Wednesday, 22 January 2014

New additions to the family

My daughter asked me for a pet goldfish, and I didn't want to get her a pet goldfish because they're not that fun to play with, having kept fish.  However, at the pet store I saw some rats and I used to keep rats before I had the kids and remembered how great they were as pets.  But, I wanted rats that were friendly, well socialised, and I didn't know if these ones from the pet store were friendly.  That, and they were all lumped together, so if there were co-sex mingling, I didn't want to bring home a pregnant rat.

So I went online to look for baby rats.  There were a few on Gumtree and after a few sms enquiries, I got one positive response, and decided to go look the same day.  The pet store they were kept in had girls separated from the boys, and there were only 2 left.  I put my hand in the cage to handle them to see what they were like and they were both friendly so I bought them both, and a new cage and a water bottle and set of home.

My daughter held the shoe box reverently for most of the way, and we stopped at one of the pet stores and I opened the shoe box and placed the box in their new cage whilst we went in to try and buy some litter.  When we came back to the car, both rats were out of the cage - they were still quite small and managed to slip through the bars and were walking on top of the cage, much to my children's delight.  I cringed a little as I saw their little hands trying to pick the rats up and though I put them back in the cage and set off home, they were soon out of the cage again, wandering around the car seats and keeping the children entertained.

I used shredded paper to line their cage as I didn't get the litter, and attached their water bottle, but I was unsure if they knew how to use it - my previous rat had difficulty learning how to use it so I hoped they would be ok.  I gave them some dry bread to snack on whilst they got used to their surroundings, and the children spend the next hour looking at them and trying to pat them.

They are both blue hoods, with imperfect pale markings on their heads - my daughter named one Diamond, and the other I named Tyrael  Tyrael has a large white patch on her head whereas Diamond's pale patch is much smaller and less noticeable.

The next day, hubby bought them a wheel, a cloth hammock tunnel and a strawberry house, and they seemed to take to that very well.  He also got the kitty litter, a paper based one, and used it to line the cage. I wanted to start toilet training them so he set aside a takeaway container and put the paper that they had from the cage before in it, and I moved all their droppings there - but they prefer to SLEEP in their toilet than poo in it!

I will go do more research on toilet training rats!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Frozen - WARNING Spoilers!

When I went to Disneyland in California in November, there was a lot of hype about Frozen there - without giving away any storyline.  So I didn't know anything about it except there were two princess sisters, one of whom had the power of ice.  And that, was probably a good thing.

So our family outing included a movie, and people had who had seen Frozen had good things to say.  I purposely didn't read any reviews, and wanted to see if I would be pleasantly surprised.

In fact, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  I was amazed, and thrilled that this movie shows that Disney can move away from the classic princess storyline and give this amazing tale that appeals to children and adults.

I went to read about Frozen after I watched it, and found that it was co-written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee who also worked on Wreck-it Ralph.  I am not sure if that is why this movie is more feminine in its ideas and dialogue but it really shows and it is a REALLY good change.

Essentially the story is about two sister princesses - Elsa, the elder, has powers to control and create ice, and the younger, Anna is injured by Elsa in an accident when they were playing with her powers of ice.  The King and Queen rush to see the mountain trolls whom by magical means erase the memory from Anna's memory and cure the cold injury and the King and Queen decide to deal with the problem by hiding from the world and trying to get Elsa to control and conceal her powers.  A few years later, the King and Queen die in a sailing accident, and the two girls whom were very close as children are no longer as close, as Elsa hides on her own in her room in isolation to avoid hurting anyone else, much to Anna's dismay, as she attempts to engage her elder sister in games and play.

The day of coronation comes, and as feared, Elsa's powers are revealed leading her kingdom's followers and neighbouring kingdoms to fear her and she runs away.  The incident is precipitated by the sheltered Anna declaring her love to a neighbouring prince and they seek marriage after knowing each other less than a day, which Elsa tells her sister is foolish.  Elsa heads to the far north snowy mountains, not realising she has plunged her kingdom into an eternal winter.

