Thursday, March 31, 2011

"it never rains in California, but girl don't they warn ya, it pours, man it pours."

Apparently I still love to drive a long stretch, although I might not be as perky and fresh upon arrival as I once was.
I have also lost my flair for speeding, with cruise control set at 5 miles above the 75 per mile speed limit, I was definitely the slow car...
I also never tire of 'classic rock', Sammy Hagar, Rush, Heart, Blue Oyster Cult blaring away, windows down, 80 plus heat and an endless stretch of road.

I am also warming up to my 'Oh you haven't seen me in (insert number mostly likely larger than five) years- here I am! at your doorstep!
Old friends are like time capsules full of treasure.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Treasures in the tar pits

I won't bother to try and describe the sprawl of Los Angeles,or how sometimes a drive that should be one half hour turns into two hours-let's just say that it does happen.
Visits are constrained by freeway access and by the time periods that no one with a choice would choose to get on a freeway.

I have seen a lot of people, and I have loved that.

I took the Australians around to a few places they (thought) they wanted to see, and to find some items not yet found.
See here:

I braved a few areas filled with the ghosts of another life, and survived.
The benefit of all this rain in Los Angeles is the few of the hills from all sides, a if not rare, still not a common sight to see.

I went to the AAA office for my Trip-tik book, plus free maps and guides for the trip to Austin Texas, via Bisbee Arizona, this week.
I am looking forward to an open road- with less commuters, and more amblers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"...going to California with an aching in my heart..."

I am feeling at home in the land of car culture, even traffic seems okay to me because I know that if I kept going, I could reach a place, not loop back to where I started.
I was very tired on my first day, the afternoon flight is not very conducive to keeping oneself on a normal sleeping schedule.
My (wonderful) friend picked me up, and we did an errand, wandered his new neighborhood (that I am falling in love with and will do a post about later) and finally ended up at the Norton Simon Museum, pictured here.
There are some great pieces in this museum, but more importantly the building and grounds are lovely and the collection small enough to manage in one day.

Now, that I have lived in Australia for a length of time, I notice all the Australian plants used in California and of course I now know that the Gum Tree is not native to California as I believed when I was young and unaware of Australia's existence.

I am having a lovely time, excited for my first road trip and eating Mexican food to often.
Plus with the dollar exchange being what it currently is- the fact that I can buy nice, strong, beer from a micro-brewery for $6.49 is AMAZING.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fried Noodles

One of the things that is great about a person who likes to cook, and is open to at least the idea
of a recipe, is that there is always some new dish to try out. This way a meal can be dictated by a vegetable in season, or items in the kitchen that need to be used, or just foods that haven't been in dietary rotation for awhile.

Zok finds this dish bland, I say the taste is subtle and good.
Zok makes up some spicy chicken pieces to add on top of his meal which he thinks 'fixes' the dish.
Importantly, this needs good, fresh Hokkien noodles.

2 tbl oil
2 tsp sesame oil
4 spring onions, chopped
2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp finely chopped red chillies
150g (4 3/4oz) fresh firm tofu, cut into cubes
100g mushrooms (of your choice) we used Shitake
and added in some button mushrooms that needed to be used up
1 red capsicum, cut into thin strips
2 tbl water
2 tbl shoshoyu (soy sauce)
2 tbl cooking sake
2 tsp sugar
300g (9 2/3 oz) packet Hokkien noodles

Lightly fry your cubed tofu and set aside, on paper towels.
Combine your oils in a small bowl. Heat half the oil mixture in your wok, over medium high heat. Add the spring onion, and garlic and stir fry quickly (about a minute).
Add the chillies, and stir for a minute, add in your tofu and stir to coat, remove all and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the wok, add vegetables and stir-fry until crisp.
Add water, shoshoyu, sugar and noodles to the pan- (Zok actually cooks up his noodles first when he does the tofu, and then adds them back in at the very end- I however, follow this recipe as specified).
Toss gently to coat the noodles- Cover and steam for five minutes; then toss well.
Add the tofu mixture back in and toss for 3 minutes-

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"...what goes on in your heart...what goes on in your mind..."

