everyday magic

Sometimes I get so caught up in the workings of day-to-day living I forget things; often which home something is at – we’ve been wondering for a week about the location of an item thinking it was at Taylors Arm but it was right here in the city apartment on a shelf in plain sight.

Similarly, the Belief that is necessary to imbue everyday life with magic wasn’t missing, just overlooked.

The days following the G.O.’s birthday lazy long weekend quickly resumed their everyday feel but with magic restored it seemed like no time at all had passed and I was back at Velvet Garage, this time meeting up with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and her husband on Saturday morning. After shuffling arrangements we finally managed a catch-up. We exchanged gifts, each sharing a bit of our lives… I offered a few things I’d been accumulating for this purpose, dragon pearls from my friend Nancy-from-Narrabri’s Hip Herbal ‘n Happening Tea, lemon myrtle seasoning from Perry’s and a small bottle of Isabella from Gruber’s Winery at Taylors Arm. I was thrilled to receive lemons from their tree, a jar of Pete’s quince jelly, and package of chorizo. After a pleasant hour breakfasting and chatting we departed to our respective Saturday errands.

May Street, St Peters street art collage
everyday magic on the streets I walk – May Street, St Peters between Velvet Garage and the train station

I headed over to Eveleigh Farmers Market primarily to pick up the beef cheeks I’d ordered. The Linga Longa Farm stall was my first stop, and I waited patiently, as you do at farmers markets, while the 3 people manning the stall discussed the meaty offerings with a customer. Eventually I was noticed, introduced myself and requested “can I pick up the beef cheeks I called the number on the business card and ordered over the phone… leaving a message on Lauren’s mobile”. Response: I’m Lauren – blank look – When did you ring?  Hmmm, I thought… “Wednesday or Thursday”.  [ I checked, it was Wednesday ]. Lauren looked at me as if that explained everything: oh, it was my birthday on Wednesday; your message must have gotten mixed up with the others… Still hopeful, I asked “so do you have any beef cheeks?” Lauren shifted her attention to me once more: no, we’re sold out. A little bemused I waited but that was it, so I stepped to the stall next door and impulse-bought a Thirlmere duck, while the man chatted to me about how much better value a whole duck was as opposed to buying packs of maryland or breast, how to cook it, and rounded the price down from $28-something to $25… once again I was stepping out of my culinary comfort zone.

[Note: Received text on Tuesday from Lauren of Linga Longa Farm offering me beef cheeks this coming Saturday market. Nice gesture but I’m not sure of plans this weekend. However, I’ll call them next time I’m going.]

Wandering home from the markets I found a colourful memo-board free-footpath offering to take up the overload of loose bits & pieces from the fridge door, and spent a couple of dollars at a footpath sale on a decorative cage that I’ll sit a plant in and hang from a hook or in a tree at our Taylors Arm house.

We’re car sharing due to the G.O.’s being in for repairs after a small bingle during the week, so when the G.O. returned from his morning activities, we immediately set out for necessities to driving-distance shops; at which a box of glossy dark plump cherries imported from the U.S. caught my eye. Usually I would think imported-no but I thought duck-yes… and grabbed a handful, and a bunch of orange gladioli that remind me of my Nanna’s garden.

We paused at home again only momentarily, before going off on foot locally to re-visit a couple of items from last week’s birthday browsing-shopping expedition still lingering in our thoughts, to which end yet another old kookaburra and flower picture found a home with us.

everyday magic finds
everyday magic in the objects we find and bring home

Back to normal after the birthday-fest, this weekend was about eating in, therefore cooking. On Saturday afternoon, thinking ahead I quickly chopped and cooked pear & apple compote for Sunday morning porridge; and a bag of tomatoes, onions & basil and put them on to simmer for sauce: later combining a cupful with shallots, prawns, crème fraiche and pasta for a quick Saturday night dinner; and during the week, duck ragu.

Sunday morning was leisurely but chilly so I warmed the apartment with the oven, baking the G.O.’s smoko banana bread; chopped and sautéed kale for weekday breakfast and lunches, chopped cherries and peeled potatoes & carrots for dinner.

I’m new to duck, and had never cooked it whole before, so once the G.O. washed, dried and pricked it I followed my usual slow-roasting practice: into the cast iron pot with halved potatoes, a couple of dried bay leaves, stock and Madeira/Malmsey at 140 C (284 F) for 3 hours, popping in carrots toward the end, then lid off at 180 C (356 F) for an hour.

While the duck & veges were resting on a tray in the still-warm oven, I ladled a scoop of cooking juices with the cherries, 3 slices of fresh orange peel, a dash of Madeira/Malmsey in a saucepan, and set to simmer & reduce. The rest of the cooking juices were saved for the ragu.

everyday magic food
everyday magic in the food we are given, buy, cook and eat: goodies from Celia; roast duck with cherry sauce; farmers market food; duck ragu and penne

I learned a couple of things…

Given the size of the bird, I’d anticipated a couple of roast duck dinners and a couple of duck ragu dinners. The duck was flavoursome, more-so than chicken but there was a lot less of it. So no follow-up roast dinners.

And, as pointed out by the G.O. in response to my gastronomic stage-fright, roast duck was the domain of many home-cooks, including his grandmother and mine, before the elevation of its profile by fancy restaurants and TV cooking shows.

