put me out to pasta

chilli soup breakfastThere was time when I would travel through Asia eating bowls of chilli. I would slurp chilli soup for breakfast. The steaming bowl of fire would fizzle my nose hairs and make me weep. I was in my own little burning hot heaven.

More recently I have developed a digestive sensitivity that has changed my eating habits. I still test the boundaries but often regret it later, “whoa, Fajita-repeater!!”

The list of foods that my body tells me to avoid grows… spicy foods, fried foods – pretty obvious so far but then add, pepper, oranges, salt, some meats, capsicum, onion, garlic…

On a recent trip to Indonesia I realised that my burning-by-the-seat-of-my-pants travelling days are numbered. This change to my eating habits may have a significant impact on my travelling style of mixing with the locals over a shared plate.

Gone are the days of Chinese Miscellaneous Animal-product Soup in a village where you are clearly the minority. Each spoonful was a game of “what part of a chicken is that?!”.

Gone are the days of plates piled high with stir-fried chillies in an alley restaurant. I recall a dish described to me as “corn with chilli” where the corn kernels were used as the garnish.  

It’s pushing 40 degrees in this little café off a dirty street in Indonesia. The humidity isn’t high today; there isn’t enough moisture in the air to settle the dust churned up by passing scooters. My order of ‘grilled chicken with vegetables’ is served to me as pepper crusted chicken pieces, with a side of mostly raw capsicum, garlic and onion. There is a garnish, a slice of carrot cut into the shape of a flower sits on the side of the plate. I poke at the carrot that has been recycled from the previous diner’s plate wondering statistically how many people may have handled this piece of carrot and if they washed their hands. I pick at the chicken to try to extract some of the inner pepper-less meat.

My husband scoffs down his lovely looking lemongrass and chilli curry. He’s telling me how wonderful it is. Sweat is dripping off his cheeks. I’m hungry. I start fantasising about a bowl of pasta. I think about a trip to Italy where I could eat salads without fear.

It has become clear to me, I’m not what I used to be. It’s time I was put out to pasta.

In another time, I look around the room searching for clues and then back to my Miscellaneous Soup. The bustling people around us have the benefit of knowing the local language. I look down at my spoon, “…maybe that’s not even a part of a chicken…”

the magic of hong cons

Hong Cons

I love Converse shoes. If I had to wear one pair of shoes for the rest of my life they would be cons: All Stars, of course. They’ve got to be the most versatile shoe. You can walk for days, dance for hours, and with a rubber sole like that, you can clean out the gutters without a fear of sliding off the roof. And, if I’m not too fussy, I can make them work with any outfit.

So I kinda live in the county, right. So there’s kinda no shops around here. So I default to the online mega-mall: ebay.

I don’t understand why there isn’t a universal shoe size. My first pair of cons are a size 4 now with holes in the soles. The next ones, worn out and tired, are a 4 ½. I chalked that up to a spreading foot and ordered a replacement pair of 4 ½ shoes from Hong Kong. These are too big. And I mean like clown shoes too big. I hid them from my husband somewhere in the garage and ordered another pair, size 3.

I’m truly not sure which shoes are the counterfeit shoes and I have no idea what size I am. That’s the magic of Hong Cons. So I’ve been thinking, if there can’t be a universal shoe size, we need to add the counterfeit size to the list of sizes.

“Do you know your size?”, enquires the shoe store attendant wearing the obligatory shoe store pair of shoes.

“Oh yes, I do!”, I proudly announce. “I’m a European 36, USA 5.5, UK 3.5, Japanese 22.5, and a Counterfeit 3… Do you have these in a counterfeit size 3?”

I just want something to wear to dinner

I struggle to understand why I can’t just wear my jersey pants and fluffy flats to dinner.

Too often going out for dinner turns into a fashion faux pas. I’m looking for something pretty, but sophisticated, and of course, something with a bit of give in the midriff. The reality is that after I’ve gorged myself on my dinner and several glasses of wine, holding my tummy in isn’t going to be achievable nor consistent.

It’s a 1950’s black pencil dress with some leopard pumps.

I start out looking great, by the time I’ve had my main course I can only remember to hold my tummy flat on the way to the bathroom but not on the way back. I’m alternating between looking great and looking frumpy. I’m confusing people.

My friends decide to go to the local bar now that the restaurant is closing. It sounds like a great idea.

I’ve completely forgotten that my dress has a long slit up the back thats now riding up quite high to compensate for my pot belly out front (that I couldn’t possibly hold in now).

I arrive at the bar feeling the confidence of my last drink but look like the martini, three glasses of wine and two courses that I’ve consumed.

My clumsiness is incompatible with the slit in my dress. Someone should really tell me not to bend over. And the phrase, dance like no ones watching, didn’t originate from this teetering shuffle – because let’s hope they’re not watching.

