Wednesday, 27 August 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

The suburb of Sydney we have moved to, Marrickville, has a rich immigrant history. Hmmmm I suppose you could say that about all of Australia as the colonised history is only 200 years! Anyway, Marrickville used to be mainly Greek, and now there is a big influx of Vietnamese with a side helping of Italian, Indian, Filipino and Chinese. This makes for fascinating grocery shopping!

I was wondering why there were 7 butchers and 4 fishmongers on my high street, but it could be that each one caters to a different cultural clientelle. Every so often Milord and I pop into one of the grocery stores and spend half an hour saying "WTF is that? You eat that? How? What animal/vegetable/fish did it used to be?" and we come out with one or two wierd things to try. Sugar coated tamarind chilli balls. Indian crazy-hot snack mix. Wasabi coated peas. Tom yum soup cubes.

Interesting, to say the least!

I decided to fire up the slow cooker last weekend as we'd seen some awesome osso bucco cuts in several of the butchers (Italian influence?). These are big beef shank steaks cut across the bone so you have a circle of marrow which adds a silky richness to the dish. They're about an inch thick, and I cooked them slowly with onion, tomato and wine until they were falling apart. I also set the bread machine to baking a loaf, so all through the afternoon the house was filled with amazing baking and cooking smells while I unpacked and tidied!

This is my recipe, loosely based on official versions. The main difference is probably the red wine instead of white. I used a slow cooker but you could easily do this in a casserole dish in a medium oven.

Osso Bucco

4 cuts of osso bucco (2 per person)
250ml beef stock
2 cups red wine (you can use white for a more classic taste)
1 tin diced tomatoes
1 small tin tomato paste
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
olive oil

Put the stock into your slow cooker and start it heating (my slow cooker can take ages to heat up so I set it going before anything else).

Dredge the osso bucco pieces in the seasoned flour, then brown them in a pan with olive oil. Layer them into the bottom of your slow cooker, in the warmed stock.


That's oregano floating on my stock... I also added some sweet soy to counter the tomato sourness but that's just the mood I was in so I'm not putting that in the ingredients!

In the same pan you browned the meat, fry up the onions, garlic, celery and carrot until soft. Add to the slow cooker on top of the meat cuts.


In the same pan again heat up the wine and tomatoes and paste until boiling, then pour into the slow cooker until everything is covered. Add more stock/wine if you need to. Do not stir.

Put the lid on and cook for at least 3 hours, preferably 4. Don't stir - if you stir the meat will fall apart and that's not the look we're going for!

When you are ready, gently lift the pieces of meat into deep plates - 2 pieces per person. Scoop over some of the tomato/onion/wine goodness. Serve with fresh bread for sopping (or rice or mash).

I forgot to take a photo of the finished product so here's a shot from here.


Lovely with a glass or two of shiraz on a cold night!

We had loads of the sauce left over and I used it as the base for a sweet potato soup the next night. Also very yummy!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Haircut

My hair has been driving me nuts lately.

Actually, to be honest I'd have to say that my hair has been driving me nuts since I moved to Australia! The humidity here makes it quite unmanageable when I'm trying to go for the long/straight current trend. Throw in a walk to work in the breeze and I can forget about style! I also had highlights put in before the wedding and have had a head of straw since...

I've been fancying going really short now that my wedding is out of the way. Because my hair grows so slowly it feels like I've been growing it long for the past 5 years and I'm sick of it! Milord has seen my hair extremely short in old photos and he encouraged me to go short... so I did!

The hairdresser and I had very different ideas on what I wanted... after attempt #1 and some heated argument she had another go and this is the result:



Totally not what I wanted, but I love it! Zero maintenance - just rub some strong mousse through and a bit of putty on the spikey tips and voila, done. Wow, what a pleasure... and Milord loves it too. I got several unsolicited compliments from him over the weekend which never happens!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Rainy Friday

We woke to the rumble of thunder this morning. It was so very cosy to snuggle in bed seeing the odd flash of lightning followed by a roll of thunder. Our new house has a tiled roof over the bedrooms, and with the new insulation batting we've put in we can't hear the rain very much. We can however hear the drip of a leak in the unfinished living area, but I've put a bucket under it and it will be ok!

Yesterday the tiler finished in the bathroom and the underfloor heating was connected. What a pleasure to walk on warm tiles this morning! We still need the ceiling finished in the bathroom and the tap covers are not fitting right, but it's just about finished! I'll take a picture once I've washed the grout smudges off the tiles. It's been a bit warmer in Sydney the last couple of days, so the house almost feels cosy without an arctic draught whistling through. We still have draughts but the heater is coping with them!

