Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Season's Greetings

I won't state the bleeding obvious that I have been a bad bad little blogger of late.

It's not that I don't have any blogger friendly thoughts. I have many thoughts, sometimes more than two a day. Sometimes even coherent ones. It's the time thing, there's just not enough of it in any one day. I have been trying to reduce my sleeping hours but can't get by on less than 7 which is still nowhere near Maggie Thatcher's 3 hours per night. I must try harder.

Anyways, why I'm here is not to regale you with any of my witty stories or mad ramblings but to say:

A) I will do better in 2012 on the blogging front, I promise... cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. [If I've promised this before and haven't delivered, which I'm pretty sure is the case, I will try harder this time... probably.]

B) I'm a quickie sort of girl and that's where Facebook comes in. If you'd like to be my friend (and let's face it, who wouldn't!) on FB just email me at deepkickgirl AT gmail DOT com and if I know you and I'm fairly sure you're not an axe weilding maniac (not that there's anything wrong with that) I'll give you my real name so you can do the Friend Request thingy.

So for now I'd like to wish all my loyal readers - all four of you - a very relaxing and/or fun and/or exciting non-denominational Festive Season and health, love and happiness for 2012.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Car Conversation

Driving home today Will is reading school holiday road safety tips from the school newsletter. One of the tips is keeping kids entertained with portable DVD players, digital games, iPods, etc.

I said aren't you kids lucky you have all those things for our long car trips.

"Yes," they both agreed.

I said when I was a child we didn't have that sort of stuff, we just had to look out of the window to entertain ourselves.

"That's right," Marianna says. "That was in the olden days."

"You are so smart'" Will tells her.

"Yes, I KNOW," she sighs, resigned to the burden of her own brilliance.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just Kids: A Book Review

Just Kids is Patti Smith's autobiographical book about her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. It is not particularly satisfying as an autobiography because it skims the surface, leaving me wanting to know more details, hear more about the nitty gritty of their fascinating lives. What it lacks in detail it more than makes up for in emotion.

This book is a deathbed promise realised; a gift of love and respect.

Their relationship, built on a chance meeting in New York City in the late sixties when they were both "just kids", literally starving artists, transcends love, lust, sex, friendship. It is the true embodiment of the term "soulmate", so easily thrown around for anyone one has known for more than five minutes.

This is what really touched me, moved me to tears and emotional pain. I am always fascinated by strong emotional attachment because I don't think I have felt it truly, powerfully since I was "just a kid" myself.

But this book also made me think about my own yearning for an "artistic" life as a teenager. Do all teenagers yearn for a bohemian life of creativity and social freedom? I know I did. But in hindsight my desire for stability was much more powerful than any artistic daydreams I may have harboured. Like Patti, my practical side took control. In her case she was able to balance and find room for both. But it was a different time.

She speaks of the artistic force which drove both her and Robert and it is certainly not something I felt very strongly. This force was everything to them; that they eventually found critical and financial success was more good fortune than pure talent. Many equally talented people fall by the wayside for a myriad of reasons.

I really enjoyed this book, it had a strong emotional impact on me. I haven't been Patti's biggest fan. Apart from loving her collaboration with Bruce Springsteen "Because the night", her "Pissing in a river" from the Times Square soundtrack and the recently discovered "Redondo Beach" from her first album "Horses" I haven't delved deeply into her music. But her story really surprised me, not only is she not who I guessed she might be but she writes beautifully; I was left wanting more yet emotionally both buoyed and devastated.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cooking with DKG: Episode 742

I have so many thoughts swirling around, ready to pop out as a blog post, but no time to coherently master them into submission. So you'll need to put up with a quick recipe instead, because god knows there aren't enough recipes swirling about the cyber world.

This isn't anything ground breaking just a combination of some of my favourite flavours and the result of reading a dozen recipes featuring the words Smoked Salmon and Ricotta.

Quick Salmon, Ricotta and Tomato Pasta

500g pasta
200g Smoked Salmon
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved or whole (as you like)
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon olive oil + extra for serving
1Tablespoon butter (homemade in the Thermomix is nice - ha ha)
2-3 Tablespoons Ricotta
2-3 Tablespoons Sour Cream
Handful of parsley
Salt and Pepper

Cook pasta. Drain.
Return pot to low heat.
Add olive oil and butter and garlic. Cook for a minute or two, stirring.
Add tomatoes, zest. Cook for a minute, stirring once or twice.
Add smoked salmon, ricotta, sour cream, parsley. Stir until ricotta and sour cream have combined to a smooth sauce.
Add cooked pasta, salt, pepper, extra olive oil to taste. Heat through briefly while stirring.
Serve.

* This quantity gave us dinner for four plus enough for lunch for Big Jay. Probably we could have squeezed out two lunches if we weren't such greedy little piglets last night.

I love these flavours. The lemon zest really gives it a boost. It's a warmer months style of pasta for when you're sick of spag bol (I rarely get sick of it but...). Will said he wanted to eat it every night which is a pretty good endorsement.

Obviously you can add whatever you have in the fridge: frozen peas, rocket, baby spinach, capers, make it with sliced chicken or proscuitto instead of salmon. We had it with funky little pasta shapes I bought at Costco which look a little like shark eggs or alien pods but I think it would work with any type of pasta at all.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sorry Day

Yesterday was a very sorry day. I am sorry that such unspeakably bad legislation was passed by the government of the country I live in and love so very much. I am sorry that we have a government that continues to make bad decisions pretty much every day of the week. I am sorry that so many people believe this legislation and this tax will help the environment in any way. I am sorry that this government won't grow some balls and admit that this is little more than a tax grab. I am sorry that so many people believe that it's better to do a stupid "something" rather than a realistic nothing. I am sorry that people keep saying they now have hope for the future of their children and grandchildren. I am sorry that these people don't spontaneously combust. I am sorry that something magical didn't occur in the last few months to save us from this bad thing. I am sorry that I don't have the guts to have organised a coup and installed myself as the benevolent dictator of this woe begotten country. I am sorry that there isn't a federal election being held this Saturday.

I am sorry that in 20, 50, 100 years time when the Emperor's nakedness is revealed and history will show all this insanity for what it is, there won't be a Sorry Day and that Kevin Rudd or his future clone won't shed crocodile tears for the damage done.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Schlock

All the signs were good. Cute title. Great reviews. Solid cast, including Julianne Moore who I really love (or at least loved deeply in The Hours....but come to think of it I'm not sure what else I've loved her in...hhmmmm). A rare kid-free night out at the movies and a movie Big Jay was reasonably happy to see though it is definitely on "my" side of the movie choosing ledger being a chick flick.

Before the movie even started I experienced two conflicting emotions. Happiness at being in the comfort of VMax, which has a huge screen and super comfy "couple" seats, and an ice cream in hand. Anger at the ridiculously cold air conditioning which was blowing a full scale icy gale above my head. I sent Big Jay out to complain and he was assured it would be turned down once the movie started (???). Well it was and it wasn't. The a/c kept cycling between freezing and off meaning I was constantly aware of being uncomfortable.

Anyway, I've put off talking about the actual film long enough. Maybe it's me but I feel like I've written a variation of the same review too often in recent years "good idea poorly executed". Basically it was the usual "love is tough but conquers all in the end" schmaltz. I can stomach that concept if it has something else going for it. I want some wit, some great dialogue, some brilliant acting, a "twist" that I don't see coming from five minutes into the movie. Something, anything...

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" had none of these things. The script was cliched, the acting and directing clunky and dull, the story uninspired and unbelievable. I didn't "feel" anything and I didn't believe any of the motivations in the storyline. It was just plain boring.

If it wasn't for Ryan Gosling's Jacob and Emma Stone's (my goodness she has beautiful green cat eyes) Hannah I would have been tempted to walk out. They were the only two characters I vaguely cared about, the only ones that were remotely interesting. Even the minor part of Hannah's friend Liz was more interesting (and had better things to say) than the major characters of Steve Carrell's Cal and Julianne Moore's Emily.

I just didn't "buy" any of it, it didn't say anything to me... I am so sick of unimaginative dross being hailed as something new and wonderful. Speaking of saying anything Big Jay is away for the weekend and I feel I might have a date with John Cusack and Ione Skye coming up...at least I know that Cameron Crowe could write movies which mean something to me.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Anniversaries

This is the weekend for big anniversaries. The date 11 September has a lot of significance for us for two reasons.

On the Australian 11 September 2000 we arrived home from Guatemala with Will. It was exactly a week before the opening ceremony for the Sydney Olympic Games and we shared our flight from LA with the Brazillian Volleyball team. I'll ever forget the group of giants crammed into their cattle class seats, their knees awkwardly sticking out into the aisles.

Getting off that plane I was overwhelmed with so many different emotions. Mainly exhaustion. Long distance travel with a 16 month old baby we had known for less than a week was a totally new experience for me. I was probably bordering on hysteria, if I'm honest.

However coming through the gates was amazing. My family was there and a whole bunch of friends, especially those who had recently brought home their own boys from Guatemala. In some ways we were all the walking wounded; survivors of an ordeal which had left us all exhausted, frustrated and confused. Yet we had all come through and triumphed....

