Monday, 27 July 2009

Dashing Dan and Bella

Dashing Dan and Bella

I would like to introduce Lily's playdough creatures - 'Dashing Dan' and 'Bella'.

The buttons on the side are their cheeks, apparently.

I can't wait until she can control a pencil well enough to draw these things.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Thomas Pogge (on our culpability for poverty)

I find his reasoning so satisfying and so depressingly true:
I argue that current global institutional arrangements as codified in international law constitute a collective human rights violation of enormous proportions to which most of the world’s affluent are making uncompensated contributions.
Each day, some 50,000 human beings – mostly children, mostly female and mostly people of colour – die from starvation, diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, perinatal conditions and other poverty-related causes.”
This catastrophe was and is happening, foreseeably, under a global institutional order designed for the benefit of the affluent countries’ governments, corporations and citizens and of the poor countries’ political and military elites. There are feasible alternative designs of the global institutional order, feasible alternatives paths of globalization, under which this catastrophe would have been largely avoided. Even now severe poverty could be rapidly reduced through feasible reforms that would modify the more harmful features of this global order or mitigate their impact.
Full article here [PDF].

Saturday, 25 July 2009


We headed up to Sydney last Saturday morning to visit my Dad and Stepmother and to have a bit of a break. After being sick for over three weeks, I felt almost immediately better once we arrived up in Sydney. The moist, warm air (well, warm in comparison to Canberra) was fantastic - as was the relaxation that comes from having the small one completely focused on other people (her beloved grandparents) and having everything done for you by loving parents (cooking, cleaning, Lily-playing, etc)...

We went to the zoo to see the new baby elephant (!), caught the ferry to Darling Harbour and took Lily to the aquarium (the tickets were a gift from my brother and sister-in-law), read the paper, went for walks in the sun to the lovely local park, enjoyed being looked after and generally had a lovely time.

While we were up in Sydney we got some more detailed quotes on the passive solar house that we wanted to build and began to realise that the budget was slipping further and further out of our means. Although this was a little disappointing, we weren't too sad about it, the weather and the fun of Sydney was once again weaving its magic on our life plans.

To add to this, I also caught up with my supervisor and attended a great seminar at the law school, which I found really intellectually stimulating. Both of these things really made me crave more of that kind of contact and I began to think about the possibilities of life post-PhD.

In the end we realised that there really is no one perfect place that we need to end up or one perfect plan that we have to find. There are so many interesting places to live in this world and so many interesting things to do with ourselves in those places.

For now, however, we think that we might aim for Sydney.

I can't promise that this will still be the plan next month though. We roll with the punches around here and you really never know what life will throw at you next...

[As a classic example of this very point: this morning we went out to the Farmers' Markets, drank coffee and ate pain au chocolat, stocked up on lots of yummy local produce and then came home to a house bathed in sunlight. Canberra is pretty nice too.]

Friday, 17 July 2009

28 months

Dear Lily

On Tuesday you turned 28 months old.

This hasn't been the best of months really. I have been sick for most of it and Papa hasn't been well this last week either. To your credit, however, you have been extremely tolerant of our generally listless ways and have displayed a considerable knack for entertaining yourself.

Another development this month has been the dramatic increase in your appetite. You have never been a big eater. You have always preferred to graze rather than eating large meals. While this hasn't changed, the amount of food that you are eating over the course of a day took a dramatic turn upwards a few weeks ago and has been consistent ever since. I took this as my cue to cut back on the breastfeeding quite a lot and I have been really happy with the result. It is nice being able to take you out during the day and not being hassled to stop and feed you in random places all the time. I was getting tired of this and it has all but stopped now, which is great.

Your interest in food has also extended to the preparations, which has been fun. You are really getting into helping us cook and spend a considerable amount of time 'cooking' in your own kitchen as well. Playdough pizza has been quite a popular recipe.

What else?

You are finally drinking out of a cup without tipping the contents everywhere. Yay!

You are quite into re-enacting at the moment. A particular favourite for you is for us to re-enact scenes from Playschool.
"You be Simon and I'll be Karen," you say. "Oh, something's missing... It needs a tail." You will then attached some string or tissue paper the end of your 'model'. "Ah, that's better; a swishy tail." Then you will look at me, "That's right; it's a dog."
You have a peculiar habit of randomly turning to Papa or I and saying "Nice to meet you." I am not sure why, but it is quite cute.

Everything at the moment is "regular". For example, you wanted Papa's birthday cake to be a 'regular cake' (instead of the chocolate chimpanzee that you had initially thought of).

You are currently loving red capsicum, sushi, ice cream, miso soup, kelp salad, chocolate, eggs, broccoli, pasta, and vegemite toast. And last night you ate (and enjoyed) carrot for the first time ever.

Tomorrow morning we are off to Sydney for to spend a few days with your Grandparents. What with them, the animals, the activities and all the rest, you are pretty much guaranteed to have fun.


