Friday, 30 January 2015


The 2015 Queensland State Election will begin on Saturday morning, Queensland time. No, I'm not being funny, it's just that writing "local time" doesn't seem helpful. Anyway...

I feel passionately about my right to vote, even if it is a legal requirement of all Australian citizens that they vote, I still feel very strongly about exercising my democratic right. This isn't because little over 100 years ago Australian women were not allowed to vote, and it's not because I'm a mum and want to ensure Australia is a place Jimmy can lead a fulfilling life. I am passionate about my right to vote because it gives me a say in how my country runs. I only have one vote, one vote per ballot paper per election*.

Of course, when I say "one vote", I still exercise my optional preferential vote. This means I get as many votes as there are election candidates, I just have to number them in order of preference from 1 (for my first choice) to n (the number of candidates). My vote still only counts once, but I get to choose where it goes if my first choice doesn't get enough votes to win their seat.

As Michael and I are living overseas** we will not be fined for not voting - which happens. We can request a postal vote. Which we did. Only, our ballot papers are yet to arrive. And the ballot papers have to be back at the electoral office within 10 days of the election day, or they don't count.

So Queenslanders, please make sure that you vote. It's your voice in the political world. It's our best means of communicating to politicians that we either like or don't like what they have done.  if you're a Queenslander, anywhere in Australia, and you haven't organised a postal vote and you don't expect to be in Queensland on Saturday, please head to the Electoral Commission Queensland for information on pre-polling***.

And if you don't vote, you have no right to complain about what the government does.

For those of you who don't know what elections in Queensland are like, this is a fun run down of what it is like.

Make sure that you vote! I'm going to be mightily annoyed if my ballot papers don't arrive in time, so please make sure that your vote counts.

*In Australia there are two houses at the Federal level, and in Queensland there is only the lower house - no Senate. For more details on Federal politics go here, and for Queensland, go here.
**As Jimmy is a fair few years too young to even enroll for the electoral roll, I can't really include him in this statement.
***I just checked and pre-polling closed on Thursday 29/1/15...

Update 2/2/2015: Our ballot papers haven't arrived. I am a little annoyed that I didn't get to vote, but I am reasonably happy with the election outcome (so far).

Thursday, 29 January 2015

72 degrees Fahrenheit...

I kid you not: I took this photo at 3:30 pm today. That's the temperature in Fahrenheit. It was over 20 degrees Celsius. I was wearing a t-shirt. No jumper. This time last year I was checking the weather for Manhattan, KS, and seeing figures of -25 degrees C... This year things are a little different.

This is mid winter, in the midwest... While the windows were open, I did spare a thought for everyone in the north east of the USA, and any Canadian provinces affected by the recent snow storm, and wished that the snow could have been spread a little more evenly across the continent.

It's supposed to snow here on the weekend, so I'm glad we took the opportunity to have lunch outside today - so was Jimmy. He'll be excited to play in the snow, if it happens to be cold enough for it. This mild winter is keeping snow a novel occurrence, and while I do enjoy the snow, I am very grateful that we have seen so little of it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Cheap thrills: Brioche...

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been making sourdough brioche. It's good - I can't believe I didn't make it sooner. Admittedly I thought it was going to be a little fiddly, so I was happy to wait until Asha was visiting so that there was another set of hands to help with Jimmy.

There was no reason to worry about Jimmy, but I was right about the fiddle... This may have had more to do with the recipe I used than anything else, but it was worth it.

After a quick search online, this is the recipe I used. There were others, and I intend to try out this one and this one too (along with some waffle recipes, but that's another story for another day). For the recipe I used, I still needed to search for some methods...

I followed the recipe to the letter, with one exception: I used lemon rind but no lemon essence. The dough was more like cake batter, especially after incorporating the butter using frissage. And the French folds? Well, that was a mess.

I lost a lot of mixture because it was all over my hands and the bench (and we didn't get any photos of the webs of dough between my fingers). Did I mention it was like kneading cake batter?

