Thursday, December 31, 2009

Baked Brain

All my life I've done this weird mental bookmarking thing. I'll be sitting watching TV or on the toilet or something and be thinking absently about the future. Like, "I can't imagine having a baby. That would be so scary. But I bet I'll do it one day." or, "Right now I think boys are really stupid and awful, but when I become a teenager, all that is going to change and I will have no control over it". Then I decide that when those times come, I'm going to think of those moments where I was younger and thinking those things, to keep showing myself that things change rapidly, and to remember more innocent times. It's worked too. When I had Wolf, I thought of my 12 year old self fearing childbirth. At my first teeenage crush, I did think of myself at 8, and laughed.
Bookmarks in my brain of the past. It might be slightly neurotic. Like just now on the toilet, thinking to myself "Some day, I'm going to be incredibly elderly, should I survive that long, and I'll spend half my life in a toilet cubicle." And when that day comes, I'm going to remember today.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sales

I never ever want to shop anywhere but online, at markets and in small, independent but mysteriously successful and lucrative boutiques. EVER. EVER EVER EVER. Bloody supermarkets. Bloody department stores. Bloody shopping centres. Complete idiotic mess and full of insane teenagers and totally cut-throat capitalistic people running each other over. All we wanted was emergency groceries (no open market days that happen on Josh's days off) and some new pyjamas for Wolfgang. How did that take three hours? I love you, internet.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas - Thank goodness it's over



If not for Wolfgang, I may have spent the week leading up to Christmas doing nothing but cooking, and then sleeping in the kitchen. Thank goodness for needy babies who keep things in perspective.



Starting the trifle early Christmas Eve morning. Not to be eaten till the next day, but that was the only chance I had over the two days to get it ready. Sponge fingers soaked in raspberry syrup and sherry! See my breakfast bowl next to it. Just add a splash of sherry in there and I'll be all set.



Many boxes of honey butter fudge ready and waiting. But for who? I went nuts and made a large batch and bought lots of boxes to put them in. Who was I going to give them to? The mailman? My insane neighbors? Now they're set aside for when we finally see some friends.



Vanilla Bavois. To follow Christmas Eve Dinner at Mum's . To be topped with raspberry coulis. A classic combination and one of the few things I can remember doing at Pastry School.



Totally amazing mussels dish made by Michael. Ever grateful that mum picked a guy with excellent cooking skills. We eat these outside sitting on the brand new deck that was sealed just in time for our arrival! But poor Michael, it rained and he thought we wouldn't be able to use it, but it cleared just in time for dinner.



Christmas Eve Dinner at Mum's. My only contribution to this table is the roast pork belly and coleslaw. The rest is made by Michael. Amongst it all, an amazing calamari salad with banana flowers and superb carrot and beetroot salad with toasted sesame seeds.



Christmas Day Lunch at Josh's parent's home. Huge spread made by Natasha (soon-to-be-sister-in-law-whenever-we-find-the-time-to-get-married) and I. She did lovely chicken ribs in garlic, honey and soy, an amazing green salad and wonderfully balanced Blackforest cheesecake. And she baked BREAD, flavoured with herbs and cheese. There's a box of Josh's Nan's yoyos as well. Huge family favourite.
See my pork appears again (I'm a one hit wonder).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's a cruel joke that it is so bloody humid in Melbourne today. I feel like my head has been baked but improperly, and the uncooked inner contents are slowly oozing out of my ears. Was that graphic? I get graphic when I'm sleepy. I'm slightly pleased with myself at having completed a large salad and the Summer trifle for tomorrow within the space of one of Wolf's naps. I've scored the pork belly for roasting. Set the vanilla bavois and made the raspberry coulis. Fudge and brownies are boxed and ready. Just potato salad to go and I'm ready!
Good luck to all of you cooking Christmas brunches, lunches and dinners. We'll get through it somehow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Turkish Delight





Turkish delight. Tricky, sticky but tasty. I very nearly messed this up! Admittedly there was one batch we had to scrap because I didn't cook the cornflour on the stove long enough, but this one seems to be all right. The number one concern when making Turkish delight seems to be the cut pieces sweating after they've been rolled in sugar and cornflour.




I've found that if you pretty much cover the Turkish delight with a 4:1 powdered sugar and cornflour mix and leave it out of the fridge uncovered to air dry, the coating stops turning into wet icing when in contact with the sticky jelly.
So that's one item down. Countless to go. Next step, honey fudge!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet gift from a lovely friend



Josh has the loveliest, sweetest boss I can imagine. Shane randomly bought this cute airplane fork for Wolfgang at the Flight Experience store near their bike shop. Isn't that sweet? I love a guy with a natural spirit of generosity. He is a total catch! When Wolf was first born, he also gave us some beautiful things: a white towel, singlet and lovely wool blanket with Wolf's full name, date of birth and a cute picture of a teddy bear embroidered on them! I'm so ridiculously moved by men that become enamoured with babies. It's too sweet. I know it's not that unusual, and that the old cliche of men being aloof with children is completely inaccurate, but it's still something I like to see. Maybe it's some kind of modern mating instinct (don't take that the wrong way!). Like if there was a time when women saw men fighting each other as a sort of guarantee that they would protect their young, modern woman see men who are sweet and gentle with children as the sort of father they would want for their own babies? Something like that. It makes me want to put them all in a sack for safe-keeping. Not for me obviously. But for the next suitable female that comes along. Does that sound crazy? Yes probably. Considering I don't know any single girls, they'd be in that sack for a long time.

Cheap Thrills



I love making dorky desserts like this that get a huge reaction out of Josh. It's just a raspberry fool with sponge fingers at the base at strawberries throughout for texture. I whipped it up while he was giving Wolf a bath and hid it in the fridge until Wolf had gone to bed and his dad and I could sit down and have dessert while watching Die Hard (Go Alan Rickman!). I am possibly missing the fancy presentation part of being a pastry chef. Except that my old boss would say that this was shit. One of the best things about working at the patisserie was the collection of old ice cream sundae glasses I got for free. Some past owner of the store had them, but the master hated them and thought they were ugly. Score! I love ice cream glasses; they can make any dessert look fancy.

Wolf's first Christmas present



Technically this would be his second present, because Josh and I already bought him a bunch of wooden toys for Christmas. But his maternal Grandmother wasn't far behind, with this awesome playmat from Bubbamats, a local company based in Dandenong. I first saw one of their mats at the Tweddle sleep school, in their lovely toy filled lounge room. It's absolutely what we needed, because Wolf is at that stage where he just rolls over and over until he hits something; not a great idea on floorboards.
The mat is made of PVC and is 11mm thick. It feels nice and bouncy and is textured like a grid; Wolf bumps his head a lot and the cushioning from the mat prevents any injuries. It's 1.9m by 1.3m so it's pretty big, but if it can fit nicely in our little apartment then it's pretty good. I preferred the Miffy design because we've already got so many Miffy items for him (including a raincoat and umbrella that he won't be big enough to use until he's about 2 years old!). It cost $199, but if you have a Australian Baby Card, it's $30 off, and they're currently doing a deal where you get a free picnic mat with your purchase. Perfect for Summer Picnics!


