Glimpses of happiness

by Kristy on October 28, 2013 · 0 comments

I was looking back on photos of my recent holiday to Croatia last night. There are lots of them, as is the done thing these days. If you were to look at them all as an outsider to our holiday, you would have thought that every moment was exciting, happy and filled with laughter. That is the picture that these photos portray.

Common sense will tell you that this is not possible. You would expect that a family with three children would encounter squabbles and tantrums from time to time. Is it our job to photograph these moments in the interest of balance and representing the truth?

For example, here’s a photo of my husband and two of our kids swimming at the foot of a stunning waterfall. Everyone is smiling and looks to be enjoying themselves but the truth of the matter was that the current was so strong that my husband and kids struggled to swim across it. The kids were panicking and crying. If is wasn’t for a lovely German couple coming to their aid, they could have been swept down stream.

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But still, they composed themselves, smiled for the camera and got the hell out of there.

Later, we walked around, trying to look at the falls from different angles and I captured this one of my son.

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It was my favourite shot of the day. It captured the mood we were all feeling. My son especially was going through some stuff that day. He just couldn’t handle being there.

Then there was this one, worse still, it breaks my heart when I remember the way he was feeling that day.

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My husband told me not to take the photo. I can’t say I’m glad that I did take it, though I don’t regret it. I could have taken so many more photos like this of all of us on the holiday. The (many many) moments when the children were fighting or being naughty, the crying, the weariness, the exhaustion.

But instead there’s mostly shots like this one, taken on the same day, perhaps half an hour later, where everyone is smiling and everyone is getting along.

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And do you know what? I think that’s ok.

Sometimes when I think about the holiday all I can remember are the difficulties we had. The smiling photos serve to remind me that actually, there were a lot of happy moments. HEAPS. Lots of times when we all got along, when we were enjoying the beauty around us and just revelling in moments of joy.

Looking through the photographs of my holiday I was reminded that it was worth it. We did so much and we spent so much time together as a family. How precious is that? I love having all the photographs there to remind me that through struggle there is happiness too.

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My family is Croatian (which I guess you’ve gathered if you read this blog). My parents, like so many others, were migrants in the 1960s/70s. They came to this country because things were bleak economically  and politically at home and it seemed for many like leaving was the best option for a better future.

When these migrants came here, most of them started with virtually nothing, but most were primed to work –  and work they did. They worked hard in labouring jobs, became skilled and highly sought after workers and then prominent business people.

Now, a lot of Croatian people that I know do pretty well for themselves. There is of course a spectrum of wealth, I would say most sit in an average but comfortable part of this spectrum and proudly so. These are people who started with nothing or whose parents started with nothing and created wealth through hard work.

There is this strange tradition, which is a sort of posturing or showing off of wealth that occurs whenever there is a wedding, Christening or birthday. We’re all familiar with wishing wells and their accompanying saccharine poems that ask guests to give cash in lieu of presents. There is no such thing at Croatian weddings. It’s assumed knowledge that cash will be handed over in an envelope in exchange for a shot of ‘rakija’.

So far so benign, but it’s the next day when all the party guests have left from the ‘day-after-the-wedding party’ at your parents’ house where it gets interesting. You all sit at the table with the big pile of envelopes containing cards and cash. There are a lot of them because Croatian weddings are never small. For some reason it’s important to invite everyone from your parents’ village that lives in Australia whether you see them or not these days. It’s so funny because when you’re on the receiving end of one of these invitations, people always act as if it’s such a drag going to a wedding of someone they barely have anything to do with, yet when it comes to sending out invitations for their own weddings, they’re afraid to cut people from the list in case they’re offended.

Anyway, you all sit around the envelopes and one person rips open an envelope, calls out the cash amount and who it’s from then discards the card, holding onto the cash. Another person has drawn up a spreadsheet  and dutifully fills in the amount given against the name. There are so many cards and so much pressure to tally the final amount that any effort in writing a sentimental message has totally gone to waste – it will never be read.

