Take All The Fun Out

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Every week*, I seem to find a new quote that I love. There’s an ever-increasing list of them, including some that come beautifully printed and that I would love to hang on the wall. Although there are so many that I’d need a bit of a revolving door of them. Or to get the hang of those walls with lots of pictures in different shapes and sizes – another one of those things that looks wonderful in magazines and blogs, but would look all sorts of wrong if I tried it in my apartment...

Picture: Domino via Shelter

As well as quotes though, there’s a bit of a current trend for “instructive” posters. Like those keep calm ones. Some of them are so silly as to keep a satisfying level of recalcitrance about themselves...

Picture: John W Golden on Etsy

But others just risk being taken entirely too seriously. Or actually being that serious. This one, while it gave me the giggles, was one of those...

Picture: 3 Lambs Graphics on Etsy

And this one is just never going to happen...

Picture: Pedlars

I think if I saw one of those in somebody’s house, I’d be thinking of escaping out the bathroom window. It’s one of those signs**. Like men wearing white socks with black shoes. No how, no way.

Couldn’t resist a few more art walls. Just because...

Picture: Domino via Shelter

Picture: We Heart It via Belle Maison

Picture: Country Homes & Interiors via House To Home

Of course, art walls and keeping calm aren't mutually exclusive...

Picture: Productivity Goal

* Sometimes ever day, but then I know I’m being Far Too Unproductive...
** Literally, of course, but also figuratively.


...Or You Won’t Get Dessert

Friday, July 30, 2010

Forget “here comes the aeroplane”... this might be the best inducement I’ve seen to get children to finish their meals...

Picture: Jim Bob Art on Etsy

I think the fez really makes it...

That said, I’m not quite sure where I stand on the “eat everything on your plate” debate.

On the one hand, it’s a good thing to learn that your parents aren’t short order cooks, and that meals come at intervals rather than exactly what you want to eat materialising at exactly when you want to eat it*. And to push through the initial “not trying that” to experience new tastes that turn out to be pretty good, and develop a bit of adventurousness with eating. As well as to experience sharing meals with your family, so that you grow up enjoying the social aspects of enjoying food together**.

But on the other hand, teaching children to eat everything they’re given can create a deep-rooted sense of obligation to eat everything when servings are too large, or when you have a choice of whether or not to eat something. As serving sizes get bigger and bigger, the amount sometimes served to the smaller members of the family can be disproportionate; parents who tell their kids to stay there until they’ve finished a mound of food that is almost the size of the child themselves definitely bring out my inner bolshie cow. And it leads to people eating too much when they’re adults, worrying that it’s “rude” to not finish each course at a restaurant, and feeling obliged to finish meals that are disappointing or just not to their taste when out.

Picture: We Heart Food

One of the best things my mum and dad taught me was that when you’re eating out, you’re the one paying, so you get to eat what you want, and leave the rest. And if that means you don’t like it, or you want to save room for dessert, then fine. But that if you decide you’re hungry an hour later on, then you might need to get used to the grumbling tum.

What do you think about eating everything on your plate?

* Depending on your perspective, that’s what happens when you move out. Or, with a vague level of irony, when you visit your parents after you’ve moved out. The trifle-eating cat’s dad has established that the easiest way to get a lasagne is to wait for me to visit...
** And sitting at a table to eat is shown to make you eat less than gutsing away on the couch. Except for those studies that show that people eat more in company. Hmmm... statistics. Evil, evil statistics.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

There aren't just new words to contend with - there are those words that you sometimes think should mean something... else.

Hankering – the desperate need for a tissue, usually experienced when elbow-deep in cake mixture, or while rummaging fruitlessly through an enormous handbag which contains everything but...


How Far Do You Go For Chocolate?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So, we have Tim Tams in every imaginable permutation and combination. But that doesn’t stop me feeling like we get short-changed on flavour options for other things. Especially when I spotted this...

A brief pootle reveals just how many hitherto-unimagined flavours one chocolate bar can come in...

Green tea...

