Richi$tan by Robert Frank

Richistan

I chose to read Richi$tan by Robert Frank because of the book’s cover. What is not to like about an expensive looking yacht sailing towards a beautiful tropical island surrounded by white sands and turquoise water?

Has anybody ever pointed out to you when you have been having a whinge about something, that you are actually lucky because your problem is actually a ‘first world problem?’ First world problems are those experienced by people who are actually quite privileged. An example is when you can’t find your favourite pair of shoes because you left them at your beach house, or you can’t get an appointment with your spray tanner before you go on holidays because they are booked out. (Okay, I’ll admit these are exaggerated examples, but you get my point).

Richi$tan is about people who are very, very rich.

The problems experienced by the people interviewed in this book are even more ridiculous than you would believe. If you can believe it, very rich people whinge about the management of their household staff which can number in the hundreds. Newly wealthy billionaires complain about not being socially accepted by people with inherited wealth. A common problem noted in the book is people who are extremely rich comparing themselves unfavourably with those who are richer again, and feel the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. This means they feel obligated to live in a bigger house, drive a flasher car and throw more sensational parties. It’s hard to feel sorry for these poor sausages.

Richi$tan is a fly on the wall look at how the very wealthy live. Reading about very wealthy people gave me the same kind of feelings I get when I flick through a magazine with gossipy stories about celebrities who have done stupid things, a smidge of envy, a little bit sorry for them, a big hunk of feeling patronising (I’m not saying I don’t do stupid things too, but because I’m unknown, no one gives a rat’s tail when I do).

There is a very interesting chapter in Richi$tan about butler school, where butlers in training learn how to provide service to extremely wealthy people. It turns out that butlers actually earn very good money, so becoming a butler is probably a very good career move if you are service oriented. Butlers are probably in a financial position to experience first world problems.

There are also chapters about how people became very rich. Richi$tan isn’t a how to guide, so there is no point reading this to learn how to get rich yourself. Most of the interviews and anecdotes in the book are with people who have only recently became rich, mostly through their own hard work, good luck and selling out of their start up businesses at exactly the right time.

One chapter is about a man who became a billionaire and then lost all his money. (He sounds very careless to me. I hate losing anything, even a couple of dollars). These days the man who lost all his money owes $15 million dollars and lost his marriage as well. His former wife kept their home and presumably a large number of their assets which were in her name when things went wrong.

The book contains stories about resorts that have been developed for rich people so they don’t have to mix with people of lesser wealth, support groups for rich people, watches that are so exclusive that only rich people even recognise them. Would you believe there are classes for the children of the very rich where they learn how to ask a prospective partner to sign a pre-nuptial agreement? Imagine saying to your beloved with a straight face, “In our family we call it a marriage agreement and it’s purpose is to protect the family wealth”. Why not just be straight up and say, “Honey, I love you now, but I might not always, and when I stop loving you I don’t want you getting my money”. I suppose no body would ever get married if that were the case.

If you think there is a bit of the green-eyed monster creeping in here, you’re probably right. I’m happy, healthy and always have enough to eat, so really, I have nothing to complain about. Still, I can’t help feeling annoyed by whinging people who are extraordinarily rich.
I actually quite enjoyed this book and enjoyed a fly on the wall look at the rich people in it.

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M&M Biscuits

Mini M&M biscuits

Please don’t think I’m cheating, because M&M Biscuits are just a variation of White Chocolate and Ginger Biscuits (see earlier post).  This is an incredibly versatile recipe, all you have to change is the 3/4 Cup of mini M&Ms to chocolate chips, or dried fruit, or whatever else you like, to make a different biscuit every time.

125 gm butter

1/2 C brown sugar

1/3 C caster sugar

1 egg

1 tspn vanilla extract

1 and a 1/2 C self raising flour

3/4 Cups mini M&Ms

Cream the butter and sugars together and then beat in the vanilla extract and the egg.

Fold in the flour using a metal spoon, then mix in the M&Ms.

Roll the mixture into teaspoon sized balls.

Mini M&M biscuits 2

Bake at 160.C for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Let the biscuits cool on the tray for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

Anzac Biscuits

anzac

Today is Anzac Day, one of the most important days of the year for an Australian.

April 25 is the anniversary of the day the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landed at Gallipoli in 1915, and is a day of remembrance of those soldiers and others who have fought for our countries.

Anzac Biscuits are said to have been sent to Australian and New Zealand soldiers overseas during World War 1 by their families. As the biscuits don’t contain eggs they keep for a long time.

The recipe I use is a traditional one, which I have been using for 30 years (I learned to make these in high school) and never fails. The recipe makes about 40 biscuits.

1 C rolled oats
1 C Plain flour
1 C sugar
3/4 C coconut
2 Tblspns golden syrup
1/2 C butter
1/2 tspn bicarb soda
1 Tblspn boiling water
pinch of salt

Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut together in a large bowl.

