Saturday, December 26, 2009

A meal I am enjoying at the moment. I am a lazy and unconfident cook. When it comes to preparing food I am better at assembling ingredients, which is why when I'm asked to bring a dish to an event, I tend to plump for stuff like sandwiches, trifles and salads.

In the annals of A Wild Young Under-Whimsy I have shared relatively few recipes from my Freelance Food Cookbook. There is my Delicious Glamour Salad Prepared From Incidental Ingredients, my Meatball Sandwich and Fried Rice, and I think that's about it. But get ready for:

Spaghetti alla carbonara con pesto

1 onion, chopped finely
1 egg
1 rasher bacon, chopped roughly
1/2 small tin low-fat evaporated milk (I substitute this for cream)
dried spaghetti
pecorino cheese, grated (I've got a pecorino pepati which has peppercorns in it)
minced garlic
basil pesto
olive oil
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
green chilli hot sauce (optional)

Put the spaghetti on to boil. While it's boiling, crack the egg into a large cup or small jug. Add a generous teaspoon of pesto, a generous handful of grated pecorino, chopped basil and parsley, and the evaporated milk. Add perhaps a teaspoon of cornflour and whisk with a fork until all the ingredients are mixed through and have a smooth, thickened consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a slug of the hot sauce.

When the pasta is almost finished cooking, fry bacon in a pan, adding a little extra olive oil if the bacon is too lean to cook in its own fat. Add garlic and onion and brown in pan with bacon. Turn the heat way down – almost off.

Drain the al dente pasta and add to pan with bacon, onion and garlic. Pour egg, cheese and milk mixture on top and stir it through slowly and gently, making sure ingredients are coating the pasta. Remove from heat immediately when sauce is thick and glossy to prevent it turning into scrambled egg pasta (although it is still delicious even if this happens).

Serve with shitloads of cracked black pepper and a glass of chilled white wine (right now I am into riesling although I recently tried an interesting sparkling sav blanc). Serves one little piggy or two people who give a shit about portion control.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just a small-town blog, living in a lonely bog… I started this blog in March 2004 when the range of templates Blogger offered was really small and ugly. It took a vast amount of tinkering for me to make A Wild Young Under-Whimsy look okay, and even then I couldn't get the hyperlinks to show up the same colour as the post datelines for, like, years.

Also, they didn't have post headlines back then, which is why I got into the style of bolding the first sentence of each post. And they didn't offer their own commenting service, which is why I used some service whose name has been lost in the mists of time, and when that crashed I switched over to Haloscan, making some readers grumble that I had deliberately deleted their comments.

Today I got an email from Haloscan saying that they were stopping their free blog comment provision, but if I liked I could sign up to their new service for US$10 a year. Get fucked, I thought. So I am switching over to Blogger's comments, which in the intervening years have become quite customisable.

Unfortunately, Blogger has not yet developed the technological capability to import comments from another comment provider, so all previous witticisms are gone I'm afraid. Hopeless. I do actually have all the comments, but they are in an XML document on my desktop and as yet I'm not sure what to do with them.

I Googled "free blog comments" and all I could find were software programs that leave irritating spam comments on blogs. This says much about how the internet has changed since I was last looking for a free blog comment provider.

Then I thought about just how antiquated this entire blog is, and whether I should try to migrate it over to another provider that would allow me to import the previous comments, but I still fondly remember how back in February '04, Guy wrote on a paper napkin: "Go here to get blog:". Yep, I'm sentimental.

Don't stop! Commenting! Hold on to that venting! Streetlights! Peoplllllllllllle!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Schmid-century. So I've been trying to redecorate my living room for some time now. Unsatisfied with my blue-green rug, I have been trolling eBay for alternatives. Right now I am kind of obsessed with the idea of a fluffy white rug. Graham currently sheds lots of white fur all over the blue one, so perhaps a white rug wouldn't be so impractical. Also, it would look glamorous.

Persian rugs are still my sentimental favourite although the cost is prohibitive. If I got one with ruby-red tones in it, I could tie it in with my red velvet armchair (from freeBay – I won it for 50c but the lady was embarrassed to take so little; she was all "I'm just glad it's getting some use").

Since Talor moved out and took her coffee table with her, I obtained a new coffee table ($5 from eBay) which is a long smoked-glass rectangle with rounded edges and brass edging and legs. I bought it still with my fantasy Hollywood Regency thing in mind (hence the gold), but it's really more Hollywood Neo-Deco.

You know that '80s moment when things took on those sleek deco lines again and used luxurious textures such as marble, ebony, brass and chrome, but the colours were bolder (lots of white, peach, grey and aqua) and the shapes chunkier and slouchier. If you are familiar with the Franco Cozzo furniture ads or have even walked past his stores in Brunswick and Foot-is-cray, you'll instantly recognise this style as "Il Modernissimo".

I still haven't found a sofa that satisfies my increasingly specific requirements:
It's tempting just to give up and buy the Ikea Karlstad three-seater in white tufted leather. I hate its square wooden legs and am wondering about the feasibility of planing them down into wedges or round pegs – will that make the sofa unstable? Irritatingly, the Karlstad armchair comes with the right peg legs but not the sofa.

But anyway. To the point of this post! In my eBay, online and vintage store peregrinations I have become very annoyed with the absolute racket in mid-century furniture. I feel really frustrated that I like this aesthetic so much, and various vendors have cottoned onto to this and are selling either real mid-century or fake schmid-century stuff for astronomical prices.

