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Archive Category: Food

    Fine Dining

      Why oh why did I not take a picture of last nights dinner? I am drooling into my keyboard as I type…
      The obvious reason is that it was way too yummy to even pause and get the camera. M’s mother lent us an indoor bbq thingo and we had seared prawns and mackerel with steamed vegetables in satay sauce. To die for. Our house guests excelled themselves yesterday (their first day) when they asked if there was anything they could do (poor naive creatures). M immediately and shamelessly suggested that if they wanted to pull down the ruin of the old shed out the back that they should feel free. Now we have no shed. It was kind of like one of those DIY show moments when I walked out the back and looked at where the shed was and instead saw a neat pile of wood and corrugated iron. They also discovered a nest of cane toads- ugh. They have been proliferating for the past two days – until then I’d only seen one in the last four months. In the past two nights I have seen about ten – they are very cocky and don’t move when you shine the torch on them. I have a horror of them and walk out to feed the cats by stamping my feet very hard on every step to make them hop away – and I can hear them scuffling off to hide. Yuck.

      For those people who aren’t familiar with cane toads;

      Cane Toads were introduced to Australia to eat French’s Cane Beetle and the Greyback Cane Beetle. The ‘whitegrub’ larvae of these beetles eat the roots of sugar cane and kill or stunt the plants. The Australian Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations imported about 100 toads from Hawaii to the Meringa Experimental Station near Cairns. The toads bred quickly and more than 3000 were released in the sugar cane plantations of north Queensland in July 1935.

      They are also highly toxic and we have already heard of people who have lost their pets who have licked one. The Queenslanders we know encourage you to stamp on them on sight, but I can’t. I need to employ a toad stamper as I’m scared some little ones might get into the cat home – the cats would love to play with anything that hopped.

      It is v.windy today, which is casting a pall on my plan to have my first proper swim of the season – the others went for a dip last night, but I didn’t go. Bother.

      Let’s Do Coffee

        Coffee. I would say, without too much prejudice, that Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia. I don’t even drink the stuff, but I do find myself buying M cappuccinos often enough to have an opinion. Up here, a cappuccino can be priced anywhere up to $3.90 – for some reason I only recall paying about $2.50 in Melbourne. Odd. We have discovered somewhere that sells $2 ones, but it’s a pub, with a limited ambience. Yesterday we took Dave and Ellise to the place of my date (which now feels startlingly long ago) – and in extreme contrast to the very pretty surroundings, the food and drinks were b-a-d. Bad to the point where the chocolate sauce on Dave’s chocolate and pecan pie turned out to actually be Worchestershire. *gag* The coffees were not good and my scone…well I’m not sure how you can go wrong with a scone, but I needed mega jam and cream to force it down. It wasn’t really a scone, it was kind of a practice-scone that you throw away and learn from. (And would that be scone as rhyming with ‘on’ or scone as rhyming with ‘cone’? Just to stir up the natives ;o)

        Price differences between places are weird. Today’s weather is weird. It looks Melbournesque, though it’s still T-shirt weather, but it’s windy as a bastard, and they actually just put a storm warning out on the 6pm news for the South East Queensland area – here! Have brought the cats inside to visit for the first time – this weather will be a definite test of the strength of the cathome!

        Had to say goodbye to the lovely Ellise this morning – she departed a few days earlier than previously planned so she can spend some time with her Year 12 students who are having pre-exam freakouts. It’s going to be strange here without the freckle – she cooked up a storm – it was so nice for me to have a girly-friend to hang with. M is obviously top-of-the-pile but there is just certain things about Secret Women’s Business that even he can’t replicate with a power tool.

        Ladies Who Lunch

          Woe is me. I have just had the most delightful email from my friend C which tells of a recent outing had by The Ladies Who Lunch – a loose conglomeration of women for whom a long and largely alcoholic lunch is an annual occurence. And guess what. I’m in Queensland so I missed out. I am assaulted by wild depression, enhanced by constantly having to update and rework this BLOODY poster I’m doing for my boss, and alleviated by the arrival of my Masters In Writing certificate that just arrived by registered post. (Up here, registered post means that the little white car that delivers the mail will lean on it’s horn until you prevail on handyman/boyfriend to run out to the gate as you are still pyjama-clad.)

          I digress. The Ladies Who Lunch bloody excelled themselves in my absence *sob* Their lunch went so well and for so long that it then morphed into dinner! I quote:

          “Then somehow the sun was setting and it was time to go home – but NO came the cry (especially from the ladies with small children waiting for them), so more pints were ordered, mobile phones were busily engaged in explaining to the various men folk that we had turned into ladies who dinner. Menus where extracted from reluctant waiters who felt it wast time for the ladies to leave, but, as it was clear they were staying the waiters agreed that more food was a good idea.”

          The ‘Lunch’ actually went for eight and a half hours, in which time (I must quote again):

          “The tally stood at 1 glass of bubbly, 1 stubby, 1 pot, 1 bottle of sav blanc and 22 pints.”

          Goddamnit! What am I doing up here?! Oh. Trying to make money on a house. That’s right. Now which would I rather have if I got hit by a bus tomorrow – a hangover from the longest, most gossipy lunch this year, or a house in Queensland that I have to wait until June 2004 to sell? Grrr.

          Spam, PJs & Chef

            Just because I have an acre and a half, why do junk mailers assume I’m a farmer?

            Snail Mail Spam

            On a better note, M’s mum got me new jammies!
            Floral Wonderland

            Cup Runneth

              A lovely day was had yesterday – though I didn’t win a cent. I got my sister to put two little bets on a couple of horses that one of her housing clients had tipped. They didn’t feature. Strangely enough, it was the first v.beautiful day that I’ve seen since hitting Melbourne.
              mung and rachaels rather stunning compost heap
              Had a lovely lunch at the G.R’s place – which looks more pretty every time I visit (new enormo fridge and new enormo couch) – the lunch was sublime, interupted only by Beanbag the dog, who found himself somewhat constipated and ran around the table squealing and then did what can only be called an ‘ejector poo’ which thankfully everyone managed to duck.
              Speaking of the ejector poo, I awoke to the sound of Rachael repeating ‘oh my god, oh my god’ – apparently the baby had managed to coat his entire body in scary liquid baby-poo; there are times when, as a house guest, you know that it is best to stay in your room.

              Passionfruit Butter

                My sister was evil enough to leave half a jar of the stuff (think ‘lemon butter’ and you’ll understand what I’m on about) in my refrigerator (that word looks violently misspelled, but I just checked, and it’s not). I am a slave to it. I put it on toast in the morning and it’s like eating cheesecake. I put it on a biscuit just a moment ago and almost drowned in my own drool. Maybe it will make up for the demise of ‘during the day tea-drinking’ (it makes me sweat).

                Oh. Another thing. The DIY Blog that I contribute to has been nominated in the Best Group Blog category for the 2003 Weblog Awards…so if you feel like voting *raises eyebrows suggestively*…

                A Burger of Beeve

                  Must make grovelling apologies to M’s mother, who I cried laughing at today when she used the word ‘beeve’ in conversation. Admittedly she did at first use it in reference to bees, but then corrected herself and went on about beef. I was weeping. But she was right. D’oh.

                  Dictionary.com – 1 entry found for beeve.
                  \Beeve\, n. [Formed from beeves, pl. of beef.] A beef; a beef creature.

                  They would knock down the first beeve they met with.
                  –W. Irving.

                  Red Whine

                    Attended the 9:40am screening of LOTR III yesterday morning – turned up with whining six-year-old…sorry, boyfriend, and seconds to spare. We had front row seats. Now I don’t really care about where I sit in the cinema. The more brilliant the movie, the less I care about my position, because I just want to see it!! M, on the other hand, was begging to be slapped, talking about how he was going to leave and get a coffee while I saw the movie etc. etc. No wonder I was a good babysitter all those years ago. I just half-smiled in an enigmatic fashion and thought of Aragorn. I find it works wonders. So the movie was great – can’t wait for the day when somewhere like the Westgarth or the Astor (these are Melbourne references…I suppose my Sydney reference would be the Valhalla?) screen the trilogy in a single sitting, pausing only for the occasional choc-top. Bliss..

                    On the topic of the impending vision of NYE, I have to confess…I thoroughly despise NYE and have found it a consistent bloody let down. So tonight, we have left it too late to go and party for $60 a head on Fraser Island, we don’t want to hang with the neighbours, or crash M’s mothers National Seniors Party (I’m not joking – she’s having at least 15 of them over to her house to party around the pool)…no. I have gone out, bought a dozen New Zealand oysters, each almost larger than my head, prawns, vodka, midori, pineapple and cranberry juice, plus the best olives in the world (that for reasons unknown do not have a website dedicated to them, though I am going to try and rectify this by setting up a fan site) and I am going to wear many different dresses, whilst M works the blender, designing different mutations of Illusions as we count down the hours….
                    PARTEEEEEE.

                    And…(this addressed to my bro in London when he gets back to work and starts dropping into [miaow] ) – don’t even think of telling me that I’m a lame old loser with no life, because when you have the choice of Hervey Bay or your own private exclusive party….I think I’ve made a wise choice, so you can just shut it.

                    Lunchtime

                      B: I have a terrible craving for steak
                      M: (muses) Mmm, we don’t eat much protein…what about some sausages for lunch?
                      B: (gags) I think they have more dog than protein.
                      M: Chops?
                      B: (baaing) Leeee-sah, I thought you laaahved me….
                      M: Well, you did eat eggs last night – they have protein.
                      B: But I read that you need to eat stuff that either swims, runs or flies…(ponders) a recently submerged flying kanagroo would seem to be the best option.
                      M: (humours her with some lacklustre laughter)
                      B: OK then. How about some beer.
                      M: …and bread?
                      B: Done.

                      Olive Dip

                        Last night after work (stoked up on a couple of G&T’s with Pegs DeLeur and having realised that my pay had come through – you’ll be happy about that Mr Honeybone as I can shout you lunch today) I went to the supermarket on the way back to Casa del B-star [cool dwelling terminology borrowed from missjenjen) and was stunned.
                        I had forgotten a few things;

                        1) what it is like to shop surrounded by a plethora of ‘cool’ people

                        2) what it is like to shop in a supermarket that has Variety

                        I swear, I walked into the Coles in Balaclava and there were film extras waiting in the register queues. Groovy looking girls with their rumpled inner-city boyfriends, girls with their girlfriends, boys with their boyfriends, old Jewish men and snappy looking kids. Where have I been living!!? Hervey Bay. Where soy sauce is a strange, foreign, hippy kind of condiment and there is no olive dip. Where people boggle at you when, having finally located some tofu hiding at the back of the cheese section, you actually go ahead and buy it.

                        Last time I was in Melbourne Ellise introduced me to the wonder that is olive dip. Since then I have searched in every supermarket in Hervey Bay and have been forced to exit empty handed. So I’m wandering along the cool refridgerated section of Coles last night, dodging and weaving among all these strangely interesting sort of people (I’m sure they’re only interesting because I haven’t been here for a while) and I am almost smacked in the eyeball by olive dip. Lite Olive Dip. Creamed Olive Dip. Olive Dip. Couldn’t believe it. Then there was the chunky basil and pinenut dip, alongside their olive and sundried tomato equivalent. I was in heaven. I didn’t buy any, but that’s not the point. It was there. If I had wanted to spend $4.00 on olive dip – I could have. Instead I took a punt and bought a $5.00 tub of mushroom, leek and pinenut risotto. I was quite prepared for it to be vile, but the possibility of finding readymade risotto that might fulfil me was too exciting to pass up. It rocked my world. Guess what I’m going to be having for dinner for the next two weeks?

                        The kickass readymade risotto of my dreams

                        Chicken Parma

                          Despite sharing a house for several years with Christine, purveyor of all things parma – I personally have never consumed/nibbled someone elses/ordered at the pub a Chicken Parmagiana – I even just had to look up how to spell it! So anyway, I just got emailed SEARCH FOR A SUPER PARMA 2002-03 – a seminal and must-have piece of literature for parma-inclined people in Victoria, Australia. The publication is an exhaustive investigation of ‘the best Chicken Parmagiana that Southern Australia can produce’ conducted and judged by authorities both ‘highly critical and carrying university educations in Parmology’.

                          So where can you get it? It comes in PDF format (which means, nuffies, you’ll need Acrobat Reader, which you can download here if you can be bothered).

                          Download SEARCH FOR A SUPER PARMA 2002-03.

                          Oh – and I would also assume this would be a great guide for where to take your relatives when they drop in unexpectedly from the UK…
                          [David - 'my sister called, she's arriving on Friday...help.']

                          On further examination I’m finding it quite bizarre that the place where I had my 21st Birthday is highest on the ratings list. Did I miss something?

                          Divine Dinners

                            After very nearly reaching the end of my tether in Melbourne I finally made it home on Wednesday afternoon. The last day in the office for a month or two is always fairly fraught, and Tuesday was true to form. I had to check out the Super-8 video clip (that doesn’t sound right) for Cheese over at Dylans and agree on a final cut. Dylan was very nice and drove me to my mum’s where I aimed to clear out my gear and get to my sisters place where I was staying the night. But I was greeted by the familiar sight of my mother, sniffling dramatically from the cold ‘I gave her’ and wringing her hands over her unresponsive printer. *sigh* After 30 minutes spent in a frenzy of reinstalling the printer drivers and packing I was seriously frazzled and headed to Williamstown.

                            Oh wondrous family. I’d missed dinner – but for once it was to my definite advantage. My dad (glory glory) had bought oysters and there were eight EIGHT left for me. So I ate them. Lasciviously. And it got better. My sister had made a kind of berry/plum compote crumble kind of thing that almost made me weep. It was made from blackberries, plums and pears from my dad’s country hideaway. So I ate it. And licked the bowl.

                            Then in the dark hours of the morning (daylight saving ends next week and Queensland is again in sync with Victoria…yay) me, my dad and the huntsman in his Cressida drove to the airport, where I had a final Chai Latte before boarding. Oh how I hate to fly. Then I enetered the now well worn trail of Brisbane Airport, Brisbane AirTrain, Roma Street Station and the Tilt Train… From Melbourne to Brisbane I worked on raising my literary credibility and read (for the first time) Catcher in the Rye which I had thought would be much longer than it was. Thank god the train showed Finding Nemo to drown out the last 90 minutes of my seemingly endless journey. It’s so nice to be home. Pesto for dinner, cats are happy, back in my own bed and M has done wonderful things to the kitchen. Bliss.

                            My Sunflowers
                            my sunflowers are kicking on

                            Mow – Relaxed about my Return
                            almost too furry for his own good

                            Saf – Limp with Relief
                            give me water to soothe my gratefulness

                            Salad

                              Ok. So there is nothing more likely to push M into making up with me than the introduction of one or more people – even if that person is his mother. Once he gets a bufferzone in between me and himself, he melts like butter in the sun. That said, I still watched with evil delight as his salad theory fell down around his tweaky little ears. To explain this I must step back to slightly more than a week ago when I was wondering what I would cook when my mum and nan stayed for a week. I laboured long an hard over a list of things I thought we could have – and as I tend to flee from the pressures of cooking for others I asked M for input. I could see him mentally leafing through the few pages of my very limited repertoire;
                              “Potato salad? You make great potato salad.”
                              I waited, but his statement had an air of finality.
                              “I can’t feed my mum and my nan a meal of just potato salad,” I explained gently. “They come from a land where meals have more than one facet.”
                              M was stubborn.
                              “Potato salad is a meal.”
                              “No, it’s a salad. That’s why it’s not called Potato Meal.”
                              “Potato salad is a meal. I would eat it as a meal.”
                              “Fine. But I am not going to feed my mother, or my octogenarian Nana potato salad as a meal.”
                              “Fine,” said M, knowing he was momentarily beaten and opting for a different tack. “How come you’re cooking anyway? How come you never cook and you’re cooking now? Don’t you like my cooking?”

                              …anyway, last night he got to try his ‘salad is a meal’ theory. He does it all the time on the both of us – he makes a killer tuna-parmesan-lettuce-tomato-basil salad with rye bread croutons fried in garlic and butter – and it is definitely, for us, a meal. However, he presented his mother with it last night. His octogenarian mother. And she picked at it. Managed about 20% of it. And then gave up. I am hoping, slowly but surely, that M is learning that what is good for him and I is not necessarily going to be embraced by people who have eaten meat and three veg for longer than he’s been alive.

                              De-Pouted

                                Upon driving into town this morning to help out at M’s sisters business (the sum total of which was drinking a cup of tea on the deck over looking the beach for a couple of hours and then leaving when it looked like being a slow day) my mobile phone got reception and five birthday messages popped through!! I am such a sucker that I felt like someone had declared today my birthday as well. I decided to run with this idea, as it was the most incredible weather and a public holiday up here in Queensland, which meant that everyone was out mowing their lawns/walking on the beach/kicking back on their verandahs. Lovely. We went for a wee drive, and then…

                                [brief explanatory tangent]

                                _________________________________________
                                While I was away I would occasionally call home, where M was hanging out with my Dad. I also had a message service that I could call and get voicemails that had been left for me. All the conversations that I had, and all the voicemails that I recieved, were less concerned with pining for me and more concerned about the revelatory nature of catching mudcrabs and drinking copious amounts of beer. I must explain further. There are mangroves at the bottom of our street. M has wanted, for ages, to put some crab pots down there to see if we could score ourselves some free seafood. Obviously he needed something more than my glazed expression whenever he brought up this idea. Two things happened in my absence:
                                1) someone gave him two, very well made, crab pots
                                2) my father came to stay
                                Apparently at one point, when there were two low tides per day, M and my Dad would tramp down through the mangroves and mud twice a day, to check the pots. They consumed so much mudcrab, that by the end of the week, they actually didn’t want to eat mudcrab anymore. Yesterday (on my birthday) I too battled through ankle deep mud to see if M had caught me a Birthday Mudcrab. We had caught a few HUGE mudcrabs, but they were female. You don’t eat female ones *sigh* so we let them go….