The next morning its the jersey pants and fluffy flats that make me feel like me again. That, and the alka seltzer.

Alka Seltzer Roy Lichtenstein 1966

image: Roy Lichtenstein, Alka Seltzer (1966)

weedless and rambling directionless

I’m very proud to inform you that my plan to eradicate weeds using chemical free methods was a huge success. Combining the awesome power of my purchased helper with black plastic sheeting, a highly visible section of the yard has turned from a wild weed infested tangle of mangled vine, to this, a blank canvas.

raised garden bed

Now I just have the battle of decision making.

As a commitaphobe, I’ve learnt to live with myself. Drifting from one whimsy to the next. But when it comes to the garden I need a better approach. Plants seem to struggle with my inconsistent approach to their maintenance. That said, I have big dreams. Big unrealistic dreams. In my mind, the garden tells a story. In these dreams, I walk through my garden enjoying a flow of spaces and symmetries. I pick a leaf and eat it as I pass into the shaded cool of the secret garden. There’s flowers, bees and the faint laughter of children (preferably coming from the kids down the street). I might have brought a pot of tea with a cup and a saucer on a tray into the garden. Although, that would have made picking that leaf a few minutes ago quite awkward. But nothing is clumsy in my head. And nothing is overgrown, weedy or browning. There’s nothing plonked. Then I open my eyes to my surroundings and see the reality – a very large garden, battered by recent storms, and far from my vision.

Perhaps in five or ten years, I will walk through that garden. But until then and in preparation for that time, at the very least, I want my garden to look considered.

So here are my current thoughts for this blank canvas. I thought it might be fun to run a poll to determine what the favourites are. And please leave a comment if you have some more ideas. To put you in context, I live in a cold climate, the garden includes both ornamental and edible, and has a oriental theme (ie. azaleas, japanese maples, rhodos, bamboo). So, tell me, what will it be?

power to the suburban people

A few things in suburban life give me a true sense of power. I thought I’d share some.

First is the trigger hose. Innocent passers by are powerless against the soaking might of my eight function trigger nozzle. Standing legs slightly akimbo, my ergonomic pistol in hand, I’m ready to take out any dissident (or innocent). “Go ahead, make my day”, I threaten passers by. My top lip curled and twitching.

Number two, kitchen power tools. You know what I’m talking about, the way the power whisk magically beats egg whites to meringue, how the oven burns the bejeebers out of stuff when you’re not looking, and how the freezer makes ice. Awesome. It’s there, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “yeah, I did that, I put water in that ice tray and now look at it!”

That knob on the stereo that makes the sound move from one speaker to the other. Right, left, right. I can’t play an instrument but damn-straight I can make noise move!

Special treatment in the local establishment, only because you’re in the know (ie, you’re a local but don’t let that stop you feeling like celebrity). Striding through, you know you’re going too far when you give the Queen’s wave. Besides, almost everyone else is a local too and they don’t appreciate the wave.

Internet shopping. I’m buying all sorts of stuff and I haven’t even had to stand up!

So who said suburban life was dull … what gives you a sense of suburban power?

suburbia

image: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

weed control (at all costs)

weeds

Step 1: Buy black plastic (or collect a lot of newspapers if you’re someone who still reads them… who does that?!)
Step 2: Cover all the weeds so no light gets to them
Step 3: Wait for the weeds to suffocate to death
Step 4: Employ someone to weed for you

So I have this problem with my neighbour’s jasmine vine. It doesn’t understand that I don’t want it here. When we moved in, it had been left to free-range and had gone beyond manageable. We had to take a tree out because it was so overcome. A year on, the ground is a mat of vine and it still keeps coming through the fence. It’s straggling my treasures. I’d lost all hope for the submerged Camelia. But the moment it touched my Japanese Maple it was war. A war I would win. At all costs. Well, at a very specific cost, a per hour cost. But we’re winning.

suffocating weeds

life’s little injustices

The world is full of injustices. Apparently Plato said he doesn’t know what justice is but knows what justice is not.  Huh? It’s too late in the day for Plato… Here are some injustices, in no particular order:

– Scarfing down a marshmallow topped chocolate cookie at the end of a very bad day, only to require a nightcap of antacid.

– Getting a stomach bug the night you manage to score a babysitter.

– Having an umbrella in the car all the time, except the day it’s raining.

– Realising that you can’t lord it over your neighbours about their yappy dog because it turns out your dog has been escaping when you’re away and coming back before you get home.

– When the high sugar content in your last two slices of raisin toast causes the usual toaster setting to turn them into charcoal.