Place the golden syrup and butter into a saucepan and melt. Mix the bicarb soda and boiling water togather and when it fizzes up, mix it into the dry ingredients.

anzac1

Roll the mixture into teaspoon sized balls and bake on trays for 20 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.

Ice Cream by Helen Dunmore

Ice Cream

I chose this book because I liked the title, Ice Cream. I also liked the art on the cover, which is a picture of an ice cream sundae dish and spoon, with the title spelled out in ice cream colours. I can imagine the first letter is watermelon, the second is mint, then pineapple, strawberry, blueberry, then mint, pineapple and strawberry again. Yum.

I also liked the short stories in Ice Cream, which were written by Helen Dunmore. Some stories I liked more than others, but I suppose that is true of ice cream flavours too. I like chocolate ice cream, love English toffee ice cream but wouldn’t eat bubblegum flavoured ice cream if you paid me.

I particularly liked the first story, ‘My Polish Teacher’s Tie’, where the narrator, Carla, gathers her courage and makes a friend. The title story, ‘Ice Cream,’ is about a model who has a craving for ice cream, and makes the reader think about what they are prepared to give up in order to acheive their ends.  ‘Mason’s Mini Break’ is a lesson about vanity. ‘Emily’s Ring’ is a sad, sad story, and Helen Dunmore is an amazing writer to have told it in so few words.

Some of these short stories are very, very short. They are also very easy to read, but will leave you with something to think about.

Spaghetti Casserole

Spaghetti Casserole

Spaghetti Casserole is a good recipe to make when the weather is cold and you are have lots of visitors to feed on a small budget. The recipe makes about eight serves.

The recipe is very, very easy, except for two points that I must emphasize. Grease your casserole dish and don’t stop stirring when you are making the white sauce. Otherwise, there is nothing to this.

500gm mince meat

375gm spaghetti (I like thin spaghetti, but take your pick. You could use shells or rigatoni or anything you like).

500gm jar spaghetti sauce (again, take your pick. I prefer Raguletto, but will buy Leggos or Dolmio if they are on special).

60gm butter

1/3 Cup plain flour

2 Cups milk

grated cheese to taste

Cook the spaghetti as per the directions on the packet. Brown the mince in a large frypan and add the spaghetti sauce.

Grease your oven dish, otherwise you will be scrubbing your dish out later with steel wool, and wishing you had taken my advice. Layer the pasta and meat sauce in the casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and mix in the flour. Pour in the milk little by little, stirring the whole time. I usually stand at the stove and read while I stir, because if I get bored and wander off, or try and multi-task, the white sauce gets lumpy. Once the sauce has thickened, pour it over the spaghetti and mince, then sprinkle grated cheese over the top.

Bake uncovered in a moderate oven, around 170 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.

Spaghetti Casserole 2

Rollerskating at Rollerway

Rollerskating 13.04.14

He Who Eats All of our Leftovers and I took C, G and S roller skating during the school holidays.

C fell over several times and bounced up again without missing a beat, G had the biggest spill of the day and managed to take out a fellow skater on her way down, laughing as she went, and S fell down and cried when she jarred her wrist. He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers fell over several times which amused all of us and I wobbled a bit but managed to stay upright.

We went to the Rollerway Skating rink in Geelong and it cost $10 per person, plus an additional $3 each for skate hire. The session was for three hour on Sunday afternoon which I thought was very good value. The music was pumping and the girls made several requests (One Direction) and were so excited when their requests were played that you would have thought One Direction were actually in the building.

Rollerskating was the thing for teenagers to do on a Friday night with a disco ball, eighties music and flashing lights when I was a teenager. I always wore my best bubblegum jeans and screamed when the DJ played a Wham song.

Rollerway played all of the games I remembered except the Limbo, where you have to skate under an ever-lower stick. Probably just as well, I’m not as bendy as I used to be.

I’m not sure why we don’t go more often but rollerskating really should be a day to day enjoyment.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I’m branching out in my reading material. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn did not include any pretty and sweet heroines whipping up batches of cupcakes, no feisty women in low cut red and black bodices trading cutting remarks with long-haired pirates and there was not a single Emma, Lizzie Bennet or Jane Austen heroine of any type in the book, which is probably obvious from the title…

Instead, Gillian Flynn gives the readers of Dark Places a heroine named Libby Day, who is a completely unlikeable liar and thief. Libby has lived her whole life scrounging a living from others. Her family and community are generally nasty people too, with the exception of a man named Lyle, who is the president of the Kill Club, where Libby is invited as a very special guest.

The Kill Club are a group of people who are obsessed with murders, the more notorious the better. Some members of the Kill Club dress up as well known murderers from history, other members try to solve unsolved crimes while other members, usually women, get involved with prisoners who they think are innocent and create action groups to try to free them. Libby has been paid an appearance fee to attend a Kill Club convention, because her brother Ben was convicted of the gruesome murders of their mother and two sisters when he was a teenager. Libby, who was seven at the time of the murders, testified against Ben in court.

