Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pasta Sauce

I have discovered that I am quite good at making pasta sauce.

Nothing fancy mind you, just a basic, yummy, tomato-based pasta sauce.

Before I met my Englishman, pasta sauce generally came out of a jar. I think Raguletto was the favoured brand as it was cheap but still yummy. Sometimes, I would almost make the sauce from 'scratch' if I was making Spaghetti bolognaise. But it would still start with a jar.

My Englishman taught me to make pasta sauce from scratch....but at some point I got so good at it that I'm the one who tends to make pasta sauce at our place these days!

So here's a general run down of how I make my sauce. It's pretty rough, I make it up depending on what we have in the fridge but there are a few basics that I always use, which are:

* Fresh tomatoes - for a pasta sauce for 2-3, I use anywhere between 2-4 fresh tomatoes, chopped fairly small. If I dont have any (or only one) I substitute tinned toms (diced, crushed, whatever!)
* Onions - we buy bags of smaller brown onions and I'd use 1 or 2 of these, chopped kind of medium....
* Garlic - I use fresh but I love the jarred minced stuff, so convenient!
* Basil - I like fresh ( used to have a herb garden but it died) ..... I keep a squeezy thing of basil in the fridge just in case....
* Salt and Pepper - of course :-)
* Tomato paste - to help thicken the sauce. I usually throw in some tomato ketchup/sauce as well.

The rest, like I said, depends on what's in the fridge/cupboard! For example, tonight i added:

* 1/2 a capsicum, chopped small
* 3 or 4 button mushrooms, sliced
* a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar
* Some water

Other things I like to add include:
* Red wine
* Oregano (when I remember)
* Other herbs (as above!)
* Stock
*Sweet Chilli sauce
* Bbq sauce

So the method goes something like this....

* Get everything chopped first so you can't get confused!
* Heat a fry pan and add a splash of oil (less than a tablespoon, more than a teaspoon)
* Add the onions and half the garlic
* Saute the onions until they start to soften and brown
* Then add the capsicum (if you're using it) - as it takes longer to cook than the other vegies
* Add the tomatoes, squeeze in some tomato paste and tomato ketchup (and any other sauce you want to add), stir it a lot and keep the heat up for now
* add some basil, salt, pepper, a splash of red wine or red wine vinegar, the rest of the garlic, and maybe some water if its getting a bit thick/chunky...
* Turn the heat down a bit and let it simmer. Taste it. If its too salty, add some water or some tomato sauce. If its too sweet,, add some salt, or vinegar.
* Let it simmer as long as you like! Add a bit more water, or stock, as you go to keep it from getting too thick.
* Cook your pasta. We usually get some Latino Ravioli, the fresh stuff that cooks in 3 minutes. Tonight, because we're trying to save money, we just had good old dried fettucine that takes about 10 minutes to cook.
*When the pasta is all cooked, drain it and give it a rinse with hot water..
* Serving is up to you. My Englishman likes his pasta put in the bowl and the sauce spooned on after.....whereas I like to mix it all together in the saucepan before I serve it!

That's it. I should have taken pictures but I forgot! Anyway........we enjoyed it. The Englishman thought my sauce was a little too sweet (thanks to a bit too much tommy sauce) but I liked it today. I've made better though.

Bon Appetite!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Motherhood is Easy? Opinions opinions opinions

There's been a furore around an article written by Jacinta Tynan last week about Motherhood, and how her experience has been one of ease and happiness: (cut and paste to your address bar)

A friend of mine blogged about it and another posted an article another journalist has written in response: (again, cut and paste please!)

A related article about model Gisele Bundchen was posted not long before this and also created all kinds of anger and disapointedness in Gisele's apparent ignorant, flippant comments about making breast feeding compulsory to 6 months old....

I've just now also watched on tv Jacinta Tynan and Mia Freedman speaking about the article, with Jacinta defending her position and Mia, I guess, trying to clarify the different positions and ideas people seem to have on the issue.

Now, I'm not a mother, I have no children yet, I barely even have pets! But I do have lots of friends who have children, friends who are pregnant, and I have my own mother, aunts, grandmothers and other people I know who have and are experiencing motherhood.

So I wanted to weigh in with my opinion, not so much on motherhood itself but more on how everyone seems to feel about it.