Picture: Japanese Snack Reviews

Cherry blossom...

Picture: P F C on Flickr

Soy sauce...

Picture: HitFlavour.com

Ramune... and it's blue! Don't think I've ever seen blue chocolate before...

Picture: Kyoto Diary - Kyoto Foodie

Baked potato (a whole new way to eat a bucket-load of carbohydrates in one go!)

Picture: Sweet Tater

And, with the prize for the most specific and mystifying title... Muscat of Alexandria (sounds a bit like a stage name)...

Picture: Japanese Snack Reviews

Back on Tim Tams, the new Crush ones are unexpectedly good. Although I think they should be branded as something other than a Tim Tam (hopping on an established bandwagon to get the sales up, you reckon?!). The first time I had one, I didn’t even know it was a Tim Tam. Which raises the question of how far something can vary from the original while still being marketed under the same umbrella? A bit like how far from the beach you can wear your underpants, perhaps...


Getting Otter

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When all the new ideas have been used up, it’s time to go back to the old ideas and in trying to get some fresh material either (1) improve on the original or (2) remind us why we loved it as it started out, and poking around with the classics is a risky and fraught proposition. Anybody remaking a film with Audrey Hepburn in it might do well to remember this. Or anybody making an English version of a cult foreign drama or horror film. Or (almost) anybody covering old big band songs. And definitely anybody doing anything Madonna has already done. Ahem.

Picture: Return To The Hundred Acre Wood

At the end of a really enjoyable book or film or something, there’s a a bittersweet feeling where you have the satisfaction of how good it was, mixed with a wish that it had gone on a bit longer. But if it did go on longer, would we have enjoyed it more, or might the impact have just been watered down? This is probably a variation on the “Christmas wouldn’t be special if it was every day” argument, and when you go back to something years later and tack on extra bits, there’s even more probability of making a dog’s breakfast out of it (and looking like you’re milking a cash cow... moooo).

I have had a thing about Winnie The Pooh for longer than I can remember and, much as I think there is a place for the Disney version (as long as it doesn’t start colonising the world, Hello Kitty style), it doesn’t even come close to the original. The original was a just little less relentlessly cheery (although relentless cheeriness might be forgiven if you’re a Tigger), and maybe both a bit more thoughtful and a bit dafter. With much better pictures.

Picture: Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

And now, there is a new volume of Winnie The Pooh*. And I wonder (in a pootly, wondering sort of way) whether that can possibly be a good thing. It’s like trying to write a new Roald Dahl story once you don’t have Roald Dahl (especially given there is neither A.A. Milne nor E.H Shepard still around... ). But the thing that really got my interest is that there is a new character. And it is an Otter. An otter wearing a necklace. Is that entirely too much silliness, or can introducing an otter only ever be a positive development?

* Well, new-ish. Definitely new compared to the old ones...


Penguin Woz 'Ere

Monday, July 26, 2010

At the end of a trail of discarded cupcake wrappers, you will find one rotund, satisfied and (eep!) guilty-looking penguin. Ooof.

Picture: Beyond Ramen

Picture: Chris Blakely on Flickr

Picture: Little Bird Eats

Picture: Charlotte Anderson on Flickr

Picture: Gap Adventures


The Impossible Dream

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I can’t believe it’s finally going to happen. Masterchef is finally going to finish! Just think of all those productive things that can be done now you’re no longer glued to the couch for (it can’t be! Oh yes, it was) over seven hours a week, watching other people cook. Don’t worry about the lack of culinary inspiration (or mystification) on a daily basis. Don’t stop to think about it, or the next thing’ll start, and you’ll get hooked again. And then you’ll never make it off the couch.

So. It’s nearly over. Perhaps we need something to acknowledge this moment. How about this...

Picture: Salty Seattle, discovered via Tastespotting

This is not just any impossible croquembouche sitting there taunting you with all those potential things that could go wrong if you attempted it. This is a croquembouche with fois gras chantilly crème and maple balsamic syrup. This is a combination of the sweet and savoury that would’ve done even Marion proud.