When I went to bed I was little concerned about how it would all go. Hoping the dough wouldn't rise too fast I turned our heating down ~1 C, but I could have left it as it was.

This is what the brioche looked like in the morning. Not promising, but I went with it. After drizzling a beaten egg white and a little milk, I 'cut' down the middle of the dough. Imagine cutting through cake batter... And into the oven it went!

The recipe made no mention of using a water bath in the oven, but I put one in for 7 minutes. A water bath helps with the initial rising of the bread, and I use a shallow pan with boiling water on the lowest rack in the oven - a quick spray of water will also do the trick. Using the water bath added 10 minutes to the overall cooking time.

The result? It rose beautifully, smelled amazing, and the crumb... oh my goodness...

Jimmy approved too! And we ate it all that day. Ok, we ate most of it for breakfast.

It was also so good that I made it again for Asha, for breakfast, the morning before her early morning flight to LA.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

And just like that...

She's gone. Asha flew out on Thursday. She had a 6:30 am flight to LA, via Dallas, and Jimmy and I woke up and waved her goodbye as the taxi took her to the airport.

After staying up late, because that's what we did, because we didn't know when we would see each other again, we managed to get up in time. Asha set an alarm, I didn't sleep well because I was worried I'd be too sound asleep for her to wake me, Jimmy wasn't too upset when I woke him up so that he could see his Aunty go.

He definitely enjoyed having his Aunty around and he handled her departure very well. He seemed to understand that we'd see her again, even if it was over Skype or Facetime, and he went back to sleep without too much trouble. She's safely back in Australia now, so we'll get to see her again soon, but we still miss her. So, here are some photos of her time here with us.

Sneaky Asha played Santa on Christmas Eve. I still can't get over the fact that she brought my childhood Santa sack and filled it with goodies.

Asha, Jimmy, and I often walked to K-State or Arrow Coffee Co for lunch with Michael and in the new year there was snow everywhere, for a few days at least. On this day the thermometer says 21 degrees Fahrenheit, which is -6 degrees Celsius and it was midday.

There was also some experimenting with sourdough, including the loaf above, which had cranberries, sugar, and spices rolled through the middle (it was good), pizzas bases and I can't believe I didn't do it sooner, and bagels too.

The bagels were good. The brioche was great too. So good in fact that it's getting its own post.

Michael may have made the pasta, but Asha delivered the lovely red tea towel, and we enjoyed eating the pasta together.

The weather turned mild and we walked to Cico Park on her last weekend here. There was some Geocaching involved and little legs trying to keep up with the longer ones.

Asha also started a love of throwing dry leaves in the air. Jimmy especially loves it when the leaves fall on his face or get stuck on fencing. He also enjoys getting in on the act too.

I love this one. Partners in crime. Or Geocaching.

More photos here, here, here and here. We miss you Asha! Jimmy still makes that "eww stinky" face when stinky things happen. It's cute. Jimmy also asks after you and remembers things that you did with him. We're looking forward to seeing Asha again soon, even if it's over the internet and not in person.

Monday, 26 January 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: running around, enjoying the warm air, holding still just long enough for Daddy to get this photo.

Yes, this is another one of Michael's. It's a lovely photo: Jimmy is looking at Michael, not the camera. Oh and his hair! He's never had much hair, and now it's long enough for the wind to blow it around... 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2015

Jimmy: out collecting "trees" with Daddy and Aunty Asha for Mum, because Daddy didn't bring enough home after work.

Michael took these photos... Yes, I'm having trouble stopping at one. And there was another photo, taken earlier that day, that almost made it, but I thought it was time for a closeup of Jimmy's little face.

The "trees" are actually a local tall grass, commonly known as Indian Grass, and it is used in gardens around where we live, and at other apartment complexes too. As it's now winter (you can tell by Jimmy's beanie and the snow in the background), the grass has done its thing and went to seed in Autumn the Fall. Come Spring they'll be all green again with new growth, but we now get to enjoy the tall grass in the comfort of our own home.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Funtimes in KC!

