be careful what you wish for

Tonight is beautiful.

The light is golden on the houses opposite mine.

The air is cool.

There are drifts of leaves piled up against my front door, in a prematurely autumnal sigh. The heatwave caused the drifts.

I want a lot from life. And, in moments, I can’t see why I can’t have it. I wholeheartedly embrace doorways and segues and laneways.

Some moments, I feel as though I do some sort of rapid zoom out and the things seem big and a little more vague and unpin-downable.

It pays not to look at the BIG. And just to concentrate on the now.

I roasted a small chicken on Monday night. I bought it at the slowfood market down the road at the Abbotsford Convent. I could taste the organic free-range difference.

Really. 

It had a very small wishbone. And it made me think of that saying, ‘be careful what you wish for’. It’s a strange saying. I guess it means that sometimes what we wish for is not always what we need and when we get what we wish for, the playing out of that can end up being not entirely what we imagined.

And yet, if we are intentional in what we pose to life, the universe, our imaginations, ourselves, well then we will undoubtedly get what we are wishing for. And perhaps what we need.

Sometimes it is hard to ask for what we want. Because we don’t know how to ask. Or because we worry that, in asking, we expose ourselves to others and become vulnerable. Or because we don’t know what we actually want.

I think we do know what we want. We are just sometimes looking at something else and get distracted. Or we mistrust our wanting.

This all sounds as though I am being heavy and attempting profound and specific statements.

And yet.

It’s just what came to me tonight. When I opened my front door to put the rubbish in the bin. And I noticed the golden light on the houses opposite. And my feet crunched on the leaves at my door.

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ooh là là

Third time a charm. I think that’s what the saying is. Certainly the third French dinner at Three Bags Full was full of all that is charming.

Having been to the first dégustation in November and loved it, I was excited to see what the January offering would be. I was not disappointed.

Fabien and Nico describe their food as simple. Initially, I raised my eyebrows (perhaps, or hopefully, in a Parisian sort of way) at this description, as their talent with flavour and the execution of the food is exceptional. However, while these are not dishes we might whip up at home and eat on the couch while watching the tennis, they do celebrate simple, clean flavours and the chefs have not over-complicated their dishes with an over-indulgent list of fancy ingredients.

Considerate presentation creates a feeling of an event and Fabien and Nico do this well, with a variety of canvases for their thoughtfully composed food: a cricket bat, a stone, a bingo card to name a few.

Primed with a superb apéritif of rosé pamplemousse: beautifully refreshing sourness of grapefruit syrup with the playfulness of a summery rosé behind it, I was ready for the appetisers, three tiny morsels of exquisite flavour.

George V Cake, named for the Parisian hotel off  the Champs-Elysées they both worked in before coming to Melbourne, was a savoury cake of rocket, gruyère and field mushroom. Similar to a frittata, it was warm and nutty with light, buttery flavours and a delicate texture.

Guimauve is French for marshmallow and parmesan guimauve was a savoury rendition made from vegetable stock infused with parmesan and a natural gelatine sourced from seaweed, coated in a dehydrated olive and almond meal crumb. Exquisitely light with a salty crunch.

Lightly cooked cured salmon rolled in a red shiso leaf (an Asian herb from the mint family) served with mango dressing and perched on a small rock was light and fresh.

An amuse-bouche was next.  Chilled soup made from cantaloupe and lemon myrtle, an Australian native herb similar to lemon mint, topped with a capsicum and espelette (south western French spice) mousse and garnished with a chorizo brunoise, which for those not well-versed in their French cooking vocabulary, refers to the way the chorizo was cut, that is, into tiny flavoursome sprinkles. Fruity and spicy and salty, the mousse was the most smooth and velvety mousse I have ever tasted and provided the perfect contrast to the almost earthiness of the sweet, but not too sweet, cantaloupe.

The entrée was tempura-battered yellow fin tuna jauntily set on a bed of courgette, olives and confit tomatoes and dressed with escabèche, a French pickling marinade with a slightly aniseed flavour. This work of art was accompanied by a tomato sorbet. The harmony of crunchy and rich and frozen and tangy was beautiful.

