Monday, September 30, 2019

WHO KNOWS? NOBODY, BUT ME – EVEN THAT’S DEBATABLE, SOME MIGHT SAY...BUT THEY WOULD BE WRONG!




Other people think they know you. The reality is they have not a clue.  Even if they were interested in authenticity, they don’t know where, or how, to begin to learn.  In fact, to make an attempt is the least of their concerns. Half the time most are more interested in painting their own picture; filling in the blanks with the use of pedestrian, baseless imagination; creating fictional scripts to suit their own ideas; scripts remotely removed from the real thing. 

We think we know someone.  However, the harsh truth is...in most cases others have only a smidgen of a clue, and in the balance of cases, not even half a clue.  

Around and around we go, believing we know another like the back of our hands, but, in actuality, we don’t.   In the dark last night just before I drifted off to sleep I wrote something on the back of my hand. This morning I’m still in the dark as to what I was supposed to remember because I can’t understand my writing!

My two furry mates are exceptions. They know me well.  Virtuosos both, they play me like a fiddle.  Andre Rieu can’t hold a whisker to them!

The singular person who truly knows you is you.  To put it another way...the singular person who truly knows me is me).

 Even then, many lose sight of who they are because they’re too busy trying to be someone else rather than spend time and energy on being their own true self. 

These days, for reasons known only to the individual, scores try to be clones of the Kardashians, or others of similar fake faces and bodies. 

There is a lot of jumping up and down about “fake news”, but fake lips, cheeks, butts, boobs, etc., are more prevalent from appearances...not nice appearances, to my eyes – in my opinion.  

Obviously, as well as jumping, much pumping is going on.  

Who wants lips that can be seen when you cast your eyes downward?
  
On the flipside, protruding lips jutting out beyond the limits could be useful if you need somewhere to rest your pen or pad when multi-tasking.  Some lips are big enough to support a keyboard.  I can’t see anything attractive about a human looking like a pufferfish.

Wildly imaginative, out-of-control reality dating/marriage shows inundate our television screens.  Oddly, some don’t need to be force-fed the tripe, believing the “reality” being fed them is reality!  

Rarely do we see a “real” face or body among the pouting, posing female contestants on those orchestrated, mind-numbing shows.  I wonder who it is they see in the mirror. I wonder what goes on in their mind – if anything does. Nothing remotely interesting or intelligent, I dare to say. A “Room to Let” sign wouldn’t go astray.  

Their parents must have difficulty recognising them.  In the future, when re-running the footage, they’ll question who the impersonators were.

Paraphrasing Andy Warhol, the American painter, filmmaker, publisher, actor, and leading force in the Sixties/Seventies Pop Art Movement...“Some will do anything for their 15 minutes of fame”.

We each believe we know our own self.  On the whole, we do...better than anyone else does, or ever will.  Even so, there are times we kid ourselves; times we...me, you...and you over there shaking your head in denial...can be conflicted.  Sometimes, unexpected, unplanned circumstances can cause confusion, entrapping us. 

Momentarily, we find our own self enmeshed in a weak, most vulnerable moment.  At such times, like Sleeping Beauty we need, not a kiss from a prince to wake us up, but the kiss of reality.

One’s behaviour, words, and/or thoughts are sometimes contrary to the true person...the unfettered, inner being. 

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, at the end of the day, the harsh reality is, we have only our own genuine, inner self upon whom we can rely. 

With that being the case, the best advice is for each of us to be true to our self.  Oft-quoted Oscar Wilde said: “Be yourself...everyone else is taken.” 

People are other people; only you are you; be you, warts and all. Everybody has them – even pufferfish. 

It’s best to be the best version of you; or at least try your best to be the best.  I said this...you can quote me. No copyright applies.  And, that is enough of my pondering for one week....


Cod with White Wine Basil Sauce: Preheat oven, 190C. Heat 2tbs olive oil in pan over med-heat; add 1/2tsp crushed red pepper flakes and 2 large, finely minced garlic cloves. SautĂ© 1min; add 2 punnets halved cherry tomatoes; cook until soft and blistering, but still holding their shape; add 1/4c dry white wine; bring to gentle simmer; add 1/2c finely chopped fresh basil, 2tbs lemon juice, 1/2tsp lemon zest; season; cook 2mins; transfer to bowl. Heat oil in pan over med-heat; season both sides of 750g fresh cod, cut into 4 fillets; place in oil; cook until golden, about 5mins. Flip; place pan in oven; continue cooking 5-6mins.  Pour sauce over cod; serve.