Picture: Salty Seattle

It’s definitely an interesting thought. And given how well fois gras goes with the sweetness of brioche, probably not as unlikely an idea as it initially sounds. And if I was going to relinquish crème patissiere for anything, perhaps it could be pate. Perhaps...


There's A Hole In My Bucket

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Picture: taken by me at Doug Up On Bourke

How do you capture a thought? OK, so you start with a butterfly net with very tiny holes. This line of thinking has the potential to become very BFG*. But following on from a previous post about escaping thoughts, it seemed worth considering. Maybe not for long, but still. I always find that thoughts come along when I'm supposed to be doing something else. Just like nothing fills the brain like trying to mediate or be mindful (it's like if somebody tells you repeatedly not to think about elephants, whatever you do... it's then impossible to do anything else), nothing clears the brain more than an empty page. Or screen.

The idea of keeping a note pad by the side of the bed is all well and good until you wake yourself up repeatedly while trying to remember and express things. It seems to be most useful to find something to do that isn't really doing something. The inconvenience of writing stuff down while doing said activity is inversely related to how many thoughts it helps produce. Showering seems to fit this bill perfectly. Heaps of ideas. Nowhere to write them down. Harrumph.

* And the BFG now always makes me think of the GFC (well, really more the other way round), ever since there has been such a disagreeable thing...


Skepticism Can Be Tasty

Friday, July 23, 2010

Recipe books are, for me, a lot like glossy magazines – highly irresistible, a lovely way to have an afternoon disappear and, less enjoyably, a small sinking pit of money. They seem to be accumulating at an alarming rate, too... hmmm. By contrast, the other penguin tends to be quietly bemused by my fascination*, and goes back to watching bad horror films. Recently, though, there was a Development. The other penguin has acquired a recipe book.

A recent weekend away involved, among other things, inordinate amounts of time spent at the Australian Institute of Sport. Which has a bookshop. Which contains recipe books. And, after much humming and harring, this was bought...

Picture: AIS

I gave it skeptical looks, a brief flick through, and thereafter avoided it. My current cooking proclivities tend towards the indulgent and impractical; recipes for the busy athlete tend to fall outside these parameters. The other penguin, however, was keen on things to take for lunch** and so, while I spent a quiet evening down the rabbit hole, he decided to try out a new recipe. The recipe was for baked beef risotto, and I must confess that I eyed with much the same suspicion as the book in general. Risotto? With minced beef in it? Nooo... And then.
Then, delicious smells started wafting out of the kitchen. A request was made to try a taste to see if it was done. And, not that long later, risotto emerged, and I was proved resoundingly wrong in my skepticism.

The risotto turned out to be wonderful (but not at all photogenic). Very tasty, very filling, and ideal for a murky winter Sunday night (I’d imagine it translates equally well to other days of the week, too!). Those athletes are on to a good thing with this one. And it made enough to feed an army. Or at least provide quite a few lunches for the week. It’s a bit like a risotto that thought about being a Bolognese. Potentially indecisive, but certainly tasty...

In case you feel like trying out an unexpected risotto for yourself, this is how it's made:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
350 g lean beef mince
1 ½ cups arborio rice
1 litre beef stock
150 g baby spinach leaves
400 g sweet potato / kumera, cubed
1 tbsp grated parmesan
black pepper
spray olive oil

Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a large pan with oil and heat. Cook the onion, garlic and mince for about 5 minutes or until browned, breaking up any lumps of mince with a fork. Add the rice and stir until well combined. Stir in the stock, spinach and sweet potato and bring to the boil. Transfer the mixture to a 2 litre ovenproof dish. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid from the dish, stir the risotto well and return to the oven to cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes or until the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed. Stir in the parmesan and season with pepper to taste.

* This also applies in relation to bad puns and small furry / feathery creatures.
** Apparently not everybody exists for months on end eating soup, rice paper rolls or sushi, interspersed with occasional vats of ramen.


