The basketball hit the fluourescent light bulb the very moment I stepped through the classroom door, as the new drama teacher. Glass confetti tinkling to my feet. Slightly alarmed I stood my ground as two tall teenage rugby players rushed me, dodging at the very last minute to either side and blew straight past. They ran high, arms high, heads high, steps exaggeratedly huge, past and gone, out the door. I turned and watched them disappear then shut the door and turned back to the rest of the class.
I was a director in a little theatre, writing scripts in my spare time and running my own drama classes in an abandoned warehouse, when I was not working in the old folks home down the road. I had been asked to teach a few classes of drama at a local high school. The hours matched the hours my own children went to school so it was a good offer. I was a young thin tired solo mum. I had my head held just above the cold waters. I always wore black because it was easy to match when you got dressed in the dark and the thrift shops have lots of black.
This school would be known nowadays as a troubled school. These students were a trifle undisciplined. Well more than a trifle. Some kids slept in garages and cars or sold drugs for their Dads on the way to school because their Dads were in jail. They got drunk or watched dubious videos and TV or partied and roamed half the night, catching up on their sleep in class. Some kids had kind, desperately poor Mums. Or Dads without jobs who met them at the gate every day and walked them home in the rain. Some kids had no parent evident at all, sometimes they had aunts or grannies struggling to keep up. Sleeping here and sleeping there, mainly on couches or mattresses on the floor. Some seldom ate a cooked dinner. Some always did. Some bought lunch to school but ate it fast and privately before someone stole it off them. Some kids got beaten by their parents and some beat them straight back. I often had girls bring their babies to class, or leave entirely, unable to come to school because of the bruises they could never speak of. Some of the stories from this school would break your heart. But I shall not tell those stories. Walking into that room was like crossing a divide into another world.
From behind me I heard a scuffle and then both of the boys erupted back around a corner. I reopened the door and they hurled themselves back into the classroom. One dragging a vacuum cleaner with its wagging tail bouncing up the steps behind him. The other boy had a stolen fluorescent light bulb from an empty classroom. He was brandishing it above his head like an olympic flame, ducking to get through the door. And so we began. This particular class was a senior class so these boys and girls were between 17 and 19 years old. They were all sizes but all taller than I was. And very tough. Most of the boys were in the First 15 (rugby) that year. The girls were not to be trifled with. Altogether, there were about 30 of them. And this was just one class.
The other teachers took bets on how long I would last. This was told to me years later when I became a Dean. When I was offered the position of Head of the Faculty of the Arts a few years after that, they told me no-one bet on me lasting past 14 days. They were convinced that the kids would slay me. But I put on my highest heels every morning so I could look these kids and the teachers straight in the eye, and we worked hard. I threw out all the desks and lined the room with couches and comfy old chairs. And photographs of what they were doing. And bribed them with food. We did not sit down for long in drama. We needed space.
I got a reputation for being fearless, strict but fair, but that first year I was making it up as I went along. My classes were loud and organised. If you were late to class you had to sing a nursery rhyme. No-one got to fight when I was on duty during lunchtimes. I would march straight up to the boys or girls and scream as loudly as I could- NOT NOW. It was all about timing. I remember once walking straight into a fight that hadn’t really got underway, they were at the stage of feathering up and rising on their toes, eyeballing each other, chins pointing up, still fooling around. One of the boys stepped back and his elbow hit me in the face right below the eye. Now remember every fight has a ring of kids around it, and here I am in the middle of a circle of heaving, expectant students, in my heels, dressed in black, with wild hair, and this kid wacks me in the eye. I stumble and he turns ready to smack me again. Saw that it was me and was appalled. The look on his face. I will never forget it. He almost cried. The whole scene froze, both boys put their fists down and rushed to me. The fight instantly forgotton. One boy caught me as I reeled and everyone was like Oh Miss, oh Miss, we are sorry Miss , come here Miss, sit down. The girls taking over. Are you alright? Don’t tell, will you miss?! Don’t tell, he didn’t mean it!
Who was I going to tell? Myself? See they weren’t so bad.
The first year I decided to stage Antigone with the Seniors. It is a Greek Tragedy. I was never one for Greek Tragedies really, too many words, so I cut half the words out, (Sophocles would have understood) and wrote concise poetic bridging sections. The costuming would be cheap. Greeks just wore sheets didn’t they (did I mention that I had no budget during those first years) and I love the swirl of cloaks under lights on a stage. The rap that the kids listened to all day lent itself to the Ancient Rhythms and my students empathised with the glorious Greek madness. They completely understood people tipping off the edge, the swirl of fear and blood. Family, suicide, death, bodies and burials. Lost Mothers and murdered sisters. Everyone wanted a part. I loved that. I think everyone should take at least one turn across the stage. Applause is good for the soul. And applause was mandatory in my class. I would clap loudly -Woo hoo. Great fall. Clap, clap, clap! Are you alright?
I wrote a ton of extra parts, gave the speaking parts to the kids who would read, made the thugs spear carriers, some were very good spear carriers. Frightening actually. I roped in some younger students for some of the more physical parts, we erected two massive scaffolds on either side of the hall to delineate a stage space. And these kids were honestly magnificent. They poured through the doors. A rabble. A delicious hungry rabble.
There were rules. You cannot miss a rehearsal unless you are DEAD. If you have to babysit your sisters or brothers bring them AND their homework. If you are sick bring your blanket and tissues and STOP your moaning. If you are in hospital we will come and rehearse up there (and we did). If you have a problem with someone in this room you leave it outside the door. In fact any agro and the kid was instructed to pick the aggression up off the floor, lug it to the door and throw it out. All bad feeling – straight out the door and SLAM. If you miss rehearsals with no reason and no notice you lose your part. And anyway you can only miss a rehearsal if you are DEAD. Period.
