Feeding Frenzy

October 11, 2010 at 9:04 am (Uncategorized)

So I don’t have gestational diabetes (yay), and I am not anaemic (double yay), but I am iron deficient (boo hiss). It’s not exactly a massive surprise – despite eating plenty of iron-rich foods, I am really tired again, tired like the ‘sleeping disease’ style exhaustion that overtook me in the first 8 or so weeks of the first trimester. And because I don’t fancy eating liver – not now, not ever, no sir – it looks like iron supplements for me. Judging from everything I’ve heard, iron supplements might also be known as constipation capsules, so that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it? Oh well – I suppose all that prospective pushing and straining is good practice…

Now, to the food tour… the Babymoon was all about continuing our recent milkshake revival, and it gives me great pleasure to award Best Babymoon Milkshake to the Boat House, Palm Beach. We fancy ourselves milkshake connoisseurs, and theirs is truly exceptional, thanks in part to the availability of a key ingredient of my ideal milkshake that’s harder and harder to come by – malt – and the vessels in which these milky treats are served: tall, frosty glass beakers. They are excellent milkshakes. Indeed, the Boat House was probably our overall favourite, because it was casual and simple but beautifully done, and reasonable enough that we went once, twice, and again during our stay. Llew opted for the bucket of prawns both times we went for lunch, whereas I had a burger first (not such a success: they were out of buns and the bread replacement went soggy and fell apart) and fish and chips on our final day (the fish was great, piping hot, moist, encased in a firm, light, golden batter, but next time I may as well just order the fish half of the equation, because unless they’re shoestring fries, I don’t want ‘em). Our brunch sampling was an all-round winner: I went the field mushrooms and haloumi, and Llew’s house-baked beans with chorizo were delish. The coffee was also good, but, really, it was all about the milkshakes and the spot: the Boat House has absolutely stunning Pittwater views.

Just up the grassy knoll from the Boat House is Dunes, which we’d always poo-poohed at length because its position is so perverse, hidden as it is from any sort of view other than that of the car park. Given it sits right on the isthmus between Pittwater and the Pacific, this failure of situation verges on poor form. However, Llew’s parents love it, and so does their neighbour, and Palm Beach locals are a notoriously tough crowd. So off to Dunes we went, and… well, our food was lovely. It was one of those weird meals where we’d missed brunch and so had to order from the lunch menu even though we both ordered coffee the second we sat down, but once we sorted out this discombobulating food and beverage disjunction, we had a very nice meal. Both of us were suddenly ravenous for pasta, so after sharing a light citrusy Blue Swimmer Crab entrée (highly recommended – oh look, there’s a photo of it on their home page!), Llew went with chilli calamari and Moreton Bay bugs, mixed with tagliatelle & lobster butter sauce, while I devoured a linguini with roasted pumpkin, chilli, rocket, Pecorino cheese and lemon salsa verde: both unfussy, both flavourful and both deliciously fresh.

Our last Sunday, we headed to Beach Road for live jazz and a late lunch; it’s on the main road, but the restaurant is housed in a classic beach shack that still oozes plenty of charm and character. It was a mixed experience on the food front: the shared mezze plate in particular was uneven in both quality and interest. I also took a risk and ordered the risotto – something I rarely do out because a bad one is more depressing than a headful of lice – but was pleasantly surprised by a zingy springtime dish lousy with scampi pieces and lemony tang. Llew’s ocean trout was competent but lack lustre, but we were still very happy listening to the jazz and watching the wild weather alternately break and clear from the comfort of the old verandah.

I had no qualms eating at the Boat House and Dunes in my swimmers and a sarong, and Beach Road is pretty laid-backed too, but the area also has a couple of ‘posh nosh’ joints to its name. Barrenjoey House exudes a kind of ‘colonial chic’ vibe, and is a very atmospheric place for a romantic dinner. We had a terrific waiter the night we went, such an obliging, pleasant young man, and we both had nothing but praise for our food, despite what we’d heard from the previously mentioned harsh critics, who’d all warned us off the place. We shared a scallop entrée, then I went for the fabulous fish stew for my main, and Llew’s grain-fed rib eye made for a very happy date on the other side of the table. The chocolate fondant for dessert also met with his approval, and I did my best to assist. Definitely a thumbs up, and we’ll have to persuade the critics to give it another shot.

The big splurge, our foodie finale, was indisputably our loooong lunch at equally historic Jonah’s, which overlooks Whale Beach in spectacular fashion. Point-blank views of the Pacific are so wide-screen that you imagine you can actually make out the tilt of the Earth at the horizon; it is glorious. It’s no wonder many a nervous man has brought his lady love here to propose – it’s a very special backdrop for popping the question. We settled in and made the most of the excellent offerings on all fronts – Jonah’s is a hard place to fault, so I won’t even try.

Dr F was pretty alarmed this morning when I told him what the scales were saying as a result of all this chowing down, but I say it was all worthwhile.

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Hose Me Down

October 8, 2010 at 4:22 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, so the shit-storm seems to have passed. I can’t believe how consuming it became, but basically a disturbed person who has been ‘virtually’ stalking a member of the Varuna Alumni decided to start emailing me. All part of the inexplicable smear campaign, because it’s anyone’s guess why this US-based individual (and I can’t stop imagining his HQ as one of those serial killer dungeons) would have our member in his sights. The past few days comprise a surprisingly long story, but his brand of hate mail evidently involves fabricating, spreading and then falsely attributing deeply offensive anti-semitic ‘chat room’ comments to this particular Alumna. What possesses someone to do such a malicious, vile thing I’ll never know, but his repeated attempts to draw me into the web of lies proved unexpectedly draining in addition to deeply unsettling. I think we’ve ended it now, but it’s a sobering reminder that this is what ‘going public’ can mean in the online world. It’s not all cake and candy out there. There are some card-carrying crackers in the mix too.

