A Happy Dweller of a Garden Good

You know, I’ve always fancied myself a gardener. With absolutely no evidence, skill or inclination to back this up. Quite the opposite really: I’ve killed anything I’ve attempted to grow, I sunburn within 8 seconds of being outside, and I’m really pretty scared of bees. (I’ve never been stung, and I'm still waiting for it. I’m pretty sure bee stings – like chicken pox – are something best got out of the way in childhood, because it’s still going to hurt when you’re an adult, and you’re not allowed to cry in public.) It's just that gardening is so - well, lovely. From Beatrix Potter and The Secret Garded, to idealistic visions of self sustainability, gardening is just so very wholesome.

So it was with this foolish sense of optimism, and visions of serene ladies in large hats, that my housemate and I walked across the street to the Garden Centre and harangued the young clerk into helping us set up our very own herb garden.

Now I’m not promising anything. I don’t have any books, magazines or general knowledge about gardening. I’m kind of banking on the fact that if you stick something in the ground, it’ll grow. Think of it as a kind of ‘trial and error guide to a very small amount of gardening’. With pictures!

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Yes, in that order. Yes, for that reason.

Lettuce and rocket. NB: spread the individual plants out more than we did! See? We trial so you won't error.

We also have onions and mint! Think of all the impending deliciousness!

So it's all going pretty well so far! We bought them in winter, and took them outside in the morning, and brought them in at night to avoid the frost. It all went pretty well, even if we have, somewhat disconcertingly, started to refer to them as our babies. I imagine it might be a bit heartbreaking when we eventually, hopefully, cook and eat them.

I promise to try my very best not to kill them, and to keep you updated on their progress. In the meantime, here are some sweet tunes to garden to.

The Good Gardener - Augie March
The Garden - Mirah
Gates to the Garden - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


I've had a strange few weeks. Wonderful, exciting, terrifying. I'm emotionally exhausted, and for once I've turned away from the quietly crooning poets that are my usual comfort: I'm not wont to sit in the dark and have a silent cry, rather I'm craving a little bit of fearless feminine strength. These women inspire me, their music marks the soundtrack to my life, and oh - I love them so.

Neko Case

Neko Case is an indie queen, a red headed bombshell with an amazing voice. She sings about tigers and foxes and men who'll tear your heart out. She's strong, totally sexy, and her music makes me feel grounded somehow, even when I'm crying my eyes out over her broken heart.

Listen to: Furnace Room Lullaby - Live From Austin TX

Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom got me through my very first year of university. I hated every minute I spent "studying", and listening to this lass croon about bridges, balloons, and Cair Paravel transported me the hell away from university to a vastly more inspired place.

Listen to: Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie - The Milk Eyed Mender

Kate Bush

Kate Bush reminds me of my mother. Of nights spent lying on the floor listneing to Hounds Of Love and feeling totally out of this world. She's a freakin' goddess, unearthly and fierce and vulnerable all at the same time.

Listen to: The Big Sky - Hounds Of Love


My all time favourite Lady Vocalist has got to be the eternally individual Bjork. My love for this lady knows no bounds, she's a staggeringly talented vocalist, a gifted musician and a fantastic producer to boot. I adore each of her albums, they're overflowing with colour, strength and fearlessness. Also, the woman can rock a costume! Lady Gaga eat your heart out. This classy lady occupies a special place in my heart.

Listen to: The Anchor Song - Debut

Watch these beautiful ladies in action too, they're inspiring.

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice: Easy Muesli Slice

A few evenings ago, whilst half way through an episode of my favourite serial-killer thriller, I was suddenly and inexplicably struck by an overwhelming craving for muesli slice. I can't say where the craving came from, needless to say I'm concerned about the psychological implications of craving baked goods whilst watching this gorgeous man hack up bad guys and stalk around Miami looking broody. But rather than question where my craving came from (potentially getting bogged down in some sort of Freudian appetite analysis) I'm choosing to focus on the positives: my craving was bizarre enough, but the outcome was delicious. A chewy-but-crunchy slice that is so easy to make it's positively criminal. The recipe is my own little creation, and I'm chuffed that the slice turned out as well as it did, given that I haphazardly made this one up as I went along!

