Monday, August 28, 2006

Fresh Spring Rolls

Some of the things I've craved this pregnancy are forbidden. Like smoked salmon sushi, blue cheese, and soft boiled eggs. But thankfully, some of my cravings are not on the banned list. We'll draw a veil over the naughty ones like coke flavoured lollies, nutella & peanut butter together on a teaspoon (aaarghdon'tlookatthecalories!!!) and cinnamon doughnuts. Actually that last one is, I confess, not really a pregnancy related one. *blush*

ANYWAY - on to the point of the post!

I love fresh spring rolls. There are lots of versions of these. I first had them in a Vietnamese restaurant in Melbourne on the recommendation of my friend C. It was love at first bite. I then tried them again at an excellent Thai restaurant, Mekong Neua in Kingsland. I was keen to make them myself so looked up the recipe somewhere.

Making these is easy but a little fiddly and time consuming. This doesn't bother me. I find such cooking quite meditative or soothing. There is something satisfying about spending the time and effort to create it. It's the same reason I like to make gnocchi or chinese dumplings from scratch.

This is my version. It makes about 20-22 rolls depending on how much filling you have.

Fresh Spring Rolls
  • 500g chicken tenderloins
  • 2 star anise
  • knob of ginger
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • soy sauce
  • water
  • mirin/sake/chinese cooking wine
Peel the garlic and ginger and chop coarsely. Place the chicken, garlic, ginger, star anise into a pot. Add water to cover the chicken and slosh in some soy sauce. How much depends on how dark the soy sauce, and how strong you like the flavour. Add a dash or two of the mirin/sake/chinese cooking wine. Bring to the boil and check to see if the chicken is cooked. Once cooked, drain and leave to cool.
  • Packet of rice "galettes" as they are called on the packet. I get them from my local chinese supermarket. I get the round ones, but they have square ones as well. They are normally near the noodles.
  • 1/3 of 1/2 a cabbage head
  • mung beans
  • 1 large carrot
  • chopped mint (use Vietnamese mint if you can find it)
  • chopped fresh coriander (not everyone likes this so just have the mint if you're one of those people)
Slice the cabbage and carrot very finely - julienne is the term here. If you have a mandoline or nifty Bamix grater then you'll find it handy here. I have to make do with a sharp knife.
Thinly slice the chicken. Boil the kettle so you have some hot water.

Now - the librarian in me forces me to set up my work station like this.
  • Put the cabbage in one pile and the carrot in another on a plate.
  • Plate 1: Fill with hot water from the kettle (I use a bread & butter plate)
  • Plate 2: Dampen with water but don't fill it (I use a bread & butter plate)
  • On the chopping board: A pile of chopped herbs and another separate pile of sliced chicken.
  • In it's bag close by: the mung beans & the rice galettes
The construction process

1. Take one rice galette and place it in Plate 1. Leave to soften which will take maybe 1-2 mins. It will go clear when it's soft.
2. Slide the softened galette off Plate 1 and place it nicely on Plate 2. Put another galette on to soak in Plate 1 while you fill the first one.
3. Place 2 slices of chicken in the middle of the galette lying horizontally. Then add pinches of cabbage, herbs and mung beans. Then add 2-3 carrot sticks.
4. Fold the sides of the galette over the filling. The vertical lines in the diagram below demonstrate which bits to fold over.

5. Now fold the top edge of the galette over the filling and roll the package over the final remaining exposed rice galette so you have a kind of cigar shape cylinder.

Continue constructing others until you've got enough rolls for your needs.

Dipping Sauce

  • Juice of 2 small limes
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • finely chopped fresh coriander & mint
  • finely chopped fresh chilli (if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp finely chopped ginger

Mix all the ingredients together. Taste and see if the balance between salt/sour/sweet is to your taste; add more lime juice/fish sauce/sugar.

In case you are wondering, yes, DS loves these and eats them with gusto just like me. He doesn't like the filling by itself but when it's wrapped up and dipped in the sauce it somehow magically becomes yummy! ;-) Even though he tells me "I not like mungo beans".

P.S. The filling can be different. The Vietnamese one I had used shredded pork. I make vegetarian ones with marinaded tofu or egg omlette with black seasame seeds. You could use prawns or even thinly sliced beef. Many people use bean vermicelli noodles as a filling too.

Part 3: Keeping up with the blogs you read

In my last post I tried to explain how you can keep up with blogs that you read. In this post I'm going to show you how to use Bloglines (a web-based news aggregator) to subscribe to the blogs you read.