The spreadsheet is then kept for future reference. Say you are invited to a wedding, you refer to how much money that family gave at your own wedding and calculate how much you will give.

The calculation has many variables. For instance is it being held at The Croatian Club or is it being held in a big Italian Function centre on the harbour? Do you have kids? If they are attending you could assume that their kids meal is worth half of your meal. These days the going rate is about $150-$200 per adult, about $100 per child.  Then if it’s a close relative such as a first cousin getting married, you need to give at least $1000 otherwise you appear to be a cheapskate. If it’s your sister or brother getting married, double it.

Not only are you expected to give large amounts of cash as a gift, there is another anonymous cash donation when you enter the reception venue. Your female cousins and friends who didn’t quite make the cut for bridesmaids stand at the door like body guards. One holds a basket that receives  $20s and $50s and the rest pin sprigs of rosemary to your lapel or your expensive dress.

These are extraordinarily large amounts of money. This is before you add in the cost of dressing your entire family in good clothes, possibly a visit to the hairdresser. I would estimate on average I attend 2 weddings per year. Then there are all the birthdays, christenings, communions, confirmations etc where cash gifts are king. We stress so much about the amount that would appear to be ‘the right amount’ to give that we lose sight of the real meaning around all these celebrations. It’s not like it’s easy for anyone to just drop $1000+ on a single day, just give it all away. It’s crass.

Ultimately I wish it would all just go away. I’m still waiting for that invitation where the bride and groom have composed a clever poem asking guests not to bring anything but themselves. I think I’ll be waiting for a long time!

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If you haven’t noticed, ‘dude food’  is all the rage at the moment. I’m talking burgers, ribs, pizzas, burritos, buffalo wings, churasco – basically anything meaty and manly at the same time. Sorry quiche, you’re definitely not a ‘dude food’.

Burger Chips Paul Newman's Own Aioli1

I can’t think of a better cuisine to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend and why not attempt your own dude food feast instead of going out?

I say this for two reasons – it’s bloody expensive to take the whole family out for something you can easily make at home and I’m certain you can make it better yourself.

Recently a few new ‘fancy’ burger joints have opened up near me and I’ve kind of been on a bit of a personal mission to sample them all and I’ve been terribly disappointed. I just don’t understand why you’d open up a restaurant where pretty much all you make is burgers, yet you just can’t get it right. I’ve had overcooked, poorly flavoured burgers at $14-$16 a pop. Also if you’re going to charge $8 for a portion of chips they’d better be amazing, crisp, made in-house and generously portioned (I’ll give you a hint, the ones I’ve encountered pretty much do not meet any of these criteria).

Burger Chips Paul Newman's Own Aioli3

For me the perfect burger is simple: good meat that is well seasoned cooked crisp on the outside but juicy in the middle, a bit of cheese, some lettuce, tomato, raw onion and a damn good sauce. You can’t go past ketchup and mustard for that classic combo, but something that I’m really into is aioli. If you’re going to commit to using a store bought condiment, I think it should be of the highest quality and packed with flavour.

I was recently sent a couple of jars of Paul Newman’s Own Whole Egg Aioli to try as they’ve brought out two new flavours and I thought the smoked paprika flavour would be just what these burgers needed. It’s got a good garlic flavour but it’s smoky and lemony at the same time. The other jar I was sent to try was the Basil and Cracked pepper and to me they are the perfect partner for thrice cooked chips with parmesan as it’s quite herby and fresh (pay attention, I’ve got a fantastic giveaway at the end of the post!)

Take a dip – YES PLEASE!

As for the meat itself, one of the places I tried recently committed burger blasphemy, one of my pet peeves, mixing in flavourings into the patty. I’m telling you now, if you’ve been putting ANYTHING into your meat patty, including salt and pepper, you’ve been doing it wrong. Stop doing this immediately!  A burger patty with stuff in it is not a burger patty, it’s a rissole. We’re not making rissoles, we’re making burgers. You should treat the burger patty exactly as you would treat a steak. You should shape the patty and set aside until you need them. Then only just before the meat is about to hit the pan or grill you should season it with lots of salt and pepper.

