Archive for the ‘Gerard Oosterman’ Category

The carbon neutral man.

January 18, 2022

IMG_0874Bowral Ducks

Australian and American homes are the biggest on earth and average at 229 square meters. It sits strangely with our notion of being green. We know the bigger the house the bigger the cost in using energy in cooling or heating. Those enormous houses provide shelter for 2.5 people on average. Any drive through the newest of Australian suburbs show enormous houses juggling for space sometimes with the roofs almost touching the next door neighbour’s house.

There needs to be something said in only building houses for our needs. Australia is not very good at that. The article suggested that to win the Australian Award for excellence a mandatory sustainability checklist should be included. It goes on “Entries won’t be judged unless they detail the floor area, occupants per square meter, energy consumption, use of gas and green power, air tightness and renewable energy.”

Remember those reductions of using coal generated electricity needs to be achieved if we want to prevent this earth from dying? All buildings need to be carbon neutral! We need to build houses that are just enough instead of maximum size. Do we need 4 bedrooms, with a master en suite, walk in robes, butler’s pantry, home theatre, study, mud room, alfresco dining?

Of course the opponents will argue that choice is the foundation of democracy. Any incursion on ‘freedom’ must be avoided. Well, the choice to ignore building sustainable housing is not much chop if it kills this earth.

My home is about as carbon neutral as possible. I keep getting credits on my electricity accounts due to my twenty solar panels. On my grave the epitaph;

“Here lies a carbon neutral man, keep off the grass”.

A free tree.

January 11, 2022

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The above photo I took while wandering around my Southern Highlands, which is well known for its variety of trees, both native evergreens and the deciduous.  This tree seems to have developed a mind of its own very early on it its life on a street that the local Shire decided to enhance by planting trees. Soon after its planting, the young sapling threw all caution to the wind with an admirable courage to remain free and unrestrained. As the picture shows, it has usurped its cast-iron restraining frame and is in the actual process of eating it. The middle part of the frame is being ingested by the tree and to make it easier has split in two parts, giving both sides time and space to slowly dissolve this steel frame hoping it won’t be noticed by the Shire’s officers often doing the rounds checking on the trees and adjust, straighten or fix the frames or steel enclosures in case trees become unruly, or escape their enclosures. 

It’s a known fact that for many, at least in the past, trees were, or at least can be, a threat. I grew up in a suburb where the Neighbourhood always checked on the height of trees and anything above roof-gutter height would be, without warning get cut down. Those suburban tree watchers always held a fear of bush fires. And in the early fifties, trees were actually shunned in many suburbs because of fear of fires. People put in rockeries because rocks don’t burn easily, neither do petunias or lawns. Lawns were safe and cement patios and concrete drive-ways really flourished in suburbia were I grew up in.

Our neighbour used to spend entire week-ends on his knees prying out unwanted bits of grass that did not conform to the ideal lawn.  I thought first he was praying and hoping for rain because apart from fear of bush-fires there were also long periods of droughts. It is odd, that now that am getting older those memories cling so assiduously and perniciously. Never mind, right now this is my best part of living yet, and most of all am busy creating lovely pleasurable memories. It is just that the past is also giving me so much to reflect upon, and reflecting during Covid and Lock Downs is a luxury we better get used to. It is the perfect way of whiling time, as is walking around admiring the free spirits of trees.

The abandoned prostrate shopping trolley.

January 5, 2022

IMG_2969 the lonely trolley

Deep down the gully, there it was, the abandoned shopping trolley.

It was during a walk while feeling a bit at a loss that I came across this scene.  Mittagong where I live  is  built on top of a series of natural springs which are now mainly channeled into large concrete storm-water drainage pipes running under streets and buildings. The springs are being fed subterranean water running from two mountainous hills on either side of Mittagong.