It is hard to describe how I felt holding my gorgeous little boy, my longed for, dreamt of son. The little boy who had waited for us for 16 months, neglected in a dirty cot in an orphanage in Guatemala City. Disbelief that he was real, that we were together, that bureaucracy had been overcome and we were home.

There is a photo of our group at the airport, holding our children, beaming. I adore that photo. It is meaningful and poignant.

My dad drove us home to our little house in Lisarow. It was clean and peaceful and quiet. And strange. We had been fighting a battle over three long years and now we had returned with the "spoils". It was hard to accept. The anti-climax was enormous. How to live in peace when you have been slowly conditioned for war?

A year and one day later, in a different house, our new house, we awoke to the horror of what was to become 9/11. September 11 changed our lives and the lives of most people around the world.

What a surreal day it was. To this day, despite 10 years going past, I can't accept what I saw that day. I so clearly remember turning on the early morning news that day and looking straight into an image of the first plane flying into the first tower. My brain reeled, at first thinking they were showing something from a sci-fi movie, but knowing instinctively that something was terribly wrong.

The next few weeks went by in slow motion. I became addicted to CNN, staying up until 1, 2, 3am... then rising at 5 am to watch again. I felt I needed to see what would happen next. It felt so important to see, to know...

So for us 11 September has a double meaning. It is the day our family changed forever and the day the world changed forever. The day our dream came true and the day the world woke to a nightmare.

Lest we forget.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The heartbreak of a sad old cow

One of life's little pleasures for me is the Pocket Profile section in the AFL magazine "AFL Record". At each game we attend Big Jay buys the magazine and flicks through before the game. Will has also started reading it end to end.

I have a brief look but always look forward to the Pocket Profile, enjoying a moment to read about the selected player.

Well imagine my thrill when this week's player was none other than Jesse White. It's a well documented fact that I have turned into a dirty old perv in my old age, with a specific weakness for young Swans. This year ex-champion basketballer Jesse is my drool worthy object of choice. His tattooed arms often feature...oh, never mind.

Back to the Pocket Profile. Imagine how pathetically pleased I was when I read this:

How would your best friend describe you? Honest, caring and fun.

Oh, how sweet.

Three things you would like to do after your footy career. Travel the world, start a family, catch up with old friends.

Oh my goodness, where have you been all my life? In kindergarten... oops.

Can this man/god get any better? Well, no. It was all downhill at that point.

Best book read: The 50th Law by 50 Cent.

Holy shit. From such highs we hit the lows. 50 Cent! Really?!

But wait, there's more.

Favourite band/recording artist: Lil Wayne.

Bloody hell. Talk about a major bummer.

Luckily there's not a lot of literary criticism going on in my fantasies.

To quote Dianne Weis' character in the wonderful "Bullets Over Broadway": "Don't speak..."

That syncing feeling

Syncing has been on my mind a lot just lately. Mainly because I just can't get my damned iPhone to sync with my damned work PC. Technology is amazing except when it fucks up and leaves you bemused, confused and downright frustrated. One thing I've learnt though is that one way or another it will get resolved and life will go on.

But that's only one sort of syncing I've been pondering. Human syncing... now that's a much harder thing to achieve. Have you ever considered how difficult it is for any of us to connect, both in the bigger, deeper sense of the word but also just in the day to day to way?

I am sometimes awe struck by how it is that we meet the people who will become our significant others and also our precious friends; how those connections are made is a concept that never ceases to amaze.

Fate. I guess that's what human syncing is. The alignment of the planets so that two people can meet and not just pass each other by in the fast moving stream of our busy lives but acknowledge each other, connect, see their commonalities and develop a desire to explore who that other person is. It's a chemical reaction that is magical and intangible. Why this person on this day and not that person on that day?

But on a day to day basis, with the people we already know, syncing is a different sort of challenge. It's tough being on the same page at the same time. Each day we go through a myriad of different emotions and energies.

You want to talk, I don't. I want to have sex, you don't. I want to stay home at the end of a long week, you want to go out to party. Each day we compromise, we make a supreme effort to sync or we withdraw and push away, the effort to sync beyond us at that moment.

I'm surprised by how much significance the word "sync" has in life. It's not just about iTunes and iPhones. It's about people connecting, and after all, what else is life all about.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Just saying "no".

I've been following Nancy Regan's advice and just saying "no", a lot... And bugger me sideways it's hard. Welcome to my pity party.

Big Jay and I are on a concert fast and it's driving me bonkers bananas. We've let ourselves go, concert-wise, the last few years and this diet is hard to tolerate. We have spent the gross national product of a small African nation (or roughly half of the money wasted on ridiculous Labor party schemes in recent years) on entertainment and it was time to reign in that wayward brumby.

In the last couple of months or so I've had to (so very reluctantly) press DELETE on emails offering tickets to the following performers:

John Cleese
Alan Davies
Dylan Moran
Eddie Izzard
Alan Ball
Tim Minchin
Meatloaf
Cold Chisel
Joan Collins (just kidding)
David Sedaris
How To Train Your Dragon (for the kids of course)
Any number of events at Crave (Food Festival)
A few others I have forgotten

I have even forgotten to buy tickets for Taylor Swift which I had promised Little Miss M and now there are only single tickets or seats in the high altitude section available (and I refuse to pay $140 each for those).

I know the Chili Peppers will tour sometime early next year and I won't be saying "no" to those particular tickets... Except if they tour in the first three weeks of April when we embark on the re-named MEDIUM sized trip to Guatemala and Orlando.

Which is the main reason we are counting the pennies... Harry Potter World won't pay for itself you know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things that make you go "Hhhhmmmm....?"

This email arrived in my In Box this morning. Just your run-of-the-mill scam email. I just found Category 11 interesting. All the other categories seem to include things which logically go together, but number 11? Any thoughts?


Sir/Madam,

The Government of Ghana under the auspices of ECOWAS, in West Africa , has published a bill recently inviting all reputable foreign contractors/manufacturers of high and good quality product which few of the needed items are mentioned below.

Please get back to me if you can handle any of the below mentioned items in a large quantity and if your product that your company are manufacturing did not fall in the scope of the few mentioned items below,please kindly send us your website and complete company details so that we can go through your website to check if you have any of the 72 needed items withing the range of your product in your website.


1. Hospital Wheelchairs,Bed sheets and Pilow cases

2. Lawn Mowers/Knapsack Sprayers

3. Pharmaceutical products

4.Aniaml Feeds/ingredients

5. T-shirts/Caps

6. Rugs and Carpets.

7. Medical and Laboratory Equipments.

8. Analytical scales

9. Surgical instruments:Syringes,Needles,Scissors etc.

10.Fishing Equipments/Tackles.

11. Condoms and breakable plates.

12. Treated mosquito net.

13. Water Purification Equipments.

14. Agrochemicals Products.

and many more other products not listed please send us your website.

Note that Tender is open to all eligible foreign contractors from eligible source countries as defined in the guidelines of the procurement Board of the Republic of Ghana.If you can handle the supply of any of the above items, get back to me for more detail, i am a commision and accredited agent.

Thanks,

Mr.Koffi Mensah
No:23 Airport Road,Cantonment
mensahkoffiagencygh.ltd.mailbox
Tel:+233-5414-37668

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cyber Dinner Party at Chez DKG

Since I'm suffering from total writers' block and don't want to be bothering you with my anti Climate Change bollocks, anti Labor government rants (enough of that on FB) I thought I'd write about my other favourite subject right now: food.

So here are the two recipes I'd make if you were popping over for a quick Sunday night dinner. Strangely these were the two things I did actually make today; the former for our dinner, the later to bring to playgroup.

Pasta with Chorizo Seafood Tomato Sauce

500g packet of curly fettucine (or pasta of choice)
Big dash of olive oil
500g green medium prawns, peeled and deveined
400g firm fish fillets (I used red snapper), cut into 3cm cubes
2 chorizo sausages medium diced
1 clove garlic finely chopped
6-8 tomatoes peeled and chopped or 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or combination of both
1 large mushroom or 4-6 button mushrooms finely sliced
Dash of GOOD balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
3/4 cup vegetable stock or water
Zest of 1 small lemon

Cook pasta and set aside.
In a large pot (I use pasta pot) heat oil and add garlic and chorizo. Cook on low-medium heat for a couple of minutes. Turn up heat to medium and keep stirring. Add mushrooms.
Cook until chorizo is becoming crispy and mushrooms have cooked down. Be careful that garlic doesn't burn.
Add tomato, stock, vinegar, herbs and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens and tomato cooks down.
Add prawns and fish, mix through the sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.
Once prawns turn pink and curl it's ready. Mix the lemon zest through sauce. Then the cooked pasta. Keep on the heat for a minute or two.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley or coriander.