                                _________________________________________

                                …we went back down to the mangroves to check the crab pots. On the way we met a guy whose house looks out over where the pots are and introduced ourselves in an effort to let him know that we weren’t disposing of a dead body or anything else dodgy. He said that from now on we could go down his driveway to access the mangroves, to look out for snakes as they’d caught a taipan that morning, and lent us an oyster knife. The last point is the most important one. We found that we’d caught more female crabs and waved them a fond goodbye (they waved back, claws ahoy, as they backed away). Upon moving one of the pots to what seemed to be a more likely spot, I saw rocks encrusted with oysters. Oysters. Oysters feature in my Top Five Foods list. And there they were, free, fresh and calling my name. I opened and ate oysters with such unfettered joy that it took stabbing my thumb to distract me long enough for M to steer me back towards home. But not without grabbing two rocks that had at least a dozen oysters each clinging to them. We spent a lovely hour or two in the garden drinking gin (will it ever run out?) and hacking oysters from our rocks.

                                Hot Chocolate

                                  No. Not that cheesy seventies band that make me want to operate on my own ears whenever I hear that hit tune (I’d mention the name, but I’ve programmed myself to forget it). This hot chocolate changed the meaning of hot chocolate for me when I had it (…wait for it) last week in Spain. (How long will I be able to keep saying that? Ooooh. About one more day. *sigh*). Check it out. My spoon stood up by itself, supported by the power of the chocolate.

                                  I'm too sexy for my cup, too sexy for my cup...

                                  Obviously from now on whenever I order a boring old Hervey Bay hot choc, or even an inner city Melbourne one, I am doomed to disappointment. I have to get a new hot drink habit. Fast.

                                  (And just as another bracketed aside – like I don’t have enough – when I put the < center > tag above the picture I initially mistakenly typed < canter > – think of the possibilities!)

                                  Got Him!

                                    There was a crab in my crab pot today. He just became dinner. He was very close to being bigger than my head.
                                    (Please note that the silver bowl is a salad bowl, not an ordinary sized one.)
                                    I am the Walrus

                                    And here’s where I’d ripped it’s leg off….
                                    I was the Walrus

                                    Tea & Cake

                                      When one goes away for a short while, one expects to find a few things changed, broken, painted, shiny…whatever. While I was gone either M or my Dad bought the wrong tea (probably while I was I was in London musing over the phrase ‘the wrong trousers’ while perusing some Wensleydale Blue). As I am a product of my parents (specifically, my father) I find myself unable to throw them in the bin where they belong, so M and I have taken to drinking ‘two baggers’. This appears to be the only way to get a transition from tasteless brown water, to something resembling tea. Leatherwood honey also helps.

                                      [Tangent: Back when my mate Johnno was still a proud bogan and I, on occasion, had the title 'Honourary Bloke', we would assess the shaggability of girls by Bags. Not handbags. Paper bags. No bags were the best, three bags were the worst. As in;
                                      One Bag: on her head
                                      Two Bags: one for her head and one for your head
                                      Three Bags: one for her head, one for your head, and one for the light by the bed
                                      To be used in conversation thus:
                                      Johnno, shaking his head sadly; 'Mate, I'd buy her a drink, but she's a real two-bagger.'
                                      (What can I say - this is the guy who told me the real meaning behind the morning after phrase 'I tried to chew off my own arm'.) --/end of tangent] – and don’t even think about getting politically correct on me *yawn*

                                      Anyway…we’re now getting through the scary teabags in double time (literally), which brings me to the Cake. M got me a birthday cake. There’s a first time for everything, though I have to admit to having given up on this particular wish. So I was winsomely surprised! Lovely chocolate mudcake with my name written on it – he’s whizzing along on such an excess of cake-related points that you can hardly see him when he passes. Problem is (and I may have mentioned this before), M doesn’t eat left overs. Usually this suits me fine – all the more for my oinky self. However, we have eaten the bottom fifth of the cake and he has now deemed it ‘too old’ for consumption. Personally I am finding that it’s improving with age, but that’s not the point. This is the point: – how am I going to get through all this cake!? For so long (make that six years) I have wished him to get me a birthday cake, so now I’ve got one I can’t let it go uneaten. Unless I declare the next three days a cake-only zone. Yes. But how long does mudcake last? My life gets more complicated by the hour.

                                      Bastard

                                        A fucking cockroach ate my cake. So now I don’t need to try and figure out how to eat what’s left. Bastard. It was the size of a small dog. And M put it in the bin with the rest of my cake which pissed me off completely, as the cockroach has now gone from just having it’s way with my cake to it’s own version of heaven. Pah. (And if there are any parents/relatives of mine reading this, just edit out that second word at the start of my rant. I needed to use it.)

                                        Fatly Fatly

                                          One good thing (of the mounting number of things) about leaving Hervey Bay will be escaping the scary food. I have whined about the expensive coffee (though I don’t drink it and have a new song that details this), and now it is time to whine on other topics. Nachos, for starters. Order nachos without the ‘extras’ in Hervey Bay and Maryborough and you get cornchips with salsa. You have to pay two bucks more for the guacamole, and another dollar if you want sour cream. Huh. Yesterday we went to a cafe that had about twelve different types of coffee. I ordered English Breakfast Tea. They brought me the same kind of teabag that I’m trying to get through at home. Bushells Blue Label. I should have asked for a two bagger.

                                          M has long been known to worship at the altar of use-by dates. If the milk is even near its use-by date he won’t touch it. So going to dinner at M’s mothers place is always interesting, as she has minimal smell and taste left, but a will to cook for us that knows no bounds. When we first moved up here M would eat nothing that came from her fridge – he has now mellowed slightly and can cope with cooked dinners. However, over the weekend we were there for dinner for two nights running. The first night was crumbed chicken – largely flaccid and unidentifiable, and the second night *shudder* was crumbed pork patties with ham and cheese worked in. I don’t think I could have lived through the 1950s on this kind of diet. It rendered me insensible for about 15 hours.

                                          Thank god for mudcrabs – one last night and M caught another one just after dawn this morning. Off I go to strip three million year old putty from the windows of my study. Much better than trying to come up with a ‘structure’ for the ‘report’ of the ‘conference’ in Spain.

                                          Improvisation

                                            The lovely Ellise (who came and stayed with us for two weeks when we had no shower, no inside tap, no mudcrabs and a bucket flushing toilet) is the best person I know at making up awesome food from all the weird crap you have in your cupboard. When she came and stayed she cooked things that had never even crossed my mind. I am very bad at kitchen improvisation. But last night, in post-mudcrab desperation, the tide turned. I invented some banana muffins!! I had to invent them as none of my ingredients matched those in the recipes I frantically googled. For anyone that wants to copy my exciting, revelatory, recipe, here it is:

                                            Miaow! Banana, Passionfruit and Museli Muffins
                                            1/2 cup of untoasted muesli (Lowans Apricot & Almond does it for me)
                                            2 cups of wholemeal s/r flour (that’s what it said in another recipe I read)
                                            1/2 cup of raw brown sugar
                                            1 tbspn of Ellises old bag of nutmeg
                                            3 mashed ripe bananas
                                            3/4 cup (or whatever you have left) of the natural yogurt that M wanted to throw out a week ago but didn’t actually expire until tomorrow – the value of hiding things in the back of the fridge can never be underestimated
                                            Pulp of 3 passionfruit
                                            A handful of sultanas
                                            (I can’t believe I had these in the cupboard – they were supposed to be porridge enhancers)

                                            Mix up all the dry stuff. Chuck all the undry stuff on top. Mix it all together. It begins not to look scary after a short while. Use it all to fill the six holes of your muffin tin (the one I forgot to tell you to grease), and then stick it in the oven (the one I forgot to tell you to preheat at about 180 degrees celcius). It should take about half an hour or a little bit more. Yum. Well, the top halves of mine were yum, the bottom halves were black and inedible as I’d put the tray on the lowest shelf of the toaster oven – the one that is about two centimetres away from the heatsource. Put yours in the middle or top of your toaster oven. Voila.

                                            All The Little Fishies

                                              Why have all my posts been about food? I am starting to worry. But only briefly. The last few nights I have been down to the end of the street with M to get water for cooking our crab in. Cooking them in seawater is the biz – so that’s what we do. I was totally gobsmacked, standing in the shallows in my gumboots, to see, two nights running, so many fish that it was kind of cartoon like. About 20 metres out the water was alive, and every few seconds I could hear a splash, or a plop – and every few minutes you could see big fish fly out of the water and dive back in. It’s quite extraordinary. So last night we took my fishing rod and baited it with…well, the only thing we had. Stale rye bread. It wouldn’t have worked for me, and it didn’t work for the fish. But tonight, with proper bait, M caught two bream, in the blink of an eye! He could have kept pulling them in, but we already have a mofo crab waiting. Tomorrow night – I’m down there! It’s all going to happen for me!! And then my friend Christine will no longer be Queen of the Fish – the honour will be all miiiiiineeee. Miiiiiiinnnnnneeee.
                                              The dinner that comes after the mudcrab

                                              Sleeping Over

                                                Don’t know what it is, but I like staying over at friends houses. Expecially after they feed me burritos and pretend to think my photos are tres exciting. Baby Luka is bigger, a little more feisty and has two tiny razor sharp teeth that he tested out on my finger this morning while I helped to feed him his breakfast. My visit helped to clean a bit of Hampton from my soul – so I can vault back there tonight and like it.

                                                Yesterday I played astronomer, went up on to the roof of the university and saw the Transit of Venus through a telescope with a special filter on it. It’s the first one since 1882 – which I unintentionally missed out on. By a century or so. I had no idea what to expect and examined it perplexedly. It was like looking at a huge smudgy dense yellow oil pastel background with a tiny perfect black sphere in front of it. Kind of like someone had dotted a small perfect circle on the telescope lense. When I had another look I realised what was going on, and I have to admit the obvious. The sun is Big. Venus is Small. Yike. How did Captain Cook figure it all out!?

                                                The Office of Film & Literature Classification have revised their rating of the latest Harry Potter film to PG. Thousands of Australian children who have parents like I did will be heaving heartfelt sighs of relief. Those parents who pay close attention to film ratings and act as if they are written in the blood of all first born children…

                                                “I don’t care how good the book is – the film is not to be seen by people under 15, and that’s YOU.”

                                                I had to sneak to the cinema when I was fourteen to see Tom Cruise swooning over Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. It was the highlight of my year. I wasn’t allowed to see Grease when it came out at the cinema either. Or watch The Young Ones. Gripe, gripe, angst, angst.

                                                Slow Learner

                                                  It’s the third time in about a month that I have moved from beer to red wine (and last night, back to beer). Maybe I’m not learning because I’m destroying the specific brain cells that deal with retaining important information? Whatever the case, I lay away last night cursing the full moon, the incessant roosters and the noise of a hovering UFO. Finally could not cope with not knowing whether we were all going to be beamed up at any moment and poked M.
                                                  “Wake up, wake up.”
                                                  “Huh? Wassamattah?”
                                                  “Can you hear the UFO noise?”
                                                  “Huh?What?
                                                  “That low constant humming UFO noise. Can you hear it?”
                                                  M grunts. “It’s the fridge.”
                                                  I protest. “No, no. It’s coming from outside the house. It’s everywhere. It’s All Around Us. Can you hear it?”
                                                  M is beaten. He gets out of bed. He puts on pants (which instantly reminds me that we have house guests and they may be beamed up also – something that their respective wives and mother would have trouble forgiving). I hear him pad out toward the fridge and turn it off at the wall. The UFO noise persists. Now he’s interested. I hear him go out the back door and for a while everything is quiet, apart from the UFO.
                                                  Great. M is going to get anally probed by aliens and they’re going to send back a clone in his place. I hope that it can cook as well as he can. I hear the back door close. M comes back to bed. At least, I think it’s M – he’s colder than when he got up – but that’s to be expected. He’s not tinted green.
                                                  “What happened?” I squeak.
                                                  “I wish you hadn’t told me about it. I couldn’t hear it ’til you told me about it. And now, in the immortal words of Ms. Kylie Minogue, I just can’t get it out of my head.” [OK, so he didn't really make that pop-culture reference - but he did unintentionally say the song title. I have poetic license.]
                                                  I sigh. “Well is there a big fat silver disc hovering over our house, or did you find something else that’s making the noise?”
                                                  M is drowsy. “I don’t think it’s a UFO – I think it’s a trawler or something.”
                                                  A rooster does it’s thing. It’s about 2am. My head hurts.

                                                  Max Brenner. I’m Waiting?

                                                    OK, so I’m a sucker for the new QVB Building. I think it’s sexy. Today I hooked up with M for lunch (a big novelty for me!) and we hit the sushi bar in the food court. Wandered the shops. Bought some presents for people. And then decided to top off the hour with a hot chocolate from Max Brenner – there are some photos of it here, if you can be bothered. I have been there once before – the hot chocolate was OK, but it didn’t blow my brain like the one I had in Spain did. So M ordered his special hot chocolate in his ‘hug mug’ and I went for the strawberry fondue (there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity). So M got his hot chocolate, drank it, liked it, and we waited. Where was my fondue? The fondue that was going to make of break my day? The strawberrry of chocolate goodness? It was bloody nowhere. We never got it. And by then my lunch break was over, so I got my money back and slumped my way out of Max Bloody Brenner. Fondue-less. Gah. Teach your children – don’t take chocolate from a bald man.

                                                    Stealing Samosas

                                                      Last night we went out to Aussie Indian Trendy Cuisine. With a name like that, the night couldn’t fail. After an afternoon at work that threatened my sanity, leaving my camera and various necessities in the office when I left and then having my phone run out of juice, I was ready to kick in the head of anything that got between me and my dinner. We all ordered an entree and a main. The entrees came out fairly quickly and everyone seemed to tuck in, chatting about the day and asking Mung about his last two days at Baby Sleep School (it’s true!). In the pause between courses, Mung and Ellise seemed to be looking for something. I realised that neither of them had got their entree.
                                                      I looked at Mung. “Did you get your entree?”
                                                      Mung looked resignedly to the person on his right. “I think M ate it.”
                                                      What? What did you order?”
                                                      “A samosa.”
                                                      I turned to Ellise. “What did you order?”
                                                      “A samosa.”
                                                      Finally I fastened my gaze on M. Evil M. Can’t-take-anywhere M. “What did you order?”
                                                      M had the gall to not even blink. “Samosas.”
                                                      M’s faux pas began to dawn on us all. “How many?”
                                                      M burped fatly. “Three.”
                                                      There was a chorus of disapproval. Mung was still resigned, but Ellise wanted blood – and her samosa.
                                                      “You ate THREE? You ate Mungs, and Ellises – you had a bit of mine as well, and some of Daves!”
                                                      M had the grace to try to look humble while Ellise hunted for the waiter, who looked at M with a mixture of admiration and disgust.
                                                      “I began to feel a bit full by the time I got to the third one,” explained M, “but they were so nice. I thought they were All For Me.”
                                                      Dave looked at M and shook his head. “Are you embarrassed to be out with him?” he asked me.
                                                      I eyerolled. “I can’t even begin to tell you. You haven’t even heard about the wee in the bottle story or the mu-mu shoes.”

                                                      The Car That Ate…

                                                        Our Day! Today was smeared into nothingness by my car traumas… Oh, but first, apologies to people who thought I was coming back to Melbourne, because of the little quote at the top of the page. I have to explain, shamefully, that when I fail to update the quote, you basically get what I wrote there on this day…last year. So this time last year was my first trip to Melbourne since arriving in Queensland. To trot out an overused statement; time has flown.

                                                        TANGENT: I was just in the kitchen listening to the radio and heard George Bush rip out yet another faux pas. How can someone so dumb be in charge of so much?

                                                        Oh. So I had to get my car into town at 8am this morning. Once we’d dropped it off we went to get a muffin and a juice to try and recover from the terrible nights sleep I’d given to both of us. (I tossed and turned all night having terrible recurring dreams that M and I were driving around a picturesque seaside town and I had to get to the dentist by 5pm. The clock kept jumping forward, and we kept making wrong turns. I called the dentist to apologise for my lateness but could only get his message service which told me that they had enough lobsters, thanks anyway. Horrible.) After that we hit the op-shop and scored some mo-fo seventies headphones which will be very good for recording. We also went to the supermarket and the tip shop. By the time we got home it was time for lunch and the auto electrician called with the Bad News. They needed to send my armature to Brisbane to get rewound. The regulator was cactus, and they hadn’t checked the brushes in the generator – but they might be buggered as well. All up? About $400.

                                                        Gah. I did what I usually do when I’m having a car spasm. I called my dad, who asked, derisively, how they could tell the armature was broken if they hadn’t actually taken the generator off and looked in it? Anyway, the result was that we then had to drive back into town and deal with it. I told the Auto Elec that I was taking my car away and looking for second hand parts. Then I went next door to the panel placed and the very nice man told me that to fix my poor door and front panel would cost less than the electric work! So that was good and I left my car with him (as driving around without a generator is not something you can do indefinitely). So now I’m on the lookout for a regulator and a generator. My dad just messaged me and said he’s found a couple of generators and will get them tested. I think I’m going to play mechanic on this one. I have the manual. I have the means. [cue some stirring music]

                                                        Right. Now I’m off to make something out of the wonderful Bowl Food book. Chicken with Thai basil Thai corriander, chili and cashews toasted pinenuts. The day I have every indgredient for a recipe will be…well, I don’t know what it will be, because I doubt it will ever happen. Gah.