Pesto Chicken: Arrange rack in middle of oven; preheat 200C. Place 4c cherry tomatoes on baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1tbs olive oil; toss to combine. Spread into even layer. Pat dry 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; season well. Place chicken in centre of baking sheet. Spread 1/4c basil pesto over each chicken breast (about 1tbs over each), spreading it into a thin layer until each breast is evenly and completely coated. Roast until tomatoes have caramelized, and some have burst, and the chicken is cooked through, 25-30mins. Serve drizzled with the pan juices.

Strawberry Creams: Break 150g white chocolate into squares; put in a bowl. Add 3tbs cream; melt together in microwave or double boiler until completely melted and smooth. Pour chocolate cream into bottom of four large dessert cups; freeze 15mins until firm. Cut 200g strawberries into cubes; put into bowl; add 1tsp sugar and 1/2tsp lemon juice; mix gently; stand 10mins. Put generous helping of strawberry cubes into each cup of white chocolate cream.  Whip 250ml heavy cream, 2tbs icing sugar and 1tsp vanilla extra until stiff peaks form; pipe into top of each cup.  Garnish with strawberry halves, grated white chocolate and roasted almonds. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

TRUE CONFESSION!



Like an ongoing series, after a brief break I’m continuing with the subject of movies and books.  I’m not sure if this is Season 3 or Season 4.  Whichever one it is, I am sure you will catch up, not having missed much.

Reading was encouraged when my late brother and I were children.  On our birthdays, and every Christmas, we received four books each as part of our gifts.  I read all of Enid Blyton’s tales.  Childhood wasn’t a childhood without Blyton’s protagonists playing their roles in it.  Rex Dixon’s exciting, western adventures of “Pocomoto” held me in awe.  

I loved the March Sisters exploits, and was found, many times over, with my head buried in the pages. The March family stories were poignantly related by Louisa May Alcott.  The books were read so often I could almost recite the text verbatim.

The June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret O’Brien, Janet Leigh, and Peter Lawford 1949 film version of “Little Women” was a firm favourite, viewed more than once.  In my humble opinion...it remains the best version.  I guess it is because the movie (and the books – “Little Women”, “Good Wives”, “Little Men”, and “Jo’s Boys” – all played such  major roles in my childhood.

Literary gems by Ruth Park, the Brontes, Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Louis Stevenson, R.M. Ballantyne, Alexandre Dumas, John Bunyan, Lewis Carroll, Daniel Defoe, Paul Gallico, Richard Compton, Anna Sewell etc., etc., et al were page turners.

Clearly I remember the afternoon Mum and Nana arrived home from shopping to find me drowning in a torrent of tears, sobbing my heart out.  Both rushed to me wondering why I was so upset.  I’d just read the section in “Black Beauty” where Ginger, Beauty’s friend (horse) had died. Heartbroken, I couldn’t contain my tears.

In my possession I have a hardcover copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. The book has been part of my life since I was a small child.  The pages are yellowed, frayed and fragile.

A notation on the first page reads:  “Monkland...Presbyterian Sabbath School.  First Prize – Awarded To – John Hay, Third Class...Date: January 1904”. 

John Hay was my grandfather; my mother’s father.  He passed away before I was born.  Monkland is a southern section of Gympie, the town of my childhood and teen years.  

The book goes to no one when I depart this planet.  With just me being the “Last of the Mohicans” of my mob...I have nobody to whom I can bequeath the old, battered and torn treasure. The condition it is in...like someone plastered and bandaged after a major traffic accident...it’s not suitable to be given to one of the local Op Shops, or similar.
  
I hope books...of the paper kind...are read and treasured by current and future generations; that children of today spend valuable time with their heads buried in books, not glued permanently to screens of varying sizes and shapes.  I hope their shelves are lined with books, as ours were when my late brother and I were children.

In the early Sixties, Leon Uris’ compelling, historical novel, “Exodus” hit bookstores with loud acclaim.  The book was in everyone’s hands. The story was on everyone’s lips.  

The movie, featuring a stellar cast, with Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint in leading roles, along with Peter Crawford (he got around that fellow while marrying into the Kennedy Clan), Sal Mineo, Jill Haworth, Lee J. Cobb and Jill Haworth, was due for release in July, 1962...the Australian release.  

Post haste, attired in a tight skirt and high heels, not Lorna Jane, Adidas or Nike, I hit the pavement running, off to one of Gympie’s bookshop to grab a copy of the novel, wanting to read the book before the movie was released and arrived at the Olympia Theatre.

Now, this is where my true confession comes into play.

The first and only time throughout my working life I took a “sickie” was one Wednesday in 1962. 

During my working life I never took “sickies”. My belief was if I took a “pretend sickie”, karma would bare its teeth, and bite me on the bum.  Payback for my transgression would be I’d get sick for real.  Why tempt fate? 

