Saturday, April 25, 2009

puddle jumping

I should have called this procrastination post 1,967.

This weekend I am supposed to be cleaning the house to Teutonic standards in preparation for the house guest arriving next week. Needless to say I've done everything but. I've got as far as dusting the windowsill in the bathroom. Yep, that's about it.

It's too glorious to clean. The unthinkable has happened, the unexpected, the unspoken, the thing no one has ever dared to hope for.

It's raining. And how. It's blowing a gale and pissing down. It's freakin' glorious

And the cold weather has awoken a hunger in my so insatiable I'm not sure how I'll be come August. I should have taken pictures of my own roast duck and dumplings, but I made soup out of them and wolfed it all down, so here are some pictures similar to those I would have taken:

Also today is ANZAC Day, so once again I give thanks for being where I am, doing what I'm doing with the safety and serenity that was fought for by others.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

arts degrees, please take one

Back in pre-historic times (ie the 1980's, when I was an under-grad) there was much derision towards people such as my good self studying for a BA. It wasn't a 'real degree' because we didn't study 'real things' that got you a 'job'. I studied Latin and Ancient Greek and Modern European History. Waste of time this 'knowledge stuff' people would say. And so in the Barr Smith Library toilets, above the paper holder would be written 'arts degrees, please take one'.

As a side step from this story there was also Penis Man. If you wandered into the toilets by the entrance to the library you could see the first chapter of the Adventures of Penis Man, that was quite artfully drawn. You would then be directed to the second floor of the Ligertwood Building, and then the Mitchell Building, then the Napier and so on, and bit by bit you could put together the whole story of our hero's adventure. Students these days have no sense of humour, I can tell you.

These days I'm doing a Master of Tourism (a 'real course' from which I hope to get a job at the end of it), at the same institution where I am gainfully employed running the graduate program in, amongst other things, Tourism. Which means my peers are my 'clients'. And quite frankly sometimes I'm irked that these people will come out with the same qualification as me. On paper we will be equals. Maybe not. Take, for example, one telephone conversation I had on Friday.

BHG: "Hi, is that Student X? Good, I'm just ringing about your study this semester, we notice that you've enrolled in your thesis but we haven't heard from you, so your supervisor is just wondering if you are actually planning on doing work towards your thesis, or if you're deferring to next semester/year, in which case you should withdraw from this subject".

Student X (who, let me remind you, is in a Masters course): "Oh, no one rang me to tell me what I had to do, so I just assumed there was nothing required of me at the moment".

Then there are the international students. I know that they generate income, and by all means everyone should have access to education, but many, if not most, of these guys are setting themselves up for failure. I had three glorious hours of student interviews set aside on Friday to tell, predominantly but not exclusively, international students, that they have failed subjects/assignments and they are going to have to repeat/re-submit. Admittedly they don't do themselves any favours. After a business bachelor degree they think they can do a Master of Tourism, despite the fact that they come for counties so culturally diametrically opposed to the way things are done in Australia, with some having never had any personal contact with the concepts/activities they are having to write about.

We also run many of our subjects as intensives, three days of very heavy, intense teaching followed by a few weeks of independent study. Not good if your English is not strong, in these cases you're much better off with a couple of hours a week with time in between lectures to get your head around what has been discussed. However we run our courses this way because most of our clients are currently working in the industry and are studying to improve or certify their knowledge. In these cases three days of annual leave is much easier to organise than three hours every Thursday morning. As such we market our course as being industry friendly, intensive driven. It's on our website. If I were paying thousands and thousands of dollars and moving thousands and thousands of miles from my friends and family, I might have a squizz at the website first to see how the course I'm doing is structured, instead of complaining about it later.

Or maybe I'm being unreasonable, because I'm feeling bad because no one likes to tell student who are working hard and doing their best that they're failing.

Of course we will give these students chances to pass, to resubmit their work over and over and over until they just scrape across the line. We'll accept poor expression that we never would from a 'local' student (although being born in and raised in an English speaking country to English speaking parents no longer seems to qualify you for high levels of English literacy). Because education is a business. These people have the moolah so the business will take it and those at the coal face need to do what ever they can to help these people get over the line.