                                                        Restaurant of Choice

                                                          The thing that interested me in the most recent Weekend Australian magazine was not the ‘new face of Australian fashion modelling’ or ‘the woman who smiled…and then she exploded‘, or the ‘Twelve Well Dressed Men’. [Yawn.] No, it was the ‘Taste’ section that was devoted to risotto, and the exciting news that a restauarant entirely devoted to the same – a risotteria – will be opening at Southbank in Melbourne. Drool. Drool. Drool.

                                                          Tutto Bene (“it’s all good”) will be tucked into Melbourne’s riverside Southgate precinct, will serve every risotto imaginable, from black truffle and parmigiano to peach, raspberry and mascarpone.

                                                          What a Mug!

                                                            190 Years Old & Kicking

                                                              Today M’s mother took me out to lunch along with her friend Nita who lives next door to her. Together our combined ages must have been about 190 years old. As I am housebound due to absent M and an unregistered Humber, M’s mother came and got me, and took us down to her fave cafe on the esplanade. We had a great time. It turns out that although she was born in Maryborough Queensland, Nita used to live in Yarraville right near where we lived for five long years. (Tangent: Have I mentioned that the lady who lives next door to us went to M’s primary school in the salubrious suburb of St Marys in Sydney? That’s weird.)
                                                              So they dropped me home and Nita came in for the tour. M’s mother is so nice – she is so proud of what we’ve done to the house – she’s one of the few people who saw it when we bought it and it looked like a squat. Nita loved it and said she’d try to think of people who might be interested. Fingers crossed. It’s too hot here for me.

                                                              Destined to be thwarted

                                                                When we got home yesterday, I put the kettle on to make tea.

                                                                B: You didn’t eat that whole packet of chocolate biscuits last night. Did you?
                                                                M: No, no. Of course not. I just put the ones that were left in a bag in the fridge.
                                                                B: Thank god.
                                                                [I promptly forget my chocolate biscuit craving - now I know they're safe - and decide to eat a cinnamon doughnut that is in a tin in the cupboard.]
                                                                B: Argh! Argh!
                                                                M: [barely lifting an eyebrow; assuming I've seen a cane toad, walked into a spiderweb, left my phone in the rain etc. etc.] What?
                                                                B: There’s fucking ANTS in the TIN all over the DOUGHNUTS. [Pokes further into the tin.] And they’ve savaged my Ryvitas. That’s it.
                                                                [The words 'that's it' are said in unison with me tossing the ant-invaded tin as far as I can from the back steps into the garden. M starts laughing hysterically.]
                                                                M: You’re Homer! You’re Homer!
                                                                B: [Muttering darkly] Yeah. That’s right. I’m living Homer’s nightmare.
                                                                [I make the tea, savagely stir in the milk, and start poking around in the fridge.]
                                                                B: M! Where in the fridge did you put the chocolate biscuits? I can’t find them.
                                                                [M's giggling stops abruptly. I can hear him backing away from the house with sneaky, treacherous little steps.]
                                                                M: Um…
                                                                B: [Shrieking] M! Tell me. Tell me you weren’t just putting off the inevitable by saying you hadn’t eaten all the biscuits. Tell me that they’re in the fridge.
                                                                [M shakes his head mutely, and speaks very very softly.]
                                                                M: I. Ate. Them. All.
                                                                [I kick something and flounce into the study with my tea. M drives into town for some Tim Tams. Later that night he eats six of them, guzzles a bottle and a third of red wine, eats pasta, jelly, chocolate and awakes in riotously good humour. It just doesn't seem right.]

                                                                Tired of Tea

                                                                  This is truly sad. I am tired of tea. Samey old tea. I was very happy with my sexy tin of vanilla tea that I received from Ellise for Christmas, but that is now long gone.
                                                                  Chai syrup is all that will revive my interest. (And a care package from West Preston.)

                                                                  In other news, I have installed Microsoft ClearType (for LCD screens) that has suddenly given my eyeballs a new lease of life. I don’t advocate making Microsoft happy, but ClearType has actually given my sad little day a boost!

                                                                  Port Wine Jelly is my Favourite Flavour

                                                                    That’s all. And with M and his viral throat beasties, I’m making it every day.

                                                                    Vita-what?

                                                                      I send M shopping. Usually, eating wodges of bread at lunchtime makes me feel even hotter than before, so I asked him to get me some Vita-Wheats. He does an admirable shop, doesn’t forget the beer, and I start putting things in the cupboard. For some unfathomable reason, he’s decided to buy himself VitaBrits for breakfast. I put them away, and then, desperate for cheese and biscuits, call through the window…
                                                                      “M, did you get any Vita-Wheats?”
                                                                      “Yeah, they’re just on the table. Can’t you see them?”
                                                                      I look at the table. I look at the VitaBrits I’ve just put in the cupboard. And I ponder the importance of those first two syllables: Vi-ta. I say nothing. He tried, and that’s sweet. (BTW – this is not me being patronising, in case you were wondering.)

                                                                      Hurdling fences & going to the country

                                                                        Earlier today I called my sister to ask her if she could pick me up from Mung & Rach’s place in Collingwood. It sounded like her soul had been overtaken by a rabid Eeyore-borne virus. Picking me up from Collingwood was obviously almost more than she could bear. I got off the phone and commented to Rachel how like my mother my sister was becoming – anything that may throw her slightly off schedule is a huge deal.

                                                                        I realised an hour or so later, after everyohe had gone to the market, that I hadn’t asked her what time she would be coming by to get me, and called back. The first thing she said was – you were just like mum on that last phone call…it was terrible.
                                                                        I gagged in horror, and hid it behind a cough.
                                                                        She asked me what street number the house was, and I couldn’t remember, and headed out the front with the cordless phone. Told her it was 184. Then the front door blew closed. I was stuck. Completely stuck. In bare feet on a Collingwood street.
                                                                        I hung up, stashed the phone in the letterbox, and dashed around the block to the laneway. The corrugated iron fence was about seven foot high. There was even corrugated iron over the top of the dead-bolted (from the inside)gate.
                                                                        Great.
                                                                        There was no one around to help. There was nothing to stand on.
                                                                        I gazed up and down the laneway. Someone right down the end had left their rubbish bin out. Rubbish bin.
                                                                        I ran back to the front of the house and grabbed the bin, took it back to the laneway and positioned it in front of the gate. Jumped on top. Found a toehold in the gate frame. The gutter of the ajoining roof seemed very solid, but quite sharp. (This is the bit where played the role of ‘resourceful action hero’! Kind of.) I ripped off my velcro hood, wrapped it around my hand, clutched the gutter and hoisted myself up. Got a leg over the top of the fence, and the battle was won! There were a lot more footholds on the other side, so I managed to get to the ground without too many theatrics.

                                                                        Then I had to grab the front door key, dash around to the laneway again, and get the bin back, before some enterprising junkie< grabbed it and tried to sell it on Smith Street. Relief.

                                                                        Now I am at my dad’s place on his antiquated (sorry Dad) computer, having had a three course dinner, some Coopers, some Mountain Goat, stewed blackberries, ginger cake, port, and some Glenfiddich – while beating my dad and my sister at Scrabble. Woo! Tomorrow I’m going to eat a lot of peaches. I’m in the country, after all.

                                                                        Last lot to leave?

                                                                          Rachael and Dylan left this morning, covered in mosquito and sandfly bites – further reinforcing why this stupid house is so hard to sell. They may be our last ever guests…just like we thought the ones before them, and the ones before them might be too! M and I discussed their visit and concluded that for the entire time they were here, we felt like it was Christmas! We were taken out to dine on innumerable occasions, given presents and fed cheese. It was a remarkable week. I also made the valuable realisation that, although I get bitten by bugs, the bites I get are no big deal compared to some peoples – both of them were more bite than skin :(

                                                                          We reviewed each restaurant we had dinner at in our guestbook, and the local Indian place that looks like a set from ‘The Office’ screamed home in first place with 17.5 points – the food was amazing. If you ever stop in Hervey Bay and want great indian food, go to:

                                                                          Tandoori Taj 355 Esplanade, Scarness 4128 2872

                                                                          The restaurant at Gatakers Bay came a respectable second with 15.5 points – the tapas was to die for…but the very expensive seafood banquet plate was less than mind blowing.

                                                                          I am now the proud owner of an MC3 camera and Dylan also loaned me his PS-04 Palmtop Studio plus a little amp – which is perfect for recording demos with. It has heaps of drum tracks, guitar and vocal effects. It is sitting here next to me on the desk now, and I know that to touch it would mean the end of my working day…so I am being disciplined. For now.

                                                                          In other news, we had organised a ‘why haven’t you sold our house yet’ meeting with our agent this morning, but he rang last night and said that a guy from Brisbane was flying up to look at the house today. Doubtless he will either a) not turn up, or b) turn up and instantly be eaten by the mosquitos that have abounded since it began raining at least once a day. So I have vacked (yes, that is a word of my own devising) the house, cleaned bugs and mank from ceiling, done the bathroom… and am just about to commence mopping. When this house sells I am going to live in my own filth for a month and then PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO FIX IT.
                                                                          The end.

                                                                          The Score

                                                                            • Four hours on the river
                                                                            • Three mofo bream
                                                                            • One colander of prawns
                                                                            • Three dinners in one
                                                                            • Two FAT people

                                                                            On This Day…

                                                                              On this day last year I had a tummy full of mudcrab, and was the happy recipient of a fabbo mix-cd from my mate Scott-in-I-Oh-Wah (you know, the place that Bill Bryson came from and tried to leave as soon as he could). Today, in 2005, I received another birthday mix-cd with some fantastic stuff on it – quite a few live and rare things that I am going swoon over….

                                                                              And on this day two years ago, I paraphrased my saga of real estate horror – I just reread it and it still burns like the fires of hell. If you’re thinking of buying a house, particularly one that is both far away and a dump that needs doing up, read it. You’ll probably decide that you’re happier renting…

                                                                              Avoiding Dinner Time

                                                                                And still, I successfully avoid the time of dinner at my lodgings, through stubborn stupidity and the knowledge that my female landlord (a culinary domestic goddess) would probably crumple to the ground if she saw me making a curry from a jar labelled ‘Green’, or, depending on my whim, ‘Red’. This is a woman who roasts pork for five hours, makes rice pudding, spanakopita, ice cream (it’s true, she makes it), chesnut pasta with three kinds of mushroom, chutney and her own pasta sauce from scratch. She has copper saucepans. I didn’t even know they actually existed. So for me to flop out my packet of curry flavoured (there are no other flavours, and if that’s not true, it should be) two minute noodles and bung ‘em on to boil in one of her tureens, is more humiliation than I’m willing to voluntarily submit to. Thus, I subsist on toasted sandwiches, extremely cheap takeaway and the occasional [gasp] Dinner Out – while slowly coming to the conclusion that slinging my landlords a bit more cash and asking them for dinner occasionally might not be such a bad idea. When they originally asked me if I wanted food as well as a bed, I was very ‘I don’t think I can commit to a regular mealtime, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not showing up and/or feeling I had to call home every night, and besides, I’m sooooo popular that I’m sure I’m going to be Very Busy’. Countless nights clogging the office with the smell of the cheap takeaway make me begin to question my approach…

                                                                                My First Sick Day

                                                                                  Well, the title should read ‘My First Legitimate Sick Day’ – it’s probably not even that legitimate, as my boss said ‘if you’re still under the weather, take a day off’. I have no idea of the process of actually getting a sick day – i.e. the administrative processes – and I don’t think he does either, so we just avoid the issue. I’ve been feeling fairly crap all week, so a day off was overdue… I did cross a hurdle – I stayed home Friday night and actually put together a dinner of pesto pasta and some salad at my lodgings! My female landlord was very nice and threw all sorts of things at me to help the salad along, and gave me some stewed quince with some home made ice cream for dessert. They also pressed half a bottle of wine on me and instructed me to do my worst. Then they went out for dinner, and I kicked back with my friend the Dog in front of the TV. A million channels, and the only thing worth watching was Footloose.

                                                                                  Pedal to the Metal

                                                                                    Last night I attended a GNI (Girls Night In). We ate disgusting amounts of pizza and watched Bride and Predjudice, while trying to figure out who was Lizzie, who was Jane, whether they had killed off that sister who is Lydia’s sidekick who never gets to do much, or had just judged the character as so boring that they edited her out of the script. None of us could remember the name of the hideous obsequious cousin who proposes to Lizzie, and when rejected, gets off with her best friend – if I was on a faster computer, I’d google for the answer, but as it is, if this computer was an animal, it would be a snail.

                                                                                    At about twenty to midnight I began to get the feeling that I should leave, or I was going to miss the last train back to Collingwood. I had ridden to West Preston from Thornbury station, so I took my leave and pedalled back, fast. But not fast enough. I had missed the last train by ten minutes, and had to ride my bike back to Collingwood – so if you were driving down High Street just after midnight, you might have seen me labouring along…

                                                                                    Protein?

                                                                                      Wherefore art thou, protein? I languish. Actually, I more than languish. I feel like I have been run over by a large Mack truck, which has then reversed back over me and repeated the process. That’s right. I went to gym this morning. It’s fine when I get home. It’s fine as I walk to the station. It’s not too bad on the train. But by the time I get to Flinders Street and get on a tram – it’s truck-time. I become over-cooked spaghetti. This is due, say the people here at work, to a lack of protein. ‘Have some protein,’ they instruct me, as I flail about the office, leaden of leg and shaky of arm.

                                                                                      My dietary knowlegde is limited, (I can think of one proteiny thing – fish – not so good at 7am) so obviously, I googled. And now on my list are almonds, pistachios, peanut butter (…there’s a theme emerging here). Wheatgerm is up there, oatbran, and so, perplexingly, were rolled oats. Perplexingly, because I ate a huge bowl of porridge this morning, which seemed to have no influence on my limp-dishrag self. Odd.

                                                                                      UPDATE: Apparently the list that I was looking at is not a good one. I need a sports recovery one. Like this. So it seems I am doing the right thing, but should carry emergency reserves of nuts. Kind of like a squirl.

                                                                                      A New Day

                                                                                        Argh! The horrors of starting new jobs! I am staggering under information overload. Staggering. However, my little office is gorgeous – booklined with yachting and crime and history…and if I want fresh air I just have to open the glass door to outside. Pretty different from last week – where I had to go down ten floors just to see what the weather was doing. I am even feeling useful as I cranked out my first report – how I love having deadlines! How I am going to love producing stuff that Actually. Gets. Used.

                                                                                        On Wednesday I go shopping to [gasp] pick out my chair. I’ve been asked what tea I like best and what stationery I require. There are cats lounging about, and I’m free to play whatever music I like. There has to be something wrong… Surely?

                                                                                        So now I am home near the heater, M is cooking up his brand new wonder-soup (Sweet Potato & Sweet Corn with Blue Cheese Swirl) and there’s a bottle of white in the fridge. Great plans are afoot for thiscoming weekend when we’re thinking of going to the Australian Specialist Cheese Show! What a perfect event for M to attend! Now, if I could just stop checking to see whether Albert/Kennedy has arrived…keep going with that spicy food Rae!

                                                                                        Dbye Code Dis Impoovig

                                                                                          My cold is on the mend. I no longer feel like I was repeatedly run over by a semi-trailer. This is a good thing, as my new job is proving pretty hard going. How I hates the curve of the learning. Now that I feel more human, I am going to have to return to gym [groan]. Last night was spent at Essendon Keilor College’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, choreographed by my very own housemate. It was an awesome show – the first that I’ve seen there where they have used a live band, which made all the difference. Tonight, the 10Speed practice was called off due to bad weather and Christine’s lack of drums [eyeroll] when, oh when will she get her hi-hat and snare? Instead, I spoiled M and made him a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for ages. It wasn’t that great, but I followed it up with rhubarb and yoghurt – which was.

                                                                                          Festy, Festy…and finally… Festive.

                                                                                            This morning I didn’t exactly ‘awaken’ because I was never properly asleep. I just lapsed into a marginally more alert state of consciousness when the alarm went off at 5.30am. That’s right. Bloody, bloody, early. I woke M gently and felt that he was astonishingly smiley and relaxed, considering the hour. I then discovered he momentarily thought it was Christmas day. As soon as he realised it wasn’t, and we were merely trudging into Vic Market with the rest of Melbourne for festive food supplies, the morning took on the shape of the pear.

                                                                                            M turned into Evil M quicker than an eyeblink, swearing at Christmas, oysters, mooring lines, weather, alarm clocks and the petrol bowser. It’s times like these that I envy my friends in a three-way relationship – at least they always have someone else to roll their eyes with. I just bit my tongue, narrowed my eyes and hoped, like the storm, it would dissipate without a loss of life. His. Obviously.

                                                                                            M strode through Vic Market, visibly seething at his situation and bought the first oysters he saw. Which we then found for four dollars cheaper elsewhere. (They better be good.) He then ranted as we hadn’t been to an ATM machine and were running out of money. I am so disciplined that I have waited until right now to point out that the early morning seafood mission had been entirely of his design. Gah.

                                                                                            Only when I foiled a two kilometre long line of people at the ATM machine (by ducking to one that was hidden from view around the corner) did he begin to shake off his evilness. We collected prawns, mussels in their shells, some cheeses from Curds & Whey and he placated himself with some dolmades and bits of octopus.

                                                                                            We then drove out to Boat, and M paddled out precariously on the surfski as the wind whipped up around him. I dutifully watched to make sure he made it in one piece, as I felt guilty about spending at least forty minutes of the morning intricately plotting his demise. Just after he passed the halfway mark I saw something huge leap from the water- it looked like a huge bluefin tuna trying to take a bite out of a passing seagull. I stopped watching after that.

