Saturday, April 30, 2011

The King's Speech

Tonight I watched The King's Speech - Colin Firth as "Bertie/George V" and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue.

In a word "Splendid" and highly recommended viewing! Just watch these two - the rest are mere supporting actors!

Saturday's Scribe - The Royal Weddings

"Never let the demands of tomorrow interfere with the pleasures and excitement of today."
Meredith Willson, The Music Man

I guess that is an appropriate quote at this current time for their Royal Highness's, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The wedding was indeed a beautiful spectacular that managed to combine exquisite flair and colour with simplistic and personal taste.

After sealing their romance with two kisses on the palace balcony, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a lunchtime reception for 600 guests hosted by the Queen, who did not stick around for the reception. After lunch, tens of thousands lining The Mall later got a surprise when Prince William took his new bride for a spin to Clarence House in his father's Aston Martin - complete with balloons tied to the bumper and a number plate reading JU5T WED.

I can recall seeing newsreel footage of William's grandmother's wedding to prince Phillip - Queen Elizabeth met Prince Philip in 1939, when she was just 13 years old. They saw each other frequently at social occasions and in 1944, Prince Philip asked his cousin King George of Hellenes about marriage. In 1946, the prince proposed to the future Queen at Balmoral. The wedding was set for 20 November 1947.

It was first thought inappropriate to hold an elaborate and luxurious wedding while the ordinary citizens of Britain struggled in the aftermath of war in Europe. But in the end it was decided to turn the wedding into a national celebration. The ceremony was the first time television cameras entered Westminster Abbey. Guests were treated to an opulent supper. There were 12 wedding cakes, and the main one was nine feet tall.
The bride wore a Hartnell creation of ivory silk with an interwoven flower design crusted with pearls and crystal. The honeymoon was spent in Kent.

The Queen's younger sister, Margaret, married photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones, on 6 May 1960. It seemed a true life romance, sealed in a picturesque ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The honeymoon was an exotic one, in the West Indies. For the years after, the couple led a glamorous life among all the beautiful people of the swinging sixties.

The couple had two children, David and Sarah, but in 1966, rumours emerged of a partial separation. In May 1978, the couple were officially divorced.

The Queen's only daughter, Princess Anne, was linked with army officer, Mark Phillips, but Buckingham Palace firmly denied this.Weeks later, their engagement was announced. It was later commented that their relationship paved the way for members of the Royal Family to marry commoners.

The couple married on 14 November 1973. It took place at the Abbey and there was a grand procession along the streets of central London. Thousands of spectators lined the roads to watch the troops on parade.

But in April 1992, they too divorced. Six months later, the Princess Royal married Commander Timothy Laurence in a quiet ceremony in Scotland.

Without doubt, the most remembered and, dare I say, the most romantic Royal marriage was that of Charles and Dianna. Prince Charles and Diana's wedding was the most talked about of the century. The ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981, was billed as a fairytale ending to a romantic courtship. The prince, one of the world's most eligible bachelors, appeared to have fallen for the bashful 20-year-old children's nanny. He wed her in true grandeur at the Abbey.

As Diana stepped out of the royal carriage up the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, it was the moment millions had been waiting for: the first glimpse of the royal bridal dress. An endless silk embroidered white train meandered behind her as she, escorted by her ailing father, walked up the aisle to meet her groom, the heir to the throne.

The couple separated in 1992, following the births of their sons, William and Harry. In 1996, they were officially divorced.

All eyes were then on Prince Andrew next to find his future bride. After several much-publicised affairs, his engagement to Sarah Ferguson was announced. In the wake of the Wales's marriage, the country was only too happy to welcome another grand royal occasion. On 23 July 1986, the prince and "Fergie", as she came to be affectionately known by the public, wed at Westminster Abbey in an elaborately organised national event.

The Queen gave them the titles, Duke and Duchess of York. The couple had two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie. They separated in 1992, but continue to live under the same roof, sharing joint custody of their children.

I wish the royal couple a happy wedded life and may only hope that the God's of marriage are kinder to them than they were to some of the previous royals!

Friday, April 29, 2011

All North American bloggers

Especially those in the storm ravaged eastern and mid-western areas of the US - please stay in touch and let us know that you are OK!

Good luck and best wishes to you all!  God bless!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What goes with what?

We had a lovely pork rib roast the other night, done with full baked vegies and apple sauce. The local butcher carved off for pork rib chops, de-boned it and rolled and seasoned it for cooking.

Got me to thinking as to "What goes with what?", particularly what fruits could be served with different meats, either whole or made as a sauce? Here's some that I have already used previously

Pork - Apple, Avocado, Pineapple, Ginger

Chicken - Avocado, Lemon

Turkey - Apricots, Cranberries

Lamb - Mint, Pineapple

Beef - Plumb, Nectarine

Duck - Orange, Apricots

Venison - Nectarine, Paw Paw, Avocado

Goat - Paw Paw, Pineapple, Avocado

Fish - Lemon

Any of you cooks out there got any other suggestions for the list?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 'enclosure' at "The Camp"

I wrote on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 how we had to make an urgent trip up to "The Camp" as the steel fabricator had wanted to put up the new enclosure around the verandah and only had one day on which he could do it. That was the same time when I experienced a wound 'break-down, which fortunately has healed itself, however I did take some photos of the changes.

The steel work is only undercoated at present and will probably have to stay that way until Spring, unless we happen to get a bout of warm weather. The best thing is that we can now leave Denny outside off his leash during the day knowing that he has his own little area to loll about in!

Autumn in Yass

We took a walk down along the river recently and captured some of the scenes as Autumn came upon Yass. The poplar grove was well on the way to dropping its leaves - Denny loves to run among the carpet of leaves that form in Autumn.

There were people just enjoying the riverbank and signs of 'fall' were everywhere to be seen.

