Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking A Break

I'll be taking a break from blogging. I'm finding it harder and harder to come up with things to write about.
I may return with the occasional recipe or movie review. So keep an eye out around the end of March when The Hunger Games movie comes out. I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about that one.
And if you haven't already, read The Hunger Games trilogy. They are really good books.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shuffle Your Feet So We Know You're Not Dead

We've all been there. Going into a public toilet, the next stall is occupied, and there is no sound at all. Not that we're listening for it, but the complete absence of noise is noticable, and kind of eerie.

We know it's just someone who is so bladder shy, that not only can't they pee while the surrounding stalls are occupied, they're holding themselves completely still, trying to not even breathe, because they hate people knowing they're in the toilet. Of course we know that's what it is.

But...once upon a time, a long, long time ago - or 15 years back - Scully told Mulder that people die on the toilet all the time. Regular people! Not just fat, drugged up, jumpsuit wearing rock stars. So I always kind of wonder if maybe, just maybe, the person in the next stall is actually dead.

Dilemma. Knocking on the wall and asking if they're okay is out of the question. If they're dead, they won't answer. If they're alive, but excruciatingly shy, they also won't answer. So then management gets called, because there may be an issue in the toilets. They knock and get no answer. Security gets brought in to break down the door....revealing some poor woman, pants down, completely mortified by the whole thing. Lawsuits follow, because they're now so traumatised they can't leave the house in case they need to pee while they're out, and they can never use a public toilet again. It's a terrible thing. *<-- As far as I know this scenario has never actually happened. Really though, it's only a matter of time. I can't be the only person wondering if people in other stalls are dead. *

So, if you're one of those people, hunched in a stall, waiting desperately for everyone to leave so you can pee in peace, shuffle your feet a little. Or jiggle the toilet paper holder. Something to let us know you're actually okay in there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cooking With No-One: Tomato Sauce

So I made my tomato sauce and it worked out really well. Here's how I did it:
Cut up around 2.5kg of tomatoes.

And 2 large sliced onions. (Also what is with the onions and tomatoes in Australian stores. I had the hardest time finding decent ones.)

Mix together in a large bowl, cover and leave overnight.

...The next day
Peel and cut up three large granny smith apples. Crush one head of garlic. Add 1 tsp of ground ginger.

Put tomato/onion mix and apple mix in a large pot. Cook on a low-medium heat for around 2 and half hours, stiring frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of sugar with 1 tbsp of salt.
I just realised that photo looks kind of like a face.

Make a basic roux. I used 4tbsp of butter and 4tbsp of plain flour.

Stir over a low heat until it resembles icing.

Add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar. (This whole bit with the roux and vinegar was my departure from the original recipe, which said to use something called 'Ezy Sauce'. I decided to make my own.

Pour in sugar mix, stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add to cooking tomatoes.

Cook over low-medium heat for further 30-40 minutes. The vinegary smell will blend into the tomato smell.
Use hand mixer or food processor to blend until smooth.

Dip bread into sauce to sample taste. Yum.

Let sauce cool, then transfer into storage container. Refrigerate.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Weekend Project

I know it's only Wednesday, but projects take planning. And buying stuff. And talking myself into actually doing the projects, on the basis that now that I've bought the stuff, I damn well shouldn't waste my money by not using it.

Tomato Sauce.

My younger brother thinks he has developed an allergy to store bought tomato sauce. He's okay with tomato based pasta sauce, and fresh tomato isn't a problem, but if he has regular tomato sauce from a bottle, he gets a headache. It's really very sad, because as Australians it's practically unpatriotic to not be able to have sauce.

So I have decided to try making my own, where I know what all the ingredients are, to see if The Boy is still affected, or if it is, as I suspect, actually an allergy to one of the preservatives or colourants in the bottled stuff.

I've found an okay looking recipe, and while I usually follow recipes exactly the first time I make them, and then tweak on future endevours, this time I'm making a few changes before I even start.