As previously mentioned, we went to Kansas City (KC) last weekend. We had a really good time, ate too much, drank plenty of coffee, and enjoyed being in a big city*. But I know you want details, and photos too... Well, more than one photo...

We picked up our hire car on Friday afternoon, so that we could do some shopping that evening and get away when we wanted to on Saturday. Jimmy may have lost it when he realised that we had a car, a red car no less! It was a little small, but we managed to squeeze 3 adults, Jimmy, and our gear into the red Toyota Yaris. That is, after a sleep in, waffles, and general hanging around - our only deadline that day was making it to our hotel sometime after 3pm, so we left late, stopped to take photos of the Konza Prairie (see first photo), and had coffee in Topeka, after some lunch in the car.

On checking into our hotel, we were given the option of having the top floor and we took it. We had a pretty nice view, and started to feel like we were actually in a city. Not that we were under any illusions about the size of KC as we navigated our way to the hotel using a tourist road map of Kansas state, which misses a fair few streets etc, simply because of the scale of the map. Ah well...

For dinner we made our way to the Plaza. We had thought to take the hotels' shuttle bus, but it was booked up until far too late for Jimmy, so Asha drove us there. Finding a park was surprisingly easy, a nice lady went out of her way to tell us that we'd left a light on inside the car, and it it wasn't too cold to be walking around the streets looking for a place to eat that was vegetarian friendly, but cold enough that once we found somewhere suitable, we weren't in a hurry to leave. Actually, the first place we came to seemed suitable, and the smells coming from Brio Tuscan Grille were just a little irresistible.

Now, being parents, Michael and I forget that people like to go out on Saturday nights, Asha seemed to forget this too, because when we asked about a table for 3 (plus toddler), we were told there was a 1.5 hour wait (!!!!)... our hearts sank... but we were welcome to sit at the bar and order from the menu. We were all in shock that we had to ask for clarification about what we could order!

We took up a really good spot in the bar area, which was actually not very noisey, and our couch and lounge chairs created a safe place for Jimmy to move around in. The large, low, round table was perfect for keeping most things out of Jimmy's (ever expanding) reach, and we were able to enjoy a lovely dinner without the wait. Added bonuses were not getting funny looks for breastfeeding Jimmy, not getting funny looks for sitting on the floor while eating dinner, and little desserts that really were just the right size.

We were still pretty full once we were done, so we went for a little walk and took in the Christmas lights around the Plaza. We also found a dedicated vegetarian restaurant and promised to try it out the next night.

We all thought Jimmy was going to go to sleep... but no. Before convincing him to have a bath, he decided to play with the phones in our room...

And pull funny faces at Daddy...

And roll around on a bed with Aunty Asha, complaining about how much farts stink... He did have a bath, and he did go to bed at a suitable hour. Us, the adults, on the other hand, we may have stayed up a little on the late side, but not too late, although we still set an alarm so that we wouldn't be late for our breakfast booking...

At the Farmhouse! Michael and I were pretty excited to be going back there, and I think Granny was a little jealous. Asha was excited because she knew what she was ordering, even before we left Manhattan! (I had checked the menu and shown Asha before making the booking, because I wanted her to have something she could eat, as vegetarian options are sometimes rather lacking... She was pretty happy with what was on offer.)

Jimmy was pretty happy to be there too, but I think it was more that he had a fork he could pretend to vacuum the table with. Yes. You read that right. We sat down, set Jimmy up, ordered some coffee, and Jimmy says "C'uum!" while moving his fork back and forth... Obsessed? Hmmm...

We were all a little busy enjoying our breakfast to take photos. A bit like dinner really, and every other meal we had while in KC. But not too busy to take photos of Jimmy enjoying himself...