1. Go to Bloglines.

2. Create an account. This is free. Use an id/password that you can remember. You'll be sent a validation email that you need to reply to before your account is activated. 'Tis a matter of a moment...

3. Once your account is activated you can start adding feeds. Click on the ADD link (top left corner of the side bar).

4. Enter the URL of the blog you want to subscribe to. At this stage you can create a special folder if you want to organise your blogs a bit, but you can do this at a later stage if you want. Click on the subscribe button.

5. You'll often be given a choice of feeds. Pick one of them. I usually go for the atom version, which is the top one in this picture. Scroll down and click on the subscribe button.

Your newly subscribed feeds will turn up in the side bar.
As you see from my picture, I've organised my feeds into a bunch of different folders. Those folders contain a range of different blogs. The ones in bold have some feeds I haven't read yet. By expanding the folders I can see who has made a new post, and I'll be able to read it by clicking on the name of the blog. The post will be shown in the right hand frame of your browser.

Sometimes I find pictures don't show up in the post. I'm not sure why that is (maybe because I'm using Firefox) but in any case I can click on the Blog Title at the top of the page and go directly to the blog and see the pics.

I hope this series has helped at least one person! :-)

Part 2: Keeping up with your blogs


Freeware for your Desktop
Some of them are free and you can download them to your desktop. I've used FeedReader and found it quite good, though I now have moved on from it.
E.g. FeedReader , RSSReader

Some aggregators are web based so you can access them anywhere there is an internet connection.
E.g. Bloglines, Google Reader

I personally use Bloglines now because I work at a number of different computers over the course of my week and I like to be able to read blogs from where I am at the time. (It also means I don't lose the program everytime DH decides to reload Windows or upgrade our motherboard on our home computer...).

Browser Based
There are 2 internet browsers (that I am aware of) that can deal with RSS feeds.

1) Firefox is an internet browser based on code produced by Mozilla. I use Firefox almost exclusively because I like many of it's features. Firefox uses "Live Bookmarks " to capture RSS feeds. If you use Firefox, each time you visit an RSS enabled site you will see a little orange cube to the left of the URL.

By clicking on the cube you can add the live bookmark to your Favourite folder. Once the bookmark is added, you'll see the new posts to a blog by placing the mouse over that bookmark.

2) The other internet browser is Flock. Flock is based on the same code used to make Firefox, but has a few interesting features particularly relevant to the social networking aspect of the web. It is still in a beta version. If you use Flock, you can click on that orange cube thingy, and it will automatically add the RSS feed to a side bar in your internet browser.

Email Client Based
I'm only aware of one email program that deals with RSS feeds, but I am happy to be enlightened to more!
Thunderbird is Firefox's email client and easily reads feeds. Thus you can have your email, RSS feeds and newsgroups all in one place.

Congratulations if you have made it this far! Moving on to using an RSS Reader.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Part 1: Keeping up with the blogs you read

Okay - sometimes I just can't help my inner teacher coming out. I'd like to make your life easier. I hope I can explain this via a post when I'm used to demonstrating this in a classroom. If you know all this... feel free to let your eyes glaze over.

This post is a heads up to my fellow scrapping blog readers. I've noticed as I read your posts that some of you use bookmarks or links on the blog side bar to browse around and read everyone's blogs. That's cool. But let me show you an easier way! ;-)

RSS Feeds

Have you heard of RSS? RSS stands for "really simple syndication". Well, that's one of the interpretations so we'll go with it. It is a type of file format called XML. That probably means very little to most people but that's okay - your computer can read it and that is all that matters. What is more relevant is what it can do for you.

Sites such as newspapers, some discussion forums, news communities and blogs use RSS (or a similar thing called Atom) to help their readers keep up with the ever changing content on their site. Instead of visiting many different blogs (or sites) each day, you can subscribe to an RSS or Atom feed, and get all the new content from one place. This can save you time and will also mean you don't miss a post from a blog.

To do this, you need to use an RSS aggregator (sometimes called news aggregators). This is just a little program that captures all your subscribed feeds and displays them for you in a nice organised format. It's a little like getting an email everytime something new is updated, but much better because a) you don't just get the alert, you get the content and b) you don't end up getting bombarded with emails. It periodically checks for new posts from the blogs you read and groups them according to your choice.

There are a number of different aggregators out there. See my next post for the next installment.

Do you have a dog?

One of our students who is doing a Bachelor of Applied Animal Technology is doing a research project on dog training techniques and is looking for dog owners to complete a brief survey online. Go to if you want to take part.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Belly at 22 weeks

Well - kind of between 21 to 22 weeks depending on which calculator you use!

