Thursday, 31 January 2013

Do I?

I've never been much of a wedding person. Personally, I haven't seen the point. Its an awful expense for one day, money which could be better spent on travel or a deposit for a house. But for some people it is a fundamental milestone. To me though, it's just never seemed necessary.

I never grew up in an environment where weddings were the norm. Not in my family and not in the books I read; mythology seems to care surprisingly little about the institution of marriage, particularly in comparison with the 'happily ever after's of most people's Disney upbringing. I never spent my childhood dreaming about the big white dress, who my bridesmaids would be, my Prince Charming... any of it. It just never seemed relevant.

Its only now as I prepare a talk in connection with the Unveiled exhibition at the WA Museum, that I find myself drawn in to this entirely new world. A world of white and lace and ostentation... and envy. My [ideology] has not been stirred, but my vanity has. Wandering through the exhibition researching, it's impossible not to be tempted by the skin-tight sheath of the Charles James, or wish for a coat as striking as Sara Donaldson-Hudson's hand-painted Bellville Sassoon. Each item was crafted with care and chosen with love, from the gentleman's embroidered waistcoat to the vivid red silk worn by a female electrical engineer during the war. Each one was worn with a reason, a symbol of their time or of their own personality, shining though as it filled the (verbal and written) gossip columns of the day.

Marvelling in the beauty of each piece, I wonder that my decision will be when my turn comes... if my turn comes. Would I contemplate wearing something as spectacular ( for it is still a spectacle) and worthy of display, or instead an ensemble that is simply endearingly identifiable as me. With so much subtext, so much symbolism at stake, what messages about my self would I feel a need to convey? What do I hold so dear to my personal identity that I could not let a little wedding tradition subsume?

And what customs would I adopt and make my own? Do I want 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in my shoe'? Or is the language of flowers more fitting? And so I leave contemplating ideas of a wedding. Contemplating the practicalities of the dress, and veil and flowers and ... and ...

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Blue Cheese Custard

I have a dreadful tendency not to buy cookbooks, but to flick through them commenting on the recipes and their supposed lack of originality. However the other day I did stumble upon one (a recipe) that sounded peculiar enough to warrant a try: Blue-cheese Custard. 

The recipe sounded unusual but exhilarating and after searching around for a suitable recipe (I failed to get a shot of the recipe in the bookstore and wanted an alternative without gelatine as a necessary ingredient) it was scheduled for a trial run for a quiet dinner with Mum.

The recipe was simple, but with such a strong blue and so much cream it felt unnecessarily decadent and left you concerned about your elevated cholesterol levels. So here is a slightly altered version, adapted from a guaranteed Creme Brulee recipe.

Makes 8.
500ml (2C) milk
185ml (¾C) whipping cream
70g strong crumbly blue cheese
cracked pepper
4 egg yolks
1 egg

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  2. Combine cream with milk and blue cheese in a saucepan and bring to boiling point over medium heat and turn off. (Do not boil).
  3. Beat the egg and the egg yolks in a bowl with pepper. Whisk until well combined.
  4. Slowly drizzle milk mixture into eggs while whisking.
  5. Strain the mixture as you divide it between the ramekins. this will remove any components of cooked egg.
  6. Place ramekins in a baking dish and place boiling water around ramekins up to half way. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  7. Serve with a salad of ingredients that compliment the flavour of blue cheese: roast pumpkin, walnuts, rocket, prosciutto - lightly fried till crispy, pear, broccoli...

It was so delicious I forgot to take a picture before we commenced eating.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Commissioning Cupcakes

My cousin just turned one, and so, as a part of the celebrations for her granddaughter, my Aunt commissioned me to make 24 pink cupcakes with pink icing.

Now the cupcakes were easy, but I'm not very experienced with icing: I substitute in chocolate whatever the occasion. But you can't really do pink chocolate (white chocolate is NOT chocolate). So it took a little bit of trial and error and luck to get the icing to do what I wanted as opposed to what it wanted. But they finally worked, and I had little rows of pink cupcakes in pink patty-cans lining the kitchen bench.

Now having gone this far, it seemed ridiculous to waste the remaining icing and so as an added gesture (that I'd beaten the icing into submission) I decided they needed decorating... with more pink.

Next year, I'm doing green, or orange, or yellow, or chocolate...

 ...not Pink!

Super Easy Cupcakes
2 eggs
Self Raising Flour
Caster Sugar
Soft Margarine/Butter

Weigh the two eggs. You will need the same weight of Flour, Sugar and Margarine.
Cream together the butter and the sugar until creamy and fluffy.
Fold in the whisked eggs and flour bit by bit.
Spoon mixture into patty cans so they're half filled
Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes
Decorate as you see fit.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Writing Monologues - My First Attempt

Setting: St Matthew’s Church, Guildford. 1920. The church is filled with mourners (the audience) who sit in silent reverie, for they are participating in the funeral of Mrs Augusta Wentworth. Augusta is also there, but clearly not one of the congregation as she is dressed with her usual flair in a slightly dated gown of a golden yellow, and is wandering around the church. She is aware that it is her own funeral and is providing social commentary as was her habit in life.

