I’ve just been on a crazy book buying frenzy. I LOVE eBay. I’ve had my fair share of near misses, and crooked sellers, but holy horses, when I can buy a used book from the UK for far, far less than it would cost here what’s a girl to do? I bought: Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Thomas Lux New and Selected Poems, House of the Scorpian by Nancy Farmer and Emergence by David Palmer. The latter two are for my thirteen year old who is a voracious reader, and whose pitiful cries of “I don’t have anything to read!” moved me to act, in sympathy. I know all too well the pain of nothing to read (which is why there’s books for me, too). I bought two Shakespeare movies too: Baz thingo’s Romeo + Juliet, and the Hamlet with Ethan Hawke.

Like a Wide Anvil From the Moon the Light
By Thomas Lux
Like a wide anvil from the moon the light
on the cold radiator and all the windows in a row
along the spine close–zeroes winding tight.
And to make the rattlesnakes feel at home?
A private cactus farm. There’s not an eek’s chance
of getting out of here. Some apples, bruised,
mute, are nailed back to their branches,
and the south wind–low, hot ash–cruises
through a crook in the apple tree’s trunk.
The dirt, not known for its tenderness, on its knees
somewhat, and one munificent ant carries a crumb
to the crumbless. Every pond on earth agrees:
they are tired of being dragged–all those hooks–
for drowned children. All this beneath
the ceaseless lineage of comets! Books
help a little: groan-soaked, one broken etc. thief,
tree surgeons lost above tree lines,
chasmed sidewalks, a hatful of blanks,
sore-got ore….Yes!–it does feel exactly fine
crawling ashore, emptying the boots of water, and frankly
here’s to clouds the color of bone,
here’s to the indecipherable path home,
here’s to the worm’s sweat in the loam….

Every five or ten years or so, I look back (five or ten years) and shudder at how stupid I was five or ten years ago. Do you do that? It’s nice to think that I/we get smarter and more authentic with passing time, but also horrifying to think that my/your past is 98% embarrassing, and 2% grudging acceptance. Diary writing and blogging are like that too. Does your voice always sound weird to you, too? The blogs I most enjoy reading always sound immediate, authentic, fresh. It’s something to aspire to.

I had a baby! Ages ago. She’s just about eight months old. This is what she looks like.

She was mistaken for a boy in this outfit, can you believe it?

Zoe


We called her Zoe. She’s very full on, and very wonderful.
She likes yoghurt a LOT

Yoghurt!


Thankyou Jalna. She likes Jalna just like her big brother did, THIRTEEN years ago. But where is swiss custard flavour gone? For shame.

So that’s the big exciting news. The rest is pretty dull. I’m still making soap – a lot of soap – and lip balms and stuff; and of course it’s bulb buying time, and I’m thrilled to say I have fritillaries and galanthuseseses this year. I’m also secretly putting in some trillium for a Springtime surprise for the Canadian. We’re cooking a lot. He thinks he might have some kind of blood sugar/diabetes thing so we’re doing a lot more low GI stuff, which suits me because now we’re eating a lot more vegies and whole grains, thank dog. Other kids are good. I spend almost every waking moment knitting or playing with the baby.

What are you up to?

Oh god, I’m so tired.

And I cannot find the camera cable. I have a slew of excellent pictures to show you, punctuating my (probably kind of vague and wandery) post – except the phone just rang, and taking the opportunity to drift around while talking, I found the cable, right where I thought it would be, on B’s desk.

It's not the heat, it's the insectivity.

It's not the heat, it's the insectivity.

The morning after the first hot day we had this week, I came downstairs and after freaking out at the vast numbers of small, scratchy, Christmas beetle like, yet not Christmas beetles beetles on every surface downstairs, including caught in my dishbrush and scratchy thing, and skittering around in the bottom of every single cup or dish, this monster staring at me from the shelves was just too much, and I scooped it into a bucket, and put it outside. I never saw it again, thank goodness. Do you know what it is? It’s like a grasshopper, but not a grasshopper, a strangely repulsive, gelid brownish green, with really enormously long antennae.

simba

This is really just so you can see how pretty he’s looking. And you can see the scars left on his nose by Rosey’s little terror. Poor old Sim, he wants to be friends with everyone.

Three in a row.

Three in a row.

Constructed by Gus, styled by his mother. Good, aren’t they?

Do you know what this is?

Do you know what this is?

I have a lot, I mean a LOT of roses in my garden, let me see if I can give you a quick rough count…seventeen types that I can think of off the top of my head, and this one is by far the most wonderfully rosey and seductively fragrant. Is it the apothecaries rose?

Making a Quick Escape

Making a Quick Escape

One grey and drizzly afternoon, while waiting for Tanya to visit, I was staring out the window at my roses, when I noticed a spiny little chappy snuffling about under the something tree, amongst the withered bluebells. I grabbed my camera, and took a series of badly framed and unfocused pictures of this wonderful Australian, who I fervently hoped would set up house in my front garden. This would have been even better than the tortoise I so desperately covet but won’t ever have. And of course, neither do I have a resident echidna, as you see it’s eventual departure across the road.