There is a lovely fir tree that shades a memorial seat to one of our long serving and muched loved general practitioners, Dr 'Rag' Holmes. The construction work going on nearby is a new bridge across Chinaman's Creek that council is installing to replace the much worn wooden structure that had become unsafe for use.

This new bridge is to be constructed of steel and concrete and will also allow for parks and gardens staff to move their equipment from one bank to the other without having to take the long route around the perimeter.

On the way home I clicked this old plane tree outside the Watch House Keeper's residence that was also getting ready for winter.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Anzac Day - What is it all about?

Tens of thousands of people have turned out to watch serving and ex-serving personnel taking part in Anzac Day marches.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.

On 30 April 1915, when the first news of the landing reached New Zealand, a half-day holiday was declared and impromptu services were held. The following year a public holiday was gazetted (i.e., officially declared) on 5 April and services to commemorate were organised by the returned servicemen.

The date, 25 April, was officially named Anzac Day in 1916. In that year it was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia and New Zealand. During the 1920s, Anzac Day became established as a National Day of Commemoration for the 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders who died during the war.

Anzac Day at Manly, Brisbane, Australia, 1922

The first year in which all the Australian states observed some form of public holiday together on Anzac Day was 1927. By the mid-1930s, all the rituals now associated with the day — dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions — became part of Australian Anzac Day culture. New Zealand commemorations also adopted many of these rituals, with the dawn service being introduced from Australia in 1939.

With the coming of the Second World War, Anzac Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost in that war as well and in subsequent years. The meaning of the day has been further broadened to include those killed in all the military operations in which the countries have been involved.

A large commemoration march in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, (April 2008)

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, a dawn stand-to or dawn ceremony became a common form of Anzac Day remembrance during the 1920s.

The Last Post is played at an Anzac Day ceremony in Port Melbourne, Victoria, 25 April 2005.

The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.

Dawn services were originally very simple and followed the operational ritual; in many cases they were restricted to veterans only. The daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers and the dawn service was for returned soldiers to remember and reflect among the comrades with whom they shared a special bond.

The wreath laying at the 2008 dawn service at the Australian War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London

Before dawn the gathered veterans would be ordered to "stand-to" and two minutes of silence would follow. At the start of this time a lone bugler would play "The Last Post" and then concluded the service with "Reveille". In more recent times the families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers and rifle volleys. Others, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.

The "Ode of Remembrance"

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest we forget!

(The "Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen", which was first published in The Times in September 1914.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday's Scribe - hutesium et clamor

"hutesium et clamor" - literally "a horn and shouting," has it basis in Common Law and is a process by which bystanders are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who has been witnessed in the act of committing a crime.

There! Bet some of you didn't know that, did you? Well, here's a bit more background. Did you also know that by the statute of Winchester, 13 Edw. I cc. 1 and 4, (1285) it was provided that:
  •  anyone, either a constable or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime shall make hue and cry, and,
  • that the hue and cry must be kept up against the fleeing criminal from town to town and from county to county,
  • until the felon is apprehended and delivered to the sheriff.
  • All able-bodied men, upon hearing the shouts, were obliged to assist in the pursuit of the criminal, which makes it comparable to the posse comitatus (more about that another day, p'raps).

It was moreover provided that:
  • a hundred that failed to give pursuit on the hue and cry would become liable in case of any theft or robbery.
  • Those who raised a hue and cry falsely were themselves guilty of a crime.

 All very interesting stuff but not really what I want to write about today. I want to write about London's Ealing Studios.
Ealing Studios is the oldest continuously working film studio in the world. The stages and offices are steeped in history having survived the onset of the talkies, two world wars and the more recent technological advances in film and TV. The Ealing Comedies of the 1950s are considered a high point of British cinema. The spirits of Alec Guiness, Alastair Sim and Peter Sellars pervade the stages, which are constantly in demand to shoot films like Dorian Gray, Nowhere Boy, and both St Trinians films. BBC broadcast Let’s Dance live from Studio 2 as part of Sports Relief and the BBC’s Cranford, Woody Allen and Gurinder Chadha recently based productions on the lot.

Will Barker, a pioneer of British cinema, originally acquired the site in 1902. Basil Dean, owner of Associated Talking Pictures took over from Barker in the early 1930s and Ealing Studios was established. In 1938, Michael Balcon joined Dean as Head of Production. The golden era of Ealing Studios had begun.

This fabulous period of creativity began with a series of real life dramas, such as Went The Day Well and Nine Men, that sustained Britain during the war. As Britain laboured under post war rationing, Balcon and his close-knit team produced a series of classic comedies that captured the spirit of the age. The audience saw themselves in films like The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets, and they thronged to see them.

These pictures contained recurring themes which resonated with the social upheaval that followed the war: the little people up against the establishment; an anarchic whimsy that was born often out of real events; a cast of characters drawn from the confusion and moral ambiguity of the times: a soft spot for raffish charm. It is this latter part that is the subject of this week's "Saturday's Scribe".

I had a bad night last night, what with the aches and pains in my knee and leg and also from a bout of sleep apnoea, a nasty condition where one stops breathing in their sleep, it wasn't a nice night's sleep. I woke up feeling like I wanted to breathe but I couldn't draw breath. I managed to get the doona of my body and push myself upright on to the edge of the bed and was then able to suck in some breath. Must do something about it, one day! (sighhhh!).

Anyway, I got out of bed and suitably rugged up against the night chill (2C last night and a frost) I made my way to the kitchen, made a cup of tea, settled into my recliner chair and turned on the TV. As you would expect at 3am in the morning there was not much on but as I 'channel-jumped' I came across an old English movie - J Arther Rank's production of "Hue and Cry" a post-war film made through Ealing Studios, London and it included a lot of actual scenes of post-war London going through the re-build post Blitz. In particular were scenes shot along the Thames River showing warehouses and docks in various stage of de-construction, being readied for re-building and lots of shots of London City and its residential areas also being rebuilt.

