Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017. Directed by Rian Johnson.

I can rarely be bothered to go to big releases in their opening week but I made an exception with this, the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise.

I should say from the outset that while I like the original movies, I’m film studies scholar – not in the simpering fan-girl brigade. In fact, I’ve always felt a degree of frustration because I could always see how good these films should be but never seemed to hit the mark.

Having said that, I thought The Force Awakens (2015) was infinitely better than any of the prequels and reignited my interest in the series. But this was completely eclipsed by the stand alone and beautifully self-contained Rogue One (2016), which (despite a baggy first act) is a fabulous sci-fi war movie.

But Thursday I saw something really good, much better than I anticipated, and I reacted accordingly.

The Last Jedi explored complex themes – in a far more nuanced way than I expected – about family, friendship, connection and the nature of difference and subversion. Given the global political climate this past 12 months, it was an excellent commentary, and a reminder that nothing is ever just black or white.

The young cast are really very good, with Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver outstanding, providing emotional depth to their characters. They are ably supported by John Boyega, Oscar Isaacs and Kelly Marie Tran. Despite being a wee bit sentimental about seeing Carrie Fisher in her final role (yes, I did well up!) the thing that reduced me to tears was seeing the wonderful Laura Dern showing all the kids how it should be done – and a scene that immediately reminded me of her father Bruce Dern and Silent Running (1972), one of my favourite films.

If this is what Star Wars is going to be from now on, I’ll have some more thanks!

* This is an expanded version of a review that was included in Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review on BBC 5 Live (15/12/17) – and yes, I was thrilled to hear Simon Mayo read it out! *

 

Birthdays, Books & Basil

Well, I’ve managed another trip around the sun. I had a lovely, relaxed day, read books, did some work in the greenhouse, hung out with friends, ate junk food for dinner and watched stuff. If I’d have played music and baked myself a cake, I would have covered all my favourite things 🙂

The perfect present for a film-nut like me!

After the unseasonably hot weather throughout November (it was Tasmania’s hottest spring on record) we’ve had a cold and very wet start to summer. I spent some time yesterday and today in the greenhouse, potting up basil seedlings and some replacements for the inundated early tomatoes. It’s currently about 10 C (50 F) and it’s been raining pretty well constantly since Friday.

This morning, there was water pooling in garden beds and I had to empty the overflowing rain gauge. The zucchinis and leafy greens are loving it but I seriously don’t want to think about the potatoes right now! Sadly, the beans, tomatoes and corn are all looking quite poorly and will likely need replacing. It looks like I’ll have late crops again! My heart goes out to folks in Victoria though, who are getting the worst of this wet spell.

I’m hoping it won’t do too much damage to the baby stone fruit and apples but the berries are looking very sad. I’ve braved the rain and picked what I could but they won’t be the tastiest this year. Hopefully, the rain will ease in the next few days and we’ll get some sunshine to help convert the starches to sugars in the remainder of the crop.

Because of Hobart’s unpredictable weather, I tend to grow chillies, eggplants and basil in my greenhouse in pots. I’m really pleased so far with the eggplant (above), which is sporting some beautiful purple flowers and the Habanero chilli (below) is setting fruit already 🙂

I managed to pot up 35 or so mixed basil seedlings, which is about half of what I’d like to have for oil and preserving but I’m going to plant more seed next week. There’s shiso/perilla still to go into pots and I have to see if I can salvage more chilli seedlings from the ravaging slugs – they decimated my early plantings and this wet weather is only going to encourage them!

On a positive note, I saved an aloe vera at the start of the year, (it was literally dying of overcrowding and neglect) bought it home, divided it put it into a good potting mix and fed them all. The main plant or “mother” is on a shelf in the bathroom and loving its new home, and I left the offshoots or “pups” in the greenhouse to see if they’d survive. When I was given the plant, the whole thing was a very sickly yellow/green. So I was thrilled to see this morning that the pups are setting out new pups of their own 🙂

Meanwhile, the cricket’s on the TV and that book about the Coen brothers is giving me “come hither” looks again. I’m off to snuggle under a blanket and read.