It's a cold, cruel, hard old life.

It's a cold, cruel, hard old life.

Looks peaceful, doesn’t he?

It’s getting hotter, and I want a drink, and the kids are squawking, so I’m off. Keep cool!

“It has the scent of violets, the taste of olive oil and a colour which tinges food like saffron but is more attractive”
– Ca’da Mosto, a 15th century explorer on discovering palm oil.

Sounds pretty seductive, eh? I ripped that from a pro palm oil website.

Today’s soap:

360g olive oil
240g coconut oil
180g palm oil
30g cocoa butter
243g water
115g lye

It’s been sitting in a lunchbox mold for a while now and looks stunning: creamy, dense, smells very nice indeed, which is rather a shame, because I now feel like I’m probably not going to use palm oil again. I was a bit conflicted about using this oil at all (what if I love it? then I’ll want to keep buying it, rainforests be damned!) but it is, you know, here already, might as well give it a whirl, it doesn’t mean I have a problem, I can stop anytime. Anytime!

I read a lot – a LOT – of recipes for soap that include palm oil for its sudsy, but not drying, and bar hardening qualities, but also increasing amounts of anti palm oil sentiments, which I guess is due to the environmental concerns surrounding the production of palm oil, where it has often been the case that vast tracts of rainforest are torched so as to make room for palm plantations for oil production for use in fuels, soap and food. Some of the oil suppliers I looked at offer “sustainable” palm oil, and if it is indeed produced in a sustainable way, that must be a good alternative if you feel you simply can’t go on without it.

Lush has decided to go palm oil free, releasing this neat little press release which contains this odd line:

“Lush has teamed up with a small soap specialist in the UK to develop what is claimed to be the world’s first palm oil-free soap base.”

Hopefully that’s bad writing, not delusion, because you know, there’s a lot of soap out there without palm oil in it (so maybe they mean commercially available, in the vast quantities that Lush requires).

Lush is a funny thing though, isn’t it? I like Lush, let it be said, in fact I just bought a shampoo bar and some shower gel from them this week (the shampoo is for my poor scalp, and gel is for the husband for Xmas)(snow fairy! it’s the bright pink plus sparkles one that I bought for myself years ago but he is crazy for it, claiming it smells like hockey card bubblegum)(don’t tell anyone though, alright?), and of course their bath bombs are quite magnificent, but I’ve been slobbering all over their catalogue and two things caught my eye. First, they use a lot of seriously premium oils for perfuming: rose and jasmine at least, in a quite a few products and that stuff is expensive. Far too expensive for the home soaper to use, and frankly the thought of using rose oil (rose oil!) in my soap makes me feel a little bit like throwing up, because I make cold process soap and the saponification process would eat up that attar and spit it out, and I’d have spent hundreds! of dollars for nothing…but you know what…*lightbulb!*I reckon Lush mills or rebatches soap to get those awesome fragrances. I think that’s how you’d get the scent, without it being cooked off. Milling is when you take a soap, and grate it or grind it, heat it up a bit, adding scent and other goodies, and remolding it. It’s a way of making soap if you’re not into the bubbling cauldrons and lye hazards of cold and hot process soap (and isn’t actually soap making in my opinion)(maybe soap crafting) but you’d like to make something a bit nicer than shop soap. Now, where was I? Oh yes….the super expensive oils. I was going to say something about all their products being overpriced to cover the cost of these very expensive ingredients, so you might as well buy the ones with rose in them.

The other thing is that Lush makes a lot of noise in their advertising about their ingredients list. Compare it to other soaps, they invite, you’ll be amazed, etc:

Snowcake

Ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Perfume, Sodium Stearate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Titanium Dioxide, Benzoin Resinoid (Styrax Benzoin), Rose Absolute (Rosa centifolia), Cassie Absolute (Acacia farnesiana), Glycerine, Sodium Chloride, EDTA, Tetrasodium Editronate, Benzyl Benzoate.

Holy sodium lauryl sulfate, batman! That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Looks like there’s some palm oil deriviatives in there, as well as our old friend sodium lauryl sulfate, which hippies don’t like. So while I acknowledge that Lush do say “…see the difference between Lush soap and your average bar..” and I know they mean your average supermarket bar, it still makes me chortle. You can do way better at home, yourself, although you’ll have to live without the rose and jasmine absolutes.

While searching for marzipan scent (which I found! hurrah!), I saw someone looking for chardonnay flavour oil on a forum. Ew! What on earth could it be for? Lip balm? For that it’s-nine-o’clock-and-I’ve-already-had-a-drink scent and flavour?

Palm Oil Action

Which is good and bad: good because wow, look at how many more hours a day has when you wake up at five o’clock, and bad because wow, look at how many more hours a day has when you wake up at five o’clock.

