Thursday, May 28, 2009

Neenish Tart / What the recipe doesn't tell you

I've been spending a bit of time in the kitchen of late. I've got a bit more time on my hands than usual and keeping them busy is the way to go. So I've been concentrating on two things: pastry, and broths/soups.

Broth is something that my family makes really well, and it's really only a matter of supervision, not precision. It's just a matter of having the time. So I made a Beef and Vegetable Broth week before last. The great thing about a broth is you can use a cheap cut of meat that you usually wouldn't feed to the dogs, and because of the amount of time you spend cooking it, by the time you come to serve it, it's falling apart on the spoon. Plus, if you let it cool once or twice before serving, you can cut the fat content by skimming the skin off the top. Cheap and relatively healthy. Plus, most of the vegies used in it are fairly inexpensive. I used Parsnip, Potato, Carrot, Onion and Turnip. It worked well, cost about thirteen dollars to make and there was enough for at least half-a-dozen meals easy meals there.

Last week, for Jeremy's birthday I made Apple Pie. I'd never made it before - previously I'd stuck to Crumble and Strudel - so I stuck to the recipe. The top layer of pastry was perfect, but the bottom was fairly non-existant due to the consistency of the apple. It tasted good though. I wish I'd taken a photo, because it looked awesome before it was cut.

Yesterday, I made Neenish Tarts, because it's one of Jeremy's favourites. He's fairly fussy when it comes to desserts, and I thought it would be good to make one I hadn't done before.

My God. The fiddlines. First, I know I made things hard for myself by making the pastry myself, but I want to get the shortcrust/sweet pastry down before I start taking shortcuts and use pre-made cases. But the pastry was the easy part. Combine ingredients, put in case-tin, rest for fifteen. Cook for ten. Melt the jam, put in cases. Apart from the fact that I should have pricked the bases more than twice, easy:

The Mock Cream was not so easy. For a start, there were three different mixtures to it - a sugar/milk mixture, a gelatine/water mixture and a butter/vanilla mixture. Combining them, I realised that something was wrong with the recipe. I'd never made it before, so I stuck to the measurements more than I usually would, but all of the measurements that said Tablespoon seemed too large when I added them. Considering most of the Tablespoon measurements in the Mock Cream were liquid and it was being added to a butter mixture, that was an issue. It would not come together, no matter what I did. So I improvised a little and worked out what the sugar/butter to liquid ingredient ratio would need to be if the recipe WAS incorrect and added some more. It came together almost straight away. All in all, that part of the recipe took about fourty-five minutes. Rested for fifteen to allow the gelatine time to do it's thing:

Then came the icing. This is where things got very, very fiddly. It's an icing sugar/milk combo, with cocoa for the chocolate side. One problem I think the reicpe-makers didn't forsee - They're asking you to put melted, runny (and therefore HOT) icing on top of cream.

It took me about twenty minutes of cock-ups before I got something approaching a knack happening. I'd wait until the icing was almost too thick and cold to use, then do two or three really quickly. That was still too hot to prevent the icing sliding off the cream before it set, but by holding each one sideways as the icing looked like it was going to slide, I managed to get them to set properly:

How long did the entire process take? Well, I started at two thirty, and had just finished by ten-to-six. It's a fiddly, fiddly, process. The results were fairly good, but there are things the recipe just doesn't tell you:

* Change all liquid measurements in the Mock Cream to Teaspoons.
* Be prepared to spend an entire afternoon making twelve tarts.
* Use Pastry Cases, if for no other reason than home-made pastry cases are hard to get uniform.
* Put the cream under the jam, regardless of what the recipe says.
* Five minutes is nowhere near enough time for the jam to set. Try forty-five.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Max here, with an urgent plea:

Please, I implore you. On behalf of kittehs everywhere.

Don't subject your Kitteh to Cat-Yodelling.

We might only look mildly annoyed, but remember, you have to sleep sometime.

(Go to two minutes onwards for the really funny terrible bits)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is there an alternate meaning of "Exchange" I'm not aware of?