Maybe tomorrow it’ll be summer 🙂

Storms & Salads – Day 30 NaBloPoMo 2017

So, here it is – number thirty – the last post for this year’s NaBloPoMo.

Traditionally, it’s also a time of contemplation for me, a couple of days before my birthday and there’s only a few weeks left of work and indeed, this year.

It’s hot in Hobart again, and I went into the city today. Got almost all the xmas shopping done (thanks to Richard & Mike at Cracked & Spineless) and went to see my GP for blood test results. This time last year, I was trying to recover after my thyroid decided to simply switch off, and it left me devastated, constantly tired and barely functioning.

Above all things, this year has been about getting back to some semblance of normality. 12 months on, my doctor’s really pleased with my progress – I’m on the right dose of thyroxine, my diet and supplements have brought my notoriously low iron and vitamin D levels back to normal – I feel well again.

One of the major things my GP identified as a contributing factor is my diet. While I eat meat, I always say my favourite meal of the day (year round) is salad, and I have the ability to grow my own.

For that, I’m truly grateful.

Tonight’s salad feast from the garden included a few young silverbeet leaves, sharp and tangy endive, young tender kale, fresh celtuce and crisp perennial rocket. I added a little grated carrot, red onion, sliced mushrooms and a chopped hard boiled egg from the ladies who lay and dressed it with a little basil oil and vinegar from last summer.

And the first of the raspberries for dessert ❤

I’m taking a few days off but I’ll see you again soon. One of the things I want to try and do is write more regularly here apart from NaBloPoMo. Let’s see how much life gets in the way of my good intentions!

Meanwhile, there’s been some thunder and a little rain tonight but it’s still too hot. I hope it breaks soon, I’ve got more gardening to do!

Take care ❤

My stormy mountain

Chickpea Curry – Day 29 NaBloPoMo 2017

I love beans and pulses and use them a lot. They’re great in everything from salads to stews and I also use them to fill out otherwise meat based curries. Rather than buy tinned beans, which often contain a lot of salt, I like to buy mine dried and cook them gently in the slow cooker. Once they’re cool, I drain and bag them into meal size portions and freeze them for later use.

Today I cooked 500g (1.1 lb) of dried Australian chickpeas with just water and a bay leaf, and decided to make a curry for dinner.

This is a filling and healthy vegan dish, but if you want more protein and feel inclined, add a chopped hard-boiled egg. This slow cooking with the tomatoes first, reduces the liquid and makes the onion, garlic and ginger cook slowly, infusing the tomatoes with their flavour without risk of burning. The result is a more dry-style curry, which is lovely to eat with flatbread. As I often find with curry, the flavours improve and deepen overnight and after my generous bowl tonight, there’s still enough left for lunch tomorrow 🙂

Chickpea Curry (Serves 2)

Curry Base:

1 tab oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teas ginger, grated or minced

400g tomatoes (bottled or tinned), drained

1 teas honey

2 cups chickpeas, cooked & drained

1-2 hard-boiled egg, chopped (optional)

2 cups shredded green leafy vegetables (silverbeet, spinach, mustard greens, kale or collards)

Spice Mix:

½ cinnamon quill

1 tab cumin seed

1 teas coriander seed

1 teas cardamom seeds

1-2 dried chillies

¼ teas dried turmeric, grated

Method:

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the drained tomatoes, onion, garlic and ginger. Stir until the mixture is simmering and add the honey. Stir this through and reduce the heat.

In a spice grinder or pestle and mortar put all the dried spices and grind to a powder. Stir this into the simmering tomato base. Add the drained cooked chickpeas, cover and continue to simmer very slowly for about 10-20 minutes.

If you’re using it, add the chopped hard-boiled egg and stir it through. Just before serving stir through the shredded leafy greens.

Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves and serve with plain rice or flatbread (paratha, chapatti, roti, naan are all good). I used homemade sourdough flatbread, the same recipe as earlier in the week.