I've been experimenting with public transport this week. I have the option of train and bus from where we now live. I've worked out that the bus is 20 min slower, but far more comfortable as I have managed to get a seat every time so far, plus I get to see various neighbourhoods on the way. On the train I had to stand all the way to work and the views are not exactly fantastic from the railway line. I will be taking the bus from now on unless I'm in a hurry, and in the mornings I'll jump off halfway to work and walk for a couple of km to get a bit of exercise.

I haven't made it to the gym this week - I'm just being lazy. Next week I'm back on diet and back to the gym. The project I have joined has stupid deadlines so I'll need a good excuse to get out during the day! Milord has found a new cycling route to work and he's enjoying it, so he should get control of his renegade waistline soon too!

Tomorrow we will whitewash the nasty back wall of the living area and root though our boxes to try to find the modem and telephone. Milord is playing golf on Saturday afternoon and I plan to set an osso bucco going in the slow cooker and also set the bread machine to baking a crusty loaf while I unpack a bit more. Just the thing for a winter's evening! If you're very lucky I'll blog about it...

We also need to figure out why the washing machine floods the laundry dungeon (we've boarded over all the windows for security reasons) every time it empties into the laundry sink. There's a drain in the floor so it's not a huge problem, but still it's not ideal! Luckily running the tumble dryer seems to be warming the dungeon enough to dry it out... oh the joys of renovating.


In other news I have a new toy - the Sandisk Sansa Clip 4gb mp3 player. It's tiny, has a pretty good interface, picks up radio and you can copy music to it using windows explorer (none of that having to install iTunes rubbish). It cost $100 AU, which is pretty cheap really. I was considering a Nano, but this does all I want and is half the size and half the price. I'm very chuffed!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

We are not exactly gourmet in our camping kitchen yet, so here's an old meal... This is something I made up a few weeks back and it turned out awesome! Milord was blown away. He generally likes my cooking anyway but this one got rave reviews. So, with no further ado:

Chicken Pancetta Butternut Salad
Serves 2

2 skinless boneless chicken thighs
4 slices of pancetta
4 salted anchovy fillets
2 cups butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced
garlic
rosemary
olive oil
salad
wooden skewers or toothpicks

Preheat oven to 180C (roasting temp).

Trim any fat from the chicken thighs and lie them with the de-boned part facing upwards. Place 2 anchovy fillets in the middle of each chicken piece, crush half a garlic clove on top of them and add the rosemary. Roll each chicken piece around the filling, wrap in 2 pieces of pancetta and skewer to hold everything in place.


Drizzle/spray olive oil in a baking tray and create a layer of butternut pumpkin. Carfully balance your chicken pieces on top of the butternut so that it will catch the juices while cooking. Cover with foil and bake for half an hour. Remove the foil and bake for another half hour, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle and the pancetta is crisp.

Remove skewers and chop the chicken parcels into bite size pieces and add to a salad (I made one with rocket, mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas) along with the butternut pieces. If any juices are left in the baking tray drizzle them over the top. Serve immediately.


You could probably skip the anchovy if you don't like it, but we love the salty hit. I was a little disappointed in the pancetta this time around as it was too thick and was more bacon-like than I wanted, but Milord loved it regardless!

It would have been a light healthy meal if we hadn't indulged in our latest addiction while the chicken was cooking:


Rosemary and salt breadsticks. Nom nom nom nom nom nom...

Monday, 18 August 2008

New Home, New Project

Today I start a new project and I expect to be busy, so I'll apologise now for a possible reduction in posting!

We moved in to our new half-renovated house this weekend. It is surprisingly comfortable considering we are sort of camping! No room is quite finished, although the bedrooms just need the window frames cleaned up. The tiler ran out of time and tiles in the bathroom, but we are able to bath and shower and use the loo so that's ok. The bathroom sink and cupboard is not attached yet so we are brushing teeth in the kitchenette and I also have no mirrors in the house so blow drying is interesting...

Our living room is a bit of a mess, but we've mostly organised the kitchen area and I was able to make toast and coffee this morning. Tonight I'll attempt to cook in my baby oven (I feel like I'm having a kids tea-party when I use it). We have a very effective heater in the living room so it is warm in spite of us being able to see daylight through roof and floors!

The spare room is packed to the ceiling with boxes and stuff and we have yet to find our telephone or modem. That will be the task tonight I think!

Living Room




Bathroom


Bedroom


Spare Room

Friday, 15 August 2008

Fridayitis

Friday at last. My last day on this project, our last night in our friend's house - all change please!