A few times recently I've gone to return an item to a store and been faced with a "new policy" in regards to exchange. When you aren't exchanging for exactly the same item - which I thought would be a substitution, not an exchange - and you paid in the first place via Credit Card (Or Visa Debit), the store insists on refunding the original amount of the item back to the card and then recharging the card for the cost of the new item.

I have a few issues with this. Firstly, that's a refund with a subsequent purchase, not an exchange. Why call it an exchange policy if it doesn't do what it's called?

Secondly, if I use a Visa Debit card, I may not have sufficient funds in the account at that moment to cover the cost of the subsequent purchase. I, like most people, have several accounts, and I move money around depending on what I'm doing with it, and might use a card for a purchase one day that wouldn't have the funds a few days later when I need to take the item back. The refund to the debit card takes three days, so I would be forced to either find an alternate means of payment on the spot, or come back in three business days to complete what should be a simple process.

Thirdly, if the card I'm using is a Credit Card and I don't have an interest-free period, I'll be paying interest on both purchases for those three days it takes the refund to get back onto the card.

If I use cash, you don't give me back the cash for the original purchase, then make me hand it back again for the exchanged item, do you?

I've asked at the stores - not making a complaint, which isn't fair considering the shop-assistants aren't the ones setting this policy - what the policy is designed for, and was told that "too many people were returning things that had been bought on cards". I asked why that was a problem, and was referred to the Exchange Policy of that particular store. It mentioned nothing about it.

Has anyone else had this experience, and can anyone tell me why it's such an issue? Having worked at the other end of the line, I know it isn't that hard to reconcile a refund in cash with a purchase on card as long as sufficiently detailed records are kept. I can't imagine it being too onerous to keep track of the exchanged items either, considering paperwork is filled out detailing exactly that. Is it laziness? Or just a way of trying to limit the number of people returning goods?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday, my darling. I hope you have a fabulous day, and enjoy every minute of it.

(Taken last night at my stepbrother's 30th (80's themed). Happy Birtday, D!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Side Effects May Include:

Went to see the new Star Trek movie, and I thought it was great. It was a little weird seeing someone I went to school with in a minor-but-important role in it, but apart from that, fantastic.

But it did have one draw back. I had this song stuck in my head last night as I tried to get to sleep:

Better than counting sheep, that's for damned sure!

Friday, May 08, 2009

You get a badge and a membership card, as well.

I read with interest the latest Andrew Bolt article, regarding the scandal surrounding Miss California USA Carrie Prejean.

Firstly, Bolt claims he was urged to join "The Left" as a boy.

Um, Andrew? You are aware "The Left" isn't a club, aren't you? That you can't actually join it? The Left and Right divide is quite often nothing more than a convenient label when you're trying to pigeon-hole someone.

Then Bolt can't understand why Perez Hilton is asked to judge:

"Prejean last month competed in the Miss USA final, where she was inexplicably asked by a judge, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, what she thought of gay marriage.

Hilton, not incidentally, is dye-my-hair-blue gay, but such is the official tolerance of these times that he was naturally asked to judge a pick-a-chick show for hetero fantasists. "

Dye-my-hair-blue gay? What the hell? I've known many people with blue hair, and many who identify as gay, and I can't say I've ever seen a cross-over.

It might be a pick-a-chick show, Andrew, but it also has a very large gay following, and Perez Hilton is - just like everyone else in the world - not just his sexuality. There's always a celebrity judge. That's he's gay has three-fourths of fuck all to do with it. Are we excluding women from judging as well? Is the most important qualification in judging a beauty pageant whether you want to have sex with the contestants?

Next, the point where I agree:

"Indeed, even President Barack Obama - a hero of the Left who has "inspired millions", according to this same Hilton - said before the election that he was against gay marriage, too, because "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman".

Just what Prejean said."

That's correct. And we didn't see Perez Hilton come out before the election and declare Obama a "Dumb Bitch" or anything similar for expressing that opinion. But Prejean was taking part in a beauty pageant, so the gags and condemnation came thick and fast.

