Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Diary: A Gastronomic Week

Every June Tim's brother Peter comes to stay. We always look forward to his visits. He works overseas as a teacher so we see him in school holidays. For years he lived in Bangkok where Tim and I used to visit and sleep on his terrible blow up mattress! He'd take us shopping at Chatuchak, book train tickets to Chiang Mai, bargain for us, draw maps and drive for miles in Bangkok traffic. Staying with Peter in Thailand was so exciting!
Peter and I share a love of food and cooking. When we visited him in Thailand he would always have wonderful dishes he'd discovered: deep fried catfish with green papaya, spicy red tamarind soup, larb, mango and sticky rice. He introduced me to Tom Kha Gai which is still my favourite Thai dish. On one of our first visits he took us to his local road-side eatery for dinner where we sat on stools and ate off plastic plates. The Thai chef was busy stir frying in a huge wok with flames and steam leaping up. I can still remember exactly what we ate - the tastiest salt and pepper chicken, and a stir fried green called morning glory, with Singha beer of course. 'Chuck dee!' Then Tim told me to turn around and low and behold like a moment from the Twilight Zone there was a huge elephant walking up the street behind me. No wonder we couldn't wait to get back to Thailand!
Recently Petey moved to Shanghai where one day we will visit him I hope, although not for the food by the sounds of it, but the art nouveau architecture sounds beautiful. 
On his latest visit to Sydney we shared our passion for Gordon Ramsay with him, the English chef who has brought French cooking back into vogue. Peter enthusiastically got stuck into making desserts - a really sublime bread and butter pudding laced with Grand Marnier and served with marscapone, and delicious steamed golden syrup puddings with custard and ice cream. Mmm! 
Peter accompanied me to see Gordon doing a live cooking demo at the Good Food and Wine Fair at Darling Harbour too, which was so exciting although I must admit I felt a little self conscious squealing like a school girl beside my brother in law. Luckily I had my girlfriend Kylie who was also squealing at being in the same room as him, and who returned later to get our cookbooks signed! 
While Petey was here I hosted a wine tasting fundraising evening for the Figtree Playgroup which was really enjoyable. One of the members Sandra directed the tasting and I catered the food - delicious nibbles of flavour to go with the wines - caramelised onion and goats cheese tarts, smoked salmon and capers on rye, duck pancakes, saffron mussles on garlic breads, devils on horseback, coffee granita with cream and chocolate mousse. Gordon would have been proud. The wines were supplied by her brother Sam Miranda who owns a vineyard in Victoria. It was really fun to try different varieties that I normally wouldn't buy including a lovely sparkling white which was icy cold and will be delicious in Summer. I was busy cooking on the night and didn't get to taste too many, but after the wine tasting I was left with half a dozen or so open bottles of wine which I have been gladly sampling while I'm preparing dinner!

So now Petey has gone up to Brisbane to visit Boopy. I hope I didn't bore him too much dragging him to Tom's playgroups and music classes and kindygym but Tom loved having his uncle's attention and I enjoyed the company and adult conversation... not to mention the desserts!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

School Holiday plans

School holidays are around the corner and I'm making plans to survive them. I must say it will be great to have full days to go out and not have to be restricted to be back at preschool by 12:30. Things I have on my fun list include...

Go see the Kung Fu Panda movie - Tom's never been to the movies!
Go for yum cha in China Town
Hop around the city on the monorail
Go to Zoe's House at the Powerhouse (again)
Visit the convict exhibit at the museum near Hyde Park
Catch the ferry to Darling Harbour to visit the aquarium
Take the dogs to Centennial Park
Visit the Lane Cove toy library and visit the dog park in Riverview
Go to the doggie beach at Mosman
Take Tom to the dentist - he has a black spot on a molar... not good
Visit Taronga Zoo and see the new Southern Oceans exhibit

