Friday, June 16, 2017

JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I’D HEARD IT ALL!




To clear up any misunderstanding, - please note I said, in black and white - “just when I THOUGHT I’d heard it all”...not “just when I knew I knew it all”. 

Every day it becomes even more clearly obvious to me I’ve not heard it all.  I certainly don’t know it all – if, in fact, I know anything at all. 

My education is sadly lacking, this much I do know because all the well-educated researchers eagerly tell me so every day.   And, seeing they’re so “well-educated”, I have to believe what they say....they keep telling me they know best...and everything.

I wonder if I should become a mature-age student.  I suppose I’d have to be mature first before I’d be allowed to set my toes, let alone feet, into the hallowed halls and rooms of higher education.  If that’s the case, I don’t stand a chance. I’d not be allowed near the front gates, let alone the hallways or rooms.  I doubt there is a university in this country that would accept me.  I’ve far too much to learn. They just don’t have the spare time to accommodate me. 

Perhaps home-schooling is my best, and only, bet. 

I spat the dummy the other day when I read these headlines:-

Quote:-  Study:  Describing Breastfeeding as ‘Natural’ Is Unethical Because It Reinforces Gender Roles...”  And then the content continues – “It’s ‘ethically inappropriate’ for government and medical organizations to describe breastfeeding as ‘natural’ because the term enforces rigid notions about gender roles, claims a new study. Coupling nature with motherhood… can inadvertently support biologically deterministic arguments about the roles of men and women in the family (for example, that women should be the primary caretaker,” the study says.    End Quote

You’ve got to be kidding me!  It probably took five years of university study for someone to come up with this little beauty!

Okay! You men out there – take heed!  

You’d better start getting your act and D-cups together.  I also read somewhere there are tablets on the market called “Natural Curves”, as well as “”Natural Treasures”.   

And I’ve read herbs such as fenugreek, wild yam, fennel, red clover and pueraria mirifica (it’s nature’s answer, apparently) do the trick, too.   So, it’s time for you blokes to get stuck into the herbs and the above supplements!  You may be called upon to step up and do your duty!

On the same day I read the above nonsense re breast-feeding, I also read that reading bedtime stories to your children should cease and desist – pronto! 

The article written by some brainy researcher informed us uneducated mere mortals that reading stories to your kids gives them an unfair advantage over the kids next door, or those down the road, or across the way, who probably aren’t being read bedtime stories! 

The dimwits who come up with these outrageous deductions are the ones spinning bedtime stories, in my opinion.  After reading all that driveling hokum I was totally exhausted. I was the one who needed a dose of vitamins!  (I don’t take vitamin supplements of any kind...relying on foods/vitamins of the natural kind)!

Worse still, in the same week the above bombshells were dropped, a NSW government town crier heralded a decree loudly and clearly, proclaiming a war had been declared on butter and Vegemite, among other things, being served in school canteens. 

Poor old Vegemite sure gets a kicking from pillar to post and back again.  It’s a pretty sore and unhappy little Vegemite these days after learning it’s being slammed by those spreading the venomous denunciations around the place.  

And it’s a pie-in-the-face moment that the reputation of the good old Aussie favourite, the hearty meat pie, is being denigrated, as well. 

Why, oh, why do “they” defame Vegemite and the pie?

I refuse to give up either, any time soon...or later!  So there!  Stick that in your pipes and smoke it, researchers!   

"Experts”....drips under pressure!

I guess the only chance I have is to mature; only then will I become a mature-age student able to study the reasons behind all this gibberish. 

However, even at the end of my many years of study I won’t have heard it all - no matter what I think I think or think I know!

Vegemite Muffins: Combine 1-1/3c plain flour, 1c wholemeal flour, 1tsp bicarb soda, 1tsp mustard powder, pinch of salt and 1/2c grated tasty cheese. Whisk together 3/4c milk and 1/3c sour cream; stir into flour to form dough. Knead gently on floured surface before lightly rolling out to a 20x25cm rectangle; spread with 1tbs Vegemite; roll up from long side. Cut into pinwheels; place, cut side up into12x1/3c capacity greased muffin pan. Sprinkle with extra cheese; bake in 200C oven, 15-20mins. 

