Category: travel

Australian Christmas, Mate

It’s nearly Christmas and the shops are full of beach-wear.  Summer and the festive season are synonymous in the land of Oz. As I buy presents, I hear piped carols chiming  I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.  It is absurd, yet it is our ‘normal’ Down Under. It will be hot,  it will rain: but it definitely won’t snow.  December is all about the three B’s in sunny Queensland: Bathers, Beach, and  BBQs.   Nonetheless, snowy Santa-scenery adorns our parched  lawns, tinsel wreaths sit amongst blossoming Bougainvillea, and townships are decorated with fake Frosty’s.

Our white identity seemingly remains British and European. We remember  the land our ancestors came from when they celebrated a wintry Yule.  That is a part of us too.  Yet in our great southern land, the landscape is vast and often sunburned.   Our sense of Christmas is traditional as well as tongue-in-cheek.  Australia invites us to spend the 25th on a beach with chicken drumsticks, or in the bush on a verandah with a cool white.  Pool parties are a favourite too (although any gathering that puts together family, water,and ice-buckets is bound to end in squeals).  Hot days with songs of snow, sweaty men in Santa suits, and sleighs drawn by Kangaroos form part of our Oz twist on Christmas.

For us, summer, Christmas and New Year, collide into one long languid month of holiday.  We get to catch up with family under sprinkler hoses, enchanted by the spell of balmy evenings.  Our youth escape torturous periods of bonding by disappearing to music festivals.  The air is scented with backyard chargrilling and exotic Frangipani flowers.  Welcome to the sub-topics. They say the sun goes to your head here.  We’ve definitely been touched by our environment.  Oz Christmas is upside down and mixed up.   Tradition and irreverence dine at our tables.


Sun Bottles

Rather light a candle than complain about the darkness.

Chinese Proverb

Here’s a clip of recycled bottles making a solar debut and changing lives.

Shine on.


Casting Nasturtiums

I’ve returned from Peru.  My balcony garden looks like it missed me.  The nasturtiums are almost spent.  It is fitting.  They are of Peruvian origins and the holiday is over.  Their fiery colours and flavour remind me of spicy Cuzco.  I chanced upon a festival of dancers while there in Huacaypata – the main square.  They had been wearing vibrant nasturtium hues and their dancing was on fire.  The beautiful Incan faces flashed with smiles interspersed with serious frowns of concentration.  It was as if all the Macaws in South America had descended upon the cobblestones.  Vibrant parrot-threads wove heel and toe in unified splendour.

It was with regret I cast out the frizzled annuals.  Each plant still had a beacon or two, giving its best to the last.  In its glory, the flowers had been the mystery ingredient for an exquisite pesto and the foliage had rolled raindrops about like mercury. Their flaming hearts had reverberated with the thrum of happy bees while the cat had basked in its dappled shade.

In mythology, nasturtiums possess the power of protection.   Folklore says that you will be defended from bothersome visitors if you grow it. If you look at the leaves you will notice they are shield shaped, offering up their guard.  Companion planters know their protective qualities in repelling bugs and will often dot them through the vege patch or orchard.   I grow them not just for their pest repellant qualities or their attraction to beneficial insects.   Round sculptural leaves graced with feisty blooms, just look right growing next to lettuce and rainbow silverbeet.

After the holiday is memory and the nasturtiums are compost, there is still a recipe…


150 grams roasted pistachios (shelled)

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds

20 Nasturtium flowers

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves (if your garden grows several varieties, pick a medley of Sweet Basil, Purple Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Basil & Globe Basil)

2 cloves garlic

1 chili

3/4 cup olive oil

sea salt to taste

Roast nuts and seeds.  Place in a pestle and mortar along with basil leaves, garlic, chilli and olive oil.  Pulverise.  Inhale.

Season to taste.  Add the Nasturtiums last.  Bruise and grind them lightly so as their colours are still discernable. Quickly cover with a layer of olive oil if storing for later use.  Keep up to 5 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

Pistachios are shot with glorious plum and verdigris tones.  Together with the purple and green basils there is a delightful nut mimicking leaf act.