What happens when your mother goes into hospital, your husband starts mega-marking-marathon 2009, you are restarting your PhD in two weeks and gearing up accordingly and your baby starts to teethe again?
Yup, life interferes with blogging.
Thankfully, all of the life stuff is either positive or manageable (and the Mum in hospital is nothing serious), and I do have a magazine selected, bought and ready to go.
There's a general idea that when women dress up, particularly in something very fashionable (read: stupid), they're dressing for other women who get that ultra high waisted jeans are so on point and cool, not for the men who think that Jessica Simpson is wearing unflattering Mom jeans.
Now added to that is this little gem from Who - in the who got it right section:
The dress is Louis Vuitton, and Who concludes that Kerry Washington (on the left) beat out Rhiannon. Now I concede that the sleeveless version is slightly less ugly, but I really do think the answer to who wore it right is no-one! Let's see - a skirt that would make even the skinniest heroin chic model look hippy, a shiny silver want to be Jetsons top that doesn't fit these girls with their - ahem, less bountiful chests, and I cannot imagine how it would hold up to breasts of any substance, and the odd stomach ruching that just makes it look like a seam has bunched wrong.
Who says Rhiannon's biggest blunder was her boots: "the length of her boots cuts off her legs and makes them look smaller." I don't love the boots, but they're not my most hated thing about this outfit. Big, shiny, silver sleeves aside, there's also the matter of the knuckleduster - I mean ring:
I'd make a you don't want to get into a fight with Rhiannon joke here, but I fear it would be in just a bit too bad taste.
Now this blog does mean I buy a magazine a week. Some, like Gourmet, I get anyway. Some, like Who, I'll read anyway. Some, like Classic Tractor, I would have never bought but am so, so glad I did.
But I stumbled across a magazine in the newsagency that is remarkable for two things. Firstly, it makes Who look like Pulitzer prize winning material. Secondly, I've found the limit for what I just cannot spend my money on - blog or no blog.
The magazine is an UK publication (that's the first warning) and is called Chat!. The subtitle is 'Life! Death! Prizes!'. No, I'm not making this up. It contains gruesome "real life" stories - featuring sex, babies, sex, death, sex, murder, sex, drugs and so on. The weirder the better it appears. The publisher describes it as "cheeky, irreverent and fun", but I prefer this article's take on it.
The issue I leafed through at the newsagency had a horrific variety of stories. I'm not surprised there's been complaints in the past about the content. For the sake of your stomachs, I'm not going to go into detail about the stories I read. Suffice to say that the words "superglue" "sex change" "DIY" and "dribbling hole" should never, ever be linked in the same article. Sadly, they were.
As you may have gathered from the cover shot on Monday, this week's Who has a weight loss focus.
Kelly Osborne has lost 20 kg.
Alanis Morisette has lost 10 kg.
Sophie Monk has apparently lost an undisclosed amount of weight, but I can't tell the difference between the before and after photos except that she is wearing a bikini in one:
Trista Ryan (she of the only one to actually find love on The Bachelorette fame) and Melissa Joan Hart have both lost baby weight. Coincidentally, both (according to Who, at least) are the same height (1.57m) and both were about the same weight after pregnancy - 69kg for Trista and 70kg for Melissa. Trista says "I saw that number and I was like "Oh, God - how am I going to lose it?". Given that she gained just a smidge over the recommended pregnancy weight gain, and given she was (according to Who) 50 kg before birth, it seems sad that a skinny woman gaining a normal amount of weight to, you know, sustain a baby, is seen as extreme. But hey, she lost the weight, so Who celebrates.
And in the midst of all this weight loss, we have the recipe for the week.
That's right, filo pastry, butter laden, honey dripping, nut filled delicious and calorific baklava. To up the weight loss sabotage, Who has an add for coffee flavoured Baileys (mm, cream and alcohol!) in the corner which it suggests serving over vanilla icecream.
I just hope Kelly, Alana, Trista and Melissa don't see it.
Some things (I'm looking at you, parmesan marshmallows) are better off left at restaurants.
I may be able to cook the food, but I'm still too bogan for the accompanying lifestyle.