"Hue and Cry", the movie was made in 1947 when Britain was trying to re-establish it industry and the entertainment industry was considered to be an important one for Britain, not only for morale but also for cash-flow, something desperately needed by Britain and her post-war debt. Directed by Charles Crichton it starred Alastair Sim, Frederick Piper, Harry Fowler, Douglas Barr, Valerie White, Jack Warner and a whole host of other actors who were to play an important part in re-building the British movie industry. By today's standard it is a 'corny' movie, however, it does assume epic proportions in its portrayal of life in London post-WWII.

"Hue and Cry", was about a gang of street boys who foil a master crook who sends commands for robberies by cunningly altering a comic strip's wording each week, unknown to writer and printer. It was the first of the Ealing comedies. The final scenes, filmed on London's Thames and demolished docks and warehouses, shows how the 'Boy Gangs of London' foiled the thieves from getting away with their loot as the call of the "Hue and Cry" was sent out across the streets and rooftops of London to rally all boys to the cause!  Excellent "Boy's Own" stuff!

It was a starting point for Ealing Studios to go on and make many of the great post-war early black and white (and later colour) movies of the day - The Ladykillers (1955), The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Blue Lamp (1950), Passport to Pimlico (1949), Whisky Galore (1949), Kind hearts and Coronets (1949), and many more!

OK - If you have 1 hour and 20 minutes to spare, sit back and enjoy this movie and, for those old enough to remember, reminisce over those days when the cloud of darkness lifted off the world and we were able to laugh, play and enjoy the sunshine again!

Well, if you are in for it, just click on the link below and go to the full movie download on YouTube!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plastic wraps - a contentious issue!

A note left on my blog by ‘Maria’, Easter - why is it so?, referred to plastic wrap and how she and her partner felt towards it and, being a ‘green’ household, Maria had to hide her sole packet of plastic wrap in a bottom draw where her partner would be unlikely to find it. I’m not a fan of ‘plastic wraps’ either, although I do use it. I never use it to come into contact with food – merely to cover without contact – nor would I ever contemplate its use in cooking. I certainly never wrap food in it, although I will wrap a sandwich in paper sandwich wrap and then wrap that parcel in plastic wrap - there's always some protective barrier between the food I intend to eat and the plastic wrap.

I do enjoy a cup of soup made from a concentrated soup sachet and boiling water, however, I only use a soup brand, Hansells King Soup Singles , which are 98% Fat Free, have no MSG, contain all natural flavours and colours and real ingredients and are, essentially, a 'clear soup' of low residue. The ingredients come in foil sachets, not plastic, and I do not reconstitute the soup ingredients in the plastic cup they come in, preferring to reconstitute those in a glass soup bowl.

I do recall watching an episode of a national cooking show late last year, you know, one of those ‘eviction cooking shows’ where contestants are progressively eliminated each showing. Interspersed along the week of episodes was a regular “How to do it!” session conducted as a 'tutorial' by two of the judges, top chefs in their own right. I was gob-smacked when watching one of the latter sessions when they demonstrated how to poach an egg. They placed some plastic wrap over a cup, cracked an egg into the plastic wrap and then knotted it off before dropping it into a pan of boiling water for thirty seconds. They then spooned out the plastic mess, cut away the plastic wrap and peeled the egg out of it leaving a decorative poached egg, looking something like a small white artichoke, to sit on a plate which they then proceeded to ‘dress up’ with other food items.

Just why two top chefs were not able to poach an egg in the conventional manner by immersing it in a simmering pan of boiled water was never explained but I was horrified to see the use of plastic wrap to cook food in this way.

I also recall from my nursing days when we had a man admitted who had wanted to kill himself. He was admitted in a very distressed condition, dehydrated, in great gut pain, suffering bouts of diarrhoea which, remarkably, contained small pieces of shredded plastic wrap. We learnt from his flat mate that he had been eating a commercial roll of plastic wrap. After much treatment over many weeks, including several operations to remove sheets of plastic wrap from his gut – he lost a large part of his small intestine as a result – he was still not getting better.

We sought advice from a top physician who was a nationally recognised epidemiologist and pathologist who was well known for his diagnostic skills. He quickly diagnosed the man as having a toxaemia, a condition of illness due to the presence in the bloodstream of toxins and, in this case, it was a toxin known as Bisphenol A, or, BPA.

BPA is one of the elements used in the chemical make up of plastic. This substance has been the subject of many health concerns. BPA is known as an “endocrine disruptor” that leaches into the food and water contained in plastic containers (heat accelerates this process.) BPA disrupts hormonal, genetic and physical development. Recent studies suggest that can BPA can lower sperm count, cause infertility and impotence at high levels. Bisphenol A is also referred to as a “gender-bender” which is found in everything from water bottles to plastic wraps and dollar bills (paper money) and receipts.

Researchers have linked BPA to a number of serious health conditions. These include developmental issues, hormonal problems, breast cancer, prostate cancer and uterine cancer. Further health conditions include asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. This man had a serious neurological and cardiac conditions that were not responding to conventional treatment. BPA was the reason for this.

The man did not respond to our intensive treatment and, eventually, he died. I have little doubt that the toxic effects of ingesting large amounts of plastic wrap led to his bodily systems being contaminated with BPA which contributed to his demise!

While some of the claims about the toxic nature of ‘plastic wraps’ are questioned by their defendants, food safety experts do agree that consumers should take the following precautions when using plastic wrap or plastic containers in a microwave oven:

1. Only plastic containers or packaging labeled "Microwave Safe" should be used in microwave ovens.

2. If plastic wrap is used when microwaving, it should not be allowed to come into direct contact with food.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, chemical components can indeed "migrate" from plastics into food at microwaving temperatures. However, there is scant evidence to date, says the agency, that such contaminants pose a serious threat to human health.