                                                                                            We had a lovely breakfast at the Pickle Barrel in Williamstown. If you like your chai lattes – this is somewhere you should go. We meandered home via the supermarket for cat supplies. By the time we’d got home, there was no trace of Evil M, but burgeoning traces of Cranky B were beginning to emerge. I was SO TIRED that I could have leaned against a wall and fallen asleep. Instead, we cut our losses, left our purchases in the esky and went back to bed for four hours.

                                                                                            We are now kicking back in south east gippsland, at the cosy house of Father of [miaow]. Presents are piled on top of the heater. The Sister of [miaow] is running in aimless circles, just having realised she left dad’s present in Hampton, and M is passed out in front of the wood fire with a glass of whiskey. It all turned out OK.

                                                                                            Happy Christmas Everyone!

                                                                                            Baking

                                                                                              I am DOMESTIC!

                                                                                              I made these biscuits/cookies the other day. (I am also now very glad I was wearing clothes while taking this photo as I can now see myself reflected in the kettle – isn’t there a name for that kind of porn? i.e. where naked men are reflected in toasters for sale on EBay…?) After I’d bought all the ingredients (I didn’t use the one cup of peanuts) I began them on a wing and a prayer because our oven doesn’t have a readable temperature setting and I also realised that the only measuring cup I had was a 1/4 cup measure. They turned out fine. In the name of the budget I am going to try and bake something at least once a week. [looks hopeful]

                                                                                              Peanut Butter/Chocolate Chip Cookies – a Fannie Farmer Cookbook recipe

                                                                                              1/2 cup peanut butter
                                                                                              8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
                                                                                              1/2 cup granulated sugar
                                                                                              1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
                                                                                              1 egg
                                                                                              1/2 tsp vanilla
                                                                                              1/2 tsp salt
                                                                                              1/2 tsp baking soda
                                                                                              1 cup flour
                                                                                              1 cup peanuts
                                                                                              1 cup chocolate chips

                                                                                              Cream together the peanut butter and butter, beat in the two sugars and then stir in the remaining ingredients in order. Arrange by teaspoonfuls on baking sheets. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Stick half of them in the freezer to hide them from your boyfriend ;)

                                                                                              Thanks for all the roo…

                                                                                                Yesterday my father traitorously closed the door on the kittens as they slumbered in their cat carrier bed in the laundry. I don’t think they’ll see the cat carrier as such a nice place to sleep anymore. They tried to escape, and we tied some rope around the carrier to make sure they didn’t succeed. We drove them into the excellent vet around the corner from my work (the kittens did not make a peep for the whole hour and a half – too scared) and sadly dropped them off to be desexed, vaccinated and wormed.

                                                                                                My punt was correct. The furry one is a boy and the twins are girls. They reportedly behaved beautifully and didn’t even hiss once! I picked them up at 4pm and drove them to South Caulfield where they are going to live with Cat Saviour Anne (CS-Anne) for two weeks (as dad, as their legal guardian, is working in town and can’t look after them).

                                                                                                CS-Anne is a wonder. She had set up her spare room entirely for the kittens and was rapt to have them there. In a couple of days I imagine they will just be passed out in front of her gas heater, skidding on her polished boards, and batting at the hanging handles of her blinds. CS-Anne is going to decide whether she wants to keep one, two or all of them, so we will have a better idea of their futures in a few weeks time.

                                                                                                After all that I was completely drained and I headed to my mum’s (who is still away overseas)where M made a special trip down because our lovely friends, Mr & Mrs H and smaller Master H came and made us a marvellous meal of slow-cooked kangaroo with scalloped potatos (they had a more impressive name for the potatos that I can’t remember) and vegetables, followed by a lemon delicious pudding. Oh my GOD – it was decadent. We drank our way through our entire supply of wine, but, judging by the way we all stumbled into the kitchen this morning, it was good that we didn’t have any more hanging about.

                                                                                                It was like we just spent a night camping with our friends – none of us being in our proper homes. Master H has now been taken off for an educational journey to the museum and they have been invited to be the first visitors to the Trailer (which means we will really have to find something to sit on – a few somethings!).

                                                                                                The muffin hunt

                                                                                                  After a late night last night I awoke this morning at 8.37am – a whole 23 minutes to get to work. And for some reason I had a puffy eye, just to help things along. By 8.56am I was in the shops near my work, having fanged along the beach road – all I needed was something to put in my tummy. I decided a muffin would do it. Went to Brumbys or Bakers Delight, whichever one it is, and they had NOTHING in their window. They had obviously decided, overnight, that baking was not their thing. There were a few employees inside looking perplexed. Goodbye to that idea.

                                                                                                  Next to the cafe next door to the former bakery. Our friend from our fave beach cafe used to run it and says it’s crap. I have always agreed – $6 for a small banana smoothie – grrr. But I was desperate. I went in, waited for the guy behind the counter to finish his conversation, and asked what kind of muffins they had.
                                                                                                  “These ones.”
                                                                                                  “What flavour are they?”
                                                                                                  “Raspberry, coconut…”
                                                                                                  I got ripples of grateful excitement.
                                                                                                  “…and white chocolate.”
                                                                                                  White chocolate?”
                                                                                                  He may as well have said ‘raspberry, coconut and slugs’. I hate white chocolate. I asked if they had anything else. They said no. I said ‘thanks anyway’, and as I closed the door behind me I heard him sniff derisively. Gah.
                                                                                                  The next cafe had muffins with raspberry almond and milk chocolate chunks. Rejected. I don’t necessarily feel that chocolate belongs in muffins, but I’m willing to be lenient – except at breakfast time. I don’t WANT chocolate for breakfast.
                                                                                                  Now a full four minutes late I went to the little grimy bakery further up the road and got a perfectly respectable croissant, that has just made my keyboard a wee bit buttery.

                                                                                                  Upon my arrival at work they exclaimed at ‘how tired’ I look, but also said that CS-Anne had said yesterday that she wanted to keep the kitten twins, and that if her neighbour didn’t take the pretty furry one (which she has christened ‘Frederick’ – hmmm) she might keep him as well! I will be following that up in the next day or so!

                                                                                                  Yulla – Raspberry Chocolate Mousse

                                                                                                    In a couple of emails my mum has asked ‘has the organic supermarket opened yet?’ and I haven’t been able to answer. But tonight, I couldn’t face the Sandringham supermarket and headed down to Black Rock…and stumbled over the organic supermarket! It’s called Macro – and it’s great, although a little bit pricey. It has everything from organic gin, to tampons, to cheese to cosmetics. I was trying not to spend too much money, so I got a little tub of Yulla Raspberry Chocolate Mousse – it’s totally to die for.

                                                                                                    Rasberry Chocolate Mousse

                                                                                                    Why I Hate Fruit

                                                                                                      Because it hardly ever fills it’s potential, I hate fruit. Correction – I am a fruit snob. I only like the finest fruit. I do not eat fruit for the sake of eating fruit, I eat it because it tastes nice, as I do oysters, Coopers and port wine flavoured jelly. I am told I should eat more of it. I have a go every month or so, but am more often disappointed than not.

                                                                                                      Today I had a fresh burst of hope. Released early from the office hothouse due to an electrical meltdown, I actually got to my mum’s place in daylight and took the opportunity to wander down, in the last of the afternoon light, to the organic supermarket that I discovered last week. I bought M (who would buy everything organic if I let him – it’s too expensive) some packets of pasta and rolled oats. On a whim, I bought two Fuji apples. Organic. Fuji. Apples. To eat on my walk back to the house. The last time I’d bought some apples was a month ago, from the fruit shop next door to the Sandringham supermarket – they were actually excellent, and this knowledge fuelled my purchase.

                                                                                                      My crap organic apple

                                                                                                      I wandered back towards my lodgings and took a big bite of the first apple. There is not going to be a second apple. The bite was a powdery mouthful of mank. But, although I fight against it, I was brought up to finish whatever food I begin eating, regardless of it’s mank factor. I managed about four other bites, which I priced at about .35cents each – these ‘organic’ apples were megabuck. So I have given up on the fruit angle of the organic supermarket and will rely on the occasional tangelo from Coles and the odd apple from the non-organic fruit shop. My angst is also due to the fact that if I hadn’t bought the two apples, I could have bought a stubby of Mountain Goat beer. Woe, I say. Woe.

                                                                                                      Successful Soup

                                                                                                        My third successful soup (after the potato and leek, and the pumpkin and sweet potato) was one I made the other night. Pea soup. No ham. I don’t do ham. It was very easy, and I reckon you could freeze it after you blended it smooth and then add in the whole peas once it had defrosted. Anyway, in case you want to try it out…


                                                                                                        INGREDIENTS

                                                                                                        1 tbsp olive oil
                                                                                                        1 large brown onion, chopped finely
                                                                                                        2 garlic cloves, crushed
                                                                                                        2 medium white potatoes, cubed
                                                                                                        1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
                                                                                                        500g frozen peas
                                                                                                        1/3 cup cream
                                                                                                        Salt

                                                                                                        Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until soft. Add potato and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

                                                                                                        Add stock and bring to the boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add half the peas and cook, stirring, for 7 to 8 minutes.

                                                                                                        Blend soup mixture in $4 food processor from Hervey Bay Op-Shop until smooth. Return to pan. Add remaining peas and cream and cook for 4 minutes or until peas are tender. Season with salt to taste.

                                                                                                        Hot and Slow?

                                                                                                          Went to my latest cafe for lunch today. The normal. Toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and a drink. The guy there is very chirpy and chatty. After I’d finished, I went up to pay.

                                                                                                          “How’s your day been going?” he asked.

                                                                                                          “Oh, yunno – kind of slow.”

                                                                                                          “Slow?”

                                                                                                          He gave me my change and wasn’t quick about it, “Hot and slow?”

                                                                                                          YOIKE!

                                                                                                          I think I muttered something about “um, no, just slow…bye!” as I scuttled out the door. Did he really say ‘hot and slow’? How could I have aurally invented something like that? His wife was cooking in the kitchen. I really think I might have heard wrong (and I’m definitely a long way from looking hot atm) – so maybe he said “Got to go?” or “Blot the flow?” or “Lots to know?”

                                                                                                          Jeeez. I puzzled over it on the walk back to work for all of, oh, 57 seconds.

                                                                                                          (OpShop score today? One Pyrex-esque casserole dish, and two books: Man & Boy and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – some history of film…

                                                                                                          UPDATE: Have discussed this with Lee (my workmate) and she admitted to thinking the guy in question is a ‘pantsman’. PANTSMAN ALERT.

                                                                                                          Robbed

                                                                                                            A month or so back I took a photo of the mangroves reflected in Cannons Creek.

                                                                                                            Mangroves in Cannons Creek

                                                                                                            The guy who owns the property where our boatbuilding shed is had commented that the creek was looking particularly photogenic. M got the photo printed and framed and gave it to him last week. In return, his wife baked us some wholemeal blueberry muffins, which M was rhapsodising about when he brought them home. I decided to have one after dinner with a cup of tea. I left it, stupidly, on the arm of the chair while I went to put on the kettle. I turned around to see that Saf had chomped a whacking great bite out of the top of it and was scarfing his way through about four blueberries under the chair. I was so furious-o that I put the entire remaining muffin into his bowl so he could eat it all and hopefully feel sick, and possibly guilty.

                                                                                                            He stole my blueberry muffin

                                                                                                            Nope. He just ate it down to the paper and then passed out in a large furry muffin inspired stupor. Gah.

                                                                                                            I get serious about submersion

                                                                                                              The tide is currently high in the mornings. So we hit the beach before 9am and swam. I have eczema to banish. I decided to steel myself and start immersing myself less like a cat and more like a seal, because who knows how long it will be before I can start swimming in Melbourne? After swimming we went grocery shopping to try and avoid the white bread, processed meat, sugary cereal, crap beer and soft drink that was going to inevitably arrive with the others that were turning up to stay at the house. We got kangaroo! And pesto ingredients. And beer. Coopers.

                                                                                                              We headed out to the airport to meet M’s neice and her squeeze. They turned out to have been on the plane with M’s brother-in-law’s sisters and mother. The place was filling up! Luckily they were heading out to J’s house, while M’s neice and squeeze came with us. We had good chats. They were revolted at the idea of kangaroo and went out for fish and chips, while M got gourmet in the kitchen. Embarassingly, we were all in bed before nine!

                                                                                                              Tuesday nights when I’m away…

                                                                                                                I always tease M that when I return to the trailer on Wednesday night there is always an empty tin of tuna, an empty tin of tomatoes and either empty bottles of wine secreted in each gumboot, or six empty bottles of premium beer stashed in the bottom of the recycle box (as if I’m not going to see them there). Tonight on the phone…

                                                                                                                “M, what did you have for dinner tonight?” I ask, expecting the two tin answer, all mixed in with pasta and beer.

                                                                                                                “Well, I had one bit of toasted bread with butter and organic raspberry jam from Maldon on it.”

                                                                                                                “Ah. I see. Your appetiser. And then what?”

                                                                                                                “Well, then I had one more bit of toasted bread [??!] with butter and organic raspberry jam from Maldon on it.”

                                                                                                                “Riiiiight.”

                                                                                                                Inside, I was pleading with him to ask me what I’d had for dinner, forgetting, momentarily, that he’s a bloke, and that the thought wouldn’t even flicker on his cerebral horizon. I wanted to be able to say that I had scary spaghetti from my mum’s cupboard, mixed in with swiss brown mushrooms fried in garlic and olive oil with sundried tomato pesto (admittedly, it was from a jar, as I have no idea how to sun-dry a tomato. Oh. Right. Um…) stirred through it all. It was all bleating at me up from the confines of my stomach – “Tell him what you cooked for dinner, teeeeelllllll hiiiiimmmmmm.” But I didn’t. I gained some points and said;

                                                                                                                “You know those two beers in the fridge? The ones that are mine?

                                                                                                                [Tangent: - a strange logic exists in Trailerland. M thinks that because he is bigger than me he is automatically entitled to more beer. Despite the fact that this is patently untrue. It should be half each. HALF EACH. And I have taken to becoming more obstreperous than normal as he has five beers to my two. I usually claim the last three stubbies as MY OWN to be consumed at MY leisure. / End of Tangent]

                                                                                                                …You can have them to go with your toast and jam dinner – it sounds like you need them more than me.”

                                                                                                                I can feel his smile beam down the phone line. He doesn’t know that I found my mother’s bottle of Tanqueray, and her tonic, ice and lime. Ha!

                                                                                                                The pastatute speaks*

                                                                                                                  On the stove are little blobs of carbohydrates. Commonly known as gnocchi. Tonight, even M looked a little pained and said [it drove a skewer through my heart] “I’m a bit over pasta tonight…”
                                                                                                                  Well, TOO LATE. Because even as those hated words passed his beer soaked lips, I boiled up the salted water and plonked in the nudgelly potatoey goodnesses. For as I, and Small Brother [and now the Internet] know – M whines for protein, but doesn’t really know from whence it comes. We were both present, that morning in south east Queensland, when he proudly rejected a bowl of porridge on the grounds that it was sans protein. Small Brother had to grab him by the goatee [RIP] and force his face to the rolled oats packet, where he was forced to cope with the fact that porridge DOES contain protein. Obviously not as much protein as carbohydrates. But that wasn’t the point.

                                                                                                                  I only realised what a carbohydrate actually was when we moved into a share house in mid 2005 with our fit and uber healthy friends [one of whom goes by the pseudonym of Andrew Bolt] who would look on aghast as I added potato to my fried rice, cream to my mushroom pasta and blue cheese to my pumpkin soup. ‘Andrew’ spent some time staring at the fried rice, and then said “I’ve never come across anyone who puts carbs with carbs before.” I looked at him blankly for several minutes, as my brain clawed its way over rocky terrain.

                                                                                                                  And this is when I realised what a carb was. It’s quite easily defined. A carb is anything I like to eat. Except raw tuna, which M has told me countless times, is ‘pure protein’. Every time we eat sashimi (something that happens far less now we are trailer dwellers in a sushi wasteland) M will eat the last bit, relish the whole experience for a few minutes, and the expound on the wondrous feelings brought on by ‘pure protein’ coursing through his manly veins.

                                                                                                                  It does sound as if I have pussy whipped him into a carbohydrate fascist state, but this is not true. He is my partner in carb-land. I am also lucky to have discovered a fellow being in my construction friend, PY, who likes a staple diet of potatoes, cheese and beer. Which is, in fact, all we ate for her two day 30th birthday weekend a few years back. The occasional salad is fine, particularly with added fetta or haloumi.

                                                                                                                  Basically, the only dietary foible that causes an occasional pang of guilt is the absence of sushi fruit. But this is taken care of by my parents – when I stay at my mother’s, there is always some bit of manky fruit sitting balefully in my cereal bowl of a morning; when I stay at my dad’s sometimes it is fruit season and then I am happy to eat my own bodyweight in apples and blackberries – and at other times of the year I eat beer fruit. It’s not that I hate fruit, but that I am a fruit snob.

                                                                                                                  Anyway, the other addition to this gnocchi fuelled diatribe is this article, which makes me feel quite happy. Not only is it penned by someone with the fantastic name of Chantal Rumble, it also says that (if you ignore the fruit bit) the way I eat has a NAME! It is called high carbohydrate, low GI… and, the article labels it as the ‘best in weightloss and best in cholesterol’. This provides me with almost as much comfort as a mashed up buttery potato.

                                                                                                                  ———————————————
                                                                                                                  *this title came from a joke in something I was watching the other day; What do you call an italian hooker?

                                                                                                                  Tea Tin

                                                                                                                    About two weeks ago I was musing on why Lipton would release it’s ‘Intense Black Tea’ in cool cylindrical tins about a year and a half ago, and then return to boring old cardboard. Of course, yesterday I stumbled on pallets of the things at the Cranbourne Fresh Food Market (Cranbourne’s saving grace). They were on special for $1.99 each, and I can only assume it’s because they all ‘expire’ in May 2007. It was hard. I mean, how much tea can one actually imbibe over the course of about two and a half months?