Chocolate Orange Tart

1 quantity Almond Shortcrust Pastry (I use the Thermomix - doh! - recipe)
125g Philly Cream Cheese, softened
300ml Thickened Cream
120g Chocolate (I used good quality dark chocolate)
2 Tablespoon Caster Sugar
2 large Free Range Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla essence
Zest of 1 Orange
Optional: Pear Jam or Marmalade

Roll out pastry and line an oiled tart tin (20-22cm).
Place baking paper on the pastry and fill with baking beads (??) for blind baking.
Bake at 200deg for 10 minutes. Remove beads and paper. Bake for a further 10 minutes.
Turn oven down to 170 deg.
While the pastry is baking make filling.
Melt Chocolate in the microwave - in 30 second bursts at 80% power.
When chocolate is melted whisk through sugar until smooth.
Add soft cream cheese and whisk until smooth.
Add cream, eggs, zest and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
At this point I spread the pear jam in a thin layer over the base of the tart, then pour in the chocolate mixture. If you're not using the jam just pour in the filling.
Don't over fill. You need a couple of millimeters of visible crust at the edge.
Bake for about 25-35 minutes. You want it to be set but not dry or cracked, it should still look a little wobbly in the centre. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then chill.
If I have leftover filling I bake in oiled patty tins or muffin tins. It's yummy.

There you go. I hope you enjoyed dinner.

If you give these recipes a whirl let me know how they turn out. The tart is a bit fiddly but I love the Jaffa flavours. The pasta is a real winner, those flavours really zing along.

Bon appetit.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Moving forward

It's easy in the day to day organised chaos of our lives to overlook the small things. I'm very guilty of this. We're so busy getting through each day, ticking the multitude of tasks off our mental lists, rushing from A to B and back again, that sometimes we don't even SEE each other anymore.

So it's beautiful when something stops me in my tracks and forces me to focus on my children and see them clearly.

I had such a day last week. Nothing special....an ordinary day. When we got into the car that morning Marianna got in, did up her own seat belt and closed the car door. She's never done that before. It gave me a little jolt; she's growing up. Of course she's growing up but I'm usually too busy to notice. It's so easy to fall into the trap of racing through each day, reacting to the negatives (with my own negatives), putting out the grass fires, meeting my family's daily needs but not really connecting.

The small act of doing up her own seatbelt made me look at my daughter, think about her as the little person she is and who she is becoming. She might drive me to drink most days but she is so bright, so feisty, so brave. She is no pushover and hopefully never will be. She is a little firecracker who will go so very far if she learns to harness her emotions.

That same day Will told me he wanted a mohawk. My instant (unsaid) reaction was "no way". ... and then I remembered who I used to be and what I used to dream about my own future and the biggest wave of pride flooded through me. My baby boy, my fragile, vulnerable boy, who I spent so long worrying about...would he ever walk, would he ever talk... is bravely and confidently facing high school next year and wanting a mohawk.

Before our eyes he is discovering who he is, developing a mind of his own, separating from us, becoming his own person. It is scary for me, there's no doubt about that that. But there's also a huge sense of pride and gratitude and relief. How far he's come!

Almost thirty years ago I dreamed about my very own punk baby and now I have one, sort of. Mohawks are hum drum these days, more Becks than Sid Vicious. But that's ok, it's not the haircut that's the real point. It's what his request represents.

Above all else a parent's job is to help their children become independent in the world, to find themselves and their place. Last week I had a few glimpses of my children's progress along the long and difficult road to adulthood. I don't know what the future holds but I'm filled with optimism and hope and a terrifying amount of love for the little people whose lives have been entrusted to my dubious care.

Today seat belts and mohawks, tomorrow the world.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Conceit

A moment of total conceit last week when the Chili Peppers released their first single from the upcoming new album. It's called (the single that is) The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.

What's the first thought that pops into my mind? They must have got that idea from my blog. Because I'm sure there's nothing better that Flea, Anthony, Chad and the new guy like doing but making a cuppa and sitting down to read the inane, bordering on insane, musings of yours truly.

I can see the scene now... a song writing session... Anthony bursts in fresh from a yoga session with his current 18 year old girlfriend... Flea is picking out a new rift on his bass.

A: "I have the perfect song for that little bass line..."

F: "Really? Dazzle me, my friend in all things funkadelic..."

A: "Well you know that blog we all read and love...?"

F: "Of course, The Adventures of Deep Kick Girl Down Under... Love it, man... wonder why she hasn't written much lately. Really loved that New York stuff..."

A: "You know I think that's the chick I met when we toured Oz in the early 90s. The one with our asterisk tattooed on her boob. Your were off doing an interview so you didn't get to meet her, dude. She was a hot chick, man [hey, this is my fantasy, alright!]. Too bad I only like underage stick insects..."

F: "Yeah, OK, dude... get on with it... what's the song idea?"

A: "You know the name of her blog... The Adventures of... well we can't use that name ... copyright reasons, etc... but what if we had a song called The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie? Sort of a hommage to our mutual love of DKG's blog... What do you think?"

F: "Love it, man... Let's get down to work..."

If that's not enough "proof"... how about this line from the song:

"Tugboat Sheila is into memorabilia"

Sheila obviously refers to an Australian girl. That's me, I'm an Australian girl.

The rest of the song is funky nonsense, great tune but can't decipher much meaning from the lyrics. However, a new album means a new tour so there's a huge something to look forward to.

Anyway, what do you think? Am I totally nuts or am I so right it's scary?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bring on the Nanny State

It looks like the anti-smoking pendulum has swung to it's highest extremity (short of a total ban) so the government do-gooders are turning their attention to the next batch of nasties: alcohol, gambling and fast food.

Why stop there I ask you. Do you have any idea how many potentially dangerous activities there are which have no government warnings whatsoever? A myriad of potentially lethal and/or cancer and/or heart disease inducing tasks any one of us could innocently engage in at any time without realising the possible consequences.

So I've come up with some warnings which in my opinion are long overdue:

1) DO NOT have a nap in the middle of this road, you may get run over by a truck or Bob Brown on a bicycle.

2) DO NOT tell your friends about how well your new diet is working for you. Quite possibly this diet will soon be found to be potentially harmful to your health. More than likely your friends will want to stick a fork in your eye which could also be bad for your health. [Guilty on all counts, officer.]

3) DO NOT have a job which requires you to sit at a desk for many hours at a time in front of a PC. You will develop an insatiable desire for milky coffee sucked through a Tim Tam "straw" and the need to check Facebook every 10 minutes; the former is bad for your waistline, the later bad for your employment status.

4) DO NOT have a job which requiers you to do any standing, bending, lifting, moving, using any sort of electrical or non-electrical equipment and/or interacting with other humans; all these things have been found to be dangerous to your health.

5) DO NOT have children and/or spend time anywhere near children; it hasn't YET been proven that they directly cause cancer but they really fuck up your mental health and self esteem.

6) DO NOT watch MasterChef; the corny and completely over the top production style and pathetically stomach churning use of celebrity chefs will cause you to scream obscenities at the tv and fight an overwhelming urge to throw a heavy object at the screen (the former could result in a brain anurism, the later in putting your back out - you have been warned).

7) DO NOT eat or drink ANYTHING. At all. Ever. All food and drink can cause you any number of health problems. It is impossible to tell what is the right amount of any type of food or drink. Apart from making your body sick eating and drinking will also drive you mad as every day a different report appears claiming eating pasta is good, tomorrow it's bad; today salt is good, tomorrow it will be bad; red wine will stop you getting heart disease but it will increase your chances of cancer. So best to avoid it altogether, much easier that way.

8) DO NOT breathe (just to be on the safe side). Air contains lots of bad stuff, pollution, particles of possibly cancer causing materials which haven't been identified yet, farts which will melt the hairs in your nostrils.

I'm no fan of smoking (had a few puffs around the age of 13 but haven't touched the stinky stuff since). I don't drink apart from an occasional glass (or three) of Bella or a cocktail with an umbrella in it while on holidays. I don't gamble apart from a few sweeps tickets for the Melbourne Cup and the odd MultiPick card for the big Lotto draws. But I overwhelmingly resent the creeping Nanny State we are living in. Laws and regulations are aimed at the lowest common denomenator and it is quite simply an insult to our intelligence.

I especially hate the two faced governmental approach; we are happy to take your taxes you smokers, drinkers and gamblers, but we're going to treat you ALL as pathological, rather than accept the reality that only a small number of people have a problem with these habits that seriously effect their lives or health.

Stay out of our lives beaurocrats and "researchers". Life is dangerous, it's risky, it's there to be lived and enjoyed and suffered through; it's not a risk assesment task to be "managed" and controlled.

As you were.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids

Everybody is loving Bridesmaids and I wanted to love it too. I was out with mums from school, a rare week night outing, a chick flick...it felt so right. The woman sitting next to me (not a school mum) was laughing constantly and hysterically, making me laugh along; often I would stop mid-laugh realizing I was laughing because of my neighbour not because anything genuinely funny was going on.

Sorry, let's backtrack. The opening scene featured my favorite Blondie song "Rip Her To Shreds" and I felt I was going where I wanted to go with this movie. But I wasn't. Don't get me wrong it was OK, a big solid OK, but nothing more. I hate it when I see the potential of a film but the script just doesn't allow the story to be everything it could be.