Anna now understands why her sister has been so isolated and with an ice farmer, Kristoff, she goes to find her sister, leaving her fiance, Prince Hans, to run the kingdom, which he does rather admirably in her absence.  They meet a magical snowman, Olaf, who was created from Elsa's magic, a throwback to their younger days when they were the best of friends, building snowmen together.

As she confronts her sister and urges her to return with her, Elsa's powers explode in an emotional outburst, and Anna is struck in the chest with an ice bolt, which Elsa does not realise she has done. Kristoff takes her to see the mountain trolls, and they tell her that her heart is now frozen and without an act of true love, it cannot be melted.

Meanwhile, Prince Hans sets off to find Anna and Queen Elsa and they manage to subdue Elsa and return her to the kingdom with her hands enchained to attempt to contain her.

Anna and Kristoff think this means that she needs Prince Hans to kiss her, as he is her true love. But it is evident that Kristoff also loves Anna, and when Anna returns to kiss Hans, he reveals that he is only after the kingdom as being the 13th son, he would have never had a kingdom to rule.  His plan was to leave Anna to die a frozen death, and kill Queen Elsa for treason against her people.

Kristoff realises that he loves Anna and returns to try to save her.  Anna is looking for Kristoff, realising she loves him and he loves her.  Elsa escapes and is escaping along the ice and Hans is out hunting Elsa to kill her.  Anna suddenly sees Kristoff and they try to reach each other, and then Anna turns and sees Hans about to kill Elsa who is absorbed in her fear and grief from the powers she cannot control.  She runs to her sister, and shields her sister with her body as she is turned to a glittering statue of ice, and Hans' sword breaks as it strikes her statue.  Elsa and Kristoff are distraught as they realise what has happened.

That is the moment I realised what a tremendous film this was.  Because, that moment, I realised that for the first time, neither a prince nor a male hero, had saved the day.  Anna, when she went to sacrifice herself for her sister, in an act of pure love, melted her frozen heart.

And they lived happily ever after.

I doubt that children will realise this step from Disney.  I am truly impressed that finally, Disney is moving away from the females need men to save the day - and that females on their own can be heroines, in their own right.  If the feminists of the world are not celebrating this movie for not only flawlessly incorporating this into mainstream animation and a popular movie, then they really need their heads screwed on.  As a parent with a daughter, she enjoyed this film and begged to see it agian, and much to my relief, there was no mention of her needing a prince to save her.  I hope that she will grow to be a young lady who believes in herself, not one who grows up believing she needs to find a man (to marry) to solve her problems, as I think THAT is the message that I want her to grow up with.  And to value friendship, and ask for help when needed (after trying by yourself), no matter whether the friend be male, female, animal or inanimate.

I didn't watch this in 3D and I am not sure it needed to be.  It still plays very well in 2D and the ice is so beautiful and believable in all its shapes and forms, including the amazing castle on the mountain that Elsa created as her fortress of solitude.

The music has a more Broadway feel about it than previous Disney films - especially the song "Love is an Open Door".  I like musicals, and so does my daughter and husband, so everyone was running around the house singing "Do you want to build a snowman?" right after we watched the movie.  The words are engaging and the tunes catchy, and though at first I thought the bursts into song were too frequent, as the movie progressed I hardly noticed them amongst the dialogue.

9/10 in my opinion!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Restaurant review - Momofuku seiōbo

Momofuku seiōbo is one of the hardest restaurants to book in Sydney - it is difficult to book, as you can only book 20 days in advance and it's like a first to login best dressed situation.  Some people probably found it easy to book, but I often found that the days I wanted to book were always booked out.

