Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ice Palaces and Nicoise Salad

Whilst I loathe any family member being away from me, I have to confess that if my husband is away for work, I get just a tiny bit excited about a night at home alone.   It is not that I can't do what I want with him around but I do love the pottering around in silence.  Eating by candlelight by myself. Listening to the sound of the rain if it comes.  Watching a little bit of rubbish television whilst cooking dinner.   Curling up on the couch with Pepper the cat purring happily on my lap.   

He is a non tuna or salmon eater (unless raw), so as if spiting him, I always cook myself some salmon or tuna for dinner.

Tonight, here it is, a tuna nicoise salady thing.  

This is very easy.   So easy it does not even require a recipe but know this:  for perfectly cooked tuna and salmon, put a bit of oil on, pop on a tray, put in a cold oven and turn to 120 degrees. It will be cooked to perfectly medium rare in 25 minutes.  

Tomorrow night will be a salmony rice thing. 

And then, it is important to watch something he wouldn't be interested in watching for the millionth time.  Tonight it is:

I would love to have wallpaper in this image -  I love the combination of yellow with the birch trees.  It still looks modern all these years later.    The truth is I will not get through the whole film in one night.  I am a bit tired at the moment for that.  But even half is better than nothing. 

And of course it has one of my all time favourite scenes:

Did you know this ice covered house was filmed in the heat in Spain? It is not snow at all but white marble dust.  

It's pretty cold here at the moment, and in fact I have a fur hat just like Julie Christie's.  It is made of possum fur though (I bought it in New Zealand where the enlightened government allows the use of possum fur in clothes) not mink or whatever hers is and so is more ethically acceptable.

And of course, I pyjama up, with face mask on.  At the moment, it is this: 

This stuff is brilliant.  6 sachets for $30, and I use only half a sachet at a time.   Such great value and it gives my skin that tingling feeling which is compulsory if you want to feel it is doing any good.  

Weird Chemo Side Effect No 5: my hair is growing back.  Again.  This time, am not counting on it.  I just ignore the way it looks and tell myself I will worry about it in July.  Oh and I have little pins and needles in my fingertips. This is called neuropathy and is quite normal. In fact my oncologist said it is good if I have it it means I am responding to chemo.     Sometimes I think he says things just to cheer me up.  I dread to think what he must say to his really sad patients.     Mostly we seem to shoot the breeze about books and the latest Herceptin research coming out of New York.  I find it hard to talk about myself all the time.   Side effects and symptoms.  So boring and repetitive. I feel like I am complaining.  Weird but there you have it.    

Monday, May 16, 2011

Good Things Autumn 2011: Burmese Statues and Gwyneth Paltrow

The little things are infinitely the most important (Arthur Conan Doyle). 

In the face of bone aching fatigue last week, I have found lots of pleasure in tiny achievements.

Like this embroidered cushion I found at Safari.  In the background is my fiddle leaf fig tree, which almost died when I was in hospital in January because no one thought to give it the thimble full of water it needs to survive each week. I am slowly nursing it back to health but it is still too straggly.  Such a shame because it had a beautiful full shape when I first bought it.  

Pepper the Burmese cat managed to knock over this (Burmese!) statue we have in the front hall.  Of course the Burmese army had already taken care of her head, feet and arms (the statue I mean not the cat).   But her leg broke in two. I fixed it with Kwik Grip or something equally unmentionable.  I know that is not the correct way to mend supposedly ancient Asian artefacts but there you have it.  You can barely see the mend line. 

I don't mind being called Princess Jane by my daughter.  Note the little copyright symbol. It is not easy to explain the concept of copyright to an 8 year old but I think we got there.   And now her intellectual property is protected!

Oh Scanlan & Theodore how I love thee.  And your grey cardigans.  No I don't need another to add to the collection.  But it called my name and its siren song was answered.

Australian candle with Liberty-esque wrapping.   It's true I bought it mostly for the presentation.  Very superficial I know.  It smells nice but I still think Americans (think Tocca, Voluspa) make the best candles. 

Can we talk about Gwyneth?  I almost felt a bit ashamed buying this book and my husband teased me for a good five minutes.   I am completely absolutely anti celebrity chefs. I don't even watch Master Chef which is practically a crime in Australia.  I have no celebrity chef books. I loathe Gordon Ramsay.  I liked Nigella when she was thin and wrote for UK Vogue in the early 1990s.   I still love her books but only because I was an early adopter and she writes so well.

And Gwyneth herself is so multi talented, with her unusually named children, not very good interior design taste (at least that is what I think - check out these pics of her NY apartment), very nice Hampton's kitchen, okay singing voice, macrobiotic passions, kind of saccharine website and wardrobe to die for.  She's so earnest.   And that can be annoying.

But this book really resonated with me.    There are a few reasons for this. 

