Saturday, May 31, 2008

The first thing up against the wall

I'm catching up on news (can you tell?) and I came across this quote from Mick Keelty - "I admit that we may be losing the publicity war in some people's eyes". I am a little prone to invoking "the first thing up against the wall when the revolution comes", but really, seriously, the first thing up against the wall when the revolution comes is Mick Keelty and the AFP.

Apart from their anti-terrorism oppressive regime, their complete disregard for the people they are supposed to be protecting is abominable. There is no excuse for such disgraces as the Bali 9.

Do we really elect these people?

Do we actively try to elect 8 year olds to parliament? What on earth inspires anyone to tell a member of an opposing party that "evil thoughts would turn her [unborn] child into a demon"? Now I can imagine that comment at a dinner party with friends, but good humour is not a hallmark of inter-party relations in any political environment. And why was the target looking for a woman in the Labor party to denounce it? Have we just given up entirely on men moving beyond juvenile behaviour?

Actually, that's not fair, at best I can conclude that we have given up on male politicians moving beyond juvenile behaviour. Does politics select for people so utterly clueless or do we elect them with higher frequency?

It's kind of hard to see how they can make hard decisions to secure our future when they can't work out that name calling about other people's unborn children is just a little on the wrong side of appropriate...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Shameless cross promotion

Crash, that man I live with, father of my children, love of my life, you know, that one, has a blog. He's just started. Someone suggested he should write a book. I suggested he write a blog. It's a lot easier to get published.

So he's no longer writing letters to the Terror, he's blogging instead. I don't know how diligent he'll be. But you can guarantee he won't pull any punches. Well almost, his first post actually paid lipservice to not being racist, so maybe he hears the odd thing I say... :)

It's not that he is racist you understand (like, really not, seriously) he's just really good at speaking like he is. So I reckon if he just gets his head around punctuation, it should be really funny. And cathartic, for him and anyone who reads it. Go check it out, send him suggestions for rants, it'll be fun.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One of those things they don't tell you

I have spent my last two afternoons having two separate MRI scans to trace the path of the peripheral nerve that leads to the outside of my left thigh. I have a numb patch there, which would be fine if it was only numb, but any pressure at all converts it to fairly intense pain. Charlie's crash cuddles around my legs are less pleasurable than I would like. This is my daughter's gift to me, I acquired it during her delivery.

It is probably Meralgia Paresthetica, the nerve getting irritated on its path through the pelvis. The MRI is to make sure it isn't anything else. The first one was about 20 minutes, the second about 35 minutes. Once I got over the intense fear that there might be some metal secreted within my person that I had failed to remember, it was ok. Until I started to get hot. I was really sweating by the end of the one yesterday. It took hours for my body temperature to go back to normal.

I mentioned it to the radiologist this afternoon, and he said "Oh yes, that happens." It does? Might someone have mentioned that to me? So that at least I didn't think I was either being cooked, or becoming uncharacteristically anxious.

Also playing child care games. My sister finishes at the end of next week. I am looking for family daycare, which I knew was going to be a little fraught. I am having trouble working out what is me being unrealistic and what isn't. The person I saw last night seemed ok, but her unit has a balcony which scares me. They don't have any other carers available just at the moment. I just feel like I am second guessing my motives and reasons, rather than making sensible judgements.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What keeps me awake at night

I read a lot of blogs about parenting and feminism, and since I am a sheep, I tend to write a lot about that stuff here.

However, last night, possibly due to something we ate, neither of us could sleep and both had strange feelings of dread and foreboding. When I have attacks of random foreboding, it does one of two things. Either it settles on some member of the family- I once desperately needed to call my mother, despite her being perfectly fine. (I never claimed to be psychic.) Or, it lands on a morbid fear for the future.

Last night I spent hours predicting doom and gloom from a combination of no oil, global warming, mass extinctions and no water. Of course, running out of oil may actually help combat global warming, but last night I could only see that as a basis for war and the breakdown of civilisation as we know it. I found myself mourning for my children's future. Again, I don't claim to be psychic.