Motherhood IS hard. It has to be! There are sleepless nights, a loss of 'me' time, its more difficult to leave the house to do things, and there are so many more things to do. There is a little person (and subsequent little people often) who depends on you for EVERYTHING, and their only way to communicate this is to cry, scream, or be quiet.

But Motherhood also has lots of perks. There is this little person that you love and that loves you back, unconditionally. They make you laugh, they are amazing to watch growing and learning everyday.

Some women's experience is one that is a lot easier than others. Like Jacinta, they have an easy baby, a minimum of issues with conception and childbirth, no mental health issues (honestly, the number of times she mentioned that annoyed me! You don't have to suffer from Post natal depression to get upset or feel overwhelmed, I would have thought that was normal!), and who knows whether she even breast fed!

Other women really struggle, through no fault of their own. Constant morning sickness throughout pregnancy, difficulties conceiving in the first place, then the need for emergency Caesars, mastitis, colicky babies, ongoing sickness, husbands who have to work away, toddlers......things get hard.

And I think sometimes these women maybe worry for their newly pregnant friends and want to prepare them for this. Because you don't really need to be prepared for the good stuff, but you might need to be prepared for the hard stuff. Forewarned is forearmed, right? These women know there are positives but they aren't as important to warn their friends about.

It makes sense to me that women want to warn their fellow expectant mothers about how bad things could be. But in a way it is a little sad, because I KNOW that every single one of these women would have SO many positive things to say about their choice to have children, and I believe that every one of them wouldn't have it any other way.

So, here is my challenge to the mothers that I know - you don't need to say that motherhood is easy, because you know that isn't really the case. But remember to tell all those women who are pregnant, trying to fall pregnant, or are just waiting for the day when they can, about the good stuff as well as the hard stuff. About the fun stuff as well as the yucky stuff. About the amazing stuff as well as the really tough stuff.

You are all amazing by the way!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

I got help from a stranger today.

I had to go to the airport, to take some people there for their flight. There were some boxes that needed to go with them, and the people being 'little people', they couldnt carry them, so I had to do it.

I parked the car as far away from the terminal as I think was possible! Not meaning to of course, a combination of nerves and not knowing the airport, but never mind.

After taking my passengers into the terminal to meet their flying partner, I went back to the car to get the boxes.

The boxes were.......awkward......and sort of heavy, but not too bad. However as it was a loooong walk, a few people saw me struggling........

At first, I was hesitant to take any help....the first lady was walking the opposite direction to me so it was silly to take her help........... But further along a young man asked if I was ok, and where I was walking to, and offered to help. I felt awkward, but the boxes were getting heavy, and he looked capable, and his girlfriend seemed happy enough for him to help!

And I would have felt bad and silly not to accept. So I did.

Oh the kindness of strangers! These people were lovely and I chatted to them as we headed upstairs to the terminal. They walked all the way up to the opposite end of the terminal to where they needed to go and when I thanked them profusely, they smiled a lot and said 'no worries!'

I think the whole experience was a good one for both sides. I got some help (and I struggled with the box I had anyway, which was the heavier one), and the young man got to feel good about helping someone out for no reason except he was there.

I love when people do that. And I like to think I would do the same for others.

I just wanted to share that. It was a nice thing that happened to me today :-)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spiders - Things my Englishman has taught me #2

In England, spiders can't kill you.

In Australia, spiders are more likely to kill you than not. Or at least make you really sick if they bite you. Or really, really hurt.

AND they're a lot bigger here. And hairier. And you find them in your house, not just in the garden.

My Englishman was in the kitchen cooking this evening when I suddenly heard a yell (we won't call it a scream because, to be fair, it wasn't) and then a voice saying "You barstard!! You little barstard!!" and a little laugh, I'm assuming because he was in shock.

There was a spider in the crockery cupboard!

Now I have no idea what type of spider it was - too small and thin to be a huntsman, not dark enough or short/squat enough for a redback or anything like that, and no white tail.....just a really average looking, brown, thin, long legged spider.

My Englishman says "Well what do I do with it?" I suggest, as its sitting in a small bowl, to get a piece of paper and put that over the top, to try and trap it. NO no, Englishman wants to open the window, then pick up the bowl and throw it out.....I tell him that won't work, and when he goes to pick up the bowl, of course, the spider runs away.

Still in the cupboard mind you.

Next, he tries 'getting' it with his knife. I think he got a couple of legs, and then couldnt get at it.
"Ahhh, itll die now,....right?"

