Saturday, June 19, 2010

An Orthotic Experience

   Unhappy feet make for an unhappy person.  I am sure it is why senior citizens bark orders like "get off the lawn" when youngster walk across their well-manicured lawns in bare feet.  It's not the potential damage the little feet could do to the landscaping, it's that the oldsters feet hurt constantly and would hurt worse if mimicking the kids behavior.  Eventually, the old and not-so-old figure out that help is needed. We save up boat-loads of money to get orthopedic inserts made by high tech methods and then go in search of shoes "that work".
    This used to mean the dreaded Drew shoes.  Shoes so ugly, so medieval, so my-great-great-great-grandmother-with-only-one-club-foot-wouldn't-wear-them  looking that they gave 'functional' a bad name. Those cobblers castoffs redefined "walk of shame."  It is with this sense of dread that I walked into Kumpfs [whose shoes are rumored to be made out of kangaroo hide] with my own orthotics.
    In the small store are four other female shoppers: two old women, one of whom has a lifelong hearing disability (as evidenced by her speech pattern) and the other who bears a strong resemblance to actress Margaret Rutherford's  Miss Marple.  I can just imagine this broad marching through her morning constitutional in her pants hemmed way too high- doubtless to avoid the morning dew. A slender, middle-aged woman in baggy, autumnal-colored clothing and carrying a dog tote who would look more at home at a health food store wearing Birkenstocks.  The fourth, younger woman-dressed from socks to hat in retro 70's vintage chic- clearly is aware of her style.  And absolutely all of us are eager NOT to look like WWII pensioners from the ankles down.
   The mildly deaf woman must also have selective vision. She was trying on brown, snakeskin shoes which may have come up to her ankle 
bones...if you could find them. Her feet are now decidedly fashion forward.  The Stentorian covered her own cankles with a surprisingly delicate looking walking shoe which laced up with ribbons.  Our Macrobiotic Eater had a huge collection of shoes to try on- all of which strayed from sober with detailing in stitching and velcro fasteners. 
Tres Chic had the wildest taste in shoes, defying the Drew in the strongest possible way.   Two-toned and multicolored ,  metal-studded, up to the knee, slouched to the ankle, lace-up, velcro, pull-ups and every one of them with a high heel. Who knew any company made orthotic-friendly high heels? Tres Chic didn't deny the fact that she had orthotics and readily admitted that ortho-friendly shoes were expensiveShe decisively and unapologetically picked out a multi-colored suede pair of high heeled shoes with her eye on a pair of studded fashion boots for another visit.
    So what did I pick out?  After trying on several rather kicky (but always black) shoes, I found the 'nurses' shoe to be the most comfortable.  Plain, but not staid. Streamlined, but not chunky, so they will match both pant and skirt.  Functional but not kicking down Death's door. And not made of kangaroo (so few styles are.) I'll start saving now for a second pair for the warm season.  Red leather with peek-a-boo detailing and a velcro strap.
   And just maybe a heel.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

TyFolk Blind Wine Tasting

   When I arrived in OZ and started to look for places to fit in & get to know people, I was surprised to discover how many companies have 'social clubs'.  These are semi-formal groups who plan activities for their employees/families, frequently at very budget friendly prices. Now, people must pay an annual fee but frequently find that it "pays for itself" by just attending the  fancy Christmas dinner/dance - all else is gravy.  The membership of TyFolk is hardly the employee rolls of Tyco anymore.  There are former employees and people from other companies who used to work in the same building making up the bulk of the membership.  Along with discounted individual tickets to stage shows on offer, so are monthly group meals or events.  And this weekend was the event Kev and I hosted. Well, Kev attended and I planned.
   The Blind Wine Tasting has a great premise: we know what we think tastes good but do we know what wine we are drinking?   If the label was not on the bottle, could we tell what kind (varietal) of wine it is?  Kev & I  held the same kind of party back in Ohio. (OK, Kev attended and I planned that one, also.)   We all failed spectacularly but had a great time doing it. Good company, good food, good wine = it's all good.  So we decided to share the joy with TyFolk at Kev's lawn bowls club.
   It's set-up is fairly simple: six well-concealed wines are tasted from lightest to most robust. Just a small amount - enough to gargle - so there is no waste and no dawdling over full glasses.  People then mark their Flight Sheets [official score cards at a wine tasting] with their own taste notes and guesses at varietal, region produced and bottle price.  It's all very much in fun, you're just competing against yourself.  When all six wines have been trialled and marked by the participants, we  then unveil the bottles. Ta-da!  How many did you get right? No one gets 100% on their score. In fact, some people are thunderstruck at how poorly they did (I thought I knew my stuff!), most just laugh at themselves. The guy who had an astounding 5 out of 6 varietals correct wasn't lording it over everyone.  The varietal he missed was the  wine he drinks most often. 
   After the reveal, the party loosens up .  The food is uncovered, the wine factoids are on display so people can check their guesses against reality.  The wines were priced from $11 to $43 and from all over the country and world.   The food came partly from my kitchen (mini-Cornish pasties, gourmet stuffed potatoes, guacamole), partly from the grocery store (hummus dip anyone?) and the cheeses mostly from the dairy case at the uber-toney David Jones  department store.  Good thing I know when/where to sniff out bargains in their food section.  Although I must admit, if you see St Agur blue cheese (France) in a store, BUY IT, even if it does cost $55 a pound.   Seriously drool worthy, almost as good as my pasties.
   This party didn't end early.  At ten o'clock, the attendees were still happy to chat and eat, the  club personnel less so.  To the last person, everyone  was very happy to have attended, chided good-naturedly all those who did not show up and left content.
   It is gratifying to know one has planned a successful and appreciated event.  It is also rather handy to get someone else, at least once, to pay for your St Agur cheese.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

15th Annual Croatian Food Festival

   Dobre dan, my friends. Let me take you to the 15th Annual Croatian Food Festival held at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle.  We went to it last year and eagerly awaited last night's opening. Hope you're hungry...
   The fun starts as soon as you approach the Atrium.  Oh look,  costumed cgagnin smiling with welcoming trays of figs, bread and glasses of slivice (slivovic)- a seriously strong brandy.  Our table is right next to the VIP table where the mayor, Croatian Consul-General and other dignitaries are seated on opening night. The decorations of posters, costumes, flags and banners add to the festive atmosphere. 
   Stop gawking already. It's time to eat.  The spread is fantastic: three bars of salad, seafood and greens. An extended table of hot entrees and soup with a carving station off to the side. And a dessert table....but let's not get ahead of ourselves. This is a three hour supper, slow and steady does it.   Start with the salad bar where each premade salad, like everything else, has an ethnic appropriate name in English above its name in Croatian.
Every recipe seems to start with "Croatian", "Dalmatian", "Slovanja" or the name of a city like Hvar. Hey, it makes the coleslaw extra special. After a few trips to the salad bar, hit the seafood bar. Some people don't get much farther than this.  Last year, we watched the  twig-thin, 20 year-old  daughter of the Croatian Consul-General eat three plates of crab.  Kev only had two. Those king prawns are a hit also.  The salted fish takes some getting used to.
  My family is going to ask, "But do they have pigs-in-a-blanket?" This is what our Grandma called cabbage rolls. Yes, but these are made with cinnamon or nutmeg. UGH! New offerings this year included: Dalmatian Tripe, Isterian Roast Duck...or was the Rabbit from Isteria?, Penne Veal, some dolled up Chicken, Sauerkraut & Bacon plus the usual Roast Beef. Zucchini thrown in for yuks.  Yes, brothers mine, I did eat some of the tripe in memory of your sacrifice so many years ago. 
     All this food doesn't just magically appear. Celebrity chef Dennis Valcich is brought in from Sydney every year to oversee this feast. There was a video crew out last night shooting footage for an in-house project or future advertisement. This shot was the only time Chef got his hands dirty publicly in the name of food. He was there to take the accolades and, with great concession, insist he can't compete with anyone's grandmother.  Bless him.
   I must mention that the first thing one walks up to on the dessert table is a bowl of fresh fruit-- largely ignored. Three tables of cakes, cookies and other confections just winked a whole lot harder.  I chose only that which I cannot get easily at home...which means only the orange Jell-o was a miss. 
   Some singing, some dancing, some music, a few speeches (that Vice-Consul was so uncomfortable making a speech--mostly in Croatian-- and when you add his colorless waxy skin, thin lips, bad haircut and worse suit, he looked like a Russian spy in a 1940's movie) and a little more music.  Add a little more food and you have a full evening.
We staggered out making the usual oaths ["I'm never eating again. Ever. "] and wondering if Gluttony has been reduced to a misdemeanor.  More wheezing and grunts when we finally managed to get to the car. Dawg, it takes a lot of energy to turn the key in the ignition.  The ride home is spent reliving the experience and seeing if we 'got our money's worth.'  It's not a cheap night. But we wouldn't miss it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today's Headlines

  Let's take a look at today's headlines...the ones that appear online, brief little bits spotted on your way to something/anything else. Hard to tell if it is truly reflective of the most urgent issues of the day or important happenings on the community blotter. But here goes:

Sprinkler ban starts today

Winter begins June 1 in OZ (all seasons begin at the first of the month) and this means the rainy season has begun. So the Water Corporation has deemed it the perfect time to put on sprinkler and water use bans.  The WC instituted the ban-along with its $100 fines- last year with great success.  People cut their unnecessary watering by a great percentage.  And I ask, "Why wouldn't they?"   Winter here is nothing but clouds and rain.  The demand for water by plants, pools or humans drops with the temperatures. Or so I would have thought. Does anyone in North America run their sprinklers in the middle of a rain storm?  Although there are exhortations to conserve water during the much longer hot season, there is no ban on watering despite all the hand wringing about the dropping water levels in reservoirsAll of this is the complete opposite of home where, if there is a ban or restriction on lawn sprinkling and hose use, it is during the hot, dry months of summer when the reservoirs are at their lowest levels. The ban does not apply farm fields, sporting greens and the like.

Sale of playing cards banned in Kununurra

This was a bit of a surprise. Apparently youths in this country town way up north have quite the racket making money on card games in the public park.  Young kids, 10-14 years old, and the stakes are rather high as $50 and $100 bills have been seized. Of course, these young dealers and losers aren't spending anytime in school while busy wasting money on games of chance.  So the community elders arranged to have playing card sales banned but cards are now being bought on the black market and found back in the parks.The problem is being re-evaluated.  Community elders are taking more proactive steps to curb the proliferation of listless youths and troubles up north.  More than a few communities have legislated themselves as completely dry-no booze sold or brought in- to curtail the waste and damage alcohol inspires in too many people in these outback stations, particularly in the indigenous community.

Schoolteachers back truancy tracking

Well, this was actually non-news. At long last Education Administrators have started to figure out that kids just aren't going to learn on their steam by their own devices. English grammar will be mandated again starting this school year and in a bigger push for literacy, keeping kids in class to start with.  This article mostly was geared toward the Aboriginal communities and their very fluid population. Historically wanderers, the tendency to move often and kids bounce between relatives still seems rather strong. A state tracking system of students will help each school know where their students are located and offer a stronger continuity of education materials for the students who land on their doorstep.The kids can't learn if they are not in school.

Greens slam asylum seeker mining camp plan

Well, slowing the pace of asylum seeker application handling hasn't  slowed the people-trafficking pace into the country. These people all can't be held at Christmas Island, so where can they be sent? How about a deserted mining camp near an isolated back country town? The left thinks its a horrible way to treat people. The right doesn't want illegals on the mainland. The country town sees jobs and money in the deal. And the State of WA is starting to make noise about how a Federal problem is being dumped largely on the state coffers to take care of.  The drama continues.

Sale of the Decade

The end of the financial year is nigh! The financial year here being July 1-June 30.  So predictably there are the End-of-Year-Stocktake (inventory) sales. Reporters are out there showing the crush of crowds thrilled to get a bargain at the two department store chains in the country: Myers and David Jones.  Just Look! 30, no wait, 40 - WOW, 50% off on goods like towels and last season's clothing!  Cha-ching, spending madness is in full swing!

   Yawn. People are going mad over 40% off?  We've run out of news today.