"Yet the punishment of Prejean had barely begun. Organisers of Miss California issued a statement saying they were "saddened" by her response to the judge's direct question because "religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss California family".

They then cattily announced that not only did Prejean have breast implants, but the pageant had paid for them."

If religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss California family, why was she asked the question? And what would the organisers (or in fact, the public), have had her do? Lie? And what, apart from demonising her further and giving the public and certain commentators more fuel for their pyre, does who paid for her implants have to do with anything?

"I said that feminists, whatever their politics, should have denounced this savage and sexist put-down of a woman for merely having expressed a personal opinion, particularly when that same opinion is excused when expressed by a man that's now the President."

To be honest, I agree with that. Not that Andrew Bolt should be telling feminists what to do - particularly when he's usually so scathing of them - but why are we okay with a woman being attacked about her appearance, her breast implants, her hair colour, only when she disagrees with our point of view? When by-and-large, Obama got through saying the same thing with nary a backward glance?

Next, Andrew points out that the pageant organisers are considering stripping Prejean of her Miss California crown:

"Now they're even checking if they can take away her Miss California crown, on the pretext she broke pageant rules by posing topless at 17 - even though she'd merely auditioned for Victoria's Secret with her back to the camera and an arm shielding her breasts."

Aaand, this is where we cease to agree. Firstly, there are many precendents for stripping beauty pageant winners of their crown for similar rule-breaking, and contenstants are specifically asked on their application if they've ever had nude, or partially nude photographs taken of them. Prejean didn't declare the photograph.

That could have been a legitimate error - not seeing a topless shot that shows nothing as partially nude - or it could have been a deliberate oversight. I don't know, so I'm not going to judge that.

Secondly, Andrew was up in arms in April of last year with Vanity Fair "exploiting" a then-fifteen Miley Cyrus.

Let's compare the pair, shall we?



There's two years difference between them, granted, but in Miley's shot, you see nothing but her back. Prejean's shot, particularly the full length shot where all she's wearing is a pair of boy-cut panties, is far more provactive.

Wherefore your indignation at adolescents and their sexualisation, Andrew?

Personally, I see nothing wrong with either shot, but that's my personal opinion. Nor do I see why with Miley, Bolt had an issue, but with Prejean he's donned his armour and he's galloping around on his white horse rushing to her defence.

Then we move on to Sarah Palin, and the media's treatment of her:

"No slur was too outrageous or false to be flung in Palin's face by writers who'd swear blind they were warriors against intolerance, sexism and snobbery.

Cult filmmaker Michael Moore even claimed Palin's Down syndrome baby, Trig, was actually the son of her eldest daughter, and prominent gay campaigner and writer Andrew Sullivan demanded to see the birth records of a boy the Huffington Post mocked as "the runt of the litter" and the editor of Australia's far-Left Crikey website unforgivably called "a mongrel".

A few things. Calling Trig a "mongrel" was absolutely unforgivable. Problem is, Andrew gets it wrong when he says the Editor of Crikey was the one who called Trig a Mongrel, He didn't. It was reader submitted. Still unforgivable, and should have been picked up. Considering it was first short-listed and then made it on to a poll, there were at least two opportunities to do so, and that it wasn't is pretty unbelievable.

Michael Moore is an idiot for taking that rumour (Anyone remember where that started?) at face value and not investigating it properly before making public comment on it.

Additionally, I lose a little bit of the sympathy I have for Palin - and I do have sympathy for the way she was treated by the media - when she herself uses her baby to further her Pro-life, anti-choice stance. It's distasteful to thrust your infant son into the media spotlight like that.

"Even Palin's pregnant daughter, just 17, was held up and mocked as a symbol of working-class depravity."

Here's another case where Palin loses my sympathy a bit. She was more than happy to use her daughters circumstances as a political point-scoring tool, but not so happy when others did the same. And I do not agree with - or defend - anyone who calls Sarah Palin's daughter a "slut", but when you preach an abstinance-only stance and your 17-year old, unmarried daughter gets knocked up, it kind of takes something away from your message, know what I'm saying?