Music has become almost a private thing in my life. I no longer work in the music industry each day. Where once I argued on a regular basis the merits of one type of music to another, or which guitar player played the best riff ever, or which producer really made a difference, now I watch rockumentaries alone in the dark. Rarely do I get to walk into an actual building, where I can touch actual recordings of music. Digital is easy- sure but missing is music not just in sound but in artistic expression.
Although I may go to more live shows than the average person, because I spend decades going to lives shows almost every day, the amount I see now seems very slight.
Partly this is my own doing, I am picky not just about bands, but the space they play in, the time they play, whether or not I can get a parking pass, details most music fans haven't been spoiled into knowing about.

This doesn't mean I am not excited to see live bands, and I could argue that my excitement for the few -stand out- shows I get to see is magnified by their rarity. Where once I saw ten great shows in a single week so that I was unable to fully process them all, now I can clearly remember a set list by a band I saw a year ago.

Meanwhile- recorded music is harder for me to process, so much comes out at once, but as a stream onto my computer, where I then have to make a play list for my mac devices-to be able to even hear the record in its recorded order. I've always loved listening to music in my car, but sometimes the degradation between my cassette to my i-something device sounds awful, or perhaps the recording was too compressed, maybe its my speakers...
My point being that nothing, seriously nothing compares to the quality of just listening to music recorded well, placed onto vinyl.

I will do my best to sort that problem out for my upcoming road trips because I have new (to me at least) Radiohead, Exene Cervenka, Dum Dum Girls, Lucinda Williams, PJ Harvey, Cave Singers, Paranthetical Girls and I don't feel that The Sword, Red Fang, The Decemberists, Social Distortion, Twilight Singers, and you will know us by the trail of our dead, have really had proper listens. I also have a slew of new recordings I don't know yet- Frankie and the Heartstrings, How to destroy angels, Monotonix, The Twees to name a few.

After going to both the 'Symphonicity' shows by Sting (which were so amazing; seated, starting near twilight, and very civilized) I went to visit Zok on his Soundwaves tour and saw Veara (they were on early, and their female drummer had excellent flashy drumstick action) Millencolin (who did the hits) Social Distortion, and The Sword. The audiences were a distraction, and I have always been too old for festival shows. People are drunk too early and strained by the elements, and something about being 'one of thousands' seems to lower the general I.Q. and/or civility of people. But I am glad I went, I stayed in a nice hotel, ate nice food, and wore make-up each and every day.

Still, I miss record stores, and listening booths. I miss garage bands or probably my youth that allowed me to want to hang out in garages and listen to bands. I miss talking about new records, especially talking about them on air to public radio audiences or better pirate radio audiences. I miss the fact that mixed tapes are no longer special, now there are playlists and no one seems to care or worse they load in the playlist digitally and the list is no longer a set of songs, lovingly picked to tell a story, or relay a joke, or say something that you couldn't quite say yourself.
I miss the King Biscuit Flour hour, and listening to radio on my old tube radio. (even though yes listening to radio via my phone from across the planet is a marvel). I miss John Peel.

"Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my Honey..."

This cake was made for dessert, but really I would say this is more suited for an afternoon treat, with tea.

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all purpose flour (we used the fancy hand milled flour, from Callington Mill, in Oatlands, bought from the Sunday Farmers Market on Elizabeth St.)
2 tbl finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon baking SODA
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs (medium or large)
1 cup sour cream
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees, (we used fan-forced 180c) Butter and flour your pan (standard sized)
In a bowl whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda and salt- set aside.

Using your electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on med-high until light and fluffy, Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.

With mixer on low, alternately add flour in three parts and sour cream in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.

Bake until your inserted toothpick comes out clean.
This was about 50 minutes for us.
As the top was browning too fast, the last ten minutes the cake was covered in tented foil.
Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes (we pulled rack out of over and cooled there), then turn out cake onto a rack to cool completely.
Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Zok and I thought the cake tasted better when fully cooled- as in with tea the next day as opposed to our first tasting late night.
Also Zok appreciated the amount of time he needed with his KitchenAid mixer to make this cake.