I’ve Got The World On A String

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I’ve got the world a tail on a string
I’m sitting on a rainbow coffee table...
Got that string them wrapped around my finger

The trifle-eating cat’s parents arrive today for a visit, so it seemed an opportune time to finally share a picture of the aforementioned cat...

Curious? Tick!

When a little less distracted, and from a more flattering angle, he is much more photogenic!

How could you resist the trifle-eating cat? Although, this time, there is neither cat nor trifle – but lots of other things. I might even remember to take a camera along. And write about some of them before the next blue moon! Certainly before the next trifle...


If You Can't Have Tea With The Queen

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Many distracting things can be found on Tastespotting*. I didn’t expect one of those interesting things to be a penguin, though. And not just any penguin... this one actually dunks your teabag in your tea for you. For the proper amount of time (a punctual penguin – just imagine).

Picture: via Around Britain With A Paunch

Much as I love the idea, I suspect it would be entirely wasted on the likes of me who make their tea by showing a mug of boiling water a teabag for the briefest of moments**. Unless that penguin moves quicker than his waddling cousins!

* It’s my new version of Flickr, but with fewer random happy snaps and bits-you-don’t-want, and lots of links to undiscovered blogs.
** Or come over all tea-snob and actually bother to use loose leaf. Always seems so much more effortful than it actually is. Maybe I need a penguin who actually makes the tea for me...


Don’t Shoot The Chef – Please!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If physicians are supposed to heal themselves*... are cooks supposed to cook themselves?

Picture: Robin Jolin on Flickr

This causes me concern every time I reach for the mandolin. Or, on especially uncoordinated days, even the grater. Ow!

Maybe the concept has more to do with the cooks cooking for others, for general relaxation, for their blogs and for all kinds of other reasons. And then eating something on toast. Or is that just me?

* Or thyselves, as the case may be.


Pavlovian Thoughts

Monday, July 19, 2010

Diswrappointment – the feeling you have when an enticing rustle turns
out to be a mundane package of something not intended to be eaten

Which is entirely different from...

Entwrapment – getting caught eating something you shouldn’t have,
because of the tell-tale noise from opening the packaging

Hey you! Yes, you sneaking up on the lemon curd with a teaspoon and a furtive expression! Step away from the refrigerator!


Christmas In July

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Picture: Life Love Paper on Flickr

Can you wear red and green together without looking like a Christmas tree? I'd never thought so. Then, I came across a (relatively) recent post by Decor8 which gave pause for thought.

When venturing away from black, I tend to gravitate towards seafoam green (mostly in summer) and red (the rest of the time). But it had never ocurred to me to try and wear the two colours together*. These wallets combine red and seafoam green to great effect... unusual patterns, clean lines, and an interesting vintage feel...

Pictures: All of the above are by Dear Sukie on Etsy

Maybe if I tried this approach, I could double my wardrobe options...?**

* Much as I love pictures of people in fabulous colour combinations where the unexpected inclusion of a particular shade makes the whole thing just work, I tend to go for the lower risk approach of not wearing more than three colours at once in case I look like a paint pot...
** Love the justifications that start to emerge in the pursuit of shopping!


Tell Me About It

Saturday, July 17, 2010

There are added benefits to reading out loud beyond getting to do silly voices. Sometimes, reading out loud means you get the point of something that otherwise might be a lot less obvious in print.

This one doesn’t need to be read out loud to avoid being missed, but it is all about the accent...

Picture: Mystery Foxes on Flickr*

And I really should have posted this back on Canada Day, but that would be to presume organisational abilities that are just not penguin-like at all!

Sometimes, when you don’t think of the other way of looking at wording until after you’ve read it the “normal” way, it suddenly makes a whole lot more sense (less the penny dropping that the entire piggy bank...).

* With a name like that, how could it not be good?


Doughnut Niches (Not Quiches)

Friday, July 16, 2010

There have been all sorts of tasty-looking doughnut recipes online lately and, while I was keen to try making them, I was much less eager about the idea of deep-frying at home. Both the potential slippery slope of eating if I tried and succeeded, and the burnt fingers (or worse) if I tried and failed*. And then I came across a donut niche (or should that be a donut hole?) of baked doughnuts, doughnut muffins and doughnut cakes... burnt fingers averted!