A well flavoured, simple pea soup takes a lot of work. Deceptively simple, as it happens.
A week of eating Gourmet Traveller food is surprisingly light on the wallet - at least, the recipes I chose were.
And not too unhealthy. Mind you, I never did get around to the chocolate peanut butter fondants with salted caramel icecream. I do have all the necessary ingredients, so that may be just a matter of time.
2. A new Magazine! (Well, it is Monday after all).
We're going more mainstream this week. A big warm welcome to... Who! (Who? No, Who! What? No, Who! I asked *you* who? I told you, Who! Who's on first?)
Our first piece of news reporting from Who is the coverage of the premiere of Michael Jackson's estate's last cash-in - uh, I mean film, This Is It.
Who reports that 'many guests... wore a sombre look and black to honour the memory of the pop legend'.
Oh yes. Because nothing says sombre, respect and honour like Paris Hilton in gold safety pins.
Keep the barbecue fired up, chargrill some red onion then add
Fresh roasted crushed hazlenuts
Some more of that herby goodness
For a grilled red onion salad with hazlenut aillade.
Finally, some plump pretty Queensland scallops on the half shell
And a butter garlic dressing
A few minutes on the barbecue hotplate, assemble all and there is a spread to enjoy
A jealous dog
And two very contented foodies.
All recipes are from the "Smokin" section of the November 2009 Gourmet Traveller.
A fitting end to a week of fancy cooking. It's a good thing we did this now, because in a few weeks Tony will end up savouring his sardines for a while longer - he's doing Movember and will, if his blog is any indication, soon have a very silly moustache. If you'd like to support him, and the cause of men's health and dealing with prostate cancer specifically, you can donate here.
Although my collection would suggest otherwise, there are some things about Gourmet Traveller that I dislike.
Number one on that list is the branding of it as a "luxury" magazine. I know the food is luxurious (although often not that expensive - the agar agar for the parmesan marshmallows was 80c. An affordable experiment) but it irritates me that this translates to an expectation the rest of your life will be equally luxurious (and these extras do have the pricetag to accompany them).
Exhibit A: This month's Gourmet has a section on champagne. Oh Good, thinks I, who have been known to enjoy a glass (or two) of bubbles on the odd occasion (or even occasion for that matter). So I turn to the section and find it really is a section on Champagne with a big C - the proper stuff. The cheapest bottle featured is a steal at $85. Most hover around the $100-$150 mark, but if you're feeling like splashing out, there is a $220 bottle (the 1999 Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve, if you're interested).
But ok, fancy pants wine can perhaps be expected - it is Gourmet Traveller after all. And good wine and serious food are often a pretty good match. (A bottle of $10 lambrusco and serious food can also be a pretty good match in my experience, but I suspect I am a wine philistine.)
So onto Exhibit B: A piece on party invites for adults. Instead of emailing or ringing your friends to invite them over to your house, why not drop them a note? So much nicer in the age of instant communication. And if it takes a $31 set of invitations, each enclosed in its $7.50 envelope (yes, that's per envelope) - well, so much nicer.
I don't have the money to spend on stationary like that - I'm too busy buying agar agar! And king prawns, which did put a little more dent in the wallet than the agar agar. A worthwhile dent though, because this brings us to the love part of love/hate.
The food. When it all goes right, it is so wonderfully right.
Last night's dinner was this chicken, prawn and caramel coconut salad from a recipe from Longrain. It was a perfect Thai recipe, a wonderful balance of salty, sweet, pungent, sour and hot.
It wasn't the quickest recipe - the chicken had to be poached in a heady mix of coconut milk, stock (I used duck stock Tony had made a few weeks ago - very nice indeed), fish sauce, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and oyster sauce, cooled and then shredded. The coconut caramel sauce was made with palm sugar, coconut (well, dur), shrimp floss, shrimp paste (lot of shrimp featuring here), fish sauce and lime juice. Then the shredded king prawns, chicken and dressing was tossed with mint, coriander, julienned ginger and chillies.