Libby has run out of the money she inherited when she turned 18, which was made up of donations from well wishers at the time of the murders, and when Lyle pays her to meet with people who the Kill Club suspect were involved in her family’s murders, Libby gets involved in their investigations.

At the time of the murders, Ben was a troubled teenager who worked in his school as a janitor. He was angry and rebellious,  bullied by the people he wanted to be friends with, and is constantly misunderstood and in the wrong, although Libby remembers him being loving and kind towards her.

Libby and Ben’s mother, Patty, was equally unhappy and unfortunate. Patty fell pregnant at a very young age and at the time of her murder, was a single mother with four children, a farm with a massive amount of debt and the condemnation of her community, who were happy to take advantage of her misery. Libby and Ben’s father, Runner Day, was a no good scrounger who contributed nothing of value to anyone his whole life.

Libby’s investigation has her making contact with Ben, who has been in jail for years, Runner and several other characters who were key to the murders. As the book continued, I became more sympathetic towards Libby, and felt anxious for her as she put herself into more and more danger.  

The story is told by several characters, Libby, Ben and Patty at the time of the murders, and Libby in the present day. 

I didn’t guess the ending of this book, although when I flipped back through the book after finishing I found clues I missed on the first reading. Dark Places is well written, and is very hard to put down. Despite the horrible nature of the story, I will look for other books by Gillian Flynn.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Choc Mousse cake

Don’t be misled by the awful photo of this Chocolate Mousse Cake, because the taste is truly indulgent. This cake is rich and chocolatey and super-easy to make.

The plate in the photo belonged to He Who Eats All Our Leftover’s parents, and would have been at the height of fashion in the 1970’s, when everything in Australia was either bright orange, lime green or mission brown. I once asked Mum why she chose those three colours for the kitchen when she and Dad built a house in the 1970’s and she said it was all they could get at the time!

300gm dark chocolate (milk chocolate is good too, just not as rich).

2 Tblspns golden syrup

125gm butter

4 eggs

1 Tblspn caster sugar

1 Tblspn plain flour

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup.

Beat the eggs and caster sugar until they are light and creamy. Stir the flour into the eggs, then stir in the melted chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined tin. Bake in a hot oven, around 220 degrees Celsius for about ten to 12 minutes, when a light crust has formed on the sides. The centre of the cake should still be runny.

Choc Mousse cake 3

Cool, then carefully tip the cake onto a plate and refrigerate. Serve with cream.

Happy Birthday to He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers

Paul's cake.2jpg

Have a look at this for a birthday cake.

Mum bought this wonderful Double Choc Strawberry Torte from the Cheesecake Shop for the birthday of He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers. Mum, Dad, Honey-bunny, our Favourite Son-in-Law and I all gathered to sing to the birthday boy and watch him blow out his candle.

Look at how much cake was left after we each had a very generous helping. This cake would probably serve 20 people with normal sized servings, but we, for better or worse, have a large capacity for cake, except for Honey-bunny, who couldn’t eat all of her piece.

He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers helped her out.

Paul's cake

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room

Room by Emma Donoghue is the most engrossing book I have read this year.

I started reading Room on the train in to work one morning, and seriously considered riding around on the train all day until I got to the end of the story.

Room is written in the voice of Jack, who has just turned five. ‘Room’ is Jack’s whole world.  As you read, you realise Jack has never been outside and that his Ma has been a captive for seven years. The only visitor to the room is Old Nick, who is the ‘bringer’ of everything he and Ma have. When Old Nick visits, Jack hides in ‘Wardrobe.’

Jack and Ma play games that Ma has created, which provide him with exercise for his mind and body. They read their few books over and over and draw and make things such as ‘Eggsnake’, who lives ‘Under Bed’. They have a television, which Ma only allows Jack to watch Dora the Explorer and a few other shows, so his brain won’t be ‘mushed’. Jack believes the things he sees on television are not real, because Ma has taught him to believe the only real things in the world are those that happen in ‘Room.’

Every week day Jack and Ma climb up to ‘Skylight’  to play a game they call ‘Scream.’ After they scream they listen, although Jack doesn’t know what he and Ma are listening for.

Jack is funny without meaning to be, and tells his truths without any awareness of the horror or magnitude of the things he says. At times he seems much older than five years of age, but that is because of the intensive teaching that he has received while locked away with his mother, rather than any fault of the author. His mother is a strong character who loves her son and does the best for him that she possibly can in an awful situation.

I don’t want to write any more about the actual story of ‘Room’, because this is the kind of book that a reader should be able to experience without spoilers. Room was shortlisted for all sorts of prizes and I believe it deserved every nomination. The idea is clever and the story is well written. At first the naming of everything, such as ‘Room’ annoyed me, but it didn’t take long before I was too engrossed to care.

All I can say is, go to the bookshop and buy this book, or find it at the library and read it. You may not like it, but the story will certainly stay with you.