And another thing, why two hours? Unless a film features hobbits, boy wizards and/or creatures from the planet Pandora there is no reason why they need to exceed 90 minutes, 100 minutes tops. There is nothing you need to tell me about the hilarious goings on of a bunch of bridesmaids that fills up 125 minutes.

While I love Maya Rudolph I found Kristen Wiig slightly annoying. Sure there were a lot of bang on moments but there were a hell of a lot of ho hum moments. I especially struggled with the relationship between Annie and sweet Officer Nathan Rhodes. Just didn't sit well with me, again I blame poor writing.

I'm also probably reaching the end of my tether with bodily function gags; the shock horror disgust factor is starting to wear a little thin. Enough already.

Bottom line: Bridesmaids is reasonable entertainment with potential to be much more so. Unlike a Snickers bar it just didn't satisfy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Realisation

I've had a moment of clarity today. My life is no longer "Say Anything" or "Sixteen Candles" or "The Breakfast Club" or even "Reality Bites". It's much more in the neighbourhood of say "Ordinary People" or "Steel Magnolias" and heading towards "Cocoon" and "Driving Miss Daisy".

Hmmm....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New York Picture 13: The Big Day - Part 3




































New York Picture 12: The Big Day - Part 2









































New York Picture 12: The Big Day - Part 1



New York Picture 11: Happy New York Faces



New York Picture 10: The Lady herself




New York Picture 9: View from the Top










































































New York Picture 8: Hanging out with King Kong at The Empire State Building



New York Picture 7: The Dog with the Shoes



New York Picture 6: Shake Shack at Madison Square Park [Heaven]



New York Picture 5: Having Fun at Coney Island



Monday, June 13, 2011

New York Picture 4: Nathan's Hot Dogs - Coney Island



New York Picture 3: Times Square



New York Picture 2: Grand Central Station - stunning!



New York Picture 1: Kicking back in business class

Hell: The Extended Director's Cut

At the airport all went to plan. Check in, go to gate, run around looking for last minute suveneirs (at this point let me ask "why don't Americans like tea towels?" and also lots of you are now not getting a pressie because there is bugger all to buy at JFK airport).

Disappointingly we are not upgraded but board nevertheless. Then we wait and wait and wait and wait....

You get the idea. Our plane is delayed by six hours because of thunder storms in the area. We spend most of that time on the plane apart from a brief time off for good behavior when we return to the terminal to refuel. So we spend five and a half hours on the plane before we even take off.

During our "break" at the terminal I ask the super friendly and helpful (ha!) lady at the desk about the fact we are going to miss our flight to Sydney. Without saying a word (like explaining our options or say, acknowledging my presence) she takes my boarding passes and prints out new boarding passes (or so I thought) for the same flight but 24 hours later.

So we finally fly into LAX at 2:00 am local time (that's 5:00 am NY time) very very very tired. No bags we troupe through an almost deserted airport into the cold night. United have offered not one comment or word of support or advice on what our options are. We are on our own and decide to stay the night at an airport hotel and decide what to do in the morning.

The first and only hotel shuttle bus which arrives is from the Marriott and we file on board hoping that they have a room available (you never know when there is a convention of second hand refrigerator spare parts salesmen). Luckily they do and I take a moment to thank the credit card gods who make these difficult life moments manageable and almost pleasant.

Fifteen minutes later we're in our warm, comfy room. Kids are asleep and I'm in bed trying to count my blessings and wondering about the next day and thinking that my nice plans to be home three days before we return to school and work have just been flushed down the loo.

In the morning we put on our dirty clothes (hate that) and go to breakfast. Love a hotel buffet breakfast and have decided I may have a mild addiction to crispy American bacon.

Our initial thought is to keep the room for that day and hang around but then Jay comes up with the idea of going to Universal Studios for the day. At first I thought it would be too much but I talk to the Concierge about it and find out we could leave our stuff there (all two plastic bags of it) and we would be picked up and returned just in time to get the shuttle to LAX. The cost would be only a little more than keeping the room for the day. So we book in an await our pick up bus.

Universal Studios is a really great day out. It's not full of scary rides, just one I think. Everything else is more laid back. There is the great tour (which we "only" had to wait 45 minutes to go on, lucky it was a quiet day) which takes you around the back lots and shows you some of the great old and new sets from movies (like Psycho) and tv shows (like Desperate Housewives). It finishes with an amazing 3D King Kong ride which isn't scary in a roller coaster way but is really fun.

We also loved The Simpsons virtual roller coaster - THE BEST, the Waterworld stunt show, the Animal Actors show and I loved the Ben and Jerry's Churros Ice Cream Sundae. [can you believe I've only put on half a kg during this trip?]

Anyway, it was lots of fun and we were happy and excited as we headed out to get our shuttle back to the hotel.

On the schedule I was given it said we would return to the hotel at 7:30 pm. Great, just enough time to get our stuff and get the airport shuttle in time to check in at 8:30 pm, two hours before our flight.

After we had been driving for about an hour and didn't seem to be getting anywhere near our hotel we asked the driver, a grumpy sort of guy who couldn't tell us who much longer it would be. A little while later we again explained we had to be at the airport at 8:30 and asked how much longer it would be. Again no sensible reply. It almost seemed he was determined to drop off everyone else except us.

You could say I was a little agitated by the time we arrived at the Marriott at 8:30. I believe my words were "thanks for nothing" as we got off the bus. There is a nasty email heading to VIP Tours, Los Angeles... which is a shame because we had such a great day.

At the airport we have some more fun and games, discovering we weren't actually checked in or have confirmed seats. There were a few stressful moments when we weren't sure if we had seats (it was a packed flight) and then if we would able to sit together.

All came together at the last minute and we were seated. Again our flight was delayed by one hour (no explanation given) but finally we were headed home.

Dinner and a good long uncomfortable snooze and then I was wide awake. Let me say that no amount of Matt Damon makes The Adjustment Bureau a film worth watching. On the other hand I was obviously tired and emotional when I shed tears at the end of Country Strong and surprisingly it wasn't because of Gwyneth Paltrow's singing. There are some good things about long haul flights and getting to watch the entire first series of Laid on my iPad was a real bonus. Love that show, great writing... but I do have a soft spot for anything involving market research... can't wait for season two.

So we arrived home on Sunday morning, just over 24 hours behind schedule. Our lovely friend M had stocked us up with food basics meaning I didn't have to head straight out for the shopping. We got stuck into unpacking and washing but lethargy soon caught up with me.

Getting into bed to watch the Swans vs Richmond game was a fatal mistake and I was fast asleep half way into the second quarter. I got up at 9:30 to find Jay asleep on the sofa and the kids in bed. Slept until 2:30 or so. Dozed a bit. Then the kids and Jay woke up and we've all been awake fully since about 4:30. Bum. Means we'll crash early again today.

Well that concludes our excellent New York adventure. Despite the rather shitty ending all's well that ends well and we had a wonderful time and are home safe and sound ... So who could ask for more.

Will load photos later today.

Normal transmission will return when I can be bothered.

Hell

If you are of the god bothering persuasion you might be wondering what hell is like, after all it is one of the two major options awaiting you when you shuffle of this mortal coil. Am I right?

Well, I'm here to tell you exactly what to expect. You will spend eternity in a people mover, make and model unspecified, with your husband and kids. It will be a scorchingly hot day and the a/c will be making the smallest dent in the ambient temp. Your kids will be sitting in the back row constantly whinging about how hot it is, you will be trying to reassure them but your motherly warmth will fade after the 300th time.

The driver of your eternal vehicle will be a homicidal Mexican who will think it's appropriate to fill up while you are all in the car, despite already being late. He will then turn up the Latin American pop music to 11 and proceed to drive in a style I like to refer to as SEVENTY MILES STOP!!! This involves screaming down the highway and slamming down the brakes just as you are about to run into the back of the car in front.

Did I mention he won't help with the bags because, well, you know, being a scum sucking waste of space is pretty exhausting and he just can't afford to exert the energy on anything like helping his passengers.

So where was I?

I'll have what she's having

Thursday morning we finished packing and headed over to J's and M's for our final day in NY. Dad and Irina arrived and we all headed to Houston Street on the subway.

Katz' Deli is famous for the "I'll have what she's having" scene from "When Harry Met Sally" but it should really be famous for having really great Jewish style food and a really cool atmosphere.

It's really old style New York cafeteria, a big room with basic furniture, a giant deli counter along one side and a ticketing system run by the yellow ticket Nazi.

What a way to finish our NY adventure! Big Jay got a famous Reuben sandwich with pastrami (which was huge and delicious). The kids got cheeseburgers which they confirmed were "the best" and I got a chili dog which is a hot dog with beef chili all over it. Americans do hot dogs well, really well, which I have always thought is a no-brainer. What's a hot dog? A good frankfurt sausage on a decent fresh bun with your choice of accompaniments. Easy. Not here in Oz. As veterans of most sporting venues on the East coast we know that hot dogs are a way of catering companies saying "screw you, suckers". But I digress.

My chili dog was yummo as was everything else I tried from other people's plates. I especially love the plates of pickles they bring to the table when you arrive. Two different types, both delicious. The other thing I tried was a New York Egg Cream, which I thought sounded like a custard dessert of some kind but was actually a milk shake with a spritz of Seltzer water in it. Not bad but a bit strange.