It was AMAZING. Cooking, I was a little worried - the dressing was very pungent, and I was afraid it would overwhelm the delicate prawns. I shouldn't have been. It all combined perfectly, and we polished off the whole thing. Definitely a keeper. And for the money I saved by not sending Tony an invitation in the mail on luxury paper, we can probably even make it again.
Every month, Gourmet Traveller has a section called Fare Exchange, where readers write in to request recipes of dishes they have eaten at a restaurant (Fare Exchange - geddit? Because it's food, so it's fare, but it's fair - oh, nevermind).
The recipe we tried out last night was from this section, and it is Church St Enoteca's green pea soup with parmesan marshmallows.
This is how it looks in Gourmet:
And this is how it looked at our house:
We're missing the fiddly bits on top because we didn't have some of them, and after 2 1/2 hours of being in the kitchen (to make bread, soup and those parmesan marshmallows) I just couldn't be bothered with the bits we did have.
The bubbles are there partly because we were celebrating - Tony was officially offered a job at UC - and partly because after 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen making bread, soup and those parmesan marshmallows they were deserved!
I should point out, the recipe suggests the prep and cooking time for this dish is 35 minutes all up, not including chilling of the marshmallows. The recipe is wrong. I'm not an overly slow cook, and I find all those estimations of time to be wrong, wrong, wrong. I'm sure they work in a professional kitchen where all the fiddly bits are done ahead of time, and you have a dishwasher (both the person and the machine - we lack the machine and sadly the person as well) as well as staff to help out. When it's just me in our tiny galley kitchen, cooking while Tony is doing the bed-boy-wrangling - well, things take longer. Often a lot longer.
The parmesan marshmallows were fun to make, but I think they are a good example of something that is neat in a restaurant setting, but for a home cook the time-effort-result equation just doesn't work out.
The soup however - the soup was magnificent. Clean, fresh and yet incredibly rich and flavoursome. The only problem I had was it needed to be strained to acheive the light end result, which meant a lot of the pea mush that cooked in all the good stock and butter and so on was going to be discarded. How wasteful, I thought.
And then I looked at the green pea mush. Hang on... peas. Mush. Soft. Cooked vegetables.
That looks like baby food to me!
And as it turned out, Toby agreed.
So we all ate Church St Enoteca's green pea soup, in one form or another, and all enjoyed it very much.
Yes, Magazine Monday came and went and I was caught up with the last week of teaching and marking and baby juggling and other boring things like that. So today is transatlantic Magazine Monday - we're fine by LA time.
We had a bit of a foodie weekend, which will not be surprising for those people who know us. In fact, most people who know us will be asking "Aren't all your weekends foodie?". Well, yes, I do tend to orientate this way. But this weekend was particularly so. We went to the Canberra Farmers Market at EPIC, which was celebrating its 5th anniversary. Among the celebrations were cooking demonstrations by local chefs using produce bought at the markets. We watched the head chef from Grazings make a salad using Poacher's Pantry smoked duck, and tasted his macadamia, chive and fetta pesto (yummy indeed),
And then we went home to get a jump on this week's magazine. Introducing - a week of eating courtesy of Gourmet Traveller!
I was lucky enough to be given a subscription to Gourmet Traveller last Christmas. I read it every month, usually drooling, but ever since the arrival of destructo-boy - uh, I mean my son - I haven't been cooking that many complex recipes.
This will change!
The first recipe we decided to try was a simple David Thompson one. We own, and love, Thompson's classic cookbook Thai Food. Every recipe in it we have tried is amazing. It is, however, not an easy cookbook. To do the food justice, you need to set aside a full afternoon (or sometimes a day) and be prepared to be precise, fastidious and meticulous.
The recipe we tried on the weekend was from his new book, Thai Street Food. The recipes are described as 'easy' and 'fresh'. And, for David Thompson, it was relatively simple. A simple assembly of ingredients:
I said relatively. There were only two things we had to buy specially (well, three if you count the duck eggs but you could use chicken eggs) and the rest we had in the pantry.