I chose to go without the egg, and with my own bottled tomatoes and dried chillies from last summer, fresh silverbeet from the garden and fresh made sourdough flatbread, this dish was rich, very filling and incredibly satisfying ❤

Tuesday Treasures – Day 28 NaBloPoMo 2017

I was absolutely thrilled today – because I had to go to work 🙂

It’s a wonderful thing to look forward so much to something that too many people consider a chore – but the crew I work with are fantastic, and this time of year is pretty awesome. We’ve got the Oak Food Garden up to a point where we’re starting to harvest a lot of food!

Today, we harvested the rest of the broad beans and they’re going to be (mostly) blanched and frozen for use by the Wednesday Cooking crew in the next few months. We also pulled our experimental garlic crop, one of the first things planted back in February and they’re now hanging inside to cure. This was grown from a head I provided – the same garlic that more or less failed for me this year. It’s given me some clues as to why mine didn’t do well this season, my soil is just that much heavier and holds a lot more moisture.

Beautiful huge heads of garlic – note the $1 coin for size reference!

Although they’re a bit late to be going in, we planted a lot of tomatoes today, that we hope we’ll make into Passata come autumn. The Wednesday Cooking group are making healthier lunch options and have been making pizza and salads. We harvested a lot of salad greens for them today, Cos lettuce, endive, tiny white celery flowers (absolutely delicious in salad!), silverbeet and red orach.

This is the first pick of the orach, which we planted fairly thickly from seedlings I raised only a couple of months ago. While we were picking, I discovered a volunteer tomato, looking very happy. I thought it might have come from someone’s lunch tomato that could’ve ended up in the bed (we’ve only reclaimed the area in recent months), but further along the row, I discovered more healthy tomatoes! Every one up against an orach plant!

Red Orach and sneaky Volunteer Tomato

Then the penny dropped.

Two years ago, my friend Sara gave me some Roma tomato seedlings she had no room for. I had a great crop and dried most of them, the seeds ending up in the worm farm. The following winter, I must have used that tray of compost in one of my wicking barrel dwarf apples – and got a bonus crop of tomatoes last summer!

I dried some of those too and would’ve put the seeds in the worm farm – I hate wasting anything. And of course, I used some worm compost in my potting mix when I grew on the orach seedlings a month or so ago. So, the interlopers will be cossetted and cared for, eventually overwhelming the orach, and I hope they crop as well as they have for me the last two years 🙂

 

 

Mad Monday – Day 27 NaBloPoMo 2017

A quick post tonight after a very mad Monday!

I realised fairly late in the day that I had no burritos or tacos to go with the wonderful beef and bean taco mix the Gentleman of the House (aka GotH) had made up while I was out at work. I usually make fairly big batches of my own wheat tacos with bread flour, a little water and a dash of oil – just enough to pull it all together – roll them out and freeze the leftovers. Sadly, the freezer was bare!

So, while I was feeding Wee Beastie, my sourdough plant, I struck on an idea that turned out to be a total winner. I love having real sourdough but we don’t go through a lot of bread in this household, so I’m always looking for ways to use up excess starter.

Here’s the recipe:

Wee Beastie Burritos (Makes 4)

1 cup strong bread flour

1/4 cup sourdough starter

1/8 – 1/4 cup water

1 tab olive oil

pinch of salt

extra flour for dusting

Method: 

In a mixing bowl combine the bread flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the sourdough starter. Mix with a wooden spoon until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the water a little at a time until it comes together in a ball and mix in the oil. It should come away cleanly from the side of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead it for a couple of minutes, it should be quite smooth and elastic but a little drier than a bread dough. Put it back in the mixing bowl and cover, leaving it for about an hour.

Prepare a heavy-based fry pan on medium high heat. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock any air out of it. Cut it evenly into four pieces. Roll out each piece to a thin, roughly pan-sized circle and cook in the dry fry pan a minute or two on each side. Be careful not to burn them!

Wrap the cooked burritos in a clean tea towel – I take them to the table like that!

Fill with your favourite taco or burrito mix (we had Chilli Beef and Black Beans tonight), grated cheese and chopped leafy greens, Italian parsley or coriander leaves.