                                                                                                                    I bought two tins. But does tea go off? I asked the most current trailer visitors last night. They said it doesn’t go ‘off’ as such, it just becomes stale and boring tasting.

                                                                                                                    Lipton's Tea Tin

                                                                                                                    Fruit masquerades

                                                                                                                      I have come to a belated realisation. It’s one that I’m sure I’ve had before in my murky past. Smoothies are a good way to eat fruit without really eating fruit!! M made me a smoothy last night which had soy milk, banana, honey, ginger, passionfruit and, er, orange in it. It was ace. I am slightly suspicious of mixing citrus with milkiness, so when I made one this morning I added in a vanilla yogurt, and just put orange into M’s bit. Yum.

                                                                                                                      I gave M his smoothy, waking him from a Star Wars themed dream in which myself and several female friends were doing extraordinarily effective kung fu which was interrupted by Harrison Ford throwing some grenades. He drank half of it delightedly. When I went back into the bedroom 15 minutes later he was sleeping like a professional drunk with the glass clasped, perfectly balanced, in his sleeping paw. His skills are myriad.

                                                                                                                      The miscellany of my capacious consumption

                                                                                                                        All the stuff I have eaten last night and today? Pear and ginger cake*, mixed lollies, quiche, pear and ginger cake, porridge, chocolate croissant, raspberry muffin, cheese and tomato rye roll, dried apricots, pear and ginger cake – there is a recurring theme here. I think I need to learn how to make my own pear and ginger cake and stop stealing slices from the one that is here at work and supposedly supposed to be shared among everyone. Not just myself and the PartyPie. (And if you were wondering where the quiche fitted in? That was dinner. In amongst the pear and ginger cake.)

                                                                                                                        *I think the reason I am so enthralled by this is that the combination of pear and ginger works so well, but I never would have thought they were so complimentary. “Hello pear, you look lovely today!” “Why thank you ginger, you always manage to spice things up!”

                                                                                                                        The Humane Choice Standard

                                                                                                                          I eat meat. But I try to be a feral-aqua-a-tarian. So that means (as well as the seafood I can’t give up) I eat kangaroo and wild rabbit. I’m not saying that this has to make sense to anybody else. But I was speaking to E tonight (my frenetic 1-month-ahead-of-me preggo friend) and she said she’d started eating meat and was actually cooking a roast as we spoke. I started to drool. The thing is, I really LIKE meat. I like lamb chops, and roast beef and ham and all that stuff. But I can’t eat it, because it drowns me in guilt. Guilt about how animals are treated, and guilt about how they’re killed. Wild rabbits are a pest, and kangaroos are also in plague proportions and are mostly used for pet meat. Both of them get to bounce through their lives before their fates are decided. And so I don’t feel so bad about occasionally chomping on them.

                                                                                                                          So I thought I would hunt around for some meat which, although it was not feral and did not bounce in its lifetime, had a happy, free ranging life and a quick, non-traumatic death. There was one certification that I found which fitted my criteria. The Humane Choice Standard. From the Humane Society International.
                                                                                                                          “Hooray!” I thought, “This is something I can track down and when I have a drooling urge to eat meat, this is the way I’ll go.”

                                                                                                                          It seems, however, that fate has other ideas. I can only find two companies in Australia – Fernleigh Free Range and Spencer Brook Farms – who are listed as having the Humane Choice Standard certification. The former has a website that is interesting but vague on the topic of meat, the latter doesn’t appear to have a web presence at all. Goddamnit. So for the moment I am thwarted. Maybe my drooling is just my body calling for protein or iron, and I can cure these in the normal way. With pasta and cheese. And crumpets.

                                                                                                                          My favourite nougat

                                                                                                                            Pistachio and cherry nougat

                                                                                                                            Cherry and pistachio…

                                                                                                                            Twenty inside. One remaining.

                                                                                                                              Twenty inside. One remaining. Better than a prune.

                                                                                                                              M and his big fish

                                                                                                                                M went on a boys own fishing adventure on Saturday and Sunday – accompanied by his two hardy man-friends PGR and Mr H. It must be mentioned that for at least a year, PGR has been the undeserving bearer of the Curse of the Yowie – rendering him completely unable to catch a fish, and it appears to get worse the harder he tries.

                                                                                                                                Thus, it was probably social suicide for M to catch a mega gummy shark…using PGR’s handline [gulp]. You have to wonder whether the friendship will remain intact. However, I applaud M for his manly hunter gatherer skills, since I now have a low B12 level and am supposed to be consuming flesh with rampaging abandon. I feel much better about noshing down on something M battled to pull from the sea, rather than some kind of unsustainably caught piece of piscine – like orange roughy or gemfish.

                                                                                                                                So our secondhand freezer now has steaks of this in it…ten dinners worth, in fact.

                                                                                                                                M catches a gummy shark in Westernport Bay

                                                                                                                                Meat and Greet

                                                                                                                                  M and I went into the city today and hit Victoria Market. Last weekend M bought us a new esky on Ebay. Not just any old esky, but a 62 litre Tropical IceBox – apparently it can be filed under ‘kickarse’. The idea is that we will go into the market every fortnight and buy up stuff to put in our freezer like good and responsible adults. Ha! This is because we can’t get any kangaroo around where we live. So we trundled into town with our new icebox primed with two litre milk containers as iceblocks. We got kangaroo mince to make bolognaise and also kangaroo sausages.

                                                                                                                                  Contrary to expectations, the market was fairly quiet – I think people were saving up their visit for Christmas Eve on Monday. Our other market assault weapon was a fold up soft esky on trolley wheels. We were astounded by its usefulness. I drooled pathetically at the d’Affinois (my cheese of choice), oysters and kangaroo salami, mentally imploring PartyPie to get a move on if only so I can graze like a maddened lion on things that have been illicit for NINE MONTHS. God!

                                                                                                                                  We stowed all our stuff in the new red icebox and went on a present buying expedition, dodging in and out of rainstorms. We managed to get almost everything on our list and snaffled M a cut price haircut before making it back to the car. We dropped past Mung and R’s house in Collingwood where we were fed muffins and coffee and were lent a plethora of baby stuff. Our journey continued on to the Nova in Carlton and No Country For Old Men – the latest Coen Brother’s film.

                                                                                                                                  The film? I sort of feel like I need to see it again. But the ending (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler) just did not leave me with any CLOSURE. Gah. We snuffled our way through Borders, and were sad to see that the discount book joint in the middle of the Nova complex has been taken over by the same. Sigh. It was good while it lasted.

                                                                                                                                  We drove home and M was splendidly excited by how the new esky had performed. It was so good, that we left all the meat in there for the night, as the ice had not even begun to melt. Then I went and paid some attention to an auction on ebay I have been following. And that is another story that deserves it’s own post…

                                                                                                                                  M’s Highs and Lows

                                                                                                                                    I didn’t know, but M had made a little resolution to become the ultimate helpful person during the first few weeks (but particularly the first week) after Z was hatched. He became a domestic god. This included him whipping out some fabulous chef-skills. So fabulous was his cooking that we began writing down what he came up with every night so we would never forget, and also so that he might be able to repeat the feat sometime in the future. Here is one of his wonder-dinners – and this was made from scratch…(who knew he had secret knowledge of the creation of the california roll?)…

                                                                                                                                    M becomes sushi chef, as I cheer!

                                                                                                                                    But in sadder news, I found this on the kitchen bench the other morning. A true indication that life has become a sort of rollercoaster ride of blurry days punctuated by washing, eating, feeding, washing, changing, watching Black Books… M left a stubby of Coopers Sparkling Ale UNFINISHED! Oh the humanity!

                                                                                                                                    Proof of new parenthood...

                                                                                                                                    Arsenic and Soup

                                                                                                                                      It is FOUR THIRTY in the morning. You read correctly. A somewhat abysmal hour, but perfect for the first breakfast of the day which I just consumed. Weet-Bix with hot soy milk from the new microwave of wonder. A kitchen tool perfectly suited to bleary eyed cook-ups. I never knew what I was missing out on – all those microwaveless years…

                                                                                                                                      So. I am not dead. In fact, none of us here in Trailerland appear to be dead. The fact that I have to state this, and the fact that I had to call my mother yesterday and reassure her that we all continue to pulse explains the absence of updates here on [miaow]. The baby – Small Z – the one that we spent the first month thinking was pretty chilled? Ah ha. GOT YOU! She was just pretending. Just getting on track with breathing oxygen, before bringing forth the full extent of her personality to shine with piercing intensity – particularly around nine or ten at night. People tell me this is called ‘arsenic hour’, and I feel that this is an appropriate description.

                                                                                                                                      Thankfully, I have M here the whole time (as we leave the catamaran languishing and our time-off-getting-to-know-Z budget whittles away to a tiny drip) and we manage to wrangle each other blocks of extra sleep. Today we took off to Merricks General Store – we were supposed to go last Wednesday to celebrate Small Z turning One Month – but were thwarted by the arrival of a lactation consultant – who went on to give us information that saved our sanity, so we didn’t begrudge her too much.

                                                                                                                                      The trip to Merricks was the first time we have been back there since my birthday last May – the day we were somewhat poleaxed to discover that I was a vessel for a tiny tiny alien and must therefore cease drinking white wine. Today I had half a glass and some asparagus soup, while Small Z went in a pram for the first time and M had potato and bacon soup followed by chocolate cake and declared that all was right with the world.

                                                                                                                                      He Roo-ed The Day

                                                                                                                                        Wonder-M went into Vic Market to replenish our very empty looking freezer. He returned with a box of organic tomatoes, basil, olives, and stacks of kangaroo mince, kangaroo sausages and kangaroo salami – a veritable galaxy of bouncing meat. He then spent the afternoon composing roo bolognaise thusly…

                                                                                                                                        M prepares kangaroo bolognaise
                                                                                                                                        VOILA! Kangaroo bolognaise

                                                                                                                                        Fruitful

                                                                                                                                          Everyone I know who has fruit trees has had a bumper season this year – which is all the sweeter because last year was crap. My dad has a shortage peach appreciators, and so we got them in bulk. My brain is so smeared that all I can think to do is just stew them all, freeze them and then consider peach recipes – which I’ll get around to making in about 2010. I think that while I am being torturously dairyfree, stewed fruit will be good on muesli.

                                                                                                                                          Fruitful

                                                                                                                                          I live in a bread desert. Help me, quick.

                                                                                                                                            Back in Hervey Bay there was about one joint in the whole place that sold decent bread. Read RYE bread. REAL RYE BREAD – not the fake kind that Helga’s lie about on their plastic wrap in the supermarkets. Ok. I exaggerate. There were two. Two bread shops that sold good bread and not the fake brown coloured stuff that also resides on the shelves in those chain bakeries whose names escape me due to no sleep and too much baby urine. The ones that have signs reading ‘rye’ but whose whole bread-shaped persona scream ‘Ha ha! My name is bland. Secretly, I am wholemeal.’

                                                                                                                                            Anyway, back to the current deplorable state of our bread bin. A few days ago M went down to the Tooradin Bakery. A place I have mentioned before – they appear to do a roaring and regular trade. This is despite the fact that there are at least two other cafes right nearby. Their coffee remains pretty iffy, but less so that the other places. M returned looking hopeful, and informed me that the loaf he was carrying was ‘sourdough’.

                                                                                                                                            Generally, if I weight a loaf of bread in my hand and it feels heavy enough to do some damage with, I’m willing to be convinced that it might be pretty good. This bread? How does ‘instantly dashed all my hope’ sound? Not only was it so far away from being sourdough that it was almost closer to being CAKE, it tasted like it had lived on the train all the way from Perth before someone remembered to use it for breakfast.

                                                                                                                                            In my fury, I googled sourdough and came up with sourdough.com – a site that I was surprised to see was Australian? Indeed, in the top left hand corner, it had a link straight to Daniel Chirico – the maker of the most sublime casalinga, which my mother and T put me on to – they usually drive to St Kilda once a week just to buy it.

                                                                                                                                            What I also found was information about an request to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and the FSA (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand) to review the standard of bread labelled ‘sourdough’ in Australia. If only they would!! The ACCC states that labels must accurately reflect their contents – I wonder if that holds for signs in bakeries? If a sign in front of some loaves says ‘sourdough’ surely you should be able to assume that it is actually sourdough? Anyway, if you are interested in trying to push this point at the ACCC – there is a link in the article that takes you to the appropriate place.

                                                                                                                                            And so, the pretend sourdough is now in the compost bin and I will get some legit stuff tomorrow on my regular fang into town…

                                                                                                                                            Google maps. ARGH!!!

                                                                                                                                              Twice this week Google Maps (GM) stole chunks of my life. The first was when I drove to get my new headset for MacSpeech. GM told me to go this utterly bizarre route – which I did, because I thought it probably new better than me about the messy tangle of highways and freeways near to where I needed to go.

                                                                                                                                              Turns out I could have just left our driveway, turned left, turned right and arrived there about half and hour later. Instead I cruised areas hitherto unknown to me and somehow ended up near Noble Park. Which was not at all Noble by the time I reached it, and I saw no park. About a billion u-turns later, I extricated us to the proper road. Sigh. On the way back (the quick and non-GM way) Small Z and I jumped out and investigated Dandenong. Wow! It’s like a cooler, trashier, seedier, more multicultural version of Footscray. Small Z and I cruised amongst people of many races, investigated Dimmeys, found a European deli, a couple of fish shops and earned some points with M by getting him some empty ice-cream containers from Dairy Bell. Thanks, Dairy Bell!

                                                                                                                                              We liked it so much we went back on Tuesday and conquered Savers. But I digress. Today we tried to go to a different pool for baby-swimming. It seems we live smack bang in between two pools – and I wanted to find out which was nearer. Thanks to GM I am still none the wiser. I searched for the address. GM ‘found it’. Unfortunately I failed to notice the tiny grey writing that said it was it was ‘just an approximate’ of the address. ARGH!! ARGH!!! ARGH!!!!

                                                                                                                                              Then, of course, as I desperately didn’t want it to be my fault for relying again on el stupido GM, I decided to blame M as he had usefully taken the street directory out of the car, leaving myself and Small Z to drive guided by little more than frail hopes and a stray seagull that we would find the pool in time to actually get in it.

                                                                                                                                              As it happened, we made it, and had a good splash around for about twenty minutes. I dunked Small Z, who remained unperturbed, surfacing without having stopped her race for the big yellow floating duck she had her eye on. We were the only ones there, so it all felt quite palatial. After some supermarket shopping we arrived home, to find that M had made the most fabulous apple pie out of the current Delicious magazine (thank you, J&I) – which vaporised the street directory angst. Custard powder in pastry – who knew!? (You did, didn’t you, Jen…)

                                                                                                                                              A total crock and the Soup Nazi! No soup for you! (I ate it all.)

                                                                                                                                                I forgot! One good thing that came out of our sleep school visit was this: on the way home we stopped in Dandenong for a wander to try and get over our hell day and to avoid the peak hour traffic.

                                                                                                                                                “Oh,” I said, “Let’s go to Saver’s before it closes. I want to keep looking for the crock pot I will never find.”

                                                                                                                                                M was utterly amenable, as he was so happy to have escaped sleep school more or less intact. “OK. Let’s go.”

                                                                                                                                                We wandered in, and I held out little hope for my long wished for crock pot. And yet. When we walked up the back to the electrical goods area, there it was!! Sitting there, all orange and 1970s looking. I immediately told M that it was probably a fabulously reincarnated Saffy the Orange Cat – but instead of the settings Eat/Dribble/Purr there was Off/Low/High. They’re the same colour and everything!

                                                                                                                                                I grabbed Saffy the CrockPot off that shelf so fast that I purred blurred. It is ace. It was THIRTEEN DOLLARS. Did I say it was ace? I like having its orangeness in the corner of the kitchen. My kangaroo stew kicks arse in it like never before (that pun was really actually unintended. sorry.), and I made chicken soup the other day from a proper real chicken carcass, and I have to say it was probably the best soup I ever concocted (admittedly it was with the help of the reliable Single Dad’s Cookbook but I did add my own trailer flourishes.)

                                                                                                                                                This is not my decorative lace tablecloth, or my crock pot. But it’s exactly the same as mine. Woo!

                                                                                                                                                THE ORIGINAL MONIER CROCK POT SLOW COOKER

                                                                                                                                                Miaow! The Chicken Noodle Soup!
                                                                                                                                                Put chicken carcass in excellent slow cooker/crock pot
                                                                                                                                                Cover with stock (obviously not stock you have made yourself and frozen as this would be waaaay too organised. Use a cube. Use two!)
                                                                                                                                                Cut up and onion and a stick or two of celery and chuck ‘em in.
                                                                                                                                                And a few bay leaves.
                                                                                                                                                Leave it all to cook in your excellent crock pot. I left it on low for about four hours.
                                                                                                                                                Then. Tip the lot through a colander/sieve into a bowl.
                                                                                                                                                Tip the liquid back into crock pot. Pick out all bits of chicken and stick them in the crock pot too.
                                                                                                                                                Cut the kernels off three corn cobs. Throw them in. As much white wine as you can bear to spare (not much – we need it for sanity around here).
                                                                                                                                                Put in the pasta of your choice. Mine was the one shaped like tiny stars about as big as a grain of rice. Now. Here’s the weird thing. Two hours later when we imbibed it, the soup had gone all creamy special, and there were no little pasta stars in sight. It was divine. But if you want your pasta to retain a sense of itself and not dissolve into the soup, add it nearer to the time you’re going to eat. Although it was accidental, I liked how it turned out. The corn! The corn! The corn stayed fabulous and still had texture and some bite. I was so relieved I didn’t buckle and buy a tin (I almost did, but I’m so tight that I went for the cobs – they were cheaper and didn’t have added salt and sugar).