That Wednesday in 1962 I dared to tempt fate.  

Feeling fit and well, albeit a little guilty, I took a “sickie”.  I spent the daylight hours lying on a rug, on the grass, in our front yard, reading, and savouring Uris’ epic novel to its final word.  So engrossed was I in the international bestseller...a moving story based on the 1947/48 founding of the State of Israel...I shirked my secretarial nine to five duties at the law office of Tozer and Jeffery, Solicitors, Upper Mary Street, Gympie. 

Never again did I repeat such a sneaky deception - there or elsewhere. 

However, I did read the book more than once, but on my own time, on those occasions.  I watched the movie more than once, too.  The film didn’t disappoint.  I would suggest both to anyone.

There!  That’s off my chest and mind!

Braised Beef Cheeks: For marinade:- add 1 bay leaf, 3 cloves and 2 star anise to 300ml red wine, bring to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat. Cool before pouring over 4 beef cheeks in bowl. Refrigerate for at least 10hrs. Strain beef from marinade, discard liquid; dry beef with paper towel. Heat heavy based pan until near smoking. Add some olive oil to pan; seal beef; get as much crust on the meat as you can without burning it. Remove and rest beef. With pan still on high temp, add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped celery stalks, and 1 chopped carrot; brown. De-glaze pan with 300ml red wine and 100mlm port; reduce by half. Add 1lt veal stock, 2 bay leaves, 2 star anise, 2 cloves, and 4 sprigs thyme; bring back to a boil. Preheat oven 140C. Place beef cheeks in braising tray; cover with the liquid and vegetables. Cover with baking paper and two layers of aluminium foil. Cook in oven 2.5-3hrs, until beef is tender. Rest at room temp; allow liquid to cool before removing cheeks. Strain vegies and aromatics from liquid; reserve liquid; split it in half. For one half of liquid, reduce over med-heat to form a glaze. For other half; reduce to sauce consistency; season with sherry vinegar, a touch of lemon juice and salt; serve drizzled over the beef cheeks.

Israeli Salad: Combine in large bowl, 2 cubed Roma tomatoes, 450g cubed, seedless cucumber, 1medium red onion, finely chopped and 3tbs finely chopped parsley. Pour over the dressing; combine juice of half a lemon, or more if needed, 2-3tbs olive oil, 1-1/2tsp sumac powder; season to taste.  If desired, add ½-1c crumbled or cubed feta, ½ red capsicum, cubed, 1 can drained, rinsed chickpeas, ½ to1c coarsely chopped olives, 1tbs minced dill or mint, and pita chips.  Break 6 large pita into 8 wedges each; then split each into 2 layers; spray with oil; bake in oven until they begin to colour; cool completely before using. 



Tuesday, September 10, 2019

WHAT AN ENTRANCE!







Seasons come, and seasons go...

Everyone here in the Land of Oz is aware spring has already sprung with an almighty bang while winter departed with barely a whimper, giving little or no warning - which was rather rude of winter, in my opinion.  We would have to be on another planet not to have noticed its absence, though. 

Sadly, spring has made its presence known in an unpleasant way.

Spring is supposed to be the season of rejuvenation, renewal, regrowth, and rebirth, rewarding us with a burst of colourful blooms; but...oh, no! This year spring sprung something completely perversely different upon us, and we don’t like it! 

My heart goes out to those affected by the disastrous bushfires; to those living on a knife’s edge; those who have lost so much; to those, here in Queensland and New South Wales, who are having to, somehow, deal with the destruction left behind.  Their heartbreak is unimaginable. May their way of life, and their properties, large and small, be back on track very soon...a smooth, even track. 

An endless thank you to the volunteers; to the fire-fighters, and the police; to all who generously gave of his/her time....each and everyone is a selfless hero. For the sake of others...for strangers...they put their lives on the line.

Where did the past almost nine months go?  Why the rush to get to their destination?  What’s waiting for them there? Is it, perhaps, that ever-elusive pot of gold? 

I’ve not seen any rainbows, but if I do, I’m off to see what I can find.  I’ll try to beat the months in reaching the rainbow’s end, and the awaiting pot.  To succeed in the feat, rather than go by foot...or feet...I’d be better off grabbing a golf cart, or ride-on mower. 

On second thoughts...give us the rainbows, but preceding the rainbows, loads of rain would be far better than pots of gold, in my opinion! 

It is spring....we should be singing and dancing in the rain; not crying because of the devastating drought and fires; not angry because of the brainless actions of those juvenile arsonists/idiots who started the raging Sunshine Coast inferno at Peregian Springs. 