We came out of there stuffed and walked straight over the road to the Italian ice cream laboratory where we stuffed down some gorgeous ice cream (well it was a really hot day). Too hot to walk anywhere we took the subway back to Brooklyn and waited for our car service car to head to the airport.

Goodbyes (I HATE long, drawn out farewells) and the car arrived. It didn't fit all of us and the luggage and this is the exact point where things turned into a big steaming pile of manure.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

More randomness

I have noticed how good or reasonable the cost of living is here compared to Sydney. This surprises me as I have always thought New York would be an uber expensive place to live. It isn't. If you have a medium to good salary you can live quite well here. Real estate is comparable to Sydney, food (groceries, fresh food and restaurant/take away) is considerably cheaper than in Australia and of course the choices are much more varied. Let's not mention that you can buy five delicious golden bananas for $1.00 to us banana starved Aussies. Taxis are dirt cheap as is public transport; both are much more user friendly. I can easily see how people can get by without cars. From what I've seen, around Brooklyn at least, it is much more of a local community lifestyle, not as shopping center based as we are in Sydney. In fact I haven't actually been in a mall these past two weeks, except the one across from us which is just Target and a few other stores, a rather odd mall and not very welcoming or user friendly.

I think it would be a tough life here on a low wage and there are lots of people, particularly in service industries, that would be in that range. However, the same goes for Sydney. I guess it's no fun anywhere without enough money. Der, KB, how about pointing out the bleeding obvious. I'm so good at it.

The dog situation, which I have written about before, is noteworthy. There are dogs everywhere but I have not seen dog poo on the street. It is strange because the streets are actually quite dirty, people aren't great about putting their rubbish in bins and it is often swirling along the streets and public bins are often overflowing. But almost no dog poo. Peculiar. We have seen many dogs in shops, trains, buses and being pushed around in dog strollers. It isn't just the Paris Hilton types who have tiny canines, old women, young men, mums, dads, everyone. No demographic has been spared from the dog phenomenon. Jules tells me about seeing a woman getting her nails done with a giant dog at her feet who got bored and climbed up into her lap during her pedicure. Things that make you go "hhhmmmmm"!

Guns. I haven't seen any but they have been on my mind. Walking to the station the other day there was a young man who may or may not have been assaulting a young woman in broad daylight near the local station. It didn't look like a nice situation, whatever was happening. I was concerned but felt very intimidated by the idea that he would more than likely have a gun. So we didn't interfere but I felt badly about our cowardice and still do.

Ok, now for the elephant in the room. Tomorrow we are leaving and I don't know when I'll see my sister again. That's the reality and it's not a jolly thought. But I can't say I'm feeling super sad. Why? Most likely denial, I think I have a strong case of it. Also I am more or less used to her being overseas as she has been on and off for the last few years. Also email and Facebook make regular, almost constant, contact a normal part of our lives, even when we're living in the same city. It's not like we need to wait six months for the ship to arrive carrying the handwritten letter. What we're doing, thinking, (importantly) eating, is always updated on FB which may be a grating social phenomenon but is fantastic in this case.

Sure I will miss our outings, shopping, yum cha, cooking classes. All the things we love to do together just won't be a part of our lives anymore. Luckily we both lead busy, interesting, fulfilling lives so it won't be a case of sitting around pining for each other. But it is undeniable that we will each have a JB and KB sized hole in our lives.

Long distance travel is possible but not all that easy or affordable on an all too regular basis. I think I will need to start donating my charity money to super fast air transport research rather than all those sick kiddies I keep supporting. Let someone else fund the cure for cancer, I need fast, affordable travel to New York.

But seriously Jules and I have a bond which no amount of distance can dilute so I prefer to look at this situation as a minor annoyance rather than as a serious hardship... and I believe that none of us know what the future holds so you just never know, my New York super modeling career could be just about to take off and then she'll be visiting me in my Manhattan pad all the time.

Love you sis. I know you and M will have a beautiful and fascinating life together and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Hot, damn hot

What a day. It took a while to get out of the house this morning, everyone tired and/or cranky and/or sick. We thought we'd just have a quick breakfast nearby but ended up walking many blocks to the French Cafe we had brunch at last weekend. Again the food was lovely but we had to hike back to the train station which was not fun because of the heat.

We wanted to go to Central Park today and Big Jay wanted to visit the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived and died. It was not the best day for such an adventure with the temperature being around 93 degrees (or 34 degrees to you and me). It felt much hotter where we were; really hot, can't go on living hot. Nevertheless we managed to walk 20 or 30 blocks and around the Strawberry Fields area of Central Park with two whiney kids. Please send medals to the following address...

The heat made it difficult to really enjoy the excursion but I'm glad we managed to see the Dakota Building which has special meaning to Jay, being a huge Beatles fan.

We returned home around 4pm, hot, sweaty and generally over it. We plonked the kids in front of the tele and hit the packing. Then we dragged ourselves out again for a quick (and miserable, thanks to Marianna) pizza and pasta dinner at one of the many local Italian joints.

It's now almost 9pm and the packing is just about all finished. A few last minute bits to do in the morning once we're dressed and ready to go.

The plan is to go to Jules' place in the morning, leave our bags and head to Katz' Deli in Houston Street (made famous in "When Harry Met Sally") for lunch. We'll then head to JFK Airport at about 3pm to make sure we have lots of time to buy crappy souvenirs for our friends back home... you have been warned.

We'll be arriving at Sydney Airport around 6am on Saturday morning. Luckily we'll have the long weekend to recover from what will undoubtedly be horrific jet lag.

Thanks for reading about our New York adventure. Good night.

Another big day

Yesterday was another big day and with the kids and I all being sick I am frankly surprised we made it through and managed to have a wonderful day.

After a slow start (Jay had left earlier for his big shopping day - he netted one, not so cheap, work shirt - he's such an amateur) the kids and I set off for The Bronx Zoo. The Bronx inspires images of mean streets populated by even meaner people but it seems to be just another neighbourhood now; probably a little bleaker than the area of Brooklyn we're in but nothing terrible.

Luckily the train to The Bronx runs directly from our local station so we just had to get on here and ride directly to the zoo. What a lovely little zoo it is. Lots of trees, so it's very shady and lots of interesting vantage points to see the animals from.

We loved the little monorail which took us around the Asia display, complete with commentary. My favourites were the gorillas, the mongoose, the aardvarks, the tapirs. Sadly we didn't find the sloths before we ran out of time. The kids loved having a ride on a camel and the Bug Carousel and the Butterfly House.

One thing I confirmed was that all zoos, worldwide, must have the same policy of offering only overpriced, third rate food. I don't mind paying extra if it goes towards the upkeep of the zoo and helping the animals but surely they can at least provide decent junk food of McDonalds type quality. It's annoying to pay $17.00 for a cardboard container of cold chicken strips and lank fries and an almost inedible chicken roll. The orange Icee was good though.

We then headed back on the train so I could drop Will off at Grand Central Station to meet Jay and Dodo so they could head off to their baseball game. GCS at 5:00pm is madness!

Marianna and I had to head back to Brooklyn to meet up with Jules, her gorgeous friend Ruth and mum and David for dinner. I realized I didn't know what train to get to that part of Brooklyn. Went to wait for a cab, couldn't get one. Went back to the subway, thinking I'll get our usual train and get a cab when we got there. On the train I studied the map and realized with two train changes we could get to the correct stop near the restaurant. Poor Marianna, she was so stoic (not her natural position, especially since she was already hot and tired) as I dragged her all over the subway.

Finally we got off at the right stop and only had five blocks to walk. Sheesh! It was all worth it to eat at Buttermilk Channel. Strange name, wonderful food. By the time we arrived the others were already tucking into the most devine salad of lettuce and duck skin croutons and gorgeous pate. We all ordered the famous fried chicken which arrived in an obscenely huge serve (three large pieces but it looked like a mountain when it was coming towards us). It was served with fresh, crunchy coleslaw and waffles with maple syrup - hmmmm? Sounds weird, tastes amazing. I didn't think I'd get through it all but rest assured I ate every morsel.

And then followed it with a decadent Pecan Pie Sundae. I KNOW! Not sure how I managed but I did. Felt like a snake that had swallowed a goat. But we then walked about a dozen blocks which helped the gross amount of food settle.

Mum and David are staying another few weeks and then mum is heading to Europe for a month so I said my goodbyes to them and to Ruth and we headed home on the now very familiar subway.

My cold really hit it's peak last night and I felt like a big pile of poo by the time we got home. I put M to bed and waited for Jay and Will to get home. They got home about 11pm, full of excitement and great stories about their first trip to the baseball. Then Will and I snuffled and sweated through a night of broken sleep.

Will seems fine this morning and I'm not too bad. It's going to be about 36 degrees here today so I'm not sure how we'll manage our day out to Central Park. Our last full day. Hopefully we'll manage to sneak in a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity today.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Yesterday

It's Tuesday morning and the kids and I are a little under the weather. Jay arrived here with a sore throat and now we have all come down with some sort of non-specific headachey, sore throat thing. Possibly air conditioning combined with hay fever combined with strange sleep...

