Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I live with a bread nazi

The boys and I will happily eat most breads, although in recent years I've come to view bread with seeds as the dentist's friend. But we are constantly under the cloud of the resident bread nazi who will settle for nothing less than a bread that needs to be bought from bakeries in suburbs far and wide, never within walking distance to the local shops.

Admittedly most of the breads are good to eat, but are they worth the trip (and petrol)? We have at least managed to ban him getting one type of bread that not only is fairly plain in taste, but is actually dangerous to eat. That is the epi, a nasty piece of work that can easily puncture the roof of your mouth, or if you're very clumsy, put an eye out. How ridiculous is this shape!

And it wouldn't even fit in the big bread crock we bought when we visited Bendigo a few months ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Let's hear it for anaesthesia

Recently I had to go into hospital for a minor procedure, and my, how about that lovely sinking feeling of impending oblivion brought to you by modern day anaesthetics? Then there is the rollercoaster ride of resurfacing, fading and resurfacing in dribs and drabs, hospital staff sounding near and far. The only negative: did I talk while I was under? What idiotic utterances did I come up with? Well, maybe it was more exciting than this blog...

What a contrast to the experience I had as a five year old when I had my tonsils out (all the rage in 1950). They used ether then and sometimes I'll get a flashback of the tiled walls and that horrid cold smell. Quite by coincidence I recently read a very accurate description of what it feels like to be anaesthetised with ether in E. L. Doctorow's novel "World's Fair": "a hideous rubbery mask was clamped over my face...", "the cold sweet suffocating was cold, it smelled like the hiss of gas in a cellar, it had echoes in it, it rang like metal footsteps...I heard my voice calling to me down long stone corridors...a roaring sound filled my head and began to pulsate..." " I was breathing in this terrible gas in a white tiled swimming pool or corridor whose walls moved in toward me and then outwards..." That says it all.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Monstrosity in the kitchen

11 years ago we found this house which we fell in love with and bought. However, the kitchen needed to be renovated as it was then 30 years old. This included replacing the oven. Back then, I took one look at it and I said, "This has got to be the first thing to go".

11 years on, and it's still here. Even though it has lost bits and pieces over the years, and not everything works, we can still cook and bake, plus it has 4 electric burners hidden in a slide away drawer if we need that. That came in handy a few years ago when Victoria's gas supply was cut off for about 2 weeks due to an explosion in the power plant. Our regular cooktop is gas, but we were still able to cook, and heat up our water for our "showers" on the electric burners. (That was fun - NOT!).

Anyway, this old monstrosity consists of two side by side ovens, which are both at just the right height - no bending down. The larger oven is really large too, not these tiny ovens they make these days. But what a marvel it must have been 40 years ago in the 1960s when it was new and everything was working: rotisserie, programmable to turn on and off, there was a built in meat thermometer which turned off the heat when the meat reached the right temperature, and there are even powerpoints. Note modern day accessories (click on photo to enlarge): additional thermometer on top of oven, and bottle of wine at the ready to smooth the cooking process.

All four of us are used to coping with the wild fluctuations in temperature, eventually getting the thing to stabilise. The other night Toby cooked one of his specialties, the mustard coated roast lamb from a Julia Child cookbook. Although he complained about the usual scenario of the temperature soaring at first, then having to use tricks to reduce it but maintain the correct temperature, the roast came out perfectly. Ah yes, these men who can cook...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

If bloggers had been around throughout history

Well lol, this is really funny, but I wish it could be extended to cover more historical events. It's a "what if" scenario that imagines what would have been blogged at various times throughout history. A good start. Found it via Millie's blog.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

We are the survivors!

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's
(sent by one of Mel's colleagues) now deleted, read on...

24 August: I was just about to delete this post because:
1) it wasn't in my own words, and
2) it went on for too long.

But something made me scroll to the bottom of the post, and there was a....
COMMENT! This does not happen too often (hint hint), something of an event, in fact. The comment is from Millie, an 80 year old blogger whose site I found yesterday via a food blog I read. Now this Millie is really something, she even gets into making videos and posting them to her blog. Read it and be amazed. Puts me to shame....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Photos from Val's 60th

It was so nice celebrating this event with family and friends.

Even friends who couldn't be there in person sent a photo , and what a nice surprise to get a call from Rochester, New York from longtime friend David. It'll cost you to keep that photo off this blog, David. I wonder if anyone noticed that I was wearing slippers last night? It's my party and I'm 60 and I'll do what I want!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Val's a senior citizen!

I turned 60 today, so am now eligible for discounted tram travel (yay!), cheap tickets to things like the cinema and the ballet and, as my hairdresser told me this morning, discounts on the chairlifts in the snowfields. Thanks, but no thanks. Couldn't care less if I never experienced snow again, although I do have wonderful childhood memories of snowy winters in New York. Uh oh, another jog down memory lane coming up - isn't that what oldies do?

Fortunately I can look back on a beautiful childhood in a warm and loving family, but I'll spare you the details today. I'm too busy getting ready for the dinner we're putting on for 10 of us this evening. Some photos will be taken (digital of course) and I'll try to post them here before we leave for the country tomorrow morning.