This was such an awesome early present, exactly what Wolf needed and I can't thank my mum enough for getting it for him! Now whenever friends have a new baby, I think I'm never going to buy them clothes or toys again; they get that from everyone else. Just practical things that they want and need but can't bring themselves to ask for!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sleep is good


My dirth of posts has been due to some intensive sleep training with Wolfgang. On Tuesday we went to the Tweddle sleep school to teach Wolf how to put himself to sleep so that when he wakes up in the middle of a nap and is still tired, he can go back to sleep on his own without being rocked. It's an awesome service and completely free, but it takes some work and a bit of crying to get them there. Unforunately Wolf was just taking a nap and the rubbish truck came and woke him up, so I'm off to deal with that.
The little guy is 6 months today. Amazing how time flies!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

35 minute brownies



Here I am trying to lose my baby-weight, and the baking bug has come back. What can I say, it makes me feel sane. Plus if I can successfully complete a baking project while Wolf is asleep, that means I have succeeded in putting him down for a good nap. It's win win. In saying that as I write this I bet he will wake up. That's the kind of instant karma I have. This is a picture of the very last morsel of brownie left from a batch of 12 pieces I made yesterday. It goes bloody fast. It's also fast to make. This is a variation on a Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall recipe. Except that his calls for 250g of dark chocolate, and your average chocolate block is usually 200g, so this simplifies it a lot. Caster sugar has been exchanged for brown sugar for richer brownies.

Chocolate Brownies
200g good quality dark chocolate
160g butter
160g brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
100 plain flour
40g cocoa powder
pinch of salt


Method
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius.
2. Line dish about 20 x 30cm with tin foil
3. Break up chocolate and melt with butter over a double boiler
4. Whisk together eggs, sugar and salt till thick and aerated. When the whisk is lifted from the mixture, the trailing ribbon should hold for a couple of seconds on the surface before disappearing.
5. Sift together flour and cocoa
6. When chocolate and butter have melted, whisk into egg mixture until combined.
7. Fold in flour and cocoa.
8. Pour batter into your prepared dish and bake for about 20 minutes
9. Brownie should have a lightly cracked surface when done. Do not over bake. When you press the centre it should feel slightly soft. This is definitely better when still gooey.
10. Leave to cool and then slice. Or just eat it. 


It only takes 10-15 minutes to put together and 20 minutes to bake, so this makes a pretty good emergency Christmas present if you've forgotten someone or people are coming over. These brownies look good cut into small squares and placed on patty pans and put in box like chocolates. You know if you give them a box of chocolates they're going to be eaten in one sitting anyway. And these cost a lot less to make. I'd estimate about $6? Something like that. Bargain. And they always get a good reaction. This recipe is easily multiplied and altered. Add nuts or for a Christmas-ey twist, dried cherries, cranberries, candied orange peel or white chocolate chips.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Two Special Books

Yesterday the three of us were hanging around Sydney Road in Brunswick and went to the Brunswick Bound Bookstore. It's an incredible place with many unusual art books, heaps of literature and a great children's section that includes a lot of Charlie Harper stuff. They even have Belle and Boo prints! We found two awesome things there, (three actually but the last one we couldn't quite afford so I might have to wrangle a way of getting it for Josh for Christmas).  





Firstly, 'I ♥ macarons' by Hisako Ogita is a beautiful cookery and photography book all about French style macarons. Macarons were one of those major things I never managed to perfect while apprenticing at the patisserie. The number of bad batches definitely outweighed the good. But I love eating them. Especially chocolate filled with ganache. Heaven. 



This book is just superb. Photographs accompany every instruction and there are also pictures of macarons that have gone wrong and explanations why, so you'll never be left with a mystery tray of ugly things wondering what happened (I really could have used this during my apprenticeship). Ogita also suggests different buttercream and jam fillings for every different flavour macaron; some are pretty unusual but most seem spot on and look amazing. But my favourite part of the book is section with a handful of recipes for using up the egg yolks that you don't use in making macarons. Genius! The creme brulee and caramel ice cream recipes look fantastic.
Our other purchase has become a sort of baby bible in less than 24 hours. I blew my trumpet far too early when I said I'd managed to put Wolf down for a nap without rocking him in my arms the whole time. After that he tried his hardest not to sleep all day and has been taking 30-45 minute naps getting crankier each time. A lovely friend suggested the Tweddle Sleep School and just after we made a call to them for an appointment, we came across their book Sleep Right, Sleep Tight.



I'd previously been pretty wary of books like this, thinking they were just crackpot stuff that didn't work, or just variations on the 'leave your baby to cry it out' sort of thing, which I just can't bear. Truthfully the Tweddle method does involve crying, but not abandonment. To summarise (though it absolutely worth getting and reading the whole book) you need to give your baby some downtime, ie. cuddles, story, singing, before you put them in their cot. Following that, give them a pat, say 'Goodnight' and leave them to it. If they don't fall asleep and cry (which he/she will of course do), you go in and use your settling action of choice (patting, rubbing back, stroking forehead, singing) for at least 5-20 minutes, until your little one shows signs of sleepiness. Don't let them fall asleep to your ministrations, the point is to teach them to get to the point of doziness and learn to fall asleep themselves.
Obviously we're not there yet, seeing it's only been 24 hours, but usually Wolf needs a good solid rocking and singing to before he'll even deign to be put in his cot, and he has no idea how to fall asleep by himself. I'd had to pat him through some very anguished crying for about half an hour this morning, but he's asleep and that in itself is amazing. I'm trying the method where he is rolled on his side, I hold his shoulder with one hand and pat his bottom with the other. It seems to work and though he sobs and kicks, eventually he calms down enough to be rolled onto his back. He looks around, snuffles a bit, then closes his eyes and tries to sleep. It's a big step up for us. I hope that continuing this program will work!

Plagiarism

When you were a kid at school, did you ever draw a really fantastic picture, an image that really reflected what you were seeing in your mind, only to look across the room and see that some other less talented kid had looked at yours and copied it exactly but for their lack of artistic skill? The designer of Corky Saint Claire has had that exact experience, although his copycat can't justify her actions through the excuse of childish ignorance. Lauren Ridley, otherwise known as Cherryloco, who can be found on various craft and handmade websites, including the Glasgow Craft Mafia, purports that all 'Cherryloco designs are handcrafted by Lauren from a small makeshift workbench in her flat'. Someone with a BA Honours degree in Jewellery should really know better.

At Corky Saint Claire, every design is carefully perfected and a simple idea becomes something incredibly beautiful and unique. According to Burnished and Buffed, Lauren stated that she found images of Corky Saint Claire designs such as 'Rolly the Radcore Robot (the original pictured first, copy second, images from Burnished and Buffed)' on Google images, so considered them to be in the public domain and free to be used as she wished. What bullshit. 'Scuse my language. She even copied the sales spiels from Corky's website. You can see her version is just a cheap, rough job compared to the lovely, delicate original. It's terrible that someone can make money by stealing the ideas of an innocent, hardworking artist.
Apparently Folksy have taken her stuff off their website. Good! Now we just have to wait for the others to follow. Plagiarism is totally not on, and people need to know that. Glasgow may be far from Melbourne, but that's no excuse.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Domestic Miracles

1. Wolf did not need to be cuddled to sleep for either of his naps. Just wrapped him tight, put him in his cot and read to him till he fell asleep. Incredible! That's the magic of Harry Potter.

2. Gave in and decided to try and find lunch in an incredibly crap looking sandwich shop and 'deli' full of peculiar drinks imported from Indonesia and awful 3 inch thick squares of lasagne. They actually make a decently fresh and tasty schnitzel sandwich. Of course I said rye bread and she heard white, and the mayonnaise was the strange white kind that doesn't have any eggs in it, but the sandwich was still good.