The main course, or plat de résistancefor those who like to be Frenchy about it, was perfectly roasted veal rump on the most incredible eggplant, parmesan and sparkling white wine purée, served with a shaved fennel and mizuna salad.

To finish, lemon curd and basil ravioli with strawberries pan-fried in pineau de Charente with fresh peaches and a strawberry and peach sauce poured over the top at the table. A buttery sable Breton biscuit hidden amongst the fruit, it was like eating summer. Playful. Tart. Fruity sunshine.

My hosts for the evening were warm and welcoming. Nico and Fabien brought many of the dishes to the tables to explain what was in them and the ideas behind them. And they did it in a completely relaxed way as though they hadn’t just been creating magic in the kitchen only seconds before.

When a mouthful of food transports you somewhere else, as in, out of your body and into a whole other realm, it is a very good thing. I spent most of the meal floating somewhere above the table with a ridiculous grin. 

 

gracious wishes of the new spring

Most cultures have a significant festival which marks a new start; be that a new start to the year, a new season, a new moon. And all of them have a reflective aspect to them, a salute and shedding of the old and a striking out with purpose and good intent into the new.

Our ‘New Year’ celebrations happen at different times of the year for different cultures. Because not all years are the same, which western civilisation in all its egocentricity does not always acknowledge. 

The Lunar New Year festival, is the most important Vietnamese and Chinese holiday. 

It is traditionally the celebration of the beginning of spring as well as the New Year and usually falls between the months of January and February. 

In Melbourne, there are several Chinese New Year festivals over the January/February period and often various Asian cultures are combined in the celebrations. 

Last weekend Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival, was celebrated on Victoria Street in Richmond/Abbotsford. ie. just down the road from me.

Victoria Street was filled with food stalls, massage tents, singing, and people trying to make as much noise as possible using firecrackers, drums, bells, gongs, and anything which will ward off evil spirits. I’m not sure everyone knew that was the intent, but the crowds of people, whether they were there for the sugar cane juice, the fried calamari or the coconut cakes were operating collectively to herald the new season.

There was also the traditional parade with dancers wearing different masks, and some hidden under the guise of what is known as the Mua Lan or Lion Dancing. The Lan is an animal between a lion and a dragon, and is the symbol of strength in the Vietnamese culture that is used to scare away evil spirits

In the Chinese calendar, this is the year of the Horse, or more precisely, the wooden horse.

I have borrowed Toronto based Feng Shui master, Paul Ng’s predictions for the Year of the Horse. You can see these below the photos if you are interested.

I am a pig. Sigh.

Horse: Born in 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918
The year of the horse means there is leadership associated with this sign this year, so your authority may increase, according to Ng. However, the impulsive behaviour of the horse can lead to recklessness, so stay away from gambling and speculations.
Work: Those in positions of authority will do well, but chancy businesses, like the stock market, are a bad idea.Wealth: Don’t expect to make a lot money, and value the income you have.Relationships: There won’t be a lot of excitement in your love life, and if you are engaged, you might want to delay your marriage until next year.Health: Watch your health this year — you’ll get tired and can catch bugs easily. Make exercise and rest a priority.

Sheep or Goat: Born in 2003, 1991, 1979 ,1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919
This is a “connecting” year for you. Take advantage of your good relationships with other people, particularly for male sheep.
Work: Those who work in cars, analysis, public relations, entertainment, surgery, butchery and police work should expect to do well this year.Wealth: Expect stability, with a slight increase in money this year. Simplify your investment portfolio.Relationships: You’ll be quite beloved this year, so watch out for love triangles. If you’re married, make sure to demonstrate love toward your spouse.Health: You are healthier this year than last, but be careful of small accidents. Drive carefully and take your time when working.
 
Monkey: Born in 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920
It’s important for the monkey to spread themselves around in order to gain success this year, either travelling or moving.
Work: Industries that are good for the monkey to work in include sales and marketing, law, education, travel and the financial world — things based around movement.Wealth: Money is looking good for monkeys, with the potential for promotions and investments reaping rewards.Relationships: If you’re single, this won’t be a great year for you, but those who are married can feel confident in the endurance of their union.Health: Your overall health is good. Be careful of accidents such as from driving.