                                                                                                                                                C-O-F-F-E-E

                                                                                                                                                  Since I got M the coffee machine for his birthday, I have been turning to the dark side. I am actually a tea person. But I’ve begun using coffee for medicinal purposes…and also because I like using the machine. I like trying to make better and better coffee with it, tweaking my different approaches. I am embroiled in my own coffee challenge…

                                                                                                                                                  When I first decided that the coffee machine would feature in M’s three-pronged-present attack, I began researching on coffeesnobs.com.au. Their motto is Our name says it all. They’re not kidding. It took me a little while, but I finally got it. They are REAL coffee snobs, and that’s cool. But I just felt bad about what I was going to end up buying, due to normal financial constraints.

                                                                                                                                                  Over at coffeesnobs, you NEVER buy pre-ground coffee at a supermarket. You NEVER buy pre-ground coffee. Ever. Because three minutes after you grind it? It’s STALE. Apparently. And you don’t buy a crapola Breville number, you hold out and save your pennies, dammit, until you can afford something decent. Which will set you back at least a grand or so. And if this is patently impossible? Stick to your stovetop espresso or plunger…and spend $300 on a decent grinder instead.

                                                                                                                                                  I could have become demoralised, but then reality gave me a kick. Anything was going to be better than the plunger M had been dependent on since his stovetop espresso thingy had died. And thus, I got him the Breville Cafe Roma. Yeah. That’s right. You got a problem with that? I thought not. We’re liking it. But we liked it more when Mgs gifted us some coffee that took M’s supermarket pre-ground Vittorio out the back and flogged it dead. It was NICE. And I prefer TEA!

                                                                                                                                                  Since then we have gone back to the Vittorio, which I drink less of, because I don’t like it that much. My latest coffee drinking method of choice is warmed 1.5cm of cream in the bottom of a cup, with the coffee on top. Is good. I told my friends this, the ones who don’t call potatoes ‘potatoes’ (they call them ‘carbs’) and they visibly staggered. Like it was a bad thing. I think not.

                                                                                                                                                  But. The other day we ran out of coffee. I was at the supermarket, desperate to break away from Vittoria. It has recently been Fair Trade Fortnight, and I thought that if I was going to horrify the coffee snobs by buying supermarket coffee, I should, at least, buy ethically. I am not saying I made the wrong decision… My integrity is intact. The coffee, however, is revolting. I want to persevere, but can anyone out there recommend a decent Fair Trade coffee? One with a little bit of a KICK? That tastes like coffee, and not coffee flavoured cardboard? Hello?

                                                                                                                                                  Oh. And I almost forgot to mention, because I keep meaning to do a baby-music roundup review, but The Coffee Song from Ralph Covert has been doing the rounds at our place over the past month or two… Come on…everybody…
                                                                                                                                                  D-A-D-D-Y needs C-O-F-F-E-E…I want a latte, a cappuccino…and tonight…I think I’ll have a little vino…

                                                                                                                                                  Do I live in a bubble?

                                                                                                                                                    M doesn’t think that Small Z is mixing with enough kids her own age. I’m edging over toward agreeing with him. Mostly. So, this morning (after a night in which I discovered Small Z at about 4am entirely bathed in her own wee like she’d encountered a plunge pool) I hoicked her, my eyebags and myself down to the local playgroup.

                                                                                                                                                    When I say local – I really mean it. There is a community centre about a three minute drive away, and I suppose I should utilise it more than I do. They have playgroups twice a week. I have taken Small Z there once before, but that was before she could walk: at that time she was the youngest there and it was all a bit wasted on her. Now that she is running about and chatting away, I figured it might be worth another try.

                                                                                                                                                    It was good and bad. I accept that where we live there is a higher bogan percentage than you would get in a more inner-city area. Being this close to the wondrous Cranbourne, it’s to be expected. But you have to wonder when you look up the town name in Wikipedia and find…

                                                                                                                                                    Oh dear.

                                                                                                                                                    I chatted to some of the mums, and Small Z had a go with playdough for the first time. The only kid there a month or two younger than her did not speak and had a huge yellow snot worm running from her nose to her mouth. The majority of other kids seem to be thuggy little boys who were preoccupied with hitting, kicking, running away and then screaming. (Maybe this says that I am just out of the loop, but none of the little boys that I know are remotely like this. One of the mums was so at the end of her tether with her two, that she left in tears.)

                                                                                                                                                    Small Z seemed generally happy to be in a place with lots of new toys, and was sort of interested in the other kids. Most of them were older than her – she mostly steered clear of the thuggy boys. It was when they brought out the food for snack time that I started wondering what I should do, and whether I was on another planet. Should I lie, and say that Small Z is gluten intolerant and has to be very careful what she eats? Or should I just simply state that I don’t let her EAT CRAP?

                                                                                                                                                    The snacks were chocolate covered biscuits, Cheezels, pink wafer biscuits, and barbeque flavoured rice crackers. Oh. And a bowl of grapes. Some of these mums were constantly telling their kids to stop acting up or they were going to get taken home…and they were sitting there with plates full of this stuff. And no grapes. Hello? I took refuge in changing Small Z’s nappy, feeding her sultanas that I had in my bag, and filling her full of grapes.

                                                                                                                                                    I don’t want to appear like some latte sipping snob, but maybe I am one. I could go on about shows like Jamie’s School Lunches – but, really, why bother. Surely these people aren’t dumb enough to think that this shit is any good for their kids? Therefore, they choose feed them crap, and then moan when they’re dealing with sugared up little monsters. Of course that stuff is fine in moderation, and I’m sure Small Z will encounter it at birthday parties and love it. Good on her. But playgroup? That’s just weird. And wrong.

                                                                                                                                                    Oh yes, I know I’m sounding holy. I have one toddler. What do I know? I know that I want to be able to take her somewhere nearby to hang with some other little ones her age, once a week for an hour or two. So if anyone asks me, I’m going the for the pussy option and will say she is gluten intolerant. And when I take some food along for everyone, I’ll be the one with the grapes, kiwi fruit and banana raspberry mini muffins. And this SHOULDN’T make me feel like a hippy, but it does. I wish one of these was nearby.

                                                                                                                                                    Baked!

                                                                                                                                                      When I went shopping the other day I put a packet of biscuits into the trolley. Looked at them. Mentally kicked myself, and put them back. I decided that I would MAKE biscuits, instead of buying ones full of scary (but admittedly delicious) ingredients. Sigh.

                                                                                                                                                      Of course, by the time I got home, all I wanted was a Scotch Finger or a Chocolate Teddy Bear, to dunk in my tea. *bangs head repeatedly on keyboard* All I could do was have toast and honey. But today, I had a bit of time, and a continuing biscuit craving. Simple is good. I dug out my NMAA Cook Book – but all their recipes use weight to measure, and I don’t have a scale :(

                                                                                                                                                      Googling found me Karen Cheng’s yummy butter biscuits. There was talk of mixing until fluffy, adding ingredients at different times etc. etc. I have no time for such things. I bunged the butter and sugar in our four dollar Hervey Bay Op Shop food processer. Whizzed it. Added egg and unsifted flour. Whizzed it again. And lo… there was dough!

                                                                                                                                                      The bit that I liked about her recipe was the bit where it said, after rolling the dough into a ball to throw into fridge for 10 minutes while you clean up. This is how I like to bake – cleaning up as you go…and then the biscuits seem as if they have appeared by magic IYKWIM.

                                                                                                                                                      In the absence of a rolling pin, I used my water bottle for rolling, and a champagne glass for cutting them out.

                                                                                                                                                      Me time

                                                                                                                                                        Do you ever have days of just feeling somewhat fragile? This helped. Consumed. One large and excellent vanilla slice. One ‘Italian style’ hot chocolate.

                                                                                                                                                        I put it down to becoming less of sleep deprived automaton, and more of a functiong person. (Did i really just write that?)

                                                                                                                                                        Kongwak. We went back.

                                                                                                                                                          I’ve been wanting to go back to Kongwak Market for what seems like aeons. We awoke in the caravan at Loch at about 7am, and left at around 8am via Korumburra.

                                                                                                                                                          Here is a minor tangent. When Small Z and I were coming back from northern NSW about a year ago we sat in front of a woman I had met once before, and her two daughters. I had met her when going with J to pick up Not-So-Small C from a playdate. Anyway, while we were on the plane I asked her where she was going. She told me I wouldn’t know the town, it was too small. Try me, I said.

                                                                                                                                                          Bena, she said, and waited for me to look blank.
                                                                                                                                                          Oh, I said, that’s right near where my dad lives, I know exactly where it is.

                                                                                                                                                          She then told me about friends of hers there that they were going to stay with, and how they were opening an organic cafe in Korumburra. I was floored. The words ‘Korumburra’ ‘organic’ and ‘cafe’ had never before sat together in my head. But it’s true! We drove into Korumburra at 8.30am, missed our turn-off, did a u-turn – and in doing so spied the ‘Green Door’ cafe.

                                                                                                                                                          They weren’t open, but inside were about 10 people all filling cardboard boxes with fruit and vegies. One of them saw my pitiful face at the window – it was pouring with rain – and said that we should come in anyway. We tucked ourselves down at a little table at the back, ordered scrambled eggs and coffee, and basked in that glow that comes with finding somewhere unexpectedly excellent. And the eggs and coffee did not fail us…

                                                                                                                                                          We got another round of coffee, which left me like an amphetamine reptile (I hardly ever drink it, but the soy-lattes were SO nice), and I picked up some Madame Flavour tea and some decent bread. Drove on to Kongwak Market, where M was kind enough to take over all toddler wrangling and leave me to rifling through all the clothes, bags and trinkets that were there. I regret not getting a pair of shoes, but did score a clock for the caravan and a vintage-cool sleeping bag, both for the caravan and both within my $20 budget.

                                                                                                                                                          Kongwak Market
                                                                                                                                                          Kongwak Market
                                                                                                                                                          The Haircut Caravan at Kongwak

                                                                                                                                                          Tea Totaller

                                                                                                                                                            Ever since M and I have been an item I have borne a small envy of his coffee addiction. Actually, of most people’s. Coffee just doesn’t do it for me, much. I love a good soy-latte, but that’s a relatively recent phenomenon. The thing I envy is the comfort that they derive in a good coffee. The kind never seen in Tooradin…

                                                                                                                                                            Coffee addicts sip their nectar like it’s some kind of liquid benediction. I like that. I like how they ‘need’ their coffee in the morning – but it’s always hit or miss, because you can do a bad job making coffee. Tea is much easier. But it’s SO easy that cafes usually don’t bother with it, assuming you’ll be happy with them whacking a Twinings tea-bag in a stainless steel teapot with too much water in it.

                                                                                                                                                            This is my problem with cafes. I understand that coffee people go to get a coffee made by some coffee-pro with a machine that you would never have in your home. For me, I am always in a dither about what hot drink to get in a cafe. I seldom go for tea, because… well… why go for the weak cup of Twinings when you’ve got Nature’s Cuppa at home in the cupboard? And hot chocolate? Unless I’m at Sugardough I don’t bother – it’s almost always disappointing.

                                                                                                                                                            If M says the coffee is good then I’ll order a soy-latte, but what really captures my admiration is a place with DECENT TEA. Preferably loose leaf. Made by a tea drinker. With milk in a jug on the side. In the last few years, whenever I get Earl Grey in a cafe, it never comes with milk. I know it’s a black tea, I also know it’s lovely with milk. Gah.

                                                                                                                                                            Over in the US, the state of the coffee and tea was dire. Luckily, in the excellent Atomic Cafe in Marblehead, they had something called Mighty Leaf Tea (which, just then, I found available in Australia!). The girl there was British, and lamented the state of tea with me when I asked for a two-bagged cup.

                                                                                                                                                            The other day in Korumburra I bought a box of Madame Flavour – similar, but better. I thought it looked like it came from somewhere on the north coast of NSW, but no – it comes together in Highett – just down the road from my work, and old high school. It’s seriously great tea for the tea bag situation. I think I’m going to keep a few tea-bags in my handbag, and merely order a cup of hot water next time we’re at a cafe. That way I won’t be disappointed.

                                                                                                                                                            Plated

                                                                                                                                                              What I gave her to eat, realising, as I slaved over making cheesy white sauce that the more effort I went to was directly in proportion to how adamantly she would reject it….

                                                                                                                                                              I ate it.

                                                                                                                                                              And what she ended up having…

                                                                                                                                                              Nectarine, cheese, sultanas...

                                                                                                                                                              Honey. Honey?

                                                                                                                                                                Small Z, among her other fascinations, loves bees. She says, “Bzzzz! Bees! Tick-ling flower for pollen! Taking honey to the hive!!’

                                                                                                                                                                Two of her favourite songs are bee related – Doing It – sung by Justine Clarke, where she starts ‘There’s a bumble bee, a honey bee. Gettin’ the honey for you and me. Doin’ it doin’ it – doin’ it doin’ it. Buzzing around – helping the garden grow…

                                                                                                                                                                The other favourite is Ralph Covert’s song Honey for the Bears where it goes, ‘There was honey in my mouth, honey my hair, honey for the bees and honey…for the bears.’ Anyway, we were at the supermarket the other day and I needed to buy some more honey. I saw this Beechworth honey with honeycomb in it, and thought it would be cool for Small Z to be able to see some of the stuff that is usually inside the hive.

                                                                                                                                                                Like she cares. And now I’m so perplexed. Am I deluded? What is the point of putting honeycomb in with the honey? Does it make it taste better? Does it add anything other than quirk factor? Does it just mean that less honey goes into the jar? Help me people, because I’m sitting here with waxy crud floating in my tea. Maybe I should just be putting it on toast…

                                                                                                                                                                Ah. All this talk of honeybees led me to have a nostalgic listen to this – ‘Honeybee‘ a song all about when I first met M…with one of my favourite basslines… On reflection, I think it should probably have been called Honey Be.

                                                                                                                                                                The no-cash-bonus

                                                                                                                                                                  There is something so decadent about managing to get Small Z to sleep before 7pm and having the house to myself. Yesterday I felt shattered. Today, I woke up at 6am, got into work by 7.30am, delivered my files, cooed over my boss’s new iPhone and Mercedes E Class coupe, and was back on the road by 8am. Did the grocery shopping and was home by 10am.

                                                                                                                                                                  As I was leaving work in my now seemingly incredibly dated Mercedes 300D, my boss tapped on the window. He had raced down with two wrapped up bottles of wine and a little bag of chocolates! I was thrilled, and thanked him. As he disappeared back toward the office I pawed pathetically through the gift bag for an envelope…but no dice. The first year I haven’t got a bonus. Goddammnit. (Yes, I am aware I appear to be an ungrateful swine, but….waaaaaaaah!)

                                                                                                                                                                  Have I mentioned before the strange powers that getting up early brings me? Astonishing. I did, of course, need to nanna-nap with Small Z at 11am, but that was fine. After a horror day yesterday with Small Z, she seems to have recovered from being dragged all around town and made to sleep in a weird hotel room. Today was far easier. I think another reason for my early-evening smugness is the sunlit stillness of the late afternoon, and the fact that I just successfully cooked a quiche. A QUICHE?! Do you hear me?

                                                                                                                                                                  I have only attempted such a thing once before, and the person for whom I cooked it was kind enough to say it was lovely – but I knew they were lying. This time, I made one that I bought the ingredients for weeks ago – and today realised that the cottage cheese was about to hit its use-by date. Thus, I composed a Salmon Quiche, with the help of some Thomas the Tank Engine audiobooks I had nefariously downloaded. It went down very well with a glass of my non-cash-bonus Marlborough white.

                                                                                                                                                                  And now I will away, to ponder the ongoing conundrum of whether to live in a house that our real estate agent is happy for us to lease in Tooradin proper, or endeavour to move a little further afield to Hastings. The former is closer to the boat, but has very little else to recommend it. The house is a long rectangle, scarily trailer-ish, with three small bedrooms, a big garden and a big shed. I will still have to drive everywhere in order to do the weekly shopping and take Small Z to playgroup and pool. Hasting, however, is replete with excellent library, shops, pool…but no accommodating real estate agents. Gah. Any suggestions gratefully received…

                                                                                                                                                                  (Oddly – I just entered the location of the boat into Google Maps and Hastings, and it tells me that it’s a 39 minute drive. We must have managed it in 15 minutes the other day by some kind of magical transportation spell….)

                                                                                                                                                                  My dhaling

                                                                                                                                                                    Pregnancy has led me to obsess over a few kinds of foods. Hot thai curry is still on my wishlist – I keep making it from my Jamie Oliver app on my iPhone. It’s a killer recipe, but I can never get it hot enough, having spent my whole life being super-frugal with chili. I will persist.

                                                                                                                                                                    My other desire is to jump face first, open mouthed, into a large bowl of this particular popcorn. Ahhhhhhh. You can generally only buy it from health food or organic shops and it’s stupidly expensive for the amount you get. But I am weakening and by tomorrow will probably spending my last few dollars on some.
                                                                                                                                                                    Mmmm. Slightly salty, slightly sweet.

                                                                                                                                                                    And dhal? The dish that I always forget how to spell and end up googling dahl, finding Sophie, Roald and all the dhal recipes by people who can’t spell either. I have only tried to make this once before and it was dire. This time I used this recipe with my confidence buoyed by it’s star rating.

                                                                                                                                                                    It wasn’t bad!! I personally go for a creamier kind of thing, but it was a really good effort. Teamed with yoghurt and white rice, I give it 3.7 pregnant thumbs up. Next time I’ll add more coconut cream, a bit more ginger, more chili, and maybe some other lentils as well as the red ones? Any tips welcome…

                                                                                                                                                                    Sassy

                                                                                                                                                                      We went to Balnarring Market at the racecourse on Sunday – it was lovely. Like a cooler, slightly less feral version of Koala Markets up in Hervey Bay. But, sadly, with a bit less junk.