Hairdressers, right up there with doctors and dentists, people you rely on to keep things going. I have always looked forward to going to the hairdressers, but never so much as to the ones I have been going to for the past 8 or 9 years. They are a husband and wife team, have a variety of interests and are always interested in their clients. I feel like I'm going to visit friends when I go to their salon. When I was (a lot) younger, there was an advertisement for a hair coloring product, Clairol I think, and the signature slogan went something like "So natural looking, only her hairdresser knows for sure". There may still be women out there who pretend their hair color is natural, but fortunately people are much more honest about that these days. I don't mind people knowing I have my hair colored to the way it was when I was younger. And one of the fun things about getting older, if you're feeling happy within yourself, is that you can be yourself. I am looking forward to my senior years, and being as silly as I've always been.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Trams - a family thing

This morning I ran out of time before I could finish my tram post before going to work. Tonight I got an e-mail from my cousin in Arizona, and he wrote :
"My father used to tell us about pulling the pole off the wire on the trams in Brooklyn and running from the conductor for kicks when he was a kid..."

Well, it must run in the family, because that's what MY dad did too, and I was going to write the same thing. Those Lank brothers ...

13 August: just talked to Dad, and he said we missed a vital point about pulling the pole off the wire: at the time they would be riding, for free, on the outside at the back, and pulling the cord was a way of slowing down the trolley so they could get off safely at a convenient place! I wonder if Grandma knew about that stuff.

My cousin Tim just sent me a whole list of websites to follow up on these interurban (long distance) trolleys that featured at the beginning of E.L. Doctorow's book "Ragtime". The Trolley Stop website looks like a great place to start.

Mel and I almost bought an old Melbourne tram in the early 80s. We put our name down to get one of the trams that were going to be retired in 18 months. In the meantime we needed to buy a block of land to put it on, and that’s why we bought 10 acres in the gold country, which was our favorite place anyway. So 18 months go by, and sure enough, we get a notice from the transport people to say our tram is ready to “collect”! It was going to cost $700 plus transporting it up to the country – no problem. Unfortunately, the local council was very strict at the time and they were not going to allow it unless we put up a house first. Well, that would have defeated the purpose because we were just going to make the tram into a holiday house. So we passed up the opportunity to get a tram of our own.

I had almost forgotten about another city I've lived in with a great tram system: Hamburg, Germany. I lived and worked there for 6 months in the 60s, and they had an extensive tram system. It is also the place where I had my scariest tram ride. I was travelling by tram to visit a friend who lived in an industrial area. There wasn't much traffic out there on a weekend and the driver was pushing the tram to maximum speed. The tram started to sway and rock so much that I thought it was going to leave the rails. This has stuck in my memory all these years, similar to the wild bus ride of Singapore in the 70s. But I'll leave it at that.

Trams - another Val-obsession

Would I have become such a fan of trams if I hadn't lived in the cities of San Francisco and Melbourne? Some people get interested in things they don't have ready access to because it's intriguing, something different. But for me, despite having lived more than 3 decades in Melbourne, with one of the most extensive tram networks in the world, tram travel is still a fun event. The fact that I don't use it to get to work helps maintain my positive outlook.

Tram travel has changed over time, of course. The old trams I rode in the 70s were prone to their poles losing contact with the overhead electric power wires as they took the curves. If you were a passenger this meant a delay to your journey, but if you were an onlooker you were treated to the spectacle of a shower of sparks as the pole disengaged and rather obscenely bobbed up and down until the tram driver ran around to the back to get the pole reconnected. These days trams have a different connecting system so this does not happen anymore.

When I first arrived in Melbourne I did use the tram to get to work, spent many hours on them in fact. Early on I would think how nice it would be to be a tram driver - the old trams had a driver's compartment that cut you off totally from the passengers (there were conductors then), and I thought it would be a lovely way to travel around the city and suburbs. Victor Borge, the comedian-pianist, was also a great fan of Melbourne trams. He'd always go for rides on trams when he was here, and on his last visit before his death, he was given the special privilege of driving a tram for a short distance.

The only time I got to drive a tram was in Sydney, when I was a member of the tram museum there (I said it was an obsession!). It was of course in the museum grounds, not in traffic. There are others though with a greater obsession: recently a teenager twice stole trams after having observed drivers operating them over a period of time. In his most successful endeavor, he took the tram on its scheduled route, stopping for passengers and letting them off, but passengers started getting suspicious when the "driver" started giving interesting commentary on the way! This kid had also at one stage stolen a train, so there was definitely a fixed rail fixation going on.

Melbourne is also home to the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. This takes you around the suburbs of Melbourne and through the city while you can have a pretty decent meal and drinks. In the 80s Mel and I surprised my parents with a dinner on the tram: we told them we were taking them to dinner, but had to wait on a certain street corner. This was before the tramcar restaurant had become so well known, and they were taken completely by surprise when this beautiful old tram pulled up and we entered a comfortable, sumptuously restored tram, complete with white tablecloths, fine cutlery and dinnerware. The ride was smooth, although the wine glasses tinkled nicely as we'd sometimes go across other tram tracks. Magical!