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Showing posts from January, 2006

Trifle and deck chairs.

The storm wasn't really trying. The clouds rolled aimlessly around the sky for a while then slid off somewhere else, taking the fading boom-boom-boom of the thunder with them like a blind giant blundering off into the distance. So bathed in pale gold sunshine we had our barbecue and it was good, especially the lamb steaks marinated in lemon, dried rosemary and garlic. Nicely grilled on the outside, pink and juicy inside. There was a trifle to finish, T.'s specialty: layers of sponge cake and custard flecked with roughly grated white chocolate and then rich cream over that and a top layer of mixed berries - raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, all spreading their red juiciness down through the cream and almost into the custard. Over all of this delicious yumminess was another very generous shower of grated white chocolate. * Earlier in the afternoon, I had walked outside with William to sit for a while in the garden and watch the butterflies. I sat down with him in m

Thunder.

Rolling thunder has been creaking around the sky like a clapped out lorry for three days but rain? - no. A few insolent spots then more humidity and more heat. Now I'm firing up the barbecue and the thunder's getting louder. A couple of friends are coming over and here's what we'll eat outside if it doesn't rain: Swordfish kebabs with lime. Chicken steaks three ways - soy and ginger, chile and tomato and basil and lemon juice. Calamari with lemon, garlic and some oregano from the garden that has been drying in the kitchen. Some salads. Bread. Trifle. White wine. Beer. We'll eat inside if it rains.

A bit dusty up Birdsville way.

Nothing a spot of hoovering and a wipe over with Mr Sheen and a duster won't fix. Report here. Full picture here. I watched this one roll into Melbourne 23 years ago. I was standing on St Kilda Road approximately one kilometre to the left of the white Arts Centre spire. I went home with the cuffs of my trousers full of red dust. Cuffs were in fashion then.

A town in the middle of nowhere.

Most of Victoria is parched and baking in the heat. Some parts are already on fire . The road out of Melbourne is a strip of molten licorice. Off to each side, everything is yellow. Not wheatfield yellow or canary yellow but faded dust yellow. Here and there, clumps of straggly eucalypts; occasionally a line of old broken pine trees. The road follows long low rises and shallow falls. It's like driving across a series of saucers. Top a rise and you can see cars far ahead crawling up the next rise like hot bothered scarab beetles. Then the yellow turns to dirty olive scrub and stark hills with their sides gouged bare. The farmlets and occasional shacks turn to broken lines of houses, then endless car lots, dusty motels, caravan parks and eventually shopping malls. One of the few cities not built on or near a natural water supply, Bendigo was built over the goldfields. But you can't drink gold. The city is a gaudy, ostentatious and faded Victorian where fortunes were made and l

78-year-old woman bitten by deadly snake in lounge room while knitting and watching tennis; moves to another couch.

It's so hot, even the snakes can't stay outdoors. The great-grandmother was bitten right there in her own lounge room by a deadly 1.5 metre brown snake. No dramas. She just moved to another couch. Her daughter tells the story: "She got up and switched couches. She said 'I'm not sitting there with the snake underneath me'." Plus she didn't want to miss a minute of the tennis, of course. Or drop any stitches in her knitting. Check the crisp, economical dialogue at the height of the crisis: "She said 'Jan'. I said, 'Yes mum'. She said, 'I've been bit by a snake'. ... I said, 'Yeah mum, no worries'." Then, a couple of twists: The snake is believed to have been in the house since at least Saturday night. She knew the snake was there and just went right on watching tennis and knitting? Plus: Ms Milinkovic said the house had been locked overnight. The snake BROKE IN! There is a picture in the prin

Smoke.

It's late in the day and still hot. Forty degrees hot. * Early in the morning, about seven o'clock when the air was still relatively cool, probably 26 degrees, we slipped out of the house and walked through the ti-tree lined avenues. Not many people about. An elderly lady was walking away from the shops carrying a bag of groceries in each hand. A Labrador was walking beside her, holding his leash in his jaw, just to help. She didn't have a free hand and he knew. I love the way they know. * Early breakfast at the Blairgowrie cafe. Scrambled eggs. Toast. Coffee. Then across to the beach for a dip before the sun got too far up the sky. Other people had the same idea and children were running into the water, still warm from yesterday's heat. William loves the water, loves the sand, loves the seagulls. Home by ten thirty. Into the cool house. * About three in the afternoon the heat was intense and thick. I was lurking in a corner of the garden on a lounge, trying to

Saturday night.

Forty degrees at five p. m. Too hot to cook. But I did. One pan. Egg noodles, cooked for seven minutes. Another pan. Broccoli, green beans, snow peas. Cooked until done. Another pan. White wine, black pepper, garlic and a touch of cream. Into that, sliced mushrooms and a whole sliced avocado. Now. Green vegetables over the egg noodles. Mushrooms and avocado cream sauce over the vegetables. Too many pans. But it tastes good. With a very cold beer. And tomorrow will be 43 degrees.

Old crockery.

If you were in Bourke Street about half past eleven in the morning, and you hadn't had coffee (what have you been doing all morning?), why wouldn't you stroll up the hill, past the cinemas, past the Southern Cross redevelopment that is taking forever, past the Hill of Content bookshop, past the magnificent and expensive Florentino and past the magnificent and inexpensive Florentino Grill to the little cafe bar on the corner with the red and green flashing neon light that reads: Open 8 a.m. ? Well, of course, you would. As we did. We sat up at the bar at the window end of Pellegrini's where the counter curves right around the coffee machine - the one that has probably made more cups of coffee than any other machine in Melbourne - and parked William, in his pram, so that he could look out through the glass into Bourke Street. In the fifties and sixties, my father sold crockery to Pellegrini's and Melbourne's other grand old cafes and restaurants - the Latin, the

Hey, pesto.