I'm not blaming the students, I'm blaming the machine. They are often students who have done very well in their home countries but now failing, and it's really hard for most of them. But it's also not fair on everyone else, who will come out at the end with the same parchment, but an entirely different skill set.

(I should also note that Student X described above is not an international student. They will be out in the same job market as me in a couple of years and it will be assumed that we will be equally employable. ***sigh***).

Last night I spent a lovely evening with Best Boss in the World, with whom I used to work in secondary education. That is a whole different minefield. We did however eat great Lebanese food, I can highly recommend this restaurant.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

the sublime to the ridiculous

Having lived in the world of brief, self indulgent posts recently, I thought it time I put fingers to keys and pound out something slightly more serious - although admittedly the god post recently was a tad on the serious side.

This is the less serious side of god-stuff, the food. As you can see I baked Easter Bread, but that is JC Challenge post all of it's own. Really for me the table side of Easter is all about lamb. I had roast lamb, keftedes, hot lamb sandwiches. It was great. But Good Friday I went a bit traditional and, as a card carrying fish hater, cooked squid instead.

Buying a couple of squid, like fish, has elements of the hunter about it, because you get them whole. Glassy eyes staring out at you from the butchers paper. Ink oozing out like blood. Then you get to hold them firmly just above the eye and rip their guts out. Sounds more horrible than it is and the cats go absolutely crazy for the bits I don't want.

Then the cartilage comes out of the body

remove the skin and clean off the ink, and you're ready to roll.

just dust in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and Chinese five spice and fry in batches in hot hot oil.

If you're feeling good, roast some garlic and make your own aoli. Nothing beats home made aoli. And of course you have to make buckets of it, so the left overs are really great on your hot lamb sandwiches!

As a change of pace let's talk about the economy. It's screwed. Where I live, where you live, where we all live. GFC is now an accepted part of the vernacular. As someone involved in the tourism sector, I know that this means that discretionary spending has dropped and ticket sales have plummeted. Airlines are reluctant to close down routes or take off/landing spots, because it will be so hard to get them back when things pick up. So empty aircraft and circling the globe, loosing money as we speak.

So the sales are on, and I'm off to China.

Yes, based on a 15 minute GFC discussion at work, I decided to extend some existing leave and book a ticket on line, all done within half an hour of it coming up in conversation. $1000, all taxes and fees included. You can get to Europe for about $300 more. So I will be spending my birthday in Shanghai.

I am so excited I can't tell you. Really it would be much better for me to have taken the money that Kevin 07 is giving out and spent it in Australia. The reality is that I don't need the cash stimulus. I would have bought the air ticket anyway. I need my roof repaired and I'm doing that anyway. I'm also thinking seriously about re-doing the kitchen and putting in a solar hot water service. So tradesmen will do well from me this year.

And living in a country that is, in many ways, based on Socialist principles, you'd wonder why the living is so good, if you listen to some.

I've been known to promote other blogs from time to time, not mentioning Joy the Baker and Cupcake Rehab by name. But one of my favorite daily reads is a fellow Adelaidian (well, he lives here now). A Free Man is not afraid of diving into dangerous waters. Aside from (multiple) pictures of his son, you can often find social commentary in a writing style most of us can only dream of. Topic de jour? Well, amongst many things it seems to have turned into a right v's left wing debate. It has been claimed by one of AFM's readers that socialism is encouraging many to do too little only to be supported by those with more get up and go. Apparently we wouldn't have iPods if we were all socialists.

I'm not sure that would be such a bad thing.

But then again I'm a socialist. And an old fashioned kind of girl, who things that looking after others is just as important, if not more important, than looking after my own wants. I believe there's enough to go around if we're not greedy. The topic has turned to health care, something I know a fair bit about.

