The Selfie, Self Hosted That Is

21 Jun

For just under a year and a half I have been happily plying my blogging trade on my humble free WordPress.com site. I would often glance at other fancy pants blogs and wish my pants were a bit fancier. My pants were functional and practical, like a good supportive pair of briefs. But I no longer want functional and practical underwear; I want something a little racier, something to get you in the mood, to read. Go self hosted said the little voice inside my head and then I realised it wasn’t a little voice inside my head it was actually my wife.

I can’t emphasise enough just how much I struggle with technology and change and so to make a technological change filled me with dread. I would need someone with extreme levels of skill, patience and yet more patience. Finding the right web designer is a little like finding the right partner, you need to search around and try a few out before you commit to the one.

Web designers can be an elusive bunch, every time you think you’ve found the right one they move to Montreal, or break the news that there is a 1 year wait list for their services or hit you with a quote that makes your wallet sting. After a few weeks of searching I found the one for me, her name is “Tabitha Emma” and she ticked the boxes that I needed to be ticked. To say that Tabitha has been patient during this process would be like saying that I have been a tad indecisive, both are enormous understatements.

The process of designing a new blog is by no means straight forward and my original brief changed every time a pretty blog fluttered their eyelashes at me. Colour schemes, font styles, font sizes, headings, logo’s, social media icons and the all important question to truncate or not to truncate are all things that I chopped and changed like my wife does when she is deciding what to wear for a night out. If Tabitha has a little voodoo doll of me that she has been stabbing with needles for the past few weeks then I could hardly blame her.

But we got there and today I have a site that feels like it fits just like a nice Cashmere jumper, a fitted one not a baggy one. I no longer have feelings of blog inadequacy, I feel like I can now stand up in a crowded room wearing nothing but my fancy pants and shout “come and read me”, metaphorically speaking.

I have a very small favour to ask all of you and don’t worry it’s not money. Could everyone who subscribes to the blog or has enjoyed the misadventures of this particular Dad Down Under please subscribe to the new blog through the heading that says “Subscribe” funnily enough. At the risk of having you roll your eyes I would not be writing if it was not for the readers so I hope I can tempt lots of you to follow me over to the new site, it wouldn’t be the same without you.

Check out my fancy new pants – http://daddownunder.com.au/

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Mrs Under Says………………I Do

19 Jun 4721_103623740129_3741991_n[1]

We were dancing in a nightclub. I fancied the pants off of him. I leaned in and kissed him, to hell with etiquette.

I knew three weeks into our relationship that Matt was ‘the one’. He whisked me off to Prague for a holiday, we ate cake, drank vodka and laughed and laughed and laughed. He was the first boyfriend I had that treated me with real respect and made me feel special.

We were enjoying a holiday in Santorini. One night we stumbled across a restaurant built into the cliffs. Tables were dotted around the cliff ledge and we were led to one that was completed isolated from all the rest. As the sun set and the candle flickered I can remember feeling so completely content. He got down on one knee, I have no idea what he said but I got the gist. All I could manage to say was “no, no, no” but they were no’s of disbelief, fortunately my smile said yes for me.

It turned out that we hadn’t stumbled across that restaurant and it was all part of a meticulous plan. He had also arranged for a beautiful jewellers to stay open for us so that we could choose something suitably sparkly together.

The wedding was very ‘us’. I received a bunch of flowers that morning with the message “see you at the Chapel Mrs Ross” and I felt that little bit more certain. Matt asked a busker to play us down the aisle, whilst cars, cakes and photographs were all given that personal touch as trusted friends were roped in to do the honours. It was like a real wedding but without the boring bits.

We easily managed to justify two honeymoons. The morning after the wedding and both nursing hangovers we headed for a log cabin by the side of a Loch in Scotland to recover. Honeymoon Number 2 was a month of sun, sea, sand and siestas in Bahia, Brazil. Both were divine.