Mighty Meat Pie: Combine 1kg chuck steak, cut into 3cm cubes, 660ml dark ale or 500ml Guinness, ½ bunch thyme, 6 garlic cloves, halved, 1tsp black peppercorns and 1 large onion, chopped. Marinate overnight, if possible.  Drain beef; reserve liquid. Pat beef dry; dredge in 1c seasoned flour; the fry in small batches until brown; set aside. Stir 1tbs Vegemite through reserved marinade; add this to casserole dish with seared beef. Cook gently over low heat or in 150C oven, approx 3hrs. Season to taste; cool. Grease pie dish with butter. Roll out 500g puff pastry; cut into 2 discs; one large enough to line dish; other for lid. Fill with the beef mixture; brush edges with beaten egg yolk. Crumble 100g Stilton or blue cheese (or cheddar) over filling; put lid over top; seal with firm crimps. Brush lid with the egg; cook in 180C oven, 45-60mins. Served with steamed greens and mashed spuds.

Chocolate Fudge with Vegemite Caramel: Line 13x22cm loaf tin with baking paper. Melt 180g condensed milk with 200g dark choc chips. Spread evenly into loaf tin; put in freezer for about 30mins. Make caramel – place 100g condensed milk, 1tbs golden syrup, 2tbs caster sugar, 1tbs butter and ¼ to 1/2tsp Vegemite into small saucepan; bring to boil over med-heat; stir often. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5mins, stirring regularly. Check balance between too soft and too chewy by putting a small drop on cool plate. Scrape caramel into a bowl; cool about 5mins; then spread onto choc mixture. Return to freezer for about 10mins. Then melt 120g condensed milk and 100g dark choc chips; spread over caramel. Put in freezer for 45mins; the cut into small squares.  Store in fridge.  


Sunday, June 11, 2017

ON THE LAM... AND DOING IT IN STYLE...





In these times of constant sorrow it’s difficult to keep one’s head above the mire. Valiantly, we must try to keep our spirits high no matter how challenging a feat that may be; no matter how overwhelmed we feel at times.  We must never be defeated by negativity, hate, violence and ignorance.  Too often, it’s easier said than done...

To be honest, there are times I really do feel like going on the lam; in an effort to escape the harsh realities of life.  I become quite weary of it all.  Frequently I feel drained because of all the stupidity with which we are surrounded.  

My desire is to soar aloft with Harry Styles, ex “One Direction”, as he floats like Jonathan Livingston Seagull high above the mess below on earth.  With not a care in the world I want to blissfully waft like a feather at the fancy of a carefree summer breeze.  

I wonder if Harry will let me hum along as he sings his stirring new song, “Sign of the Times”.   I say “hum”, because then, and only then, he might allow me to join him in song.  Perhaps I could just mouth the words.  I’d have no chance of being allowed sing aloud with him. 

An emphatic “No!” would be his reply. My car even turns up its tyres when I sing while driving along Main Western Road en route to my local supermarket, and back home again. 

If I was a few decades younger and Harry asked me to go on the lam with him, I’d not hesitate.  Dammit! Nowadays I’m even too old to become a cougar! 

So there you have it...if you don’t see me hanging around the IGA car park or lurking in the aisles harassing both the staff and customers, I’ve given up, and finally gone on the lam.

 No!  Not “on a lamb”...on the lam!  I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. They are two completely different things, silly!   

If no one wants to be “Thelma” to my “Louise”, it’ll just have to be me and my two furry, four-legged best mates... that is, of course, if I can entice them to get off “our” bed!  They (they’re cats, not lambs) have it in their head they are the guardians of the bed. I’ve as much chance of getting these two, who believe they rule my world, to take notice of me as I have of grabbing young Harry’s attention. 

It’s a sign of the times.  Maybe I should take up knitting...on second thoughts...maybe I shouldn't take up knitting....

Seeing there is no possibility of Harry letting me glide adrift with him in the great blue yonder the only solution is for me to stay home.  Therefore, if, perchance, you see someone riding along the road atop of a lamb, it won’t be me...different lam; different rider.  

One bright sunny day, in late 1986, when I was manager of the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, I was visiting New Zealand for business reasons.  While driving from Christchurch to Mt. Hutt I did come across a lamb on the road. 