"Um, no, spiders dont die when they lose a few legs. You need to kill it love, you can't just leave it in there."

At this point, my Englishman's answer is to close the door of the cupboard and pretend its not there.
Until he opens the door 5 minutes later and screams - "ARRGGHH! "

The spider is still there, and its moved.

Cupboard door gets closed again.

You'll notice that in all this, all I've done is told him what to do. That's because I'm not a fan of spiders either. I probably would have had a go if I was on my own, I certainly wouldnt have left the spider in the cupboard like that, but I'm tired and cold and not planning on getting in the cupboard for a day or two. So I dont really care.

So my lesson for today? I might need to deal with the spiders myself if I want them gone in the future.

And, Englishmen are not used to spiders.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

World Cup Fever

So, the Soccer World Cup starts soon...or has it already started??

Last World Cup (4 or 5 years ago?) I discovered a love of watching soccer (or football as my Englishman calls it- thats a whole other blog though) or at least, watching Australia's Socceroos play soccer in the World Cup. On a whim, when Aus was going well, myself and a few friends decided to get up early and watch the next Aussie exciting!

We decided to do so at our friend Brooke's house, as her other half was in Germany where the World Cup was being played. Someone picked up Macca's coffees, the rest of us brought chocolate, sugar and loads of enthusiasm and the 4 or 5 of us sat around in Brooke's living room, yelling at the tv and slowly learning the players names and the rules of the game.

By the end of the first game we watched, we had a pretty good understanding and had some favourite players already - mine was number 6, little Timmy Cahill, second favourite being Lucas Neill. When Australia won, our enthusiasm only became more and we planned our next early morning World Cup party with excitement and anticipation.....

The next game we watched (and I've had to check with my englishman to find out this as I cant remember) was the game against Italy.......for those who watched last time, and even those who didn't but watched any news to do with the Socceroos, the game against Italy was nailbiting and had a horrid, unfair-feeling ending. Poor Lucas Neill, penalised for something he didnt do! Horrible Italian players faking injuries and just a general feeling of injustice. Australia were the underdogs, the underdogs should win shouldnt they? And this time we even deserve it! Maybe?......

Either way, getting together with my girly girlfriends who know nothing about soccer and watching those 2 games taught me a lot about the game - not just the rules but the way it is played - the psychology behind it, the strategy and the unfairness of calls the refs can make.

This year, I'm looking forward to having my Englishman around to explain the intricacies of the politics, give me information about the other teams, and spur my passion for my country and watching sport enough to make me get up at 4am to watch Australia games, and even heading into the city in the middle of winter to watch gameswith a whole heap of other crazy football fans.

In return, I spose I'll have to watch a few England matches as well ;-)

I've got my Socceroos scarf and I'm ready to cheer my team on!!! AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Donating Blood - Do it!!!

I donated blood today!!!

When I was still living in my home town, I donated a few times. At high school, as soon as my friends and I were old enough, we all got our parents to sign permission slips so we could get time off class to go in and donate blood - it was great! Time off class, free lollies and chocolate, and a nice sense of having done something good for community and society.

After school, I think I went once, maybe twice? I always meant to go but it was about getting organised and having the time to wait to donate as well. The donormobile came to uni and I donated there once...and then went straight to work....another time I think I played netball later in the day! But after uni it became more and more difficult to make the time to go....

Today I went into the city and happened to walk past the Blood Bank and it got me thinking - I should go and donate today! I had the day off and a few things to do, but nothing too pressing. So, after lunch with my Englishman I headed back and went inside.

How excited are the people who work in the Blood Bank! The lady at the desk was so excited as she had just had a rush of people - 4 people to be exact.When she looked up my details in the system (after asking me if I had donated before and I said "Yes, a long time ago"......) this lovely lady told me that I hadn't donated for 7 years!!! Then she smiled and said "Welcome back!"

The whole process was pretty quick. I didnt have to wait long for my interview (which I passed - phew!) or to actually donate either! Everyone was very friendly and helpful, asking what had prompted me to come in today, asking me how I was feeling......

And I felt pretty good! Yeah, the needle hurt when they put it in my arm, and when they took it out, and yeah, my arm is still a little sore 2 hours later, but the feeling of doing something good made it all worthwhile. The Red Cross needs much more donations than they get and it doesnt take a lot of time to do it!

I finished my trip to the Blood Bank with a small feast for free - chocolate milkshake, smiths chips, jam drops and a fun size mars bar - awesome!!! And a nice chat to the lady serving the food, who told me she had to stop donating after 45 donations because of a heart condition, and that the Guiness world record holder for donations attends their centre and is about 12 donations off having given blood 1000 times!!!

So my message today is - donate blood if you can, you'll feel good, you'll be saving 3 people's lives, and you'll get free food. And you never know, one day you might need someone else's blood donation to survive :-)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Winter Pyjamas

Ok, so I dont know about the rest of the ladies out there, but when it comes to winter pyjamas, my favourites, my must haves, my cant-live-withouts are a pair of long sleeved, long legged, satin pyjamas. Preferably flock lined for extra warmth and comfort.

I love the way the satin slides around when I turn over in bed and the satin pjs don't get all caught up in my bed sheets......and how soft and comfy they are! Forget flannellette, I HATE flanno pyjamas (though I understand how warm they are, esp in European winter), I dont mind tracksuit-like pjs for lounging around the house, but its satin all the way for my winter pjs.

With this in mind, my Englishman and I went shopping for a new pair of winter pjs for me as an Easter present. We went to the normal place i would buy my satin pjs.....Sussan. Yes, I know, its an 'old lady' shop, but the satin pjs are ok and cheap.......however, it seems satin pjs are no longer available!.......

Next stop, Myer.......2 pairs of satin pjs available, both pairs look like old lady pjs. And not lined. they're horrible, white/cream with a pattern, or dark with white piping and a crest on the Englishman vetoed them straight away and started herding me out of the shop.....

Last ditch attempt - David Jones.....and by now I'm feeling despondent.....why aren't there any nice satin winter pjs around??? Its not like its the wrong season to buy them......everywhere I look its cotton, flannellette, tracksuits.....and while I admit there were some cute patterns, I WANT MY SATIN PJS!!!!!!

David Jones of course, is not the cheapest of shops to go looking in, so I was getting to the point where I wasn't expecting to find anything a) appropriate and b) within a reasonable price range.......

The Englishman spots some purple satin pj pants. Two points - purple and satin.....good start. Not lined....well I can handle that. No pj top.....what? Yes, no satin pj top, just 2 matching soft stretchy cotton singlets instead........ok.....maybe I can compromise. Price......more than I've ever paid for pjs!!! Forget it!!!

But the Englishman says that this is ok as he is paying and that he likes them. Alright. This'll do.....I supppose.

Having slept in my new pjs last night, I have to say I like them. They're comfy, the satin is nice and slippery and they are my favourite colour!

I miss my long sleeved satin top though, my arms were cold last night! Maybe I'll have to go shopping by myself today.........

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Camping - Things I've Taught My Englishman

Sooooo we went camping for Easter, as previously stated....... verdict? Camping is fun :-)

I think I mentioned that I had parameters for camping, but my englishman also had parameters for camping....lucky for me, these were not the following ways....

* Size of tent - We shared a tent with the people we camped with, but this was a 12 person tent.....note, there were 4 people in the Englishman kept saying that a 2 person tent is big enough for 2 people, but by the end of the trip I'd convinced him that actually, something like a 6 man tent was good for 2.....2 rooms, space to stand up and space on either side of the bed for bags etc....result!

* Stuff needed for camping - I literally took the kitchen sink on our camping trip....well, I took a tub for washing up in anyway. My camping experience is limited so Ive learnt a thing or two from some seriously experienced campers (namely my ex's parents) things like saucepans, washing up liquid, tea towels, salt and pepper and bbq sauce were not forgotten......the Englishman had a spack attack when we tried to pack the car and declared that we had 'too much stuff'and that it would 'never' all fit in the car and that it was 'ridiculous'to take so much stuff camping for 2 people!!!!
I repacked the car with no trouble and on the way there, our friends rang to see if we had a saucepan and some tea towels. I was happy to say yes. Result!

.....Ok, so I think thats all I really taught the Englishman this time. Suffice to say though, this was a triumph and the rest of the trip was lots of fun. I recommend camping at Tiona on the beachside to anyone.......falling asleep to crashing waves is an awesome experience, as are fires on the beach and lamb skewers and corn on the cob cooked on the bbq ON the beach!

Oh and the air mattress wasn't as uncomfortable as expected and the Englishman thought this one more thing I taught him - it was worth packing the hairdryer just to blow the mattress up :-)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Easter

We're going camping for Easter!!!!

I've been camping for easter before, so you'd think I'd know ALWAYS rains at easter, camping is NOT the smartest idea in the world....but still, we're going.

I actually don't mind camping, but only within certain parameters. I never went camping as a child - my Dad had grown up being forced to go camping every summer so he was not a fan, hence our family holidays were to Port Macquarie and the Gold Coast, where we stayed in holiday apartments and went to theme parks....awesome yes but not quite the same experience as camping.

So my first real camping experience was as a late teenager with my then-boyfriend and a bunch of our friends.....lots of fun, as there was lots of booze, and swimming, and card games! And as long as we weren't camping for too long, that was fine.

My parameters for a good camping experience are thus:

* Don't go camping for more than 5 days at a time. After that, everything gets a bit dirty, a bit messy, and a bit not-fun
* If there are 2 people, you need a minimun 4 person tent. 4 person tent does NOT mean there is practially room for 4 people to sleep, its just a measurement of space!!!!
* There needs to be a toilet and shower block available, with hot water for showers
* I need an air mattress to sleep on (please note I actually HATE air mattresses but its SO much better than sleeping on the ground)
*At least some point in the camping trip, I need to visit civilisation. Even if it is just to go to Coles for 5 minutes, I dont care.
* Hair appliances, and make up, are not nessecary when camping. therefore, cameras are also not nessecary. No one needs to see Camping Fresh Miss Holly photos!!
* Finally, as long as there is adequate booze, a pack of cards, some good books, a beach, and somewhere dry to sit, you can't have a bad time camping.

Happy Easter everyone!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Things my Englishman have taught me #1 - Cooking

My Englishman and I have been together for, oh, just over 2 years started as a bit of a whirlwind romance, things moved pretty fast to start with, but then they settled down and we're happily plodding along, living together and learning each other's quirks (even when we thought we knew them all, they keep appearing!)

One thing my Englishman has taught me from the start is how to cook a really nice meal.

Now, I liked to think of myself as a pretty good cook. I could whip up a stirfry and even make my own marinade, I knew how to cook spaghetti bol and I was happy to have a go at my Mum's old favourites.......then I got invited round to the Englishman's house for a dinner cooked by him about a week after we met...

Now, I know he set out to impress me and made some serious effort that evening (mushroom soup, balsamic salmon with cucumber ribbons and soba noodles, and choc brownie and ice cream), but I've also since discovered that this wasnt a one - off .......he loves to cook and knows some serious rules about this is what I've learnt....

1. Stick to a few vegies, a few flavours, a couple of elements, and it'll be much nicer and easier to enjoy. I have a tendency to put every vegie I can think of in my stirfries or on my plate because I love them I try to stick to 4 or 5.....

2 . You dont always need a starter, or bread, or salad. Sometimes dinner is enough (though I'm a sucker for dessert...)

3. How to cook a good curry, risotto, pasta sauce, lasagne, chicken and leek pie........the pasta sauce I can do, and at times it gets praised as being better than the Englishman's (by him!), but the other ones I'm still getting the hang of. He can do them without a recipe, it's really quite cool.

Oh and one last thing the Englishman has taught me about food that's important to note - you can NEVER have too many cups of tea....speaking of which, I better drink mine before it goes cold.....

First Blog

So, this is my first blog....hmmm.....what to write....maybe I can start with explaining why I'm writing?

I guess I decided to write a blog after reading a few blogs written by friends. A friend of mine is living in London with her husband of almost 12 months (actually, their anniversary is this weekend - congrats guys!) and she has been blogging about her experiences living overseas as well as things that fill her with passion (how leggings are NOT pants, or how awesome her husband is - both important subjects in my book!)

Another girl who is not quite a friend, more of an acquaintance I really like but never get to see has a blog where she writes about her family, does some creative writing, and also just blogs about anything that makes her think.

And my cousin has recently started a blog based around some cartoon characters she created and her thoughts around religion and life.

I'm finding all 3 really interesting - they make me laugh, smile, and because these are people I know, it gives me another way to feel connected when I dont get to see them often, which is very much the case with all 3.....I guess this is the way the world often is these days!

I guess Í'm hoping that my (future) blogs will maybe make other people feel the same way :-)

Anyway, until next time.