Some of my old students will be reading this and having a chuckle about that! Here is my number call me, I said, if you do not have a ride I will pick you up. My own children had to come to the rehearsals as well, with their homework and sleeping bags, so I also bought the food. Food was very important. We were always hungry. And they worked. They worked very hard.
There were two boys who just could not get into the rhythm, they became a problem. They incited trouble and things went missing. One was quite a Big Boy, muscly, tall, he had a real presence and not in a good way. He was afraid, afraid to stand up, his fear made him dangerous. I went through each stage with them, trying to motivate them. But they lost interest and did not come back. Occasionally on the weekend they would sneak into the back of the hall if I forgot to lock the door, reeking of dope and beer, and watch. I let them sit. This was my mistake. I got so busy and being new to teaching I made an error and took my hand off them. My metaphorical hand. I should have kept them close and busy. But I had a huge cast who were working so hard and my own kids with their little white faces in that dark brown crowd. And I just took my hand off these two big boys. They stopped coming to class, then dropped out of school. They became night rumours.
Opening night came. I cannot tell you the energy in that room. We were all in the classroom getting ready. The noise was at fever pitch. I tatooed the spear carriers arms with a black vivid creating great swirling celtic sweeps. They had made their own spears in woodwork, some were beautifully carved. They wrapped themselves in the Pacific version of a toga that I had designed and painted. The cloaks, the sewing class had made, were twirled in the air. I had found a job-lot of black cotton and used it for most everything, we had painted the designs on the hems in gold and silver. Their waists were wrapped with borrowed golden ropes from the staff room curtains. Antigone and her sister in their white were startling. Antigones chains of familial loyalty on her wrists. Everyone had been draped with shiny new dog chain as bulky solid necklaces. The masks for the chorus ,the art students had made, were a triumph. I dumped out my make up bag and the girls drew big Cleopatra eyes. They were gorgeous.
New Zealand schools have classrooms dotted around gardens connected with outside corridors and verandahs. Even this poor school. So when we were ready and we had breathed and centred and hummed, and the word came that our audience was seated and overflowing, we silently streamed, giddy with excitement, down the darkened paths and dim outside corridors of the nighttime schoolgrounds. Without being seen our silent silhouettes paraded to the back of the hall, and funneled into a backstage created using black cotton curtains that lined the scaffold. I had taught them a kind of backstage sign language because we had no green room. They were completely silent. Everyone was within feet of the stage the whole performance. No room to move and no-one wanted to. Their eyes had the white of terrified horses, their faces glowing in the dark. Their teeth grinning. Remember, I had said: Have Fun. If you love what you do your audience will love you too. Be the best that you can be. Opening positions please, I signed. Counting them in with my fingers raised.
And as the music teacher began to draw song up from her students, quietening the audience. The lights came up, turning our little hall into a golden palace, lighting our opening players frozen in place, their costumes no longer black cotton but gleaming cloaks of quality. A sound behind me where there should have been no sound. The back stage door opened and two large dark shapes shoved in. They pushed straight through to the stage entrance and sat down on two of the back stage chairs. It was pitch black but I knew who they were and I felt the shuffle and fear of my other students as the Big Boy and his cohort sprawled out into the carefully choreographed darkness.
I waved my next players to me and we breathed together, focus I signed and with a touch – onto the stage they went. I had to put my face really close to the ears of the Big Boy. You cannot sit here, you are blocking my exits and entrances. They glared at me. Another student came up and whispered that they had all been ejected from the audience by another teacher. All? Where are the others. I whispered- His boys. I had heard about them. I swallowed. He motioned with his head, deadpan, lightening flashed on the stage. Low drums began. The rest of them were outside the door.
I stood back up, watching him and he sat and watched me back. Menace rolled off him. He tipped his head at his mate and the boy got up, pushing through the kids, leaving the back door to slam into the performance. I watched the Big Boy. I want to stay Miss, he said. He opened his hands on his knees. His eyes never left mine. He was out on a limb. He was vulnerable. We paused just the two of us. As I moved players onto and off the stage, adjusting costumes and retying hair, I tried to untangle the knot of this Big Boy. He waited. I nodded and bent close again. I want you to keep them out of here. I said. Can you do that? Will you do that for me? I pointed to the door, not a sound I signed. We watched each other a moment longer. He stood and went to the door. I raised my eyes at the light he was carelessly letting in. The door shut. Softly. Back he came. Sit there. I said to him. We have made a hole in the curtain. You can watch. I offered my hand, waiting. He took it, my small white hand, broken marriage rings flashing, enfolded completely into the shadow of his palm. Hot. He nodded. He sat at his peephole, quite still and watched the entire show, with my daughter laid under the scaffold beside him watching from her own peephole. He only watched one night then we did not see him again.
The play was a triumph. We played four nights. They bought the house down. The audience loved it. The heads of my students rose up to magnificent healing applause. My kids laughed and gave me flowers out on the stage on the last night. They threw a cloak over my black second hand wool dress and a special necklace of dog chains around my neck. Now we all matched. They were gleeful.
As we were walking back to the music room to change back into ordinary people, they were flying about in their cloaks, birds, sucking in the night and success . I heard a scuffle in the car park. Shouts and bangs, glass smashing. Grunts. Through the trees I saw the police were restraining a boy. They were being rough with him. He was trying to smash another car window as he screamed at them. They would hurt him. I called out. Hey, he is one of mine! What are you doing? Storming out of the dark I went running straight at the cops into the fight. I knew I could stop the kid my way. The cops were turning fast to meet me. Crouched. Not sure where I was.
My Big Boy came out of nowhere, reached out and caught me, his long arm around my waist, lifting my feet off the ground and pulling me back to the group. I was angry. He would not release me. They had all surrounded me. Don’t mess with the police Miss, he said. Face close. Sober. Watching me, his fury becoming worry. Waiting until I was still. They will hurt you too, Miss. Always run away when you see the police, Miss C. He said. I glared at him. We all stood. In tableaux. Waiting. We heard the doors slam on the police car and they pulled through the school parking lot. I turned to the Big Boy. Was that the one who came in with you the other night? He took a step back. Head down. Ae Miss. He stood in the dark, slightly apart from the others now, watching the police hit the tarmac and race off.
