Monthly Archives: September 2010

Seen at the Royal Adelaide Show

Sign on a coffee stand, offering "grownd" coffee

Grownd coffee

“Grownd” coffee.

I didn’t have any.

Friday Activist – Jackie Huggins

Cross posted

The further notion that all women as a sex have more in common than do members of the same class is false. Upper-class women are not simply bedmates of their wealthy husbands. As a rule, they have more compelling ties that bind them together. They are economic, social, and political bedmates united in defence of private property, profiteering, militarism, racism – and the exploitation of other women. It would be quite another matter to expect any large number of wealthy women to endorse or support a revolutionary struggle which threatened their capitalist interests and privileges. Will the wives of bankers, generals, corporation lawyers, and big industrialists be firmer allies of women fighting for liberation than working-class men, black and white, who are fighting for theirs? The ruling powers breed and benefit from all forms of discrimination and oppression. Therefore, for a middle-class woman to compare her environmental situation with that of a black is totally naive. While white women are fighting to get out of the kitchen, black women are fighting to get into it.

For these reasons, many black women do not see the women’s movement as relevant to their own situation. Black women, who have worked from necessity are apt to view women’s liberation as a white middle-class battle irrelevant to their own, often bitter, struggle for survival. As Ida Lewis commented: “The women’s liberation movement is basically a family quarrel between white women and white men.” Similarly, Aboriginal women are aware of the divisiveness of feminism in terms of their own black movement. Women’s liberation has meant very little to both black American women and Aboriginal women who believe that the black woman has always been placed in a position of asserting herself.

Jackie Huggins, “Black Women and Women’s Liberation”, Hecate 13.1, 1987, pp. 77 – 82

Chocolate surprise muffins*

Oh yummy, yummy, yummy!

I’ve been making some lovely chocolate muffins for a few years now. It’s a quick and easy mix, and so plain that I usually dress it up a little, with some chocolate chips stirred through the mix, or perhaps a chocolate button in the middle. But a couple of weeks ago, I realised that I might be able to make them with a spoonful of caramel in the middle. So I did, with the assistance of my girls. They are truly divine. You should race out and buy the ingredients now, and have a go at them yourself. Actually, you’re likely to have most ingredients on hand already, but you may need to get some sweetened condensed milk.

Condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, in a small saucepan

Caramel ingredients

Start by making a small amount of caramel sauce. On our first attempt, the girls and I mixed together 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. The result was so-so: nice enough, but not quite there. Next time, we tried 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 large tablespoon of golden syrup, and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. The flavour was better – there was a bit of an edge to the caramel, a fuller flavour. The measures are approximate, but the proportions are about right. Opt for more (well-rounded tablespoons) rather than less, so you get more caramel mix.

Thick golden brown caramel, pushed to one side of the saucepan and holding its shape

Thick caramel, pushed to one side of the saucepan and holding its shape

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Use one with a heavy base, if possible. Stir over a low heat until all the ingredients have melted and combined, then bring them to a simmer. Reduce the heat, and let the mix cook for about four minutes, stirring every now and then, to make sure that it doesn’t catch. The mix should thicken up quite a bit. It will need to cool and thicken some more before you use it in the muffins, so once the four minutes is up, set the saucepan aside while you prepare the muffins.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (that’s about 390 – 400 Fahrenheit), and grease your muffin pans (I use spray on canola oil).

The muffin mix itself is a basic one. You can use it for almost any muffin, with variations.

First of all, melt 100gms of butter in a large bowl or jug, and set it aside to cool a little.

Next, sift into a large bowl, 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and 1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder (or just use 1 and 1/2 cups of self-raising flour), and for chocolate muffins, 2 tablespoons of cocoa.

Stir in 3/4 cup of sugar, and mix well. At this stage, if you were making say, chocolate chip chocolate muffins, you would stir in the chocolate chips (plenty, of course), or the poppy seeds, or any chippy chunky dry ingredients that you thought might enhance the end product. But I’d go with the chocolate version, if I were you.