This is not about me being a pedant, there is actual science behind this. If you put anything into the mince it will drastically alter its texture, making it grainy and bouncy, definitely not juicy which is what we all want.

A burger is just

BEEF.

 

That’s it.

A burger is not

egg

breadcrumbs

sauce of any description

onions

etc

Any accoutrements should be added on the side. A burger is a celebration of great BEEF.

Burger Chips Paul Newman's Own Aioli2

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, how about the recipe huh?

Just before I do, the lovely people behind Paul Newman’s Own want to give you my dear readers the chance to win one of 5 Aioli Packs so that you too can give these a go. With 5 chances to win, I dare say this competition as the best odds of any on the internet. To enter simply complete the options below. Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ingredients

Burger

800g fresh, coarsely ground beef. (I like to use one with a bit of fat in it for extra juiciness)

shredded cos lettuce

sliced tomato

thinly sliced red onion

cheese slices

Paul Newman’s Own Whole Egg Aioli – Smoked Paprika Flavour

salt and pepper

burger buns

Chips

1 kg potato (use a floury one, the supermarket usually has a good guide as to which ones are good for chipping)

oil for frying (canola, rice bran, vegetable or beef drippings if you dare!)

grated parmesan cheese

salt

truffle oil

Method

Divide your mince into 6 equal balls. Flatten each ball and form into a patty. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Slice your potatoes into chips. I don’t even peel my potatoes and I kind of think that home made chips should look home made, so I don’t worry about them being perfect. Place into a large pot and cover with cold water. Place the pot onto high heat and bring to the boil. Once boing, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain then spread out onto a tray lined with paper towel. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then pop into the freezer to completely freeze (about 1 hour).

Heat the oil up to 160°C in a deep fryer or a large pot. Gently lower the chips into the oil, cooking in batches. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, without any colour. Remove and drain then lay out onto another tray and place back into the freezer. Freeze for another hour.

To cook your burger patties, heat up a pan with a little oil over high heat. Season the outside of your patties with plenty of salt and pepper. Cook on one side for 1 minute then flip. Cook on the other side for another minute and flip again. Keep cooking for 1 minute per side, flipping two more times. This ensures even cooking and a lovely crusty exterior. At the last flip, place the cheese on top of each patty to melt. In the meantime you would have all your buns toasted and toppings ready to go.

To fry your chips, heat your oil to 190°C and fry in batches. This last fry should take about 4-5 minutes, or until the chips are golden and crunchy.

Toss the cooked chips in salt, parmesan cheese and a little truffle oil (don’t worry if you don’t have truffle oil, just skip it. Admittedly it’s a bit indulgent!)

To assemble the burgers, smear a generous amount of aioli on the bottom of the bun, top with the meat patty then add the tomato, onion and lettuce before capping off with the bun lid.

Burger Chips Paul Newman's Own Aioli6

Do you have any favourite burger toppings? What’s your favourite combo? Also, do you agree with my staunch stance on plain meat patties?

 

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Highlights of a Holiday to Croatia

by Kristy on August 7, 2013 · 8 comments

I’m back and after almost a week, I think I’ve finally beaten the jet-lag. Travelling anywhere, let alone to Europe with three young children is challenging but rewarding at the same time. It took 3 planes and about 30 hours of travel to get to our destination, but it’s all worth it.

Our home for 4 weeks was Puntamika, a suburb of Zadar along the coast of Croatia.

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When we got there at the beginning of July, it was a quiet and peaceful little seaside town, but from about the middle of July it starts filling up with tourists from all over Europe. By the end it was completely buzzing and packed with people.

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Each day had a similar routine. We wake, have a coffee, some breakfast, maybe a donut or a strudel, then we’d walk across to the beach across the street. We’d come home for some lunch of home made salamis, pršut and cheese, maybe a glass of wine or beer then a nap. It seems as though nothing really happens till after nap time in Croatia. The afternoon was a good time for another swim then we’d get ready to head out for dinner.