The heat took its toll on the garden and several shrubs that went in perhaps too late into spring were scorched. Even the tomatoes suffered. The sage appeared to be gone but is coming back. The crepe myrtle gets summer shade and will be fine. Queen Elizabeth was severly scorched but I cut her back and she'll take off again. I hope. The basil? The basil seemed to enjoy the heat and is going like wildfire. I picked bunches and bunches of it. So it's pesto time of year again. Linguine with vegetables and three-greens pesto. Three greens because I threw in some dandelions and a couple of silverbeet leaves. Along with the basil, loads of it. The food processor swallowed it all up busily with the help of several glugs of olive oil, half a dozen large garlic cloves, half a small block of grated parmesan and of course, pinenuts. Bzzzt. Bzzzzt. Bzzzt. And an extra long bzzz-zzz-zzz-zzzt at the end just to get it really fine and green and oily and delicious. I boiled the pasta an

The other bay.

The beach house is at the pointy end of the peninsula with a tame bay on one side and a wild ocean on the other. Further up the peninsula, at the fat end, on the ocean side, there's another bay. To get there, you drive up into the hills of the peninsula past houses hanging off the sides of steep slopes like trinkets on a Christmas tree. After a while you reach the top and the slow descent to the other side begins. The road picks its way through rises and valleys laced with vineyards here, orchards there. Occasionally a massive stand of ancient pine trees; windbreaks planted by early farmers. Crest a hill and you'll get a sudden thrill of blue - the crystal clear sea beyond the broken coast. Bass Strait, one of the most violent stretches of water in the world. Looks calm today. At last everything flattens out and a couple of seaside towns disappear in the rear vision mirror and then you're in the quietest village on the whole peninsula, because you don't go through it

William picks up a clam, Dad cooks calamari.

Down in the shallows again. Another hot day. The tide is out, leaving a little pool of water that is about four inches deep. The water is warm from the day's sun and now it is five in the afternoon. We sat in the shallows and William slapped the water and then he picked up his very first shell. It was a live clam. This boy is going to enjoy his seafood. * Later, in the fish shop. I love fish shops - big boxes of glistening fish, slippery squid, octopus, clams and mussels and oysters and I can never decide. The fish shop down here is doing a roaring trade with the summer crowds. The fish are walking out. So to speak. This time, I chose the calamari. I never get bored with calamari, I just get bored with the way I cook it. So I did it a different way. I cooked it in a pan with a little oil, a chopped clove of garlic, a good splash of soy sauce, a tablespoon of coriander paste (a good alternative to fresh coriander - ours had finished and the market was fresh out), the juice of

Goldie.

She was a great old dog, a purebred Brittany. We gave her an extra five years. I found her, almost accidentally, when thumbing through a week-old newspaper in early 2001. The ad said Brittany. 9 years old. Free to good home . My first Brittany - Monty - which I had had from a pup had died just weeks before. I rang the number. The dog had belonged to a recently deceased elderly gentleman and the family no longer wanted her. They had received no enquiries and she was about to go to the shelter. So I guess we saved her. It felt right. It was like saying thank you to dogdom for the companionship Monty gave me for 14 years. Around the same time we started fostering greyhounds. The people at the Greyhound Adoption Program liked placing younger males with us because Goldie would take no nonsense from them. She loved all the greyhounds and they loved her. She used to jump up to their ears and nip them playfully. Then we adopted Billy and the two of them became inseparable. And now they'

Summer's best pasta dish.

First the intense heat went away and then the rain came and then that went away and another morning dawned on a big blue six-o'clock-in-the-morning sky as fresh and innocent as a day in 1960. A sea breeze hummed softly to itself all day and picked up a few leaves and dropped them somewhere else. Mid-morning, we took a stroll through the shady titree-lined streets to the beach. Far out on the water, but not too far out to be heard, half a dozen jet-skis buzzed around in incoherent circles like demented blowflies on a windowsill, except that you couldn't swat them. Outside the Blairgowrie cafe, people sat under big umbrellas eating late breakfasts - plates variously piled high with doorstop sourdough toast, clouds of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, smoked salmon, halved fried tomatoes, piles of spinach and sometimes all at the same time; while their dogs lolled around in the sun snapping at flies or waiting for tidbits. (We are no longer accompanied by Goldie, she is now too unwell t

New Year's Eve. And a salmon recipe.

Yes, it was hot - the hottest New Year's Eve on record. (I'm posting this on New Year's Day although the dateline says December 31. Maybe I should fix the dateline.) A cool southerly kept the morning relatively cool and at 10 a.m. the weather bureau revised its forecast top from 42 celsius down to 33. Someone hit the forecast release button seconds too soon - the wind stopped dead in its tracks and the mercury shot up like a fairground hammer bell. Melbourne hit 42.9 at 5.14 p.m. while Horsham cranked out a lazy 46. I wonder what the temperature was on the bitumen into the wheatbelt town ? Down here at the beach, the shallows were rippling gently when we finally panted onto the sand around five in the afternoon. It was simply too hot earlier and we had stayed in the shade of the back garden with cold drinks. On the beach, William wore nothing but a cute bonnet, pale blue gingham with a lace trim around the face and two tie ribbons under his fat little chin. He laughed