Dioxins and dioxin-related compounds are pollutants that mainly enter the environment (and food supply) as industrial by-products. Particular dioxin compounds are considered to be highly toxic, with known health hazards ranging from birth defects to cancer. Studies have shown that dioxins may be released into the atmosphere when chlorinated plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — which is a component of some plastic wraps and food packaging — are incinerated at high temperatures, but there is no research demonstrating that dioxins are produced when the same plastics are heated in a microwave oven.

Here, it is worth noting however, that S.C. Johnson and Son, the manufacturers of Saran Wrap, a common retail plastic wrap, have reformulated this product such that the product no longer contains PVC (or any other chlorinated substance which could release dioxin.) I’ve never know any manufacturer to change the contents of their product willingly unless they were afraid of some form of litigation.

DEHA [Di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate] is a "plasticizer" — a softening compound added to plastic products to make them more pliable. Studies have shown that DEHA, when present, can migrate into food at high temperatures. Though it is not contained in Saran Wrap, it has been, and may still be, an ingredient in some other brands of plastic wrap.

At issue is whether or not (or to what degree) it is toxic to human beings. The current scientific consensus is that it is not, at least not in the minute amounts resulting from migration from plastics into foods.

Even though DEHA has long been regarded as a possible human carcinogen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed it from its list of toxic chemicals in the late 1990s after concluding, based on a review of the scientific evidence, that "it cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer, teratogenic effects, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, gene mutations, liver, kidney, reproductive or developmental toxicity or other serious or irreversible chronic health effects."

It must be noted that while the plastics industry and government health agencies in both the U.S. and Europe currently maintain that chemicals migrating into food from plastic wraps and containers pose no human health threat, consumer and environmental groups say otherwise. Both sides support their case by citing a lack of concrete evidence. The FDA argues that no studies have yet demonstrated toxic effects on humans; consumer advocates argue that not enough studies have been done.

Virtually all sources do agree on one important point: Consumers can and should protect themselves when using plastic products in the microwave by following the basic precautions stated above: i.e.

1. Only plastic containers or packaging labeled "Microwave Safe" should be used in microwave ovens.

2. If plastic wrap is used when microwaving, it should not be allowed to come into direct contact with food.

What all of this does is leave me wondering more and more about the tonnes of plastic that manufacturers are wrapping our foodstuffs in and leave me yearning for those days long gone when I could walk into a grocer’s shop and buy my biscuits (cookies), different flours, rice, by the bag weight and have my butter cut off a slab, weighed and wrapped in greaseproof paper to transport home, etc. At least we never bought much more than we intended to eat in the short term as we had little need of long term storage when our supplier was the corner grocery store.

Oh well, I guess that merely shows that I am getting old and wistful.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter - Why is it so?

I thought we'd take a closer look at the way Australians celebrate this holiday. For some people it's an important religious celebration for others it's about chocolate eggs and the Easter bunny. Here are some of the meanings behind our traditions.

This is what you might picture when you think of Easter. But what does a bunny, eggs and buns have in common? Well, there are meanings behind each one, so let's go on an Easter journey to find out.

Easter is one of the most sacred holidays on the Christian calendar. Good Friday represents the day Jesus Christ died on the cross and Easter Sunday is a celebration of when he rose from the dead. It's a time when families get together and go to church; some Christians will even fast, giving up something they really like for 40-days in the lead-up to Easter. This period is called 'Lent', and it's meant to teach sacrifice and self-discipline.

But Easter wasn't always a Christian festival; some people believe Easter traditions go back to the Pagan religion, which was more about nature. They reckon the festival was originally for the Pagan goddess of spring and fertility named Easter. And that's where they reckon the name might have come from. She's said to have brought new life to things like dying plants and flowers. Her sacred animal was a hare, which looks kind of like a rabbit. Okay, things are starting to fit into place a bit now, so let's go back to the bunny, eggs and the buns!

Hares featured in pagan Easter festivals because; well let's just say they're good at breeding, so the animal was thought to be best at representing new life. It's thought that over time people changed it to rabbit and that's why we see chocolate bunnies and even stuffed-toy rabbits around Easter time. In fact, the first edible bunnies were made in Germany in the 1800s out of pastry and sugar.

But it's not just the rabbits that have become a symbol of Easter, there are the eggs too! Eggs represent re-birth or continuing life and this fits in with the Christian message of Jesus rising. A common tradition is decorating actual eggs, which are then given as gifts. And it didn't take long for someone to work out that if you made them out of chocolate, you could make loads of money by selling them.

From eggs to hot cross buns! Whether you scoff them fresh or you take the time to toast them, they're traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Christians say the cross on the top of the bun represents Jesus' death on the cross, known as the crucifixion. But they weren't always eaten; some people hung them up in their homes believing it would protect them from evil. These days there are lots of hot cross bun varieties, like fruit and chocolate versions too!

In all modern Celtic languages the term for Easter is derived from Latin. In Brythonic languages this has yielded Welsh Pasg, Cornish and Breton Pask. In Goidelic languages the word was borrowed before these languages had re-developed the /p/ sound and as a result the initial /p/ was replaced with /k/. This yielded Irish Cáisc, Gaelic Càisg and Manx Caisht. These terms are normally used with the definite article in Goidelic languages, causing lenition in all cases: An Cháisc, A' Chàisg and Y Chaisht.

In 725, Bede succinctly wrote, "The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter." However, this does not reflect the actual ecclesiastical rules precisely. One reason for this is that the full moon involved (called the Paschal full moon) is not an astronomical full moon, but the 14th day of a calendar lunar month. Another difference is that the astronomical vernal equinox is a natural astronomical phenomenon, which can fall on March 19, 20, or 21, while the ecclesiastical date is fixed by convention on March 21. In applying the ecclesiastical rules, Christian churches use March 21 as the starting point in determining the date of Easter, from which they find the next full moon, etc.

