Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just Blog Already - Happy Christmas

So where my sister is a can-do, do-do kinda girl, I so far have 4 draft posts sitting in blogger, from introductions, to happy birthdays to sister dearest (2nd December), a craft round-up and finally musings on the festive season .... but here it is, Christmas Day already and I've been leaving it all up to baby sis to actually publish - which is possibly a good idea, her being the creative genius writer, but also unfair as it is she who is frantically in her final 5 days, yes, just on 120 hours until Air Korea spirits her to the US of A. (I mean did you just see how LOOOONG that sentence was? and how many brackets (parenthesis) I have used below??!!)

Luckily I work well with deadlines (well kinda), and we (Katie & I) put together a lovely little collection of our favorite recipes to share with our family and dearest friends (and selfishly to make sure we had each others most delicious offerings when we can no longer just make and bring to one another). The title page to this self-published book, "Lolly Legs and Lonely Chicken" also advertised that we had created this blog - so I really needed to get my act together if this is to be a dual effort.

Our Christmas Eve tradition of sitting about wrapping presents, drinking cups of tea in jarmies and watching Love Actually continued last night .... I think this is now 6 years running and while the story has holes big enough to drive a truck through it also has Rodrigo Santoro's Abs, some pretty good movie dancing from Hugh and a sweet sappy Christmassy kind of spirit.  It is interesting having a young family and being in the position to start shaping the traditions our children will grow up with - while I plan to expand in future posts I decided last night to put aside the car-mat I was hoping to finish "in time" for Owen and just enjoy the last cooking and company.  The thrum of sewing machines has been also been part of too-many late Christmas Eves as I follow through on my intention to always create something for Owen and Gus by hand, and I don't want it to be too much of the fabric of memories for our family.

Anyway today started with the glee and wonder of 3-year-old's surprise at Santa having filled his stocking at the end of the bed with presents.  First they were lovingly stacked and carried through the house, sorted by size and finally opened and individually played with before moving to the next. 
Baby Gus relished the crackling paper and gnawed on Aunt Kate's, Dad's and my knuckles, or any object in mouth range.
Kate may be able to provide some pictures, but as our camera is among the long list of broken household items (washing machine, oven, printer ...), I am image poor.
For a third year running Kate and I managed to buy each other the same gift - this year Jasper Fforde's newest book - The Last Dragonslayer.  Luckily we couldn't have swapped this anyway, and seeing she first introduced me to this great author, perhaps fitting.  Last year is was Catherine Deveny's book, and before that matching yellow bird brooches from LuLu
We spent lunch with our lovely aunts/uncles/cousins in Williamstown, and fortuitously it was themed "Love" - meaning we all brought a plate to share - something you love, or make for those you love ....
In addition to (mini) Chicken Pyjamas (Parmigiana), we brought Corn Fritters, Oh-So-Good-Top-Secret-Brownie and Vanilla Cupcakes (recipes below).  Other food highlights that I hope to have shared in the how-to-make included amazingly deliciously spicy oyster shooters with wasabi from Sharon, some seriously good vegan curry from our brother Nick, a good chunky satay from family friend Renata and the signature dishes of pork belly with crackling, Mum's ice-cream pudding and much more besides.  I know, a little bit fabulous for Christmas isn't it?

Christmas is also typically a bit stressful and sad for some, or a time of reflection on life, love and (often) getting together with family that you otherwise don't see.  I know my dear sister has found this particular Christmas a bit harder in the final impatient wait to the next chapter in her story, trying desperately to shed material possessions to make space for adventure, only to have them refilled by well-meaning family (I am guilty).  Our little guys are also wired, with the normal rhythms of the day all tangled, blood sugars plummeting and sky-rocketing and at the end of a week of change for my toddler for whom change is hard - missing his good friends who have moved to Perth, finishing up daycare with the wilds of kindy waiting next year and lots of extra attention from houseguests this past month.

So happy Christmas to you all (?!), well really just you dear sister, but in case of rogue readers.... may the coming year bring much love, laughter, happiness and creative experience ...
And here are the recipes that "go" with today ....