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After dinner a stroll through the old city of Zadar was mandatory. Every night we’d walk down the Riva, trying to catch the sunset. Zadar supposedly has one of the best sunsets in the world.  The’ve celebrated this spot by creating the Sea Organ/Morske Orgulje and the Salute to the Sun/Pozdrav Suncu.

The Sea Organ is this amazing place with pipes from the ocean coming out onto stairs where people sit. As they look at the view they are surrounded by a unique melody of the sea. As the waves undulate, so does the sound. It’s quite surreal.

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The Salute to the Sun is a circle of solar panels that absorb solar energy all day then light up as the sun goes down. It’s a spectacular sight and a real drawcard to the special spot at sunset.

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No visit to Zadar is complete without a walk down “Kalelarga”, the main street through the middle of the town. There’s always a stop at one of the many ice cream parlours as an incentive for weary-legged children.

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We took a week to travel to other destinations. We stayed in Split, Hvar and Orebić and spent a day visiting Dubrovnik. I could go on and on, but I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Swimming in a waterfall - amazing! Krka National Park.

Swimming in a waterfall – amazing! Krka National Park.

Dubrovnik - looking down onto the city from the city walls.

Dubrovnik – looking down onto the city from the city walls.

Hvar

Hvar

Nin

Nin

The boating life - not bad!

The boating life – not bad!

 

Jumping off cliffs - yikes!

Jumping off cliffs – yikes!

So much fresh food - Zadar markets.

So much fresh food – Zadar markets.

 

It’s been 6 years since I last visited Croatia and in that time my feeling is that they’ve grown up a lot in that time. It’s incredibly easy to get around, to find places to eat and to converse with people in English in shops and restaurants. They’re just a lot better set up for tourists. I’d say if you’re even considering a trip to anywhere in Croatia, do it now! In a couple of years they will adopt the Euro currency and I reckon things will get a lot more expensive for people outside of Europe. Currently the Australian dollar buys about 5 Croatian Kuna making it incredibly good value. Nearly everything is a lot cheaper than back home (everything except petrol that is). Also, it feels like Croatia is on the cusp of a tourism explosion. I feel privileged to have been there now, before it really takes off.

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I could have been this lady had my parents not come to Australia!

It’s simply wonderful to be swimming in clear waters every day, basking in sunshine (and not burning) and eating simple but utterly scrumptious local food every day. I love Croatia and I can’t wait to get back.

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Bruschetta Restaurant – Zadar, Croatia.

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We’ve eaten out a fair bit since we’ve been in Croatia. Most of the restaurants do good, hearty, typical food. Here in Zadar the menu usually consists of risotto (either black with cuttle fish or with scampi), grilled fish, grilled meat, hot chips, salad, spinach and pizza. Whilst it’s delicious and well done, it can […]

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Giaxa – Hvar, Croatia

July 10, 2013

My dear readers, I’m writing this blog post in my pyjamas as my family sleeps in the hotel room, hoping my keystrokes don’t wake them up. It’s been another long but happy day in Croatia. We are currently in Hvar, an island to the south of Split, which has got to be, without a doubt […]

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Chicken Pie

June 18, 2013

As the cold days well and truly envelop us, our instinct is to turn towards comfort food to give us that warm hug that we desperately need. This winter I made the executive decision not to use any heating. Madness, I know, but so far we have been getting away with it. You may find me wearing […]

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Vitamix Go For Green 7@7 Breakfast Challenge – Part 2

June 13, 2013

The challenge has been officially going for just over a week now and anybody who has decided to join in would probably be feeling the benefits by now. It’s not too late to join in by the way and I encourage you to take part, even if you don’t have a Vitamix. If you’ve got […]

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The Vitamix 7@7 Breakfast Challenge – Part 1

June 5, 2013

Today I am so incredibly excited finally reveal Vitamix’s brand new 7@7 Breakfast Challenge here on my blog. If you’ve been paying attention to my twitter feed you’d have noticed that I’ve gone a bit green smoothie crazy in the last couple of weeks. My family and I have all been taking part in a […]

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