Rooster: Born in 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921
This is gearing up to be a big year for roosters, according to Ng. There are many opportunities for your work or business, but your personal relationships might be volatile. Rely on your friends for help.
Work: You do better outside an office than inside, in jobs like police work, the law and politics.Wealth: Be careful with your money this year — don’t gamble.Relationships: There’s a lot of love headed your way, but watch out for fights in your relationships. Take a step before continuing to argue, or they could end.Health: Small accidents could be an issue for you, and pay attention to your heart and lungs.

Dog: Born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922
This should be a lucky year for dogs, notes Ng. Everything from work and investments to relationships are on the upswing.
Work: Work within your natural creativity in the arts, music, architecture or writing. Even the stage is great for you.Wealth: Use instincts, rather than logic, when making investments — it will help keep your money stable.Relationships: Consider proposing if you haven’t already, and if you are married, demonstrate more love toward your spouse. Be humble when interacting with others.Health: Enjoy your good health, but watch out for overeating.

Boar or Pig: Born in 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923
Get ready for a great year — you’ll make friends, have breakthroughs in business and be surrounded by help. However, this all will need some effort at the beginning.
Work: Great industries for you include metaphysics, religion, public relations, human resources, media and politics.Wealth: Money will be stable for you this year, but don’t gamble or invest in speculative markets.Relationships: Nothing exciting, but nothing bad here either, as your relationships stay flat but stable.Health: You will feel much better than last year, and even if you get sick, you’ll recover quickly.

Rat: Born in 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924
The rat is in opposition this year, so this could mean losing some money this year. However, the rat sign is generally lucky, which can help keep you out of trouble.
Work: Show business is great for you, including things like pageants and the arts. Be sure to stay away from gambling.Wealth: Ng holds to the old saying, “If you are not greedy, you will not lose money.”Relationships: Try to be quiet and patient this year, as otherwise, many of your relationships will consist of arguing.Health: Areas of the body to watch for include the lungs, kidney and waist. Get lots of exercise and rest.

Ox: Born in 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925
The ox is in conflict with the horse, which could mean arguments with other people this year, says Ng. However, the ox is a sign of authority, potentially signifying promotions.
Work: Good environments include politics, the army or police work, where a promotion might be waiting for you. But watch out for enemies.Wealth: Don’t expect a lot of money, but your income is proportional to your authority level.Relationships: There isn’t a lot of romance expected for you this year. Be patient with the people in your life.Health: Your health is fine, just watch out for small accidents.
 
Tiger: Born in 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926
This should be a good year for tigers, according to Ng. It could bring luck, joy, romance, spirituality and learning opportunities.
Work: You do well in business that have to do with blood, such as surgery and the army, as well as teaching and philosophy. If you are self-employed, expand your business.Wealth: This should be a year of stability for your money.Relationships: Romance is in the stars. If the opportunity is there, consider marriage. If you’re married, watch out for temptations from extramarital affairs.Health: Watch out for sharp objects, and be careful of accidents and bleeding.

Rabbit: Born 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927
This will be a year of romance and controversy, with lots of happiness everywhere for rabbits. Just be careful about your non-romantic relationships with others.
Work: Entertainment, speaking and sales roles all suit you — mental work is better for you than physical.Wealth: This year, the more you work, the more you make.Relationships: Romantic entanglements await, but watch out for love triangles.Health: There’s a mild concern about sharp objects.

Dragon: Born in 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928
This should be a good year for dragons, as horses and dragons together have great energy. Health and wealth abound.
Work: Working with both blood (surgery, butchery, soldiers) as well as spirituality (philosopher, priest) are in your favour.Wealth: You would do well in travel or trading businesses. Invest based on your intuition.Relationships: It does not look like a particularly romantic year for dragons.Health: You have a general tendency to get into accidents, but other than that, you’ll be very health.
 