I want to see you at 8 in my classroom, Monday morning. In uniform. He turned back. Thought about it. Ae Miss. A small smile.
Now everyone there is cake in the drama room. Come. Change, and tidy everything away. I want 26 dog chain necklaces in my hands before we eat!
I will collect them for you? The Big Boy said. I tipped my head then nodded. Oh wait I called. They all froze, and turned, a giggle.
You, I said. Pointing my pen at him. The Big Boy, drew in his breath. No more picking up the teacher and carrying her around! They all shrieked. They became ravens and raced together through the darkness towards the pools of light at the door of the classroom.
I was engaged to work for three weeks and ended up staying 11 years. I founded and ran a hugely successful drama unit in that school. We continued to butcher and rewrite the Great Works then wrote, butchered and rewrote our own. We toured, won awards, became nationally recognised. My students were so good and so naughty. All grown now. In London, Sydney, Perth, Germany. All over. Some are reading bedtime Shakespeare to their babies and some working two jobs to make ends meet. Some are still living there in that dangerous suburb and studying when they can. Some are beauticians, some are designers, some write and some are in jail. You may have even seen a few of them in the movies and TV. I am very very proud of them.
Yes, yes I know what you are about to say. Just last week I would not even admit that autumn/fall was on its way, let alone begin to talk about winter. Now I am heralding the plummet, discussing sub zero temperatures, when only yesterday I was talking about a gypsy summer. What is she like. I can hear you say. Yes I heard that too!
Well, I am distracted. I am writing you a wee story and it is not ready. So I am popping this wee very important post in between. I will send your story into your little boxes tomorrow. It is another one of those little memories. It has been shuffling about in the front of my brain, peering down into my eyes, lifting my eyelids with its naughty little fingers and getting in the way of my REAL writing: that embryo Book. So out it must come. You may all thank yourselves that I have begun my true writing of The Book, at last. It is because of the constant washing in encouragement from my blog family that I have taken that shuddery breath and finally started the Real Work.
So today we are going to look at one of the best winter vegetables that you can grow at home when it is howling with winter outside. Winter makes me shudder. I am not built for the cold. Not the cold that we face out here on the plains anyway. In the winter I will be sending you photographs of Daisy with her eyelashes covered in sparkling ice. Blinking and clinking.
So to Beansprouts. We can all grow them. Just get a lid with holes in it. And a nice clean jar. Pour some organic dry sprouting beans into the bottom of the jar, usually I use the blue Ball Jars but the beans do not photograph as well through the blue! I love to eat Mung Beans but almost any seed will sprout, just ensure that they are specifically packaged as food. Cover with water and leave overnight. Drain.
I sit my jar on the kitchen bench with a TeaTowel draped over it. Rinse the beans two or three times a day, leaving them to drain upside down in between. No sitting them in standing water except for the first night.
You can start munching on them once they sprout. You choose how long you will let them grow. Then into the fridge. Beansprouts are live food so eat them soonest rather than latest. I usually have two jars going in succession. Once they have sprouted they really need to be consumed or refrigerated soon after.
Quite possibly the cleanest and best food you can eat. They go with everything. Massively better for you than dried seeds. High in Vitamins C, K and Folate. Plus Protein and of course fiber. On a personal note I would not buy sprouts in a supermarket. I grow them myself and store them in the refrigerator for up to three days. It is safer.
See you tomorrow!
My other favourite snacky food to keep in the fridge, when I am on my self imposed “Watch the Body”(as opposed to watch your weight) Celi Diet, is the coleslaw. Little bowls of this is so good to snack on and sometimes I think that I could live on muesli and coleslaw quite comfortably if other members of the household did not desperately need variety.
Coleslaw by its very nature is made from calm cool CLEAN food. All fresh and clean. And sits comfortably with the mantra:
We have lots of cabbages in the garden, lovely crinkly green ones and the king of cabbages: the Mighty Red Cabbage. You all know that cabbage is a super food. It is high in Vitamin C and Vitamin K which is the blood and bone vitamin. Cabbage is loaded with antioxidants (more than double in the red cabbage) and has fantastic detox properties. And there are these lovely rumours that it has fat burning abilities, probably all the .. um.. flatulence.
The bees are having the best time. Though there has been some robbing, I witnessed a grueling bee fight yesterday evening, as one hive of bees attempted to eject the thieves and vagabonds who were out on a pillaging mission from a neighbouring hive. I guess their honey is better!
Now you all have your own favourite coleslaw, I am sure. So I shall merely list the ingredients in todays. You will all know how much of what to put where. No carrots in this one this is the Celi Diet Version.
The dressing has been adapted from my mothers recipe. (I am thinking of calling Mums recipes The Retro Recipes, as they are all steeped in the sugary 70’s.)
Whisk cool oil into hot vinegar and pour over coleslaw while still warm, toss and serve when chilled.
We are still having the most gorgeous evenings and as the light is fading I have brought the candles out.
I took this shot yesterday because that Borage is such a good Do-er. It flowers early and just keeps on going. The lavender is starting to flower again too. The bees are having a blast with all of these flowers.
I am very lucky to have grass fed, grain free beef from my own paddocks in my own freezer. Grass fed beef is naturally lower in fat. GE/GM free. Carries up to 400 times more Vitamin A and E. It has two to four times more of that heart healthy Omega 3. It is disease and chemical free. What more could you ask for?
Today I made meatballs with a fresh tomato sauce, served on a bed of sauteed silverbeet. This entire meal is from the kitchensgarden and fields. So it is very fresh and the nutrients and especially Vitamin C are at their peak. To absorb the iron from the silverbeet and the beef you need to have some Vitamin C in your meal as well.