Augusta Wentworth is a fictional pioneering member of the Guildford community. She and her husband Thomas arrived in 1860 with their two sons and settled on the upper Swan, north of Guildford which remained their local township. Though she had a rather privileged upbringing in England, like many women in her situation, she experienced hardship in the new Perth colony. As she grew older she became one of the personalities of the area and was renowned for her vibrancy and energy, particularly amongst the younger generations.

Augusta:    We’re here are we? I suppose it’s to be expected. There aren’t any other C of E churches in Guildford.
It’s just, I’ve attended enough funerals here without this one. Thomas was first. That was almost thirty years ago now. It is strange how it still feels as though it were yesterday. The doctor said I was lucky to have him that long, but that was why we moved to Australia: so he would live longer. So we could share a full life together. He was only 65. I suppose I just didn’t expect to reach 87. At least, not without him. Truthfully, I’m surprised I lasted this long. This pioneering lifestyle should have exhausted me years ago. Remember, there wasn’t much here when we arrived. Unless it was the pioneering spirit that kept me battling on. And if my Thomas wasn’t enough, we had to repeat it all again five years later burying James and his family. A mother is not supposed to bury her son! Particularly not when he’s accompanied by his wife and daughter. Such an unexpected tragedy. Poor Lucy. I made sure her flowers were pink, her favourite. It was the least I could do.
(She stops, listening.)
Oh dear, they do drone on don’t they. I don’t see why, as they all know my life story: I’ve told enough of them. And those I didn’t tell, gossip reached anyhow. It had a way of doing that in this community. I suppose they are family though and I was allowed such outpourings of pride and grief at Thomas’.  Ned always has been such a wonderful speaker. As grandparents we’re not supposed to have favourites, but he was always mine. He is just so like his grandfather. And when he married Miss Eliza it was a dream come true. They do suit each other so well don’t you think? I remember when she and her sisters first arrived here. Three young ladies all in grey quietly seating in their family pew: they caused quite a stir, and not just on that first Sunday. Until their arrival there were never enough visual distractions from the monotony of the sermon. These walls are unadorned and the windows basic enough: too long and thin though. Less enlightening than they should have been for a church, in my eyes. And I don’t know why I never contributed towards replacing that alter screen. At least they were thoughtful enough to decorate it with flowers today.  Mimosa always was my favourite: the little downy balls of sunshine brightened the hardest of days, then and still now. I gather the [reverend] hasn’t changed though. (A dear little man, so kind and well meaning, but heavens he knew how to put his congregation to sleep.) (she turns to face the altar) Good heavens, he has.  Poor Canon Everingham must not be with us any longer, he was old even then.
(By now Augusta is at the other end of the church near the door where she can survey the church and the congregation in their entirety.)
It really is a drab little church isn’t it. I don’t know why I never considered being more vocal when it was being built. Anything to liven it up really! Well, not that! (She’s just caught sight of the World War I memorial.) I’m thankful our name is not included. That would have been a tragedy too terrible to bear. We did our part though: here, as far away from the action as possible.  Jack so desperately wanted to go, but he contributed to the cause in a far better way and without the needless shedding of more blood.  (My cousin died in the Crimean.)They weren’t all so fortunate though. Poor Miss Mary-Anne. I hope she bounces back as it’s too quiet around here without her laughter.

(She softens as she catches sight of the font.)I suppose this church does have some happy memories too. Several christenings, a few pretty weddings… (she laughs) John screamed the church down when he was christened. He certainly inherited his father’s lungs. (she pauses to recollect). That wasn’t John. That was Anthony (God bless his soul). The Reverend christened him one week and they buried him the next. He never had a chance at life. His brother married here though: Mr John Wentworth to Miss Kate Townsend. Such a beautiful wedding; Mrs Townsend made sure of that. The bride, with her golden halo and strawberries and cream complexion, was a vision in white tulle and pink roses.  (I do sound like the society pages.) Her sisters less so: delicate pink just didn’t suit Miss Eliza’s complexion or Miss Mary Anne’s style.  I remember it well: I had to lend Mrs Townsend my handkerchief as she’d wet her’s through. 
Her second daughter was never so conventional though: Eliza and Ned bypassed this church for a quieter one down south. Very intimate from what I’ve heard: just what they wanted. It wouldn’t surprise me if they planned it all along. They were clever like that. I’m not supposed to know, but so long as you don’t tell Mrs Townsend… she’d never forgive her daughter if news of the elopement reached her. Not after all of the effort she put into arranging that wedding. You can’t blame them though: two spirited children and a very determined mother of the bride? I probably would have done the same. In fact I know I would have.
(she takes a seat near the altar)
Heavens! I’d forgotten how airless it gets in here. These summer services always were the worst. And yet we never adapted to the climate. A service at sundown would have been far more sensible. I think Miss Mary Anne queried wearing her swimming costume to church one year. It really would have been a sensible idea, if her mother had allowed it. Then again, I’m not entirely sure how the rest of us would have reacted. But of anyone, Mary Anne could have pulled it off. Is it me or is it getting hotter in here? (She pulls out a fan and starts fanning herself) Surely they can’t be much longer. Here, sit beside me and rest. We’ll wait until they’ve all gone. It won’t be long now.

