Monday, February 22, 2010

Cuckoo!

I was so tired last night that I forgot to mention the absolute highlight of the weekend. We had some time to kill in the Dandenongs and Kim talked about a restaurant that his family used to go to when he was a kid: The Cuckoo!
Yes, it's a Bavarian restaurant! I was off my head with excitement. The place is kitted out like a
Bavarian chalet and is fairly dripping with wooden carvings, cow bells and cuckoo clocks. All the girls were in their little Alpine Maid outfits and I suspect there were some chaps lurking in lederhosen. Frau Koeppen asked if we wanted to sit in Lover's Corner? You bet your boots we did. There were red and white checked tablecloths, lots of fake flowers and window boxes. Apparently there is oom pah pah music and slap dancing, though we got stuck with a cruise ship pianist who seemed to play endless variations of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. The place was packed to the rafters with a tourist bus load of elderly folk getting their value for money out of the smorgasbord. Yes, it was a temple of high kitsch, but there was so much sincerity behind it that it was quite endearing.
Heading party-ward, we decided to skip the Devonshire tea and just have a regular old tea and coffee. Our waitress, truly the Aryan ideal, right down to her blonde braids, turned up with a litre of each!
I was having the best time ever - it really was just too perfect. And just as I was wistfully saying the place needed a photographer, up popped a little old man who offered to take our photo. They come in a fancy envelope and look like something Kim's dad would have had taken during the war. I wanted one so, so badly! But I also wanted a felt hat with a feather, AND a cowbell, so my bemused honey has graciously decided he will take me back there for dinner. It looks like being a truly awful culinary experience but I can't wait. I'm not sure what the charm of the place is for me. Partly it's to do with Kim's folks being dead and if I can do something with him that his parents enjoyed then I'm happy and I feel like part of the family. Plus it's such a brilliantly kooky place! I want to celebrate my birthday there for the rest of my life.

Classy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Big weekend

It's the end of a very busy weekend and I'm all a bit tired and emotional so this will probably all be a bit boring.

Staying up late didn't work so well for me, for which I blame Eddie Maguire, lamest host of Olympics ever. The coverage was extremely disappointing but once I'd stay up past my bedtime I find it very difficult to get to sleep. So I was still dreadfully awake at 2am. Not a good state of affairs. I slept in and went for a jog and almost died. Hot.

Then off to Gertrude Street ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER. Fitzroy = Melbourne's hottest suburb. It was stinky hot. Circa Vintage Clothing was exciting and there were lots of scarves to chose from. I ended up with this one, in my favourite colour, green. I don't really wear vintage because it scares me a little. I'm terrified I'll ruin something.

We then drove out to the Dandenongs for a house warming. This is a very, very long drive - which kindof amazed me because Donna and I used to ride it when we went out practicing hill climbs. The party wasn't as scary as I thought it might be, even though I didn't know anyone and didn't really talk to anyone... But the hosts were extremely polite and well mannered and we managed to get home in time for me to watch MORE OLYMPICS.

Woke up super duper early (for us) and met the Soo family for a ride. Turns out there was an unadvertised triathlon on Beach Road so we headed out to do some laps of Albert Park Lake. And because we rode we could eat whatever we wanted so dropped by Mart for a humungeous breakfast. (Technically, I think I spent most of my time sitting on a park bench with Donna, critiquing people's running styles but I still deserved a big breakfast.)
Ray and his bagel - at least I think there's
a bagel under all that smoked salmon


Donna Soo and an enormous stack of corn fritters

Mr C and I shared a pancake stack

Me sans victory rolls and Ruby Woo lippy, just before I emptied
the entire bottle of maple syrup over the pancakes


When I got home I baked a cake - my grandmother's ginger cake with mock cream icing. I'm pegging this is another war era cake: golden syrup, margarine and a weird fake cream. Turns out I've lost my sponge tins so I had to improvise a bit with the cooking time and temperature. I'm very pleased with how it turned out - just like I remembered. My grandma used to serve afternoon tea every day, with proper table linen and all. I remember having this cake and tiny egg sandwiches a lot. The mock cream wasn't quite what I remembered. You whisk equal quantities of margarine, sugar and boiling water. I only had butter so it was quite yellow and I used icing sugar because I didn't trust the sugar to dissolve. Think this was a mistake. Pretty runny at first but I'd make it again and let it cool a bit before spreading it.Any excuse to use my chicken feet sugar tongs!

