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The Painted Sea

This is exactly how the sea looked when Big Boy and I walked past it this morning…like a carefully constructed oil painting from one of the great masters of old.

It was too beautiful not to share with you. ♥

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Origami Stars

When I was young, I used to make these little paper stars until my hands hurt.

They were folded from strips of paper, which came in assorted colours that cost about 50c a packet. When I found them again recently in Japantown, San Francisco, I couldn’t resist buying some to teach my young friend Tully how to fold them.

The technique is quite simple and well explained in this excellent YouTube video…

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The strips are 1cm wide by 25cm long – you could cut them by hand, but they’re so cheap to buy that it hardly seems worth it. If you’re in the US, this bulk set from Amazon is good value, otherwise they’re easy to order from Ebay…

Warning: it can quickly become an addictive pastime!

It’s easy to recycle treasured papers as well – these wrappers from the Dandelion Chocolate bars (mentioned in the previous post) were far too pretty to waste, so we steamed off the labels and guillotined them into strips. We still have three bars to eat, but when they’re finished, I should have enough stars to fill a small glass bottle. It will be a perfect holiday souvenir!

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Pete and I have been in San Francisco for most of September.

We’ve had the best time, staying with our beloved friends Danielle, Patrick, their wonderful children, and Obi Dog Kenobi.

A week before we left Sydney, Dan phoned us at home.

She knew we were keen to visit Yosemite National Park and had been scouting out accommodation for us. We had the option of checking into a motel outside and driving in, or renting a “tent cabin” in Half Dome Valley. Staying right in the middle of the national park was very appealing, but the downside was that we’d have to share the public amenities – there were no bathrooms in the tents.

“Oh well, so long as the toilets are clean and there aren’t any bed bugs, I guess I can manage”, I told her reluctantly.

My friend snorted with laughter.

“Bed bugs! You should be worried about the BEARS, not bed bugs!”

Err…right. Ten minutes and several expletives later, I rang her back.

“Dan, I’m 52. If I need to get up and pee in the middle of the night, a bear will EAT me. I can do public toilets OR bears, but not both together. We need another option…”

Bless her, after she stopped laughing, our darling friend managed to get us a proper cabin with a bathroom, but it meant making the four hour drive from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges the day after we arrived. Thankfully, Yosemite was so mindblowingly awesome that we didn’t even notice the jetlag.

As we entered the park, we passed El Capitan, a giant 900m tall granite monolith. The striking sheer cliff faces of Yosemite, carved by glacial action over a million years ago, were completely different to anything Pete and I had seen before…

Our cabin was in Half Dome Valley, with trees and mountains all around…

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The following morning, we woke early to watch the sun rise over the mountains. The moon shone brightly in the sky, which was hazy from wildfires in other parts of the park…

The smoky haze wasn’t too bad in the morning, but it muted the blue of the sky and resulted in some hauntingly beautiful photos…

As the sun rose, Half Dome cast a shadow on the smoke particles, resulting in a clear line of light in the sky…

The meadows in the valley are a wealth of diverse plant life, bordered by ancient tree forests. Boardwalks are in place to protect them from tourist traffic. As we walked through, we could see small wallows of flattened grass where deer had bedded down for the night…

We explored the Merced River…

…and hiked the short distance to Lower Yosemite Falls…

Ansel Adams, the American photographer and environmentalist whose advocacy and black and white photos of Yosemite helped to expand the National Park service, has a gallery in Yosemite Village…

As we drove out of the park, we stopped at Tunnel View for one parting glimpse…

Sometimes, life gives us opportunities to do things that we never dreamed possible. Visiting Yosemite National Park was definitely one of those moments! ♥

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Upcycling Party Leftovers

Thank you all for your lovely comments on Small Man’s birthday post, and for sharing the happy occasion with us! ♥

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The conundrum with party food is this: I can’t bear the thought that there might not be enough, but prepping on that principle always results in a mountain of leftovers, and I can’t bear to waste any of them. So visitors are always pressed to take home boxes of food, while we attempt to creatively upcycle whatever remains.

With all the pastry offcuts from the sausage rolls

…we made a dozen curry puffs. Filled with chicken and potato, they were good both hot and cold…

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I used the leftover antipasti in a quadruple batch of our filled foccacia. Double-smoked ham, Italian Prosciutto, Parmesan, Fromage D’Affinois, membrillo and sun-dried tomatoes all went into the mix…

Two giant slabs of focaccia came out of the oven…

Half a slab went to Will and Bethany, who’d brought an antipasto platter, and the rest was cut into large squares and frozen. The boys have been eating them for lunch with leftover hummus

This worked particularly well and I’d urge you to give it a go the next time you have leftover antipasti. Almost anything can go in, even the tiny scrappy bits!

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Small Man’s 21st

Our Small Man has turned twenty-one.

It’s a big deal.

As those of you who have been following along for the past decade will appreciate, it hasn’t been an easy road for him. He’s had stage 4 cancer, which in turn led to learning and social difficulties, anaphylaxis-inducing allergies, and a variety of other health issues. At one point, we weren’t sure he’d make it to twenty-one months, let alone twenty-one years. I’ve written a bit about this in the past, so I won’t rehash it all here, but you’re welcome to read these posts if you’re interested: Small Man; Giving Thanks.

When we asked our son how he would like to celebrate, he replied very much in character by asking for a “modest” party. So we invited only those who knew him well and loved him nearly as much as we do. We tidied up the back deck and spent a day cooking in the kitchen.

We made pork and fennel sausage rolls from scratch, starting with kilos of homemade rough puff pastry (following this great YouTube tutorial from River Cottage)…

Despite my best efforts, the birthday cake was seriously ugly.

I started with two of our chocolate slab cakes and then attempted to join them together with icing

Thankfully, Small Man didn’t care how it looked…

…and our friends were all happy with how it tasted – most came back for seconds…

As always, the chicken liver parfait was very popular. I used free range livers from Harris Farm Markets in Leichhardt and a heavy-handed pour of XO brandy…

We deep-fried a mountain of Malaysian prawn crackers.

Monkey Girl and I discovered that they were sublime spread with the parfait…

Maude’s gojuchang and caramel popcorn was inspired by Lorraine’s Peking Duck popcorn recipe. It was a huge hit…

There were platters of antipasti, loaves of freshly baked sourdough, giant slabs of pizza, and many, many bottles of French champagne. We all had a wonderful time…

Small Man, we love you and we couldn’t be prouder of the young adult you’ve grown up to be. Thank you for being such an important part of our lives, and for allowing us to be part of yours! ♥

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