So now you know why people eat chocolate bunnies, eggs and hot cross buns, it might help you to remember the real reason behind the season.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Would You marry Again?

A husband and wife are sitting quietly in bed reading when the Wife looks over at him and asks the question....

WIFE: "What would you do if I died? Would you get married Again?"

HUSBAND: "Definitely not!"

WIFE: "Why not? Don't you like being married?"

HUSBAND: "Of course I do."

WIFE: "Then why wouldn't you remarry?"

HUSBAND: "Okay, okay, I'd get married again."

WIFE: "You would?" (with a hurt look)

HUSBAND: (makes audible groan)

WIFE: "Would you live in our house?"

HUSBAND: "Sure, it's a great house."

WIFE: "Would you sleep with her in our bed?"

HUSBAND: "Where else would we sleep?"

WIFE: "Would you let her drive my car?"

HUSBAND: "Probably, it is almost new."

WIFE: "Would you replace my pictures with hers?"

HUSBAND: "That would seem like the proper thing to do."

WIFE: "Would you give her my jewelry?"

HUSBAND: "No, I'm sure she'd want her own."

WIFE: "Would you take her golfing with you?

HUSBAND: "Yes, those are always good times."

WIFE: "Would she use my clubs?

HUSBAND: "No, she's left-handed."

WIFE: -- silence --

HUSBAND: "Damn!"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mice Plague

We are now having an infestation of mice in South Australia and Western Australia. Even up at "The Camp" in western NSW we've been catching mice - I caught 7 mice and a grey rat in one night.

The recent rains and the subsequent boom in grain crops have proven ideal for mice to breed. Mice reach sexual maturity by 4-6 weeks. However, females should not be bred for the first time until they are 8 to 12 weeks old. Female mice come into estrus (heat) every 4-5 days (this is the time they will be fertile and receptive to a male). They will have a fertile estrus within 12-28 hours after giving birth, and within a couple of days of weaning a litter.
The gestation period of mice is usually 19-21 days. Mice can breed shortly after giving birth. If they breed while already nursing a litter, the gestation period can be longer (around 28 days).

The above video was made 2 months ago.
The following video is one from the 1993 mice plague!

Saturday's Scribe - A fishy tale

As our appetite for seafood rises, so too does our need to understand changes to the fish we eat. How much do you know about the state of your plate? Take our quiz, but don't make a meal of it!

1. What kind of shark often ends up as the fish in your fish and chips?
a) School shark b) Grey nurse c) Bull shark d) Hammerhead

2. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water oily fish. Which of is the best source of omega-3s?
a) Sardines b) Salmon c) Red snapper d) Tuna

3. Which fish should you limit your consumption of due to high mercury levels?
a) Sea perch b) Swordfish c) Shark d) All of the above

4. Each year every Australian eats nearly 25 kilograms of seafood. More than half of this is imported mainly from Thailand, New Zealand, China and Vietnam. What kind of imported fish do we eat the most of?
a) Frozen fish fillets b) Canned fish c) Fresh fish fillets d) Frozen prawns

5. What proportion of the world's fish stocks - species of fish in a designated fishing area - are overfished?
a) Less than 10 per cent b) Around 20 per cent c) Around 60 per cent d) Over 90 per cent

6. The orange roughy is classed by the Australian government as an overfished species which means that there are inadequate numbers of breeding age fish in some fisheries to sustain the species into the long term. At what age does an orange roughy start to breed?
a) < 5 years b) 5- 20 years c) 20 - 35 years d) Over 35 years

7. Which species of freshwater fish is not native to Australia?
a) Murray cod b) Rainbow trout c) Sooty grunter d) Barramundi

8. What is the world's largest fish?
a) Swordfish b) Sperm whale c) Whale shark d) Blue marlin

9. In order to work out sustainable yields, scientists need to understand what factors?
a) Birth rate b) Mortality c) Breeding age and size d) All of the above

10. You're at the local fish shop deciding what to cook for dinner. Which would be the best meal to make from a sustainable seafood industry perspective?
a) Deep sea perch with chips and salad b) Sea bream with mash and asparagus c) Bluefin tuna steak with a lemon butter sauce d) Flathead with lemon cous cous and wilted greens

See answers below:
Answer 1:
A - School shark

School shark along with other species of shark including gummy shark, whiskery shark, saw shark, dog sharks and wobbegongs are often sold as flake in your local fish and chip shop. The Australian government currently lists school sharks as overfished in the area covered by the Commonwealth's Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.

Answer 2:
A - Sardines

While all of the fish on the list are good sources of omega-3s, sardines are the best sources of omega-3. Sardines also don't contain high levels of mercury, which can accumulate in the fatty tissue of longer-lived fish and fish that live higher up the food chain.

Answer 3:
D - All of the above

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand advises that pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children should limit their intake of shark (flake), broadbill, marlin and swordfish to no more than one serve per fortnight with no other fish to be consumed during that fortnight. For orange roughy (also sold as sea perch) and catfish, the advice is to consume no more than one serve per week, with no other fish being consumed during that week.

Answer 4:
B - Canned fish

In 2008-9 Australia imported more than 54,000 tonnes of canned fish, over 40,000 tonnes of fish fillets and nearly 13,000 tonnes of fresh, chilled or frozen prawns. Most of our canned fish, mollusc and crustacean imports come from Vietnam and China.

Answer 5:
C - Around 60 per cent

According to CSIRO's Dr Beth Fulton, 64 per cent of all known fish stocks are overfished around the world.

Answer 6:
C - 20 - 35 years

The orange roughy, also known as deep sea perch, orange ruff or red roughy, doesn't mature until it is aged between 20 and 35 years old. Commonwealth fishery stocks of orange roughy in the eastern, southern, and western zones are currently classified as overfished. They are also classed as overfished in the neighbouring South Tasman Rise Trawl fishery which is jointly managed with New Zealand.