Can I help it that these two things make me incredibly happy? I must have some sort of strange, deep connection with sandwiches in my sub-conscious. Complex layers. Which is odd because when I was little I used to throw out some of my school lunches because I loathed eating plastic wrapped squishy things that smelled plastic-ey even when unwrapped. Eventually they started giving me plain bread rolls and sometimes I didn't eat those either. You never know, picky eaters can grow up to be cooks. Sandwiches have everything you need though, if you make them right. Meat, cheese, vegetables, sauce, bread. It's like the height of all human culinary creations. As opposed to Alien ones. I really can't be bothered going back and changing that sentence though. It's too hot to make corrections.

What would cap off the day would be a surprise visitor of some sort. Nice visitor. Not the Jehovah's Witness. Please not them again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Never trade your granny in for a dollar

Grandparents are amazing people. I don't have any of my own anymore, but Josh has all of his and I received three gifts from them, all arriving promptly on November 26, the day before my birthday! I am amazed at the organisation of grandparents! I suppose when you've little else to do but think of family, then you would be terribly good at remembering birthdays. Pooled together their presents enabled me to buy a stack of beautiful books.



I bet loads of people are getting Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion for Christmas. It's so beautiful. It is an incredibly comprehensive book teaching you how to plant a strong, sustainable veggie garden and how to put the results to good use! Of course we don't exactly have any sort of a garden in the building right now, unless you count the strip of hard earth by the fence filled with incredibly ugly and useless shrubs. The apartment block across the way from us puts their garden to much better use, all the beds full of rich soil, growing silverbeet and herbs by their washing line. Brilliant.
Two Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall books too. Such a fan. Sous Chef at the River Cafe, got fired, became food writer. How ideal is that? I wouldn't have the first clue how to get into food writing. Generally I don't have a clue how to do anything at the moment other than cook and make things for Wolf and generally be incredibly domestic.
Another thing that has amazed me is beautiful grandmotherly crafts. Josh's paternal grandparents make incredible hand-made cards. While Neville composes witty poems about the recepient, complete with cleverly Photoshop-ed photos to match the sentiments (here is a grandfather who no grandchild will ever have to explain the workings of computers to), Elva makes these incredibly delicate and unique quilted cards. They are always mounted in lovely thick textured card.



These three were for Josh and my birthdays, the green one the most recent creation received on Thursday. But the yellow is my favourite.



Elva also makes does beautiful cross-stitched cards. The blue flowers were from when Wolf was born.
She knits, sews and bakes wonderfully as well. A really traditional grandmother! To me that's sort of amazing. I grew up reading storybooks about such grandmothers with their pure silver or white hair, always bearing baked goods, sitting in a rocking chair knitting you a scarf, telling you stories about their own charmed childhood. Meanwhile my own grandmothers were sort of Asian battle-axes; one smoked, read romance novels, played patience and did jigsaw puzzles all the time, the other I hardly knew, she having many other grandchildren who spoke her language and lived in the same country as herself. The only thing I remember my paternal grandmother cooking well was Oxtail soup. It was vibrantly red and slightly oily but very tasty. I think she adapted it from some sort of Italian recipe because I don't think the Chinese version would have included so much tomato and carrot. Her scent was a combination of cigarette smoke (Benson and Hedges I'm pretty sure) and Glen 20. She played the Chinese Zither. She dressed like the queen. Despite all that I think that our paternal grandmothers would have liked each other. Elva would have made cakes and my grandmother would have eaten them all. They would have drunk copious amounts of tea and been very impressed with each other having lived long enough to see another generation added to their respective families. In another World maybe.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What do you do when you have an abundance of cherries?

Make clafoutis! It looks like we're at the start of a very good cherry season this year. One of Josh's aunt gave us a nice bag of slightly tart cherries, but I've been busy scarfing down watermelon, so they went a bit squashy. Last night I made cherry clafoutis for dessert. It's like a baked custard crossed with a pudding. It was a great chance to christen the little blowtorch Josh got me for my birthday. I've always wanted one! This is so easy to whip up in pretty much minutes, as long as you have the cherries pitted already. This has to be served soon after baking, so if you're planning on serving this to guests, just have your ingredients measured and ready so you can throw it together and put it in the oven with no fuss. This recipe serves two incredibly greedy people or four normal people.





Clafoutis

1 cup full cream milk
75 grams caster sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
pinch salt
2 eggs
25g plain flour
1 cup pitted cherries
25g caster sugar for topping


Method
1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celcius.
2. In a small pot combine milk, sugar, vanilla and salt and gently heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to just under a boil.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together 1 egg and the flour. Ensure there are no lumps. Add the second egg and whisk until smooth.
4. Slowly pour hot milk mixture into egg and flour mixture, while whisking constantly.
5. Pour mixture into a buttered dish like the glass pie dish I used or a quiche dish or individual ramekins.
6. Distribute cherries evenly over surface.
7. Bake until the centre of the clafoutis is just slightly puffed, about 20-25 minutes for a large, 10-15 minutes for individual ones.
8. Remove clafoutis from oven, sprinkle with remaining caster sugar. Either caramelise with blowtorch, or return to oven (if electric) for 5-10 minutes.
9. Can be served hot, or can also be cooled and served sliced like a cake.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Woah, Steady On Roald Dahl

          'Listen, Sultan,' the Queen said. 'Did anything unpleasant happen in your city three nights ago?'
'Every night unpleasant things are happening in Baghdad,' the Sultan said. 'We are chopping off people's heads like you are chopping parsley.'
- Roald Dahl, The BFG

Friday, November 27, 2009

Baby Whisperer



The handsome fellow holding Wolf here is Abdul. He is an incredible artist. I can't put any scans of his stuff on here. So if you are partial to portraits done in a unique and expert hand, have a look at his website. I love his stuff. I'm thinking of saving up some money to commission him to do a family portrait of Josh, Wolf and I. If you see his stuff you'll know why. He took care of our Wolf for a whole our as we ate our dinner at Little Creatures Dining Hall in Fitzroy. Wolf watched the kitchen a lot. Hello future chef? It's a surprisingly fantastic place to take a baby and a group of friends for dinner. Another one to add to the list, Hey Bambini. Wolf screamed and fussed and no one minded. Incredible!
In about an hour I will be 24 years old. At this point I ask myself if I've achieved anything up till now. Wolf is the best thing I've ever made. Time was I knew people who would think that wasn't a real achievement in life. But things are different now and I know motherhood is up there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Second Night Out



The last time Josh and I had a baby-less night out was when we went to see Harry Potter, less than a month after we had Wolfgang. He's 5 months and a week now, so it's been ages. Sometimes I think I might be more attached to Wolf than he is to me. It's all about the milk for him really. Tomorrow is my 24th birthday and Sunday was our 5 year anniversary, so last night we had dinner at The Station Hotel and then went to see New Moon. Don't don't don't yell at me. I'm a total nerd-burger and I read all the books a couple of years ago so I had to see it! God it was angsty though. I should get a major gripe out of the way before I get into the good bits of the night: Hoyts Cinemas, why the hell would you put half an hour of advertisements before the film? By the time it actually got round to the start of the movie, most people didn't even realise they were so exhausted by the endless terrible ads so people kept having to tell each other to shut up. Half an hour of ads. If you'd shown just a few trailers and a few local ads then we all would have been home to our children (though judging by the look of the rest of the audience, I'm fairly certain Josh and I were the only parents there) at least 20 minutes earlier! You bastards! Be a little bit choosy about who you sell your ad-space to why don't you? Argh. Apart from that, New Moon was worth viewing just to see their fantastic and justified use of Thom Yorke's 'Hearing Damage'. Why are young girls so in love with Robert Pattinson? He's odd looking. And quite deranged. I don't know about all these horrible new interviews in bloody Girlfriend magazine and all that, but he's supposed to be a recluse who eats endless microwave meals and obsessively reads everything written about him on the internet, including creepy fanfiction. He should go back to the UK maybe. Oh I'll shut up about it.

