Next week Arabella will start her final year of school. And while she’s whingeing and moaning about what a tough year it will be, I’m buoyed by the fact that with Arabella being in her final year that must mean we only need to survive one more formal.
Formals give me a feeling of dread.
It’s because they are so different to the ones back in my day. Back then my mother would put her trusty Bernina sewing machine on the kitchen table at night and I would wake up to a water-mark taffeta dress covered in tulle by morning. And I bought a pair of shoes on sale and they weren’t designer. And on the day we did our own hair and make-up. We didn’t pay for a spray-tan, we sunbathed for free in our own backyards. We didn’t get our legs waxed at the beauticians, we borrowed dad’s razor and while we were in the shower we shaved our legs for free. We didn’t hire stretch hummers to pick us up and drop us home, we borrowed mum’s car and drove ourselves. It wasn’t a 24 hour marathon involving pre-pres, pres, the formal and then afters, we had the event and then we went home. And yes, I was invited to another formal at a different school but I wore the same dress, the same shoes and again, I did my own hair and make-up. And we didn’t have formals for every year we were in school, there was just the one and that was on our graduation.
When I tell Arabella these things she wonders how we could possibly have had any fun leading such tragic and boring lives.
Arabella’s formal will cost around a thousand. The uninitiated stagger and audibly gasp when I tell them this. ‘How could you possibly chew up a thousand dollars?’
It’s quite simple, really. This is where it goes.
I’ll hand Arabella a thousand and hope she brings home some change. She’ll have to buy the tickets, one for herself and the other for her partner. That’s the unwritten law. If it’s your formal, you pay for the tickets.
Then there’s the dress. Nothing handmade will do. Instead we will have many trips to all the shops and come home with nothing and then we’ll go back to all the shops and buy nothing and then we’ll go back to the shops a third time and visit the very first shop we went into and will buy the first dress she tried on – this has happened before. Once the dress has been brought home it needs to be photographed and then the image uploaded to facebook because this then lets all the other girls know that that dress is ‘off the market’ so don’t even think about buying it.
And the dress needs shoes, and accessories, and a little clutch purse.
In the week leading up to the formal there’s the waxing that must be done and you would think a half leg would be sufficient but no, the waxing is a lot more extensive, if you get what I mean!
And there’s the trip to the Asian nail bar for manis and pedis.
And some go to the hairdresser for highlights and foils.
And no matter what colour your skin, you must get a spray tan.
On the day of the formal the girls like to sneak out of school early and head to the shopping centre where they have booked in to Napoleon to have their make-up done.
Then it’s off to the hairdresser to have the hair teased, twirled, curled, plaited and then ultimately straightened.
Once Arabella is home she then needs to get dressed and that’s where we leave her alone because at this point she’ll be very stressed and why put yourself in the firing line.
And then something minor will happen like a pin will loosen in her hair or the sole of her shoe gets a scratch or she thinks now the spray tan makes her look a bit orange and so there will be a major meltdown and tears will spill. Then we’ll have to clean up the make-up and I’ll be reaching for my wine but then the partner will turn up looking well scrubbed and will give her a beautiful corsage so things will be happy again so now we can take a few photos. Then the hummer will arrive and as Arabella and her partner head off towards the car I will tell how how beautiful she looks and how it’s all been so worth it, but, ah, do you have any change?
Then Carl and I will collapse in front of a dinner that hopefully will restore some spent energy.
Beef Braised with Cassia and Star Anise
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: This recipe uses a cut of beef that is quite inexpensive and most of the other ingredients I either had in my fridge so I didn’t need to purchase much else besides the beef.
- 1 ltr (34 fl oz/4 cups) water
- 500g (1 lb) diced beef shin or other stewing cut of beef
- 4 cloves unpeeled garlic
- 1 small knob ginger, peeled and sliced
- 3 coriander (cilantro) roots, washed and scraped
- 4 star anise
- 1 piece of cassia bar, about 10cm (4 in)
- 2 tbspns sweet soy sauce
- 1 tbspn soy sauce
- 2 tbspns fish sauce
- 1-2 tspns light palm sugar
- 2 spring onions (scallions), including some of the green part, thinly sliced
- generous quantity of herbs, such as mint, coriander (cilantro) and basil
- a big handful of bean sprouts, raw, chopped snake beans, cucumber
- wedges of Chinese cabbage
Hot and Sour Sauce
- 2-8 red and green small chilies, any variety
- 4 tbspns lime juice
- 1-2 tbspns fish sauce
Combine everything except the spring onions in a pot, bring to the boil, skimming well. Simmer, uncovered, until the beef is tender, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours if using beef shin.
Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the spring onions and serve with the Herb Salad and Hot and Sour Sauce.
To make salad: Arrange salad ingredients on a plate.
To make sauce: Combine ingredients in a bowl and serve as a dipping sauce on the side.
This recipe is from Spirit House, Essentially Thai