Snake: Born in 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929
Last year was a year of conflict for the snake, says Ng, so this year is a money year.
Work: Keeping in line with your money year, businesses that are good for you include finance and the stock market. Entertainment can also work for you.Wealth: Bring in the dollars! Both your regular and speculative incomes are looking good.Relationships: Think about marriage, if you haven’t already. And be sure to express love toward your spouse if you’re already hitched.Health: Keep your immune system boosted, as you’ll be prone to colds and the flu. Exercise and rest plenty.

Georgetown

I liked Georgetown.

Georgetown was around before the establishment of the federal district and the City of Washington. In fact, people were doing their thing in Georgetown 40 years before the Washingtonians were setting wine-drinking records.

A considerable number of notable people have passed through Georgetown: Thomas Jefferson lived there, as did John F. Kennedy. Francis Scott Key of http://lyttelfishbigpond.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/a-nest-of-pirates.html fame – and if you haven’t read a nest of pirates, of national anthem fame – lived there, and Alexander Graham Bell was doing all kinds of fancy things with phones in Georgetown back in the day. 

I could feel the inspiration coursing through my veins, just by walking around.

You might even recognise Georgetown as the scene of quite a few films: The Exorcist, St. Elmo’s Fire, Trule Lies and The Wedding Crashers are just a few cinematic heavies to have appreciated Georgetown.

It was particularly cold on the day I walked around Georgetown. But I loved it just the same.

The Nation’s Capitol

The following insights about Washington are not my own. But when I read them, I did that sort of nodding head type of movement and I may have even audibly said, wow, ok, that’s interesting. Even though I am home alone. Although I will just clarify a couple of things which I had to look up. Now I’m not in any way implying that you don’t know what these things are, I am just humbly stating for the record that I didn’t know what an Arlington Lady was, nor did I know what a POTUS was and  have to tell you, I had really gone down the wrong track on that one…and also, for those countries other than Liberia, Myanmar and the US, 39 inches is 99 centimetres. In the modern world. Where we have The Metric System. Just saying…

Anyway.

The Arlington Ladies came about in 1948 when Chief of Staff of the United States Airforce Hoyt Vandenberg and his wife, Gladys were on one of their walks through the cemetery (??!!) and saw young service members being buried without any of their family members present. The lack of anyone honouring these young men prompted Gladys to form a group of members of the Officers’ Wives Club to attend all Air Force Funerals. Arlington ladies must be wives or widows of men in the Army, Airforce or Navy.

And a POTUS…not that hard really….a President Of The United States. Why didn’t I get that? 

1. Working on the Hill

In Washington DC there is 1 lawyer for every 19 residents in DC and 74 lobbyists for each United States Senator.

2. Work Hard, Play Hard

More wine is consumed per person in Washington DC than any state in the United States.

3. Honoring the Fallen

Every time a soldier is buried, an Arlington Lady is present. There are about 65 Arlington Ladies, and since 1973, the Arlington Ladies have ensured that no Soldier is ever buried alone.

4. A Library of Epic Proportions

The Library of Congress, the biggest library in the country, contains 535 miles of bookshelves. In the Reading Room alone there are 45,000 reference books.

5. Mickey Mouse For President

Washington DC’s song was written by a former Mousketeer in 1951.

6. Rainy Days

DC averages 39 inches of rainfall a year — more than Seattle!

7. Presidential Pets

Thomas Jefferson had a pet mockingbird that flew freely around the White House unless Jefferson had guests.

8. Schooling the POTUS

Eight U.S. presidents did not attend college.


 


A nest of pirates

Baltimore is old. Ergo, very historical. Although not everything that is old is necessarily historical. I once had a very old French teacher with a large grey bun and she would peer at the class over the top of her glasses down her thin, beak-like nose, and tell us that she was watching us like “a big blue fly”. I don’t even know what that means. But it certainly wasn’t historical.

Baltimore, on the other hand, is.

What’s so historical about Baltimore, you ask. Well let me tell you. 