Dinner. Guess what Josh ordered for entree? 'Fromage de tete' otherwise known as 'head cheese' or jellied brawn. Don't know what it is? Chopped up pigs head in pork stock jelly. Mmm. Maybe.
Now I know the chef would have been all like 'Oh this is so cool, so retro. We need to re-visit the classics. I can make the people love this again' at the same time as thinking 'I hope they like it. I hope it sells. I really want people to get into this. My heart is on my sleeve.' So it's absolutely no criticism to the chef at all. I'm just not that mad about offal. I'm certain that when I'm in my fourties I will probably enjoy it. I fully believe in naturally acquiring tastes for things over time. I didn't like oysters when I was younger and now I do. I don't know how it happened but it did. Anyway I had a bite, and it tasted fine, not terribly flavoursome really. It's more the different textures of the various bits of meat. Jelly like here, stringy there and spongy every now and again. I made Josh finish it. The waiter looked very relieved.
For mains, Josh had the 400g Black Angus New York strip steak with hand cut chips and bernaise. I had the prosciutto wrapped pork fillet with black pudding, caramelised peaches and sauteed kipfler potatoes. Both amazing. The Station Hotel always do their steaks perfectly to your requests, and their chips are just beautiful. I was very impressed with the pork dish; salty and rich meat and black pudding contrasting with the sweet peaches. It seems like more of a winter menu dish (apart from the peaches) and I could have done with a cider on the side to cut through the richness, if only I were allowed alcohol.
No time for dessert so we had boysenberry choc tops at the Cinema. Quite a contrasting night. Admittedly I was thinking about Wolfgang the whole time. I'm going to have to get used to leaving him with my mum or with Josh on his own if I'm going to manage to go back to work. There were actually quite a few babies at the Station Hotel last night. There was one little boy maybe a month older than Wolf at the table next to us. I watched the sleepy boy throw his arms around his mother's neck and bury his face there and I missed my Wolf terribly. It's quite strange; when I'm out without him, it's as though I've been stripped of the maturity he affords me and I feel like a young and stupid girl again. Oh, so Hey Bambini, the Station Hotel would be a good place to review! Babies cried in the dining room and no one batted an eyelid. Also plenty of room for prams, capsules and strollers.

Hey Bambini!

I didn't know about this site until their webmaster left a comment on one of my posts. Hey Bambini is a totally awesome online guide to baby-friendly cafes in Melbourne. Cafes are sorted by area, including places outside central Melbourne, so you'll always find your local quickly and easily. I love their use of retro storybook illustrations on their website and blog too. A guide like this is essential for mums with babies, or mums with children of all ages for that matter. Someone give this woman a publishing deal! The site has great kid friendly recipes and product recommendations too.
Hm. That sounds vaguely like what I'm doing on here. Only they're like...professional. I seriously wish I'd found this site earlier. There are quite a few places I'd not heard of, and here I am trawling through magazines and food guides like a madman. There are great photos of the places as well, so you can properly gauge for yourself if it's a place for you and your baby.

Hey Rachel, they reviewed Pepper on there! Also, while I'm talking at you, I am super sorry for ramming my stroller into you so many times on Tuesday. For the love of god no one give me a driver's licence. I will just kill and maim so many people. Really. Anyway, I'm fairly willing to stand still as you run me over with your pram. With bricks in it even. It's awful when people realise what a klutz I am. I lose all credibility as a human being! Walking disaster. I do believe that was another nickname I had at the patisserie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nappy Pants

Summer has come early and babies must wear less! I think I'm of that camp of mothers who under-dress their children and get yelled at by random strangers. We have taken Wolf out in just his nappy on those horrible 30 plus days where you don't really want to take them out but have to. But a bare nappy in public seems so indecent. Especially when...well he does a poop and you've not quite found a good spot to change him and it's visibly yellowing and seeping through. The answer? Nappy pants! Adorable little shorts for your baby boy or girl. But so many pairs cost between $20-40. For a pair of pants comprised of less material than your own bonds underpants?



It's hard to get the little guy to sit still for a photo these days. Do you like Wolf's nappy pants? I got them from Square Peg Babywear, a small NSW based company that make very affordable but super cute baby clothes. Apart from their current collection which includes onsies, dresses, singlets and tees in egg, strawberry and Space Invaders prints, they have a 'bargain' section. Singlets, tees, leggings, pants, shorts and of course nappy covers in four different cute prints. Every item is $9.95 and you can choose from green stars, blue moons, pink hearts and black and white poker prints. Bargain? I'd say so!

Everyone has bad kitchen moments. Especially me.

Hey, you know my old boss the pastry chef used to call me 'Emma, Catastrophe!'



Chunky Corn Chowder.




Flat scones.

Sometimes failed cooking at home bums me out because it seems like the one thing I usually know how to do well. When working it generally inspires terror and the need to come up with a genius excuse so you don't get yelled at for wasting ingredients.
Does anyone have a good scone recipe? All the ones I have are total rubbish. I've never made them quite the way I like. If anything, this one needed more baking powder and less milk. Blast!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tuna Pasta Salad


Tuna Pasta Salad. You don't need a recipe for this really. It's just tinned tuna in oil, rocket, asparagus, radish, tomato, red potato, spring onion, cucumber, penne and home made vinaigrette. Easy Summer food. Why am I so pleased with this? I'm rubbish at cooking during the Summer. Mostly because I'm generally rubbish in hot weather. Only 20 degrees today though, so it's Corn Chowder. Bit of a U-turn.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fruity


Strawberries were about $5 a kilo yesterday at Victoria Market. We do try to buy what's cheap and in season, but a bad habit inherited from my mother has found that I will get these things but not do anything with them and they will rot in the fridge for a week or so. She often does that with tomatoes. Perhaps in being Chinese it doesn't naturally occur to us to make tomato sauce.
I haven't had that much initiative as a home cook until I actually moved out, and now that thriftiness and creativity are much valued and a greater sign of wealth in life than a pantry stocked with store bought goods, I've been trying my hand at making everything we eat at home. Our daily breakfast is home made muesli, I never buy mayonnaise if I can help it (except the egg-less awful crap when I was pregnant), lunches and dinners come off my stove unless we go out or occasionally have pizza with friends. During the colder months I tried to bake as much as possible too, unwilling to eat any biscuits that didn't come out of my own oven. But now Summer has come early, and baking is out of the question. So I thought I'd try my hand at frozen desserts, something I only ever made at the patisserie and a few classes at William Angliss. I could have made jam with our abundant strawberries, but we never eat anything with jam unless I make scones, and that just goes back to the baking issue. I saw an old episode of the Naked Chef where Jamie Oliver made a Praline Semifreddo, so I thought I'd try my hand at Strawberry one.