First, she speaks authentically of her love for her father (who died several years ago from complications of throat cancer) and her naive belief that he could be cured if he changed his diet.  (As an aside I have thought many times since my diagnosis whether my diet could be a cause. I think I eat pretty really well but according to the evil Internet breast cancer can be caused by all kinds of things ranging from milk to coffee.  It is of course so natural to blame yourself for these things (was it stress? was it the pollution from the street? what about deodorant? Could that be the cause?) and diet is always high up the list.)  Her father taught her to love to cook and eat.  He loved American foods: burgers, pancakes, hotdogs et al, and some of his recipes find their way into the book.  

Second, she really wants her children to eat well, cook with her, and to share magical times around the table.  This too is what I want for my children.  And I am at the stage where my son won't eat green or slightly green tinged things and my daughter won't eat most butter or dairy products.  So I am desperate to cook them things they will eat with enthusiasm.  And this notion of hiding the good items in what you cook for children is weird.   I want them to know what they are eating and come to love it naturally. 

Third, this book made me want to cook and eat.   Surely there can be no higher recommendation? These days of course we can get any recipe we want for free.  So why buy a cookbook?  I look for a way of viewing cooking which I can relate to.  Presumably if you enjoy cooking one or two of a favourite cookbook writer's recipes, you will enjoy cooking more.  That is why our Marcella Hazan cookbooks are falling apart through overuse.

Over the weekend I cooked the following from this book: kale crisps, cheesy stuffed burgers, duck burgers, macaroni cheese (which she makes with mascarpone and Parmesan), oatmeal and raisin cookies (no butter and no eggs), white bean soup with cheesey croutons, zucchini with pasta and berries with caramelised cream.   All the recipes worked well, and the children loved them all.

This is not a macrobiotic book by any means. There is a lot of cheese and dairy and eggs and pancakes.  There are also some nice zen meals like soba noodles and savoury rice bowl. 

Finally, I have ticked a few book purchases off the to-do list.

Two books for my husband's birthday which always must be history although unfortunately Mr Fitzsimons is a journalist which may make the history a bit 'chatty and accessible' which my husband does not like at all.   Oh well.

And the new Geraldine Brooks book set in Martha's Vineyard in the 1660s.  If you have not already, please read her earlier books - Year of Wonders (set in plague torn England) and March (Dr March from Little Women's experiences in the Civil War) are both completely brilliant. 

And truly finally, some toast with avocado, fetta, mint and olive oil has been giving me much comfort lately.

I am so boring that I realise as typing this that I have already done an avocado on toast post.  But I love it so much. 

In fact I think I could easily find enough posts to run a 'Things on Toast' blog for a good couple of years (other ideas for alternative blogs - Dollshouses (but that might attract some weirdos) or Celebrities with No Interior Design Taste).

Weird Chemo Side Effect No 4: my eyebrows are definitely thinning out. I hope to hold on to them for the next 6 weeks.  I have probably in the past said something stupid like I will stay in my bedroom for the duration if I lose my eyebrows.  However, now it is potentially happening, I just don't care.  On the bright side, it makes me look just that little bit more like Gwyneth. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Accidental Bedhead

Apparently mattresses only last 10 years... so this week we bought another, as ours was 13 years old.

And something odd happened yesterday when it was delivered.  We received a lovely mattress which is truly like sleeping in a very fluffy cloud.  But in addition, we received a large bed base, made of deep mocha suede, which is made to fit with the mattress.  

The invoice is confusing, our order is confusing, the extremely surly delivery man didn't want to talk about it, and the website of the multinational 6 star hotel which also sells beds did not explain exactly what it is we ordered or didn't order.    

So we truly cannot work out whether our new bed base is a mistake, or a kind gift.   I am inclined to the latter, as I sort of deserve a kind gift.   (And it is nice to know there are people out there looking out for me even if it is a global corporation) 

What it does mean is that we need to decommission our bed, and find a bed head.   

As much as I like the drama of the padding, or the shaping, the truth is that I will end up with something plain and simple and dark blue, just like the rest of the room: 

Now I know you can DIY headboards, there are a million little step by steps out there on this.  But I have a confession.  My DIY stuff looks like crap.   So I think I will get a professional to do it.  I have found this place who makes them up to order.    Does anyone know of anywhere else which can do bedheads?   

Weird Chemo Side Effect No 3 - as if I didn't have enough ethico-legal dilemmas to deal with along the lines of should we return the accidentally delivered bed base, I have now discovered that my hair is falling out again, after a short respite where it grew a bit.   There is only one response to this: arrgggghhhh.  My new approach is to not look at my hair at all until this ludicrous and ocassionally surreal experience is over (on 20 June). 

(Images: (1) Pinterest (2) Pinterest (3) Elle Decor (4) Samantha Pymm (5) Canadian House and Home) 
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