Chop finely in food processer
Meanwhile cut up and cook together with a little olive oil
One of the most important ingredients of the Celi Diet are the healthy nutrients. ‘Watching the Body’ food must be good happy food. A depressing food program will not help me fit my jeans. So firstly I take particular note of Omega 3. In many scientific studies Omega 3’s have been linked to a rise in the feel good factor. Pasture raised organic eggs are significantly higher in omega 3. I fried them in pure butter this morning. Two clean ingredients. In fact some radicals in the medical profession have gone so far as to say that instead of giving people drugs to stabilise their moods, maybe it would be better to feed the person in question good food that is high in Omega 3. Who knew!! So as well as being alarmingly good for you this muesli will make you smile too.
I have noted just a few of the vitamins and minerals in some of these nuts, seeds and fruits, just to remind myself how important this muesli is to my health. There are many more health benefits in these ingredients, the comprehensive lists are long. Also nuts have been indicated as a weight loss associate, so if you are caught short, a teaspoon of peanut butter will do just nicely as a snack. (John has it on a slice of apple, I eat it straight off the small spoon). Check your label though. Just Peanuts in the ingredient list. Pure peanut butter supplies a reasonable amount of folate and Vitamin E plus fibre.
When you are shopping for your fruits and nuts buy organic if at all possible and also check your label for added sugars and salts! These processed hidden sugars, sugar substitutes and salts are bad, bad. bad. This diet will not tolerate high fructose corn syrup.
Celi Diet: Muesli
In a large roasting pan sprinkle about 2 tablespoons olive oil then ADD
Then add 6 cups of nuts and seeds. Today I added:
Toss lightly in the oil.
Place in oven set at 250 degrees. Set your timer and stir it every ten minutes for about 40 minutes or until your mixture is lightly toasted. This is a slow process so use your timer.
When toasted raise temperature to 300 and add 5 cups of dried fruit and the honey. Today I added:
Stir and return to the oven, stir every 5 minutes from now on as the honey may make things stick. The mixture should get a bit clumpy. In fact sometimes I add more honey to encourage clumps. When the raisins are puffed and hot and happy looking you are done. (10 – 15 minutes) Don’t let those raisins burn. Take out of the oven and cool in the pan. Store in large jar.
Now, I am going to introduce you to the next important two components of the Celi Diet 1. Mini vessels. Eat this muesli in little ramekins. Chew slowly and thoroughly. Sometimes your tummy needs time to tell you it is done. This is very filling. You will only need a tiny serving.
2. Always have a glass of water before you start your meal. If I am hungry between my little meals I drink bubbly water. Seventy-five percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated and this often feels like hunger. Also dehydration creates apathy and leads to depression. Too many people get miserable while adjusting their body-weight. So use water as a dieting and feel-good tool. And if you get desperate for something sweet, brush your teeth.
I eat the muesli twice a day in a beautiful tiny bowl with unsweetened greek yoghurt, or pure milk. I eat using a tiny spoon. I do not serve with processed milks at this point. (Remember those hidden sugars and salts). For the people who do not drink cows milk I give them a spoon and tell them to eat it as a dry snack. It is just as good that way too! Remember eat slowly!
I know dieting is a bad word. I know that we say to ourselves- I should be able to eat what I like. I am allowed to enjoy myself. Being overweight is not a bad thing. But you have to qualify what is overweight. You see I believe in being my natural weight. And my natural weight does not do well without attention. We need to tend to our bodies. Maintain our health. And this should NOT be a dirty word. We look after our dogs and make sure they have plenty of exercise and do not get too fat!
I know this is a taboo subject. I have an inner battle over this page and it sounds a bit like this. (Hey did you check out my breakfast.. sshh)
-She said the fat word she said the fat word!
-I am your conscience I can say whatever i like.
-Really? Is that in the rules I can’t remember reading that.
-And you are always going on about living a sustainable lifestyle. And just going out and buying another pair of cheap jeans that are made offshore just because you are too fat to fit your good ones is not responsible living! A responsible sustainable lifestyle means wearing your clothes until they wear out then repurposing them. Turn them into rags or ties for apple trees. Instead of leaving them to clutter up the trouser shelves and running out to buy another pair, not to mention supporting the off shore sweat shops. You have to wear that pair of jeans until it is ready for the rag bag. No throwing them away because you are too fat to wear them.
-I know but…
-Well, what if..
-No ifs and buts (i don’ t believe you made me say that!)
-I just want to be able to fit my favourite clothes.
-Well you need to get back to your natural weight.
-What if this is my natural weight.
-You have been having too many cold beers after work on the verandah and eating crostini or toast at practically every meal and what about those fried breakfasts. And your portions are bigger than ever. No more seconds. And I shudder to think of it – The fried chicken from the little place down the road. What about some fruit for goodness sake. Your jeans are so tight you have to lie on the floor to zip them up!
-I like fruit
-But you don’t eat it unless it is in pastry!
-Don’t tell people that. They think I am a healthy eater. I eat organic stuff, I grow my own veges. I grow my own grass fed meat. Anyway there is fruit in my wine.
-And then you fry them
-You can fry wine?
-No, the vegetables, you fry them.
-Well technically potatoes are not a vegetable.
-I rest my case. So are you going to that wedding or not?
-You know perfectly well what wedding, your brother in laws wedding. Do you want to be the fattie at their wedding?
-Well there might be other fatties at the wedding, we could start a club.
-Are you paying attention? You are going on the Celi Diet.
-Can I whine?
-No you can’t.
-Oh, well OK then.
– And no more just sauntering around the fences with the dogs and calling it a walk ! From now On walk a MILES, twice a day, fast.
-But what about my writing? I am writing a book. I don’t have time.
-Get up earlier.
-But it might be cold.
-And get those weights out from under the desk.
-There are weights under my desk?
-While you are waiting for the computer to load, instead of staring dumbly at a blank screen you can do some weight work. Make your muscles work with low impact reps.
-What do you know about reps?
-Do I have to repeat myself?