I’m going to make more of these for the freezer later in the week I think – they were delicious! If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think – I’m keen for feedback 🙂

25 Get To Know Me Questions – Day 26 NaBloPoMo 2017

Because it’s NaBloPoMo, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs – even more than usual – including Needles & Wool. Lisa put these questions up, following on from Megan Has OCD.

It was an interesting experience, I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to keep it going, answer your own 25 questions and let me know so I can read your responses too 🙂

 

  1. What is your middle name? Kaye – and I have no idea where it came from or if it has any family significance!

 

  1. What was your favourite subject at school? When I was at high school (literally, back in the last millennium!) I really enjoyed English and History but since I’ve been back at university, I’d have to say all the Film Studies units – they’ve been wonderful!

 

  1. What is your favourite drink? At the moment, Grapefruit & Lemon syrup with plain soda and lots of ice or a fresh mango smoothie with lots of homemade yogurt. But I love a good single malt occasionally or a glass of wine.

 

  1. What is your favourite song at the moment? Good grief! As a professional musician and songwriter, this is a diabolically difficult question. Recently, I’ve been listening to PortisheadClutchEinsturzende Neubaten and Tori Amos’ new album, Native Invader. 

 

  1. What is your favourite food? I eat meat and really enjoy an old fashioned roast, but I think my favourite is probably fresh salad from the garden – green or fruit 🙂

 

  1. What is the last thing you bought? A present for a loved one – a book of course 🙂

 

  1. Favourite book of all time? Oh dear, there’s so many! At the moment (thanks to recent study) I’m re-reading a lot of Margaret Atwood and I’ve fallen in love again with the enigmatic Grace Marks in Alias Grace. And my tutor put me on to The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

 

  1. Favourite colour? Purple always!

 

  1. Do you have any pets? Three lovely rabbits and six eccentric, elderly chickens – all very spoilt and treasured pets ❤

 

  1. Favourite perfume? I have a few I like to wear depending on my mood, but my “go to” for the last few years has been Crabtree & Evelyn’s Summer Hill.

 

  1. Favourite holiday? Probably Xmas/New Year because it’s mid-summer here in Australia

 

  1. Are you married? Have been but it didn’t take.

 

  1. Have you ever been out of the country? Yes, I’ve been to Singapore, France and England. I really want to go to Canada, Japan and see more of Europe, maybe the US at some stage.

 

  1. Do you speak any other languages? To quote Corbin Dallas from The Fifth Element “I only speak English and bad English”, a sad reflection of being a middle-aged white Anglo-Australian. Seriously, besides English I have retained a little French and less Latin from high school.

 

  1. How many siblings do you have? An older brother and sister, sadly both deceased and missed every day ❤

 

  1. What is your favourite shop? That’s easy – Cracked & Spineless New & Used Books

 

  1. Favourite restaurant? Again, it depends on my mood. Tokyo & Seoul for the best sushi in Sandy Bay and Dumpling Express https://www.dumplingexpress.com.au

 

  1. When was the last time you cried? A few weeks ago, when I saw the latest Aronofsky film, mother(Yes, movies can make me cry!)

 

  1. Favourite Blog? I read a lot of blogs about many different subjects, I don’t want to single out any one.

 

  1. Favourite movie? So. Very. Hard. There isn’t just one. Studio Ghibli favourites are Porco Rosso (1992) and the amazing Princess Mononoke (1997); westerns would be The Searchers (1956) and Andrew Dominik’s astonishing The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007); favourite science fiction is still Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) and I still love The Exorcist (1973).

 

  1. Favourite TV shows? Another hard question. I don’t watch an awful lot of TV but this year I’ve really enjoyed Dark Matter and very recently watched Star Trek: Discovery. I still love Firefly, and the animes Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

 

  1. PC or Mac? PC always

 

  1. What phone do you have? An old Android Nexus 5 – still hanging in there!

 

  1. How tall are you? A mere 164 cm (5’4”) – so short!

 

  1. Can you cook? Yes! I particularly love to cook the food I’ve raised or grown myself and living in Tasmania, I have access to some of the best produce on the planet.

 

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