This lonely trolley drew my attention as I crossed an exposed section of this spring. I looked down pensively into the running water, trying to clear a somewhat troubled mind, when I spotted it. It is laying on its side almost prostrating itself as if into submission. It made me wonder what on earth possesses a person to throw a trolley down a springs embankment. What has this trolley done to deserve this fate? How many times did this trolley fulfill its simple obligations and help the shopper deliver food to their cars? Why do people take trolleys outside the shopping centers? Is it some kind of punishment, a failed marriage or relationship? A blind rage? I bet they are mainly abandoned by men.  I wonder if a good psychologist could find a link between the trolley abandoner and domestic violence? There is a lot there!

One often sees shopping trolleys being discarded miles away from shops. It isn’t the first time I have seen them being discarded.  In Europe you can’t take them outside shopping centers . An alarm goes off or they have deposit systems like the famous Aldi shops have. I now feel I should clamber down the embarkment and retrieve this poor trolley. It looks a bit tricky though and I don’t want to fall. I know shopping trolleys are inanimate objects but there are often connections crossing over to us humans on our present state of abandonment and lonely discarded trolleys. 

A good friend suggests I should take a bone density test first. The trolley looks very much intact.  I don’t want to risk ending up next to the trolley, prostrate and all.

The queues are getting longer and more restless.

December 29, 2021

Aerial view of queues of shoppers maintaining distance as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outside the municipal market in...

On my daily drives for coffee and company I noticed that at the Mittagong Medical Centre around the corner where I live the Covid testing queues have doubled. At the local hospital the queues are now so long that people bring chairs and cushions to sit on. The genie has bolted. No matter now that the Government is urging only those with symptoms to get tested, more and more the panic is gripping the angst driven burgers. I can’t help but think of the lemmings analogy with people hurling themselves with great enthusiasm over the cliff. Surely, there is no better way than catching a virus or anything than standing for hours in a queue with both infected and non-infected people…

Christmas was not shared with my family because one grandson had met up with his friend who felt unwell and after due testing was found to be ‘positive’ This was about two weeks ago but with the long queues and huge numbers of tests the Covid testing labs have been overwhelmed and the results now take three to four days. It was thought safer to cancel the Christmas with family while one of the grandsons was in isolation. Instead, I was fortunate to get invited by a good friend and I had a lovely Christmas and not a word about viruses. It now turns out that hundreds were given negative results while in fact they were positive. It’s odd how the word positive has become a negative in the world of contagion.

Of course, I have now a two and half leg of cooked Royal Raan lamb in the fridge and am heroically eating it with stealth and determination. I did have my brother visiting me and he too helped the eating of the lamb along with a nice bottle of wine he gave me. ( An ambitious little number with lots of cigar and muffled pear ambience) We now face the New Year’s Eve and yet another public holiday. The fireworks have been cancelled and again crowding kept to a maximum of two people per 4 square meters. No loud cheering and kept to a D note only

I wish all my readers a healthy and virus free New Year with more cheer and less angst. We might have to let go of Covid fear a bit and demand not to be ruled by it. There is more to living than just nurturing an overblown fear of just dying.

The Royal Indian Raan

December 20, 2021

The coming Christmas is now so under threat, in so many countries and from so many angles. In the Netherlands things look grim with the latest rule that within a 24 hour period only 2 people can be invited into a household. The rest is in lockdowns but sport is allowed to go on but without spectators or hand- touching balls. Three days during Christmas and New Year the lockdown is somewhat relaxed so people can have family and friends for the traditional Christmas period. Their health minister took this step to prevent even worse waves of the Omicron Covid infections to overwhelm their health systems in two or three weeks time. Angst is now king in The Netherlands and many other countries.

We in Australia have to remain stoic and with steely determination battle the coming days as if all is still well and that the newest Covid ‘the Omicron’ will stay away from those that have cocooned themselves within the vapors of vaccine concoctions, wearing tight fitting masks, received boosters, have water tight iPhone international proof of vaccinations, and so much more. It’s all so nervous and nail-biting stuff. But we stay strong and have achieved 94% double vaccination. The envy of the world. But, we shall see!