For some reason last night felt like Friday night. Milord and I walked/cycled our route home for the last time, had a glass of water and cracked a bottle of wine while getting dinner into the oven. Then we watched some Olympics while I got my paperwork into order (tax return is due), and watched a movie with the meal. I noticed that Milord was hurtling through the wine - I reckon I had one glass out of each bottle. When we rolled out of bed this morning I found 3 empty wine bottles on the kitchen counter. "Ah, that's why I'm a bit parched" I thought. Then I found the 4th empty bottle in the lounge. Bloody hell.

Milord and I are meeting for lunch soon and we'll have a bit of wine with that for a change. Then beers in the office at the end of the day. And tonight we're meeting an old friend in the pub for a catch up. Oh well. I think we need to let our hair down a bit after the recent stress load anyway!

Yes we know we have a drinking problem. Shut up.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Running and Weight and Stuff

So how's my running going? It's going fine thanks, I'm still managing 6min/km over 5km... sadly though I ended up moving boxes and furniture instead of running the fun run I was sort of training for last weekend.

I decided that the move was more important, and more significantly Milord had given up a rare golf game opportunity to move stuff so it seemed very rude of me to disappear for most of Sunday for a run! He encouraged me to go but I had a feeling it would come back and bite me in the butt the next time he felt cranky.

You know how it goes.

The physical work on the weekend was probably harder than running 14km in the end, and I have only just stopped hurting! I lost a bit of weight last week and started this week on 69kg - woohoo! I'm up from that today but I feel bloated so I'm ignoring that reading (denial!). I feel a bit flabby around the middle and that is probably because I've been hitting the snooze button too much and missing my morning sit-ups!

In spite of that I'm giving myself a rest week from the gym and have been having lunch with Milord (we need quality time away from home) or else we dash to the house and check on the tradesmen. Yesterday we went to have a word with the tiler to try to convince him to finish the bathroom before Saturday.

I may be bathing in a bucket for a few days.

Fine, whatever. I'm over stressing about it. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

We are still emptying the freezer, so this time we were getting rid of the frozen scallops. Note to self: never buy frozen scallops again, they're not great.



I lifted this Scallop, Bacon and Potato Salad recipe from Amuse Bouche. Go over there and see if you don't get hungry!

I added some steamed asparagus, so it became a

Scallop, Bacon, Asparagus and Potato Salad


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

House - Nearly there!

Last update here.

Last weekend Milord and I worked our butts off getting the house ready for moving in. We arranged furniture and sorted boxes into their correct rooms. I hurt all over.

We also cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned. He loathes our little vacuum cleaner because it doesn't handle building dust very well, and I don't want to wash another window ever!

Somehow our shelving supports got left behind at the storage depot and by the time we realised it they'd gone walkabout, so we're a bit stuck for shelves now. We're going to have to get more which hurts because we're so far into the red it isn't funny.

Status:

Painting - done.
Bathroom - tiles have arrived! Floor tiled, ceiling half done. Need walls tiled, bathroom furniture installed, water connected.
Water - pending, same as last week.
Gas - pending, same as last week.
Kitchen - pending, same as last week.

We really really want to move in this weekend. It might happen. The friend we are housesitting/renting from wants to re-let her house immediately and we're in her way. Plus we're sick of being in someone else's house!

We're a bit cranky over here so I hope moving in will sort that out. Milord was absolutely lovely to me yesterday evening and it worries me that I was startled. When did being lovely stop being the norm?

*sigh*

A few pictures. The bathroom is not going to be turquoise, that's the waterproofing! The walls will be the same pale tiles as the floor.


Our bedroom is pretty much finished. Just need to unpack and make up the bed.


The living room is nearly there.


And the spare room is stuffed with things we don't have a place for yet!



Wish me luck!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Get out of my head

Why are you on my mind so much recently?

It has been 6 years since we were a couple, we are both happily married and we are not in direct contact. I do not love you. I wouldn’t want you back even if you wanted me again. What we had ended for a reason, and my husband treats me far better than you ever did.

I don’t think about any of my other exes at all, so why are you in my thoughts and dreams? Is it because you started a family so easily while I am struggling?

You have no place in my life, so get out of my head.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Friday, 8 August 2008

Sis

I have a sister who is 5 years older than me, and I love her very much.

Sis has a hard life. She was born with a physical disability called cerebral palsy which affects her speech, walking and balance, and she can’t use her right arm. On top of this the gods decided to give her too many teeth for her jaw so that for most of my childhood my sister wore orthodontics and a head brace, and she’s been blind as a mole for as long as I remember too. Plus Sis inherited Dad’s dark, thick and unruly hair, which would probably be ok if she had two hands to manage it, but instead she’s forced to keep it very short!

