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

Love parcels!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 8/28

Today’s recipe: Souvlaki with Tzatziki.

“Every aspect of our lives is, in a sense, a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.” Frances Moore

It takes a great amount of muscle to vote for the world we want to live in. The modern world is not particularly geared towards those of us who seek a deeper kind of existence. One that is connected to the food we eat, the environment we steward and the humanity we share. One that values slow over fast, quiet over noise, less over more, make over buy, contribute over consume. But there is a gym for us and there are others training there too. It’s a small gym, the gym of creative living but it is gaining momentum … people are beginning to ask themselves ‘what matters most’? And once we ask ourselves that question we start the process of taking action and we start building the muscle to vote. We have no choice but to act if we want to leave a legacy of having stood for something or a life without regrets. A world we want to live in and contribute to not exist in and consume from.

One act will lead to another and then another. Take the spanakopita ‘rolls’ (brilliant suggestion Sue btw, rolling sausage roll style worked a treat!). Ingredients bought at the market* to buy fresher, to reduce plastic (#zerowaste), to bake from scratch, to live creatively. The ingredients then used to create something learnt from friend (food now has two stories), created specifically for my daughter because it’s one of her favourite dishes. Delivered to said daughter after school (before she went to a friend’s house) as a surprise with a kiss – an ‘I love you’ parcel. A parcel that votes for a kinder world. (I’ve lost track, food now has six stories yeah?)

And because I made the spanakopita I was all loved up and also wrote a funny little letter for her. One act that keeps giving …

‘Culture, when it comes to food, is of course a fancy word for your mom.’

Michael Pollan

Yes it’s hard enough being a mum I get it – I know! And I’m far from perfect but I want to care about the food culture I send my kids out into the world with it. I think it matters.

Speaking of kids favourites remember the first post of this 28 day series … the ‘I love you’ platter with Jimmy’s beloved Caprese Salad ingredients? Lisa my friend from Milwaukee created her own version. How good does it look! Jimmy said ‘yum’ when I showed him and he’s chuffed his favourite salad is a hit Lisa – a smiling 6 yo with his own new food story ;).

Oh and Lisa shared this meal with her daughter. And that reminds me of another story … I’ve never met Lisa face to face (yet) we became friends through blogging. But I did have the privilege of meeting her daughter in Sydney when she was traveling around Australia. Lisa asked if I could check in with her. And from one mum to another I shared with Lisa know how proud she should be of her strong, independent and capable daughter. And that I hope to grow mine with those qualities too.

Tzatziki.

So I guess you’re sensing a Greek theme here … again! A meal created because I made tzatziki to use up the dill and cucumbers. I don’t know about you but I don’t have a lot of kitchen appliances. Actually let me think … I have three. A food processor, a beater and a stick blender. And this little nugget! This was a gift from my mother in law, a Tupperware mini hand blender I guess you’d call it. I love it for chopping onions, garlic and making dips. Guacamole, tzatziki, hummus etc. I thought I’d share as I’ve had it for 9 years and it’s still perfect and I don’t cry on account of onions.

Souvlaki. Greek – Dutch – Aussie style.

Of course I’d never make these if Lexie was coming over, this is one of her specialties and it would look little different. She looked at me strangely when I said I’d put lemon in the tzatziki :).

Ingredients:

  • Chicken (I roast the fillets but they could also be fried thinking about when we’re in the camper)
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped cucumber
  • Sliced onion
  • Pita bread (tossed in the pan or in the toaster)
  • Tzatziki (recipe linked)

Method:

So simple! Fill the pita breads with fresh ingredients.

It’s Friday night and I prepared this dinner during the day so it was an easy relaxed meal. I even got a ‘thank you, I love this meal’ at the table. But mostly, I got togetherness, laughs and fun. No debate, the debater was at a friends. Lucky because her dad’s away and he’s the debater’s sparing partner. The debater is at her Greek friend’s house eating a home made (γιαγιά’s) meatball soup. So I guess you’ll have to watch this space for that recipe.

Have a beautiful start to the weekend … feel free to share a food story with me if you have one. I love a good connected food story.

Buen camino’ing,

Fran x

*the pasty came from the store pre-made. I haven’t attempted that … yet, not sure I will.

The Art of Feeling

Adventures On My Bike – Day 8/28

Today’s recipe: It’s one for a hot afternoon after school.

My bike has three gears. For many months I haven’t been able to shift it into first gear. I just slogged away riding it as it was. I’m not sure why it took so long to get the gears fixed but last week I finally did. It was quite painless really, it didn’t even cost that much. I just had to make the effort to make the first move. One purposeful move, a move that gave my gears (and me) the freedom from being stuck.