So much has happened in the 12 years that we’ve been together but I still see that same person I fell in love with and I still fancy the pants off of him. Now if you will excuse me Offspring is about to start and although this show seems to be a major area of contention in our marriage……I don’t care I like it.
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Feckless, Lazy, Sperm Donors

18 Jun

Last week a Survey of over 2000 parents found that fathers that are depicted on mainstream television do not accurately reflect the real contributions made by real fathers today and are bad role models for young children. Half of those surveyed felt that Dad’s are portrayed as lazy and stupid, whilst a third felt that Dad’s are discriminated against in popular television shows. 1 in 5 felt that children do indeed believe fathers are “useless” as a result of what they are watching and believe that society view fathers as “feckless, lazy and sperm donors” – I was wondering where Max had picked that sentance up from, I thought he must have heard his mother saying it.
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Who are these fathers that need to hang their heads in shame, that are polluting the minds of the young with such shambolic displays of parenting and corrupting the values our society upholds? Stand up and take a bow Homer Simpson and Daddy Pig. Daddy Pig what sort of an example are you setting poor Peppa and George by playing such an active role in raising them both, loving them unconditionally, fancying the pants off of Mummy Pig and generally being Dad? And do you mean to say that I shouldn’t sit Max in front of the telly and get him to take notes from Homer – DOH! Not even this bit – “Marriage is like a coffin and each kid is another nail” – DOH!
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Surely there are enough factual fathering failures to lay into without having to resort to taking pot shots at poor old Homer and Daddy Pig? High profile men from all walks of life are virtually queuing up and screaming “pick me, pick me” for the role of bad father material. I would prefer to point out the inadequacies of fathers like Charles Saatchi, a man who in order to make himself heard in his own marriage feels compelled to physically mute his wife. Or perhaps the long line of high profile footy players whose misdemeanors often boil down to an inability to comprehend the meaning of the word “no” and an inability to say the word “no” where alcohol is concerned. Politicians, not to be outdone, seem to lack that most basic of abilities to actually engage their brains before allowing another steady stream of mindless misogyny to spill out all over the place, “what the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…….” Guess who?
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Given the choice I would happily hand Max over to Daddy Pig to enlighten him on how best to achieve marital bliss rather than an afternoon with Mr Saatchi talking him through his views on marital conflict resolution. And Homer anytime you want to take Max over to Moe’s bar to guide him through the finer points of wooing ‘the one’ I would take that every time over him learning how it’s done at a footy team bonding session.
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The role of role model to my son is already spoken for, that position is filled and you need not apply. Dad’s your son will learn more about what it is to be a man from you than he will from all of the factual and fictional father figures in popular culture put together and that is just the way I like it. I am by no means perfect but I love my son, I love being a Dad and I am proud to be his role model.
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Reversing the Aging Process

17 Jun

Big sisters are particularly accomplished at not mincing their words, well mine is anyway, she’s been not mincing since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I was having my weekly catch up with the rellies back home, Dad was still amazed by the wonders of modern technology “incredible what they do these days isn’t, to think you can see us and we can see you and, just incredible”. Mum was deep in chatter with Max and my sister was telling it to me like it is. “Parenting has definitely aged you. Don’t get me wrong you’re still baby faced on account of not being capable of growing any facial hair but I’ve noticed in some of your pictures you have some greys coming through and the crows feet situation is in decline”.

Normally I fire back with something equal parts witty and cutting but this time I held up my hands, “you’re right Sis, parenting does age you, guilty as charged”. I have clocked the growing army of greys and I remain relatively calm about that situation, I can work with grey. Although I will look a little odd if I combine baby face with grey. But I am aggrieved to be sporting not just you’re regular run of the mill crow’s feet, these crows have in excess of 10 toes apiece, deformed crow’s feet!
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My morning routine now includes 2 minutes of pushing and pressing the over seized baggage that has formed overnight and set up base under my eyes, in the hope that they finds their way somewhere useful like my lips or my Adams Apple. The eyes certainly seem to cop it in these days of sleep deprivation (in truth Max is an excellent sleeper and it’s my own addiction to watching box sets into the wee hours that’s to blame) and as well as bags and deformed crow’s feet, the eyeballs themselves are criss-crossed with little enflamed blood vessels for that blood shot look that’s so ‘in’ this season.