The worst offender is Twenty21 on Johnston St Fitzroy. All their stuff is beautiful and in impeccable condition, but they're charging absurd prices for it. A coloured glass vase will be $500, for instance. Today I was in there sitting on the sofas to see how comfy they were, and the guy was looking at me haughtily like I was wasting his time, but at those prices he's wasting his own time.

As I walked away, it annoyed me greatly that this guy runs a successful business because there will be people prepared to pay those prices. They like the style but can't be bothered seeking it more cheaply elsewhere.

There are also heaps of reproduction furniture places with their Schmeames and Schnaarinen chairs – these cater to people who like the style but can't be bothered seeking/paying for vintage examples elsewhere. These annoy me for a different reason because the objects they choose to reproduce are always drearily the same – the Barcelona sofa; the Eames lounge chair; the Louis Ghost chair; the Noguchi coffee table.

This kind of stops me from imagining my living room as a space that reflects my aesthetic choices. What's weird about this is that I have the opposite attitude to Ikea. I tend to see their products as blank objects that aren't weighed down by the Design Classic tag – although of course you can instantly recognise the origins of an Expedit shelving unit or a Klippan sofa.

And finally, there are the eBay doofuses who list everything made between 1950 and 1970 as "Eames era" ("Parker era" begins in 1970 and goes through to 1990) and the matching doofuses who drive up the prices with their ineptly early bidding.

I was full of rage a couple of weeks ago because I had discovered a set of four original Aristoc Mitzi dining chairs with a starting bid of $0.99, but of course they ended up being sold for $496. While still comparatively cheap for Grant Featherston stuff (which you'd think was actually hen's teeth made from solid gold, the way people go mental about it online), this was out of my budget.

But rage aside, I keep coming back to eBay because I'm fascinated by the way it operates as a barometer of what has survived from the past. I keep thinking about the way the furniture industry constantly churns out products whose design is intended to say "I'm new! I'm modern!" and yet these meanings shift and alter over time.

And while some examples are fetishised and fought over by collectors and traders, others are treated casually by their owners and may even pass through several generations of a family, or several owners, before finally reaching eBay.

This is PAUL KAFKA lounge and chairs - featherston retro eames, a listing by a Brunswick antiques dealer. The provenance of the vinyl sofa and matching chairs is exhaustively documented, and the seller also gives a potted history of the designer, Paul Kafka. This lounge suite has been kept in the 'good room' and is in almost pristine condition.

This is RETRO EAMES FEATHERSTONE STYLE LOUNGE SUITE from Mt Whitestone in Queensland, an hour out of Brisbane. Perhaps due to the poor photography, this seems like the ghost of its Melbourne sibling, but it clearly was once exactly the same. However it's in worse condition; there are nicks in the vinyl and the buttons have lost their white paint.


At the time of writing, the Brunswick lounge suite has a BUY IT NOW! price of $3,850.

The Mt Whitestone lounge suite has 6 bids and will currently sell at $100.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I can count on one hand the things I know about Ryan Adams. I thought this to myself today, and then I thought, "Don't pull these stats out of your arse, Mel – let's see just how much you really know about Ryan Adams." So here goes:

1. He is an American musician, not to be confused with Canadian musician Bryan Adams, whose biggest hit was 'The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You'.

2. The kind of music he plays is called 'alt-country'.

3. He is something of an 'alt-sex symbol' to 'alt-women'.

4. He is very prolific and has released many albums.

5. He is a nutjob and often says nutjobby things on his Tumblr that his 'alt-fans' like to repost on their own Tumblrs.

So there you have it: the sum total of my knowledge of Ryan Adams. I couldn't name one of his songs or albums, or quote you any of his lyrics. I have no idea what he looks like, about his personal life, how old he is or whether he's ever been in a band or is simply a solo artist.

No, wait, I have a couple of late-breaking knowledges that I produced after racking my brains!

6. He performed a corporate gig (although I can't remember who for – MySpazz? Pepsi?) in which he chucked a tantrum and walked offstage.

7. I seem to recall that perhaps he has a reputation for tantruming.

8. I also have a mental image of him with a quiff, wearing checked shirts. Let's have a look on Google Image Search to see if this is true.

So there you have it. I knew more about Ryan Adams than I thought I did. But I was totally wrong about his hair.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Christmas for cats. Yesterday I did something I'd never done before: I bought my own Christmas tree. I've never had one in my house since I moved out of home in 1998; it's as if I associate Christmas – and hence, the tree – with my family. Even last year's Christmas tree-related debacle didn't dampen my resolve to get my own tree; perhaps it made me more resolute.

I decided that my tree would just be a small, cheap fake tree. The one I got cost $10 from Target and claimed to be a "Minnesota pine". It sits on the DVD shelf next to the TV.

Unfortunately, Graham thinks it's the best giant cat toy ever. He went absolutely berserk when I put it together, although this pic doesn't capture the real frenzy.

The worst part is that I can't think of any Christmas tree decoration that a cat wouldn't interpret as an awesome cat toy to bite at and bat around on the floor. Graham loves anything that resembles a string or cord, anything shiny or fluffy, anything dangling, and anything round and ball-like. Also, I was planning to get a white bird or squirrel from Kleins Perfumery to put on the top.

So, to quote my punchline from last year, "The tree remains undecorated."

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