We did a spot of Geocache-ing after breakfast, although Asha and I were (initially) more interested in taking in the sites. I'm not sure why, but this part of KC reminds me of Melbourne... Michael and I quite like both places.

It wasn't exactly warm...

But this bridge is pretty cool...

And there were trains on another bridge, and ice floating down the Missouri River...

That's right, ice. It is winter after all.

The bridge is the site of a few Geocaches, that we didn't find, even with Jimmy helping, so we gave into the cold, and went to Quay Coffee, after a quick look at the Markets - they were open, indoors, and heated.

Jimmy went to sleep after we had our coffees, so Asha and Michael went off to get those Geocaches, while I enjoyed a second cup of coffee. Sitting down. In peace and quiet.

It was pretty amazing, and relaxing too. Michael and Asha didn't have a phone, so I had to stay where I was, so that they could find Jimmy and me when they were done. And when they did come back, after finding 4 Geocaches, Jimmy was still asleep. He woke up not long after they had returned and we headed off to the next thing. Which turned out to be a visit to the Aquarium!

Initially we had thought to go to the zoo, but all 3 adults thought the aquarium might be more fun for Jimmy. And I think we were right.

I'm certain we were right. The Aquarium was indoors, so we didn't have to worry about the cold, and we could all get a lot closer to the animals too. I'm not sure that Jimmy understands what fish are, but he was pretty fascinated, and loved the touch pool, although I think that had more to do with splashing water everywhere than anything else...

We, the adults, had fun too, even though it was challenging to take good photos of the animals - the fish move faster than Jimmy and the turtle was plain shy... When we did emerge from the Aquarium, we noticed puddles of water (and ice) on the pavement, and were very glad to have been inside and not out at the zoo, where we might have had trouble missing the rain.

We had a quick bite to eat and then headed back to the hotel (after another attempt at finding a nearby Geocache). As we were feeling a little more comfortable with the area, and because we wanted to go to a specific restaurant for dinner, we did some preparations. Namely, we found out what was open, and what was on the menu. We didn't book anything, just went. And we ended up at Coal Vines for pizza and wine.

It was lovely and we had the best table. Right next to the pizza chef and pizza oven: they have glass from just above the bench to the ceiling, allowing the pizza making to be a real show. The staff were lovely, and the chef even gave Jimmy a piece of pizza dough to play with. It was a bit messy, but Jimmy had a great time. As did we, and we ended up eating far too much... which resulted in another walk around a different part of the Plaza.

The next morning we slept in, had the hotel buffet breakfast, checked out, and make our way to Oddly Correct Coffee Bar (after another side trip to the rather troublesome cache... which was not found).  

Coffee... and a plain donut. Actually, it's not just a coffee, it's a flat white. In a glass. It was rather like an Australian latte.

Michaels' latte resembled a flat white, something we've come to accept, just like: the winter sun being in the south, not the north; Christmas being in winter, not summer; and cars travel on the righthand side of the road, not the lefthand side. We still order latte's, but they come in ceramic cups, and not glasses.

Our coffees were very good. Actually, the Oddly Correct crew are so confident that their coffee is good, that they don't offer sugar or creamer for their pour overs. That said, their milky coffees are made on whole milk (yay!), which I think is also true for Quay Coffee, and Arrow Coffee Co. We'll be heading there again, if we make it back to KC.

After our lovely coffees, and a little birthday present for Michael, we headed home, via the scenic route when we realised that we didn't have enough change for the toll. Plus Asha, who was driving, wanted to see more of the countryside. Once back in Manhattan, we managed to unload the car, do the week's' grocery shopping, and return the car in little over an hour.

We had a really lovely time. It was great to get away, break up the routine, see a few new places, and hang out together without the distractions of home (housework, computers, the vacuum). I hope that Michael, Jimmy and I get another chance to go back to KC before we leave the USA, but it won't quite be the same without Asha.

*We have it from one local that KC is a small big city, making it a very livable city - we think it's bigger than Brisbane... possibly bigger than Melbourne...