Her handicap is all physical – Sis passed year 12 at school just fine, went on to college, and has been working and supporting herself since her early twenties. She can’t manage money or men and has a blistering temper, but I know plenty of able bodied people I can say that about!

Sis suffers from depression. For many years now she has been on various medications to try to help, which generally means I have to time any phone calls for first thing in the morning or else it’s like talking to a zombie! I think she has a new therapist because she has been writing down the things that bother her, and exploring incidents in her past that trouble her. Maybe this will help, maybe not.

Sis has always been there. She protected me when I was too little to protect myself, and I protected her once I was big enough to attack anyone who pushed her over. I remember us dancing around drip-catching bowls in the long corridor of our house during a rainstorm singing “Jelly tots and Hottentots!” We would sneak into the Navy archives and play hide and seek in the filing stacks. We’d take turns whizzing about on the tricycle and we’d bob around in armbands in the pool. It never occurred to me that Sis was “different”, she was just Sis and she was fun to be with. My parents always emphasized that Sis was “special” - of course she is special, she’s my sister! Like, duh.

I was occasionally very jealous of my sister. She would go into hospital from time to time and my parents would take her grapes and comic books, which we never had at home. I would disappear under the bed with the comics and try to gobble the grapes when no one was looking! She’d have casts on her legs and Mom would draw Disney characters all over them – I wanted a cast to decorate too! Then again, Sis was the “special” one and I was the blah ordinary one, so it made sense that she got all the goodies. Isn’t it weird how a child’s mind works?

I can remember us fighting quite a lot once Sis would have been hitting puberty. Wrestling, biting and hair-pulling mostly! The physical tussling pretty much stopped once Sis grew boobs though, because I discovered that a swift punch to one of those things would stop her and she only had one hand for defence! After that the fighting became verbal, with us screeching insults at each other and slamming doors. I don’t think we were different to any other sisters in that way – doesn’t everyone row with their sibling from time to time? Sis now feels guilty about things she used to call me and is convinced I have a fat complex because she called me “fatty”. I think I used to call her “booby”. I was fat and she had boobs… fair enough.

One of my jobs in the morning before school was to help Sis dress (she can dress herself, it just takes a long time). I confess I’d take a bit of revenge for the name calling by being rather rough as I stuffed her into her uniform! If she abused me too much I’d walk off leaving her half dressed until she apologised. We definitely had some good times too – I can remember us listening to music together and taping the top 40 off the radio chart show. That dates me a bit doesn’t it?! Sis had her own record player and we’d listen to ABBA and The Pet Shop Boys at full blast. We didn’t do much else together though – 5 years is a big age gap when you’re 12.

If I was having the occasional shouting match with Sis that was nothing compared to what my parents went through. The rowing was constant and horrible, punctuated by the door to Sis’ room slamming. I can’t remember what the rows were about, but I assume it was normal teenager stuff. It was a relief when Sis went off to college and then the rows were only every other weekend when she came home.

Sis started working while living at home. By this time I was a teenager myself and wrapped up in my own social life and studies, so we didn’t hang out much and to be honest those years are a blur. When I was 18 my parents and I moved to Cape Town where my folks divorced, and Sis stayed behind in an apartment owned by Dad.

That was nearly 20 years ago.

Sis fell in with a rough crowd and I remember she had this boyfriend with no front teeth who scared me so much I slept with a can of pepper spray under my pillow when I visited. Sis tried to commit suicide because of him and shortly thereafter got evicted from her apartment block because of the company she was keeping. (I’m also pretty sure he’s the one who later raped her and sold all her possessions and was the reason she changed her name so that he wouldn’t find her when he got out of prison.)

Sis got herself transferred to Cape Town and has stayed in various dubious lodgings around the place ever since. Mom and I tried to help her budget and plan and repay her debts, and occasionally Dad would step in to dig her out of the bigger holes. She’s had a succession of nasty cheating diseased boyfriends who take her money and leave her feeling bad. I left for England when I was 27 and never came back, and Mom followed a few years later and also never came back. We do what we can long distance but it isn’t much. Dad’s fed up with the whole situation although he still picks up the pieces when he absolutely has to. My parents still try to “change” my sister, and Sis still has screaming rows with my parents.

Sis has a lot of rage and I don’t really understand. I could probably understand a bit of frustration but at over 40 she should have accepted the hand she was dealt. If she was nicer to be with then maybe she wouldn’t be lonely – I have seen her drive away truly amazing people who honestly wanted to help out and be her friend – people much nicer than I will ever be. If Sis wasn’t lonely maybe she wouldn’t take up with such horrible men.