I bought a new magazine for Tom today too - 'Beginning Consonant Sounds' as he is obsessed with asking what letters words start with.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I have been looking for a light for our stairwell ever since we moved here and today I found it and bought it on the spot! Bargain too I might add. 
I've had so much difficulty finding the right light because it needed to be quite big and interesting to fill the space, but not take over from the beautiful Cherry Hood watercolour - my pride and joy. I made a trip to my old neighborhood Surry Hills and visited three light showrooms there. Saw a divine chandelier in smokey grey and saw the beautiful 'Lotus' light that I looked at two years ago - but as sculptural and beautiful as it is three thousand dollars is utter madness.
So for two years I have been looking at a bare bulb hanging in this prestigious place - until tonight! Hurray! 
On Friday I visited my favourite antique shop too - 'Doug Up On Bourke'. I thoroughly recommend a visit to anyone who loves interesting stuff. I came away with a tidy little wooden filing cabinet. I am attempting to declutter our dining table which is always buried under an avalanche of mail and invitations and magazines, etc I've got hooks on the wall now for coats but I still don't know where to hide the bags... I'm working on it though! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Diary: Too Much TV

Oh dear... My last post was so positive and inspiring, like seeing a snapshot of a sleek athlete on a home run - right before he trips on his undone shoe lace and crashes face first into the dust! 
Unfortunately I caught a cold from Tom and Charlotte, right before the long weekend so I have not been doing anything much -except watching too much television. Foxtel had a Sex & The City marathon on and I got hooked. Its been years since I watched the series so I had a lot of catching up to do. Back in my bachelor days I once had a Sex & The City party at my beautiful old Surry Hills apartment that had fabulous ceiling high windows that looked out onto the Sydney skyline. It was a fun night, and I vaguely remember trying to cook in a very inebriated state and catching a tablecloth on fire... Too many cosmopolitans. Hmmm.

So I guess I'll have to go and see the movie now. The best part in the last series in my opinion was the cameo by Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From the Sun) - "I'm so bored I could die". Hilarious. Check it out here
Plus its been raining, and raining, and raining! Spending the whole weekend at home no doubt sent Tim and Tom a little stir crazy. Tim went on a cleaning binge. And last night Tom bit my finger - an outburst of pent up emotion perhaps? He was not impressed that I was letting Charlotte look at my old sticker book so he bit my little finger. I screamed in pain and stood up with such force that he went flying off my lap and landed hard on his back on the carpet. I was so angry I made him stay up in his room til "his father got home" and "had a talk to him". 
Tom totally idolises Tim, and me I barely get an acknowledgment these days. But I suppose I'd probably ignore me too, I sound like a broken record half the time: "brush your teeth, put your socks on, lean over the bowl, pick up your clothes, eat your lunch, put your shoes on, pull the plug out, leave that alone, no more biscuits!" Being sick barely gives you the energy to nag let alone any fun stuff... no wonder he's sick of me! 
But this morning we had a good time at the park. Thankfully the rain held off long enough for the Figtree Playgroup excursion. (Being the coordinator) I had organised for Gladesville Fire Brigade to bring a fire truck down to Buffalo Creek playground and the kids loved it. The fire fighters were so nice answering all these 3 year old's questions - namely, pointing at every single button and valve and switch and lever on the whole truck saying "What does this do?" Poor guys must have been exhausted afterwards! Top blokes, must make them a big thank you card or something from all of us.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Diary: Boopy comes to visit