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Cross roads

Excuse the long absence, but illness paid a prolonged visit to our house and it hasn't been much fun.

However, something interesting did come out of my illness. It all started while I was lying on the couch on Friday watching a recorded episode of Grand Designs. The episode in question involved the construction of a passive solar house in Kent, a ridiculously massive passive solar house in Kent, but a lovely one nonetheless, and I realised why I have been so completely uninspired by our house hunting of late.

(image from daily mail)

You see, I grew up in a passive solar house and it was very comfortable. In contrast to my childhood home (one of many, I must add), most Canberra homes are built without regard to the climate. The orientation is determined by the street or just by sheer madness, as far as I can tell, and it is very rare that you will find a house with north-facing living areas. They are also constructed out of bad materials, have stupid/or no eaves, lack adequate insulation and are generally silly. As a result, they are freezing in winter and stupidly hot in Summer.

No wonder I was uninspired.

And so, on a whim I did a search for vacant land in the ACT and came across something that looked kind of interesting...

Then I did a search for environmentally friendly builders in Canberra and found a passive solar house design that I really liked...

And then I sat back and pondered my discoveries.

By the time Paul had come home I had convinced myself that I was being a little crazy. The land is not in the inner north (which is where we have been looking). In fact, it is really quite far away from town.

But Paul was keen. Quite keen.


And so we went out to look at the land on Saturday, and spend Sunday talking to various builders (for comparison quotes) who seemed to have no idea what a passive solar house is, and spent the next couple of days talking to some builders who do and to the developers about land dimensions, contours and site access, and... well we are still not quite sure where we are at.

It mostly comes down to budget now. It is far from clear that we can actually afford this little adventure.

However, if it turns out that we can, well... Things could become very interesting around here. Interesting and terrifying.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Spinach & Potato Tart and Veggie Rolls

This evening a baked a potato and spinach tart that I thought was really quite yummy, and I so I thought that I would share the recipe with you. I have to warn you though it isn't vegan. Sorry. (The recipe for the veggie rolls below is though, so just scroll down a little...) I kind of made it up as I went along, and it was probably a tiny bit dense, and so I am slightly amending what I did last time to reflect what I would do next time...

Spinach and Potato Tart (not vegan)

250g flour
125g non-dairy margarine
large pinch of salt
1 stalk of rosemary
1 egg, beaten
splash soy milk

1 large bunch of silverbeet, stalks removed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Potatoes, grated
3 large free-range, organic eggs
1/4 cup soy milk
50g creamy goat's cheese
50g goat's feta
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt & pepper to taste

Place the flour, margarine & salt in a food processor and pulse for 30 secs until crumbs form. Add the rosemary leaves, and pulse again briefly. Then add the egg and soymilk and pulse again until properly mixed together. Remove gently on to a floured surface and form into a ball without handle the mixture too much. Wrap in a clean recycled plastic bag and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat up your olive oil over a medium heat and fry the silverbeet (in batches as it wilts) for a few minutes. Leave it to cool.

Grease a tart tin. Roll your pastry flat and lay it carefully into your tart tin, pressing the corners in. Trim just above the top of the tin and put a few holes in the base with a fork. Put the whole thing back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven for 190C.

Beat the eggs, then add the soy milk and creamy goat's cheese and continue beating. Add the oregano and some salt & pepper (and mix through).

Squeeze the grated potato and spinach in batches in order to get most of the liquid out of them.

Get the pastry out of the fridge. Sprinkle the spinach and potato over the base evenly and then pour the egg mixture over the top. Even it out with the back of a soup spoon and then sprinkle crumbled feta over the top.

Place in the oven until slightly brown on top (about 20 minutes).

Since the oven was on, I thought that I should make something to fill the other shelf and Theresa's recent blog post about 'sausage' rolls came to mind. I didn't want to risk looking up the recipe (lest I lose Lily's attention - she was being a wonderful 'helper') and so I made up my own. (Also, since we aren't using onions & garlic, I knew that ours would be a little different anyway). They also turned out pretty good. Lily LOVED them (which was lucky, because she wasn't a huge fan of the tart).

Veggie Rolls
2 puff pastry sheets, cut in half
2 cups TVP, soaked in boiling water (just enough to cover the granules)
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 stalks of celery, finely diced
4 medium-sized mushrooms, finely chopped
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon tamari
2 carrots, grated
1 tomato, finely diced
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Fry up the celery and mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the oregano, TVP, tomato paste, and tamari. Stir together and fry for a couple more minutes. Add the carrot and tomato and mix through. Add the salt & pepper.

Once it has cooled a little, spoon the mixture along one side of the pastry sheet (leaving about a cm on the side) and then roll the other half of the pastry around it to form a roll.

Grease a baking sheet, place the rolls (cut up smaller if you wish) on it and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes (or until light brown and crispy).

Serve with tomato sauce.


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