But these are “shoulds” and “maybes”. Life doesn’t work like that as much as my parents tie themselves in knots trying to make it happen and as much as I miss the fun protective sister I had when I was small. Sis is hard to be with. She will never manage money. She will always attract horrible men. I love her and she will always be my sister and I accept her the way that she is: “Special”… always has been and always will be - like, duh!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Last Morning Walk

Ok, not exactly my last morning walk to work ever, but probably the last time I walk this way to work because we will be moving this weekend. I'm going to miss this walk, our new home isn't anywhere near the water.

I took the long way to work, which follows the water. It was a beautiful day, clear with a cold breeze.


I hope I can find a route from the new house which is just as uplifting.

Update: We are not moving this weekend after all because our sodding bathroom will not be ready. Aaaaaargh!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

What (was) for dinner Wednesday

Milord has been cooking for me a bit lately, even without me asking... I don't know what I did right but I'm not complaining! We came across some lamb steaks in the freezer that needed eating and Milord was craving stew, so he made me:
Lamb Stew


Milord likes getting all the ingredients ready in little bowls before he begins, like on TV cooking programs. I don't know any women who do this but all men do! I don't mind with Milord because he's quite good about washing up, but it can drive you crazy to have every pot and bowl in the house dirtied for one dish!

250g lamb steak, diced
Pre-packaged soup veg from the corner shop:
(1 parsnip
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 turnip
2 potatoes
1 onion)

garlic
rosemary
1 beef stock cube
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 150C (I roast at 180C, so a bit cooler than roasting heat).

Chop everything into big chunks. On the stove in a deep casserole dish fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the lamb and brown it. Add everything else, cover generously with hot water and bring to the boil.

Pop the casserole dish uncovered into the oven and simmer for about an hour while the liquid reduces. (This was my idea - I like simmering in the oven because the stew is less likely to burn at the bottom, and the liquid evaporates quickly.) Once the stew has thickened cover the pot and leave to cook for another hour until you are ready to eat. Don't let it dry out - add more water if necessary!

Serve in deep soup bowls. Yum!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

House - the move begins

Last house pics here.

House status:

Flooring - down but only 1 room polished. The rest will wait until we build the extension.
Painting - 90% done.
Bathroom - floor down, heating down, bath in. Waiting for tiles etc. No ceiling yet.
Water - piped but not connected to bathroom or "kitchen" (what kitchen?).
Gas - piped and almost accessible.
Electrics - done.
Kitchen - temp sink almost connected. Mini tabletop stove bought. We'll be using a couple of tables as prep surfaces and bookshelves to hold stuff in the meantime.
Bedrooms - finished except for the windows which we strip and repaint ourselves. Borrowed curtains will go up soon.
Backyard - cleared.

Yesterday the Bank closed for a "bank holiday", so as I couldn't earn money and Milord was at work I made myself useful by supervising the move of all our stuff from storage to the house. As the painter isn't finished yet we couldn't pack up to the walls so things are heaped in the middle of rooms. Milord and I need to attach felt to the bottom of furniture to protect our new floors before we can move anything around.

These are shots from before and after our storage arrived. I forgot to take pictures when the place was properly empty and clean, but you get the idea!

Bedroom 1:

Bedroom 1 after stuff arriving:

Bedroom 2:

Bedroom 2 after stuff arriving:

Bathroom:

Corridor:

Living Room:

Living Room after stuff arriving:

Back yard:

Back yard after stuff arriving:



We intend to move in next weekend if the bathroom is finished. It's a bit daunting, but all I really need is a bed and a bathroom - we can live on takeaways while we get the kitchen set up!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Weight Goals

The beginning of August... I doubt anyone notices but 1 August 2007 has been the start date of my "weight to date" graph that I post every month. That means I've been graphing my weight for a year now.

On the whole it's been an encouraging sight, but I have noticed that I've stalled for the past few months. I've been maintaining at just under 70kg for ages, and the reason is simple: too much nutrition, not enough exercise! I think I've become complacent with my achievements. My ticker has been stuck on half way - and half way's pretty good right?

Time to mess with my head. I'm changing the ticker start value to 70kg, and I'll begin shifting the start date of the weight graph too - to reflect just the past year. This means my current flatlining will become more obvious and hopefully I'll be motivated to do something about it!

Also, it's sort of spring here now. Jasmine, honeysuckle and magnolias are flowering in spite of the cold. The days are getting longer, and it's just over 2 months to my sailing holiday. Incentive, much? You bet!

No real change this past month, so I'll just show the
Weight Graph to Date: