Cookbooks are one of my favourite playthings. I use them when I'm tired, to look for ideas. I use them when I'm bored, to think about things that I'd like to do some time. I distract myself with them when I'm supposed to be doing other things. I look at them for the sheer pleasure of finding out what other people do with food (or at least the preparation of it). So recently, when somone asked me what my favourite cookbook was, I should have had at least one answer for them, and preferably several. Instead, they received a blank look and a general grunt of 'uuuhhh'.
To make up for this amazing incompetence, I've decided to make comments about some of my favourite cookbooks.
- Diet for a small Planet - This one is getting on a bit, but to me it is the definitive vegetarian cookbook. It is the one that I learnt all about how to eat a balanced diet without meat, about some of the important considerations, and some of the ethics that are associated with vegetarianism. Plus, it has the best poppyseed cake recipe
- Cooking Encyclopaedia - Not sure of the exact title of this one. It's getting quite old (don't think I can find a publication date in it) and it is based on the English cooking tradition. This means that any time I want to know how things used to be done, I look here. In fact, any time I have anything unusual I want to try, I look here, because it has an amazing range of info in it. There are vegetables here that I can buy, but no other recipe book will admit exists (even my 'Fruit and Vegetable' Cookbook doesn't admit to turnips and swedes, both of which I adore, particularly roasted).
- Women's Weekly Best Ever Cakes and Slices - great for all of those everyday cakes, with a good mix of reasonably fancy ones as well. Has a great selection of vegetable based cakes, and some really really good syrup ones. I'm slowly working my way through and finding out which ones work without wheat flour (2 parts rye, 2 parts buckwheat and 1 part potato is my usual substitute)
This is a piece I wrote a while ago, but have only just made it electronic...
It's been an interesting few weeks (I want to say days, but looking at the chunk out of my life, I realised it's been over 2 weeks) - stuck in a hospital, watching a sick baby, slowly getting immersed in a somewhat surreal feeling existence, coming to believe that it's never going to end.
This is hopefully going to change tomorrow morning - unless the unforeseen happens - the doctor(s) will check out one-month old Bryn, and approve her for discharge. But before that happens, I wanted to make a record of my life of the last three weeks, as I'm not going to believe in it when I get out of here - the disjunction between 'in hospital' life and 'normal' life is just too great.
Have you ever been to a convention/conference? The type where you go to a hotel (or similar venue), sleep in one of the rooms, go to events in the hotel all day (and possibly part of the night), socialise with other people attending the conference/convention, eat a diet very different from normal because you are eating things that require minimal or no preparation, because the facilities for anything else are lacking?
Well, the last three weeks have been a cut down version of this. I won't say a cheap version, because although it hasn't cost me personally all that much, I hate to think of the cost in "taxpayers dollars", whatever they are!
Anyway, back to the 'cut price' conference. The bedroom is the smallest thing approaching a motel room that I can imaging - I can't see any way of reducing it further, except possibly removing the bedside table so that the wall could be brought closer to the bed, but I suspect that this would cause problems with opening on or other of the doors in the room. In total, including the bathroom, I doubt it is as large as my bedroom at home, which isn't all that large, as master bedrooms go, being in a small suburban 'cottage' or the 60s or 70s. I'd estimate that the width of the room is a little over 3m - wide enough for the length of a double bed built for midgets, a space to get through to the bathroom, and a dinky bar fridge. There is little else in this room, other than the aforementioned bed and bar fridge. The bedside 'table' mentioned previously is in fact two small shelves attached to the wall. There's a rather uncomfortable chair of the type that can be strung together to pretend to have a couch, there's a wall mounted cupboard too narrow to hang a work shirt, too short to hang a dress and with no appreciable space to store the types of clothing that would usually live in drawers.
Oh, and there's a bathroom.
Now, this is not the smallest, or even the strangest, bathroom that I've ever encountered. Friend of my mother's, who's house we stayed in when visiting Sydney one year, had installed a pre-moulded cube bathroom, that could have been at most 2m in every dimension, and being pre-moulded, very claustrophobic. This bathroom is better that that in many ways, but I really wouldn't want to live with it full time. There is a toilet, sink and shower all crammed in, and an open shelf for putting stuff on, and a hanging rail for a towel. All sandwiched in the space to swing, well, nothing. Not only could you not swing a cat in there, I doubt I (at 156cm) could turn around fully with my arms outstretched.