Wow! I wish I could feel like this all the time! I am so positive and full of energy and happiness at the moment. 
My mother-in-law came to stay for a few days which really helped... Tom loved her staying (constant attention, full time story reader, babied him). At first I was a bit jealous of this, although jealous is too strong a word - I thought 'Gee, grandmothers get all the fun! They get the happy, responsive child, while I get a cursory glance if I'm lucky and I'm the one going round picking up all the dirty socks, etc! But Vicky was also a great help to me too - I had been feeling a bit lonely and bored and her chatty company and helpfulness was a blessing. So much of my time is taken up with thinking about dinners that will please everyone, shopping for it all, and cooking it, I must admit that by the time I've made it, cleaning it up is another chore that I don't enjoy! Vicky, bless her, is a great washer-upper. She actually enjoys washing up! Huh! Who would've thought such a thing possible?
And Tim loved having her here too. She babied him as much as Tom - they talked about illnesses and she indulged his every pain and complaint about interrupted sleep... (Don't talk to ME about interrupted sleep!!! and if you've got a pain go to the friggin' doctor!!!) Vicky loves football and so the pair of them watched game after game Friday night and Saturday afternoon on the couch, which allowed me to put on my headphones and sit in my armchair reading and writing - hence my inspiring blog about Emotions. 
I loved having her here too. She tagged along on Monday to playgroup, in the car to drop off Tom at preschool, and then supermarket shopping where I had to feed Charlotte. We sat in the coffee shop at Gladesville and talked about books we liked, and I shared some ideas I've had about what to do in the future when I get more time. I shared a plot for a book I've got with her and she listened to me. 
When she left we missed her. Tom cried. Tim sulked. I had to wash up again. 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Meditation: What are emotions?

"This emotion that you feel is actual guidance or communication that comes forth from the inner part of you." Abraham-Hicks

Recently I was sent a link to the Abraham-Hicks website where I fast became hooked on listening to their fascinating audio files. Being a mother of a toddler and baby I seem to constantly be struggling with my children's powerful emotions, and my own. And I often wonder what they are - these passionate feelings we have that are powerful enough to change our whole demeanor. Children are more in touch with them but as we grow up they become less volatile. Our society seems to respect less showing of emotions in adults, which is a good thing I suppose. Yet, we also place value on trusting our instincts and our 'gut feelings'. The dictionary defines instinct as "natural intuitive power". So what is this power? 
Well, when I heard Abraham-Hicks describing emotions a little light bulb went on for me. Simplifying it I guess emotions are direct communication from my soul. And as a person seeking enlightenment this means that I should therefore take my emotions very seriously. 
I used to have a wonderful yoga instructor Jana Palm whose classes I hope to take up again when Charlotte is old enough. Once in a meditation she described emotions as being like a team of horses, each horse representing a different emotion which we are tethered to and which pulls us. I quite liked this idea. 
I picture these - grief, anger, envy, fear and love - as my five horses! The above link is really interesting to read as it describes each of these 'natural emotions', their purpose and what results if they are repressed in children - depression, rage, jealousy, panic, possessiveness.
Trying to find further information on this concept I found this Buddhist page which is different but interesting too...
The text describes five spiritual faculties and compares them as a team of horses. The lead horse is mindfulness which can go as fast or as slow as it likes. The two following pairs have to follow and be in balance with each other so the cart does not topple. The first pair needing balance, and that interested me is faith and wisdom, which roughly evaluates to heart and mind. "Our thinking capacity is rationality and logic, which is impaired by our emotionalism, by the reactions to our feelings." 
At first I was confused reading this as I thought this meant we should not be swayed by our emotions when what I gathered from the Abraham-Hicks audio was quite the opposite. But I read on, and in typical Buddhist fashion it is all about balance. Each of us both has mental and emotional capacities and there is danger if we are polarised either way. "Emotionalism is just as much a danger as thinking without being in touch with one's feelings."
The text goes on to describe school debating where we can successfully change views and argue either side with straight forward thinking alone. But it goes on to say that "there is no inherent truth in any opinion, because it's simply linear thinking. However, if these thoughts are connected to our feelings we can no longer debate the opposite side."
So, my understanding on emotions now is that they show us our "truths", the trick of which is to temper them with our thinking. The aim therefore is to balance mind and heart - I knew this of course! In typical Buddhist fashion I feel like I've jogged mentally around the block and ended up back where I began! 
What does this mean to me as a mother? Are my son's emotions so strong because he has not developed mind enough to temper them? And how should I respond to his strong emotions? I guess this is the root of why I am seeking answers here as I'd like to find a meaningful response rather than being frustrated and annoyed as I am a lot lately... 

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