I’m enjoying the early hours. I take the dog for a lurch around town, leaving an aural trail of wildly barking dogs behind us, make better breakfasts (today: banana smoothy, toasted tomato and cheese sandwiches), get in some hardcore internet trawling, do a little more housework. By afternoon, however, I’m falling asleep in front of the computer, but delighted to find myself tired at bedtime, instead of hitting some kind of nocturnal energy zone, able to power on, until I try to wake up the next day, exhausted and wan.

I have been making soap. I’m very boring about it. B will ask me what I’m thinking about, as I slump, expressionless, eyes unfocused, and what I’m thinking about is endless streams of “…so, infuse the sunflower oil with carrots, that should work, and I wonder if I should get some of that pumpkin seed butter, zomg, so awesome, and what else is orange?, maybe that’s enough orange, must get Beth’s juicer off her, and get my oils from the post office, is B going to the shops tonight? must have lanolin, vegetable oils are so mid ’90s, unless I can work out how to get that great marzipan fragrance….” and so on.

While searching for marzipan scents, I found this in a description of a perfume: an imaginary flower in the heart notes. The perfume in question is Kenzo Power, so I’ll be trying to nab a sample of that somewhere, but doesn’t it make you wonder? What would the imaginary flower in your heart note look like? Smell like?

How the Omnivore’s 100 works:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes Rice is a fruit, right?
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries Even in the Sydney suburbs, you can find and eat wild blackberries.
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (But dang, that sounds tasty.)
31. Wasabi peas Never again.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (Why don’t rose and mango flavour count?)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat Mongolian style!
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (Why would I? What an odd one.)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian Ok, it was durian icecream. Scary stuff. Delicious custard eaten on a hot day in a garbage dump.
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill On the other hand, maybe I would, if it was super fresh and I knew what it was. Maybe.
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (I would totally eat horse!)
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

You know I have a list of blog quirks I hate, and posting either a) filler posts when you can’t be bothered to write anything, but feel you must, somehow, appease Your Public (usually pics of your kid doing something that you think is cute, or posting something apologetic) – to which I say, for dog’s sake, get a grip upon thyself, no-one cares that much, or b) breathy “I’m back!” posts, after your period of not caring to write anything because you can’t be bothered, or, worse, because you have an Exciting Project that you can’t write about (then why are you here? why bring it up?), when really? you were gone?

Both very annoying. I stopped myself – just barely – from a), but as you see, could not stop myself from b). Perhaps my terribly amusing little rant has distracted you, and you didn’t even notice, in which case, carry on, dear friend.

1) I’m back knitting my poor mother-out-law’s mittens, She’s going to Spain next month, so I feel I must finish them before then, because she’s walking a lot, I imagine there will be chilly mornings, and I do worry about her poor cold hands, all alone and misunderstood in rural Spain. They’re coming along. The problem is that I must actually concentrate while I knit, and I usually knit with one eye on a movie or something, and it isn’t helping. My oldest son is home sick-ish from school, so I think we will fire up the popcorn, and watch MirrorMask. I’ll try to knit. I have, on the other hand, completed a pair of mittens each for the small boys, and begun a half dozen silly projects for myself.

2) We’ve all had a nasty head, migrating to chest cold. The little boys brought it with them and we’re just finishing it up. It is the cold that wrote off the holidays, we were all too sick to go for walks or come up with thrilling holiday activities. Luckily, we all enjoy lounging around playing computer games.

3) Honey vs sugar. Which do you like? I used to be all honey, all the time, but I often find that buttery sort of honey flavour a bit too much in herbal tea, mostly because I tend to drink super delicious herbal tea (let me now urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to try Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Berry. If you like cherry flavour, you will LOVE it). But honey of course is very nice on its own. In an attempt to not find myself after lunch, jangling and headachy from eleventy cups of tea, I’ve been drinking hot water, with a spoon of honey and a slice of lemon in it. Very pleasant. No jangling.

4) Lemons are good, aren’t they? I can’t grow them outside here, so I have a small one in a pot (which reminds me, I need to pot it up before spring – add to list of million pre-spring things I should do; I haven’t even done the pre-winter things I meant to). I used some in a marinade last night that was too lemony and not enough mustardy or soy saucy or something, in any case, not what I hoped for; and others in this lovely yoghurty cake which I’ve made with berries, but mostly I’m not so hot for cooked berries, altho it is very good with them, it is also quite wonderful without, especially warmly fragrant from the oven. Ingrid, that blog’s owner is in Switzerland, so I wonder if she used beet sugar in hers, and maybe that recipe would be a nice one for you, too?

5) I’ve been re-reading (and did you know, some people don’t re-read books? isn’t that odd?) Geraldine Brooks’ Nine Parts of Desire, and it’s an interesting read. I always do enjoy Brooks’ writing.

6) Not pregnant. Am constantly angry.