Prompted by the opportunity to share them with the llama-loving friend, an early start was made, as were muffins...

The recipe I used was from Kathleen at Downtown Bakery via Fine Cooking, and this was the recipe...

12 oz (24 Tbs) unsalted butter, warmed to room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 lb 11 oz. (6 cups) all-purpose flour
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1-3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1-2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
For the coating
8 oz (16 Tbs) unsalted butter; more as needed (I used much less than this, and while they tasted good, the sugar didn't stick as much as it could've. But this isn't Masterchef. There are limits on how much butter should be involved in some recipes)
2 cups sugar
2 Tbs ground cinnamon

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed in.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
Combine the milk and buttermilk.
With a wooden spoon, mix a quarter of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Then mix in a third of the milk mixture. Continue mixing in the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry. Mix until well combined and smooth, but don't over mix.
Grease and flour a standard-size muffin pan. Scoop enough batter into each tin so that the top of the batter is even with the rim of the cup, about 1/2 cup. Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, around 30 to 35 minutes**.
Melt the butter for the dipping mixture. Combine the sugar and cinnamon.
When the muffins are just cool enough to handle, remove them from the pan, dip them into or brush them all over with the melted butter, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.

The finished muffins definitely had a good resemblance to doughnuts, and had a lighter texture than I'd imagined (there had been a bit of a concern that a baked doughnut would effectively resemble a stale normal doughnut - not at all the case, thankfully!).

Although, the next time I feel a doughnut craving coming on, I'd be tempted to try something with a filling in them. Maybe these. Or maybe it could be a good use for trying out creme patissiere...

* Eternally optimistic, this penguin!
** Less if you have the evil, temperamental Smeg.


Can’t Turn Down Waffling

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sometimes, it seems that when an event is sufficiently organised to warrant (or should that be justify) sending out (gasp!) paper invitations, people come over all proper-like. They start using etiquette and requesting the pleasure of your company and being elegant*.

Which is why I loved this**...

Picture: Frantic Meerkat on Etsy

It looks so bacchanalian. So high-spirited (and other beverages, no doubt...). So fun and silly. Woo hoo!

Picture: Grab Your Fork

It also introduced me to the delights of Frantic Meerkat (the Etsy shop from whence it comes), which has all sorts of interesting little distractions. Lots of them involve funny wording and assorted animals. Did I mention woo hoo yet?

* Although if they are inspired by Masterchef, they may well come over all ullagent instead!
** Recently discovered from the Etsy newsletter, source of all sorts of interesting miscellanea.


Breakfast With A Llama

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A little while ago now, there was breakfast with a certain llama-loving friend. Breakfast at quite an inappropriately early hour of the morning (my fault), having risen even earlier to do some baking (also my fault, and more on that tomorrow - the baking, that is, not the culpability).

And, after procrastinating in putting up photos of both breakfast and baking, I came across this...

Picture: One Drawing Each Day on Etsy

In this case, there was perhaps a little lacking by way of alertness given the early hour... But there was an abundance of both good conversation, and good breakfast. And there was (figuratively, at least) a llama!

The breakfast was from my ever-reliable local, First Drop in East Redfern...

Singing llamas may make it good, but breakfasting llamas make it better!


Round The Horn

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Now the World Cup’s over, what are we going to do with all those vuvuzelas?

Picture: Drywell on Etsy

- Pot plant stands
- Umbrella covers
- Flower vases
- Carrying rolled up newspapers
- Marking out roadworks and hazardous areas
- Unblocking the sink (or worse)
- Funnels for very tall wine decanters
- A change for primary school children from playing the recorder
- Waking up sleeping penguins


Art Or Oktoberfest?

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's not a squirrel with a stein of beer... it's art...

Picture: Meret Oppenheim's Squirrel at the NGA


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