Bristol Palin was not held up as a symbol of "working-class depravity", she was held up as an example of Abstinence-only sex-education doing what it does best - NOT WORKING.

Of Pauline Hanson, Bolt has this to say:

"This year she was falsely assumed by some papers to be just the trash who'd have posed for porn pictures, too, and deserved to have those fake pictures run without proper checking."

Andrew, your own paper was amongst those "some". Are you now claiming that News Limited is a Leftist organisation? Or that the editor who let this one through was? Or are you just trying not to piss off your bosses by mentioning that the organisation you write for was one of those who ran the story without the appropriate checking?

Basically, I have two issues with this whole Prejean thing. Firstly, when are we going to stop insisting that women (and men, for that matter) who are in the public eye are perfect? No-one is perfect. Teens go out and have pre-marital sex. Young women let their partners take photographs of them in compromising positions. Mothers sometimes DON'T have total control over what their children do. That doesn't make them bad people.

Personally, I don't agree with either Palin's policies, or Prejeans gay marriage stance. But that doesn't give me, or anyone else, the license to start picking Prejean apart on the basis of her appearance. Or her boob job. Or her blonde hair. Or even the fact that she's taking part in a pageant. It doesn't give anyone the right to pick Palin apart on the basis of her Downs Syndrome child, her pregnant daughter or the amount the McCain campaign spent on her wardrobe.

The fact that she also broke pageant rules by appearing on behalf of NOM, an anti-gay pro-fear organisation (Also, incidentally, against the rules), does piss me off a bit, but everyone is entitled to align themselves with whomever they chose. Just because I think NOM are a bunch of lying crazies with the worst weather predicting capabilities in the world doesn't mean Prejean shouldn't sully her name by her association with them. If that's how she wants to roll, that's fine.

Basically, what I'm asking for is that people take on Prejeans arguments and prejudices on their own merit. If what she's saying is so wrong (And it's my personal opinion that it is), then the counter-arguments will stand up on their own measure. There's no reason to be bringing blonde, boobs or brains into it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

King of the Castle

Max, as kittehs are want to do, grows apace.

From this, in February:

To this, taken yesterday:

He's no longer entirely kitten, only, as I call him now, Kittenish. And you can see the handsome boy he's going to be. His marks are certainly darker.

And, as you can see in this photo, he thinks he's King of the Castle:

And Polly (Or Poll-Poll, as I call her), continues to be her pretty self:

Polly was keeping me company last week when I was sick and holed up on the couch. She's a total sweetie like that.

Speaking of things that are growing apace, I'm growing my hair. Basically, I chopped it off back to this last year:

And decided that, contrary to how it looked, it wasn't actually any easier to handle.

So I've been growing it in the last two months. This is a late March photo:

It's longer at the sides, as you can see, and much longer at the back since I went hack-happy in mid-Jan and got the back cut fairly short.

And a bonus photo, just because it makes me laugh. Someone once told me I have a very animated face. Until I saw this photo, and the set it is a part of, I didn't quite undestand what they meant. Never let it be said that only the flattering ones get through:

**Differences in the size of photos due to only showing photos of those I have permission to**

Sunday, May 03, 2009

God a Collingwood supporter: Conclusive evidence found

Bloody God.

First McVeigh and Welsh, then Lucas falls into a horrible, horrible rut, then Lloyd falls apart. Now Fletcher injures himself in his 300th game?

Damn you!

**Edit** Turns out I can't spell Collingwood. Was originally Collingwod in the title. Stoopid.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

About time! (Good luck, Neil)

Finally, we're getting some coverage of Neil Robertson, who has been in the top 16 ranking positions for Snooker for the last three years.

Robertson got in the hard way. After earning an entry to the Pro tour once and losing his spot due to not earning enough points to stay on, he won the Under 21 Championship to earn a Wildcard spot and has gone from strengh to strength.

Neil deserves all the support and coverage he gets. He's worked bloody hard to get where he is - I've seen him practising many an hour and know how much focus he gives his craft - and how long he's worked to get where he is.

Good luck, Neil, and keep on him, Australian media outlets.

**Edited to Add**

Neil's site is here.