-I thought you were leaving.
SO apparently I need to have a wee tone up of the body. SO go back on the Celi Diet for a little while. But you know there is NO POINT in dieting. For your body to reach its natural weight and stay there we must tweak my eating and my exercise, and then create a life style that works for me and stick with it. (sigh) If I cannot control my own body what can I control? (such a bore)
I will tell you about the Celi Diet.
No processed food ever. If I cannot recognise it, I should not eat it. And reduce my portions to the size my fist. Eat little bits often. Drink PILES of water. Brush teeth three times a day. (No-one likes to eat with clean toothpasty teeth)
For the first 14 days I will do the Celi Diet. It is hard but after the first 14 days we go onto the Celi Body Maintenance Program (CBMP). But first The Celi Diet:
See, I told you that you would hate it but it does work. I have helped many people do it and it does work. So in preparation gather all the Dirty Temptation Food, like crisps, nachos, and crackers, cheetos, store bought cookies, frozen pizzas – throw them out! Get them out of your kitchen. Purge the Pantry. Only Clean Food may remain. This is only for 14 days, the body maintenance program is much more fun but I need to get a head start using the Celi Diet. And if the bad stuff is in there I will smell it out! So hide it from me.
Temptation is a terrible thing and I am addicted to bacon butties. The only way to overcome the addiction is to remove the bread from the house. Feed it all to the chickens. And the toaster. Out with the toaster! Flour is glue. It must be used sparingly. Given half a chance I will eat bread for every snack and at mealtimes. Fine if it is only a slice but not me. I eat until I cannot eat anymore.
-I am afraid potatoes are the same. They aren’t even a vegetable. Off with their heads!
-I heard that!
So I will eat little bits, often. This works for me. I remind myself that hunger is sometimes plain old greed and lack of discipline. Off with its head.
Snacks: seeds, nuts, cheeses, fresh fruit, dried fruit, cold meats, parmesan crackers.
Drinks: water, tea, coffee, dry champagne, or wine (well it is the Celi Diet!) but only 2 glasses! No diet drinks I am afraid that fake sugar is worse than real sugar. No diet products at all, they are all processed. No processed food!
All Celi Diet Food is very simple. So for the next fourteen days all the food you will see on my pages will be Celi Diet food. And plenty of what you all cook fits so nicely into my Diet that I will be trolling your pages for ideas too.
If you want to join me, do the doc check, and jump in. Don’t say I am watching my weight say I’m watching my Body! Remember it is OK to be responsible about our bodies. Don’t let people get you down.
OK I am off to stock the cupboard with Celi Diet food. Actually it is quite a tasty diet. Tomorrow we will make the muesli.
No weighing. It is all about wearing the favourite jeans remember. Once my clothes fit comfortably and I have the body size that i am happy with, then onto maintenance. But in the meantime!
Look I am getting smaller already
DAISY IS PREGNANT
If all goes well, fingers crossed, touch wood and without walking under any ladders or having any black cats walk in front of anything and with some luck and good management she will be having her calf late May.
May is a super time to have a calf as it will be warm, not too many nasty bugs, she can calve on the grass which is so much more hygenic than being huddled in a dark barn with storms raging outside and the mess of birth just everywhere. And if assisting Mama sheep have her quads last March is anything to go by, it is a messy business indeed. Plus she will be eating good grass and good grass makes the best healthiest creamiest milk.
So in May 2012 I will start milking. Then we will have our own raw milk and make all those lovely milky products. Now I know you are all going to be looking forward to that performance because I have NEVER MILKED a cow by myself before. But getting a house cow is central to my plan for feeding the sustainable crew. Milk will tie our cycle of food in a little tighter. The milk will be a good food for the pigs, cats and dogs will drink it, it will feed calves and baby animals, the chickens have the yoghurt and custard and the milk will supply all the butter and soft or hard cheeses for the homes. Plus raw milk sprayed onto pasture is another super fertiliser as it wakes up all those microorganisms that have been laid to waste with industrial farming. And did you know you can make vodka from whey, John is investigating. Here is the new wine working merrily in the snug.
If they don’t close my post office then more chickens will be delivered soon. They come in the mail you know. Oh, and they deliver bees in the mail too. John once came home from work and found a tiny box with a very bossy queen bee and her five attendants sitting waiting patiently in the mail box at the end of the drive. I know that the Post Office closures will affect us out here in the country but I have my fingers crossed that our Post Office stays open. It is so short sighted to let any of them close.
When I first started raising bees I ordered three pounds of bees from an apiary about 100 miles from here and for some reason the Mail God sent them to a big Post Office in a big city. A man called me and said he had the bees. As it was a Saturday, did I want to come and get them myself so that they did end up sitting in a little Post Office all weekend.
When it was our turn at the counter, I said to the little man. Hi, I have come to pick up some bees.
Bees, said the little man.
Yes, I looked at his name badge, um Warren. Evidently you have a package of live bees here for me. I put on my most dazzling smile, that usually speeds things up.
He gaped at me as though a cat had walked into his Post office and begun to speak in Greek. A pause. Name? He said, returning to the safety of his keyboard. I told him, making sure to speak loudly and clearly. Maybe he was a little deaf.
He misunderstood me, as they all do (you will remember that I am a foreigner out here, in fact I think I am the only foreigner out here), so I gently corrected him, and told him my name again. Then with my smile still brightly attached to my face, I carefully spelt it for him.
And you are collecting bees? He said.
Yes, a package of live bees. I got a call that they were here.
You got a call? They said that the bees were here?
My fixed smile slipped into a grimace trying to be a fixed smile. He squinted at his screen. Tapping at keys. At this point Our John began to Loom over my shoulder. People began to shuffle in the line behind me.
So what are you going to be doing with these bees? He said.
Make honey I hope, I said. I’m sorry, but am I confusing you? Am I in the right place?