I could write something fabulous and/or inflammatory, but I'm too tired tonight. Visit A Free Man in a couple of days and join in the discussion. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

another really short post

Anyone out the borrow my Lonely Planet guide to China? The sales are on.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

two quick thoughts

1 Lent is now finished. I am so full of delicious food I fear my seams will fray and all my insides will ooze out, particularly the delicious polpette I just had for dinner.

2 I did not arrange for the youtube clip at the bottom of the previous post to stop showing Andy Partridge looking particularly devilsome. It is pure coincidence. I hope.

Friday, April 10, 2009

see them fighting in the street because they can't make opinons meet

If you've come here today look for some sickly cupcake recipe, look away.

There are pictures of cute bunny rabbits here

Photos of travels to Paris here

A big fat chocolate cake here

But here today I'm going to talk about God.

Today is Good Friday. The 'day of death'. The penultimate day of lent. I try to do something for lent every year. Firstly because of the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, but if all I wanted to do was eat pancakes I could reasonably do it every day of the year. By which time I should imagine I would be cured of my lust for lemon and sugar drizzled gallettes.

But every year I give up something different for the period between Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday. This year I didn't spend any money during business hours. Why? So that I had to make sure I took my lunch to work. I had to walk to the shops after dark when all I really wanted to do was climb into bed with a book. No great hardships, but little, daily things that remind me how easy my life is. And I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful that no one is trying to blow up my house. I'm grateful for the vast array and quantity of food that is immediately available to me when ever I want it. I'm thankful that I am unlikely to be washed away by some cruel trick of nature. All of that stuff that most of us in Australia and a fair slab of the western world have to be thankful for. And stuff that the majority of those on the world at the moment don't have.

So BHG - are you a believer?

Yes and no.

Do I believe in a biblical God/Allah/Siv etc? No. Do I believe that sex before marriage damns you for eternity? No. Do I believe that God et al give a toss about whether I fast during lent or not? No (my reasons for doing so are much more terrestrial).

Do I believe that there's something out there after death? Absolutely. I don't know exactly what, but I've had too many encounters with the dead to doubt it. Do I think the same goes for cats and dogs and insects? Don't know, but I can't see why not. Do I believe in science evolution? Totally (how I balance life after death with Charles Darwin are probably another post all together), but at the same time I believe in destiny and divine punishment - you do something bad and the universe will through something bad back at you. Kama baby!

I also think that we've let go of these connections with the universe. Whether it be fasting through lent, which also marks the passing from one season to the next, or how to connect to the spiritual/natural world around us, and it's one of the main reasons that the world is so totally, utterly fucked right now. I mean absolutely. I also know that people use God/Allah/Siv et al to do some bloody horrible things. These people better watch out for Kama baby because it's going to come and slap them roundly in the face one day. The Gods (all of them I'm sure) don't like their names being evoked for some blokes evil power rush.

So today is Good Friday. I like Easter more than Christmas as there seems to be more reflection involved. Christmas, at least in my family, is just a big piss up. So today there's no meat in my day (squid for lunch, beans on toast for tea), and I'll take some time to remember all of the good stuff. If you're sitting down to a roast tonight, take some time to think about how this holiday, whether it's your holy day or not, is a marker of our connection to the rest of the universe and muse upon that for a while.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

As mentioned previous post I was making jiaozi on the weekend. My love of these little steamed dumplings full of pork and cabbage is legendary. If they're fried on the bottom I love them even more. So savoury, so... unctuous.

On Sunday I decided to put some water chestnuts in mine, as I had seen my favourite celeb chef do so, and also thought I'd give them a go more as dim-sims and steam them.

Of course I can't just have dumplings, coz of the unctuousness, so I usually stir fry a bunch of Chinese spinach with some garlic and hot pepper sauce to have with. So the wok is steaming hot. The oil is not boiling, but is smoking and I'm ready to go. But the healthy BHG in me (she's in there - deep deep down in you look really hard) thinks, that's too much oil, we'll pour some out and use it tomorrow.

You can guess what comes next.

This is the worst of the burns about three days later. It's all bubbly and ready to pop. I was very luck it could have been much much worse, and while running my hand under the water I was able to collect saucepans full of the water so the garden got a good drink as well.