What You Will Need:

2 cups muesli (I used a bircher muesli with the candied peel picked out. Peel. Ick.)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup raisins
125g butter, melted
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
A liberal pinch of salt

What You Will Need To Do:

1. Preheat your oven to around 180 C. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. Melt butter over a low heat, stirring through the maple syrup. Allow to cool slightly then add to the dry mixture along with the eggs. Stir until all ingredients are wet.

3. Line a 20cm by 10cm baking tray or oven proof dish with baking paper. Spread slice mixture evenly across the bottom of the dish, make sure to press the mixture into the corners of the dish.

4. Bake until golden brown. This took about 35 minutes in my little oven.

5. Once browned, stand slice until cool. Remove the slice from the baking tray and dust with a little icing sugar. I enjoyed my slice with a second episode of Dexter and a strong cup of coffee.

So there you have it, my very first recipe-free baking success. This is the sort of slice that tastes nourishing and wholesome. Perfect for entertaining flights of fancy involving baking for one's sexy serial killer husband. Of course I could've fantasized about baking for this dream boat, but sadly it's not meant to be... The man doesn't eat.

Spanish Melodrama: Balsamic Roast Vegetable and Couscous Salad

You know, I love cooking - but I hate deciding what to cook. I love grocery shopping, but I often get overwhelmed with choice. A few months ago, these factors conspired in the worst way, and I ended up calling a friend of mine from the supermarket in a slight panic.

"Okay, so I know you'll be at my house in about half an hour, but I'm still at the shops. I have about 10 bucks, no idea what to cook and I'm staring at a wall of tinned tomatoes like a rabbit in headlights."

"Right. Do you have couscous?"


"Buy some vegetables. And some wine. I'll sort you out."

We ended up watching 'The Flower of my Secret' that night, a Spanish melodrama by director Pedro Almodovar. And we ended up eating a delicious balsamic roast vegetable salad that has since become an absolute staple in my house. It's cheap, easy, and works with all sorts of vegetables. It's great warm for dinner, and cold for lunch the next day.

Sophie's Couscous Salad
What you will need:

1 large eggplant
1 large zucchini
2 punnets cherry, grape or baby roma tomatoes
1 red capsicum
3 thinly sliced shallots

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
A splash of red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

1 cup couscous
1 cup boiling water
200gms soft fetta

What you will need to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 200 C

2. Dissolve brown sugar with 1 tbsp hot water in a large bowl. Add your other marinade ingredients and whisk well to combine. Season to taste - the marinade should not be immediately sweet, but you should be able to taste the sugar on the finish.

3. Dice zucchini and eggplant into 1-2cm cubes, and slice capsicum into pieces roughly the same size. Cut in half about 2/3rds of your cherry tomatoes, and leave the others whole. I try to leave the smallest ones whole, and halve the rest. Thinly slice shallots.

4. Combine the vegetables in the bowl with the marinade. Stir thoroughly, making sure everything is coated. Let sit for around half an hour, if you have time. Maybe now you would like to clean the kitchen? Have a cup of tea? Call your mum? Clean the house up frantically before your guests arrive? Good idea.

5. Line a baking tray, or two, with tinfoil. This really is a good idea, because the sugar in the marinade makes everything a bit sticky. Chuck your vegetables on the trays, drizzling any excess liquid over the top.

6. Roast for about 20 - 30 minutes. I like the eggplant, capsicum and tomatoes to be well done, but the zucchini should still have a bit of bite to it. When done, put the vegetables in a large, heatproof salad bowl.

7. I normally prepare couscous in a measuring cup. Simply measure out the desired amount, and pour the same amount again of boiling water on top. Stir with a fork, and then cover and let sit for about five minutes. Stir again, and then mix through the vegetables.

8. Serve while still warm, in individual bowls with crumbled up fetta on top.

And if you've got them, some garlic bread, red wine and Spanish melodrama go nicely, too.