It cooked up to quite a decent Pat Thai (David Thompson says Pat instead of Pad, and I'm not going to argue!):
No meat, just tofu and dried shrimp instead of fresh which gave it a nice, chewy, gusty edge. A little chilli and garlic oil at the end punched it up to where we like it. And the leftovers were great for lunch the next day.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go hunt down suppliers for agar agar powder so I can make Parmesan marshmallows for our next recipe.
One thing I noticed while reading UFOlogist is that the contributors seem very fond of charts.
Very fond. The chart option on Excel has a lot to answer for.
Inspired, I decided to join in the fun.
The labels are probably too small to see, unless you move your face about half an inch away from the screen and squint. I just tried that and I still can't really read them, plus I have a headache - so I wouldn't recommend that course of action.
Each of the colours is the magazines we've had so far. UFOlogist is green, Shop 4 Kids is red and in a completely unsuitable turn of events, Classic Tractor is neither John Deere green or Massey Ferguson red but is stuck with blue.
The categories are, from bottom to top, Craziness, Educational Value and Enjoyment of Activities. So Classic Tractor was a low craziness (even with the sombrero-wheel-tractor-paint-fumes debacle), high educational value and relatively high enjoyment (mostly because of Toby's toy tractors).
UFOlogist, you may notice, actually wins the enjoyment of activities category. Why? Well, what better thing to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon with your 11 month old than make tin foil hats?
Today's featured article from UFOlogosit is by Jon Wyatt, who postulates that many corporate logos hold hidden messages of welcome to alien visitors.
The first one isn't a logo so much, as an ad promoting Connex's new sms service: a fact Jon Wyatt does acknowledge, but adds 'but is it also welcoming any ET commuters?'.
Sure. In the same way that ET was a giant conspiracy to make humans welcome our alien overlords as cute little creatures... hang on a minute. Maybe there's some truth in this alien conspiracy thing! Or perhaps I've been reading UFOlogist a little too much lately.
Jon Wyatt continues. Now I can give him that the Optus, Telstra, Powertel and Orica logos look a little spacelike. Even the old Telstra logo (bottom right, first picture) could look, as he suggests, like a 'an ET with large hollow eyes gazing at us from a star field'. If you squint and turn your head on the side.
The predominance of telecommunication companies represented gives rise to a query though. If Optus, Telstra and Powertel really do have the technology to be in contact with alien beings, how come I still can't get a mobile phone signal in parts of Canberra? You'd think that transgalactic communication would mean consistent coverage across the nation's capital would be easy stuff.
When the attention turns away from the telcos, things get a bit iffier. Take the National Bank logo for instance. It's a red star. John Wyatt says it 'may symbolise the Planet Mars with the orbits of Phoebus and Deimos, its two moons, indicated by two notches'. Ok, first off, Mars? Doesn't look like a 6 pointed red star. Mars looks like this:
Though, it is true that Mars is sometimes referred to as the red planet, and there is a Project Redstar which has released a video entitled 'Martian Genesis' which offers, apparently 'incontrovertible evidence of an extraterrestial base on Mars'. The link is here - but don't go if you value your eyes.
So perhaps the red star link can be justified - by use of a conspiracy theory. Sure, using a conspiracy theory to prove another one, that's solid logical ground! My debating coach would be so proud.
Taking the National Bank logo as welcoming the Martians causes some concern though. There may be life on Mars, it's true. But NASA tells us it would most likely be 'very small, bacteria-like life forms'. National Australia Bank has designed its logo to make the alien bacteria feel at home?
Good thing I'm with Commonwealth.
Now to give John Wyatt his due, he does present his findings in a not altogether serious manner. (Which is good, because the RMIT logo looks less like a 'fiery object entering the Earth's atmosphere' and more like a sideways Pac Man baddie to me). But I thought it would be worthwhile to see if anyone else had come up with the link between corporate logos and hidden messages to aliens.
What I found is
1. A lot of people suggesting a link between a 1967 sketch of UFOs and the XBOX 360 logo:
2. If you google "alien conspiracy theories corporate logos", you're asking for everything you get. (Apparently the Google UFO logo and Masonic/Illuminati conspiracy theories rule the roost (I blame you, Dan Brown!)).
Magazine Monday has rolled around again, and after the consumer bent of the last two weeks, I wanted to take another path.