‘The Art of Feeling’ is what I am calling my daughter’s latest artwork (the opening photo of this post). Right now I am crying, tears are streaming as I write this. Good tears. Tears because this art work pushed me to watch the you tube video I’ve linked at the top of this post. The video landed in my inbox earlier this week and I knew it would probably make me cry. I haven’t been able to watch it before now because I find it awkward to be thanked and I’m still nervous about being being seen. Of all the things I find hard … it is my most vulnerable work. I really stepped up and out of my comfort zone by putting myself, my heart, my writing and my photography out there to ask for support and donations for my #hikeforonegirl project. And even though the creating the project, the camino and all of you hiked and stepped me through that fear, I still feel the nerves. And if I am honest I am not entirely sure if I’ve really acknowledged the enormity of what we achieved, but I want to. I truly do because the project is gently growing.

Of course I knew deep down I had to watch it because what we did mattered and I can’t hide from that. And I am not letting sight of that sail as it takes me into the wind. It is why this website was created. Hiking towards my One Girl challenge was a beautiful anchor this past year. When I returned from the camino I wanted to drop a few more anchors in my life. I feel the need to anchor in our home and community in our new country. I need to tend to the nest. I think you can sail without expectations and at the same time drop a few anchors. Do you? It sounds like a contradiction but we need both in our every day lives. At least I do. While I’ve been dropping a few intentional anchors, One Girl is never far from my mind. I am dreaming about how I can continue working as a ambassador to raise awareness and fundraise for the some of the world’s most vulnerable and equally delightful girls. How are the smiles in that video. We can’t loose sight of them.

A dear friend used this quote last week and it resonated.

‘There is more that one kind of freedom … Freedom to and freedom from.’ ~ Margaret Atwood.

Most of us have freedom to and together, all 69 of us from Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Canada and The USA spectacularly raised $8135. Enough money to give 27 girls the freedom to go school in Africa. Special mention to Kimmy, my fellow hiker and ‘Women who Hike’ accomplice in adventuring for change. You are AMAZING (educating two extra girls came from you also choosing to stand up!).

As you know I have plans to return to the camino in September and I am hoping a few others may just take on their own hiking challenge with me, hint hint nudge nudge. Big or small no worries, just hike it baby. Don’t worry you will hear more or ask me.

Speaking of delightful girls! Meet Mischa one of my daughter’s friends from Melbourne. Mischa is using her position as a school leader to stand for girls. She brought One Girl as a potential charity to her school’s attention and guess where some of their term 3 fundraising is going? One Girl! Mischa you are amazing and I know the One Girl family is going to be super excited to here your story.

Here’s another amazing story. Paula fellow hiker and woman’s adventure enthusiast messaged me here to tell me that she has decided to contribute monthly to One Girl. She is effectively keeping girls in school. I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again. You inspired me beyond words with your camino wisdom Paula and I truly hope to hike a trail with you one day in the future.

And while we’re talking feelings I may as well share one that we don’t often talk positively about. Anger. Yes, anger that’s the one. I want to talk about anger because it was a great catalyst for helping me to put the camino and One Girl on the same page.

Last year I began to feel I angry and disillusioned about how one of my greatest loves was being treated. No one should be treated as a pretty face with no value only to make others look good. And I simply I couldn’t stand by to watch my dear friend be sold without any concern for her essence.

She was being used to sell anything, detergent with micro plastics, plastic toys, personal travel loans. She was being shared as a *must do* bucket  check list that we must – at all costs – check off. Without even getting to know her. I think it was probably the sponsored travel loans that really tipped me over the edge. And, as someone who regularly shares travel pics I wanted to stand up for my love, my friend – travel.

Google ‘travel quotes’ and what to you get? Over 748 million hits! We all love travel. And what do we love about travel? Here are the first three random quotes that came up.

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jennifer Lee

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

It is not hard to uncover the essence of travel, of why people travel.  She enriches us with her qualities of perspective, space, freedom, wonder and awe. She gently encourages us to improve ourselves, gives us strength and puts our existence in the world into context. She reminds us that there is more to life than wanting to own more, she gives and we receive.

So why do we treat her so unethically. Why do we use her to sell ‘shit’ when we know we want to protect the world because she, travel taught us that? Late last year I already knew I wanted to hike the camino as well as work with One Girl. So let’s blame anger, anger made me do it! It made me stand with these two together.

I’m bloody glad I did – get angry that is. I am so grateful that all 69 of you supporters also decided that Adventure Tavel and Charity are a good match. On behalf of my friend travel and her essence I thank you alongside my One Girl family!

Am I as angry now about how travel is shared? Not so much because now I’m using my own voice to say something different. And I guess you could look at me and say well you’ve done a sponsored post so you’re also dipping into travel as a commodity.  And yes that is true. I was sponsored gear to #hikeforonegirl and I have thought a lot about that. I hope I have done the honourable thing by my friend and only ever sold her in a way that protects her essence but encourages others to do so as well.

Hot day recipe. Chopped watermelon.

It’s not so much a recipe today as it is a food story. It’s hot here and when you haven’t prepared an after school snack – CHOP watermelon. He was quite chuffed that his Greek mate was eating the other half. Made the connection? ;) Yesterday at the market Lexie and I bought the two halves of the same watermelon. I really, really love that the two little mates are both eating an afternoon snack in their respective homes from the same watermelon.

A commitment to kindness, adventure, travel and charity

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