Australia is now starting their own mRNA manufacturing of serums and vaccinations able to produce 100 million doses each year starting hopefully in 2024. It does not seem very optimistic that the Covid will be conquered naturally through herd immunity, combined with dual vaccinations and top up boosters. It looks as if the towel has been thrown in and that the government is slowly preparing us that variations of Covids will be the norm, popping up ad infinitum and that we better prepare ourselves, put up with acres and miles of TV shows bizarrely and perversely viewing needles going into arms.

Being the optimist I thought that I will again share you my ideas for a beautiful Christmas dinner. It does require some time to get all the ingredients but the cooking itself is done in the oven, so no sweat.

The Royal Raan.

Compliments SBS

It really is my favourite Christmas dish. It can’t be hurried and the cooking has to be slow. The marinating of the leg of mutton or lamb is best done over two nights instead of just one. In the fridge of course. (Not outside in the sun) Also important is to allow the spices and yoghurt to penetrate the meat by making cuts into the raw meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 x 2.5 kgleg of lamb
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 1large pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tbspground almonds
  • 1 tbsphoney, warmed
  • 250 ml(1 cup) Greek style yogurt
  • 60 ml(¼ cup) ghee
  • 2cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 8cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 tspcloves
  • 35 g(¼ cup) slivered almonds

Marinade

  • 3cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tspsalt
  • 1 tbspchopped ginger
  • 3 tspground cumin
  • 1½ tspgaram masala
  • ½ tspeach chilli powder and turmeric
  • 2 tbsplemon juice
  • 1 tbspvegetable oil

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Resting time 20 minutes

Marinating time 8 hours

You will need to begin this recipe a day ahead.

Trim all fat and silver skin from the lamb. Using a small sharp knife, make deep incisions all over the lamb. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small food processor and process, scraping down the sides occasionally, until a coarse paste forms. Rub the paste all over the lamb, pushing it into the incisions as you go. Season the lamb with ground pepper. Place lamb in a non-reactive dish. In a bowl, stir together the saffron, ground almonds, honey and yoghurt and pour over the lamb. Turn the lamb to coat in the yoghurt mixture then cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Transfer the lamb to a roasting dish large enough to fit it snugly and spoon the yoghurt mixture over it. Heat the ghee in a small frying pan over medium, add the whole spices and cook, tossing the pan, for 2 minutes or until spices are fragrant. Pour the mixture over the lamb, scatter over the slivered almonds, then cover the dish loosely with foil. Roast lamb for 2-2½ hours, or until juices are still running a little pink, and adding a few tablespoons of water to the dish occasionally to stop the yoghurt mixture catching around the edges. Remove the lamb from the oven and rest for 20 minutes then serve, carved in thick slices. Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O’Brien. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.

A potpourri of pleasant times.

December 14, 2021

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Yesterday Annette and I visited the Bowral Botanical gardens. The above photo shows me in a reflective mood. On a previous attempt we noticed a sign prohibiting dogs from going through the gate and leaving him in the car with the sun getting warm wasn’t an option. I offered to tie him to the gate but my friend thought he ( Bentley) might get stolen. Lately people have come across stories of dogs getting stolen when tied up outside shops. Of course, during the height of the pandemic pets became very much loved and gave love where humans could not while in an almost permanent form of lockdowns. The cost of getting a pet soared and perhaps that’s why dog thieves are now lurking around seeing an easy dollar. Who knows?

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Mr. Bentley.

The botanical gardens in Bowral are still at the stage of young saplings of many different species, mainly deciduous.  Amazingly and very noteworthy is that this venture has mainly arisen through donations from both private people and local industries. Volunteers are maintaining this botanical garden area of several hectares. I imagine that the land itself was acquired by the local Shire who most likely also helped set up funding this lovely idea of starting a local botanical garden.

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My bit of garden.