So. The Babymoon. Our ‘staycation’ actually involved a bit of movement in the end. We didn’t venture very far, but simply relocated to Llew’s parents’ place, because they very thoughtfully elected to go overseas over the exact same period. Palm Beach, here we come! This was a great solution for a budget-conscious break, because it felt like going away (Palm Beach is a solid hour from downtown Sydney) without the usual cash pit of paying for holiday accommodation the whole time. Palm Beach is also one of the most beautiful natural environments there is, so decamping there for a fortnight was something we were more than glad to do.

But it wasn’t a particularly restful break, as evinced by the paltry amount of reading I was able to do. There are several reasons for this, one being a big freelance commission that landed in my lap slap-bang in the middle of it. The piece required lots of running around – a million phone calls, lots of trawling for information – and at 3,000 words, it was definitely on the long side of the job spectrum. Goodbye, holiday feeling. Llew also had to field several teleconferences, so it’s fair to say that staying in Sydney – the most northern tip of the boundary, to be sure, but Sydney nonetheless – meant never really feeling like we’d escaped it all. Because frankly we hadn’t: Sydney crowded in on several occasions, and we even had a 40th birthday party to attend downtown right at the halfway mark. We’ve never had a staycation before, and I’m not sure – if finances allow the alternative – we’d elect to do it again, because that physical remove undoubtedly helps secure the psychological one too. Being in Sydney kept us both mentally manacled to all our usual Sydney concerns. Also we usually go somewhere new, which adds an important, irreplaceable dimension to our usual holidays that wasn’t met by going somewhere as familiar and everyday as Llew’s parents’ place. NICE problem to have, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just saying it wasn’t the exciting getaway of, say, Shanghai this time last year. But beggars can’t be choosers, and besides which, we were the most comfortable bums in the most well-appointed shelter ever. No tears here.

The other reason I only managed to buy books instead of read them is that Llewie. Gets. Ants. In. His. Pants. As I said to my friend T, it’s like he parks his arse atop an infested hill. The whole point of the Babymoon was to spend some time together before the outbreak of total mayhem come late December, but Llew is incapable of spending a day happily reading. He maxes out after an hour or so, two hours tops, and then he starts squirming. And it’s not the type of writhing and wriggling one can easily ignore. Also, sending him off to amuse himself – which I did on countless occasions as it was – defeats the purpose, doesn’t it, because there’s not much quality time to be had apart. All this added up to lovely long lunches, dinners and plenty of mooching around, browsing shops in Palm Beach, Avalon and so on, a lovely time, but very few dedicated reading sessions outside that all-important pre-ants window each morning.  As a result, in addition to the daily papers, I only managed to finish Indelible Ink, and devour Fiona’s delightful debut, the YA novel Six Impossible Things, which I found at Bookacino in Avalon during one of our many mooches.

Book buying, on the other hand, well, that was a highly successful enterprise for both of us (Llew’s a reader, but almost exclusively of non-fiction, and on an internal timer/hair-trigger, which is no doubt why he favours periodicals). Getting the ball rolling was a book on Brooklyn architecture, plus a massive volume dedicated to furniture, each satisfying two shared fetishes (Llew’s the only other person I’ve ever met who is as obsessed with chairs as I am…), and then it was a motley assortment of titles including but not limited to The Passage (by Justin Cronin, which I heard about on Radio National’s Book Show during one of my walks), Sydney (non-fiction by Delia Falconer), and We’ve Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson; notch another one up for the Book Show) for me, and the collected works of Hunter S. Thompson and a book on great explorers for Llew. Hours of reading pleasure await… just as soon as I figure out how to get Llew to sit still.

On Monday, I’ll take you on a ‘virtual foodie tour’ of Palm Beach and surrounds, because one thing we didn’t do was starve to death.

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False Promises

October 7, 2010 at 8:41 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, fine. I have over-promised and under-delivered. I won’t deny it. But my intentions were so good, truly, and I really am busting for a chat with you all, it’s just that I have been detained in a multi-layered shit-storm from the moment the babymoon ended. But at least I have now read everyone’s recent posts, and have some hope of writing one of my own tomorrow. Which is Friday. Already. Good grief.

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When the Babymoon is Over…

October 6, 2010 at 8:15 am (Uncategorized)

HI! How I’ve missed you all! Yes, we’re back, and today I’ve been working my way through a formidable list of immediately actionable items as well as wading through a rather daunting mountain of emails. Today’s post will, I fear, completely fail to satisfy anyone remotely interested in what I’ve been doing for the past fortnight and a bit, because you see it’s 7 pm and I’ve not started dinner. There’s so much to catch up on – all of your blogs, for a start – and so much to tell you that I hardly know where to begin.

So I’m going to cheat. Now, I promise my list will be under control tomorrow, and that I’ll write a nice long ‘make good’ post first thing in the morning, or at least as soon as I’m caught up on everyone else’s recent posts, but for now I’m going to take the woefully soft option, and end here with a link to the monthly feature I wrote for the Varuna Alumni News. It’s on rejection, and as you know, I’ve become something of an unwilling expert on the subject.

Here it is, in case you’re interested, and otherwise I’ll be back tomorrow. No, really. Truth is, I can’t wait to catch up!

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