I’m not alone in the anger I feel towards the clowns responsible.   They will receive only a rap over the knuckles for lighting the fires.  Those wastes-of-space should be made fight on the front-line of the fires...allowed no rest breaks!  Our weak “justice” system won’t punish them accordant with the crimes committed.

Where has common decency....respect...common sense gone?  And, where are the parents?  What are parents teaching their children these days?  It is apparent too many parents don’t have a clue how to parent!

Over the past months I’ve been surrounding myself with gold...golden mandarins.  I love mandarins. I’ve been devouring mandarins like they’re going out of fashion.  They will be out of season soon, worse luck.  Like a kid in a candy store, when they’re available I make the most of them.  I’m a glutton for mandarins, depleting IGA’s stocks without apology.  In private, at home so as not to offend anyone, I make a pig of myself on the delicious fruit.  Who cares if the juices run down my chin?  I don’t, nor do my two furry roomies, as long as the juices don’t drip on their fur.  They’re not impressed when that happens. 

Whoopee! Now, golden mangoes have arrived on the scene!  Man! Oh! Man! Where the mangoes...I go!


Now spring is here, my wish is... many springs uncoil, and break loose from the ground, allowing moisture to run free. In the meanwhile, rain springs forth from above, breaking the drought - dousing the fires, once and for all.   

May happiness, and peace of mind, rain upon those who have suffered, and continue to suffer in the aftermath. For those who’ve lost their homes...had their properties decimated... may rain come soon.  For the past seven days fires have been raging....

And, again, also caught in the middle are our farmers...their livestock, and crops...they deserve a fair go.  Haven’t they gone through enough already?

And, let’s not forget our native wildlife...many lives have been lost among those poor, defenceless creatures, too...

Sadness abounds...

Let us hope... hope reigns eternal...and it rains....


PS....To date as at 13th September

In the Scenic Rim region, which Tamborine Mountain is a part, more than 55,000 hectares have been burned out.  Touch wood...up here on the hill we are okay...I hope the status quo remains.

In the Granite Belt...around the Stanthorpe area in South-West Queensland...4,200 hectares

Peregian Springs....More than 5000 people from 2500 homes in the Peregian area were evacuated due to the fire, as firefighters worked tirelessly to protect properties. Thousands of hectares have been burned.

In New South Wales....A fire in Bees Nest, north-west of Dorrigo in the Armidale area, is currently over 66,500 hectates and out of control. A fire in Drake has burnt more than 40,000 hectares and is out of control. A fire in Legume, in the Tenterfield area, has been contained after burning more than 1,600 hectares, while a Share Creek fire in the Yuraygir national park is not yet under control.


https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-09/queensland-bushfires-in-pictures-stanthorpe-binna-burra/11491780
 


Mandarin Chocolate Cake:  In saucepan; cover 3 large mandarins with cold water; bring to boil over high heat; drain; repeat (to take the bitterness out of the peel). Return mandarins to pan; again cover with cold water; bring to boil; reduce heat to medium; simmer 30mins, or until very tender; drain; cool. Preheat oven 180C. Grease and line a 22 cm spring-form pan. Coarsely chop mandarins; process until smooth. Whisk 6 eggs and 1c caster sugar until double in size; add mandarin puree, 1-1/2c almond meal and ½c S.R.flour; gently fold to combine. Fold in 200g melted 70% dark chocolate until combined. Pour into pan; bake 50-60mins. This can be served warm with cream and/or ice cream as a dessert; or cold as a cake.

Mandarin Buttermilk Cake: Preheat oven 175C. Spray 10-inch cake pan; sprinkle raw sugar into pan, coating evenly. Lay mandarin slices on base, layering.  In bowl, with whisk, combine 2-1/2c plain flour, 3/4c granulated sugar, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp baking soda, and 3/4tsp salt; add 2 large eggs, 1 egg yolk, 1-1/2c buttermilk, 3/4c cooled, melted unsalted butter, 1tbs mandarin zest and 2tbs mandarin juice; stir with fork until just incorporated, but still lumpy; don’t over-stir. Pour into pan; bake until top is golden, 35-40mins. Transfer to rack; let cool 5mins before inverting out of pan on to rack, or plate.

Spring Salad: Peel and dice 1 pawpaw, 1 mango, 1 avocado and 1 rockmelon; transfer to bowl. Combine gently. Heat 1tbs olive oil in pan over med-heat. Add minced garlic clove and 200g peeled green prawns; fry 4-5mins, stirring occasionally, until prawns turn pink; add to fruits. Whisk together 2tbs chopped mint leaves, 2tsp lime juice, 1tsp honey and 3tbs x-virgin olive oil; season to taste; pour dressing over salad; gently mix; serve on rocket or lettuce...or in the scooped-out shell/skin of the pawpaw (papaya).