Strawberry Semifreddo 
Serves about six people, or a greedy couple over three nights


600g Strawberries, the riper the better
110g caster sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup milk
2 egg yolks
Pinch salt
2 egg whites
1 cup pure cream


Method
1. Hull and halve strawberries and macerate in a bowl with 60g caster sugar and lemon juice. Leave for at least 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, salt and 50g caster sugar in a bowl till pale yellow in colour
3. Bright milk gently to the boil, then pour into egg mixture slowly while whisking
4. Pour custard back into pot and cook on low heat while stirring continuously with wooden spoon. Best way to test of your anglaise is ready, is to wipe your finger across the back of the spoon. If you leave a clear trail through the residue, it is cooked.
5. Remove custard from pot into a large bowl. Leave to cool.
6. Blend strawberries to a puree. Combine puree with custard.
7. Allow mixture to cool for about 10 minutes in the fridge.
8. Whisk egg whites to medium peaks. I don't know why everyone uses mixer bowls for this, when it takes a couple of minutes by hand for such a small amount.
9. Whisk cream to soft peak. Same goes for cream, takes only a couple of minutes hand whisking and is an awesome work out.
10. Gently fold egg whites into cooled strawberry mixture, taking care not to knock too much air out of the whites.
11. When whites are nearly combined, start folding in whipped cream. When mixture looks more or less consistent in colour, pour into a lightly oiled mould, tray or shallow bowl. Cover with cling wrap and freeze for at least 5 hours.
12. To serve, upturn the parfait onto a plate and surround with berries.
     
But we couldn't be bothered doing that, seeing it was just us, so we just scooped it out like ice cream and ate it from a bowl.


We also blended a mango so ripe you could scoop the flesh from skin with your hand, with a couple of cups of milk and a generous scoop of Greek yoghurt to make a nice smoothie. Treats all round.




3 things that have made me happy recently

1. Buying cheap ripe fruit at the market and turning them 
into tasty things

2. Spending less than usual on our weekly market shop


3. Taking a shower without first having to forewarn Josh and co-ordinate it amongst our other concerns of feeding, cooking, cleaning, distracting and playing with Wolf and finally going to the toilet.

I'm pretty sure this list used to include things like going out with friends, shopping for clothes, a nice meal out and sex. Actually I could add sex to the list, but all of a sudden that seems so crass. Where did that girl go who used to have no boundaries in terms of conversation topics? Mum, if you're reading this and feeling squeamish, how do you suppose I came to have Wolf?
Oh how times have changed. In with domestic bliss, out with the youthful shenanigans. Hello adulthood. Next week I turn 24.
Hey look at this cake. Wouldn't you feel a little bad cutting into it? It'd expect it to bark or something.

Seven Seeds

Yesterday our little family finally made it to Seven Seeds in Carlton. We've been getting recommendations for this place left, right and centre, and we made a date for it with a couple of friends who are expecting a baby. More babies means more mothers to hang out with!
We arrived there an hour before we planned to meet, in typical new parent fashion, so we could secure a table with room for a stroller. Seven Seeds is housed in what looks like a former warehouse or garage, and is very well hidden on a street full of such. Inside it's like a lovely wooden box with an interior that looks as though it's made from odds and ends, like fabric and sewing scraps and leftover wood-working pieces. I especially love the industrial hanging lamps with red macrame covers. A unique feature is the bike parking in the entrance. Many bike racks as well as a few wall-mounted ones so you can park your bicycle in safety and style! Very cool, and something Josh absolutely loved. Although I get the feeling that if you're not riding a fixed-gear, single-speed, fancy road or at least pretty retro bike, you're going to get some negative looks. Makes you feel as though if you've got a practical but ugly hybrid, you'll be wanting to lock that up to a tree further up the road. Hipsters and their bloody fixed-gear bikes that have no brakes. How the hell do you expect to emergency stop?
We got a good four-seater near the counter and coffee machine and I got to breast feeding. No blanket, no cover, nothing. And I got no stares. Now that is a rare thing when you're in a place full of students and hipsters. Though Wolf did let out a few almighty screams after he woke up from his nap, which might have sent a few students reconsidering their plans for a night of unprotected sex. I think I might be getting very cynical about University students. I did only just graduate this year. There were actually a couple of other families with prams. There is ample room between the widely spaced tables for prams, so you're unlikely to get the glare of disapproval from the staff. Though one stupid business man did fall over our stroller on his way to his table. I don't know how. He was quite short so he couldn't have missed it. Luckily Wolf was in Josh's arms, or we would have had to quietly murder the guy.
The spate of terribly good looking, impeccably dressed wait staff were awfully polite and attentive, bringing glasses of water as soon as we sat down, and didn't seem to mind that we occupied the one table for near three hours.
There were two beautiful gleaming coffee machines for Josh and our barista friend to drool over. Josh had a ice coffee and espresso and found them both excellent. Between Josh and our friend, they are probably the pickiest coffee drinkers I know. Food was great, with a nice small cake display and properly short and well executed menu. We shared a lamington that was fluffy and moist, with good toasted coconut and a rich dark chocolate coating, though I suspect they buy them in because the kitchen definitely does not look like it has the capacity to produce sweets. I had an amazing grain sandwich of sardines, fontina cheese and a sherry-something relish. Sweet, salty and amazing. It came with a lovely, lightly dressed coleselaw salad. Our friends had some nice looking muesli with berries and thick cut fruit toast, which came with an entire jar of blueberry jam. The food is generous and well presented, but not expensive like similar places. With four drinks and three food items, Josh and I spent under $50.
It is admittedly a noisy place, sounds echoing off the wooden walls and floors, so if your little one doesn't like that sort of environment, you might want to avoid Seven Seeds, or at least attend at an hour unlikely to be busy. Also, I think this is more of a mum and dad place or mum and friend; I'm not sure this cooly happening place would be comfortable for a mother and baby on their own. Otherwise, Seven Seeds is a surprisingly welcoming place with great food, amazing coffee and room for your pram.
Seven Seeds, 114 Berkeley Street, Carlton.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

John Wright - Hero in a bad hat


You don't think this guy looks cool, do you? I don't suppose you're supposed to find him cool. He looks like someone's dad. He probably is. And that's not exactly the most stylish hat in the World. He also sort of looks like one of those teachers that always volunteers to go on school camps and excursions, and knows lots about native flora and fauna but no one ever listens to him. But he doesn't mind.
But this is John Wright. And I love him. He is a foraging expert based in the UK. You can see him regularly on many of Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall's River Cottage programs. He also wrote the River Cottage books on mushrooms and 'the edible seashore'.
For some reason, I get a real kick out of watching this guy on the telly, finding edible things on the side of the road, in hedgerows, under bridges, in the middle of seemingly desolate land. What could be cooler than discovering delicious edible things wild and free? It's so very natural, very hunter gatherer. Maybe there's some sort of cave woman instinct going on in there; 'he hunt food, feed young, good breeding.' Hm.
Foraging IS popular in the Melbourne restaurant scene too. We have stinging nettles and samphire and wild herbs all over the place. We'd have blackberries too if they weren't sprayed with poisons all the time. But there's so much to be gathered and eaten. I even wrote him a gushy e-mail. Yes, stupid fan girl, I know. But he wrote back! How nice is that? Here he is making TV shows, writing books and taking people on mushrooming tours, and yet he took the time to write back to little old me. This basket full of wild strawberries will the cover of his upcoming book on Hedgerows. Mouth watering.
Go to the River Cottage website to have a look at his books and River Cottage DVDs he features in. I do like Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall too. Don't go thinking I still have a thing for old men like I did when I was a teenager (it's a phase. Let's not go all Freud OK?) I do love Morrissey and even though he freaked me out in Sweeny Todd, I still love Alan Rickman. But really, you must stop reading into things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Former homes, former lives

I just found this picture amongst the early stuff Josh took with the shiny Pentax digital SLR I bought him last year. This is a picture of chubby me in our old apartment in Prahran. I may have been pregnant already. I have just eaten too much chocolate as per usual. It is so crazy to think that was our entire living space. I am sitting about 1.25 metres from the TV. Behind me in the little study area. Looking at me reminds me that while outside the walls of the apartment, Prahran was a great big wonderful place full of shops and cafes that I liked. The inside was nice but tiny. There wasn't even room to try and fit a cot in our bedroom, let alone all the other stuff Wolf would need. Now we're in the reverse. Lovely big renovated apartment, scary street full of litter and people who do not return my smiles or greetings. Just look at that room. Looks like we moved ourselves into a shop and are trying and failing to live around the displays. Filthy. I must have been pregnant actually. Too tired to tidy. Plus I bought that blue donkey hopper for Wolf when I found out about him. He's not even ready for that now. But you know, preparation is the key.