                                                                                                                                                                      Anyway, I caught up with a an old friend at the market, who I don’t remember seeing since she brightened my existence back in Hervey Bay. We hugged hellos and she said, “Congratulations!!”
                                                                                                                                                                      “Thank you,” I said happily, “She’s over there…” I gestured toward Small Z who was over at the honey stall with M.
                                                                                                                                                                      “Noooo!” said Lorraine, “Congratulations for the new one!!”
                                                                                                                                                                      “But how did you…”
                                                                                                                                                                      “Your website!! I still read it!”

                                                                                                                                                                      Lorraine – if you’re out there, the term for you is LURKER! I never knew you were out there reading, and I was so happy to find that you were! Hello to any other lurkers out there – if I have one, maybe I have several??!

                                                                                                                                                                      So anyway, a lovely time was had as we wandered from stall to stall. The highlight for me was the Sassy Cakes stall. Oh man. M bought me two little mini chocolate cupcakes, and my response was so rapturous that he then bought me two more. Sublime. I told the amazing women who were selling them that they could make a lot of money by setting up a pregnancy hotline, where they send mini-cupcakes by courier at any time, day or night.

                                                                                                                                                                      My first two mini cupcakes

                                                                                                                                                                      There were some lovely handmade kids jumpers that I swooned for. They were $60 each, which seems fair enough considering that someone has sat there and knitted them, but out of our league. I mused on how much money my grandma could now be raking in if I’d set her up an Etsy shop. She could knit anything.

                                                                                                                                                                      Such is my vagueness, that I somehow left the $14 pail of leatherwood honey somewhere between the playground and the car, probably due to cupcake over-indulgence. M has not yet noticed – so I’ll hear a yelp from the other room as he reads this. Sorry M!

                                                                                                                                                                      Small Z went to sleep in the car on the way home so we turned around and drove to Point Leo, where we got cheese and tomato sandwiches on excellent bread, scouted for a good campsite for M’s upcoming birthday and spent a few hours on the beach.

                                                                                                                                                                      Oat Meal

                                                                                                                                                                        Maybe I am just a pigger pogger. Or a porridge freak. Or, perhaps both. More mornings of the year than not I have porridge for breakfast. Not in proper Summer. But if there is a bit of a chill in the air, I can justify the porridge. Last time we stayed at Loch with Small Brother I made him, Small Z and I porridge and my dad could hardly tear his eyes from the pot on the stove.

                                                                                                                                                                        …or his decimated jar of rolled oats. “You’re going to eat ALL that?” he asked.

                                                                                                                                                                        I didn’t get it. “That’s what I make every morning.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Small Brother didn’t say anything, but I saw his eyes widen as he took it in. He is fit and proteiny and secretly thinks I am a carb ingesting freakshow. I didn’t even know what a carb was until we shared a house with our fit friends, D&E and one night they looked at my favourite fried rice…with potato in it, and said; “You put carbs with carbs?”

                                                                                                                                                                        CARB SCHMARB. Say the words, people. RICE! POTATOES! PAAAAAASTAAAAAAAA!!! (They’re the only ones I know. Oh no, hang on. BREAD!) They are all the bedrock of my existence. And I’m assuming oats fit in there as well.

                                                                                                                                                                        Now I’m all off track. Here’s the thing. I have given up looking at ‘how to make porridge’ recipes because they inevitably have the same effect on me as shopping for clothing by size. Frustration. Who ARE these freaks who cook HALF a cup of rolled oats with TWO cups of water? Que? This is what it suggests in my slowcooker book – the only one of my three that has a recipe for it.

                                                                                                                                                                        My measurements? I use one cup of oats for me, one cup for M and half a cup for Small Z. Followed by five cups of water. Once it has cooked I stir through some milk and give it another shot of heat on the stove. I like brown sugar or honey on mine. Small Z goes for blackberries. And at the moment we’re chucking in sultanas at the start as well. Sorry, I meant piranhas.

                                                                                                                                                                        I have noticed on the days I have WeetBix or eggs on toast that I start flagging by about 10.30. Porridge (this makes it sound like some kind of marital aid) can keep me going until after midday. Such is the level of our consumption that I buy the Home Brand oats because they’re about $1.30 for 900g as opposed to the Lowan’s 1kg for $3.60. Yes. OK. Our budget is tight. M dreams of buying bulk bags of organic oats – which are about $5 a kilogram. I dream of being able to get different kinds of oats besides just ‘rolled’. Over in the US I saw steel cut oats. Didn’t get to ingest them, but I imagine them to be sort of chunkier and robust?

                                                                                                                                                                        Anyway, in my quest for a home environment where I can imaginatively pretend I have a housekeeper (or butler, I’m not fussy), I have an urge to wake up to a bowl of porridge. Hot, already cooked porridge. The last two mornings I have made it the night before in my new Pyrex bowl. I have used my normal measurements and, after some research, whacked it in the slow cooker sitting in a few cups of water. It has made the Most Creamiest Porridge In The World.

                                                                                                                                                                        Unfortunately, M does not agree with my definition of creamy. He says it is like eating paste. I can see his point – and actually have almost had my joy superseded by thoughts that maybe it is more pastey than creamy. Grrr. I am going to persevere. Tonight I’m going to add in more liquid, and so it will be composed thusly:

                                                                                                                                                                        1 and a half cups of rolled oats
                                                                                                                                                                        4 cups of water
                                                                                                                                                                        Handful of piranha sultanas

                                                                                                                                                                        The above will be for Small Z and I, and M can have WeetBix, which is what he did this morning while Small Z and I pasted our innards. I have also exhumed my Teasmade, thus automating my tea intake. My imaginary butler is taking shape…

                                                                                                                                                                        On the topic of oats…

                                                                                                                                                                          Irony

                                                                                                                                                                            I stopped using my Spatone iron supplements about a month and a half ago. Our finances are about as low as my iron levels once were and I thought it was time to pull my finger out and just chomp down on some liver. It’s $2.50 for a whole liver – which is about five serves. Yeah. I can feel the hairs rising on your arms and the slight gagging sensation at the back of your throat.

                                                                                                                                                                            Nevertheless – after eating two or three serves a week for a month I have much less dragging fatigue. I no longer have to worry about getting up, taking two sachets ($2 each), waiting for 45 minutes (while gnawing on my own arm) before eating breakfast, etc. etc.

                                                                                                                                                                            Now I just fry up an onion, chuck in some tomatoes, wait. wait. wait. throw in the liver (cut into SMALL pieces) and fry for a short while. Then I often add in cous cous (anything to distract the focus on the main ingredient) and eat while hot. Obviously I don’t do this for breakfast. I’m not completely immune to common decency. No. It’s always lunch – and usually two days in a row, to get it over with…

                                                                                                                                                                            My childhood was spent eating liver, the consistency of dried boot, while holding my nose and then ‘sneezing’ it into a tissue. It’s still kind of gross, but when you cook it quick, it doesn’t have that dried grainy texture that it acquires while languishing in your mother’s electric frypan for half an hour circa 1981.

                                                                                                                                                                            So there is my quick, simple solution to low iron levels. I have been experimenting with different things to put with liver to make it more palatable. I have found that butter beans are a good distraction, because they are kind of meaty to start with. But basically, after I’m about three quarters through a bowl of the stuff I just have to jam the rest down my throat with my eyes shut. But hey. It’s doing the job. Oh – and then I crunch down two Vitamin C tablets – they aid iron absorption.

                                                                                                                                                                            Easter. Why and how.

                                                                                                                                                                              Last year, Small Z was a very successful participant in the playgroup Easter Egg hunt and had no idea that there was anything of interest inside those pretty foil wrappers… It was nice while it lasted.

                                                                                                                                                                              I am not a huge Easter participant. And it feels that this year, maybe because it falls so late, that Easter is EVERYWHERE. And by Easter I mean crappy chocolate eggs and by EVERYWHERE I mean childcare, cafes, the swimming pool – it feels like the world is trying to see how much of it they can shove down Small Z’s neck. My mother is happily colluding with all of this…so I suppose I’ll stop my grumping right there.

                                                                                                                                                                              Small Z and Nana
                                                                                                                                                                              Easter cupcakes
                                                                                                                                                                              The icing's better than the cake

                                                                                                                                                                              It’s hard for me to know what the hell to tell Small Z about Easter. I am sans religion. Am utterly ignorant of it. And swing between being glad about this, and feeling kind of stupid. However, I’m having trouble explaining the link between rabbits/bilbies and chocolate eggs. I kind of like how it is explained over here – but as far as Small Z is concerned, I’m just going to go with the idea that it is a celebration of the equinox – and that her uncle will be celebrating the warmer months and that we will be heading into the colder ones. And when you celebrate? That’s often when chocolate happens.

                                                                                                                                                                              Food

                                                                                                                                                                                It is such a relief to me when I find a food thing – a recipe – or just an edible invention that Small Z likes and I know can become a staple for a while. My repertoire in the kitchen is not large, and my Small Z repertoire is even less so.

                                                                                                                                                                                Her staples? Roasted chicken drumsticks, baked potato chips, what she calls “Jen’s Trees” – which is broccoli with olive oil, salt, butter and a squeeze of lemon juice (thanks Jen!), sweetcorn, brown rice with soy sauce, mashed potatoes, fried brown rice with chicken, soy sauce and peas in it, um… tiny roo burgers with secret spinach mixed through, cous cous with tuna and peas through it…oh – and when we’re feeling moneyed, she gets flathead tails.

                                                                                                                                                                                That’s it. I have belatedly realised that she eats no other coloured vegetables. Just broccoli and peas. Won’t do carrots (even when cooked in OJ), red capsicum or cucumber. Actually, she will do sweet potato and/or pumpkin if she is very hungry. But mostly? It’s brown rice and chicken all the way. Occasionally a lamb chop – but I am anti-lamb in the same way that I am anti-calf (veal). And she won’t do spag bol. Tomato is only acceptable in sauce form – or on a rice cake with tuna.

                                                                                                                                                                                I am always looking for easy things to adopt and try. The other day on Play School they were doing seasons, and for spring – they made Vietnamese spring rolls. Small Z was rather enchanted with this idea, so when we did our weekly shop we got some rice paper, cucumber and snow pea shoots.

                                                                                                                                                                                On Tuesday we made them. I realised that she wasn’t going to go for the red capsicum, cucumber, corriander, carrot ones I was assembling. So I improvised. I had some of those vermicelli noodles in the cupboard and some already made brown rice in the fridge (our staple, if you hadn’t noticed). She loved the brown rice, avocado, snow pea and mint combo. And the same again but with the brown rice swapped for noodles.

                                                                                                                                                                                It was a great way to do her vegies for dinner (our rule is at least One Green Thing). Two big spring rolls plus the required two chicken drumsticks and she was good to go. I’m going to have another attempt at them this week. They are a bit time consuming to make, but I think if I have all the things sliced up and ready, it should cut it down timewise…

                                                                                                                                                                                We made spring rolls!

                                                                                                                                                                                Recipes and Go!

                                                                                                                                                                                  I just made Pip’s Uber Famous Teriyaki Chicken. It was very delish. The recipe called for mirin and sake, neither of which I had on hand, but google told me that dry sherry would carry it through – so I sent M down to the bottleshop (a place with which he is not unfamiliar).

                                                                                                                                                                                  It turned out beautifully. And reminded me of my other favourite chicken dish which I may have mentioned on here before, but I am tired and can’t check, so I’ll just mention it again – Vietnamese Rice Bowl – a recipe I found quite by accident. It was so great that we ate it every week for a few months; and now have been ‘resting’ it. Over-indulgence. Gah.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I heard a lovely song today. And if I hadn’t spent so much on grocery shopping this week I would have chucked $18 and bought the album. It’ll keep. I found the song via Loobylu and it is Jonsi (from Sigur Ros) with a song called Go Do. You can stream the album here.

                                                                                                                                                                                  And one more thing. For those who love to muse over EtsyEtsy Lush.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Keep this temperature fixed

                                                                                                                                                                                    Today the weather was sublime. We visited a new playgroup in Balnarring that Small Z adored – lots of equipment, shade, outdoor activities, and books on the inside. She loved it. The rest of the day was spent at home in and out of doors. It hit about 4pm and I decided to bust out of my girly-ignorance and figure out How to Use the Barbeque.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Hooked up the gas bottle, decided to go with its suggestion to use the self-igniting dial things. I figured it out in the end. Cooked up a whole lot of chicken drumsticks, spuds and red capsicum. Dinner for the Smalls – it was a HIT!

                                                                                                                                                                                    BBQ Dinner

                                                                                                                                                                                    Then it didn’t look like bedtime was going to happen any time soon, so we played Lions in the Meadow…

                                                                                                                                                                                    Lion in the Meadow
                                                                                                                                                                                    Grass crawl
                                                                                                                                                                                    Laughing in the long grass

                                                                                                                                                                                    It was between 25 and 27 degrees today. My perfect temperature. Gosh it was gorgeous. I just went and looked at the Bureau of Meteorology – holy crap – they now have a percentage ‘chance of rain’ on their site – I had to research this topic for far too long, back when I worked at RMIT. Took them a while…better late than never.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Foodish

                                                                                                                                                                                      A post by Kathy at Play, Eat, Learn, Live inspired me – and reminded me of a conversation I had with Jen on our lovely visit north last May. Jen is not a sandwich person, and said she would not even usually think to throw one together for her Smalls at lunch time.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Kathy is a Coeliac and sandwiches aren’t always the most palatable options – thus she wrote Seven Lunch Alternatives to the Sandwich. This was inspiring, because I had run out of bread – and the bread we like is expensive. I want to buy it, but I want us to eat less of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      There were some great ideas on the list – I particularly like the warm roast vegetable and bacon salad, the rice paper rolls (of which I am already a devotee) – and the potato pancakes. The day I read the post I was out of bread, so I made myself an salad of chickpeas, corriander, tuna, brown lentils, tomato and lettuce.

                                                                                                                                                                                      It was awesome with a little bit of vinegar through it. Small Z sidled up alongside me, seagull like, and began picking bits out. There are few things that annoy me more, so I gave her her own bowl, and she happily chomped away. I was so excited by this that I gave her the leftovers for dinner, only to be told, “No mama, that’s lunch food. I can’t eat it at dinner time.” Grrrr. Thank god for Weet-Bix…

                                                                                                                                                                                      Non-sandwich lunch

                                                                                                                                                                                      Tonight, after working all day, I made my go-to meal of the moment. Bean and Spinach Korma. This is my version:

                                                                                                                                                                                      Ingredients (serves 2)
                                                                                                                                                                                      2 teaspoons vegetable oil
                                                                                                                                                                                      1 brown onion, chopped
                                                                                                                                                                                      1 red capsicum, chopped
                                                                                                                                                                                      3 big tablespoons Patak’s korma curry paste
                                                                                                                                                                                      400ml can coconut cream
                                                                                                                                                                                      400g can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
                                                                                                                                                                                      chunks of frozen spinach
                                                                                                                                                                                      broccolini or broccoli or zucchini or mushroom or the lot
                                                                                                                                                                                      steamed basmati rice to serve
                                                                                                                                                                                      blob some natural yoghurt on top

                                                                                                                                                                                      Fry onion and broccoli until soft (I put on frypan lid and add in a bit of butter). After about ten minutes add in the other vegies but not spinach. Fry them up a bit. Stir in the curry paste. Fry a few minutes longer. Add in coconut cream, crank heat to boil, then lower it down, add beans and spinach. Cook until all heated through – about three or four minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                      You have, I assume, made your basmati rice (brown rice is just as good) via absorbtion method with a kaffir lime leaf chucked in for good measure. Whack a lump of butter on top when it’s done and put the lid back on. I also am a friend of salt – and I add a fair bit of that to the finished masterpiece. Yay. I would have post a photo but I was too hungry…

                                                                                                                                                                                      And lastly (because I REALLY have to go to bed) there is interesting information about Pyrex cookware over at Girls Gone Child, together with a ratatouille recipe that I’m going to have a go at this coming week. I looove my old Pyrex, but the new stuff is not sounding so great.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Kinder Duty

                                                                                                                                                                                        Today I did kindergarten duty! I was excited – I’d never done it before, and it was also a celebration for the kindergarten assistant who has been there for TWENTY YEARS. So the kids that began with her are now 23 and 24 years old. My mind is blown.

                                                                                                                                                                                        It was secretly requested that we all wear party clothes as there would be a small gathering after the session. Small Z and I both frocked up. I wish I had a picture…but it just didn’t happen.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I found it interesting to see how things work on a normal kinder day. How the kids sit in the comfortable groove of the routines that have been established over the year that’s gone. Both the teacher and the assistant are take-no-shit sort of women, and that is soothing. They didn’t put up with any whinging, queue-jumping or bad manners.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The teacher asked me several times about Small Z’s reading pizzazz – ‘so how did it happen?’ ‘is it because she’s just into books?’ ‘did you teach her?’ ‘I can’t believe you don’t have a television – that’s so fantastic!’ I didn’t have much to give her. Small Z loves words, rhyming and took to phonetics like a duck to water. And there was a fair bit of plain old osmosis.

                                                                                                                                                                                        On the other hand, I was intrigued with the way everything there ran so smoothly! Twelve three and newlly four-year-olds! She told me that Small Z’s three-year-old class is just a dream. Everyone potters around, most of them are mindful, and they all appear to thrive on routine.