The town of Baltimore was founded in 1729, although the Port of Baltimore was established much earlier in 1706 for tobacco trade reasons, which, from what I hear, is always going to be a compelling reason. 

Tobacco and sugar. That’s what empires are built on. And Baltimore was no stranger to the perks of sugar. The port and town grew swiftly in the 18th century as a granary for sugar producing colonies in the Caribbean and the profit from sugar encouraged the cultivation of cane and the importation of food.

Baltimore played a pivotal role in the events surrounding the American Revolution. City leaders encouraged the city to join the resistance to British taxes and merchants refused to trade with Britain. The Second Continental Congress met in Baltimore from December 1776 until February 1777, so Baltimore was actually the capital of the United States for those three months.

It was the activity which happened in the early part of the 19th century around Fells Point, the waterfront port area, which earned the city the intriguing name, ‘a nest of pirates’. Baltimore was famous for its fast schooners which moved cargo quickly around the bay and allowed international trade to flourish. But when America stood up to Britain in the War of 1812, many Baltimore schooners began seizing cargo instead of delivering it. 

Now, you have to understand, the British Navy was a superpower. It was the largest navy in the world, with several hundred warships. As opposed to the American Navy which had about 20. The government used the schooners to interrupt the supply line by attacking the British merchant fleet. Strictly speaking, it was privateering, but the line between privateering and piracy is often a blurry one. When the British attacked Baltimore in 1814, they were after the privateers, their schooners and their shipyards. The British were unsuccessful in their attempts when the United States forces in some sort of cinematic underdog move valiantly defended the harbour.

And in particularly pivotal historical-ness, Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer, was on board one of the British ships negotiating the release of an American prisoner at the time of the battle. When he saw the American flag dancing in the breeze on the morning after the battle, he was moved to write a poem recounting the attack, which he named The Star-Spangled Banner. This poem was set to a tune by a British composer, funnily enough, and in 1931 became the national anthem of the United States.

I said I’d tell you.

 


Angry Wade’s

I’m not much of a tourist. While I did have a New York list and I wanted ticks next to the items I had decided were things to see, or do, or eat, what I like about going somewhere I have never been before is getting behind the face of a city or area and just feeling it doing its thing. I like just walking around and being surprised. I like talking to people.

Enter Angry Wade’s. Angry Wade’s is in Brooklyn. It’s an unassuming pub on the corner, a warm place for a drink when your hands, feet and cheeks have once again got too cold to continue walking in the Polar Vortex.

On arrival, the popcorn-scented bar was practically empty. And then the locals started arriving. And the locals play pool. Very seriously. I’m talking APA pool here. So the Pool Rules board is not to be taken lightly. But that didn’t stop them from being friendly and welcoming and the perfect place to be that afternoon.



Lost in Translation

I FAILED the translation accreditation exam I sat in November. Ergo, I am a loser.

I have valiantly taken on board the internet posts about the 20% pass rate and the near impossibility of passing the first time round despite people having worked overseas in translation work blah blah blah. But the fact remains. I failed.

On a brighter note, I have discovered that Rittey is a popular first name in the Maldives.


Yes. A constructive afternoon in the purest sense of the term. 

I am sitting in my living room with the fan on and the curtains drawn. Because it is forty three crazy degrees outside. Which, when I WAS outside, made me think of when you open the oven door and there is a whoosh (brilliant onomatopoeic command of the English language) of hot air which makes you think your eyebrows or perhaps more startlingly, one eyebrow has been singed and there is an oppressive feeling of breathlessness. I have exchanged Polar Vortex for Solar Vortex.

My dinner guests luckily don’t arrive until 7pm. Because, in my depressive loser state, I have drunk 2 beers and procrastinated.


I’m not depressed really. I’ve just been to New York living life like it’s golden. So I can’t be depressed. Just bruised ego.
I have had two beers though. Because it’s the holidays and they were really cold and other very legitimate reasons for sitting around alone drinking beer.

And I have poached chicken and made Vietnamese dressing. Oh, and cooked prawns. So it’s not all sitting round looking my name up on Google.
Good grief.
I AM a loser.
Lucky I have a day job.