Not one to be defeated by common sense, harsh reality or scientific evidence, I turn to my dear friend Google for advice on how to reverse the process of aging. Acupuncture, Botox and plastic surgery were all dismissed on account of involving big, sharp, pointy, needles. Instead I am going to hit aging where it hurts with potatoes, cucumber, chamomile tea and my fingers – take that aging!
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Apparently, as well as responding well to being deep fried and doused in salt, potatoes contain Catecholase which is used in some cosmetics as a skin lightener, who knew? Next I rummaged through our fridge and found the end of a cucumber, I suspect it was intended to be a critical element of Max’s lunch but some things are more important. 2 x slices of icy cold cucumbery goodness can “help to reduce puffiness and helps to diminish dark circles quickly” – bingo bango! There isn’t much a nice cup of tea can’t fix, only this time you don’t drink it you slap two soaked and drained Chamomile tea bags over your eyes for twenty minutes, or as long as it takes for your partner to lose their patience and throw them in the bin, about two minutes if you have a really patient partner like me.
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The piece de resistance is known as Yo-Tox, a non surgical facelift using facial yoga and energy points to drain fluid from the eye area. And don’t worry if any of that sounded like bullshit, it comes straight out of Manhattan and no lies have ever came out of that place. This is how you get your Yo-Tox on – Sit cross-legged and place the first two fingers of each hand on either side of your nose about an inch down from the center of your eyes. This is an ayurvedic energy point. Keep a light pressure, close your eyes, and turn your eyes upwards in your head to gaze at the third-eye point – between your eyebrows. Stay for 5-10 seconds and repeat as needed to help reduce puffiness and stimulate the drainage of fluid from the eye area.”
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So there you have it parent pals, late nights, little sleep, healthy portions of stress all wreak havoc in and around the eyes but with potato, tea bags, cucumber and Yo-Tox you too can turn back the clock to your glory days. Having reviewed the before and after shots I have conclusively prove that I just wasted two perfectly good tea bags, a critical element of Max’s lunch and what could have been a plate of chips. What’s your secret to keeping things looking and feeling fresh?

Throwing Down the Pizza Gauntlet

16 Jun

If you were to ask Max at any given time of the day what he would like to eat, that he would reply “pizza daddy!” I used to be able fob him off with packaging quiche or frittata as pizza but he’s wised up to that one now. So Friday night in the Down Under house is pizza night and I’m not complaining. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like pizza and with a little help from my 2 year old Sous Chef I am interested to see how close the homemade version gets to the real thing.

The gauntlet I threw down to myself, what sort of idiot throws down their own gauntlets, was to make each member of the house the pizza of their dreams. Max is the only carnivore in the house so I went for a salami, spinach and mushroom pizza. Anna excels herself when it comes to making chocolate disappear so I went for a dark chocolate, pear and hazelnut creation. And for me the pizza that has me coming back for seconds is a little caramelised onion and rosemary potato number that I’ve swiped from our local pizzeria.
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I used Felicity Cloake’s “How to Cook The Perfect Pizza” recipe. For someone who has never made their own pizza dough before I can’t emphasise enough how great this recipe is and if you have a food processor it’s remarkably mess free, you literally bung all the ingredients in and let it do its thing (although I must confess that me and Max quite like a bit of mess, Anna less so).

Do
• Prep all of your toppings and have them ready to go, this is where the kids can get involved and pretty up their own pizzas.
• Rubbing a thin layer of olive oil over the pizza base before adding the topping creates a seal that stops the base from getting soggy.
• Use a pizza stone if you have one.
• Track down some 00 flour for a soft, chewy base
• The longer you leave the dough to rise the more flavour it develops – 4 hours will do the trick
• Have a bit of Italian opera on the radio in the background, it adds authenticity and makes the pizza taste better.
• Dust the base with semolina to add a slight crunch and avoid sticking
• Make more dough than you need, it keeps for a fortnight if it’s sealed in an airtight container.