To continue with the cut rate conference analogy further is the set of events going on. There are three main areas in this ward - the cubicles, the main area, and the nursery. In our three weeks here, we've toured them all. A lot of time is spent watching sick baby (it's not considered polite to watch other people's sick babies, although it is acceptable to coo over them should a parent be around). Or, if this palls, and a parent isn't needed with the baby for any reason - feeding, being the required parent while family/friends are visiting, doing simple tasks the nurses trust them with if they are too busy themselves, such as nappy changing and thermometer holding - there's the parents lounge.
This is a dour place as well, although I gather that it is due for a lick of point, so it might just be a timing thing. There's space (just) for two couches, a table, some chairs, a television, some bench space and a fridge. The bench space supports such inhabitants as a microwave, a toaster, tea makings and an urn. For those of us here who are breast feeding mothers with babies fed on demand (precious few, because of the nature of the reasons babies end up here - surprising the amount of discussion there can be on the topic of expressing milk), this is the safest place to hang out. Doesn't seem to matter how well fed/settled my baby is, if I dare to leave the hospital for an hour to get lunch or deal with some other pressing matter to keep my life humming along, baby won't last more than ten minutes asleep, and with then require attention, preferably mine.
Out of time, short on paper. Was going to talk about the cafeteria, the limited physical activity options - walking the grounds, the kids (small) playground, the doleful nature of parking (the only thing about the whole situation I would complain about ad nauseum). Also, the dedication of the nurses, even the ones that work by the book, or are too inexperienced to have really understood either 'let sleeping babies lie' or 'less is more' or even 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', although this last is not necessarily as good, given the best nurses appear to be proactive rather than reactive.
And I'd be tempted to write about the doctors, although difficult to do so without making identifying statements.
and this is as much as I got written, before deciding that sleep was better, and I'd really not got any other paper.....
nursing (breast) pads
(beware, for people who know me, there might be more here than you want to know)
Okay, so there are a lot of things I've been thinking about commenting on recently, but this is one thing that has impinged on life quite a lot lately. I've friends who say they've never had a use for these contraptions, but for me, they are wonderful.
I've always tended to go for the washable ones, apart from anything because I hate throwing things away, even if they are designed to be disposable. However, in recent months, there have been a number of reasons for using disposable pads, not the least of which being that I was given a couple and found them wonderful.
I've discovered since, to my chagrin, that this is one case of products that look the same not all being equivalent. I tried buying one brand, only to have it taken off me at the checkout, because it had been recalled. Not the fault of the company, but I'll not try buying that brand again. Then, on another occasion, I succeeded in purchasing some. Got them home, tried them, damn things leak around the edges, fall apart when there is a flood of milk, things like that. So, back to the shops. After trying several different places, finally found the brand that I'd been given that had been so good.
What is so good about the different brand? Apart from other characteristics, they are larger in diameter. For some women, I can understand that this wouldn't be relevant. But for me, it is very important - the inferior brands just don't cover enough of my breast to make it worth the effort (current cup size is E). Also, they can cope with a veritable flood of milk - this is important, for me, as when feeding on one side, the other breast can leak enough milk to stain my shirt all the way to my belt. And somehow, the shape is better.
The only thing that the inferior brand has over the better one is the texture of the 'fabric' on the skin. And it seems to depend on the day, just which one I prefer. Summary: 'Pigeon' brand 8/10, 'Nuk' brand 4 1/2 /10, 'Dove' brand don't know ain't gonna bother. But in general, I'm sticking with washable ones, which I think are 'Tommy Tippee' brand (8/10) - not quite as absorbent, more likely to leak, but I can change them frequently without concern for the environment - they take up such a small space in a wash load.
Pigeon are available from pharmacists, as far as I can find.
(Note: for those who have no idea of the purpose of nursing pads - they are used by breastfeeding parents to keep clothing dry. They go inside the bra cups, to soak up leaking milk.)