Friday, 18 January 2013

You need only step outside.

I will admit, I live in a paradise.

A slightly tamed garden of Eden where the wildebeests are tamed and the birds, and frogs, and insects run riot in a myriad of colour.

To see the beauty of nature, I need go no further than my side door where a sacred Ibis patrols the patio digging up grubs whilst supplementing his diet with the mosquito larvae and frog larvae that populate the lily ponds scattered in amongst the trees and undergrowth.

He is such a regular guest in this banquet of a garden that he has been endowed with a name: Igliot (with a silent 'g'). He's delightfully unperturbed by the presence of two cats, instead insisting upon introducing his friends to such a gem of a restaurant. 

Under a Golden Shower Tree a speck of vivid blue flits between shrubs. In the eye of the beholder it contrasts superbly with the decaying leaf-litter below. When at last it cares to alight upon a reed it's seen to be a Damsel Fly, its tail dipped in paint, and its lace wings carefully folded up above its body.

At the corner of the herb garden, the physalis has fruited, each one infused with a bust of flavour which ensures it never reaches the kitchen table.

Now, the empty husks gather at its roots while in its velvety leaves oil-winged insects perch waiting for the end of the summer shower. 

Nearby the sage is flourishing and full of growth. It seems to be a favoured resting place of one of the many dragonflies that call this plot their home.

Beyond in the pepper tree a family of rainbow lorikeets swing upside down amongst the fresh berries, each one eager to tell the family all about it's day. A noisier bunch you never did see but they eat their fill before winging off across the park, their shrill chatter fading into the blue sky.

The soaring summer heat has brought the bees to rest upon the water's edge, delicately tiptoeing across the pond weed to quench their thirst in the murky waters below. They trickle in for a quick dip, much as Italians do a caffeine fix, before returning to the far more fragrant portions of this suburban paradise.

By another lily-pond a powder blue dragonfly tests his wings. He's old and battered, his fraying wings showing signs of wear and tear.

From the timid rustle in the peach tree, a wattle bird emerges disappointed at having found no fruit, before flying off to the safety of the corrugated fence.

By the driveway, a pincushion protea compensates for the loss of the pincushion hakea, it's brilliant orange orbs contrasting against the green foliage and pale brickwork of the boundary fence.

The driveway is proving home to at least one other creature: a daring red, this dragonfly is hard to miss as it dances its way across the tessellated pavement. He's far more timid than most and lightly hops from tile to tile until your breathless anticipation causes him to cease and hold his pose. Then off again he flies, another slash of colour against the bright blue sky.

On the wooden bench, once cowered into submission and now oblivious to it all, the cat lies, heartily hoping everyone will believe her pretence at sleep and leave her to sunbathe in peace. While in the distance, a kookaburra, silhouetted against the fading sky, laughs with delight.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

For the Possums to read.

At this time of year the possums must be loving it: a chance to bone up on their reading before the festive season ends.

After all, that is what the fairy lights in the trees are for... isn't it?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


I am used to love Perth fireworks, the heat of a summer's night ending in a cacophony of sound and light as the city treats its inhabitants to the spectacular show that is Australia Day. And yet what I still miss each time I see fireworks now is the feeling from watching my first London fireworks on Guy Fawkes night more than two years ago.

By November London is rapidly cooling down for whatever warmth they had achieved over summer. The air is nippy and the ground chilled, verging on the frozen. And yet standing on Blackheath awaiting the fireworks, something was different. At home the fireworks are launched from the middle of the river (it's the safest place really when so much of the surrounding land is covered in dry grass, twigs, leaves that have a tendency to ignite at the mere thought of it) so seated on the water's edge you're some distance from the fireworks.

What I loved about the fireworks on Blackheath was that you were automatically so close to the action. The fireworks were launched 50 yards away and exploded  directly above you, and as each one slowly died, the ash and residual embers descended all around you. With the explosion in your ears, you actually felt a part of it, as opposed to just a spectator.

This year it felt a little like London. It was misting all evening and combined with a slight breeze I was wrapped up in goosebumps inside the encompassing fold of a shawl. Somehow that feels more like it. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...