love. In the short burst I found a longer day and in the these things I found contentment. This is to me what living a creative life looks like.

Buen camino’ing through your day,

Fran xx