Corn fritters

These are a hybrid from Bill Granger's Open Kitchen, and the excellent, funny blogging of All Consuming.  
They are delicious for breakfast, lunch, dinner and win as a snack food when out and about.  They can be plumped up with any or all of the following: fresh salad greens, tomato, sour cream, bacon, guacamole, sweet chilli sauce, more bacon ... but we like ours with avocado salsa – 2 ripe avocados diced, ½ cup chopped coriander leaves, 2 tbspn lemon/lime juice, 2 tbsp sliced spring onions (if to hand), dash Tabasco, salt and pepper

3 cups corn kernels (fresh from ~ 3 cobs or frozen)
1/2 to 3/4 red capsicum, finely diced
2-4 shallots, finely sliced (or about small Spanish onion finely diced)
1/2 bunch coriander and few sprigs of flat leaf parsley , chopped
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
(optional) 1 tsp smokey paprika
pinch salt & pepper
vegetable oil or spray oil

  1. Place 2 cups of corn kernels, onion, eggs, coriander, flour, baking powder and seasoning in a food processor and process until combined.
  2. Place in large bowl and add the remaining corn kernels.
  3. Heat some oil in a fry pan and drop in large spoonfuls of batter
  4. Cook for about 2 minutes or until golden, flip and cook the other side
This recipe, which comes from my sister’s friend Natalie, is supposed to be kept top secret. I think it’s because the power of the deliciousness of these brownies could destroy the world. So if you’re looking at this and it’s been censored, ask me to make you some.
200g dark chocolate
200g butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
1 cup caster sugar
250g white chocolate/ Top Deck

1.       Preheat oven to 170°C
2.       Line a brownie/slice tin with baking paper
3.       Melt dark chocolate and butter together
4.       Whisk in egg and vanilla
5.       Sift together dry ingredients
6.       Add chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients

Lovely, shiny, melted buttery chocolate

7.       Stir through chunks of white chocolate
Big chunks are good. As are small chunks.
Let's face it, all chunks of white chocolate are magical.

Almost at maximum deliciousness capacity
8.       Bake for 45 minutes

Monday, December 13, 2010

Busy work

Dear sister assures me she too will be posting something soon. She's been busy wrangling her inquisitive 3 year old and the baby Gus, who is already on the go; strong legs giving him the push off he needs to scoot on his back to exciting places like underneath tables.

Meanwhile I too have been busy, preparing to push off to New York.
There is a lot to be done before moving overseas however through the efforts of one jam-packed Thursday, I've actually done all of these things.

Now this is not the worst thing that could happen by far. The worst thing would be if it were the day before I was to leave and I still didn't have my visa and my bank balance was 8 cents. Some people might even think that it is a good thing, to be so organised. That I could just relax now that I've got it all under control. The problem lies in the fact that I'm a born worrier so when I had a list of things to focus on, I had a list of things I could actively work upon to feel proactive and keep my anxiety at bay.

I relate strongly with Misha's character in Dr Zhivago of whom it is said, "A feeling of care remained his ultimate mainspring and was not relieved and ennobled by a sense of security."

Now with there nothing to do before I go but wait. I have opened myself up, like a Pandora's box, to the worst kind of niggling worries.

I actually convinced myself the other day that I would not in fact be able to go to New York as I didn't know how to tip.
When thinking on it in a spare moment of rationality I concluded that as an intelligent adult I would perhaps be able to figure out tipping, or perhaps if measures were really desperate, ask someone.

To distract myself from all of the pointless worry, I went out and bought a very cool item which I believe my dear sister had been eyeing off as a potential Christmas present for me (sorry!); the Moleskin New York guide.
I've had Moleskin diaries before and while they're incredibly cool, I find that at $30 a pop, they're a little too expensive for my pointless and long winded scribblings.
But the New York guide is worth every penny, even when it will be filled with all of my pointless scribblings.
It has a large overview map of New York City, a subway map, 26 pages of maps plus a street directory and then lots of blank pages for your own notes. So in every spare moment of worry I've been diving into the internet and looking up things I might need to know, like where to get the best coffee near my hotel (Culture Espresso Bar) and the exact location of the street that the opening credits of 'Flight of The Conchords'  was shot on (Henry St in Chinatown).