Don’t
• Overdo the toppings – that’s not how mama used to make it and will result in a soggy base
• Use toppings that will burn, for the chocolate pizza in hindsight I should have added the chocolate and nuts when the base was partially cooked because both will burn if they are cooked too long.
• Undercook your pizza, have your oven on its highest setting with the pizza stone or tray in there until it’s bloody hot.
• Once you’ve worked your dough into the perfect pizza-y circle don’t leave it lying around to dry out, get the toppings on and get it cooked.
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The pizzas were a big hit, I always know when I’ve hit the right note because there is a collective silence (crunching and slurping aside) which otherwise doesn’t happen in our house. I think I have a new role in the house, that of Friday night pizza maker and a new name to boot from my little boy “Pizza Daddy”. It’s a lot of fun, costs a fraction of the restaurant prices and tastes pretty darned good. The next gauntlet I have thrown down to myself is to have a pizza party for Max and his besties, with all the littlies decorating their own small pizza, sound slike madness has set in doesn’t it?
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Ingredients (Makes 6–8 depending on size)
500g pizza flour
10g fresh yeast (or 7g instant dried, made up as on packet)
½ tsp sugar
320ml warm water
1 tsp salt
Your chosen toppings
Olive oil and semolina flour, to serve
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Directions
1. Mix the yeast with the sugar and leave for 1 minute. Stir in the water, then add to the flour and mix in a food processor on the lowest speed until it comes together into a soft dough. Add the salt and then turn the speed up slightly and mix for another 4 minutes. Alternatively, mix them together with a wooden spoon, then turn the dough out on to a work surface, add the salt, and knead for 10 minutes.
2. Put the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and then turn over to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, or cling film, and leave in a warm place for four hours. Then do what I did and watch on in amazement for 4 hours (it was a slow day) as it bloats up to something enormous.
3. Turn the oven to its highest setting and add your pizza stone, terracotta or heavy baking tray.
4. Divide the dough into satsuma-sized pieces and roll into balls on the work surface using the palm of your hand. Dust a work surface with a little flour and semolina flour and put a ball of dough on to it. I cheated with a rolling pin and rolled that sucker until it was paper thin, if you think you handle the whole throwing, spinning and stretching business then good luck to you.
5. Working as quickly as possible add a layer of olive oil to the base and add your toppings. Mine were all sauce-less but a thin layer of Passata would have been my preference. Transfer the base on to the hot surface and cook for about 8 minutes until crisp and golden. Eat it when it’s still hot enough to hurt, just a little.
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Do you make your own? What is your dream topping?

If Men Gave Birth

14 Jun

A friend of mine is due to give birth for the first time in the next couple of weeks and I was trying to say the right things, trying -“your body was designed to do this, you will be fine, women have been doing this for years, decades even!” She shot me a withering look, I’m quite used to getting shot with withering looks but this one was particularly withering, threatening even. “You make it sound so straight forward. How do you think you would go if you had to give birth?”
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We would be completely unprepared for child birth because throughout the antenatal classes we were doodling our names on the desks, sniggering at some of the anatomical diagrams and generally reverting to schoolboy type.

If men gave birth you would never hear the end of it. We want acknowledgement if we do the washing up, we want acknowledgement if we change a light bulb unassisted, could you imagine how much acknowledgement would be required if we actually gave birth?

Your average male birthing partner assumes the role of sports coach, “come on, you can do it, give it 100%, leave it all in the room!” I am not a betting man but I would bet my left kidney (considered saying testicle but will play safe with a kidney) that your average male would not taking kindly to being on the receiving end of these little motivational pep talks.

You know how flu needed an entirely new name just for us men due to the extent of our suffering, could you even imagine how unbearable we would be when faced with some of the gruesome realities of child birth? We are reduced to little cry babies at the faintest hint of a bit of a blocked nose and sore throat; we surely aren’t ready for blood.

Men aren’t renowned for sharing their intimacies with total strangers, we struggle to share intimacies with our partners, I’m not sure how we’d go with the probing, discussions and general focus on what’s going on down there.

You can always spot a man who is in training for an endurance event, he’s all dolled up in sweat bands, tights that leave nothing to the imagination, I-pod with adrenaline pumping music and sipping on protein shakes. Like my good wife tells me “all the gear and no idea”. I suspect the male overnight bag would be full of all the gear.

The simple act of taking food out of the equation for a few hours will see most men screaming for an epidural.

You know how men often come out with the line “just one more?” to prolong a visit to the local drinking establishment. I’m not sure we could be trusted around an entire canister of laughing gas, we would suck that baby dry.