Oh No. He said. I mean Yes. With a sheepish smile. I just love your accent and wanted to keep you talking. My smile closed then moved to my eyes, I cocked my head slightly. How annoying but sweet.
At this point Our John did that shoulder and neck stretch that men do and the Little Warren realised that there was a really big bloke in Full Loom right at my shoulder. John grunted. The man rose onto the balls of his feet, opened his mouth, thought better of it and turned and raced out and into the mysterious regions of The Back.
The people in the rapidly growing queue went into mutter and extended shuffle mode.
Warren returned quite smartly with a wooden box held at the end of his fully extended arms. A little bit of theatre. He placed it very carefully on the counter. We all looked at it. It was about as big as a shoe box for work boots, up on its side and had netting on both sides. Inside was a swarm. A very annoyed swarm of bees. Hungry bees. Three pounds of bees. They were tightly bunched into a large ball inside the box, every leg and wired head moving and wriggling. The box was alive with movement and sound. The entire post office went very quiet.
I lifted the box and turned from the counter to find the entire queue had silently dispersed into groups and flattened themselves against the walls. Mothers holding their children. Ladies clutching their purses. Men attempting to appear nonchalant while pulling down their sleeves and checking out the exits. That lid looks loose John said, careful they don’t get out. Our audience attempted to step further back into the wall. John leaned over and tapped innocently on the box, how ya doin in there? About nine thousand bees turned and glared at him then raised their buzz a decibel. Two men broke ranks and swooped for the doors so we could see our unimpeded exit. You would think that I had a wild rattle snake on the end of a shovel. I turned and thanked the man in my sweetest NZ accent, and serenely, in full procession, we walked between the shrinking people. I smiled and nodded like the queen mother and exited through the two sets of double doors held open by our friendly doormen.
Oh and my good camera is back in action. This is the sunrise this morning. So it is time to go and feed the animals. I shall pass on your regards to the naughtiest Pregnant Cow in the world.
I was a very young Mum when I got a job for six weeks working with the night nurse at an old folks home. There were two of us and not very much to do, so the other nurse delightfully, arrived each night with her blanket and her pillow, set up the drugs trolley, changed any dressings, helped me with anything heavy, collected the laundry, folded it in front of TV, then stretched out full length on one of the couches in the day room, and went to sleep until the first rounds at 6.00 am.
I did not mind really, I had 32 old ladies and gentlemen all to myself. I had a full house every night. So I would push my evening trolley around, and doled out cups of hot cocoa from enormous stainless steel jugs and the sleeping pills or a glass of sherry. I turned off lights, said good nights and tweaked blankets as I went around.
None of these people were sick you understand, they were just old. In my book old is not an illness. Some of them were a little surprised when I made the offer of a sherry or a sedative (never both). I always checked and noted the charts as to who was allowed sherry and who was not. Any unused pills were charted as untaken and returned to the bottles. And one or two ladies did look surprised, proceeded to hide their surprise and then said yes please, the sherry dear and don’t be mean with the pouring.
Now a sedative will knock you out for the whole night, and then leaves you groggy for hours upon waking, sometimes you will need toileting and turning in the night if you are sedated and not everyone really needs a sedative. And these old people had worked hard all their lives, held all manner of jobs, raised children, worked on farms and survived through wars. They were used to being independent and getting up EARLY. A sedative will stop that. And as my sherries spread in popularity and the snores from the nurse in the front room got deeper, I began to get early morning visitors. Really early morning.
After settling the oldies, I would do the cleaning then between my corridor walks I would work my way through Cooks List. Prepping all the vegetables for lunch the next day, starting the soups for the dinner, baking, peeling apples for apple sauce, defrosting the meat, writing up the order book, all that kind of thing. It was a large kitchen, warm not cavernous like some of the older ones I had worked in, it felt like a regular kitchen. It had windows above the counters, two ovens, huge mixers and herbs on the sill, lots of counter space, and a really big walk in chiller.
It started as a bell, at 4 in the morning. Instead of buzzers all the residents had been given little tinkly bells, some were china, some were brass, cows bells, they all had a bell. Buzzers were for emergencies. Could I have a cup of tea sweetheart. And I began to toddle back and forth with trays of tea. Soon as they became more confident, they would appear at the kitchen door and not wanting to bother me, could they make their own cup of tea? Seeing as how I was so busy and sorry dear but you always make it too weak, though we do appreciate you trying dear. I would hear the ‘we’ then look past the smiling blue blue eyes, it was usually Mrs Lilac (I have changed the names so that no-one gets in trouble) and see two or three other even older sherry ladies lurking out in the corridor. After a few nights of this I reorganised a space on one of the counters with all the makings for a cup of tea. So they could just pop in and out.
Then they began to loiter, drinking their tea in the kitchen watching me work. Then the tea pots were too big and they were not familiar with these T baggie thingies dear so I began to bring my own silver tea pot from home that was just the right size. (I am sure you remember the tea pot story ). They loved to hear that story, they got to own the story of the day I melted my mothers silver tea pot and the ensuing drama. As each new lady joined the circle of night visitors they would tell it all over again. They were thrilled to pour their tea out of my mothers heat dented silver tea pot with its legs melted off and its collapsed lid. Then a tea cosy appeared to cover it. Then a tea caddy with good strong tea leaves in it appeared each night in the tea corner. Then they were bringing their own cups: I hope you don’t mind dear but your cups are just so fat dear. I love a good cup.
I worked five nights a week, for six weeks and a little routine developed. Once everyone was settled in for the night (meaning Nursey with the blanket) I would drag a table and chairs out of the gloomy dining room and set them up outside the double kitchen doors. There would be a few midnight visitors and in the early morning my other ladies would begin to whisper out of their rooms, like tall shadows leaking out of the darkened corridors, touching their fingers along the walls for comfort. They would sit around their table with another pot of tea, watching for the sunrise through the kitchen windows. They began to raid my cookies as they came out of the oven. Those are for afternoon tea Mrs Lilac. I would say. I know dear, yes I do know. I will let them cool a little. Her lovely long hands lined with raised veins and bruises and fragile nails, rings running loose and twinkly around her fingers, reaching for hot cookies.