Anyway Sunday was fairly quiet. It was cool here and the picnic J and M had in mind for Prospect Park didn't eventuate. Jay went into Times Square (his favourite place, I think) with Will and Marianna and I walked around the local area and had brunch.

Then late in the afternoon we headed to J and M's for a sausage sizzle. We finally got to taste Marvin's sausages and home cured bacon. So good! We hung out for a little while but were really tired and headed back fairly early.

Yesterday we struggled to get up but finally headed into Manhattan to meet Jules at Century 21 to take back one of the dresses I had bought the other day. Nothing happens quickly at that place and it took forever to get out of there (especially after Marianna came out with three new pairs of sandals for next summer - thanks to her generous aunty - and a handbag which every six year old needs).

Next stop was the fabulous Chelsea Market. What a great place. So much character! So many great places to eat and/or buy top class ingredients. First a stop at Anthropologie which is the most beautiful store for women's clothes, accessories and homewares. Not only are their products gorgeous and wonderful quality but their shop is just beautiful. Came away with lovely sandals and two pairs of pants (half price - yeah!).

Then onto The Lobster Place for lunch... The most devine seafood shop you'll ever see. Not only the freshest fresh seafood but a magnificent array of sushi, giant pots of different types of seafood chowders and made to order lobster, crab and shrimp rolls.

We loaded up with two trays of sushi, a shrimp roll, a lobster roll, crab club sandwich and a small pot of lobster chowder. Everything seemed to come with extras of coleslaw and chips so we had a huge feast.

After stuffing ourselves and begrudgingly walking past the yummy cupcake and ice-cream shops (aware of our dinner booking) we walked through some of the meatpacking district and onto The Highline. I had never heard of this area before... It is a disused train line which runs high above ground and close to the water. It has been revived and rejuvenated into a wonderful area to stroll and enjoy the quirky views of Manhattan's West Side. There are gardens, places to sit, places to dream and think. Really a wonderful, creative use of unwanted public space.

At this point we were getting hot and tired, the kids needed the loo desperately and we rushed into a Starbucks before taking the Subway home for a brief rest before dinner.

Dinner was at Frankie's, Jules' favourite place to eat in Brooklyn. Apart from the kids being unwell, tired and cranky it was a great evening. Lovely, simple Italian food and lots of it. I just couldn't deal with the carb overload. Probably shouldn't have eaten so much of the gorgeous bread before the meal.

This morning we are loafing around trying to muster the energy required to get us to The Bronx Zoo. Jay has gone into Manhattan for his shopping day with M, so it's just me and the kiddos today. Better get organized.

Tonight Will, Jay and Dodo are off to see the Yankees vs The Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. I can't stand baseball but it should be a fun "cultural" experience for the boys.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Random

Brunch is big here. Our local cool street is 5th Avenue and it has countless places to eat - from take away holes in the wall for juice and coffee to restaurants and cafes of all sorts. I have really enjoyed walking around here the last couple of mornings, window shopping, people watching and eating. Is there any better way to spend a weekend morning (that doesn't involve Robbie Williams and nudity)?

This is a really diverse neighbourhood with old timers mixing it with young, hip singles and yummy mummies with their yummy hubbies and yummy kiddies (or to be more truthful underfed middle class hippies in birkenstocks and organic clothing, eating tofu - or "protien" - and drinking fair trade coffee). It takes all sorts and I love that.

After Marianna and I had our brunch of bagels and coffee/iced tea we found a tiny farmers' market and bought giant punnets of sweet New Jersey strawberries and a tub of amazing fresh pickles. Super friendly pickle dude gave us lots of yummy things to sample and Marianna came away with a bag of green olives to munch on on the way home.

They love dogs here. REALLY! Dogs are everywhere. Because they are mostly allowed to have pets in apartments people come out of tiny apartments with huge Great Danes. Mainly they have little dogs here, tiny little dogs, microscopic dogs. You need special magnifying glasses to see some of these dogs.

There are pet businesses everywhere. Most cafes have outdoor seating that's pet friendly or at least somewhere to tether your dog. Shake Shake even has a Pooch-ini which is a shake for dogs which has a dog biscuit blended into it.

The other funny thing is child care centres in shopfronts along the main shopping streets. You can drop off your kid, your dry cleaning and pick up your organic fair trade soy latte in a bio-degradable reusable cup all on the same block. I know we're starting to get a few centres in high rises and in big shopping centres but these seem funny to me.

More random thoughts later.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What we've all been waiting for

We were a little concerned that our driver didn't seem to know where we were heading for the wedding ceremony, even though when we got there it seemed to be a very popular Brooklyn waterfront area with lots of people enjoying a beautiful day out and quite a few weddings and wedding photo sessions taking place.

Our small group of family and friends slowly gathered and we awaited the arrival of the happy couple.

They arrived together, both looking simply stunning. I could use fluffy words to describe how gorgeous and glowing they both were but I won't.... There will be photos when I come home and can download from the good camera. I have put up one stunning photo from my phone on FB and if you've seen it you'll know how beautiful Jules was and how handsome Marvin looked, with the magnificent Manhattan skyline as a backdrop to their special moment.

It was very sweet that Marvin's best friend officiated at the ceremony (and Marvin will do the same when Dan gets married later in the year).

While photos were taken a man arrived with a tray of ice creams to enjoy while we were waiting. What a super cute idea. A delicious ice cream by the waterfront on a beautiful Brooklyn summer's day. Perfection.

A fleet of cars whisked us off to iCI restaurant where the reception was to be held. From the moment we arrived and had our first drink in the lovely little courtyard, shaded by a pretty tree laced with lights, we knew this was the perfect venue. The restaurant is small, with simple, elegant charm and we had sole use of it. There were rustic bunches of flowers in glass jars and candles flickering everywhere. Even a blackhearted crone like me couldn't help but be touched by the romantic ambience.

Drinks and delicious nibbles in the courtyard; a little pre-reception dancing as the lavender-infused vodka and champagne cocktail went straight to my head. Then dinner at the single long table upstairs. Our place cards were Photoboothed photos of each person - hilarious; much giggling and exchanging of photos as we settled down for dinner.

Because J and M are foodies of the highest order we knew the food would be good and it was. Tiny delectable oysters with a champagne sabayon, antipasti featuring the most delicious salami and pickled okra, a spring panzanella salad, a light salad of greens, then the heavy hitters, braised beef brisket and slow cooked lamb shoulder, both with beautiful sides. A superb meal, easy and relaxed, platters of food passed from person to person amidst much aahhing and mmmming.

After the food came the speeches, all heartfelt and special, funny and touching. Even a bitter and twisted old cow like me can believe in love and romance in the face of so much beautiful sentiment. I was so happy that the DJ was able to incorporate Anthony and the Johnsons' "You Are My Sister" to finish off my little speech, I had been worrying about the logistics of it for ages. It is a song which exactly says, so much better than I can, how much I love my sister and how much hope I have for a wonderful future for her.

One of the terrific things about the evening was the quickly formed friendship which formed between my kids and Marvin's nieces and nephews. While they were shy to start with it didn't take long before they were all playing and eating together, dancing and running around taking photos (with the cameras and special "tasks" provided for each child in their special box - brilliant idea).

The fun rolled on with dancing and drinkies downstairs. The music was great and everyone was up and getting down. Even my dad, who for those who know him is the least likely person I can think of to hit the dance floor, did a fair bit of getting jiggy with it (including some pretty impressive moves, I must say).

A brief break for the cake, a delicious and beautiful croquembouche, then lots more dancing. It was so much fun. Exhausted we finally caught a cab home at about 1:00am (unbelievably both kids were still awake and in a good mood, though Marianna was getting very sleepy). We were actually all starving by this point and Big Jay set off to find a pizza. No pizza to be had (we thought we were in New York, a 24 hour sort of town!) he returned with chicken, cheese and mayo sandwiches, procured from god knows where, I was too scared to ask. We ate them in bed and were all soon asleep.

It's now 9:40 on Sunday morning. I tried to sleep in but just couldn't manage it. Bummer. Everyone else is still asleep. I'm going to clean up (we left the place in an awful state yesterday as we zoomed around getting ready) and hopefully the others will get up soon - I'm starving.

A slow day today. We'll head over to J and M's later for some of Marvin's homemade sausages, which is how this whole thing started in the first place, and then a late afternoon picnic at Prospect Park.... Maybe just squeeze in a quick bit of shopping before then...

These shoes are made for walking

So much for having a quiet morning before the wedding. We slept in a little and set off for breakfast. They don't seem to do breakfast so much on weekends around here; brunch is more the way things roll here. But after walking eight blocks we finally found a little French bistro happy to let us in a little early.

Breakfast was great. People say you can't get a good coffee in the US. I haven't found that. Every cappuccino I've had has been great; my two main requirements are a hot coffee and a mild, smooth taste, and they have all ticked those boxes. I'm not a fan of bitter, super strong coffee that can do double duty as paint stripper so what I've been served here has been perfect.