Ginger cake, striped from the cake rack despite the fact
I turned it out on a tea towel


My old cycling friend Penny came over for afternoon tea and it was very lovely to catch up with her. She's a scientist and always knows such interesting things. She's planning her wedding and is the most relaxed bride I've ever encountered. Soon after she left our friend Juanique arrived (this was a very busy weekend for me!) She's moving to Bangkok in a few weeks which is very sad.

Now everyone's gone and I've sat outside with a cup of tea while Mr C cleaned his bike. I'm tired. I'm a little bit sick of people, however much I love them!
Vanity shot
Cuddles for Lylo

We're having take-away for dinner and this makes me very very happy. Just waiting for the Olympics to begin because I am so addicted to sport it's tragic...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Absolutely bushed

Well I have had a super busy week. All good except for the last hour of today. My boss had told me to go forth on shine. Instead, I had perhaps the worst professional hour of my life. Nah, it wasn't that bad. But it was bad enough! I've just come back from a jog so things feel a lot better now. Wasn't too keen on jogging around the park in the dark - last time I did that I disturbed two gentlemen 'entertaining' each other. So I got a cycling escort from Mr C. For him it was essentially a series of track stands as I am a slow, slow jogger. I could barely pant out a word but he chattered away quite happily damn him.


Got lots of things planned for this weekend: a house warming, an afternoon tea, a farewell, a bike ride and - most exciting - a trip to Circa Vintage Clothing in Gertrude Street! I'm going to get myself a belated Christmas present (thanks mum!) In true St Kilda fashion it seems like a huge expedition to cross the Yarra, so anything on the other side of the river just gets put off. But tomorrow's the day. I'm looking to pick up a vintage tourist scarf for my (extremely small) collection. I absolutely adore them. I don't have many but I get one each year as a present. I get a bit nervous going to Circa as the ladies are always impecably vintage.


Being bipolar, things work better if I stick to a routine, particularly around bedtimes. If I don't take my meds at the right time, or if I stay up half an hour too late, things go all a little pear shaped. But tonight, as a treat, I'm going to stay up late and watch some of the winter olympics. I am stupidly excited.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kate in the kitchen

I would have loved some photos of me baking away in a frilly apron but I don't have one. Frankly, I make too much of a mess to have anything pretty that might get dirtied up but it is on my list of things to get. So just imagine me in a floral pinny and you'll know where I'm coming from.

Sunday was baking day! I made a friend's grandmother's coconut cake. I'll confess right now that the reason I baked this because it is a WWII recipe - no eggs, butter, though with more sugar than I would have expected, baked in the oven straight after the roast to save fuel. It is an undeniably beige cake. All it contains is one cup of self raising flour, one cup of sugar, one cup of coconut and one cup of milk. I splodged in some orange oil - firstly because oils and flavourings were common when you couldn't get your hands on the real thing but also because orange and coconut are Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn, they rub along quite nicely together. The recipe was a tad minimalist (Mix, Bake, Eat) and didn't include a cooking time so I had to guess. Turns out I guessed a little wrong. Because of the lack of butter / eggs there's nothing to sticky up your cake tester, so though it comes out clean, your cake may still be sticky. I gave it about half an hour but I think it could have used a little longer - I probably would have covered the top with alfoil to stop it getting too brown in this case. I also used moist coconut so this could also have upped the sticky factor. I'd originally baked this so that I could be neighbourly and invite folks over for an impromptu afternoon tea. Turns out I thought it was a little too sticky to share so we had to eat it all ourselves. Oh the pity of it all!Beige cake mix
Into the oven

Radar ears hopes some cake will fall in his mouth

Nice crispy outside, smells amazing!