The above photo is some of my back garden where a profusion of dahlias popped up and some very beautiful lilies. This is also the area where during sunny period I dry my washing. So, no matter where I exit the house from, a garden greets me. The front a place for inner contemplation walking past a colony of small trees and dense undergrowth while the back a blaze of extroverted colour and joy. Truly a feast to behold.

This last item is a photo of my left foot which is not really much in a potpourri of pleasantness to look at. Perhaps more suitable under a separate medical category. This foot  gives me trouble at around 4.30 in the morning and wakes me up. It is the pain that had me intrigued for a while when my lovely friend suggested I get experts to look at it. Hence the Xray and ultra sound topped off with a nice blood test. All of which proved my foot is in excellent stage, not the slightest wear or tear.  I walk a lot and perhaps a reason my left foot is in such good state. Even so, why this pain at 4.30 in the morning?

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My left foot.

Next  a meeting with my cardiologist.

I will keep you informed, dear readers and followers 

Ho- Ho- Ho, It’s Christmas time.

December 8, 2021

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Christmas time is always a bit of a trial. The expectations are so often overboard and I actually prefer normal times. Families can get together at all times but I do know and understand that for children Christmas and birthdays are always very special and often magical.

The magic of Christmas in my mind as a child was loaded with the atmosphere of  glistening snow and smells of spruce, almonds and home-cooking. It doesn’t really go well with heat, sands, smells of stale beer and verdant odorous armpits.  And the specialty of the oft revered mince pies is forever escaping me no matter how hard I try and swallow them.  The Southern Hemisphere lends it self much better to horse racing, coarse oaths renting through hot still air, sailing and vigorous tennis.

 We, as adults agreed unanimously not to give presents at Christmas time, and the children are now adults, although from last year’s Christmas’ memory, a deposit in their bank accounts was welcome.

Apropos, the last post, The French onion soup (with the brioche and gruyere) was very nice and we might well have it for Christmas as I have a formidable stash of it in the freezer. So far, Christmas is too far away to know where I will be.  Most times there are often late changes made depending on the ease of meeting up with my grandsons and their mother.  I have put up the twinkling little lights and they  look very pretty, the Christmas wreath is on the door and I might yet get a living conifer for Christmas tree.

 We shall see. I am sure it will be a good Christmas. 

French Onion soup.

December 5, 2021

IMG_2917 french onion soup

This soup when using the right stock, is more of a way of life than a dish and yet there are people who have never partaken in this, nor shared it with neighbors or family. Yet, university studies have proven that those that came out of the recent lockdown most successfully were those that had regularly eaten French onion soup. Those that fared the worst were those on Mars bar, fizzy drinks and Big McDonalds entrails. It might be that in my enthusiasm for this dish I have before written about it, but so be it. I am happy to have shared in the return to normality from lockdown because of this soup.

Even though the main ingredients are 8 sliced yellow onions, the secret of the dish is mainly due to having the right stock, this can be either chicken or beef stock. Last time and well before Covid lockdowns when I made this dish I don’t mind admitting I ignored this advise of getting a good stock, and knocked together something from beef cubes. Mea culpa, it was a bad mistake and so salty that I had to dilute the soup with one liter of water and even than it was salty. People were polite and said it was ‘lovely’, but they drank a lot of water afterwards and there was also a steady stream to the bathroom with the associated noises of flushing toilets. I have three bathrooms with three toilets. Thank goodness for that. Anyway, that was my first onion soup. I did not dare mention the word ‘French’ then.

Yesterday I made yet another French onion soup and it was much better as this time I used a shop readymade beef stock. It is a good dish also because it takes at least 45 minutes to cook the onions, thinly sliced in some olive oil till soft after which you add two table spoons of butter and some garlic and bay leaves. The secret is to caramelize the onions which takes about one hour of constant stirring.  It does keep you on your feet. After one hour of stirring I added some dry white wine and a little sugar to aid the browning of the onions.

At that stage one can add about 8 cups of the beef stock which this time I used the commercial stock ready mixed. This then takes another hour or so of simmering. The finale is to dish it out and float on top of each soup dish French bread heated up in the oven topped with gruyere cheese.

