Monday, September 19, 2011

Where'd That Week Go?

Okay. The LOTR marathon went off beautifully. We finished at about 0200, and didn't wind up with any overnighters, so by and large we got to sleep in a little the next day. Except Natalie... she had a long and busy weekend putting people with bronchitis into the hospital.

Seriously. This f__king plague of bronchitis has been a vicious bastard. It's a week later, and Natalie is still waking up at 0200, thrashing about and coughing several lungs worth of crap. It's horrible. She's feeling much better, but the bloody cough lingers in a truly hideous fashion.

The week was flat-out, though. I caught up with my prof at the university, and we got the whole masters degree thing pushed into a more sensible shape then before. I also did the student ID thing, and checked out the library, etc.

The boys and I hung with Bruce and the Cool Shiters on Tuesday night. Watched... umm... some movie or another. Heather was back from Queensland, though, which was nice. She finished her film degree, and is now apparently ready for unemployment - although I'm given to understand she's quite gainfully employed in the industry, which is odd. But not surprising: Heather is smart, and determined, and I suspect anybody employing her will get more than their money's worth.

And in other news, Chrissie the Medical Student is back down this end of the country. This time she's doing a month at Launceston, on surgery. She came out for the weekend, and so of course, yet another weekend dissolved into a mess of cooking and entertainment, 'cos Linda turned up, and brought with her Em the Mad Scientist, and I cooked much more food than I really needed to: grilled cardamom chicken, slow-grilled spice-rubbed pork belly, salads, baked potatoes... finally, I poached some beurre bosc pear halves in port and spices. Then I wrapped the pear halves in puff pastry and baked them, while reducing the spiced port down to a piquant sauce, and served the lot with lashings of sweetened whipped cream.

The school holidays have ended at last, and we're down to the sharp, pointy end of the year. They're already making noises about the ju-jitsu club appearing for the Christmas Parade festivities again, and I have to get on with the gradings over the next week or two, then devise some kind of a Christmas show, I guess. I saw a lovely clip of Jackie Chan breaking some concrete slabs while holding an egg, unbroken in his hand. Concrete slabs are hard to come by... but surely I can take out a stack of boards while keeping an egg whole, right? Better practice first, I reckon. This could be tricky.

Desperately putting finishing touches to a story for one small press anthology, and carving a second story into proper shape for someone else. Meanwhile, I'm supposed to put together a proposal to start an online teaching group for the local high school - drawing on the work I did for years with Dr Virginia Little, in the USA. The online forum would allow advanced English students a place to practise skills in writing, criticism and critical thinking for extra credit. There's a fair bit of enthusiasm from the students with whom I did the 'Write A Book In A Day' project, so hopefully the school will be prepared to listen.

Meantime, the primary school wants me to do another series of martial arts 'taster' classes for their October Options. I mentioned that it's still September, but apparently the 'October' part is just for the alliteration this year. Who knew? I've also got to catch up with the principal, to discuss the restrictions placed on Jake's computer. I can understand the need for security for most of the students - but the computer Jake uses is issued to him alone, and it was issued because he's in the "gifted and talented" category. The very existence of that computer is proof that the system has been altered for him... so why is he restricted to the idiotic fucking "Bing" search engine like all the other students?

That's not the only restriction, of course, but the point is clear. 'Bing' is noticeably inferior to Google as a search engine. I don't know what obscure goddam deal the school or the education department has with Microsoft such that the students are actively locked out of Google on the school computers... but I'm not impressed. I'm guessing it's related to some kind of net-nannyware designed to keep potentially naughty students from seeing naughty stuff, but it doesn't matter. The point is that Jake's already an exception to the rule, and they need to think about that when they do this kind of thing. So - meeting on Thursday. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.

What day is it? Still Monday for another forty minutes or so. Right.

I read an odd thing the other day. It was a newspaper article which said that despite the proliferation of TV chefs and cooking shows, most Australian families still eat around a basic menu of about five recurring dishes.

Five? How the fuck does anyone survive the boredom?

Since the longterm purpose of this blog is to keep a sort of diary for my kids, I'll put down the list of dinner menus that my kids rattled off when I read the article at them this evening. In no particular order, these are the most frequent, regular dishes:

San choy bau (either pork, or prawn and chicken)
Chinese dumplings (pork, chicken, beef, prawn, scallop: all steamed, or pan-fried, or both) with steamed vegetables
Thai beef salad
Nasi goreng
Mee goreng
Char kway teow
Chilli chicken and tamarind
Spaghetti bolognese
Grilled khofta (lamb or beef or even chickpea) with flatbread and salad
won-ton soup
chicken and sweet corn soup
rich tomato soup with spiced meatballs
Thai fish stew
curried pumpkin and coconut soup
creamy mushroom soup
Winter pea-and-ham soup
summertime Gazpacho soup
baked stuffed mushrooms
polenta-crusted baked salmon over sushi-dressed noodles and salad
grilled cardamom chicken
smoked vegetables with balsamic vinegar
poached salmon with cheese sauce and pasta
shashliks/kebabs (lamb, beef)
satay (chicken, lamb, beef) with spicy peanut sauce
stir-fry (just about anything, really)
poached scallops on croutons
grilled haloumi salad
curried lamb, fish, chicken, beef, or vegetables
Vietnamese-style spring rolls (with the soft rice wrappers and the spicy pork balls)
Charcoal roasted lamb or chicken,
Char-grilled fish or steak

There's probably more. I forget stuff from time to time, and dishes fall off the menu to be rediscovered after a few months.

There's also a bunch of stuff I do less often, for occasions. Things like the poached pears, or chilled prawn and avocado soup, for example. Mix it all up with a range of pasta or Asian noodles, steamed vegetables, roast vegetables, and salads; allow for variations on dishes (how many different ways can you curry lamb? I don't know 'em all. I tend to vary it as the whim takes me); incorporate seasonal produce (scallops are winter and spring; berries and cherries and plums are summer; apples are autumn... garden vegetables vary with the weather and the temperature and how much energy I've put into planting and weeding); throw in snacks and dips and side-dishes; allow the occasional wallaby to appear on the table... desserts, random bits of baking (pretzels, sourdough, doughnuts, biscuits, cakes) - you get the picture.

People don't really still work around five dishes, do they? I can remember the staple diet my sister and I grew up on: stew, green salad, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti bolognese, breaded chicken or veal, pork chops, the occasional steak... umm... yeah. Actually, that was it. My mother didn't like cooking.

Ah, shit. The cat's brought a rabbit in. I'd better go deal with it or there'll be half a bunny and a lot of blood and guts on the floor in the morning.