I leapt out of the car...having pulled to a halt first, of course...and scooped up the little fellow in my arms.  The lamb’s concerned mother, knowing not what to do to get her baby back, stood at the paddock fence, staring. You would be, too, if you were a ewe. 
Once I’d deposited the little woolly fellow over the fence, back to the safety of its mother, I felt at peace with the world.  I knew I’d done a good thing.  Mumma Ewe knew I had done a good thing, too.  It was the look in her eye that gave away her feelings...you know the one...

Braised Lamb Shanks: Add enough-virgin olive oil to coat a large Dutch oven; heat over med-high heat. Season 4x300g lamb shanks on both sides; sear until browned on all sides. Place shanks on plate and set aside. Puree 1 large red onion, 3 carrots, 4 garlic cloves and 3 celery stalks in a food processor until a coarse paste. Add 1/2tsp x-virgin olive oil to Dutch oven; add the puree; season; sauté 20mins until browned and aromatic; add 375g tomato paste; stir in 1c hearty red wine, 1c beef stock, 2tbs chopped rosemary leaves, 12 thyme branches tied in a bundle; cook until reduced by half. Add shanks and more stock and 2c water to immerse shanks. Add 4 bay leaves; cover pot; cook in 175C oven, 2-1/2hrs.  Turn shanks halfway though; add 250g whole button mushrooms about 45mins towards end of cooking time. Serve garnished with gremolata (Gremolata (combine zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon, 1 garlic clove, 1/4c  chopped parsley, and 2 tbsp freshly grated horseradish), and with cheesy polenta, if desired .

Lamb Shanks with Chick Peas: Place 2 lamb shanks and 1 quartered onion in pot; add 1/2tsp turmeric and 4c beef stock; bring to boil; reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, skimming if needed, 1-1/2 to 2hr. Add 1 drained can chick peas, 1 can drained cannellini beans, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1-1/2tbs tomato paste, 1/2c undrained chopped canned tomatoes and 2 potatoes cut into large cubes. Season to taste; cover; simmer 40mins. Serve on creamy mashed potatoes or rice. 

Lemon Lamb Shanks: Season 4 lamb shanks; dust with flour. Heat olive oil in pan; cook shanks over med-high heat until browned. Transfer to oven pot; add 2/3c chicken stock, 4 dill sprigs, 2 sliced garlic cloves, 1 thinly sliced onion and 1 small, seeded, thinly sliced lemon; cover; cook in 175C oven, 2-1/2 to 3hrs. Transfer shanks to small bowls; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; stir in 1tbs chopped dill, 1tbs lemon juice; season; spoon over shanks. Sprinkle with crumbled feta.
 
Mt. Hutt, South Island, New Zealand

Monday, June 05, 2017

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING...MAYBE...








 
Photos of my late brother Graham  - 28th February, 1942....6th June, 1998.  The top one taken a month before his passing; The lower two taken on his birthday, 3 months before he passed away....


My big brother, Graham, passed away on 6th June 1998.   19 years ago...and yet his leaving seems and feels like it was only yesterday...

Knowing my brother Graham, if there are such beings as incorporeal spirits hovering around inhabiting the environs, unseen to the naked and un-naked eye, I’m pretty certain he’s keeping a keen eye on me. 

I’m not sure if he would be an angel or a demon; most likely it’d be a combination of the two.  Why change?  In life he embodied both. If, perchance, his presence is floating about the place, out of sight, he most definitely would have me in his sights because he treated his role of being my big brother seriously when he was alive.  He had no need to do so, but it was always his way.

When we were kids together growing up in Gympie he teased me relentlessly. To keep him happy I always rose to the occasion, not wanting to thwart his expectations.  The teasing game continued throughout our adulthood.  

During my teenage years his watchful eyes were always on alert when or if hopeful lads cast their eyes upon me, his little sister! 

Graham could be a giant pain in the neck; I can be, too.  We had our arguments, of those there were many; but I knew Graham had my back if required; vice versa applied.  He wasn’t perfect; neither am I.  Who among us is?  You know the answer to the question without my elaboration.  Graham had his faults, as do I; as do we all.

However, I knew my brother better than anyone else in this world ever did. I took the time to know him, more than anyone else ever did. I loved him more than anyone else in this world did. I still do...I miss him.