Butter-egg-milk mix in jug, dry ingredients in large bowl, cooked caramel in saucepan, muffin pan

Butter-egg-milk mix in jug, dry ingredients in large bowl, cooked caramel in saucepan, muffin pan

That’s the dry ingredients done. One of the tricks to successful muffin making is to minimise beating, so next, get all the wet ingredients ready, so you can mix them quickly.

Break one egg into the melted butter, and mix well with a fork. The mix will thicken up a bit. Then add 1 cup of milk to the butter and egg, and mix some more.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the butter-egg-milk mix, and stir until the dry ingredients are mixed through. (At this stage, you would add blueberries, or stewed apple, or chunks of peach, or whatever wet variation you fancied, if you were experimenting with the basic mix.)

12-cup muffin pan, each cup 1/2 filled with batter, small dot of caramel in middle of batter in each cup

12-cup muffin pan, each cup 1/2 filled with batter, small dot of caramel in middle of batter in each cup

Using a 12-cup muffin pan, fill each cup about 1/3 to 1/2 full with the mix. A rounded soupspoon is probably about right. Make sure you leave enough mix to cover up the caramel. Using a teaspoon, make a small hollow in the centre of each raw muffin. Then, get the caramel mix, and using a couple of spoons, one to scrape the mix off the other, put about 1/2 teaspoon, or maybe a bit more, of caramel in each hollow. Then use the remaining muffin mix to cover the caramel.

Put the muffins in the oven, and cook for about 12 minutes, until they feel springy to the touch. While they are cooking, scrape the remaining caramel mix onto teaspoons, summon the children, and give them one each. Use a dessertspoon for yourself.

Once the muffins are cooked, let them cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then put them on a rack. Cool for a few more minutes, and then, enjoy!

Basket of chocolate muffins, one split open to show the gooey caramel inside

Basket of chocolate muffins, one split open to show the gooey caramel inside

It turns out that if you are under a certain age,** you can poke your finger into the caramel and lick it off, or just stick your tongue directly into it, which will definitely enhance the muffin eating experience.

Packet of Cadbury Caramel Buttons

If you are a busy parent, or just plain busy, you may not have time to make the caramel. It turns out that these Cadbury Caramel Buttons do very nicely. I put two into each muffin. Then I eat the rest, all by myself.

* Why, yes! These are inspired by Stef’s excellent Lemon Surprise Cupcakes.
** Probably about 120.

Blog silence


Preparing house for sale.

Husband away.

Sez it all, really. However I promise Chocolate Surprise Muffins tonight.

Friday Womanist – bell hooks

Cross posted

Many feminist radicals now know that neither a feminism that focuses on woman as an autonomous human being worthy of personal freedom nor one that focuses on the attainment of equality of opportunity with men can rid society of sexism and male domination. Feminism is a struggle to end sexist oppression. Therefore, it is necessarily a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels as well as a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires. Defined in this way, it is unlikely that women would join the feminist movement simply because we are biologically the same. A commitment to feminism so defined would that each individual participant acquire a critical political consciousness based on ideas and beliefs.

bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre, 1984

What it’s like in Christchurch

I’m sure that New Zealanders who read my blog are well-informed about what happened, and what is still happening, in Christchurch, following the big earthquake on September 4. For my Australian readers, and readers in other countries, here’s a round-up of bloggers’ posts (c/f newspaper reports) on what it’s like.

First up, not a blog post! Paul Nicholls of the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, has put together a quake map. It’s a graphic that plays through, showing the original quake, and then the aftershocks. People blogging and tweeting and facebooking from Christchurch have been saying that although they coped with the big shock, the unending stream of after shocks, some of considerable magnitude, is incredibly wearying, and damaging. They simply cannot relax. I was starting to shudder a little by the time I got to the end of the sequence.

Down Under Feminist Amanda, of Pickled Think, has written about the Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Stories.

I’m tired.

I’m lucky.

I have survivors guilt.

I’m finding it difficult to think above subsistence level.

On big blog Public Address, David Hayward writes about his experience in one of the suburbs that has been hardest hit: Southerly: Refugee Status.

I kept thinking to myself: “This looks like a disaster zone.” And then a few seconds later: “Oh, this is a disaster zone — that’s why it looks so much like one.”