Anyway, we introduced them to the concept of "babycinos" which is what Marianna wanted. I have been having a bit of a French toast fest since we've been here and this place did a great version, with super crispy bacon, fruit salad and maple syrup - mmmmmmmmmm.

We walked back towards home thinking we'd look at some of the quirky little shops in the area but they were all still shut, apparently opening after 11am on weekends. So we headed to the big "mall" to see if we could find Will some nice black shoes to wear to the wedding.

We walked all over, bought a few things in Target and I got a pair of purple Converse at DSW, but didn't find anything for Will. So being the mental giants that we are we walked all the way back up the street we had just come from in the hope of finding something in one of the shops we had passed.

Again, we bought a few bits and pieces but no shoes for Will. It was now after 1pm, our day was drifting away and we needed to be ready to leave for the wedding at 3pm. So Marianna and I headed back home, after a quick stop for the best iced tea and chocolate muffin I've ever had, while the boys continued the shoe search.

Marianna and I came home, had showers, washed our hair, got dressed, I ironed the boys' clothes and still no boys. Finally they turned up at 2:15 with a pair of shoes from a shop near Target which we hadn't found on our first visit there. A great pair of black shoes, perfect for the occasion for $16.99 - can't argue with that.

The car came to pick us up at 3:10pm and we only just made it onto the street before it arrived.

So our "relaxing" pre-wedding day turned into a shop-fest with countless blocks walked and not a single minute of hanging out watching crappy tv. Typical.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hitting the wall

Feel really tired and homesick tonight. It usually happens about this time. Our sleeping patterns are all over the place and we have been doing a lot every day. We're asking a lot of the kids and, being kids, they are driving us nuts with whining and bad behaviour.

Today we started the day with a bus trip to Jules and Marvin's place and then a multiple-player mani/pedi at one of the gazillion local salons ($20 for a mani and pedi - that's insane!!). Little Miss M had her first proper manicure (not just a mummy special) and sat through like a pro, especially excited about the little flowers she got on a couple of the nails.

Then we subwayed it into the city for lunch (yay, Shake Shack again - not as pleasant an experience as yesterday with us having to get take away as we were so short on time; also, my jelly donut flavoured shake wasn't as good as yesterday's Concrete Jungle). Then a mad rush to the waterfront to start our Circle Line cruise with mum and David and a bunch of J's and M's friends and family.

It was a great cruise with a very informative commentator. But three hours was too long, only because we were all so tired and it wad just too relaxing to sit on the deck on a glorious blue-skied day and watch the magnificence of New York roll by. The Statue of Liberty was much smaller than expected, though much bigger than it looked from the Empire State Building. An impressive and moving monument either way.

By the time we returned to land at 5:00pm we were a little ratty and Marianna's insistence that Jason carry her all the way to the subway (quite a few blocks away) put him in a bad mood. Our trip home wasn't super jolly. Dinner at the tiny sushi place around the corner was lovely but we couldn't wait to get the kids home and into bed.

Now they are both asleep and I'm waiting for a couple of loads of laundry to finish drying before I also hit the shower and head to bed.

Tomorrow is the big day but we don't officially have to be anywhere until just before 4:00pm so a day of pottering around the interesting little local shops in our neighbourhood before we get ready is the order of the day.

Thanks for organizing a wonderful day for us all J and M. Sorry we are such grumps. We love you and know tomorrow will be just amazing.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Working our way through the list

Another huge day and hard to believe we got through it as we had very strange sleep last night (the kids just wouldn't settle, none of us could sleep - it was very weird, you'd have though we'd all had large red drinks for dinner).

Subway to Union Square which is only a couple of blocks from Madison Avenue and 23rd Street, which is home to THE Shake Shack, nestled in the middle of a sweet little park.

I was skeptical that a burger joint could be THAT good but yes, it can be. Not sure what it is about the burgers... the buns are amazing (I really don't care what their secret ingredient is, sugar, arsenic, cocaine, kryptonite... I'd eat them every day given the opportunity). They are just really delicious and fresh tasting. The fries are very good too, possibly just a great potato cooked in good oil - simple. Now let's talk about my Concrete Jungle shake. I'm drooling just thinking about it. Hot chocolate fudge, banana and peanut butter together with their frozen custard ice cream blended into a super thick thick shake (lucky I'm such a good sucker)...superb and I'd have one again right now if someone would just drop it over for me.

After lunch we met with dad and Irina and headed to the Empire State Building. It's stating the bleeding obvious to say it's a superb building. Everything about it's art deco splendour is awesome. We tried to enjoy the experience but it was tough going with the kids constantly whinging... how long are we going to be here, can we go now, what are we doing next.... AAARRGGHH!!!!!!! How to ruin a perfectly wonderful holiday to New York? Take a couple of ungrateful children along.

Then we decided to head towards Times Square but walked about ten blocks in the wrong direction before we realised and headed back. Half way there we decided to split up. I wanted to take Marianna to the American Girl doll shop on Fifth Avenue and Jay wanted to take Will to the Hard Rock Cafe.

American Girl is a bit of an institution with the idea being to find a doll that looks like you (preferably the child, not the mother, that would be doubly creepy). Then you can buy matching child/doll outfits. You can even take your doll to the beauty salon where you can treat her to a new hairstyle or a "facial" or even ear piercing. If you've been loving your doll too much you can take her to the doll hospital. It's a strange old world we live in.

A major dent in the credit card and a large bag in tow we headed for Grand Central Station and some afternoon tea. Marianna had spied the Magnolia Bakery (yes, of Sex in the City fame, though this isn't the original one) on our previous visit and I had promised her a cupcake. What better way to end a girly doll buying session than with a couple of cupcakes and an iced tea in the beautiful GCS food concourse (that's a fancy word for food hall).

Our subway ride home was memorable because of an African American couple sitting next to us who were straight off the Jerry Springer set. I don't honestly know what they were actually talking about because despite them speaking words that sounded like English the sentences they were putting together was nothing like the Queen's English I am used to. The only thing I could decipher was the man thought he was being good daddy because he supplied his child/ren with candy. It wad a highly entertaining train trip, my main objective not to make eye contact with other passengers in case I started laughing hysterically.

Arriving back in our 'hood (see how I'm fitting right in over here in the U S of A?) Marianna and I walked another half a dozen blocks to find the sports store which sold New York Cosmos (the soccer team you have when you're not having a soccer team) shirt for our friend S. I was starting to near the end of my tether, it was after six, so I rang Jay to see if he and Will wanted to meet us for dinner at the fish cafe which caused the fight between the children a few nights ago.

A quick dinner of yummy fish and another purchase for Little Miss Spoiled Brat at the tiny local kids' clothes shop and we're finally home. My feet are throbbing, The Big Bang Theory is on the teev and I think it won't be long before we all hit the sack.

Later peeps.

Oh, did I mention we saw a dog wearing shoes today? There's a photo to come if you don't believe me.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Shop till I drop

Today was the day, the long awaited SHOPPING DAY. Big Jay and the kids were off to Coney Island for a day of rides, games and hot dogs (and in case I forget to mention them again they had a wonderful HUGE day, ate lots of crap and did a little shopping of their own).

I took the subway into Fulton Street Station which is on the doorstep of the World Trade Centre site. As I came up onto the street from the subway the worksite was the first thing I saw. Walking towards it made me all tingly and my legs heavy.

As I walked along the street, the sun shining, people hurrying all around me I looked up and tried to imagine how it must have been on that day, much like today. All words seem inadequate, not up to describing what people must have thought as they lived that day first hand. I watched it from the very safe distance of my house in Sydney and it had felt surreal, impossible. Seeing it up close today it felt the same. When I think about the horror my mind shuts down, doesn't want to go there. Marvin's mum was working only a block or two away and she saw people jumping out of the burning buildings as she ran away. My god!!

I stood across the road and looked at the busy worksite, at the building already completed, the one almost completed...and I thought for a long time. Then I went and had a Starbucks white chocolate mocha and a bagel. Well what else could I do?

Soon my dear sister joined me and Century 21 was calling. Whoa baby. That place is something else. Minor designer, non designer and major designer stuff hanging side by side in total chaos. It's a hunter-gatherer experience. Luckily today wasn't super busy, but busy enough. We had to line up to try stuff on and to pay. But I did come away with some great dresses, a top and some cardies (including a RARE one, an Italian brand I really love).

A quick stop in the children's department and we were off to meet mum and David at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. What a trip back in time; so elegant and beatiful. Even the bathrooms were lovely, with a woman who squeezed soap onto my hands and then handed me a towel (did I feel like a doofus for leaving my handbag at the table and not being able to leave her a tip, the bedrock of American society). They have a bar where you can sit and order from a menu of maybe twenty different types of oysters from different parts of the US. Heaven. The ones we tried were lovely (I preferred the East coast to the West coast ones, if anyone is interested).

Lunch over we had to head over to Soho as Jules had an appointment and I wanted to continue with the retail therapy. The Subway was having some sort of meltdown so after a 45 minute wait we headed back upstairs to find a cab. Finally we were back on Broadway.