Mrs. Fields goes down


I can't find that recipe for the flourless chocolate cake I used to make the the patisserie I was apprenticing at anywhere. It's important because I stole it from my ex-boss's book when I was snooping around the kitchen after hours, looking for my recipe book which he would not return. I couldn't leave without something, having gone to the trouble of risking near-death by entering without permission. So I tore it out of his book, folded it up and ran away. He is of course looking for me and will likely beat me to death with an oversized rolling pin if he finds me. But I don't think he reads blogs. Too busy chasing young shop assistants and drinking wine and eating stinky cheese. I used to keep this recipe in my underwear drawer (don't read anything into that) and I did write down a copy for my favourite New Zealander chef. But now I personally an recipe-less. Maybe that's a good thing. Without that piece of evidence, I may yet survive. But I do like the idea of a stolen recipe. In the end, the basic formula in every recipe can be worked out by an intelligent chef just by tasting. You cannot avoid copying and emulation. Hell if you write recipe books, that's what people are doing to you all day long. They take the recipe you took much time to craft, use it, alter it, and occasionally abuse it, till they have made it their own.

One favourite 'stolen' recipe, is that of Mrs Field's Chocolate Chip Cookies. I love the story of the woman who went to Neiman Marcus and asked for the cookie recipe. They said it would only cost $2.50 and she had them charge her credit card. When she received her statement, the charge read $250. She was so angry that she swore to distribute the recipe to cookie lovers everywhere. Good on her. I've made a lot of these cookies. There seems to be slight variation in the recipes listed online, but I find this one works best for me.

Mrs Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 9 dozen cookies


4 cups plain flour
5 cups of oats, processed till quite fine
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups salted butter, softened
4 eggs
2 tea spoons vanilla essence
1 tea spoon salt
675 grams of milk chocolate chips


Method
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees or 160 degrees fan forced.
2. Cream butter and both types of sugar till pale and fluffy
3. Gradually add eggs to the butter and sugar mix. It may split a little but it doesn't matter terribly much.
4. Add vanilla and salt.
5. Sift all dry ingredients, bar oats and gently fold into wet mixture.
6. Now fold in oats.
7. Fold in chocolate chips. Make sure chocolate is well distributed through dough.
8. Dough should be quite sticky. If it doesn't stick to your hands, it's too dry. Adding some melted
butter to the mixture can fix this.
9. Roll dough into golf ball sized rounds and place them on a greased flat baking tray at least 6cm apart. They will spread quite far and quickly in the oven.
10. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Centres should still be soft. Cookie will harden up slightly during cooling. You can cook them further if you prefer crunchier cookies.


These effectively taste the same as Mrs Fields but somehow more wholesome. If you don't process the oats to a powder, then you will get a stronger flavour of oats in your cookie, which is pretty nice. A good variation is to have half white chocolate chips and half milk. Or include some dried cherries or pecans. It's a cookie recipe. Go nuts. Take that you scary rich cougar, Mrs Fields. I wonder what Mr Fields looks like? Or did he die a mysterious death and now prowls her thousands of stores looking for something young handsome and fresh baked? I could Google it, but I sort of prefer my made-up version of events.
Boxed up in a pretty tin these would make a great home-made Christmas present. But they may not make it out of the house. Josh can sit and eat a pile of these, which is saying something, because usually he gets over sweets quite quickly. It's the salty sweet combination though. Salter butter is essential.
Seeing version this recipe are quite well distributed over the internet, I don't think I need to add Mrs Fields to the list of people who want to kill me. But if you meet a deranged French pastry chef, don't tell him anything about me.

Handmade Goodness

We all love pretty hand-made things. Wolfgang's Godfather Luyi is working at Corky Saint Claire, an amazing little shop in the Flinders Street Station underground, full of screen-printed t-shirts, lovely hand-made jewelry, unique accessories and ceramic works. When visiting the store you will be hard pressed to leave without buying something, but unlike many Melbourne hand-made stores you won't be emptying your wallet for that irresistible item. Christmas is coming. My advice would be to buy half your gifts from there, the other half from Lark. Why give boring mass produced gifts when you could buy handmade? This of course excludes books which are always good. I really want this rain cloud pendant. (Hint hint Josh)
Go to the online store to shop without leaving your chair, or visit the Corky Saint Claire blog to have a look at their newest stuff. See the handsome, swarthy young man posing with the items? That's Luyi. Don't all adorable babies deserve an equally good-looking godfather? I think so. If there was such an accident as both Josh and I dying, as well as Wolf's two pairs of grandparents being unable to take care of him, this is the man who would be responsible for bringing him up. Hm. At least he'll turn out stylish. I'm joking. He is the best man for the job. But currently his job is making stuff at Corky Saint Claire. It is worth visiting him there.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy River Cafe today


There is a good cafe in Footscray. Miracles do happen. I'm slightly distracted as there are three little boys downstairs running around the apartment block trying to peek into our downstairs neighbour's window as she breast feeds or something. She's about the size of a small beached whale so I don't know. I'd admit to being insulting but that is actually true. Anyway. The Happy River Cafe is part of the Footscray Community Arts Centre, oddly situated behind the Ryco Factory on 45 Moreland Street. I went there with the lovely ladies of my mothers' group this afternoon. I'm not just saying they're lovely because I know they're reading this. I'm absolutely crap at being friends with other women because I always say or do the wrong thing, but these ladies are genuinely lovely and absolutely cool. All their babies are super gorgeous and awfully clever. And I can't believe I met one of the writers of the Hungry Girls Cookbook. Honour.
The cafe is fronted by a lovely expanse of lawn that is probably a lot greener when the rain is more abundant. There is ample pram parking and plenty of good sized tables outside under some decent shade. You could even just sit on a picnic blanket on the lawn and your order is still brought out to you. Five out of the usual six of us gathered outside and had a relaxing afternoon meal. I had excellent Eggs Benedict with perfectly poached eggs and a flavoursome but not overly rich Hollandaise sauce and a banana smoothie. According to the other girls they make good pides and one lady had an enormous and beautiful looking fruit scone with jam and cream.
It's fantastic to have a large space to gather with other mother friends. Somewhere Wolf can scream bloody murder as he tends to, but not disturb as many souls as usual. So Footscray has two things going for it: The Happy River Cafe and the Station Hotel. Not too shabby. All we need now is one hatted fine dining restaurant and one decent bar and we'll be all set.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No glasses is worse than half empty

I used to get really grumpy at my parents about how we never had any matching glasses. There were admittedly some pairs of nice highballs and tumblers and a few dusty champagne glasses, but otherwise it was a jumble of random stuff. Collectible Disney glasses from McDonalds that my dad loved collecting for some reason. A squat gold rimmed glass he stole from the Captain's room when we were taking a tour of some old boat in Williamstown. Orange and brown floral patterned ones I suspect survived from their student kitchens in the 70s. But why didn't we have at least enough matching glasses so that when we had guests over, no one would have to be the odd one out with the smiling Hunchback of Notre Dame or the frosted cut glass Batman in action? It was worth refusing drinks just to avoid this embarrassment.