At the same place, Emma Hart writes about being lucky, and yet being utterly worn down: Up Front: Day Five.

We don’t know when it’s over. It’s not that every time we relax there’s another significant aftershock, it’s that we’re not relaxing. This is the thing that we weren’t expecting, that we weren’t mentally prepared for. Five days, and it hasn’t stopped. I wouldn’t send the kids to school even if the schools had reopened. I need to be able to see them, to know where they are and be able to get to them straight away.

Ruth writes Ruth’s Reflections, and she’s been blogging the quake and its aftermath since the day it happened. Start with Our earthquake. From there, just click through to her homepage, and read through her posts. Ruth is working matching volunteers with jobs that need to be done.

I’ve spent today matching people who want to help after the earthquake with those who need assistance. As our office is still out of bounds the VolCan operation has been managed from my front room. I can’t access our website or database, but have managed well using our Facebook page as a replacement. When I’ve had a request for help which I can’t fill from the list of available volunteers I’ve put it on Facebook and waited for someone suitable to phone the office number. I clear that answerphone regularly and it all fits together. When there was a wave of volunteer offers that threatened to swamp me I passed the details to another of our staff working from home, and she phoned people.

For those of you who have met HarvestBird through my blog, she and her partner and their baby girl are well. She’s tweeting, ‘though not blogging yet.

Update: HarvestBird has put up a post – How to be brave

Of families and earthquakes

My brother rang me early on Saturday morning, and told me that there had been a massive earthquake in Christchurch. We’re a North Island family, and we don’t have family down south, but as it turned out, my beloved uncle was there on Friday night, staying on the eighth floor of a hotel. I was able to contact him by txt and confirm that he was okay, but after that, I stayed off the network.

I spoke to him by phone on Sunday morning. It was terrifying, he said. He woke to his bed rocking and shuddering, and only by clinging on tight did he manage to avoid being thrown out. Many of the other people staying in the hotel were tipped out of their beds. He packed up and got down stairs, and then in company with the other guests, assembled outside. It was bitterly cold. After a while, the hotel staff brought out sheets and blankets. There was no information: the hotel did not have a battery-operated radio. All of the guests were badly frightened. Eventually my uncle made it to the airport. The building was closed, so together with other travellers, he spent most of the day perched with his luggage on a traffic island. People helped each other out, sharing food and water, looking after luggage for each other, supporting each other. A nearby hotel made its bathrooms available for people to use. By mid-afternoon the airport re-opened, and late in the day, he got a flight to Auckland, and from there, home to Wellington. On Saturday, he coped, but on Sunday, in the safety of his home, he has been very, very shaken.

As the plane took off from Christchurch, the people on board clapped.

I’m sure people functioned on adrenalin on Saturday. There had been a disaster, by who knows what good fortune there had been no direct loss of life, and it was a matter of everyone doing what they could to check on their neighbours and families and friends, to look after people who were injured, to pull together food and water and shelter for the day. But by today, I’m guessing that the longterm nature of the damage has started to become apparent. My uncle and the other people on the flights out of Christchurch will have gone home to comfortable beds, clean water, power at the flick of a switch. Many people whose homes are in Christchurch don’t know when they will have access to such basic goods again. A problem for adults of course, but so much more of a problem for people with others to care for. Parents will be worried about food and shelter for their children, adult children will be worried about caring for elderly parents, caregivers will be concerned about the people they assist with daily living. Some people with disabilities may be in extra difficulty too, especially if their ability to live independently is predicated on functioning public services. Things will be all the more difficult because at this stage, there will be no end in sight.

My thoughts are with the people of Christchurch.

Some other thoughts: The old buildings in Christchurch were damaged, badly, but the new buildings, built to earthquake standards, survived. Not only are the building codes excellent, but they are administered by a corruption-free inspectorate. This weekend, we New Zealanders have good reason to take great pride in our corruption-free public servants.

As people in Christchurch are coping with the earthquake, people in Victoria, Australia, are coping with floods.

Dear friends of ours lost lost their mother and mother-in-law today. Our thoughts are with them too.

Cross posted