So the moral of the lesson. Eat more oily food. Your health and safety depends on it.

PS: the dumplings were delicious.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

come brothers and sisters throughout the land

Yes, the times they are-a-becoming-quite-different. I woke up yesterday a new woman. Not so tired, not so grumpy.

I had a busy day yesterday, crossing things off lists. One thing I crossed was to go out and buy some software protection. Yes, for years I've got by on the free stuff you download. I've always known it wasn't good enough. I always knew I was putting everything at risk. I always meant to go out and buy something good. Then early in the week, things started going a little Dali-esque. Everything took for ever to happen. Strange screens would pop up un-announced. Word wouldn't open. 'oh, pants', I mumbled to myself. Or words to that effect. So the computer didn't get turned on for nearly a week. But my new, shiny software is now installed and things seem to be going better. I hope it's not just wishful thinking, but at least now I've done the smart thing and backed up all of my photos onto CD.

And here's a photo:

My, it's ugly, isn't it?

This is my kitchen. Well part of it, but all of it is done in this horrible faux wood grain laminate. As many of you know I live in my grandparent's house. Well, technically now it's my mother's house and one day it will become mine, well mine and my brother's. Built around 1952 it's one of the later austerity houses. By which I mean to say it's ugly and nothing works. That's not quite fair, but it is cream brick and the rooms are on the small side. The kitchen was put in during the early 1980s, and my doesn't it show. You'll notice that the bottom draw in this picture has a different handle. That's because the originals are too wide and you can't open the oven door all the way. The dish drainer runs backwards so you get these fetid little pools of dish water, which results in mould everywhere. Which means I need to clean a lot. I hate cleaning. I can also never understand why the fridge (the cold thing) is put right next to the oven (the hot thing).

So it's all going.

Four main issues here.

1. It's going to cost shit-loads
2. I need to knock down a wall
3. What do I put in instead
4. It's going to cost shit-loads

Now, I realised that point one and point four are the same, but it's such a significant point I thought I'd mention it twice.

Then there's knocking down the wall. Next to the dinning section of the kitchen is the piano room. There's no piano in there now, but it's where my grandmothers was, and so it's still called the piano room. I'd like to open them up into one. Naturally I can't do this myself, so we go back to points 1 & 4. I also don't know if I like the idea of doing away with my grandmother's piano room, which at the moment is just full of my kitchen overflow (thousands of cake tins, extra wine glasses, huge casserole pots etc).

What do I do instead? I've looked at some kitchen show rooms, and it's fair to say: I hate them all. So I'm going free standing. So last weekend JC and I went down south. If you're ever looking for great second hand furniture you're going to have to work out where we went, because it's so wonderful I'm not sharing it with the world!!! We bought this:

I loved it when I saw it. JC said it'd fit in the back of her car. I wasn't so sure. She was adamant. So I bought it.

Didn't fit in the back of the car.

"That's OK", she said, "we'll put it on the roof rack". Now I couldn't strap anything to a roof rack if my life depended on it. But JC's an outside camping, canoeing, diving kind of person. I love diving but am scared of sharks. I'm also terrified of boats. (although I love camping). But the short of it is, I rarely strap. But a few minutes later we'd found a couple of lads to lift it up for us and she'd strapped it on and away we went.

So now I have the start of my new kitchen. I'm after a big, old fashioned enamel sink. And I've found the hob I really want. And my father knows a cabinet maker to build the whats-its to put them in. I always wanted a Smeg fridge. Partly because of the name. Partly because they come in red. And red goes faster.

So there you go - all I needed was a little building project to get me back on track. Unfortunately due to violent illness (don't eat at Kens in Adelaide's China Town) my plans for today have been cancelled. It's also the end of day light saving, so I have an extra hour in my day. So I think I'm going to spend part of it lying on the couch reading, part of it going to kitchen show rooms and part of it doing the bloody cleaning. And I'm making jiaozi for dinner tonight. Think how much more delicious they will taste once I have my new kitchen!