In the cold light of day, I am not so sure that our kids are destined to live Mad Max style in a post apocalyptic hell, but my concerns remain. I get so frustrated - it feels like our leaders are all waiting for the magic bullet, the technology that will solve the problem. It just isn't going to happen, and meanwhile we are allowing the planet to get away from us.

There really is one solution though - distributed production. We can't kick our fossil fuel habit by replacing it with one alternative. Nor can we supply the world with drinking water with larger and larger dams.

My rosie vision for the future involves a mostly electric world, where the grid is supplied by everything - kinetic generators in your clothes (to power your MP3), solar power, methane plants, wind power, tidal power - just about anything. We need to encourage all of them, and all of the storage methods that people can dream up for them. Because we have to find something for transport.

What I really don't get is why this isn't happening everywhere. After all, the great joy of distributed production is that you can do it piecemeal. Every step helps. Every suburb that turns its poo into electricity increases the market for poo converters, and decreases the cost. Every water tank increases the local storage capacity.

And because our leaders don't have the balls to subsidise these things, it's very hard to do it yourself. And this is where my excuses start. We don't have a water tank because we don't have much space, so we would need to dig a very large hole and install pumps and filters and stuff. It would be expensive.

We don't have solar panels because although it would be perfect for our house, we can't afford it.

We don't have a hybrid car because they don't make hybrids big enough to put 3 kids in car seats in.

So I haven't done much. We use less water than the target for a 4 person family, so that's cool. Our electricity usage is somewhat less angelic - actually it is thoroughly diabolical. Fuel consumption is much worse than I would like it to be.

I am paralysed. We keep looking for what we can do, I hope we can make a damn decision to act, and achieve what I keep complaining the politicians haven't.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Art or kiddy porn?

That art exhibition has had me thinking about the whole question of child pornography. It is so incredibly emotive it can be a little difficult to think clearly about. If ever there was an issue to incite a "won't somebody please think of the children" response, this is it.

I haven't actually seen any of the images from the exhibition, but it did start me thinking about what is or isn't child pornography. Given that most (little) kids love getting their gear off, I have a hard time seeing the line in the sand as being nakedness of any sort. So where is it? I guess I knew it would be fuzzy, but I had thought "I'll know it when I see it" would at least be true for myself. I knew I had given Crash a book of photography that included photos of naked children, photos of naked adults, overtly sexual photos of naked adults and photos of mushrooms (among other things). So I dragged it out (because there's nothing like kiddy porn for dinner party conversation) and tried to identify why those photos weren't porn, as opposed to things that clearly are. I rather surprised myself by being unsure when I looked at a few of the individual photos. However, when I looked at the book as a whole, I just couldn't see it as anything other than a delight in the human form, children depicted as children, adults depicted as adults, the adults both sexual and non-sexual.

One answer is how the children in the image (or whatever) are treated. If they are being exploited or intimidated or abused, the line has clearly been crossed. It's still a little tricky, because I suspect some people would feel that a child being photographed naked is definitely exploitation. I don't agree with that. I think that is heading down the prudish line of thought. Nakedness does not equal sexuality, at least not in my world.

The other side of it is how it will be used. This is, I think, where it gets a lot murkier, and relies heavily on your beliefs about the nature of paedophilia. The damage that may be done by virtual child porn (either digital or making adults look like kids) and non-sexual naked kids depends on what makes paedophiles tick.

There seems to be two schools of thought - one is that paedophilia is just another form of rape. It is about the power and not about sexual attraction. The other is that it is genuine sexual attraction, and therefore at least a mental defect if not technically defined as a mental illness.

If you go with definition one, virtual porn can fuel the desire, and allow them to play out their abusive thoughts in preparation for the real thing. It is also an exercise in self-justification. Other people do it too. Non-sexual nakedness, on the other hand, should hold no interest whatsoever.

In the case of definition 2, both kinds will be of interest, but are unlikely to change their desires one way or the other. The virtual stuff may still have a justification aspect - in fact it may be stronger because their goal is not abuse, the behaviour is born of genuine (if very inappropriate) desire. It feels natural to them, so there is immense conflict between society's norms and their own instinct. Finding evidence of other similar people may allow them to decide society is wrong. On the other hand, in this case there is the possibility of this stuff having a therapeutic effect - an outlet for people who understand that their desire is wrong, but can't suppress it either. Which is the stronger influence? Is there any evidence or is it all speculation?

It seems to me that we have a massive lack of basic research. I would hazard a guess that there are people of both kinds, but I couldn't even begin to stab at the percentage make-up. I am almost completely convinced that people of type 2 exist. It would take a lot of very good research to convince me otherwise.

We need to know. Really, really need to know. Demonising type 2 people is pointless. Many live in a personal hell already. Children need to be protected from them, but there isn't much point legislating about it, except, I suppose, as the last resort method of protecting children from them (ie gaol). It also impacts heavily on how we should handle the porn.

I don't think there is much evidence that sexual fantasy incites the behaviour in the real world, so I'm not sure how much I buy into that argument. I am also a champion self-justifier, so I tend to doubt that the justification argument holds much water, without the porn, I am sure they can find some other way to justify their behaviour, in either case.

I think I come down on the side of allowing porn that doesn't hurt kids directly. I doubt it actually makes anything worse, and for some (unknown) percentage, it might even help.

But then how do I reconcile this with my absolute disgust with the sexualisation of kids - or more accurately of little girls? One of the reasons I found the photography book to land on the right side of the line was that it depicted girls and boys equally.

Ultimately I think the two things are utterly unrelated - with one exception. I think they are unrelated because I think the sexualisation of little girls is about consumerism. Teenagers are the ultimate consumers, high disposable income, low self esteem. Perfect marketing fodder. So it makes sense that marketers everywhere would like kids to behave like teenagers sooner. Make them body conscious and they will buy. And we, their mothers, desperately don't want our daughters to feel fat and ugly like we did, so we are inclined to indulge their requests. "Whatever they feel comfortable in" is a justification I have seen women use when their 8 year olds are dressed as slappers. And I have no doubt they believe it, but the problem is that the comfort zone is being set by marketers, not the natural inclination of the kids. No school girl ever instinctively wanted the school girl look. We need to resist it in the same way we need to resist brand worshipping. I survived my teenage years without my parents buying me any brand names (although I confess to buying LA Gears with my own money). I reckon most kids will survive looking like a kid until they reach puberty...

The exception is that as a society, we send a spectacularly hypocritical message when we allow our little girls to be depicted as sexual sirens, and them condemn paedophilia. I know kids are sexual beings, but it is childish sexuality, it isn't about come hither poses, high heels, make up and short skirts. It's about you show me yours and I'll show you mine, hitting the boy you've got a desperate crush on and so on. If you show that part of their sexuality, I doubt it would inspire paedophiles much, nor will it inspire much consumerism.

And why isn't this as harmless as virtual porn? Because porn is definitely in the fantasy realm, hooker look-a-like little girls aren't.

In terms of that exhibit - I have just tried to find some info, and oddly enough a quick perusal doesn't mention whether or not there were boys and girls in the photos, only that it was only ones of girls that the police were interested in. If there were no photos of boys, I would be far more inclined to have a problem with it - context always matters.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'm a bad mother

OK, so maybe I am not quite the parent I would like to be. I'm fairly sure the parent I would like to be would know how her almost three yr old got a black eye... He does wear glasses, and I'm pretty sure that they have been the immediate cause of the bruising, allowing for a large range of falls and injuries to be the root cause, but it is still rather distressing that I don't know how it happened...

On the plus side, he doesn't either, so I guess it can't have hurt that much.

Or maybe I am still the parent I want to be, I don't want to be hovering over my children 24/7. No permanent damage has been done and presumably some limit has been discovered. Still, it doesn't look good not knowing the origin of a black eye. Perhaps I'll make up a good story and everybody will be happy.

This is just too cool...

This very cool image is from Bad Astronomy. This is astronomers catching a 5 minute X-ray burst at the very beginning of a supernova. That is serendipity of the highest order. The astronomer in question was actually observing another supernova which occurred about a month ago and happened to catch this one. She leapt into action (no doubt after doing a small victory dance) and got a goodly proportion of the world's instruments pointing at it. She confirmed it really was a supernova and everyone got a heap of rather unique data. Very, very cool.
Thanks to Hoyden About Town for posting it somewhere I would see it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Children as a financial entity

As a result of the discussion our pollies have been having about paid parental leave, bluemilk put together a very nice post responding to the "why should we have to pay for other people's kids?" type arguments. This resulted in a long and interesting discussion including a comment today from a woman who has decided not to have children because it would jeopardise her financial security. There are a million aspects of US life that contribute to her feeling she has to choose "between my own financial safety and a constant and unending struggle to provide for my family" which I don't feel like ranting about now.

But it made me very sad to think that financial considerations are dictating decisions about having (or not having) children. In my world, where I grew up, children were a financial factor, but ultimately children influenced financial decisions, not the other way around. I know this is a privileged world, but I don't think I have ever really thought about how privileged it is.

The total lack of social support services and public health in the US makes the decision to have a child a genuine financial gamble, not just a drain on the finances. And I know this isn't the case for the whole population, but I doubt it is the odd one or two either.

And so my mind wandered to other ways in which children are the outcome of financial decisions. In China, only rich people get to have more than one child. I always knew about the one baby policy, but I didn't realise what happened if you did have that second baby. At school we were told that tax breaks and social support were taken away. The reality, that heavy fines are imposed, which the wealthy simply pay and carry on, was not divulged. The even worse reality that the only option if you cannot pay the fine is to sell that second child is nothing short of mind boggling. And you don't have to have been naughty and had a second child, if your spouse dies and you can't support your kids, you have to sell one or more of them then too. I still can't get my head around a government that allows the buying and selling of children right now - like not 200 years ago - and not on a black market, but legitimately. Of course this allows for a delightful trade in stolen babies as well (where there is a market, a black market is easy to hide).

And then there are the people for whom the only possibility of ongoing support and survival is to have as many children as possible. Children are an essential resource, rather than financial sink, but I doubt that it helps their quality of life.

I just don't think you've managed anything resembling a fair and equitable society while children are so desperately at the mercy of money. And just don't get me started on the Chinese Olympics....

Monday, May 19, 2008

New books

Nerida delivered a pile of books this afternoon.

Persuasion - Jane Austen
Perfume : The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Suskind
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire
The book thief - Markus Zusak

Oddly enough, three of them were on that unread list that prompted this exercise. Nerida doesn't read the blogs I read and as far as I know hasn't seen that list. Maybe they are books that people pick up at random!

I know Wicked made into this pile because she wants to read it, which is as good a reason as any. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Birthday goodness

I've played the birthday card to excess this week. It started on Wednesday, when I went to trivia (we had to go, we had won the week before and had a $50 voucher to spend). We had a killer night and won again, thanks in part to my wasting hours last week playing on this terribly addictive website, starting with the periodic table quiz, which Juz referred me to. But thanks mostly to Marina and Pat's scary trivia knowledge. They had a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate meringue on top for me. Yum.

Then Thursday was my actual birthday, so I invoked birthday privileges and went to the pub. Great evening, much rubbish was talked as usual.

Friday night I had to concede it was Crash's turn, and he spent the night in the city with mates.

Yesterday my friend Cate had a spare ticket to the ballet due to her mother being OS. She very kindly offered it to me, and even took me to lunch before hand. There was champagne and it was all very civilised. Of course, having just been involved in a discussion on tutus with bluemilk, I did spend the whole thing examining it in light of that critique. It came out pretty well actually. It was a modern show, with several small pieces rather than one long story. It had female characters from man hating (and murdering) lesbians to domineering wives to meek and mild girlies and everything in between. Not all of them such disgusting stereotypes as I have just described either. :) The last section was all comedy, and included a piece with 6 ballerinas in traditional white tutus performing a very traditional type of dance, but buggering it up. I could only conclude that the choreographer has spent way too much time in infants school ballet productions, at least that was all I could do in between snorting with laughter.

Last night Crash cooked a 3 course meal of prawn cocktails, roast beef stuffed with bacon (how can you go wrong?) and melons in Sauternes. We watched a Midsomer Murder and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I am blessed. And overfed.

So the birthday is done and dusted for another year. Except that I have one more treat coming. Crash gave me $100 cash to do with what I will (I think it was supposed to be CDs, he ran out of shopping time, it has been pretty crazy). I realised after reading the unread books meme, that despite loving books, I read practically nothing. I also realised that the reason for this is quite bizarre - when I go into a book store, if I am shopping for myself I am paralysed. I can't decide on anything and either walk out with yet another Terry Pratchett (or one or two other authors) book or nothing at all. So I handed the cash over to my sister and said "Buy me whatever takes your fancy." I'll have a go at anything if it is there. So I am looking forward to that.

Photo meme

I pinched this one from Jay

The rules:

1. Go to http://www.photobucket.com/
2. Type in your answer to the question in the “search” box
3. Use only the first page
4. Insert the picture into your Blog.


I liked the randomness of this.


1: What is your current relationship status?

Married again



Nothing really good, but we did have Hawaiian shirts at our wedding, and the service was in the gardens by the harbour.

2. What is your current mood?

Content



3. What is your favorite band/singer?

Way too hard... my favourite song this week is by The Herd, so I'll go with that.




4. What is your favorite movie?

I'm gonna say Rocky Horror for longevity and its all purpose appropriateness.



And I'm a sucker for a well structured under garment.


5. Where do you live?

On top of a hill.



If only this were the view...


6. Where do you work?

In my attic (mostly).

I know it's in here somewhere...


7. What do you look like?

Short and a little lumpy round the edges.



Hmmmm.... this was the only image.



8. What do you drive?

A faded red 323.


Not quite what I was expecting, but again, the only option.


9. What is your favorite TV show?

Spicks and Specks




10. Describe yourself.

Self justification for a guilt free life. (Its easier to admit to mistakes that way.)





11. What are you doing today?

Visiting my great aunt.


Somebody else's great aunt, but remarkably similar - minus the posing for pics.


12. What did you do last night?

Ate a three course birthday dinner cooked by hubby.


This isn't what we had, but it looks goooood.

13. What is your name?

Ariane

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bloggo-brainwashing

Apparently I have been spending way too much time reading feminist motherhood type blogs - it's starting to leak into more obscure parts of my life.

I was at the hairdressers yesterday when one of the women (discussing the budget) said that the government should support women who have worked before they have children, but that there should be nothing for women who "just keep having children without contributing anything to society." I tried very hard to casually mention that a) someone has to raise the children, if their parents don't, we have to pay someone else and b) people who don't do paid work contribute plenty to our economy and pointed at people who care for elderly and chronically ill relos as an example that I thought might resonate. I was right. Within five minutes the room was full of discussion of the injustice of unpaid work (largely undertaken by women).

In case that wasn't enough, they then started on the evils of Government inefficiency - backing the talkback radio stance of privatisation = efficiency. I can't do it, I can't keep my mouth shut. (This will come as a total revelation to anyone who knows me, I'm sure!) So I banged on about how at least Government inefficiency is distributed across all levels of the organisation, keeping lots of people employed, whereas large corporations keep all their inefficiencies confined to the top executives in the form of monumental salaries, bonuses, luxury travel etc. I have yet to see any evidence that large companies are any more efficient than Government equivalents.

I am happy to concede that small to medium, well run organisations are way more efficient, but when was any Government organisation replaced with one of those?

God my hairdresser must dread my appointments...

Toddler feeding

For kids' dinner tonight I made potatoes. I thought I was being a bit clever by building it in a very specific way - potato on the bottom, then cheese, bacon, creamed corn and pineapple. It was all welded together, I thought Charlie might actually be forced to eat it all.

I constantly under estimate that boy. He managed to eat all the bacon, all the pineapple and all the cheese without touching any corn or potato. The mind boggles.

Clearly his industrious eating necessitated economies in the language department. When I asked him if he like his potato with bacon, he said "Yes, yummy pocon." In case we were in any doubt of his ability to say it correctly, it was followed by a pause for effect and an insane giggle.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bad mother, bad, bad mother

Flicking over the ABC news feed I came across this.
A study has found one third of Australian women have admitted to drinking alcohol when pregnant - and most would do it again.
This irritates me. None of this stuff ever actually quotes any data to support that small quantities of alcohol can, in fact, harm an unborn baby. There is almost certainly more evidence for the dangers posed by vehicle emissions to unborn babies, but no-one says "motorists admit to driving near pregnant women and most would do it again."

If they really have convincing evidence, why are they not making it very clear? This reminds me of my favourite "bad mother" statistic ever - when I was in my pre-natal classes one of the stats rolled out was that mothers who use nitrous in labour have babies who are more likely to grow up to be drug addicts. The woman presenting the class was astonished when I burst out laughing. She looked truly puzzled when I questioned the methodology of the study. I can only begin to imagine what kind of fishing trip that study was.

For goodness sake, there must be a million greater threats to the well being of our children (like being allowed to live in poverty for example). These people need to get a grip - or of course they could put their data where their mouths are.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An unorthodox strategy

My sister has a theory about how she would handle an attempted rape - she reckons she would yell something along the lines of "Come on big boy, let's get it ooonnnnn!" and jump on him. Her reasoning is that he'll either run a mile, or at worst, she has bad sex. As she points out, people have bad sex all the time. The whole idea intrigues me. It also makes me laugh, this is not a deep and meaningful post,l it's just kinda thoughtfully amusing.

Firstly, I realise that many rape circumstances would not allow for such a strategy, and I really don't know how plausible it would be in any situation. But still, I like the idea that you take back the power that they try to take from you, and I daresay if you could manage it, there would be some perpetrators that would truly freak out and run.

I'm really not suggesting this as a serious rape prevention method, only those who rape can stop rape altogether, but the concept is kind of interesting. It says something underlying about our sexuality. The fact that sex is something that can be used against women - I wonder if rape would be a less chosen form of violence if women were perceived as wanting sex as much as men.
If only such a scenario could be caught on film - a woman turning the tables on a would-be rapist and making him run for the hills, that'd make some good YouTube viewing...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Apparently I am all about the schmaltz.


OK, so it's a bad photo, but it was a bad card...

My hubby doesn't read my blog ("I live it, why would I want to read it?"), but he still managed to find me the schmaltziest card in the universe. As if a card that says "If all the mothers in the world were like you...", isn't bad enough, when I opened it, this happened.

The kids thought Daddy had bought Mummy the best card in the universe, and we heard the the first three words of the song about 500 times courtesy of Charlie.

I have to say, though, breakfast was good - left over sashimi (not an oft-used phrase I suggest), and eggs with oyster sauce, salmon roe and baby spinach on toast.

I also got a cook book with no less than 167 muffin recipes!

More menus

Last night's dinner party was a little less adventurous, it took me until Friday until I got sufficient inspiration to even put the menu together...

Sashimi of tuna and kingfish with ginger and orange oil - should have been sake, but since we don't read Japanese so well, it was actually rice spirit.

Sydney rock oysters with vinaigrette and salmon roe - standard vintage aussie bubbly

Three melon salad with cream and onion - palate cleanser, no wine as such

Red Emperor (tropical fish) with my own Thai-ish sauce, oven baked chips, carrots and green beans. - 1998 Scarborough Chardonnay

Spicey quince with orange almond bread - Liqueur semillon

The first two were Tets recipes again (the second wasn't meant to be, but I had all the ingredients for the vinaigrette so I made it). They were both great, and the salmon roe is a must have with oysters. Wow what a way to improve an already awesome food. And I am talking $6 supermarket salmon roe, not insanely expensive stuff.

The three melon salad is a variation on my great aunt's recipe for watermelon salad. You can't get it wrong, but I suspect not everyone appreciates it the way I do... :)

The Thai-ish sauce is always good, forgiving recipe without too much effort. I normally barbecue fish, but because of the cold I did it in the oven. Unfortunately I wrongly assumed cooking time would be close to the same. As a result I slightly burned the chips, but they were still edible.

The quince was a bit dodgy, I think it needs to be better covered while cooking. It was a bit leathery, but very tasty. I'll have another go at that one and see if I can work out a way to cook it that works better than the recipe.

And oh, the Scarborough was awesome. We've had so many disappointments with chardonnays we've kept too long (that whole pregnancy thing), but this was everything it should be. It remains my benchmark chardonnay.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Citrus Syrup Cake

This is the cake I made last Saturday.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 heaping cup superfine sugar
4 eggs
scant 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 oranges, zested and juiced
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
whipped cream to serve

Preheat oven to 350 deg F and grease and line 91/2 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Cream the butter and sugar then fold in the eggs, yoghurt and citrus zest. Sift in the flour and fold it through the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Meanwhile put the citrus juice in a saucepan with the sugar, bring to the boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

When the cake is cooked prick it all over with a skewer and pour half the syrup over it. Keep the rest for serving. Allow to cool. Serve with reserved syrup and cream.

This is (obviously) an American recipe. I made no allowances and just used metric measures. I also used wholemeal flour without changes because that was what I had. I used 3 limes instead of two because they looked too little, and I used double cream instead of whipped. Oh, and I didn't have a springform pan, it comes out of a normal one ok.

I am not all about the schmaltz

What is it with the schmaltzy music at Mother's Day? Every second ad on TV at the moment is for god awful love songs or pan pipes or something. I am not a young mother, and I'm thinking anyone younger than me thinks these "Perfect for Mother's Day" gifts aren't. In fact, I'm pretty sure my mother would be disgusted by any one of these items. So there are grandmothers for whom this is an outdated marketing strategy.

Are they ever going to give it up? I seem to recall it's all about the country music for Father's Day, which I'm sure is equally inappropriate.

I want to see "New Grinspoon album, perfect for Mother's Day", or perhaps The Presets for your more dance inclined mums. For god sake, I'm nearly 40, you'd think they could keep up with the times on that sort of scale!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dinner party debrief

I mentioned the dinner party I had on Saturday night - it was the first formal dinner party I've had in ages and so I thought I'd post the menu and my thoughts on its execution.

  • Avocado soup (served cold topped with caviar) - Semillon Champagne
  • Tartare of ocean trout with sushi rice, avocado and grapes - Chilled Sake
  • Grilled breast of duck with apple and ginger dipping sauce (served with steamed veg) - A couple of shirazes
  • Citrus syrup cake with double cream - A couple of dessert wines
The first 3 are Tetsuya's recipes. I was a little concerned that we may need to order pizza since I had never tried a recipe from that book, and it is a little short on details (but definitely not on ingredients). Thankfully my guesses mostly worked and everything was edible at least (well almost).

I liked the avocado soup, but I wouldn't take Tets' recommendation to increase the quantity from a cup to a bowl to make a real entree. Way too rich. Nearly everyone liked it, which is not too bad considering it was so intense.

The tartare was awesome. I am so making that again, despite having to peel 30 grapes - it has to be said that was not the high point of the cooking experience. I definitely don't want to work in Tets' kitchen....

The duck was good, but I botched the thing in many ways. There wasn't enough (despite quadrupling the serves in the recipe), I overcooked the duck, I forgot the two garnishes (leeks for the duck and black sesame seeds for the dipping sauce) and the dipping sauce should have been made a few more days in advance (rather than just over 24hrs in advance). I would also do different veg next time. I will do it again though, until I get it right damnit!

The cake was good - fairly tart, and I just served heaps of it to make up for the lack of duck. It also went well with the stickies. I have only just started doing desserts other than cheese (due to hubby's gout), and they definitely make a good support for a sticky.

So it has increased my confidence to try some other recipes from the book, although maybe only one or two new ones at a time from now on. We have another dinner party next weekend, so I had better start planning...

One of these things is not like the others

As I said, Elissa's been sick. About 10pm last night she woke again, and when I went up, I was stunned to hear stridor (that great Darth Vader breathing you get in croup) in her cries. She calmed down and went back to sleep, but I decided I'd best not have another glass of wine, since there was a good chance I'd be driving to the hospital at 3am.

2:50am she woke again with much worse stridor and I got dressed and carted her off to hospital. Now, the two boys would have been the objects of pity and rushed straight into resusc by the time I got them to hospital from the point she was at when she woke up. Not so much with Elissa. She was calm, smiling at the nurse, no sign of stridor at all. She coughed once or twice, enough to convince them I wasn't actually delusional, just ridiculously over reacting. She just got steadily better waiting an hour for the doctor to see her. I felt like an idiot. I apologised to the doctor that obviously this is the odd one out, since both my sons and myself get croup as spasmodic croup - very fast onset which rapidly gets worse. It looks like Elissa might get the traditional variety. There was a hint of this on the basis that she had actually been ill before the croup started (which is how normal croup presents) but that never happens with the boys.