Soon it was: I hope you don’t mind Cecilia dear, but we thought maybe we could just whip up a quick batch of cookies ourselves. Would that be alright? I mean yours are good but Miss Jo was a cooking teacher for fifty odd years dear and she does make lovely oatmeal cookies. So they are taking turns making cookies and then cakes in the night. Getting up earlier and earlier. Jostling and laughing in the softest voices, their reflections moving about in the dark night windows. Pouring and sifting and stirring. You go and check if nurse is still asleep dear we are fine. We will have some dishes for you soon. Oh Cecilia, I might just help you with this stock for the soup dear. Taking the spoon: watch now dear.
Well you all better be back in bed by 6.00 and pretending to be fast asleep. I would say. Oh we will dear, don’t you worry, I just wanted to make that chocolate cake that my old Alfred, god rest his soul, used to be so partial too. And those dear little club sandwiches, we will wrap them in wet towels and they will be perfect for morning tea. And you know how Myrtle worries in the night about getting the mutton done for the shearers, a little sandwich in the night settles her dear. She is just a wee bit confused sometimes. We will just sneak one out for her with a cup of tea, why don’t you take that down to her dear and oh I might just sneak one for myself. Do you want a club sandwich Dorothy. It is the bread dear. You have to have the thinnest bread.
You understand now don’t you, it took me a while. It was the kitchen they were visiting, not me. Their own kitchens had been their own kingdoms for all those years. Then they had lost their kitchens. So very gently and very cleverly I was moved aside and they took over mine.
One night, as I sat at the table in the corridor peeling apples and watching my bright group of old women, their hair in plaits or curlers, their nighties and cardigans and worn dressing gowns in layers, the bows of their aprons tied firmly into the small of their backs. Bony bare ankles peeping out from worn slippers, hands kneading and whisking and slamming the stove door. Necks stretched to see. You know you are going to get me into trouble, I said to the ladies showing me how to peel apples. I have children to feed you know. We know dear and I am sure they are such dear wee children too.
I hear a squeak of wheels coming down the dark corridor and there is Old Miss Poppy who usually walks very slowly with a cane, being pushed in a wheelchair by The Elder Miss Mabel. In Miss Poppy’s lap she holds a package wrapped in brown paper. She has The Tongue! Elder Miss Mabel announced and Old Miss Poppy smiled and bobbed her head as she was blithely wheeled past me and into my crowded kitchen at some ridiculously early hour of the morning. Tongue? what tongue?I choked. Why dear a cows tongue Mrs Lilac said and smiled. I do miss tongue, called back Miss Poppy.
The next morning, when all the furniture had been put away. The cookies were all in jars, the apple sauce steaming in its crock and the oatmeal soaking in warm water. The windows were pushed open to invite in the cool early sunshine and all my ladies were safely back in their beds. I told Cook, as she took off her jacket, hung it on a hook and reached for her kitchen shoes, that there was a large cow’s tongue, cooked, peeled and cooling in the walk-in chiller. I waited apprehensively. She looked at me and smiled as she struggled to tie her apron about her Rubenesque girth.
Oh, Lovely. Holding my eyes for just a shade too long. Then smiled. Good. She nodded. Well, you know dear, she said. You have a week left of nights, don’t you? You see I am taking a month off in a fortnight. Now, Matron is quite impressed with all the cooking, those soups are so good and your cakes dear. Very good. Her eyelid fluttered into what looked suspiciously like a wink. I think Matron is going to ask you to fill in as Cook for the month I am away. I know the residents will be pleased.
But you do go through rather a lot of aprons dear, you need to think of the laundry…
Last night we were sitting outside eating our simple repast, the food supplied by our own wee farm, when we heard a worrying creaky noise coming from Pats Paddock. I could see part of the big paddock, and noticed the Murphys (lambs for dinner) and Mia (lamb forever) galloping across the field. Then there was another very obvious creak followed by an ominous crack. Probably Daisy behind the tree, I said to Our John who grunted and started eating faster. I was on those last few mouthfuls of dinner. You know the one bite when there is the perfect mix of pasta (made with our own eggs) and spinach (from the garden) with sunflower seeds (from down the road) and the fresh tomato salad (yes we are still picking tomatoes, sigh) has become warm and sweet. All the tastes are individual but melting towards each other. You go and see. I said, collecting the perfect forkful. I just want to eat his last bit. John looked up.
Really big creaky, wiry, posty, breaky fency noise, yikes. We both jumped up, I dropped the domed fly covers over the plates, on went the gumboots and we ran down the verandah steps, through the garden, across the track and round behind the tree and there was Daisy. The naughtiest house cow in the world, leaning over the fence and as far out of the paddock into the cornfield as her considerable weight could take her, her tongue, her neck, her whole body at full stretch, trying with all her might to get to that one elusive stalk of corn and taking the fence with her.
Bad cow I was shouting. Daisy NO, John was calling. Daisy NO. Get your head away from that Genetically Modified corn, I am thinking! John ran for the fence I ran through the barn through two gates and out into the paddock with a bucket (the lure). The lambs were still at full gallop, expecting an escape hatch to open up any minute I am sure. Then they would fly through it at top speed and disappear into 400 acres of dry corn.
Daisy always comes when I call her (each set of animal has their own call). So I called her Come on Daisy! Banging on the bucket. She reluctantly turned from argueing the point with John, saw the bucket and leapt towards me. I spun and ran for the barn doors to get her in there. And she came flying after that bucket into the barn. Head and tail still up. Eyes showing way too much white. She is like a 16 hand clydesdale horse of a cow. An Ayrshire cow who thinks she is a horse at full gallop takes a lot of stopping (so I jumped up onto the hay feeder as you would). She was bellowing that John had yelled at her, why couldn’t she have some corn candy, the cows across the creek get corn candy, applying her brakes a bit late as she hit the barn floor. I threw the red bucket to the other side of the barn and she did a 180 degree turn up on two hooves and hurled herself after it and through the other doors into the yards. I slammed the gate. Thinking, I am supposed to be milking this cow this spring.So now Daisy is back in the potato paddock, by herself. They keep assuring me that after she has had a calf she will settle down. Still no sign of the results from the pregnancy test though.