So now when I get to New York I will have my own little customised guidebook and I have the added bonus of the feeling of busy-ness to distract me from all the dread! Perfect!

Friday, December 3, 2010

My little sister from then to now

A happy celebration of my dear sister's birthday on Thursday (post-dated entry).  In true generous form, after working all week, she hosted our whole family (minus Nick, our brother, living in large in Asia after finishing uni) and supplied more Asian greens in oyster sauce and pork ("chicken" for the benefit of Owen, the sometimes pedantic 3 year old) than you could poke a chopstick at.  It has been HOT in Melbourne and steamy courtesy of all the rain (I have had to drain our pots of tomatoes of several liters of excess water each day), so this was no small feat.  We had vanilla cupcakes which I seem to use for pretty much all birthdays, weddings, blessingways, picnics etc (recipe below).

I was 6 when my sister was born.  I don't really remember it clearly.  I do recall her beauty being admired by everyone who met her (all golden curls and smiles - the only babe in our family to have professional studio photos displayed in the family home, early 80's - lots of baskets of jip and dusky pink).  I also remember being rather pleased at having a sister and taking her to show & tell while mum was on canteen duty, and the devastation at having my teacher turn us away (wrong day? time? details some 19 years later are sketchy).
Fast forward through years of shared bedrooms with her and our two brothers, playing nicely (sometimes) and at others being told by our mother to take it out to the yard and finish it for good. From teaching her to push mashed veggies through gaps left by her lost baby teeth through to continued annoyance as a moody teen at her attentions, not having privacy & space.  

Somewhere along the way we became friends, long after I fled the family home aged 18 to live in sin (seems far too young now on reflection).  I think it might've been around the time I spent a year working and traveling through the United Kingdom and Europe in 2001, as all health professionals seem to.  We connected with email and talking long distance - who knew I had such a great women for a sister? And who knew how fabulous a sisterly relationship could be? In many ways more honest and resilient than friendships, and at the same time amazing to still be learning more about each other in spite of our shared history.

We had a beautiful role model for sister relationships in our maternal grandmother, Mama, and Auntie Maureen who lived in LA.  Our Mama died earlier this year and I know for me some of that grieving was imagining being in the same situation. These photos were used for the memorials and I think captures some of the warmth and mischief that sister-hood encompasses.

So now my successful little sister is going to live abroad.  I can't quite imagine life without her right here.  She has been there through thick and thin of mundane and exciting life events with me.  She was the only person I could imagine having with me as I recently birthed our second babe, Augustus, at home - she looked after Owen (our eldest), keeping the space calm and loving, holding me up through contractions on the edge of the pool.

It was at her recent garage sale I sounded out the idea of blogging (where yes, I indeed pillaged her life and argued over many items of contention - who really actually owns that doctors bag?  And no you don't need to take that awesome shirt dress, leave it with me..).  I think the idea of blogging has grown on me, much like the idea of a non-tradie having a mobile phone back in the mid 90s, or the ubiquitous iPhone along with all the apps in more recent years.  
I was thinking of how a blog could be a modern family journal of sorts.  Was it too narcissistic?  Or is it a practical way of reflecting on life given how plugged in the world is becoming and the fact I haven't albumised (totally a word) any photos from that Europe trip, and stopped printing or looking at digital photos when Owen turned 1 (more than 2 years ago).  
I am glad Katie jumped in and just did it ... I would still be trying to mull over how do I want this to be ....trying to find some framework ... thinking I love the snort-out-loud funny blogs out there, but couldn't keep the energy or material coming.  I love the generosity and depth of thought that occur in some and hope that others might find some of my (our) stories helpful, inspiring, or of interest.  I was keen that while chronicling my days and the stuff I do that it doesn't become show-offy or intimidating (how some of my favourite bloggers manage to do the stuff they do, let alone write about what they do is beyond me).