– When the batteries in both of your wireless mice (or is it mouses?) go flat at the same time. I’m not kidding, this really happened to me. I had to take the only AA batteries I could find out of a small torch with a dim light. It was very stressful. It was only 8pm. A long time before bed and even longer before I would go to the shops again.

– Oh yeah, and there’s that one about world peace. But let’s keep it real.

marshmallow cookie

the challenge of not being a movie-goer in the modern world

It’s a wonder I know who Brad Pitt is. Don’t ask if I know anyone else though. I used to watch movies but now I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t really want to feel challenged. Mentally and physically. I feel like the world is complex enough without having to endure the fictional trials and tribulations of someone I don’t even know. And my arse can’t take the length of a feature film.

Movies have got longer. The average film length in the 1950’s it was 137 mins, 1970’s was 141 mins, 1990’s was 154 mins and now 2010’s it’s at 140 mins. Is it about value for money? They can’t fit enough features and effects into 90 minutes?! Movies and I on a trajectory, the longer movies get the shorter my attention span has become.

But it creates hurdles in social settings.

“You know Brad Pitt! He was in Happy Together”. Internally I’m thinking, “Nah, I don’t”, but  out loud I say, “…his name is familiar…”. Perhaps a poor choice because now it continues. “He was in The Favour too, did you see that?”

My hole is getting deeper. I need to get out of here. I’m looking for an out. Can I put a hazy face to that name? There must be something he was in that I’ve heard about if he’s that good. Damn, my drink is too full to feign refilling. “Oh that, yeah, it’s about that guy that needs some help with some thing, yeah, anyway…”.

Ok, I can see some light again. I’m going to get out of here with my credibility and my arse intact.

Brad Pitt

stats: http://www.movieforums.com/community/archive/index.php/t-16296.html
Calculated from the average length of the 10 Best Picture Oscar winners each decade. Thank goodness someone called “Holden Pike” did the calculations because I definitely wouldn’t.
image: http://www.celebritywallpaper.co/

all in the name of research

I would hate you to think that I’m not constantly working hard to research and perfect drinks for you. Here’s a selection of photos of cocktails I have been working on.

caprikosca vodka

Caipiroska
This never made it out of draft. This is what I wrote about it at the time.

So no one is driving after one of these, got it?! … serves 2 giggling gerties. You could halve quantities and serve in a martini glass if you’re wanting moderation.

120 ml vodka (that’s double shots/ 60 ml per person)
2 limes (juice of 1 ½, the quarter the last half, squeeze a bit into the glass and throw the chunks into the bottom of the glass – for show)
10-15 mint leaves (keep 2 for garnish)
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp raw sugar
ice

Muddle lime, sugar, mint and vodka (I used my wooden citrus juicer to muddle)
Fill two glasses with ice and pour the muddled mix over the ice.
Dress it up with mint and lime rinds.

But it wasn’t very nice.

lemon cocktail

I have no idea what this is. Miscellanious lemon thing?! (with strange shadows)… Despite its watery appearance, it was obviously quite potent.

champagne cocktail

Champagne Cocktail
I know what this is… it’s sugar, bitters, Grand Marnier and champagne. I even layered it nicely but the photo is terrible. So it didn’t make the cut. Plus it was the last of the Grand Marnier until the next duty-free shopping, so there’s no opportunities to get a better shot.

cocktail with lemon rind

… No idea what this is either … but obviously the lemon rind was very important.

sleep when you’re dead: another cup of joe?

Coffee sleep when you're deadCoffee. It’s one of our favourite legal drugs. That and alcohol*. We all have our favourite cup of joe. And a language that goes with it. Flat white, skinny cap, decaf latte, soy, in a mug, in a shot, sugar, honey, lemon… It’s as personal as your fingerprint.

Here’s how I drink coffee:
At home. Strong espresso, some evaporated milk, sugar then heat it in the microwave until just below “f**k that’s hot!” (that’s an official temperature).

At my desk, non-descript, however my mouth did say “a flat white, please”. Purchased from the human equivalent of a coffee vending machine. Cold, bitter and reheated too many times to bother doing it again.

At home. With play-dough stuck to the side of the cup. It started out with such potential, now it’s giving up. Defeated and reheated too many times to bother doing it again.

At home. A shot in a small glass. It’s late and dark. The creme is bitter on my lips. It reminds me that I’m alive. I look like a vampire caught in the act. Wide eyed and wild.

In a cafe. One where they roast their own coffee beans. It’s fair trade, it’s hot, it’s smooth. It doesn’t need sugar. It’s bold and defiant. It reminds me that my life is nothing without good coffee. I want to have another one.

Coffee Plantation Brazil

*I put cigarettes in another category: Marketing devil spawn. Or is it third world population control. Or is it both.

images: Coffee Plantation, Brazil, http://en.wikipedia.org 
Sleep when you’re dead, http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com