I enjoyed reading about tractors, so I thought it was time to expand my vehicle horizons. Now I could have chosen boats, planes (real and/or model), motorcycles, bicycles, cars, steam trains, electric trains or unicycles. (Ok, I'm not sure there actually is a unicycling magazine. But it wouldn't surprise me if there was.)
I decided to think a little outside the square. And so, introducing....
The subtitle is Beyond Imagination Lies Truth.
I can tell it's going to be an educational week for me, because the first page alone has taught me many new words and methods of scientific studies. There's the relatively boring fields of geomancy, gematria and simulacra. Then there's archaeoastronomy, a science described as "A field with academic work of high quality at one end but uncontrolled speculation bordering on lunacy at the other". I'm sure UFOlogist falls into the high quality end.
My favourite however is euphonics. Spell checker doesn't like it and google doesn't think it exists. (And, in case you were wondering, Classic Tractor kicks euphonic's butt in a googlefight.) So I figure by the end of this week, I'm going to be smarter than spellcheck and google combined. Right?
I had meant to do a summary post each week of my magazine. Obviously, that hasn't happened. I'd love to promise it won't happen again, but as the mother of a small child, a PhD student returning from leave, and a hopeless procrastinator - that's a promise that's made to be broken.
(Of these three, it's really the last one that's the issue. But I like to try and justify it somehow.)
So while I can't promise this with any great scheduled regularity, I will try. For my first two magazines I have learnt:
There's a lot more to tractors than I had thought.
There's about as much depth of journalistic investigative writing in a shopping magazine for kids as I had thought.
Even I, who broke my intention to have a "frugal baby" within about 2 seconds of falling pregnant, have my limits from the "aww that's cute" to the "holy mother of batman that is ridiculous" and those limits are way way before the $1600 family death trap - I mean family bucket bike.
Going to the Murrambateman field day and recognising the difference between the Massey Fergusons and the John Deeres makes me feel like I fit in.
The number one difference between Massey Fergusons and John Deeres that I know is one type is red and the other green. I said I felt like I fit in, not that I actually did.
And finally - babies and baby tractors? A winning combination.
New magazine tomorrow - it's been bought and it's a ripper. Never before have I felt slightly ashamed to be buying a magazine... (And no, it wasn't in a brown paper cover.)
As I read through Shop 4 Kids, and look at the ads (the ones I can discern from the rest of the magazine, that is), I am struck by something.
The kids are clean. Way too clean.
Take this ad for example:
Cute kid, Levi clothes, nice picture. Right? But do you see that pot plant in the background? And the boy is wearing a white shirt. Dirt, white shirt, kid.... Why is he still so pristine?
For comparison's sake, I took my son outside. The elements are there - kid in foreground, nice clothes on (not a Levi shirt but a handknitted cardigan. I don't get to have control over what he wears for ever, so while I do there will be handknits!), pot in background.
Two seconds later:
Making sure the other hand gets coated:
What I didn't get pictures of is 2 seconds after that, which involved the eating of the dirt, and the later discovery that somehow he had got dirt inside in his clothes, under his top and into his nappy.
And it's not just the dirt. Here's an adorable little girl holding a gingerbread man. Not eating it, not sucking it, not smeared with icing and covered with gingerbread crumbs.
Here's Toby after being put in the vicinity of food.
(Yes, those are black beans on the table.)
Finally, there's an ad for a new line of children's clothing by Fiona Scanlan of Scanlan and Theodore, Big by Fiona. The ad is focused on the bright colours, so there's an easel, a painted backdrop and a kid holding a paintbrush:
You'll note the lack of paint on the clothes or the children. In fact, you'll note the lack of paint on the paintbrush. Probably a good idea.
He even had paint behind his ears.
As I type this though, it occurs to me that maybe the problem isn't unnaturally clean kids in the advertising - maybe my child is just a grot. Given that I've had to get up while writing this to haul Toby out of the garden beds (twice), the potting bench (once) and the weber ash tray (once), and he managed to uproot a dill plant when I wasn't looking, I think perhaps I'm onto something.