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At long last, the final pictures of our journey out to Western Australia.  There were many reasons to fly to WA for our campervan roadtrip:  the weather, the coast, the abundance of trees found no where else.  But you know us, and knowing us as you do, you had to know there was a hike in there somewhere.

For the past three years, we have tortured Kristin & Damiano with tediously long day hikes for which we are typically underprepared  had the pleasure to share our love for the outdoors with our best friends and have seen some pretty beautiful terrain — from the open plains and a wispy Fairy Falls in Yellowstone to a 2-day excursion up Mt. Chirripo through rainforest and sub-alpine ecospheres and knee-deep in mud.

We had our reputation to live up to.  So it was with that in mind that we set off to WA for a week’s worth of adventuring and a day’s worth of tramping on part of the infamous Aussie Bibblumun Track.

The Bibblumun Track is a 1,000 km long distance trek from the suburbs of Perth to the far South East coast of Western Australia.  We conquered but a piddly little 12kms (we think).  See, we didnt really bring a map and estimates of the portion from Peaceful Bay to Conspicuous Cliffs ranged from 10-15kms.  Also, we were a little short on water.  And Dami didn’t have hiking boots.  And our (new color filtering) camera ran out of battery they day before so I had to lug the big ‘un all day.

In short, a typical fantastic four hike.

But oh what a beautiful little stretch of the trek it was…  Read about the journey on the out and about page and experience the beauty of Western Australia, from shrub to sun to sea.


What I’m listening to this week:  Dave Matthews Band, Away from the World (2012).

Because no matter what my age, I always love DMB.  My first concert was at 13.  My most recent, 26.  And since Under the Table and Dreaming was my first CD, I maintain my love for DMB is most definitely not mainstream. 

But I digress.  The latest release has bits and pieces of a new sound (e.g., funky jazz rifts on the opening Broken Things), but all in all will be familiar to an old Dave fan.  There’s the sad and sweet poignancy of nothing more than Dave’s voice and a guitar on Sweet and Belly Full.  There’s the politically messaged Gaucho that should be a contender for Obama’s 2012 campaign song (an evolution from “Change you can believe in” to “we gotta do much more than believe if we really wanna change things…”, complete with an a capella bridge of children’s’ voices and references to American’s greatness in the 1960s in landing a man on the moon).  And then there’s Drunken Soldier, a perfect DMB jam from a perfect jam band.

After there was Margaret River, and before there was the great day hike along the Bibbulmun Track, there was some general tramping in Walpole Nornalup National Park with Kristin and Damiano.  We spent some time wandering through the Valley of the Giants, home of the towering karri gum trees, girthsome tingle trees and crazy-barked jarrah trees.  More pictures you know where

I sincerely believe risotto is easy to make.  All it takes is a little time.  It’s a great recipe to have in your repertoire; the basics are all the same and with a few variations to the add-ins you’ve got a different meal every time.

This particular flavor combination may seem a bit odd, but I’ve made it twice now to rave reviews.  The crispness of the lemon is softened by the goat’s cheese; it is especially delicious when served with a roasted leg of lamb that’s been pre-steeped in a bit of the lemon, minced shallot, orange juice and a splash of soy sauce.

basic risotto

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock

To prepare the basic risotto, lightly toast rice in large saucepan (I use my wok) over medium high heat, in equal parts butter and olive oil, for 4-5 minutes.

Add white wine and cook for another 3-4 minutes to burn off the alcohol, then reduce heat to low.  Slowly add chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, allowing it to fully absorb into the rice before adding more.  Stir occasionally (I find, constant stirring is not necessary).

Cook for 25-35 minutes or until rice is soft. 5-10 minutes prior to end of cook time, add salt & pepper and whatever others spices, meats, vegetables, nuts or cheese desired, and voila!

How to make an intermediate risotto: at the beginning, saute 3-4 cloves garlic (diced) and 3-4 shallots (diced) in butter and oil first, before adding the rice. Use a homemade chicken stock, made from boiling a whole chicken or bones, veggies and a few bay leaves, not that store bought stuff…

preserved lemon, herb and goat cheese risotto

200g chevre
4-5 half-pieces of preserved lemon, finely diced
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh herbs: e.g., basil, parsley, sage, chive
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Prepare basic/intermediate risotto.  Add preserved lemon after 10 minutes of cooking time, when rice is still semi-hard, so the lemon has a little time to cook down and to let the flavors meld.  When rice is fully cooked, add fresh herbs, chevre, a healthy amount of fresh cracked pepper and toasted pine nuts.

Stir and allow cheese to melt in, about 1-2 mins more, and serve.

(basic ingredients)

(risotto, roast leg of lamb, stuffed zucchini flowers and rocket salad)

(always good to have someone to help with the stirring)

This long drop necklace is another re-do. I originally designed it as a short double tiered necklace but after a few wears, found it was too heavy and chunky.

Though I’m not usually one for long necklaces, I like the swagger of this new design.  It’s lighter, free and just a tad bohemian.

Plus, the neckline works perfectly with my new jean dress from the Gap!

Yep, we’ve been having fun with the color filter

(claire & kris at royal botanical gardens)

Our first days out west involved a 6am near-missed flight, loading up the campervan in Perth, driving south to the wine region of Margaret River, ample tastings before sunset, fortifying ourselves with food and wine for the days ahead, and (on day 2) a morning’s drive further south to our ultimate destination:  Walpole-Nornalup National Park, WA.

On the way to Walpole, we stopped at Cape Leeuwin, the most south-west point in Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet and create a seriously wicked landscape (and seriously strong wind!).  The unplanned stop was quite apropros, since our last two annual adventures with Kristin & Damiano have involved trips to the Continental Divide of North America (in Utah and Coast Rica, respectively). So of course we had to snap a photo at this momentous spot.  We also amused ourselves with some windswept antics – the wind was so strong you could literally lean into it with considerable force and the oceanic gales would still keep you upright!

Pictures of our afternoon in Margaret River and visit to the Cape are on the photos page.

(claire & kris, watching the sunset)

goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers

fresh zucchini flowers, from local markets
1/4  cup creme fraiche
200g goats cheese
chopped chives

If necessary, remove baby zucchini from flower and reserve for another use.  For filling, mix together creme, cheese and chives.  The mixture should have a soft and creamy but still slightly firm texture.

Gently pry open flowers and remove stamen at the base of the flower.  Stuff with cheese mixture, twist tops, slick with olive oil and scatter with rock salt.


Zucchini flowers are considered to be a delicacy, so when I saw them for (relatively) cheap at my local market I thought they would be a perfect complement to a goats’ cheese risotto I planned to make.  This particular recipe is based on a NYT article, highlighting the pleasures of zucchini flowers in the raw, since they are often simply battered and fried.

Raw, the taste of the flower was rather mild and delicate.  All in all, these were fun to make and plenty edible, but in the end, I’m not sure they’re really worth the effort.  Still, they sure make for a gorgeous photo.

We’ve had a great time over the past few weeks exploring the city with Kristin and Dami, meeting up with Maud and Steve (friends of K&D made in Paris and now residing in Australia) and Paolo and his daughter, Annabelle (Dami’s 
cousin and niece) and Kelly & Adam in their (now former) ‘hood.

We wandered around the CBD, meandered through the royal botanical gardens, took in a footy game, and spent an afternoon strolling along the streets St. Kilda.  It’s nice to take time to appreciate the city you live in…

More pictures on the photos page.

Kristin’s camera has the coolest setting ever – sketch mode.

This is me, on the pier at St. Kilda beach.

(photo by kcma)