I'll be making the tomato sauce on Saturday, and if it all goes well, it will be documented here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cooking With No-One: Butter Pecan Ice Cream

I got my Ice Cream Maker! Yay!

I'm not really a fan of the colour pink, but Myer was having a sale on these. They were going out for $104, and by the time I got to the store they only had 6 left. 5 in pink, and 1 in a shade of yellow I disliked even more. So I got the pink one.

As the butter-pecan ice cream was the reason I first wanted to make my own ice cream, I made that first.

I am following the suggestion of a friend who already has an ice cream maker, and just storing the freezer bowl part in the freezer so it's always ready for use.

Prepare the pecans.

Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan.

Add a pinch of salt, and chopped pecans. I could only find either whole pecans, or pecan halves, and they were all tucked away, practically hidden by the seventeen thousand different types of almonds the store stocked. Poor pecans. I chopped them myself.

Cook over a low heat for around 8 minutes. Drain butter. Taste one of the pecan pieces. It tasted a little like buttered popcorn.
Start preparing ice cream mix.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine a pinch of salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 cup of milk.

Whisk until sugar is disolved. It will look kind of like the milk that's left over after a bowl of cocoa pops.
Add two cups of thickened cream and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence.
Whisk until smooth. It will look like a milkshake.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make the ice cream in the ice cream maker.
Assemble the machine.
Turn machine on, then pour ice cream mix through the hole in the top of the lid.
Let it mix for around 15-20 minutes. It will look like this:
Add pecans through the hole in the lid.
Mix for a further 5 minutes.
When done, put ice cream in freezer proof container. Yum.
Or eat it right away, whatever works for you.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading With No-One: Santa Olivia

They say don't judge a book by the cover, but I really like this cover. Before I get to my mini-review, I will give you the blurb from the back of the book:

'There is no pity in Santa Olivia. And no escape. In this isolated military buffer zone between Mexico and the U.S., the citizens of Santa Olivia are virtually powerless. Then an unlikely herione is born. She is the daughter of a man genetically manipulated by the government to be a weapon. A "Wolf-Man," he was engineered to have superhuman strength, speed, stamina and senses, as well as a total lack of fear. Named for her vanished father, Loup Garron has inherited his gifts.

Frustrated by the injustices visited upon her friends and neighbours by the military occupiers, Loup is determined to avenge her community. Aided by a handful of her fellow orphans, Loup takes on the guise of their patron saint, Santa Olivia, and sets out to deliver vigilante justice - aware that if she is caught, she could lose her freedom...and her possibly her life.'

*******For anyone not familiar with the word, Loup is pronounced Lou. 'Le Loup-Garou' is french for 'The Wolf-Man'*********

Santa Olivia was recommended to me by a friend. I haven't quite finished it yet, I've got probably around another 45 minutes of reading time to go, but I thought if I did the review before I finished, I'd be less likely to over-explain and ruin the book for people who hate being spoiled as to endings and important plot points. (I'm not one of those people, so I sometimes accidently give to much away, when around people who are.)

I'm really enjoying Santa Olivia. It's engaging, interesting, and has a lead character who seems worth knowing. And I love a kick-ass female, who can take care of herself while protecting the people around her.

The story takes place in a world, set sometime in the future where plagues of illness have killed scores of people across the United States and Mexico (and presumably the rest of the world). Santa Olivia is a small town on the US-Mexican border, and has been walled off on both sides. It is technically no longer a part of either country, and as far as the world outside knows, the only people in the town are the soldiers who live there to protect the border. The civilians no longer exist in any official way.

The US army has told the town residents they are being kept safe from El Segundo a rebel Mexican general, who would use Santa Olivia as a gateway to attack the US, but they have reason to believe they are being lied to. That there is no El Segundo and the area is being kept walled off for other reasons.