I had some after I cooked it and while much better, I will hesitate to invite friends as it was still not as nice as anticipated and I did not want a repeat of toilet runs or thirst parched friends and visitors. My next move will be to make my own stock. You cook meat with leeks, carrots, onions and herbs and slow reduce it to about a liter of stock. I am so exited about the prospect of making my own stock.

This French onion soup is only as good as its stock.  

 

Of Roses, driftwood and Christmas.

November 29, 2021

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A very good friend gave me the bunch of roses as shown above. It gave so much pleasure and the spontaneity of it all was overwhelming, and to think the roses came from the giver’s own garden made it so special. I can’t remember having received flowers of late or indeed ever. Normally the house has flowers which I buy often. It is really a habit formed by Helvi who could hardly live without flowers about. That beautiful vase is a typical example of Finnish art often strongly related to its culture and the National Finish epic, the Kalevala.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalevala

IMG_2888 Christmas wreath of driftwood

Of course, Christmas is now a bit over three weeks away and a nervous tension is palpable in shopping centers. A kind of annual frenzy which now is firmly controlled by the corporations rubbing hands together (in glee) in anticipation of fat profits. One would be wise not to look at commercial TV or read papers, listen to the news, especially with another variant of Covid rolling about. I am determined to load up the house with Christmas cheer and have started to put up some decorations, just for the sheer pleasure. The above cane wood wreath is hanging from my front door and it gives a nice welcome each time I come home from shopping or morn’s latte.  I remember Helvi seeing it years ago, and buying it immediately. It is real and so much more natural than those made of plastic, no matter how ‘real’ they might look. ( avoid doctors or hospitals with artificial plants)

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And of course no real Christmas is without a Christmas tree. Most people by now would have taken the Christmas tree box out of storage and screwed on the branches on its stem, usually supported by a tripod keeping this tree upright when festooned with decorations and presents. The above photo takes some liberty with reflections but shows that this item too is made of natural things, bits of driftwood all glued together. It is hanging inside from my widow into the garden. One wonders where those bits of wood have come from? What tree, what country, what continent? 

You’ve got to do something in life.

November 20, 2021

IMG_2843 soccer

Sport is something that one has to be brought up with. Like lumpy porridge, it becomes an acquired taste. It did not feature much in my upbringing and unlike in Australian education, it is not much part of Dutch schools although I do remember gymnastics being a subject that one was supposed to engage in. At high schools in The Netherlands we had four languages on top of history, geography, mathematics, algebra. We were encouraged to join libraries or if time allowed it, learn to play the sport of chess.

I noticed at schools here in Australia that sport is almost the main subject. Private schools are proud of their swimming pools, extensive football field, hockey and tennis greens. At the main entrances they offer varnished head-boards on which with gold-leaf lettering, names of sport champions both past and present who were educated at that school are proudly exhibited. One does not get any names of those that were champions in mathematics or French!

In my formative years and before settling in Australia I joined a couple of sport clubs in Holland but always ended up with either a bleeding nose or broken glasses, sometimes both. Since those days and after arriving in Australia in 1956 I always ran away from any ball that rolled towards me. Of course, watching outdoor cricket when I was not mature enough (or properly warned and prepared) meant the final nail in the coffin of sport and round objects in general.

However, and this is what is so fascinating in life, there has been a late turn-around. I am now playing soccer. If you look careful at the above picture you can see me on the left without wearing shorts. I was asked to make up for an elderly player struck down with onset of bouts of intestinal hurry and of course, I stepped into the breech.   I played well, and remembered well from all those decades ago that scoring a goal was the main aim of the game. I did score a goal but also passed the ball to the opposition several times. They thought I was just being devious and I did not want to correct that opinion. 

I was asked by the sporting administrator’s secretary why I don’t wear shorts and my answers is always;  If I did, you most likely will call the police or an ambulance. They look down then and don’t know what to say.

I now love playing soccer. It is never too late.