Without flinching, he looked you straight in the eye.  Calling a spade a spade; he never suffered fools.  In those, he and I were/are very much alike.

We were alike in many ways. 

For instance – regarding the comments written in my previous post about sarcasm, cynicism etc., he felt similarly. 

Graham and I frequently shared “sarcasm, tinged with pathos and good humour...”   Sarcasm done without malice, but in harmless fun – “non-toxic, innocuous humour” shared by siblings of like mind.....

My brother enjoyed cooking; and he was a good cook.  Often we exchanged recipes.    However, he never made meatloaves.  Those he left to me.  He loved my meatloaves.

I’ve written previously about how I’d  make two or three meatloaves for him to take back home every time he visited me on weekends...visits of which there were many – almost as many as there were meatloaves! 

Also, if a boiled fruit cake was on offer, he wasn’t shy in putting up his hand.

When I lived and worked in the northern areas of Queensland back in the late Eighties to late Nineties, Graham lived, for the most part, in Mackay, the city he’d moved to in the mid-Sixties – so he was often within easy driving distance to where I was.   

For a time he worked with me on Hinchinbrook Island, as a member of my maintenance team of three competent hombres.

Graham and I both loved reading, music and movies; each of which played major roles in our lives as children, and as adults.

Last night I spent an emotion-filled night watching the “One Love Manchester” concert until the early hours of this morning (Aussie time)...the telecast of the concert finished at 12.20 am.  If Graham was still alive he, too, would have watched it.  If we’d been together we would have watched the inspirational event together; and together, we would have shed tears and shared smiles – and, like me, he too would have felt pride at the resilience of the good, decent people in this world of ours.

Graham wasn't embarrassed or ashamed at shedding a tear.  He and I inherited a "soft spot" - it was in our DNA.

One of the best times shared with my brother was an evening, in Townsville, when we went to see John Denver live in concert.  And, on that night, we had the good fortune to meet Denver and chat with him for a while.  It was a memorable evening in so many ways.  I’m a fan of the late John Denver, but Graham was even more so.

Throughout our childhood Saturday afternoons were spent watching innocuous black and white newsreels at the matinees while counting the contents of our Jaffa packets as we waited impatiently for the cartoons to appear. Graham never sat near me, of course, but he maintained a look-out for those who did (of the male variety), or dared try to do so! 

When not at the ‘pictures’, as they were called in those days of innocence, at home we gathered around the radio listening to the adventures of “Jason & the Argonauts” in their quest for the Golden Fleece.   

We laughed at the hapless dingbat, Dexter Dutton, played by Willie Fennell in the radio sitcom, “Life with Dexter”.  The drama serials, “Burtons of Banner Street”, “Blue Hills”, and “Hagen’s Circus” captured our interest.  “The Quiz Kids” tested our general knowledge. We mimicked the speech and every imagined nuance of “Dad & Dave from Snake Gully”.  “Biggles” and “Hop Harrigan” competed for our attention. Biggles won out in the end.  “The Lone Ranger & Tonto” were worthy contenders in the action stakes.  

The hilarious  “Yes, What?”... filled with the antics of the lads of the fourth form at St. Percy’s kept us highly amused.  Bottomly, the classroom rascal and his mates, Greenbottle and Standforth led the pack. Dr. Percival Pym, their wretched school master didn’t stand a chance when the larrikins ran a-muck in his classroom.  Those scallywags gave us a few ideas...

Here’s to you, Graham!  Thanks for the memories, Big Brother....

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SIGN OF THE TIMES



An acrylic painting done by me for a little friend

In these times of sorrow – so much sorrow we’re drowning in it – valiantly, we must try to keep our spirits high, no matter how difficult a feat that can be; no matter how overwhelmed we may feel. 

I know I’m not alone when I say I’m tired of the never-ending violence, hate, envy, stupidity and everything else connected with those emotions and behaviours.  Often I feel drained. Often I feel as if I’ve been kicked in the guts.  There are times I feel as my heart has been ripped out and there is only emptiness left inside. 

So often I’m at a loss for words....(but not today by the looks of it, I hear you thinking!)

And, now today, on top of all the bullshit, we have so-called “comedians” like Kathy Griffin who believed her sick joke...her sick image was funny!   

Give me strength!!   