Answer 7:
B - Rainbow trout

Rainbow trout are native to North America and were first introduced to Australia in 1894. Murray cod are endemic to the Murray-Darling basin; sooty grunters, otherwise known as black bream are found in northern Australia; and barramundi are widespread along the northern Australian coast.

Answer 8:
C - Whale shark

The largest of all fishes is the whale shark which can grow up to 18 metres in length, although 4 -12 metres is more common. The maximum size for a blue marlin is 5 metres, while a swordfish is 4.5 metres. The sperm whale is a mammal and is not a fish.

Answer 9:
D - All of the above

Determining sustainable levels of fishing requires an understanding of the life cycle of the species in question; including the age at which the fish starts to breed; the birth rate or how quickly the population can increase; and the rate of mortality from natural predation, disease and old age.

Answer 10:
D - Flathead with lemon cous cous and wilted greens

Deep sea perch (also known as orange roughy), sea bream (jackass morwong or silver perch) and bluefin tuna are classified as overfished in Australian fisheries.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quick and Easy Pizza Snack

Preheat oven to 210C (200C if fan forced) Temp conversion link

  • Place a 'bread wrap' round on a wire rack,
  • Smear it with a good dollop of tomato pizza-base sauce
  • Sprinkle some shredded parmesan cheese over the sauce
  • Slice up a small white salad onion and liberally scatter onion rings over the cheese
  • Squeeze some Avocado paste on the onion
  • Add some chopped fresh mushroom
  • Add the meat of your choice - ham, sausage, shredded bacon, etc
  • Give it another good sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese and pop the wire rack in your in your oven.
(If yo are worried about melting cheese fouling your oven, sit the wire rack inside a biscuit tray!)

Cook for 10 to 15 minutes - when the edge of the bread wrap begins to toast and the cheese has melted into the topping it is "Done"!
Remove from the oven and slide onto a cutting board and slice it up with a pizza slicer.
Eat and enjoy - nice with a glass of soft, rich, red wine.

That's a topping I like but you can use any topping variations you like. makes a really nice and easy 'Snack meal' when you are not in the mood to do the whole cooking thing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back from physiotherapy

And I'm exhausted. Time for a cup of tea and a rest in my easy chair.

Now 4 weeks post-operation today.
1. Pee'd myself getting off the exercise bike - just a few drops of bladder stress release but soooooo embarrassing!

2. Tore a bit of skin off my good shin from which bled like a stuck pig - lucky I hadn't given myself my injection of 'blood thinner' (Clexane) before I went.

1. Made those pedals on the exercise bike do the full 360 degrees and then pedalled it for 2 minutes - Hooray!

2. Managed to get my knee flexion finally past the 90 degree mark and just under 100 degrees - another Hooray!

Now, where's that cuppa tea!
An hour later - I've had my cuppa and some brekkie, dozed in front of the TV for 15 minutes - I feel much better and I do notice the improvement in the range of movement in my new knee joint!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Post-Op Progress

I apologise for being ‘off-blog’ for most of the last week or so but events have over-taken me and my time has been otherwise pre-occupied. For those of you who are interested and realise I had a total knee replacement three weeks ago here is where I’m at, recovery-wise.

Firstly, this knee replacement is very different to the last and I put that down to the Zimmer technology that they’ve developed and are using – milestones are coming much sooner – but all is not 100% ‘rosy’. There is a lot more swelling around the knee, however, the pain threshold is much more tolerable and I’m already weaning off the Oxy-Contin and Endone (currently down to a morning and an evening dose and using ‘lighter’ analgesics like paracetamol and Digesic in between times.) I’m already off my crutches and ambulating with the aid of a walking stick, slowly extending my range of walking activities.

We had a ‘domestic emergency’ last week when the steel fabricator we had engaged to install the a steel fence and gates around the patio area at ‘The Camp’ rang to say that he wanted to do the job that Wednesday, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to get there until June or July. We had no choice but to make the trip up to ‘The Camp’ even tho’ I was probably not ready for a two hour car drive but management up there can be a bit ‘stroppy’ with alterations and additions and we would need to be there to keep them off the tradie’s back while he did the job. We opted for an overnight stay to break up the travelling for me.

That’s when I had one set back, on that Wednesday after the tradie had left. I had just completed my rehab exercises and doing the post-exercise muscle massages when there was a ‘pop’ and a spurt of haemo-serous fluid came out of a ‘pin hole’ in the upper suture line, probably about 40 to 50 mls of fluid. Of course, I was shocked and to make it worse we were away at ‘The Camp’, so no phone contact with the specialist. We cleaned it up, applied some steri-strips and put a dressing over it. Next day, when back in phone range I rang the surgeons clinic – he wasn’t there but the practice nurse told me to come straight to the clinic. Which we did.

When we got there I was quickly seen, the wound was swabbed and the swab sent off to pathology. She re-dressed the wound and she had one of the doctors present order me a 'starter' course of anti-biotics and made an appointment for me to see my surgeon on Monday (yesterday). She also advised me to cease all physiotherapy rehab until we knew what we were dealing with, which we did.

Yesterday I went to see the surgeon. He looked at the wound, told me the pathology swab was clear of any ‘Staph’ infection and he felt that I had a small sinus that was slowly filling with fluid (likely from a small tissue leak) until it could take no more and was then ‘popping’ out. The wound line looked sealed and he thought it was healing itself, however, he repeated the anti-biotics and wants to see me again in a week. I can also re-commence my physiotherapy rehab. Aside from this incident he was extremely pleased with the progress I was making and reminded me of all the pre-op efforts all of us had put into getting me ready for this knee replacement and assured me that he was not going to let something like this cause any unwanted outcomes. I felt quite comfortable with his attentions and believe that I can now get on with getting this knee working properly.