John went to get the fence repair tools and I ran as fast as my little gumboots could carry me back to the verandah and to my dinner, lifted the cover and oh there it was, the last mouthful. Aah. My mother used to call it the mouses tail. I guess the cat would save the tail for last. If so I am a cat. Queenie is a good girl though. She is my Hereford calf.
And for my new readers. We are developing an old fashioned sustainably managed farm. We just want to grow our own food in a simple gentle respectful way. It is possible to eliminate processed foods from our diets and be GM free. Sometimes I tell the stories that go with the history of the food we cook. Then we all get distracted. But mostly it is about the wee farm where we live and eat.
So the grapes are in, and the vegetables are winding down except for the leafy greens, silverbeet, swiss chard, beetroot and the new plantings of lettuce, cilantro and spinach. We are picking and drying the red peppers and freezing tomatoes and the big peppers. The last of the pumpkins are in. Soon we will plant the garlic and mow the asparagus. But the wind-down means that the chickens can come out again. In fact their door will not be closed now. They will wander the farm and gardens until about December when it gets really cold. When they will not come out of the chook house anymore then I shall close both their doors and lock them down for the winter. At the moment they have a half door leaned up against the door so that Hairy McLairy can not get in. Did I tell you he loves to have his ears scratched. I was trying to get all these shots this morning and he kept appearing solemnly and silently right behind me, gently offering his ears for a scratch. And sweet as he is, and now that I am out of earshot, I have to say in the nicest possible way. This ram smells very rammy!
You will have noticed a dearth of good photos in my blogs lately, this is because my camera metaphorically spat the proverbial dummy. I have a new lens on the way but until then the camera is sitting in the corner of my summer study feeling all wan and miserable. It has had no walks and no loving (it was bad!). It weeps not very quietly into its bag when it sees the despised Purse Camera being taken out to play.
So in the absence of pretty photos I am going to attend to my awards. Over the last week, well last couple of weeks actually but whose counting. Oh you are? Oh .. well.. Anyway over this undetermined period of time I have been awarded three awards, I think. Well sometimes I forget to write stuff down and yes I know, you are right, I am one of those blondes that give the real blondes a bad name. But I know for sure I have been awarded three from a very enterprising trio of bloggers.
So I am going to have to rely on my somewhat faulty memory, oh what am I talking about, my ridiculously embarrassing memory to recall who they are. One day I forgot a whole person can you imagine such a terrible thing.. just completely forgot about him. SO Thank you my most darling Nia who loves cats as much as they love to pose for her and thank you the thunderous son who surprises me every day with his eclectic witty comments, I just love getting comments – any kind of comment and this fellow has a knack of entertaining the house with his comments! Plus he has an endlessly surprising blog. And Thank you so much Mr All Write who is new to my list, not new to his you understand but it took me a while to find him and he is a great read, really lovely way with words. He also likes his tighty-whiteys to uber white. A sentiment I wholeheartedly approve of.
I have a feeling that there was someone else but I forgot to write you down. So thank you TOO. And thank God and the Academy and my mum (oh no – wrong speech). Don’t you just love really Bad Jokes! Thank you my fellow bloggers for being the madcap blogging bunch that you are. Love, love, love your comments. And love the writing back . In fact as one of those interesting things you may not want to know about me I get up at 5.30 in the morning specifically to answer my messages. I love commenting on comments that much!
So speaking of tasks! It is more than likely that I am supposed to write seven things about myself, or nominate seven others or nominate five other people and write 16 things about myself or maybe I am supposed to make links to 4 of my favourite blogs and write nothing about myself, or was it six links and my birthdate. or a picture of me as a baby… my mind is a blank. But I want to play! i just cannot remember the rules! I was never very good with rules anyway!
SO I am going to link a few of piles of my favourite pages and then I will tell you a few deadly sins or maybe even a few things you did not know about me and then if you are really lucky and promise to be good I will STOP!
YOUR TASK dear reader, anyone can play or not, is to click on any Two of these links, go and leave a cheerful uplifting comment and tell them Celi sent you!! Oh I love this – this will be fun!
1.Never put your umbrella upside down in your drink! This is dangerous and much worse for your health than not eating your vegetables.
2.Never eat a whole packet of dried apricots by yourself and expect to be accepted in polite society.
3. Never drive on the wrong side of the road to get the attention of the cops with a car full of drunk friends singing We Are The Champions because you are the sober driver and want to be breathalysed! Stay at home and drink champagne it is better for you.
4. Never wear your contact lenses out to feed the cows when it is -10F (-23.3C) and blowing. They will freeze to your eyeballs! Go back inside and practice your saber throwing it is safer.
A clear conscience is usually a sign of a bad memory. Thought you should know.
6. And never tell food blog people that you favourite food is Fried Left Overs, most especially fried mashed potatoes! In fact for breakfast every day I fry the leftovers from the night before. Sometimes it is a weird breakfast especially if we had pasta, but there you are a deals a deal.
7.Oh and one last thing NEVER go and see a movie when you are in the early stages of labour with your third baby, and want to watch something to distract you. Then choose the one with Dueling Banjos in it because it sounded like a nice little musical!
No images of the farm today, sorry. I am going to go outside and converse with my old cow Daisy, her pregnancy test is due tomorrow and she is feeling a wee bit apprehensive so I will take the Purse Camera in case anything exciting happens!
Did I tell you that the combine harvesters are out and about. The rumble has begun!. Soon my corn walls will come down. Oh and never say never!