Would you be able to cope with an entire life spent with someone who will entertain dinner guests regaling tales of their own heroic efforts and superhuman displays of strength?

I suspect whoever it was that decided men are only to be trusted with the impregnation part, whilst the female of the species can cope with the rest, knew exactly what he or she was doing.
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My Little Moment With Masterchef

12 Jun

When I was younger I had foodie aspirations and lots of them. I loved to cook, I loved to cook before it was cool to love to cook. I used to spend what little money I had on recipe books, gourmet ingredients and eating out. I wrote several business plans for several foodie enterprises but never quite found the right formula to convince me to take the plunge. I had my own successful stall at a farmers market making delicious organic soups, think Porcini Mushroom and Truffle Oil. I was always trying to throw elaborate dinner parties to my motley crew of mates who would rather be down the pub.
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When I was 24 a little show started in England called Masterchef, it was a runaway success and developed a huge cult following. The format in England was very different to the Australian version, it’s a lot more about the cooking and the contestants food knowledge rather than trying to build television personalities. Each episode I think had eight new contestants and after 4 challenges you were left with one winner who goes onto the next stage. I loved the show and by the time the second series were auditioning for contestants I had convinced myself to have a go.

I painstakingly filled out the novel sized application form, complete with “who is your food hero?” and “what is your signature dish?” and sent it off without too much hope of ever hearing anything in reply. A few weeks later I was at work and a young lady informed me that they loved my application and would I be available for a phone interview. I made my way to a toilet cubicle, a truly awful place to discuss food, locked myself in and began to wax lyrical about all things edible. I was in there for a good 30 minutes and I must confess it was a little awkward sitting back down at my desk.
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A week later I got the same call and made my way back to the toilet cubicle. This time it was a chap who drilled me on whether I could commit time to the show, how my girlfriend would feel about me being away, whether I was financially in a position to do so, etc. This was another substantial call which left my colleagues wondering if I needed more fibre in my diet. I got a letter through the post advising me that I was successfully through to the final stage of the audition process. One more test and I could have my mug on telly. This time I had to cook something at home and bring it along for a tasting panel.

I spent the next few days scouring recipe books for inspiration for a dish that (a) was delicious (b) was delicious cold (c) I was capable of making. After trying a few recipes out I settled on a chocolate fondant, a crumbly case with dark, rich, chocolate oozing out once attacked with cutlery – surely a safe bet? I made it a few times, Anna being the very indulged and willing guinea pig and made sure it still oozed and tasted the part after the hour I would be travelling to the studios.
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I arrived and gently carried my precious cargo following the “Masterchef Auditions” signs before taking my place in line with ‘the others’. This had the nerve inducing feel of a job interview. I was called in and sat at a desk in front of 3 young women, suddenly my decision to go for a chocolate overload felt like it was going to pay off. “What have you made for us today Matthew?” They set about the fondant with forks and spoons and before long I felt like I was playing Billy Crystal in the When Harry Met Sally’s fake orgasm scene x 3! There were unrestrained orgasmic noises of pleasure coming from each one of the judges, it felt a little awkward to be honest.

When they had composed themselves they told me that I had passed with flying colours and the final hurdle would be an audition in front of a television camera. Gulp! Clammy hands, sweaty forehead, a furiously pumping heart and a quivery voice are not the tools for this particular trade. I was called into a room, the young women who had put me so at ease were replaced by a very formal looking older man and the biggest camera I have ever seen in my life was pointed at my face. I had a sinking feeling that the dream was about to turn into a nightmare and it did. I turned into a stuttering rabbit in the headlights and kissed goodbye to my Masterchef dream.
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Sure enough I fell at the last hurdle. So there you have my little moment with Masterchef, “little” being the operative word. Despite the bitter ending it’s pleasing that as a young man I stepped outside of my comfort zone to chase my dreams; it’s something I still do today and is one of the most important life lessons I hope to pass on to Max……along with cooking of course.
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Are you a fan of getting out of your comfort zone? What life lessons do you hope to pass on to your children?

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the illiterate infant

An Aussie Daddy blogger that's figured out the kids haven't read the books either

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