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Showing posts from December, 2008

2008: the year in pictures.

(UPDATED 1/1/09; more pictures added) January Australian Open: tennis on the lawn. February Forty celsius: herbs and succulents baking in late afternoon heat. March Mystery dish: Lasagne? Moussaka? Sweet potato layered with cheese sauce? Can’t remember. But the green thing in the middle is a basil leaf. April Instant circus: elephants dance on cans of peppers and beans. Crescent moon: brittle sky on a cold late autumn evening, as seen from Merri Creek trail (moon right of centre, barely visible - click to enlarge). May Apprentice chef: Thomas with saucepans. Downpour: Lygon Street in flood. June Birthday: William turns three. Winter fun: Thomas reinvents library steps; clears shelves in search of favourite book. Mr Horse unimpressed. July Winter sun: lunch at Blairgowrie cafĂ©: Tracy's hand and coffee obscured by giant cake serving. August Surf's up: early afternoon on a freezing Portsea ocean beach. September Snack time: two boys in a chair; Mr Owl looks on. Storm: waves batte

Green Christmas.

It was early afternoon on a hot Christmas Day. Inside a million houses across the country you’d be deafened by the roar of ripping paper, popping corks, slamming oven doors and everyone talking at once. But outside in the heat, it was so quiet you could hear a dry gum leaf scratching along the street in the breeze. I got the car out and we drove east on an empty freeway to where the suburbs are green and leafy. Twenty minutes later I took an exit ramp, crossed over the freeway, turned right into a side street and a kilometre later, turned right again back over the freeway along a narrow bridge road that ended at a steel gate. The gate slid open. We drove through. Someone – one of Tracy’s cousins - had had the brainwave of organising Christmas lunch on a golf course. Christmas lunch on a golf course makes sitting at an over-sized dining table for three hours in a too-small inner-city terrace house dining room with twenty other people on a hot day feel like a prison sentence, especially

Banks may fall ...

... corporations fail, globes warm, economies cool, rates crash and economists argue but we're all agreed that afternoon must tea go on. Another cup, thank you. And pass me a piece of chocolate cake. Happy Christmas.

Tomato and chick pea ragu.

The rain is still around and the days have been cooler and Christmas is coming. I cooked this osso buco recipe a few nights ago and it was good. It seemed a shame to throw out the fragrant sauce that was left over. So I didn't. I made a sauce for pasta - a ragu. I chopped the remaining cooked meat, returned it to the left over sauce and added a can of diced tomatoes, half a can of chick peas, a cup of white wine and a sprinkling of chopped parsley. For this meat sauce I cooked a pot of rigatoni, a grooved pasta robust enough to carry the fragrant ragu. The whole thing was capped off with a heap of shaved parmesan and more chopped parsley. It must have been good. Even the children ate it. Except for the chick peas.

As I walked out one Sunday afternoon.

Apparently it was the most rain in one day since early 2006. Most of it ended up in the bay of course, but the downpour coincided with a new government campaign to encourage people to use less water. The campaign material shows two pictures of a dam, some years ago and now, with the recent picture showing a lower level of water. A cynical counter-campaign would show two identical photos of a empty valley entitled The Dam the Government Failed to Build . The irony is that the north-south pipeline currently being built to divert water from the Goulburn to backyard water features in Melbourne is now cutting a swathe through more wilderness than would have any dam . * Early afternoon Sunday, the clouds drifted away to the north. Sunday is a day of rest but rest is what you want it to be. For me it means avoiding shopping malls full of frantic shoppers and taking a long walk along Merri Creek. Off I went, pushing the wakeful child (Thomas) in the three-wheel pram while the sleepy child (Wil


It was a warm Tuesday morning. I caught the train into town, got off at Parliament station, walked down a wind-swept Lonsdale Street, climbed a hundred steps up to the entrance of a vast grey office block and entered through sliding glass doors big enough for an aircraft hangar. No wonder. You could have parked a jumbo in the lobby. I crossed the marble floor to the lifts. One whispered open and took me to what felt like the eightieth floor. I was the only person in it. The digital clock on the electronic floor indicator read 9:15 and I wondered what time the other million people in the building must have started work. I sat in a glassed-in reception area for about ten minutes reading one of those free newspaper magazines full of ads for diamond-encrusted watches and articles about how to cope during a recession. Then a woman burst through the door, smiled and grabbed my hand, shook it furiously and then led me down a passage-way and around three corners to an office cubicle the size o

The man who noticed things.

A new book came across my desk: The Man Who Ate the World . Now, where have I heard a title like that? Rummage, rummage. Ah, here it is. In the row of books behind another row of books in the long, low timber cabinet in the lounge room. I really should get rid of some books. In fact, I really should get rid of some cabinets the books are in. Problem is, you can't throw out the books you've read because you like them and therefore you will always keep them; but paradoxically you cannot throw out the ones you haven't read, because you might like them when you do read them. It's a problem I don't know how to solve without the introduction of a 28-hour day. I pulled out the book: The Man Who Ate Everything , published in 1998. Tracy gave it to me one Christmas. But it's by a different author - Jeffrey Steingarten - so the title similarity had not indicated, as I had thought, a sequel, a prequel, one of a series or book two of a trilogy. And yet there were other lik

Recipe for a busy time: spaghetti with chickpeas, garlic and prosciutto.

This is easy, fast and surprisingly good. Take a can of chickpeas, a 500g pack of spaghetti, two cloves of garlic and a thick slice of prosciutto, diced. Cook the spaghetti. Puree two-thirds of the chickpeas with the garlic cloves, a tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt. Sizzle the prosciutto in oil in a pan and when almost brown, add the reserved chickpeas. Drain the cooked spaghetti reserving a little fluid, place the spaghetti in the pan with the prosciutto and chickpeas and combine. Add a small amount of the pasta cooking water if necessary. Transfer to serving bowls and top with pureed chickpeas and plenty of chopped parsley if you still have acres of it in your garden as I do.

Three pieces of sky, as seen from my back garden.

7:30 p.m. Chimney and terra cotta tile roofs from the 1940s; poplars of a similar age; storm clouds gilded by setting sun. 8 p.m. Clouds drift beyond the sharp lines of post-art deco apartments that were once small-scale factories. 8:30 p.m. Evening turns monochrome; 1919 Lincoln mills chimney in distance, a lonely sentinel of a long-gone manufacturing era.