Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It just keeps getting better

Tomorrow we are off to Adelaide in South Australia by train, where I can gawk out the window to my heart's content for 10 hours. We will have plenty of reading matter, plus we can walk around the train, go to the restaurant carriage etc. and look forward to a week of being tourists. Coincidentally friends took the train over yesterday and we will meet them for dinner on Thursday.

MIL will join us on Sunday (she's flying) and we have booked a car to drive up to the Barossa Valley, known for its German heritage (settled by Germans in the 19th century), German food and of course its wines. We'll have a couple of days there before driving back to Adelaide for a couple more days and then take the train back.

So I'll be taking an enforced blogging break as I doubt I'll have the opportunity or time to get to the internet. See you when I get back!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Today was a special day

Today I received my Chancellor's Medal, for "distinguished service" to the university. It was a wonderful gathering of about 30 people, made up of family, former colleagues, and academic staff from the humanities departments I liaised with during the 16 years I worked at the university. The Chancellor (seen holding the medal in the photo above) is a lovely, warm woman and put everyone at their ease. The academic who nominated me and gathered support from various sections of the university and with whom I've enjoyed working with for many years, is at the right. I spoke my piece and impressed Oldest Son with the fact that I looked at my cheat sheet only once. The cheat sheet by the way was nicely bound in handmade paper with a five hole pamphlet stitch.

I was joking with the Chancellor, saying that since I retired I've taken up crafts, and when I looked at the medal, all I could picture was using it as a stamp or something to emboss! But really, I could use it to do rubbings...

Monday, June 18, 2007


= Return Of Techie Son! He arrived home last night, and it was so good to see his smiling face. He even was good natured (after a long flight too) when I told him his room was temporarily without his big table.

When he rang from Sydney I asked him how he felt about being back in Australia. He said when the plane was coming in from Sydney he got a little teary eyed, and I thought Oh no, he wants to go back to the U.S. But he said it was because he was really glad to be home again, and that warmed a mother's heart no end.

It's wonderful to hear the boys' laughter and kidding around with each other. They are so close, despite being very different from each other. Now they are both planning to do a beginners Greek course together, which is great. I might be able to brush up on my very rusty Greek too.

Today I'm cooking one of Techie Son's favorite meats, rack of lamb. I know I've posted some lamb recipes before and I was surprised at how many people in the U.S. commented that they hadn't ever had lamb! But lamb is big in Australia, and we eat it often. Here's a simple recipe from The Australia the Beautiful Cookbook, Techie Son was able to make it when he was still in primary school:
Rack of Lamb Bendigo*
Rack of lamb (4 rib cutlets per person)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. dry sherry
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. honey
1 cup chicken stock

Trim as much fat as possible from lamb and place in baking dish, fat side up.

In a small saucepan bring remaining ingredients to a simmer and pour over lamb. Bake for 50 minutes at 350ºF (180ºC). Serve with rice.

Note: the marinade makes a generous amount, so those ingredients could be halved.

From The Australia the Beautiful Cookbook

*Bendigo is a large town in Central Victoria, and was a major site of the mid-19th century gold rushes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More preparations for the Return of Techie Son

Tomorrow is the big day, and there seems to be lots to do to get Techie Son's room almost back to normal. As I started moving my craft stuff from the craft room, I was already lamenting the loss of that wonderful workspace, and wondering how in blazes I was going to fit everything into my study.
However, I have now moved the desk you can just make out on the right of the photo to the family area near the kitchen, and Technie Son's huge table my craft table into my study. We'll have to see about getting another table soon, as this setup looks to be a winner!
Another change I've had to make in preparation for Return of TS is buying a new monitor (see above photo). The AC adaptor of my old one started burning up a few weeks back and I've been using TS's monitor in the interim. Has anyone else bought a monitor lately? They are no longer square, but are now wider than they are tall. Seems weird. (I just noticed that the monitor shows this post in mid-draft, also weird...)

I should have mentioned in the last post the name of the scrapbooking place Gina took me to. It's Simply Scrapbooking, details on their nicely designed website. Although it wasn't as huge as the one Miss Eagle and I visited a few weeks ago, it was large enough to be comfortable. Craft places here often seem to be so cramped, you're either bumping into shelving or other customers while browsing. I wish they had stores like Michael's in the U.S.: K-mart sized craft stores = heaven!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The joy of blogging

Yesterday I had the pleasure of having lunch with TWO Blogger buddies: Meow, whom I've met twice before, and Gina, who has only recently come onto my radar screen.

I know it is said time and time again, but I just have to say that blogging has to be one of the best ways EVER to meet people of similar interests, people who I would have missed out on, no matter how many clubs I joined. It's actually sad to think that before blogging I could have walked past these two wonderful ladies, in the city, at a local shopping centre, even lived in the same suburb, and I would have never made their acquaintance. So I am rejoicing at the opportunities that blogging provides, plus having the time to take advantage of those opportunities. (Oh, have I mentioned lately that I'm retired? heheh. It's almost time for me to do a post summarising my first year of freedom).