The leading Army General holds out hope to locals in the form of boxing matches, promising if anyone can beat one of his men in a fight, they will get free passage out of Santa Olivia, for themselves and one other person. The locals cling to this promise, but the one time it seems like one of them may win, the fight is fixed. So we see that nobody is ever leaving.

Up until the boxing match, Loup, who at this point is still a teenager,  had been doing a few small acts as the saint, Santa Olivia. The outcome is what makes her decide to really fight against the army, and for freedom.

I'm sure I'll enjoy the rest of this book as much as I've liked what I've already read.

And I have, waiting, the sequel, Saints Astray, which I will start later this evening.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Breakfast Cafe

As a time saver, and so I can sleep as late as possible, I grab breakfast on the way to work and eat it when I get there.

A few months back some of the bus routes changed and this meant I got to work about 15 minutes earlier (but couldn't catch a later bus, because that would be too late), so I started getting off the bus two stops earlier and walking the rest of the way.

Back at the start of November I noticed, right near the bus stop I was now using, a tiny little cafe, with a few tables out the front. Apparently it's been there for years, I'd just never noticed it. It's run by a couple of men, brothers I think, originally from Nepal. One of them does most of the counter work, the other one is mostly out the back. They serve breakfast and lunch, curries being their main lunch attraction. I don't have time to get up there for lunch, so I'm yet to try them.

The first day I went in, I got a tall latte, with two sugars, and a maple syrup-pecan danish. It tasted like real maple syrup, and had actual pecans on it. By the middle of the week, the counter guy was just confirming that it was two sugars in the latte, and a danish to go. By the second week he didn't have to ask. I walk in and he starts my making my coffee and bagging up the danish while we say good morning, and if it's quiet in there, chat about the weather, the christmas decorations showing up on the street and other shops, how was the weekend, stuff like that.

It's not just me, there are a bunch of regulars who come in and get the same remarkable service. Some of them stay in and chat, some of them wander in, put some money on the counter with a quick "morning, I'll be out at the tables", and he knows what to bring them. The only people I've seen tell him what they're after are people making a change to their regular breakfast, and they do that before he's had a chance to start getting their usual, (through the door "I'll have a muffin, instead of some toast today mate), or newbies, (well, probably newbies, why else would they need to ask the coffee sizes, or what kind of bread they use for the toast).

While I still love my Hudson's coffee, the lattes here are excellent and the customer service is amazing (which is what really keeps me coming back every morning). One day I'll make it there for lunch and try the Nepalese Curry.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quote Of The Week

From Terry Pratchett's new novel 'Snuff':
"...good people have no business being so bad. Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm Over It

The love affair the world seems to be having with vampires and werewolves.

Full disclosure, I watched Buffy & Angel back in the day. I own the DVDs and still watch them on occasion. I currently watch The Vampire Diaries in spite of the fact that the two male leads are playing vampires, because they have some fantastic writing and acting, and of course, Ian Somerhalder's abs are very nice.

However, I was in Dymocks today, to use a gift card I got for my birthday. (Sidenote, I know some people who don't like to give gift cards because they're not 'personal'. I beg to differ. Gift cards says "I personally know that you'd rather choose your own book, instead of maybe ending with one you already own, or will hate." Yay giftcards!)

So, I'm wandering through the sci-fi/fantasy and horror sections, and it seems like every third book (or series) is about a human in love with a vampire or werewolf. Or a werewolf or vampire in love with a human. And it's all soppy and "I must control my bloodlust for the sake of love." eeerrrggghhhh. The market is just oversaturated, and I object to these genres being overrun with supernatural romances. I miss the days when vampires and werewolves were bloodthirsty killing machines to be hunted down and slayed, rather than fallen in love with and bedded. Back then, at least when one of these creatures fell for a human, they'd turn them and continue on with their natural bloodlusty killing sprees.

I want my genres back to the way they were.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gingerbread House

A friend made me this gingerbread house.
Sides: (only one pic, because they look the same)

 And these maimed and murdered gingerbread men. Or 'gingerdead' men, as we're calling them.