I went to Desigual, my Spanish sweetheart (discovered in Noosa last year). Some of their stuff is a little left of centre for me but I did get another of their beautiful skirts and a t-shirt (and a free beach bag thrown in). Meeting up with Jules again we had a quick wander around Dean & Deluca, a foodie paradise.

A trawl through Zara, Banana Republic and Bloomingdales didn't provide any new finds but we were exhausted, it was after six o'clock and we decided enough was enough (to be honest I could have done another hour but hoisting my shopping bags around was getting somewhat tedious).

I came home exhausted and with a couple of dud purchases which will need to be returned (what a shame, I'll need to make another trip to Century 21). I have also had the opportunity of trying out the laundry room in the basement. What a pain not to have a washing machine/dryer/clothes line in the apartment. Apart from the cost of $2.00 per load of washing and then drying it's the thought of using big industrial washing machines that are used by lots of other people. Yuck. Not the world's biggest problem though.

Tomorrow is family day in the city. Union Square, the American Girl doll shop, a burger at Shake Shack for lunch. Good night.

Last night...

Yesterday was a little of control. We had plans to spend half the day in the city with my dad doing a double decker bus touristy trip and then to head back early to have a rest as I was going to Jules' girls' night out.

We walked down Atlantic Avenue to a diner which looked good but was pretty basic. It's true about serving sizes here; an order of eggs comes with lots of bacon, fried potatoes and toast - all for $6.25. The bagels are good here.

Then our first subway trip into Grand Central Station, which is just stunning... I could have stared at that amazing ceiling for hours. A walk to meet dad and Irina at the Waldorf and we were off on our bus tour.

Sitting up on the top deck gave us a great view but also made us very hot and we all realized we needed hats, pronto. So we hopped off at Times Square and spent a fortune at the big souvenir shop.

We then hopped back onto another tour and ended up going through Soho, Greenwich Village, past the WTC site and lots of other interesting places. We had a great guide who was very informative, funny and entertaining. I didn't want the tour to end. It almost didn't as we got stuck at one point waiting for a guy who had left his wallet on the bus during a previous tour to catch up with our bus in a taxi.

By the time we got off and headed back to the Waldorf for a late lunch it was 3:00pm. So much for having a relaxing day and being home early. The Waldorf is a seriously old world classy sort of place, with prices to match (it stands out because food is generally very cheap here). Will's Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich was $15 and he didn't want to eat it because there was no "jelly" and he doesn't like peanut butter (both issues were discussed at length during the ordering process). My ridiculously priced Club Sandwich was very good though.

Then we had to hightail it over to Grand Central Station again to catch our train home. After a long wait we walked in the door at 5:30, leaving me 25 minutes to refresh before heading out for the evening.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Momofuku Ssam Bar. Momofuku has legendary status with my sister and she loves/worships it's chef/owner David Chang. This bar is part of his empire but not the main restaurant. It's small and very loud and funky (meaning uncomfortable for old fuddy duddys like me).

Our group squeezed (triple emphasize squeezed!) into our table and proceeded to scream into each other's ears for the next few hours. The food was a set menu and each dish was amazing. The sparsely worded menu didn't really provide much of an idea of what we were going to get. All I can say it wasn't a great place if you are either Kosher or a vegetarian. The whole "butt" (pig of course) served sang choy bou style with lots of various accompaniments was a "wow" sort of dish.

It was a welcome relief to fall out onto the street sometime later. Despite New York's stifling hot weather and humidity the air outside was so refreshing after the sweat box which was Momofuku Ssam Bar. After all about half of NY's population was squeezed into an area about twice the size of a phone box.

At this point we decided the night was too young to call it a night and teetered over the road to what Jules called a "dive bar". It was so fabulous and such a contrast. A small, simple, quiet bar which would definitely have been my local had I been living in a parallel universe as a single working girl in NYC. Just the front bar and a small back room, a single female bartender, a jukebox and a handful of regulars (including a super hot guy who looked like RW in a certain light or maybe it was the couple of cocktails I had ingested earlier??).

Things fairly quickly took on a David Lynch film-like quality when a strange little dude came in and befriended us. Then we took another couple of steps into Twin Peaks world when a handful of young Navy boys came in looking for a good time. Jules' friend quickly roped in a couple of them to pretend they were strippers (Jules was morbidly terrified of having a stripper there). These boys were already pissed and one went into a convoluted story about his nickname, gained in Iraq, on account of his hobby of stripping for no apparent reason.

Being a pathetic old worry wart I was a tiny bit concerned this would not end well. Before we knew it Jules and her friend R were sitting out in the small back room being straddled by two cute young Navy boys. I stayed on the outskirts but the horrified look on my mother's face told me things were getting a little crazy. Apparently they weren't but mum was being horrified in advance. I'm fairly sure no wobbly bits saw the light of air.

Soon we called it a night leaving some of Jules' friends to carry on partying and headed home in a cab with a hilarious singing driver. The weirdness continued.

It was a great but thought provoking night. I really loved meeting some of Jules' friends who I had previously only heard about. I enjoyed meeting Marvin's lovely sisters who are as gorgeous and smart as he is (remember what I said about diluting your gene pool by joining our family Marvin).

Seeing the young Navy boys at the bar made me a little sad. They were just like Forrest Gump, young, naive boys from somewhere down south. They had been to Iraq. They were drunk and lonely and looking to distract themselves for a few hours. They didn't seem much older than Will which just made it all the more bizarre. Fresh faces, barely shaving, gentle manners like boys out for the day with their mother. Yet they had probably seen the most horrible things, possibly killed other people. Surreal.

I collapsed into bed and slept properly for the first time since we left home.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sensory overload

Not the best night last night. All our sleeping patterns were out and after tossing and turning for hours I got up to find both kids sitting up playing with their DSs at two am. Then the musical beds started and the whinging about being hungry and thirsty. Blah! Finally I managed a few hours sleep but was not exactly chirpy when I dragged myself out of bed just after eight am.

A walk, a bus trip and another walk and we were at Kensington, visiting Jules and Marvin in their lovely pad. Airy, quirky, with gorgeous views... the only thing missing was a tv, a fact the kids (and I) can't quite comprehend.

When mum and David turned up we took a long walk through the amazing old neighbourhood, full of huge old homes and beautiful trees. It was hot and super humid and we were all looking forward to brunch at the "best cafe in New York".

The cafe was ok, nothing more or less. The ordering area was small and crowded, the guy taking the orders slow. The food and coffee were decent, but my cappuccino didn't even come with a metal spoon, just a help-yourself wooden stirrer which looked liked it belonged in a medical practice. Not impressed.

Nevermind. Stuffed, we squeezed into a "car service" car and dropped mum and David home before heading back to our neck of the woods for a late lunch with my dad and his friend Irina, who had arrived last night.

The seafood restaurant we had been anticipating was closed because of the Memorial Day public holiday but we found a great, laid back Middle Eastern eatery across the road and we were set for the afternoon. Drinks, delicious food (two courses for $14 per person - the best hummus I think I've ever had) and great service made for a very enjoyable session two of Meet the Parents.

Next door I found a cool little gift store which is where Gino came from. A sock monkey with a Mohawk - genius!! He is made by a disabled artist in NYC and he is the best thing. He will live on my bed and always remind me of Brooklyn. (picture on my FB page)

We all walked back to our apartment so everyone could have a sticky beak. I was hot and bothered and ready to throw in the towel but I was out voted and we got a car into Manhattan to check out the Waldorf Astoria where dad was staying. The per night rate was so reasonable I thought it must be a shadow of it's former self but it wasn't, it's still elegant and luxurious and truly awesome. The Fawlty Towers connection made it doubly special for us and of course dad had to have the Waldorf Salad last night (apparently they weren't all out of Waldorfs), which he said was delicious.

Despite the whinging of the children (and of my feet) we then proceeded to walk countless blocks to Times Square. Wow, what a mind blowing city. Every adjective I can think of just doesn't come close to describing it's size and awesome-ness. It just goes on forever, as far as the eye can see. Sydney is a big, wonderful city but it's a drop in the ocean compared to NYC. You could walk around every day for a month and not see the half of it.

It is almost daunting. I'm one of those people who struggles to choose my meal in a restaurant with a big menu, always looking at what others ordered and worrying that they made a better choice. NYC is like that. There is so much to see and do and eat, the possibilities are truly endless and as I walked around today I wanted to do it all.

Spotting the M&M's store in Times Square we decided to grab some take home goodies and found ourselves in Hell on Earth. All we wanted were some unavailable in Australia almond M&Ms but we found ourselves in three stories of crazy. It's impossible to believe the choice of sugar coated chocolate inspired crappola one can purchase. I didn't actually see a toilet seat or ear hair trimmer sporting the M&M logo but I'm quite positive such things exist, everything else is there. Having spent about $80 on almond, peanut butter and pink (for Marianna of course) M&Ms we escaped into the stifling humidity of Times Square and the secure understanding we would never set foot in that place again.

So we returned home to Brooklyn and hopefully a better night's sleep tonight. Tomorrow we're heading back to Manhattan and then, tomorrow night, Momofuku. Oh, the sweet anticipation.