I’ve been trying to contact the rehab physiotherapy and hope to have an appointment with him this week to get the rehab program back on track.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturdays's Scribe - The weather and climate change

Are climate beliefs just blowing in the
wind? (Source: Stephen Hind/Reuters)

People's climate beliefs blow hot and cold depending upon the weather of the day, say US researchers. When people think the day's temperature is hotter than usual they are more likely to believe in, and feel concerned about, global warming. Likewise, when the day's temperature is lower than usual, people's belief in global warming plummets.

These are the findings of a new study from Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions published in Psychological Science. The researchers concluded that this myopic focus on their immediate experience suggested that people's beliefs can be as mercurial as the weather.

Using an online survey, the researchers asked a group of 582 people from the United States to report how convinced they were that global warming is happening and whether they were concerned about global warming. They were also asked whether they thought the day's temperature was warmer or colder than usual for that time of year.

Wanting to gather data during summer as well as winter, the researchers asked a group of 290 Australians the same questions a week later. To test whether people's perceptions translated into action, the researchers asked another 251 people whether they would donate a small amount of money to an environmental charity after they answered the survey. The researchers also found that people's perception of daily temperature influenced whether or not they would donate to the charity.

The study lead author Dr Ye Li said that their results raise the question of why beliefs in global warming are affected by daily temperatures. Respondents did not appreciate the complex nature of global warming and that it appears that some people are ready to be persuaded by whether their own day is warmer or cooler than usual, rather than think about whether the entire world is becoming warmer or cooler.

Professor Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales says people's beliefs about global warming are heavily influenced by recent events, but they are also quick to discount disasters quite rapidly.

"It's a very complex area of human psychology," says Pitman who co-authored a paper on the psychology of global warming that appeared last year in the Bulletin of the American Meterological Society. "There is no relationship whatsoever between individual weather days and climate trends. Climate is a process operating on timescales of decades not days," he says. “So it is utterly scientifically irrational for there to be a relationship the weather on the day you answer that kind of questionnaire and your belief around global warming."

He believes this latest paper will help climate scientists understand how humans take on board information around climate change.

"We're rather desperate to understand the relationship between how people assimilate information in decision making and climate change in the hope that we can learn to communicate the science around climate change in ways that allow people to make informed decisions. As this paper suggests, people are personally embedded in something they think is climate in day-to-day weather and [climate scientists] haven't managed to convince them that what they see on a day-to-day basis is not relevant to the problem."

With acknowlwdgements to: ABC Health and Science Page

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Adam Liaw’s “Two Asian Kitchens” – Recipes from Australia’s MasterChef.

“There is a Confucian proverb, which reads in part ‘wen gu zhi xin', or, in Japanese ‘onko-chisin'. This translates roughly to ‘consider old things to understand new things’. This is the essence of the Two Asian Kitchens.” - Adam Liaw, "Two Asian Kitchens"

The winner of MasterChef 2010, Adam Liaw says he was stunned when the judges finally announced their decision. He received $100,000 in cash, plus the chance to study with some of the country's top chefs. He also received the opportunity to produce his own cookbook. This was “Two Asian Kitchens”.

The two kitchens are ‘The Old Kitchen’ – where you will find hawker noodle dishes, Japanese yakitori, creamy coconut laksa and his own favourite, Hainanese chicken rice. ‘The New Kitchen’ features modern dishes that draw on the memorable flavours and experiences of Adam Liaw’s own life. He does not see the recipes in ‘The New Kitchen’ as Chinese, Japanese or even Asian in general but believes if you have the need to classify them then think of them as Australian food.

“Two Asian Kitchens” is no ordinary cookbook. It is certainly not a ‘coffee table book’, nor, is it a chef’s ‘ready reference’ book – although it could certainly fill that function. It is a highly technical and skillful presentation that is a guide from some of the simplest of Asian dishes to some of the most exotic and more complex dishes. It contributes a whole section to the preparation of an Asian pantry, both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ where sauce bases, pastes, powdered ingredients and a whole range of necessities for Asian cooking can be prepared and be on hand for use as required. If you do enjoy Asian cooking and are not fortunate to have an Asian grocer or market close by to ‘pop next door’ and buy your pickled chillies then this book is an essential. Adam Liaw devotes considerable care and attention through his writings in this book as to how an Asian chef can have on hand their supply of essential Asian ingredients made in their own kitchen and stored in their Asian ingredients pantry. His ‘Tips and techniques cover a wide range of the mysteries of Asian food preparation – on donburi; on dumplings; on sushi; on tempura; on fruit liquors – and, in my humble opinion, are compulsory reading for those devotees of Asian cuisine who wish to produce good Asian food.

Produced as an Edbury Press book and published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd (2011) “Two Asian Kitchens” is available from most good book stores in Australia. I was fortunate to obtain mine from an Australia Post outlet for $50.00

Surgeons, bureaucrats and flu shots.

Well, things seem to be moving slow, very slow - maybe I'm just being impatient! Rhonda took a days of 'Carers leave' today and drove me over to Canberra, about 1 hour each way, to the surgeons clinic where I had the staples out today – all 25 of them – but between the trip itself, the walk to and from where we had to park the car in an adjacent car park and then later, a quick whirl around Woollies my knee is now swollen as tight as a drum!

We received word that we have to go up to Wyangala to "The Camp" on Wednesday – protect a ‘tradie’ installing some hand rails around the pergola/verandah area from an ‘over-zealous park management. The latter are getting more and more 'stroppy' (sic: "bolshie") at any proposed changes residents want to make. The rails are under our own roof line, for crying out loud, and its not as tho we were adding an extension room or anything. We'll stay overnight and come back on Thursday.