“In fact, people who possess not magic at all can instil their home-cooked meals with love and security and health, transforming ingredients… Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.” Juliet Blackwell

This post is dedicated to Christine of the dadirridreaming blog who I met early on in my wanderings through the WordPress world. Her husband Stuart kindly let her many [blogging] friends know via a touching post of her sudden passing. Many of you would have seen dadirri7’s delightful thoughtful comments on my posts, which I will miss. Christine has been a wonderful inspiration, and very much in touch with the magic of living. I’m sad because I didn’t get to meet Christine in person but I am richer for having known her.

24 thoughts on “everyday magic

  1. You have had a bust time and what a scrumptious meal you prepared with the duck. I’m really sorry to hear about the sudden passing of your friend but when it’s time to go, there’s no better way.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


    1. Thank you. Busy but not always exciting… work, shop, cook and hang out with the G.O. but it’s a good life, and the devil is in the detail 🙂


  2. Sigh. They forgot your beef cheeks? You’re so nice ED, I’d have been annoyed. I’m glad you got a nice duck from John though! Having breaky with you was a lovely start to our weekend, thank you! I’m also glad we didn’t give you anything other than what we meant to – Pete’s now been in bed three days with the lurgy!


    1. Nah, I wasn’t annoyed, more resigned… I’ve experienced similar many times with both small and large providers.
      It’s a nasty lurgy – you were both too kind in honouring your breakfast appointment – afflicting many but fingers crossed our household continues to be lurgy free 🙂


  3. I’m glad ou met up with Celia – part of the sadness of Christine’s death is that we hadn’t yet physically met. But you’re right, she had the magic and it’s good to remember her with a post dedicated to the magic of everyday life. 🙂


    1. Our paths sadly, now very sadly, didn’t align on Christine & Stuart’s visit to Sydney last year… it’s a conundrum: one of the attractions of the blog world is the easy company of likeminded people we don’t have the opportunity to encounter as we contend with day-to-day logistics, and in attempting to do so, we navigate the same. Christine will be very much missed.


    1. It was at their suggestion, as a couple of times they had sold out of what I was looking for… beef cheeks and “old fashioned” meat cuts have become oversubscribed. They said a few years ago they couldn’t give them away.


    1. Thank you. Back at you 🙂
      It was quite a shock, and the grief we feel another indicator that we do make real connections via the blog world. Christine (and Stuart) are great role-models and I’ve really benefited from knowing them.


    1. Thank you. There’s still a few months of cooler weather so I’ll get the chance to re-visit beef cheeks. And, I’ll cook a whole duck again. I’m quite squeamish, and just cope with manhandling chicken so the G.O. gets to assist. Next time I’ll think ahead so I have a plan for the leftover duck fat but I did get some great stock from the pan juices this time.


  4. I want to drop by your place some for some yummy food! I tried to cook whole duck once, but it nearly overflowed the pan with fat (but I’ve heard duck fat is great for frying things like chips!)

    Christine’s passing was a big shock and very sad indeed 😦


    1. Thank you. You’re welcome any time 🙂 The G.O. commented on the comparatively less amount of fat – I’m not a fan of fat on the duck meat so I was happy. Thirlmere Poultry products have always been excellent. Next time we are going to be organised and line up duck fat chips 🙂
      The loss of Christine is truly a reflection of the very real community spirit in the blogging world.


  5. How lucky you are to have such wonderful shopping options. I found this a beautifully relaxing read – magic in everyday things, yes, and therapeutic too. So very sorry to hear about the passing of your wp friend Christine


    1. Thank you. The blogging world creates communities of people who wouldn’t have met otherwise but when the opportunity arises then that too is possible.
      The enjoyment of day-to-day live is therapeutic, something we notice mostly when circumstances arise to set us adrift from it.


  6. Hi Ella, So sorry to hear of Christine’s death. I have just looked at her blog. It appears she was a lovely woman. Sounds like you are really living life at the moment, fantastic.


    1. Thank you. I’ve found the blog world to be full of lovely real people, and the magic of it is likeminded we get to hang out regardless of time or distance 🙂
      Living the quiet life, and enjoying it.


  7. This post makes me smile. When I was a little boy, our father raised my sister and me as a single parent for a while. He had neither much money or many domestic skills. Sometimes he’d serve leftovers, all mixed together and he told us it was “goulash,” which made it sound like a treat. Sometimes he served Spam, which he told us was “roast duck.”
    Thanks for churning up good memories. 🙂


    1. Thank you 🙂 Reciprocal smiles because that reminds me of my Dad’s cooking, in similar circumstances. We would have ‘spaghetti bolognaise’, mince sautéed with a dash of every condiment to hand served atop spaghetti, and other simple meals that he says about “those were the days we were poor”. I tell him, we were never poor. I loved that food. And I’m sure your father’s “roast duck” was every bit as good as mine 🙂


  8. So sorry to hear of her passing. 😦 I love that you meet with friends and exchange such cool things. That alone is magical. 🙂


    1. I marvel at how the blog world connects us all when I see a community of comments on blog posts, because I don’t think we do it deliberately we just gravitate and connect similarly 🙂


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