Yum!

After jogging for a month I finally fit into my Vivian of Holloways trousers. Super duper comfortable and great for dancing in. Also got my new snood on. Not so sure about this. My hair is normally so tightly tied back that it doesn't move - this just feels a bit loose and precarious. I spent the whole day worrying that it would fall off, despite all the pins! I think I would have been a turban girl.

Vivien of Holloway 1940s trousers, V of H shirt and snood from Darling Sisters

And now we're going out to dinner. Yay for not having to cook! Next on the baking list: Grandma's ginger cake with 'mock cream that defies all notions of cooking'.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Charming l'Eroica

L'Eroica - a celebration of classic bicycles and the famous white gravel roads that were raced on in the Tuscan region of Italy. Utterly charming!

One day Mr Chairman and I will do this!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The thrill of it all

Mum gave me a 1940s thriller for Christmas by lady novelist Helen McInnes. It was an absolute ripper and I was, well, thrilled to find a new author. I've read a few now, some I've enjoyed more than others. I'm definitely a fan of pre-Cold War thrillers: false identities, codebreaking, wireless transmitters in the dovecote and being shadowed. As I've said before, you know where you are with Nazis. To me, Cold War thrillers feature a bunch of people sitting sound a dinner table finessing and I have to say I'm simply not politically astute enough to appreciate the subtleties. Parachute me in to enemy territory any day. Favourite McInnes works include: Assigment in Brittany, Above suspicion and Pray for a brave heart. Much of the appeal is their topicality - they were written during the course of the Second World War and include criticism of the French for surrendering in the hopes of an easy life, irritation with America's naive non-interventionist policy and endings that are relatively sober - or at least as positive as they dare. The hero may escape immediate danger but there are no false hopes for his future.

Having found my favourite period I'm keen to explore more. I've just started Ashenden by Somerset Maugham. SM actually worked for the British Secret Service during the First World War and the book is a collection of loosely connected stories based on his experiences. It's a little odd in that he takes great pains in the introduction to decry literature that is true to life and lacks the storyteller's eye for a narrative arc; life, after all, is apt to be a bit messy. His stories then go on to meander somewhat pointlessly. The work of a secret agent is by its nature piecemeal, he is not always priviledged to know the full picture and can not be sure of the outcomes of his actions or the implications of the information that he passes on. So I'm sure a narrative thread will emerge at some stage but at the moment it is a simple pleasure just to spend time with him. He writes in such a liesurely way that you find yourself slowing down to meet him. I also happen to find him rather amusing. And get this for the close of a chapter, where Ashenden has just been approached to join the Secret Service:

'There's one thing I think you ought to know before you take on this job. And don't forget it. If you do well you'll get no thanks and if you get in trouble you'll get no help. Does that suit you?'
'Perfectly.'
'Then I'll wish you good afternoon.'

Perfect.

(Incidentally, I heard there was a BBC series of this, apart from the Hitchcock adaptation The secret agent. But when I looked on Amazon all I could find was Dress your loom the Swedish way: an in depth study of time honoured techniques. Not quite what I was after. Does anyone remember the series?)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meal, interrupted

Had a last minute dinner engagement with the Gala family, meeting up at local cafe Wallah. Turns out that this is an extremely bad choice of venues for a five month old baby. All a little bit too loud and chaotic for everyone. I did enjoy the food though. I had a pita pocket with chicken shaslick, tabbouli, tahina (realised that I don't know how to spell these things) and extra pickles. Man their pickles are good!
Gala, Lovely Lena and me
In the two weeks since I saw her last, baby Gala's hair has changed colour - go figure. The poor darling had a big day with her first trip to childcare and Wallah just seemed to be just a little bit too much for her. It's a little disconcerting when your dinner companions keep jumping up and down to do baby duty - though I think they were very considerate and spent a lot of time with her outside so as to give the other patrons a break! (oh, and to settle her down of course!) So, lesson learned. It was a relief for everyone to get outside and go for a walk to the park at the end of our street. Gala absolutely adores Mr C and could stare at him for hours, so he's always a big hit. I'm a bit more nervous!
Another hot day so I wore my tea dress to work. Makes me feel like a real girly girl.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A load of hooey