Finally, we got a reservation for my birthday! And I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.
Momofuku seiōbo is Momofuku’s first restaurant outside of New York City. Reservations for the main dining area can only be made in advance through our online system. We also have a 5-seat bar that serves a limited bar menu. Bar seating is first come, first serve. In the main dining area, we serve a tasting menu that changes constantly. The menu is inspired by the bounty of Australian ingredients and Sydney’s diverse food culture. Seiōbo is the Japanese goddess of the west and her sign is the peach tree. Momofuku seiōbo has three hats from the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

- from the Momofuku website
The Star, Sydney's casino, is now full of great eateries, and Momofuku seiōbo is among them.  The staff were attentive and helpful, and the atmosphere was modern and relaxed. The bar seating allowed a view to the busy kitchen where we saw the chefs preparing our food.  Most people enjoy watching them laboriously and painstakingly preparing each course with care and delicacy, however, I am someone who prefers a bit of intrigue to mine.  I don't watch Masterchef or any of those cooking shows, but for those who do, I can imagine that

Smoked eel and apple - that was the description of this interesting starter.  It was lightly flavoured and got you looking forward to more.

Momofuku's pork bun was a lovely Asian start to the menu - they are like Taiwanese Gua Bao.  The dough was light and allowed you to appreciate the contents more rather than being overwhelmed and filled by the steamed rice dough.

Potato with roe, and parson's nose.  Who would have thought that a chicken's bottom would be so delightful!  This menu delights in constrasting textures and I am a big fan of salmon roe anyway.

Crab with chickpea and amaranth.  Amaranth is a grain, which was crispy here (I suspect it was similar nutritionally to quinoa).  A pleasant dish.

Wagyu beef cubes, radish and fermented beans.  You have to mix the dish and once mixed it doesn't look as beautiful as it did on presentation.  The contrasting crisp radish with the tender beef cubes was a delight to the palate and flavoursome.

Cauliflower with mushroom and smoked yolk.  Interesting flavour - but smoked yolk is probably not to my palate's high list.

Marron with seaweed and asparagus was well done and the meat was firm and not rubbery.

Deceptively simple looking peas with oxtail and custard - I liked this dish.  Peas were crisp and the oxtail was soft.  They really do love the crispy and soft combinations here.

Lamb with lettuce and violet mustard.  Lovely and tender.  I was getting rather full by this stage.

Curd with blackcurrant and mint.  A hint of sour softened by sweet.

I loved the presentation of this dish.  Sorrel with muntries and pistachio.  Sorrel added a really earthy flavour which I also found very different and interesting - yet I'm not sure that I found it to my liking.

Pear with jerusalem artichoke and sunflower.  What a lovely presented dish!  But alas for me, though the dish was sweet and it was beautiful to look at, I think the flavours were a little overwhelming.  More of the crunchy and soft texture combination.

An interesting end to the meal, was sweetened pork, which seemed an interesting end to a typical degustation.  It had a hint of Heston, adding a rather English flavour to the end of an otherwise Asian inspired meal.  I was so full by then I could hardly eat it anyway.

Overall, it was a culinary experience.  The flavours were definitely different, however, perhaps my palate is not as refined as I thought - some of the flavours were too earthy, too strong, which made them interesting but not necessarily tasty.  I think of it more like trying to look an original piece of artwork that is interesting and beautiful, but I wouldn't want to hang it in my house because I couldn't stomach looking at it everyday.  I am not sure that I would go again, but the restaurant had fantastic service, a good atmosphere and watching the kitchen certainly was entertaining, if you like those sorts of things.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year - Taipei 101 fireworks

I debated whether I should go out and see the fireworks at Taipei 101 since it was my first time here during New Year's Eve, but I decided against it and watched it on TV instead.  It was impressive and succinct, and I thought was a lovely way to usher in the New Year.  Different from watching the Sydney fireworks every year!

Around 101, the shops stay open till 3am to allow revellers to shop and eat till the wee hours, which is a great idea for those shops!  The rest of the shops in Taipei open on public holidays at normal times - eateries open early (like at 530am) and the shops open for business (which make sense, because shops are everywhere here, and a lot of of family businesses - shops are downstairs and their homes are upstairs, so they can open till late because they only live so near, and also if they want to make money, they have to work so they might as well work).