Of course, now I know better. We did have sets of glasses. Loads of them, over many years. They probably had cabinets full of good glassware, before they had me. From an early age my carelessly swung arms and sweeping gestures and my habit of walking right into things probably destroyed a hefty number, leaving lonely glasses in their wake. I realised this a moment ago as I was sweeping our bedroom and my broom handle caught a tall glass on a bedside table and nearly sent it to the floor had I not caught it by the rim with the tips of my fingers; a very rare save. I look in my own glass cupboard and see stray Ikea glasses - different styles from each different trip to the store - , Irish coffee mugs, Yoshimoto Nara design jar glasses that once held sake which I forced Josh to drink. So sorry parents. I guess I owe you a set or two.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hausfrau is love


I think I'm a little bit in love with this place. I go there every opportunity, whenever anyone wants to take me anywhere. And why not? It's so pretty and airy inside. It was wonderfully cool in there yesterday, though it was 31 degrees outside and they were still baking pastries and gingerbread cookies through the afternoon in the open kitchen.  I can't go past their amazing chocolate fondant, brownies, apple strudel and any variety of their savoury tarts. If I was still early on in the game, I'd want my date to take me here. Start with a croque monsiuer and a salad, then a selection of miniature tarts and madelines with tea and finally a tub of Jock's ice cream to take home. Win my heart forever more. You might even get invited to share said tub of Jocks.

In real life, I can actually steer the stroller through the aisles, there are always other children there, there are good comfy corners for breastfeeding and you can spend hours talking without anyone trying to reclaim your table.
I know I've talked about Hausfrau before, but that's love for you; you just can't shut up about it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sandwiches save your sanity



It's 34 degrees outside. Wolf has been down for a nap for 20 minutes, sleeping in the middle of the bed in the only room in the house that has air conditioning. I've already made myself a ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich, scarfed it down and watched 10 painfully informative minutes of Oprah. Most days I manage to get down a couple glasses of milk, some juice, biscuits if we have any, an apple, some squares of chocolate; enough to keep me going while I entertain, educate, comfort, feed and change my baby son. But when I get a few minutes to myself, to slice up that last heel of sourdough, slap together some slices of cheese and tomato and any salad or meat we have lying around the fridge, I suddenly feel sane again. Taking the time to make a sandwich and then sit down and eat it can turn a fairly difficult, stressful day, into a good one.
Maybe it's because I'm obsessed with food. Actually downing something wholesome, tasty and filling is like my version of a cup of tea and a lie down or a manicure or having your hair done. Maybe it's because I miss being in a commercial kitchen and the smallest act of putting together a decent little meal makes me feel like a useful person again. Even when the bread is stale. Even when the cheese is going dry at the edges. As long as there are two slices of yeasty goodness with something in between, I can remember that I exist for myself as well as my son and partner.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Angry rant

I blew up at someone today. Mostly because I don't think death has a place in Facebook status updates. I mean, can you equate the death of someone important to you with posting that you 'got really drunk last night', or 'had a great day shopping', or are 'sick to death of studying so hard'. Pathetic attention seeking.
What's worse than that? Writing it in that bloody teenage instant messaging slang and with incorrect grammar. You can show a little respect by actually bothering to dig deep into the pit of your language skills and pull out real words with real meaning. It's the equivalent of texting all your friends that you're 'sad because your grandma died' just so you receive a lot of half-considered condolence messages in your Inbox. It's sad news today. And then tomorrow you'll replace it with 'bought three dresses today for less than $50! Yay!' Truly, that's some real emotion there.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday morning market shopping


Every Friday morning the three of us head to Victoria Market to do our weekly shop. We always get our fruit and veg at the self-serve place closest to the deli entrance. As I was selecting a red capsicum from the pile, an middle-aged lady sidled up and began sorting through them too. I picked up a large one and felt something rolling around inside it. It could have been one of those weird Siamese min-capsicums you occasionally find inside, or a dislodged core or a worm rolled up tight. But this doesn't happen very often, so really the best way to tell a good capsicum is just by looking at it and feeling it. But I gave it a few serious shakes anyway and set it back down on the pile. The woman next to me, after a moment, rattled the one in her hand, and did so with all the subsequent ones she selected. I think now and forevermore she may test her capsicums by rattling them. This is possibly how old wives tales are born.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Footscray cafes fail


So as far as I know there are apparently two reasonably good cafes within Footscray. The Happy River Cafe in the Footscray Community Arts Centre and the Dancing Dog Cafe. WRONG. There might still be one, but the Dancing Dog Cafe was just awful. At first glance it could be a place in Fitzroy or Carlton - it certainly retains the attitude - but it lacks the good food, good drink and good music that would set those places apart. The best part of my visit was when this lovely African guy opened the door for me to push my pram through. That doesn't often happen, especially around here! Bad blueberry muffin; grainy, fluffy, overly sweet and very strangely pale in colour. Bad hot chocolate; made from cooking chocolate melted in a ramekin in the microwave accompanied by a mug of frothed milk and a dry marshmallow. The disgusting chocolate smelt burnt too. When you melt chocolate in the microwave, you need to stop and stir it every now again or it will burn. Obvious. Bad service; only one counterhand/waitress with no greeting, who took her time about serving me and who had serious trouble with eye contact. The other food in the display cabinet didn't look great either. A few pides with boring pides, pies from Bocastle in the pie warmer (does anyone make their own pies anymore or did Bocastle just totally corner the lazy cafe's owners market?). The seating isn't great either. A few tables outside, but then a bunch of armchairs crowded around a small coffee table, a few bar seats, a six seater table and a four seater table. Not much of a choice. The building is certainly cute compared to the rest of the places you find in Footscray. That's the nicest thing I can say about it.
It was listed as a 'mother friendly' cafe in the folder the crazy playgroup lady gave me. I don't know why. I only got my tiny stroller in a couple of metres from the door. I hope the Happy River Cafe isn't like that, because that's where we're meeting on Tuesday for our first playgroup session.
I do hear that the Dancing Dog Theatre is excellent and hosts many interesting small shows, much in the way La Mama does in Carlton, and maybe that's where all the swaggering comes from. It's a symptom of arty people 'in the know'. But the Dancing Dog was definitely not worth the half-hour walk with stroller from our apartment. I think I stayed in there for about 10 minutes it was that comfortable.
When I was leaving the lone counterhand ducked out the front with a friend for a cigarette. Who was manning the cash register then? Ugh. It was just painful. I walked Wolf home and got one of those bloody Grand Angus burgers from McDonalds. Talk about piling up the bad decisions. I am eating nothing but apples for the rest of the day.

Fixed the counter

Now it says two. That sounds right for now. I do wonder how many people if anyone ever actually read this thing.
I just sat through 20 minutes of crying to try and get Wolfgang to learn how to get himself to sleep. Bloody hell.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Impossible numbers...and Japanese condiments

So I just added this counter thing at the bottom of my blog. At Luyi's advising. Though very late. But it says I've had over 30,000 hits. That can't be right can it? Bloody faulty thing. Like the water metre. All wrong.