I have my flu shots and a physio session on Thursday afternoon, so I’m not expecting an exciting weekend! I've had my flu shots for the past 6 years and managed to avoid an serious flu problems ('touch wood') but this year the GP's clinic is offering the vaccinations earlier and has written to all "At risk" patients on their books telling us that a bad outbreak has already commenced overseas and is making its way to Australia, so all 65+ patients, especially those with respiratory co-morbidities, are being encouraged to get their shots early and build up some resistance before winter hits. Flu shots always leave me with a mild case of the 'dreaded lurgy' for about 24 - 48 hours afterwards and usually I crash in my bed for a day or so.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

DVD TV Series gift sets

We received a gift coupon promoting a DVD mail order sales  company. We are regular 'on-line' shoppers and this was one groups new move into the entertainment area. It was a 'loyalty' award. We looked through the catalogue and saw that much of its content was older movies and old TV series. After perusing the catalogue over afternoon tea, Rhonda said I could choose what we got.  My first choice was "The Equalizer" - a five disc set of the series of that name from the 1980's. I'm a real Edward Woodward fan and liked his acting style and this series earned him 1986 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Drama Actor .

The Equalizer is an American television series that ran for four seasons, initially on CBS, between 1985 and 1989. It starred Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, an aging New York vigilante with a mysterious past. The show mixed ingredients from popular spy films and private investigator shows with violent realism. We've watched the 'pilot' episode and the first episode so far. Its old, it is a bit 'corney' but at least it has some entertaining intrigue and every second word is not the "F" word.

Keith Szarabajka, a notable "voice actor" for "Talking Books" plays McCall's offsider, Mickey Kostmayer, a much younger agent who was more or less permanently lent to him by 'Control', represented by Robert Lansing, McCall's former boss from his mystery past. 

We also received a six disc complete set of the series "To Serve Them All My Days" based on R F Delderfield's 1972 novel of the same name.

To Serve Them All My Days is a British television adaptation of the 1972 novel To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield. 13 episodes 50 minute in length were first shown by the BBC in 1980 and 1981.

As in the novel, the protagonist is David Powlett-Jones (John Duttine), a coal miner's son from South Wales, who has risen from the ranks and been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in World War I. In 1918, after being injured and shell-shocked, he is hired to teach History at Bamfylde School, a fictional public school in North Devon, in the southwest of England, where he wins the respect and acclaim of colleagues and students. He serves under headmaster Algy Herries (Frank Middlemass), forms a friendship with Ian Howarth (Alan MacNaughton), engages in a rivalry with Carter (Neil Stacy), and marries Beth (Belinda Lang).

This is one series I'll take up to "The Camp" with us and save for those cold, blustery, winter's nights with the gas fire going, a nice bottle of a thick red wine and some 'nibbles' to munch on.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday’s Scribe.

Common everyday terms and origins.

Some time back I wrote of our visit to the Government Small Arms Factory Museum at Lithgow. Besides being able to view a huge collection of contemporary and antique firearms in the museum we were also treated to a guided tour which explained a lot about the weapons and their origins. I was particularly interested in ‘Armoury expressions’ which have found their way into everyday use in today’s language.

The origins of many expressions we use today can be interesting. Expressions such as:
• 'lock, stock and barrel',
• 'straight as a ramrod',
• 'flash in the pan',
• 'caught napping' and
• 'skinflint'
have their roots in practices and equipment used by the military from the 1700’s.

A Short Land Pattern 'Brown Bess' Musket

The British Marines standard issue was the short land pattern of the 'Brown Bess' musket. The musket consisted of a forged iron tube of three-quarter inch bore attached to a wooden stock and a mechanical firing device called a ‘lock’. Therefore, a complete musket could be described as ‘lock, stock and barrel’ which we use today to describe a complete item – the ‘whole thing’!

Sea Service Pattern of the 'Brown Bess'
used by British Marines 1778–1854

The lock consisted of a jaw arrangement (the ‘cock’) which holds a piece of flint, a ‘steel’ or ‘frizzen’ which is a hardened steel plate from which the sparks are produced when the flint strikes it, and the ‘pan’, a depression below the frizzen containing a gunpowder priming charge.

The gunpowder in the pan is ignited by a spark from the frizzen and the flint which in turn flashes through a hole in the side of the barrel (the 'touch hole') to set off the main powder charge and expel the ball . If the powder in the pan burns but fails to set of the main charge we have a 'flash in the pan'. In today’s terms we would use this analogy to describe an event that has a lot of fanfare but is of no consequence.

The proper functioning of the flintlock musket depends on a lot of strong sparks being produced when the flint strikes the ‘frizzen’. Through repeated use the flint becomes dull and a new edge must be put on the flint to restore its efficiency at producing spark. This is done by gently tapping the edge of the flint with a small tool .T he process is called' knapping'. A soldier in battle depends on his musket for survival, so to be ‘caught knapping’ by his enemy could have fatal consequences – you will notice that this term has nothing to do with falling asleep.

The military employed professional 'knappers' whose job involved chipping flints out of large flint boulders. The knappers were very skilled tradesmen and were in great demand as you can imagine. Very high quality flints were produced for use in flint lock musket and pistols. The poorer quality discarded flints were called ‘skins’ and the people who gathered them up for their own use were called ‘skin flints’ – someone not willing to pay their fair costs for purchasing an essential item.

The ramrod is a steel with a flanged end which is used to push the cartridge containing the gun powder, wadding and a lead ball down the barrel of the musket when loading it. When it is not in use the ramrod is kept in a channel under the barrel. The ramrod must be straight otherwise it will not fit into the ramrod channel. A very straight object may then be described as being as 'straight as a ramrod'.

I find it fascinating that many terms we use to express ourselves with today can have their origins in something that was so mechanically exact and designed for a different application when applied to their original use 300 to 400 years past.  I doubt if our forefathers ever saw the essential 'life skills/survival' terms they used everyday would be used as 'expressive terms in our generation.