Thanks to Gina I have discovered a new source of paper and wonderful collection of stickers, as well as other craft items. And I'm glad Gina was there to show me the way to this shop as it was in an out of the way place, but well worth it.

I couldn't help comparing the experience of following Gina (with her, to me, mysterious Andre Rieu scarfed draped in the rear window) and that of following Miss Eagle a few weeks ago, again leading me astray to another craft heaven. Gina is a lot easier to follow, whereas Miss Eagle bolted out of the blocks in her station wagon and it was a case of catch me if you can until we reached our destination. lol!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Goodbye craft room

As some of you know, Techie Son has been studying in Berkeley since January. He will be returning home next weekend and that, dear readers, spells the end of my idyllic craft room. I am now gradually getting his room back into bedroom mode. Oh how easy it is to spread out when space is available, even using the bed for temporary paper storage. Don't know where I'll be able to use my recently purchased large cutting mat.

Here are some of my latest creations.
A couple of books I made practising a new stitch on the spine. The larger of the books has on the cover a little kimono made with an origami technique. Instructions for a similar kimono are found here.
Recently I did a printing workshop at Barb's, and surprised myself by drawing a giraffe which I then carved out of a rubber block to be used as a stamp. Here I've stamped it onto a paper that has a background made from using bubble wrap and a perforated piece of scrap metal. Lots more to experiment with.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wedding October 1971

So, how many years does that make? Who's counting?

My sister designed and made my wedding dress, the skirt is the softest material. The little vest is laced in front, German peasant style. The Man Who Cooks' jacket was of a rich maroon velvet. Note the flowers in my hair.

Receiving my ring, made of silver, which I prefer to gold. In the second photo I was having a little laughing cry.
The two people in the centre are my sister and brother in law. The rabbi who married us is on the right. This is such a happy photo, don't you think?

This was a lovely day in the Berkeley hills. Very relaxed, no need for rehearsals or catering, we and the guests brought food which was lovingly made. We were able to chat to people as we later sat down on picnic blankets under the trees. Some of my students were there, including Annette and Robert.

And here I am, how many years later, (ok, it'll be 36 in October), in another country and hemisphere, still happily married to the Man Who Cooks. How good is that!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Berkeley days

I've just finished scanning an album of photos from the early 1970s, when we were still living in Berkeley. Lots more hair back then, but some things never change. We still like our afternoon tea, that wall hanging is now on a wall of our sleeping shed up in the country, and we still enjoy going on picnics in all weathers (second photo).

The mattress the Man Who Cooks is sitting on was our sofa - oh so typical of the place and time!

At dinner time we would sometimes go up into the hills behind Berkeley with a pot of hot rice, a salad, and some meat for cooking over the hibachi, that little charcoal burner you see in the photo. We still have that hibachi, for old times sake. It was often quite chilly up in the hills, which is why you see us rugged up in such ridiculous looking gear. The cheap flagon of wine helped too!

Coming soon: photos of our wedding...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Syrian chicken

Do you ever run into recipes that are just so satisfying to make in terms of the physical preparation? Well, this is one of them. Oh, and it tastes good too! Especially nice is all that ginger cut into strips rather than grated - zesty flavor!

As my son went off to his casual fill in job as dishwasher at a very fancy restaurant this afternoon – Mel and I have never eaten there, but Toby gets to eat their beautiful food on his food break! – he said that I should make sure to save some of that Syrian chicken for him. So it sounds like I can
sometimes compete with a fancy schmantzy restaurant with a French chef, no less! This recipe is from Karen Martini (great name!) who writes for the Sunday Age. She's been away on maternity leave but her column returns tomorrow. Welcome back, Karen!

Syrian chicken with ginger, lemon and saffron

2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
size 14-16 free-range chicken, cut into 8 pieces (NOTE: size 14 = 1.4 kg = 3 lbs, size 16 = 1.6 kg = 3.5 lbs)
100ml olive oil
2 brown onions, thickly sliced
100g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, bruised with the back of a knife
2 small red chillies, split
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pinches saffron threads
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme
1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
2 tbsp honey
100g currants
2 tbsp vegetable stock powder
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
cooked couscous or rice, to serve

Combine salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric in a large plastic bag or container with well fitting lid.
Add chicken pieces and shake to coat.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onions, ginger, garlic and chillies to pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add tomatoes, saffron, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.

Return chicken to pan and add lemon juice and zest, honey, currants, stock powder and enough water to just cover chicken. Cover with a lid and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through and sauce is slightly reduced. Stir in coriander. Serve with couscous or rice. Serves 4