Wrong, Griffin...so very, very wrong!   

Her false, insincere, whining apologies don't make it right!  It pleases me Griffin has been fired from CNN.  I hope no one else picks her up!  She’s a disgrace to herself and to her country.

I’m fed-up with cynicism.  I despise cynicism; I always have.

 I can't stand hypocrisy, either.

I’m sick and tired of sarcasm, too. With some it seems to be second nature.  

None are signs of cleverness.

I’m weary of the willingness of some humans have to tear each other down.  Some glean much pleasure out of doing so. They’re too foolish to recognise the folly of their ways; or to realise they’re making more of a fool out of themselves. 

Is it fun to make fun of another?  I don’t believe it is.  Is it enjoyable to hurt the feelings of another?   I don’t believe it is - yet too many believe otherwise.  

Sarcasm, tinged with pathos and good humour shared face to face between good friends can be harmless, light-hearted fun, lacking venom. (I’ve only just now completed a phone chat with a good mate of mine.  She and I always tease each other – have a friendly “go” at each other.  Nastiness is never our intention. I even mentioned during our laughter-filled conversation what I was in the middle of writing this post).

Sarcasm, when done without malice, but with carefree, upbeat wit – when it’s treated and responded to accordingly -  is non-toxic, innocuous humour shared and enjoyed in the cheerful spirit intended - but that’s not the sarcasm to which I refer.

What purpose does toxicity in its many guises serve in the grander scheme of life?
  
Too much energy is expended – too much thought wasted. Energy and thought that could be put to far better uses...towards goodwill, love, caring and sharing...consideration. 

Time is a-wasting; and time is wasted on pointless pursuits such as making fun of others. Not being aware of the feelings of others; not acknowledging their sensitivities...not giving a damn about them...are signs of weakness...signs of a lack of confidence within the offender.

Our modern technology is wonderful - of course it is.  For instance, I love my computer and having constant internet access.  I feel lost when I’m without either. Much of my time is spent on my computer – writing, researching, reading, learning, listening to music, etc., etc.

For many years when I was working long shifts, and more than often, seven days and nights a week I rarely, sometimes never, had time to watch television, but now those years have passed. At this time in my life, I enjoy watching television; watching shows of my own choosing.  

However, I’m feeling bloated - from being inundated 24/7 by news feeds from all forms of the media - its never-ending repetitiveness.  The constant deluge makes one feel like the geese or ducks that are force fed corn for the purpose of fattening their livers to satisfy the appetites of “discerning” humans to feast upon the French delicacy, foie gras,  

I guess I must have been “discerning” a few times during my life because I did indulge in foie gras years ago when I was working in a French restaurant...in Brisbane, Queensland...not in“Gay Paree”, France.  I also ate other delicacies offered on the menu such as frogs’ legs and escargot – and I enjoyed both.  It’s better to know and understand the taste of the food one is offering to the dining public.

After an entree or three or more of the above, and also having the opportunity to prepare same, I didn’t continue along that path.  None became regulars only my own personal menu.  None made me sick.

But, I am sick of what we’re being fed all the time on the news front.  I’m constantly tired of and annoyed by the many self-righteous, self-indulgent, mocking media persons, too.

I believe I’ve keen insight and good judgment, the majority of times, anyway, but enough is enough, already. I’m sick of being repetitively force-fed news, most of which is bad news. 

And, I’m fed-up with the evil losers, as President Trump correctly named them.  

I want to be force-fed good news – happy news - instead!

Better still, instead of listening to the news bulletins I’ll listen to the music I enjoy, which now includes Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” (my taste in music is what is often referred to as a “catholic taste in music”).   

Along with listening to more music, I’ll also watch more re-runs of re-runs of  re-runs of “Sex and the City”, “Cheers”, “Becker”, “Frasier”, "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Seinfeld".  

Perhaps, too, I’ll take a stroll back to times of innocence...to the time when the following reigned supreme.....Tom & Jerry, Mr. Magoo, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Donald Duck and his mischievous nephews, Woody Woodpecker, Felix and Sylvester, Tweetie Pie, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, cheeky Bugs Bunny, Heckle & Jeckle, and the rest of their mates.  

The words of Thumper's father still ring true today ...

                               "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all!"
 
Another acrylic painting done by me for another little friend