Yakitori for dinner. When I first gave birth to Wolf I was so not bothered to go out to a Japanese grocery store to get yakitori sauce that I ordered it online. Lazy. Or extravagant? In any case it was pretty bloody good stuff. I got it from this place called Kei's Kitchen. Run by a lady called Kei and her daughter Masako, they call Kei's kitchen a 'very small "cottage" concern'. I love that. I love the idea of cottage businesses. I plan for that soon. When I get some cash to buy some screen-printing materials. From their online 'deli' I bought their Yakitori sauce, Noodle-salad dressing and some Nori. It came within a week. They do Kaiseki cooking classes in Sydney as well. I'd never bought food online till then. Call it what you will. Josh just sighed very emphatically when I put the order through. Where the hell would I buy Japanese cooking condiments on this side of town anyway?

Threadless

I LOVE Threadless. My mother-in-law got me into it. She bought Wolfgang some adorable suits from there, and now that my 4 1/2 month old has mysteriously grown out of all his size 00 suits, I had to get him some more. The designs are just fantastic. Always something different and new and always something on sale! I got these 5 suits for US$60. Now that the exchange rate is so good, buying stuff from the US doesn't hurt anymore! Their range of kids t-shirts is so awesome too. I plan to kit Wolf out in this stuff for the forseeable future! And everything on super nice American Apparel clothes. I love the light coloured one with the sparrow leaving home. Very gorgeous design. All these talented illustrators and designers! The yellow one is very cool. It's called 'Dandy Lions' by Kristen Howdeshell. They're lion heads done in a nice retro cartoon style on long stalks. Dandylions. So cute.

Also, sorry about the diatribe from the last post. I'm generally incredibly over-protective of my family, and when they're crossed, I get very angry. Cycling is generally dangerous. I remember once nearly getting hit head on by a truck turning right while I was crossing an intersection on my bike. He just wasn't looking, I was the last in a line of cars and he was just gunning to get across. It wasn't even busy, 7 O'clock in the morning on Chapel Street! I avoided him by centimetres as he braked hard and ducked onto the footpath without coming off my bike. I didn't stop. I was so scared I just had to keep going or I would freak out.
But shopping makes it all better. And cooking. I can't believe yesterday morning I got up and said 'I'm going to make banana muffins for breakfast.' I must be crazy. Three square meals a day for my Josh. It's a wonder that man isn't totally obese. I would still love him if he was. Honest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cyclist Killers

I am furious. I am so furious I feel SICK. Yesterday some complete BITCH hit Josh in her stupid car while he was riding home from work. She was weaving between lanes without signalling and when he tried to get past her she suddenly turned into his lane and HIT HIM. He's got this bloody awful graze and all this bruising everywhere. God damn but he's lucky he braced himself against the car so he didn't go right down. She gave him her number and said she would pay for any damage to his bike and if he had any injuries, but he's called today and now they're saying they're denying any damage. BITCH BITCH BITCH.
It chills me to think of anything happening to Josh. What would Wolf and I do without him? Dangerous bloody drivers. So many don't care about cyclists, never think about us, don't care if they hit us! God damn it. Cycling is the transport of the future. Sustainable, environmentally friendly, great for health and fitness. God damned callous drivers. I hope she and her car go under a semi-trailer and get dragged all the way down Ballarat road until they resemble nothing but a bloody smear. There, I said it. I'm sorry to be so violent but I am so angry!
Luckily the police can enforce people like this to give up the rest of their details. Plus Josh's dear brother is a cop. But God damn if I ever meet that woman she is going to be lucky to leave with her face.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chefiness

Every now and again I set myself a home kitchen challenge just to prove to myself that when I finally go back to work, I won't collapse in a sobbing heap in front of the stove. Josh's favorite mac and cheese for dinner, roast chicken sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise and raspberry friands for mothers' group tomorrow. All made at the same time within an hour. And then leave the kitchen spotless. Done. I can be a mother and a cook. I can return to work. But can I do it in good conscience?

Pram Envy makes your money disappear. Or at least your partner's.

'Pram Envy': An emotional experience that occurs when you are walking your baby in his or her pram/stroller and you see another mother with a model superior to your own in every way. She is probably also wearing better clothes that do not have breast milk stains on them. Associated with turning an unappealing shade of green and hoping that your child will grow up to be mentally superior to the other woman's child to make up for it. 
OR
When you try to wheel your Land Rover of a stroller into a busy cafe but find that you are mowing down chairs and tables in your wake. Meanwhile a mother with a much more compact model, wheels her child in with ease and cuts in front of you because she is not flustering over upturned tables and other peoples' squashed toes. 


I'm more of the latter. So like other first time mothers before me, I purchased one of those massive all-in-one pram, stroller and car seat systems. It seemed a good idea at the time. Mostly because I was 7 months pregnant and walking around in Baby Bunting was both frightening and tiring and I couldn't find anywhere to sit down. That, and there was this Russian couple eyeing off the same Steelcraft system as us and one of the shop staff had mentioned they only had a few of them in black left. I get like that when I see someone considering something that I have vague ideas about purchasing; I have to have it so they can't. That's reasonably evil, I know. It didn't seem to matter at the time anyway. Wolfgang wasn't here yet. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted in a pram other than it had to be safe for my yet-to-be-born. And it had to look OK. I was NOT going to buy a pram from Kmart. Plus pregnancy brought on some long lost infantile tendencies, so I think I might have been stamping my feet and demanding that we just DO THIS and GO HOME.
Anyway it's been pretty jolly good for the first few months. Mostly because I only ever use the stroller bit when Josh or my mum are around, so I've got someone to help me carry the bloody base down the filthy concrete stairs of our apartment block. It has these bloody massive back wheels which is quite good for bumps but are a total bugger when you are trying to actually go in anywhere. I took it to Hausfrau; my mum insisted that we take the pram even though all the cool young Yarraville mums were using slings and cross-over carriers. I took out a couple of tables and a man's foot. It took up the space that three people sitting down would have. Very bloody embarrassing. I mean I've already mentioned in earlier posts how bloody annoying big prams are in cafes and restaurants. The number of times I've nearly totalled myself and someone's poor child by running into it with armfuls of hot food or stacks of dirty plates. Please people, but the brakes on your prams wherever you are. It may look like a flat surface but it certainly isn't a stationary environment! God that bloody video of that woman whose pram and baby went under a train. Bloody hell is all I can say. If they play that clip one more time my heart may actually leap out my throat and land on the new rug in front of the telly.

Anyway. So pram envy. Not the kind where you stare at bloody Bugaboos and go "Ooh. That cost one and a half grand. Very niiice". No, no and no. Bloody Bugaboos. You are mad if you get one of those. Mad and unfairly wealthy. Go donate something to help starving orphans in Sudan or something.
I was starting to get very embarrassed about my giant pram. Today I convinced Josh to fork out a couple hundred for a new stroller. Say hello to the Silver Cross Fizz. Less than 5kg. One handed folding. Nice upright sitting position for a 4 month old who is already utterly fed up with reclining. And I got it in the 'Humbug' design so it is a very sexy black and white. Goodbye Pram envy. Hello trying to explain to my mum why I saw fit to spend money on two prams. I might have to have another child to justify that one. But man am I ever looking forwards to mothers' group tomorrow!
 

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