So with a big breathe, and a merciful 20 minutes of Gus sleeping in bed (by himself!!) I have put fingers to keyboard, introduced me and my sister and will take the space to say how proud I am of my sister, the talented writer,  an amazing auntie to her 3 nephews, a sounding board for everything for her sister, a beacon of style, vessel of inspiration, an ally in our (at times) crazy family, an EXCELLENT cooker of all things minestrone, sausage roll and peanut butter choc-chip cookie maker. Now off on scholarly pursuits in New Paltz, New York State, and with the most fabulous gift registry to set-up her new digs (Liberty sheets anyone?) - I will miss you, but am so happy to share this blog to keep in touch with thoughts, pictures and writing.
x L 

Vanilla Cupcakes
These are my go-to cakes.  They are super simple, coming as they do from a kid’s recipe book from the king of simple, Bill Granger.   I make them for weddings, birthdays, blessingways, afternoon teas, baby showers, farewells, welcome homes … basically any time I have to make a cake – they have even been used in large format for recent fire engine, sea creature and lion cakes.  They are equally good in tiny weeny cases, or big muffin type cases, adjusting the cooking time accordingly.   The icing is pretty magical (play guess the ingredients with unsuspecting recipients) but you could substitute boring normal icing.  You can pretty them up with a large freckle, some silver cachous, smarties, sprinkles etc (but do this close to time of serving or the colour leaks into the soft icing)
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
125g butter, softened
1 ½ tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
¾ cup milk
1 cup caster sugar

250g white chocolate
300g sour cream
Lollies/smarties to decorate

1.       Preheat oven to 180°C
2.       Line muffin tray with paper cases
3.       Sift flour, baking powder and salt
4.       In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar
5.       Add vanilla and then eggs, one at a time. Mix
6.       Add dry ingredients, alternating with milk until a soft dropping consistency
7.       Divide between paper cases and bake 20-25 minutes.  Should be a mild gold tinge on top.
For icing
1.       Melt chocolate and allow to cool slightly
2.       Mix in the sour cream
3.       Cupcakes must be cool before icing

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The remains of the day...

After a dreary Spring, the sting of sunburn is a stranger.

The accompanying drowsiness is proving problematic this evening as I try to motivate myself to clear up the remains of todays garage sale. 

I've so far counted my takings twice, eaten 3 rows of Cadbury Dairy Milk and downloaded the new Girl Talk album. Bored of that procrastination I decided to embark on some brand new non-cleaning activities so I started this blog that my sister and I discussed starting today.
She doesn't know that I'm doing this yet but when I tell her I've just forged ahead and done it without her, I'm sure she'll be fine with it. Rash decision making is my forte, so I'm sure she's used to it by now.

I like the idea of having a place, if you can count a blog as a place, to share all sorts of things about our lives. 

Only weeks away from leaving Melbourne behind for the bright lights of New York, New York (and shortly afterward the dimmer lights of New Paltz, New York) I'm worried about how I will be without my sister. 
For some time now I've suspected that my sister is in fact the love of my life and if films like Love Actually have taught me anything, it's that you are supposed to stay by your true love's side irrespective of pragmatism or geography.
But in very un-filmic fashion I'm rushing off overseas for the year.

I will miss her and the million myriad things she does in ways that nobody else can; whipping up haute cuisine that appeals to three year olds, saving the world one Bokashi bucket load at a time and raising her beautiful family in the most beautiful fashion.

Now I've gone and gotten all soppy so I'm obliged to put up a picture of baby Gus that I took today to counter any cynicism that might have been created.

It's alright, I also just said "Aww!"

I should get back to the cleaning, sorting and packing ahead of me. The sooner this is done, the sooner I can move all my remaining worldly goods (all 3 bags full!) to my brother's apartment and flop on his couch for the night with the remains of my Dairy Milk.

Lovely blogging to you!
x K