Saturday, April 16, 2011

Found objects

Una: The government writes all the songs. The government wrote the songs when he was a kid.

Fred: Mum, I think you're the most normal thing in my crazy mixed up world.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Talking Books

Last year Audible contacted me through my Twitter account and said "hey, thanks for following us, you're special, we're special, have a free audiobook" only not quite like that, I'm paraphrasing. So I signed up, chose my free audiobook (Revolutionary Road) and then didn't quit my membership so they kept giving me credits but started charging me, which I really hate, but by then they had me hooked and that right there is a cautionary tale in which I am a sucker, but also, a happy one. I know, I'm also confused. If you don't want to sign up for a monthly credit, but you are interested in listening to audiobooks, find out what your local library has to offer - I can download Bolinda audiobooks straight from the website of our regional library. Martin and I take it in turns to spend the audible credits, but we source audiobooks from other places too.

I was commuting into Melbourne Uni (either in the car or drive and train) when I got my first book, and so I mostly listened while I traveled. I was completely drawn into Revolutionary Road, gutted by the ending, and totally addicted to the narrator's voice. That's what it's like when you get a good narrator, an addiction, and you make any opportunity to feed that addiction.

I thought perhaps when I lost the commute I might lose the audiobooks, but then I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The stories I listened to roaming the hills in spring twilights were from the collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke: English fairy and folktales set in very dark, English woods, but in my imagination, in the gloaming hills of my bushland, with the distant razor toothed fire burnt hills, and the moon rising from them.

And I still listen, when I'm walking, in bed at night, when I'm cooking, during night feeds or when I'm just hanging out in the house with Avery. Avery finds them soothing too. Together we've listened to Margaret Atwood's Dancing Girls (which I bought for $4.95 as part of an audible special, which they seem to run once or twice a year), Elizabeth Strout's mesmerising Abide With Me and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The Help was sensational, the narration so perfect and compelling that I can't imagine reading the book. It seems to me that to read it would be to miss out on some of the depth, the nuance, the pure pleasure of the writing - the cadence of the words, the Southern voices, the deep characterisation that flows from the mellifluous voices. Cannot. Recommend. Highly. Enough. If audible are still offering a free credit to new listeners then I really recommend The Help as a gateway drug. 18 hours and 6 minutes of pure pleasure.

Sometimes I listen for an hour, sometimes for five minutes. Sometimes I dip in and out, sometimes I make opportunities to listen. It is a different pleasure from reading, yet it has revitalised my reading - after reading Abide With Me I went back to Olive Kitteridge also by Elizabeth Strout which I'd put down a few stories in and raced through the rest.

Each time an audiobook finishes I feel bereft. I grieve the loss of those particular voices in my head. It's been two or three days since I finished The Help and I am not quite ready to commit to the next one. I felt the same way after Abide With Me. It has to sink in - it's really over. After Revolutionary Road I honestly felt I might not ever be able to listen to anything again. I was shocked, appalled, gutted.

But of course, tentatively at first, I always begin again: words fall through me and I live again.

Strangely, Undine, Breathe and Drift are all on audio too. However, I have never listened to them. I am almost ready to. I flicked through Breathe last night and so much of it I've forgotten, those words I agonised over, wrote and rewrote, now adrift from me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

I Scream

I won an ice cream maker. It's fancy. A while ago I came to the food pornographer's blog via flickr (but I can't remember what I was looking for) and stayed a while, reading this gorgeous post about her family Chinese New Year celebration and desperately wishing she would adopt me. Anyway, she had a competition for an ice-cream maker supplied by Kitchenware direct, and I entered and I won! Me! And it was very exciting, because I don't often win things.

Although I said the first ice cream I would make would be an indulgent vanilla one made with eggs from our chookies to serve alongside the blackberries that grow wild in our garden, by the time the ice cream maker arrived (surprisingly prompt) and we'd finished the crappy ice cream we already owned, the blackberries were few and far between. After I announced my win on Twitter my friend Ess-jay linked to a stash of ice cream recipes she'd bookmarked on Delicious. The one that caught my eye was David Lebovitz's Brown Bread Ice Cream. The stars aligned, the ingredients were all to be had and lo, my first batch of ice cream was born, still using (of course) eggs from the chookies. (Speaking of the chooks, Fred has recently learned how to hypnotise them. It is a sight to behold.)

The best thing about this ice cream without a doubt is the crispy bits of bread. I thought they would go soggy after a day or two in the freezer but they have retained their biscuity crunch. The worst thing was not being allowed to sit in the pantry and eat all the sugary cinnamony buttery bread crumbs with a spoon. I used a whole grain bread from our local bakery. It's a lovely dense dark bread. I used light cream cheese and low fat milk (because that's what we had) and the ice cream doesn't seem to be compromised at all. I used low GI raw sugar with crumbs and, as David suggested, a mix of soft brown sugar and caster sugar for the ice cream. I had a moment watching the thin custard sloshing around where I thought "there is no way this is going to come together and be ice cream" but it did of course. The ice cream maker was great to use, it feels very sturdy with one big button and no fiddly bits.

I am still on my low GI diet, and have trained myself to eat ice cream out of a tiny bowl, one intended for dipping sauce. I get about two desert spoons worth of ice cream in it and I have to say, it's enough. Ice cream is an acceptable food in the low GI universe as long as it's not too sweet and not too fatty, the ice cream maker is great because I can control the amount of sugar I put in. We have three soft skinny bananas that are destined for great things this weekend. I am excited about more experiments, I have a lot of cooking mojo at the moment, but am sometimes disheartened by the fact that I can't eat too many sweets.. I see a lot of icy treats on our immediate horizon. Thank you TFP!