Some growth there compared with the 14 week one. DS insisted on being in the picture :-)

Getting more movement happening now. On Sunday I saw a kick from the outside which always makes me laugh to see! Alien belly is baaaaaack!

So is pregnancy brain. I did an online order at Woolworths the other day since we were having visitors and I had to tidy up the bombsite.. er, house. I nearly managed to order 6 kgs of chicken tenderloins (about $70.00). Luckily I wondered why my total was so high before I put it through the checkout...

Monday, August 14, 2006

20 Weeks Ultrasound

Here's baby at 20 weeks. Everything is measuring on track which is a great reassurance. We did try and find out what flavour the baby is, but the tech wasn't 100% sure so I'm not committing myself to anything though we have some suspicions! Baby had it's legs very close together so it wasn't easy to see anything.

Shame really - I was intending to do some shopping! Well I still did, but for me this time. I had some birthday money so I bought myself some boots. It's been years since I had a pair of boots! ;-) I also got 2 new maternity bras - why do they make them so boring? I am going to have to make a trek to Mummy's Tummy in Ponsonby because they stock the HOTmilk brand of maternity bra.

Anyway, I'm halfway through this pregnancy. I haven't really "popped" yet though you can tell I'm pregnant for sure. I'm feeling well and I'm so glad I haven't had the heartburn like I did with DS - long may that last.

Powder Everywhere

I thought DS was a little quiet and investigating I discovered this!
The sponge mop is his attempt to clean up the mess.

Oh well, I suppose my vaccuum cleaner smells nice now.

My Stash of Cloth Nappies

Not everyone gets excited about this kind of picture. I'm trying to decide if I need more cloth nappies for the new baby. This is what I have in my stash.

I guess some people think it's crazy to use cloth in this age of disposable. But I like to use them for a number of reasons.

Firstly, there is the waste aspect. If I use disposables, the number of garbage bags I put out each Monday increases. I also find it mildly disgusting that I'm putting such stuff into the local Refuse Transfer Station instead of the sewerage system. I like to keep the amount of waste our household produces to a minimum, so doing things like composting our vege waste and using cloth nappies makes me feel virtuous.

Secondly, there is the cost factor. It costs me around $20.00 a week to buy disposable nappies. The initial outlay to buy cloth seems a little daunting, but if you work out how much you spend per year for disposables it does work out cheaper. Admittedly, you do have to factor in the washing costs. I use EcoStore washing powder which is possibly the most expensive one, but in my defense, it lasts me a lot longer than when I used Persil Sensitive because the scoop is smaller. When DS was a baby, I washed one load of washing every other day. That consisted of nappies, baby clothes and a few adult clothes, towels etc. I still think that cloth is cheaper even when the washing factor is added in.

Thirdly, there is the cute factor! I find it fun to make them out of funky fabrics. I've used blue stars, aeroplanes and even strawberry fabrics for the nappies I've sewn. Snazzipants produce some very cute prints (the cow print for example).

I'm not a disposable Nazi though. I intend to use them for the first week or so until the baby finishes passing meconium. I will probably use them at night for a while, because newborns are such heavy wetters. DS is still not potty trained and daycare is not keen on cloth, so he's mainly in 'sposies. This is a problem I am keen to resolve before the new baby comes. I shall have to take a week off in order to concentrate on that project!

First snow

The single photo we took of DS in the snow for the first time. Unfortunately, it isn't the best one of him.

We pointed out the mountain as we approached, and talked about the white stuff being snow. "My mountain!" he said. Once we got there and starting slipping about in the snow he wasn't too sure about the strange white stuff. "Cold." was his main comment as he tried to shake the ice off his gloves. We wanted to make a snowman, but the consistency wasn't that good; too icey, and I couldn't roll any snowball. We did find someone else's snowman, so at least he could say he saw one.

We shall have to go back one day and preferably not on a weekend! Parking was at a premium, the toilets had run out of toilet paper [yuk!], and the whole place just felt crowded and uncomfortable. I suppose it didn't help that we were all coming down with the lurgy.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Light at the end of the tunnel

I'm a bad blogger.

But I have an excuse - we've been really sick with the 'flu. Not cold, but 'flu with it's attending chills, fevers, aches, racking coughs... the only thing we didn't have was the vomiting and trots. Neither of us have been to work all week and I don't thing we'll be going back on Monday either. I am improving, but it is really slow and not aided by the fact I can't take anything because of being pregnant.

Maybe later...