                                                                                                                                                                                        It made me think that it might help me to have a little bit more structure at home in the mornings. Kindergarten, of course, has a myriad of equipment to absorb them all that they only see once a week for three hours. But if I was somewhat more proactive at home in setting up a few things to occupy Small Z, I could strap Small DB to my back and get through the domestic shizz in an hour instead of doing it in dribs and drabs throughout the day.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I liked the cues that they used – one kid gets to ring the ‘cleaning up to go inside’ bells. They all have to put away their snackboxes and placemats before playing after lunch. There were structured games and free play.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I found it interesting to see what different kids brought for their snack. I had no idea so many people eat white bread. One kid even had a fairy bread sandwich. WTF is that about? It’s like tipping sugar into the engine of a Porsche. I had to look away. Does that make me a snob? Nah…

                                                                                                                                                                                        Fairy bread...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Of course, it was on for young and old at the post-session party. I cut up slices into bite-sized pieces using strength I didn’t know I had, so strong was the mix of refrigerated chocolate, condensed milk, crushed mint biscuits and rice bubbles.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The assistant that the celebration was for was quietly nonplussed and in no way particularly excited. If my mother had been there she would have been champing at the bit getting everyone to sing and woo hoo! and generally upping the ante. But no one fussed. We hung about, the kids did their thing, the parents reacquainted themselves, and it was all low key.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I’d be happy doing kinder duty every month – it was cool. We walked home in the hot HOT heat, M put the Smalls in the paddle pool and I tried to hammer away at a file I should have been working on alllll day and not just the last few hours. My neighbour brought me in some corn chips and homemade guacamole…she’s earning serious points – what on earth can I give her for Christmas!?

                                                                                                                                                                                        We said tomato. Red tomato!

                                                                                                                                                                                          At around this time last year we had more tomatoes than we knew what to do with. Well, I exaggerate a little. We did know what to do with them – but there were SO MANY. Look at my Small DB in this post from back then. OMG I am so glad cameras were invented – where did that little baby go?

                                                                                                                                                                                          This year – she’s eating a few each day. And has learned her first colour. Red.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Contemplating the tomato

                                                                                                                                                                                          Goodbye, freshly picked tomato. Say hello to Daisy.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I’m reading back on a few posts from this time last year. There is a similarity there to what I’m feeling now. I hesitate to write it, in case it vanishes, but a certain zen that has pervaded the last week. Something to do with the end of Christmas and the five family birthdays in the month immediately afterward?

                                                                                                                                                                                          Cooking

                                                                                                                                                                                            Maybe its the cooler weather, but I have been cooking a few new things lately. Trying to cook myself out of my rut. I continually wonder at other people and their shopping budgets for the week/fortnight/month – the other day I read over on Picklebums that they have a monthly budget of $550…for a family of SIX!

                                                                                                                                                                                            I found that remarkable. More often than not we’re spending about $200 a week on food shopping :( Hideous. And unsustainable. It’s only since we began seriously eating meat that things got quite expensive. We’re not buying steak or anything – it’s usually kangaroo steak for stir fries, chicken drumsticks for the Smalls and kangaroo mince for bolognaise.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Anyway, I will devote another post to my ponderings on shopping budgets and how to trim them (make your own bread?). Last week I made bread and butter pudding in my slow cooker. Bliss. I couldn’t find a recipe that really worked in with what I had, so I took a bit from most of them. Here’s how it started:

                                                                                                                                                                                            Slow cooker bread & butter pud

                                                                                                                                                                                            Here’s my helper:

                                                                                                                                                                                            Slow cooker bread & butter pud

                                                                                                                                                                                            And here is the end result….

                                                                                                                                                                                            Slow cooker bread & butter pud

                                                                                                                                                                                            I used a glass bowl and bits of old bread, liberally buttered, dried apricots and raspberries. Each layer I drizzled with golden syrup – something that much preferred to the many suggestions of 1/2 to one cup of brown sugar. Once all the layers were in I mixed two eggs with about 600ml of milk, cream and buttermilk and a bit of vanilla and poured it over the top. I just happened to have the buttermilk in the fridge as I’d been planning to make my own cream fraiche…something I have not yet got around to doing. I put some water in the slow cooker to about halfway up the bowl. Left it for a few hours. Sublime…

                                                                                                                                                                                            The other thing I made (besides my blast from the past – Vietnamese Rice Bowl which is always well received) is the Red Lentils recipe over at Girls Gone Child. It’s great. I’ve made it twice -the first time it took me an a-g-e, but the second time it came together well, with the chillies and everything cooking up in the pan as the lentils did their thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The second time I made it I did double and froze some. I’m saving it for the end of a difficult day. Check out that link, because also on the page is an impressive sounding chocolate mousse pie that sounds almost insultingly easy to put together (I have to get myself a pie dish before I attempt it, which is why I ate the biscuits I bought to make it….)

                                                                                                                                                                                            Watermelon Numero Uno

                                                                                                                                                                                              We plundered a watermelon. Our first one. It happened like this…

                                                                                                                                                                                              Cutting it loose

                                                                                                                                                                                              Watermelon - Picked!

                                                                                                                                                                                              Thank you, watermelon

                                                                                                                                                                                              Home grown watermelon

                                                                                                                                                                                              Watermelon being eaten by Small DB

                                                                                                                                                                                              It was lovely, but could have been a little riper. We’re not going to grab another until the end of the month… We kept the seeds so we can grow them again, somewhere… Many also turned up later in Small DB’s nappy, but that’s probably too much information. Over and out.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Biscuits and a bike trailer pram…

                                                                                                                                                                                                No bread. Low on milk. No *gasp* frozen berries. Time for the weekly shop. But, as I mentioned, I have Tantrum McBiteBite – she won’t go in the car (froths at the mouth and claws herself raw when strapped in) – she won’t go in the bike trailer (well, she will, but she won’t wear a helmet – straps – see above) and the pram is too small to do a proper shop. M suggested the bike trailer that we just bought from our departing friends – it’s heaps better than ours because IT TURNS INTO A PRAM!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                Bike trailer pram!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                I drummed it into them on the way there. ONE screamfest…ONE spasm…and I would leave whatever we had in our trolley right in the middle of the supermarket and walk out the door and home. Finito. They could tell I wasn’t kidding. And we survived. I fixed the dodgy front wheel with some gaffer tape and we trundled back home with Small DB and a four big full shopping bags. The bike trailer is SO light, it just worked like a dream…

                                                                                                                                                                                                Back home Small Z and I took advantage of Small DB conking out for double time to make some brownies and a swag of Dark Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt Cookies. There is SO much sugar in these things – and they taste A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Although it was obvious that it HAD to be – today was better than yesterday. It really was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Biscuit. Freezer. Go go go!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Baking. I am slightly obsessed at the moment. Last week it was the Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt – I love them and was very happy to find that M does not. However, the salt sprinkled on top ended up irritating the roof of my mouth. Next time I’ll leave it off the top and add in some walnuts…

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Never too tired to bake. I promised myself these if I stopped myself from buying supermarket biscuits. #darkchocchipwithseasalt #biscuits #baking #sleepisfortheweak

                                                                                                                                                                                                  This week? Oatmeal cookies with Sultanas and Dried Cranberries from a blog I read regularly – Picklebums. M likes these. I prefer the texture of the choc-chip ones – I like the crisp crumble. Something about chewy biscuits doesn’t sit totally right with me. I like Anzacs that you can break a tooth on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Nevertheless – these are moreish. Small Z won’t eat them due to the allspice and cinnamon. Small DB is not choosy with her biscuits. I cut back on the sugar in them, but the dried cranberries have – for whatever reason, sugar added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oatmeal Sultana Cranberry Cookies

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Ooooh! And I almost forgot to include a picture of my Honey Lavender Cakerevalatory and yet subtle. A great cake to take visiting…

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Honey Lavender Cake. My new bestie...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  With each baking session I try to add a container of goodness to the freezer. I am not a freezer person, but am trying to become one. I am never more happy than the night after shopping day, when the cupboard is full and things are replenished. A freezer that I can turn to on days when I cannot think of what to cook sounds dreamy…

                                                                                                                                                                                                  …Which is why this email rang so many bells for me – a joyful cascade of bells, actually. Bulk Cooking and Freezing Meals Day – and it includes a shopping list! This is definitely on my to do list…

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yo!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Seepi’s comment and link inspired me to post more about my Adventures in Yoghurt. The link she gave was actually one of the ones that inspired me to abandon the Easiyo and go out into the uncharted waters of DIY. I’ve made it four times now, and I think I’ve got a winner…

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I’ve been using my slow cooker. I buy two litres of Macro Organic Milk from Woolworths – huge evil supermarket, yes, I konw – at a cost of $2.18 a litre. I tip it into the slow cooker insert and then microwave it for five minutes. (If I was using raw milk I wouldn’t do this, but as it’s already been pasturised etc. I’m guessing it won’t make much difference?)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I then stick it in the slow cooker, turn it on high, and leave it for over two hours. It gets a skin on top – which I eat (I used to do this to gross out L when I made her hot milo. I can sense her shuddering as I type this.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This knowledgable Seth person and all the commenters on this post were inspiring. It appears you get thicker yoghurt if you keep the milk hot up to three hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Excuse any typos – I am extremely tired.) I have no thermometer, but if I can keep my finger in the milk for 30 seconds without screaming, I add half a cup of leftover yoghurt (you can freeze some for backup) and stir it though. I then wrap up the slow cooker bowl with lid on in a blanket and put it in a insulated shopping bag, with a heat pack. And leave it overnight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have found that dumping it into a bit of old clean sheet when it’s done and letting the whey run out – just for ten minutes or so, helps heaps to thicken it. Then I put it in a jar. Voila! I haven’t tried the Little Eco Footprints suggestion of a few drops of calcium chloride, but I will do, when I get hold of some.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I haven’t measured the jar I put the yoghurt in, but I’m guessing I get just under two litres. That’s cheaper than using Easiyo – organic or otherwise. The time I have used non-organic milk it did turn out a little more sour, but still fine. I will have to experiment further…

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I keep the whey for the Soaked Oatmeal (Porridge) Recipe from Nourished Kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    When you run out of custard powder…

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I am so bereft of any culinary pride that I have never (except when making bread and butter pudding and it’s kind of just part of the rest of the recipe) made my own custard from scratch. And see fit to publicise it on the interweb. Pathetic. Tonight, on a high from a three and a half hour lunch with NO CHILDREN I blithely offered Small Z custard for desert…while remembering as my lips spoke the fateful words that I’d used my (Expiry: 07/2009) packet up three weeks ago…

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Such has been my flurry of baking and such has been M’s reliance on eggs as a Dadda-dinner food group – that we had TWO eggs. TWO. Just like things used to be BC (Before Chickens). We googled fruitlessly for ten minutes looking for custard recipes that did not require four egg yolks and a dusting of unicorn horn.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Finally, just avoiding a meltdown, we found this…and if you like your custard powder – this is an exact replica….I have dumbed it down even further and it is awesome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ingredients

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 eggs
                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 tablespoons cornflour
                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 cups milk
                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 teaspoon vanilla

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Method
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Whisk the lot in a saucepan until smooth.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Continue whisking on stove top until custard becomes thick and creamy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      To my despair, neither Small would team their excellent custard with my much proffered rhubarb – peasants – instead requesting and receiving stewed apple (called, in our house, nunga).

                                                                                                                                                                                                      When the moon hits your eye…

                                                                                                                                                                                                        For their second last night in Australia (and final night with us) Small Brother and his Canadian surpassed themselves – she made us SIX different kinds of pizza with a crust that she said failed but that ridiculously impressed us. He (and I almost hesitate to type it) whipped up some dark chocolate mousse. From scratch. (Never underestimate the power of a woman – and never underestimate how long it takes to make egg whites peaky.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Drawing in flour.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Small Brother, whisk in hand.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        pizza wonderland
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Small Brother's Chocolate Mousse!
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Kitchen window, night sky.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        M and I were at somewhat of a loss. We drank their wine, ate their awesome food and then tried to sit on them so they wouldn’t attempt to clean up. It was so lovely. In the morning I went off to pottery, and when I got back we met them briefly for an iced coffee in Balnarring before they disappeared to say farewell to other parts of the family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I hate those goodbyes. Really hate them. And I don’t envy them having to fly a billion hours to get back to a cold and dark wintery New York city. Come back soon….

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dresses. Balnarring playground.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yoghurt Update. Garlic Breath.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I keep on keeping on – endeavouring to stay in the present and generally ignore the past and whatever the future might be*. What is helping is MAKING and FIXING. I am also about to finally get stuck into the Incredible Year Life WorkBook – well, I say that, when what I mean is that I bought a folder and holepunched the shit out of my print-outs this afternoon…more making.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          OK. The YOGHURT experiments. I was watching the lovely Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall on River Cottage the other night and he included how he makes his own yoghurt. I have been tiring of my slow-cooker ways. This post suggested keeping it at just below boiling for three hours. Sorry. I cannot keep doing this – it takes TOO MUCH TIME.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, on the other hand, appeared to make pretty good stuff in an inordinately short amount of time. So last night, here’s what I did:

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Two litres of milk in microwave for seven minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Stir.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Two litres of milk back in microwave for two mintues.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wait about ten or so minutes so you can hold your finger in it for 30 seconds without screaming (a technical form of measurement often used by…um…me.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wob in a slodge of yoghurt. (In my case it was store-bought organic natural yoghurt because M had eaten all of the last batch leaving me nothing to work with. I am hoping this is not the key factor of my success…)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wrap it snugly, bung on a heatpack, put in a insulated bag from 10pm until 5pm…

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Voila…!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yoghurt! DIY.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          This was the best I’ve ever made, and it took about 20 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          My other therapeutic thing was to dig up all the garlics I grew. I kept forgetting they were there and the little patch was all overgrown with weeds. Here they are:

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I dug 'em up from under

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I am keen to see if it is as potent as the stuff I grew last year. We have tomatoes just starting to blush and our bean teepee is going gangbusters!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ______________________________________________________
                                                                                                                                                                                                          *If this sounds oblique, just know that things are difficult and that I will refrain from discussing them here to both be respectful and to not piss anyone off…

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Globally positioned. The red seat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I’ve been using Google Maps quite a bit recently. It has saved my arse on a few occasions, and let me down once. Today I used it to drive from Balnarring to Mt Evelyn – I’ve bought a replacement from seat for my Humber with my non-existent money. I could have let it go, but I might not have ever found one in such good nick for $86 again!


                                                                                                                                                                                                            View Larger Map

                                                                                                                                                                                                            So I drove along, guided by the Google voice. Irritatingly, it doesn’t pause the music you’re listening to you when it talks, like the TomTom app – it just blathers on over the top of it – particularly annoying when you’re listening to a podcast. (How whingey am I?! It was only about six or so years ago that such a thing on your PHONE was unthinkable!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Anyway, I don’t know if it is because of my vintage – and my consequent early reliance on hard copy maps – or whether everyone feels this way… I find it hard to have a sense of myself in a location when I’m simply following GPS instructions. Maybe this is because I haven’t sat in the car five minutes before starting it, tracing my route with my finger? Maybe it’s because something else is telling me where to go so I don’t actually have to think too hard about it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Whatever it is, I’m beginning to have a sense of distaste for it. I feel disconnected, kind of like I do when somebody is driving me somewhere. I’ll definitely use it when hooning along in someone else’s car to get to a birth centre STAT! But on other occasions, I may start using my street directory again…

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I made it, even reversed the trailer a little way (TRIUMPH!) and collected the seat. There is a gaping hole in my repertoire – KNOTS. As in, I had to pull over at least five times because I don’t know how to tie good ones.*faceplant*

                                                                                                                                                                                                            On the way home I decided to detour through Emerald to drop a care package to E. I arrived there and saw one of their cars in the driveway. The house, however, was deserted – all locked up – and their huge window in the lounge room was smashed – with a tarpaulin over it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was puzzled. I couldn’t reach E or DJ on their phones. My puzzlement had an edge of disquiet. Finally – after I’d made it home a few hours later – DJ called me back, and started guffawing hysterically as he drove along some road in Colac. “Yes! I’ve killed them all and driven away!! Is THAT what you thought??!” I admitted that my mind might have edged in that direction…

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It turns out that they had gone away for the weekend – but the night before they left, the window had broken in the high winds, and as they were vacuuming the glass…the power went out. “The world was conspiring to not let us go,” he moaned tragically. “The baby screamed in the car, then E started to scream…there was nowhere to pull over…then we found somewhere…and got lost…and I forgot my razors…had to buy disposables…I was shaving the next morning before I had to go to my conference (in Colac)…looked in the mirror and was bleeding…EVERYWHERE…”

                                                                                                                                                                                                            After this somewhat startling outpouring we were cut off and I was left gaping at my phone. And wondering what the container of bolognaise I left at their front door in a cooler will look like when they get home in two days time…

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Keen! Wah!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sometimes, even I can't eat porridge every morning. Usually on those days where it's going to be hot. About a year ago I did some experiments with quinoa porridge. I bought some more the other day and had another go. Thrillingly, no one else in the house likes it, so it is All For Me. This is how it goes…

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I wash half a cup of it in a sieve and put it in a pot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              When I am organised I have some secret juice in the fridge (any kind) and I use half a cup of juice and half a cup of water to mix with it. (Same measurements as cooking rice.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I chop up an apple or a pear into little chunks and throw that in. Add a few drops of vanilla. And heat it until it is boiling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then I put the lid on and simmer it until all the liquid is absorbed and you can see the little line thing on the grains.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I throw some sultanas and shredded coconut in the bottom of my bowl (I am not a huge fan of the bloated sultana that occurs if you boil them in with everything else, so I put them in last) – and if I have some rhubarb in the fridge, I put that on top. You can pour some kind of milk over it to cool it down a bit – but not really necessary. Nor is it necessary to eat it hot – it's nice cold too…

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The End.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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