You know the biography of Jasper Maskelyn I just finished? After doing a little bit of internet snooping I found out that most of it was pure fiction. In part because Maskelyn himself was involved in the production of a ghost written autobiography, released sometime after the war when Maskelyne was desperately in need of cash. According to Maskelyne's family, he admitted that certain episodes were made up as the ghost writer thought it would be 'more exciting' that way. But to a greater extent, the author of this current bio, Fisher, has evidently made up episodes, incidents and people wholesale. This is not on. According to WWII espionage expert, Nigel West, this sort of thing is quite common. The powers that be tend to take the line: We can neither confirm nor deny. So while more and more classified info is becoming available from MI5 and MI6, they don't usually make much of an effort to clear up questions about what did or did not really happen. Reading this book has been an unfortunate experience. It has rather put me off this area of research as how am I to know if what I am reading is true? Or is the author knowingly and calculatingly lying? It is disappointing precisely because some of the more bizarre incidents did occur and because there were some amazingly brave people involved - this sort of meddling with the truth does these people a great disservice.

So while we are talking about things being a load of hooey I feel I need to mention that I ignored the advice of Mr Movietone News and saw the recent Sherlock Holmes film last night. Dear, dear me. Now I've never been a super fan of Mr Holmes - always considered him a bit of a smartarse actually (though this is typical of detective fiction of the era - the days of the puzzle novel, where readers had the opportunity to solve the crime themselves, is yet to come). But what on earth have they done to Sherlock Holmes??? A vaguely passable action movie but not what Holmes and Watson deserve. Cheap.

I've just noticed that David Fisher's publisher now lists The war magician as fiction. Pity they didn't do that the first time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feasty!

Had dinner with the Soo family on Friday at favourite restaunt Kamel. We had the banquet no.1 with dips and meatballs and cous cous and chicken and all sorts of yummy things. I had a big banquet belly afterwards! Had a lazy weekend reading and watching a ridiculous WWII film, Bombadier. Finished bio of Maskelyne - a ripper of a story but written as faction, so a bit annoyed that he invented thoughts and emotions - no bibliography, no references so difficult to know which bits were made up which sort of casts the whole story in doubt. Maskelyne was one of the many camofleurs who created fake armies in the Middle Eastern campaigns - fake tanks, fake soldiers, fake harbours and submarines. Amazing but I think I'll look for another bio. Reading an absolutely horrid young adult title at the moment - lots of cannibalism and violence and I don't know how much more I can stomach. A real nasty piece of work.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mail order

I've been expecting a parcel in the mail for a week now, practically haunting the mail room at the Town Hall and hurrah! hurrah! it finally arrived. Today I got a new pair of jeans from Sydney store Retrospec'd. I was so excited that I popped them on straight away.
The garden is looking a little flattened because of all the heat so I'm glad we had some rain today. Little Jack was not at all happy about being taken out into the garden and scampered back to his nest as soon as this photo was taken. Our other boys are more than happy to show off.

Handsome Lylo (sans bling because he's just had a bath)

Gorgeous George

So today was a good day. I had quite a difficult day on Wednesday - very emotionally draining - work stuff. Makes me feel almost giddy and light to have gotten through it. Everything seems absolutely spiffy now! Plus Mr C's cooking dinner tonight so I get to lie around on the sofa reading my book (a biography of Jasper Maskelyne, conjurer and camouflage expert from WWII). Tomorrow we're off to dinner at Kamel so I'm looking forward to lots of yummy treats there. Mmm... Turkish delight icecream!