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.


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

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


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

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

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?


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.

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