Sunday, 29 May 2016

Children's book review: Dinosaur Rocks

I loved dinosaurs as a kid, so much so that the highlight of my childhood was probably the release of Jurassic Park, a film title my three year old now uses interchangeably with the cartoon series Dinosaur Train. One a terrifying genre defining thriller where a team of scientists, capitalists and children are systematically hunted down by velociraptors or eaten off the toilet by a T. rex, the other a load of talking reptiles on a train. Easily confused.

I feel, however, I may have been born before my time, given the sheer volume of dinosaur themed picture books presently in publication, each slightly more ridiculous in concept than the last. I've already reviewed one bizarre tome where a group of prehistoric reptiles are taken to the doctor. I haven't touched the frankly preposterous The Dinosaur who Pooped Christmas, nor the smililarly titled yet wholly differently stupid Dinosaur Poop. 

I had higher hopes for Dinosaur Rocks. Sure, it had that ludicrous juxtaposition of dinosaurs and humans again, but the illustrations of the dinosaurs at least looked more authentic.

Dinosaur Rocks is a book with the noble aim of getting Australian children interested in Australian dinosaurs, a task that may otherwise require a trip to Canberra (aka Aulstralia's Palmerston North, but with added politicians). Unfortunately, even these desperate measures may end in futility: on entering the National Australian Dinosaur Museum, a 2 year old Luke freaked on being roared at by a small animatronic carnivore, and fled in tears, refusing to return.

The book tells the story of a small lad, named Tim, packed off to spend some time with his BORING grandparents, presumably whilst his parents head off for a dirty weekend of romance of their own. His grandparents, used to raising children in a time when health and safety acts and child protection orders where non existent, send Tim off into the local forest, which, as it is IN AUSTRALIA remember, is probably home to snakes, spiders, crocodiles, sharks, drop bears, Ned Kelly, and bushfires. But they send a dog with him, so all good I suppose.

Against all odds, however, Tim avoids these dangers, instead falling down and hitting his head. 

And that's where things get strange. Tim presumably loses consciousness, and when he wakes, he starts hallucinating dinosaurs. Initially a small, golden dinosaur, which might conceivably be mistaken by his dog. I mean, once I ran 85km, and several tree stumps turned into my dog, so I know that feeling. But then he starts dreaming he is riding on a dinosaur, past some pretty massive prehistoric lizards that could not possibly be stimulated by any local visual input. And so it goes on...

Anyway, Tim eventually comes around, and returns to his grandparents.  Immediately he starts babbling about seeing dinosaurs. But rather than show concern for their grandson's delusional outburst and apparent hallucinations, Grandma's first two concerns are that Tim has lost his hat, and he smells like fish. He needs a bath. Later, his grandfather continues to neglect Tim's need for a doctor, instead going so far as to humour him, showing him pictures of dinosaurs and asking which he has seen.

Parents. grandparents. Childhood head injuries are serious. Seek medical attention if you suspect one.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Balloon sculptures of New Zealand History: part 2

You know what's hard to make out of balloons? Most things actually. But I was pretty distressed when I looked at the comments from a previous post and saw a request from 'Anonymous' requesting a pregnancy hippo balloon animal. I have mastered a few models. My tapeworm is outstanding.

My roundworm isn't too bad either.

But I'm sorry, Mr/Mrs/Ms Anonymous, a pregnant hippo is alas outside of my capabilities. Still, I hope you enjoy the Wiggles concert, and can put the idea of Lachie and Emma sharing their purple wiggle and hot potatoes with one another out of your head.

Instead, I am honoured to present to you an abstract visualisation of a major innovation in New Zealand history. Most readers may know I am somewhat unimpressed by John Key, our country's prime minister. However, I will give him credit where it is due, in the invention of a whole new way of congratulating a sportsperson for a major success. Unfortunately hands are yet another difficult to sculpt model. I have managed four fingers each: a fifth is out of my scope.

But as you can see: the blue hand is reaching out to congratulate the orange hand on a major sporting endeavour: he has just led is team to a famous international victory. But low! What is this? A third, purple hand reaches in, clasping over the two already shaking appendages, not wanting to be left out of the sweaty three way.