The doctor, to her credit, was sympathetic and gave me a dose of steroids for her in case she needs it tonight. She also told me what the quantity of active ingredient is so that I can work out what dose to give her from Charlie's stash in case I need it more than 48hrs from when they drew out the dose. (It is highly likely it is the same dose, the doctor and I think there is only one formulation.)

So I agree with Mim, who needs sleep?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I hate it when she's sick

Yet another lurgy has infected our house, and Elissa is a not a nice baby when she is sick. I know that may not sound like much of a news flash, but Ben was actually more pleasant when he was sick as a baby.

She woke twice last night, and then again at 5:30am. The last one didn't do her any more good than the other two, she just got the dummy back and the music on. (I have a strict policy of "don't feed them before 7am".) Today she is cranky and sleeping badly. Blah.

It is in no way assisted by my own lack of sleep due to an extremely enjoyable dinner party last night with Mim & Adam and Toni & Andrew.

Foo Fighters

video

Toni managed to score tickets to the Foo Fighters on Friday night at Acer Arena and was kind enough to offer one of them to me. It was one of those gigs that sold out in less than 10 minutes, so there wasn't much hope of me getting them any other way. The grainy, poor quality is the result of massive zoom, we were not exactly close to the action, but I'm not complaining.

I have seen them twice before, both at the Big Day Out. In 2000 they were on at about 3pm, and I was in the mosh - nearly lost all my clothing and at least one shoe. They were ok, but the sound was pretty ordinary and Dave Grohl's voice was not inspiring. In 2003 they headlined, but the sound was so bad I didn't even bother to stay. My sister has seen them a couple of times, and also found Dave Grohl's voice pretty dodgy. We had kinda concluded that he can't actually sing, despite being a damn good entertainer.

Friday night's gig has forced me to change my stance on that. His voice was amazing. From screaming to melodic in a heartbeat. Just incredible. 2.5hrs of fantastic entertainment. The little clip up there is of the end of the acoustic set on a small stage at the back of the dance floor area and Dave's return to the main stage. During the acoustic set he played "The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners" with Kaki King. His intro for this was longer than the song itself - I think he was genuinely affected by that story.

He is one funny man. It's nice to see a guy who loves being a rock star but doesn't take himself too seriously. The "encore" charade included him appearing on the screens on stage (the 4 very white blobs on the main stage) and miming feigned reluctance to come back on stage and negotiating the number of songs they'd do - 4 was what he was bullied into. 6 was what they actually did. Big Me, The Long Road to Ruin, Generator, Watershed, For All the Cows and Best of You. I am not a die hard Fooeys fan, so I didn't know Watershed or For All the Cows, but then Dave forgot the words to Watershed, so I don't feel so bad.

The only songs I would have liked to have seen are DOA and Disenchanted Lullaby. I believe they did DOA in Brisbane.

It was good to see a band that was loud enough too - you could sing along without irritating the person next to you. What would a Foo Fighters gig be without a good sing along?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It was a good day for some



Elissa got to pose for cute photos, and even got to come home with two cute hats (photo and hats courtesy of Nerida, we love an indulgent aunt).

But for Ben, the day was an unmitigated disaster. For weeks the kids have been looking forward to Channel 10 coming to do the weather live from their school today from 5pm. They changed the time we all needed to arrive at the school yesterday. Today they cancelled. I consider this a low act. You tell 64 5-8yr olds they are going to be on TV for weeks, and then don't turn up on the day and you have some very sad kids. To add insult to injury, they had sent T-shirts and bottles but not enough for everyone. Ben came home with a sticker for being a good loser. (I'm actually insanely proud of him for that, I doubt I would have got one of those stickers when I was 5.)

Channel 10 plugs their "travelling weatherman" and gets mileage out of schools and other groups for nothing, the least they can do is be polite guests.

I understand that a local newspaper came and photographed them all, so they were slightly appeased that they would be in the paper. Still, shame Channel 10, shame.