God bless you John, for your innovative three way hand shake. Now immortalised in the form of a photo of three crudely shaped balloons.

If you like what you see, I can do children's parties.

Food review! Wattie's custard with banana

Its Tuesday, I'm bored. The kids are at the grandparents and my wife is at s musical practice. I have eaten meat! And now I've realised that at a push I've had 2 of my 5 plus a day, cos supermarket sushi doesn't really count as a vegetable (even if you get the amazing vegetable spring roll sushi, or the delectable chicken cranberry sushi, direct from top ethnic fusion outlet New World Supermarket Pahiatua).

On a tangent, I had briefly considered turning this blog into some sort of crap sushi or crap ethnic food blog, but my attempts at including family were thwarted by the three year old, who when on being exposed to Japanese food for the first time, declared loudly to the whole (actual authentic and quite nice this time) sushi bar, that he would 'not eat here EVER AGAIN', on account of it not warming him up on a cool day.

Anyway, in an attempt to reach my required vitamin C intake for the day I'm currently cramming as much fruit as I can into my pie hole at 10pm. Do hops count in your 5+? I'm saying yes, anyway. And it's persimmon season! Isn't that great! But I feel I need an accompaniment for my fruity delights, and there's no ice cream. Raiding the cupboard, my eye falls on a small sachet of Wattie's baby custard. Surely Emily won't mind if I nick it? It's not like she'll be eating it?

The ingredients look far removed from my previous baby food experiences. Not just simple mushed vegetable with some starchy carbohydrate: this has full cream milk (25%), sugar, butter, and cream, to be avoided for the body conscious six month plus year old looking to fit into that perfect onesie for summer, but a great winter comfort.

It looks like gelatinous gloop. And it's the colour of curdy baby vomit. Which, when you're a six month old, is something you might try and eat back up again. When you're thirty two, it's not as appetising, but maybe that's my problem. And anyway, I'm desperate for some accompaniment for my fruit, so it will do. The smell is bananaey enough, maybe not that authentic, real fresh banana, but the fake banana smell reminiscent of the time you made esthers in sixth form chemistry if you were a hard out nerd like I am.

The taste, unfortunately is a massive let down. First and foremost it's just a slimey texture, but then there's that horrible artificial banana dairy-food taste coming through and ruining anything. What is weird to me, is the smoothness. I can't believe I'm saying this after all these reviews, but it needs some bloody quinoa in there, something to give it grit, chia seeds, anything.

Does it work as a condiment or a dip? Not really. I dipped my banana in (ooh er missus), but the sauce just slides off, that's not a custard, custard needs to adhere, to be able to smother the accompanied food item and decimate any other taste that may be present. The persimmon faired even worse, I don't know why I even bothered trying to dip. 

Frankly, this custard is a disappointment, Mr Wattie. I've seen better served up as airline food.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Chris's Balloon Animals of NZ: an infrequent series

The Baby food blog is dead. Long live Netflix and children, which is really just a poorly thought out pun referring to the act of trying to enjoy some time with one's significant other, possibly involving streamed media, but being repeatedly disturbed by your offspring waking and spoiling the mood. Whatever the cause for the title, the sad fact of the matter is Emily is old enough that she eats what the rest of us eat now, and I'm simply not game enough to try and review my wife's cooking for attempted comedic effect. So there may be food reviews, but this will now be more books, films, tv, and toddlers music (read innapropriate jokes about the Wiggles, sorry Wiggles), whenever I have time.

Speaking of which, does anyone else get that Wake Up Jeff song? Cos speaking from experience as a man of medicine, most guys don't need much encouragement getting their Purple Wiggle to rise in the morning (Sorry Wiggles).

Anyway, balloon animals! Do you have a favourite moment in NZ history that you would like to see lovingly rendered in balloon sculpture? Let me know in the comments! This is an offer that is bound to explode in my face!

In the mean time, may I present Gareth Morgan's high horse? Just like the real thing, it's having a hard job of standing up by itself, and will eventually end up a flaccid disappointment!