Lamb shanks and polenta

Just wanted to post a picture of my lovely meal I had last night. I’ve never cooked lamb shanks, and I’ve also never cooked polenta. But yesterday morning I browned some shanks, and threw them in my slow cooker with a sauce made from garlic, onion, chunks of carrots, tomatos, red wine, and beef stock. For herbs I threw in some dried mixed herbs (which I was given last time I was at Poppy Harry’s place) and some fresh thyme from the garden.

It simmered away all day in my slow cooker. We didn’t end up eating till 9 so it was pretty much cooking for 12 hours. I cooked some polenta according to directions (too thick and salty, I had to add water) and zapped some green beans briefly in the microwave.

When I went to dish up the lamb, I grabbed a piece with the tongs and the bone fell out. So that 12 hours of cooking made them very tender.

A twist of the pepper grinder and some crusty bread to accompany and it was done!

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My thoughts on the equal marriage debate.

I don’t usually get philosophical/political/on my high horse here, except when going on about free range chickens. But something happened on the weekend and I felt the need to say something about it. I will try and keep it pretty short.

Albury Wodonga had its first ever equal marriage rally on the weekend. Although I consider myself pretty well versed and understanding (as much as I can) of the situation of people in same sex relationships, I did learn a few things that I had never thought about. Did you know that if someone gets married, and then discovers they have a gender disparity issue and they follow through on a sex change operation, they must divorce their spouse to be officially recognised as their new gender? Even if the spouse is committed and wants to remain in that relationship? I had never thought about it and that blew my mind a little.

My first thought when I started speaking to people was that I shouldn’t be here. Nobody should, because the rally should not have to happen. To me, the issue of marriage equality shouldn’t even be an issue.

Here’s the thing. I am in a committed heterosexual relationship, and I fully support the push for marriage equality. In essence, it comes down to this: What right do I have, to argue that two loving, consensual adults in a relationship matching my own in everything but biological sex, cannot have the same rights, privileges, and obligations that are handed freely to myself and Gary, should we chose to marry?

I have friends who are gay, and it saddens me every time I go to a wedding and realise that they aren’t able to have the joy, the celebration, the joining of families that I can. To me, people are people, be they straight, gay, lesbian, trans, intersex, black, white, chinese, or muslim. Whatever they (or society) label themselves as, they are still people who should be afforded the same rights, opportunities, and obligations as everyone else.

I have found no argument that ever makes sense to me as to why those two loving, consensual and committed adults should not have their relationship and their connection officially, and legally recognised as the same as my own with my partner.
I understand that other people think differently to me, and that some of my friends will not agree with me. However, my firm belief is that it has nothing to do with anyone other than the couple themselves. I ask all the people opposed to equal marriage push to ask themselves how they will be affected if a gay couple were allowed to marry. It’s been done to death, so I won’t methodically refute every argument I’ve ever heard against it. Suffice to say that I have never found one single argument that answers one question in a satisfactory manner. That one question is simple: “What’s it to you?”

The argument could be phrased as such:
There are people in the world who are catholic. I don’t fully understand Catholicism, and what I do understand does not make sense to me. I am not catholic and I do not want to be catholic. I am actually a little concerned about it as it doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t understand how people could be interested in it, and some of the rituals that go along with it seem to be ridiculous. I may not believe that Catholicism has any real benefit to any individual. However, I have no right to push for legislation that takes away anybody else’s right to be catholic for the simple reason that their Catholicism has no effect on me. They are not affecting my rights, or my personal safety. I have no right to discriminate against them based on my fear of their lifestyle (which is based off my lack of understanding).

Apologies to anyone who is catholic, it was the first thing that popped into my mind. You could replace it with any lifestyle/religion etc and my point would be the same.

Now change the words a little and read it again:

There are people in the world who are gay. I don’t fully understand same sex relationships, and what I do understand does not make sense to me. I am not gay and I do not want to be married to someone of the same sex. I am actually a little concerned about it as it doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t understand how people could be interested in it, and some of the rituals or behaviours that go along with it seem to be ridiculous. I may not believe that same sex relationships have any real benefit to any individual. However, I have no right to push to keep legislation that takes away anybody else’s right to be in a same sex marriage for the simple reason that their gayness has no effect on me. They are not affecting my rights, or my personal safety. I have no right to discriminate against them based on my fear of their sexual orientation (which is based off my lack of understanding).

I am trying to say with this analagy that I believe that it’s pretty simple to change a few words and allow all citizens equal rights, and that it’s not hard to make our country just a little more accepting of the diversity of it’s people. This shouldn’t even be an issue because the people who believe that same sex marriages should not occur do not have to condone them, they do not have to support them. Nobody is forcing anyone to perform the ceremony to marry same sex couples, and nobody is forcing anyone to attend a same sex wedding (although if you are against it, you probably aren’t going to be invited.)

The world will not explode if same sex marriages are allowed. Heterosexual marriages will not crumble (no more than they already do). Children will not go without loving parents (no more than they already do). My relationship with my partner will still be as special, as loving, and as committed as it already it. Churches will not fall, society will not descend into anarchy. The only effect it will have on me if my gay friends are allowed to marry will be that I get more wedding invites and I will get to kick back at some awesome receptions.

please keep in mind that these are my views, and if you disagree with me, feel free to say so. But please do it in a respectful manner.

Some photos, part 1.

There has been a pretty big delay, I know. However, here’s some of our holiday snaps. It’s hard to pick out my favorites, but I guess here’s some highlights. I’ve gone through my photos while in Kathmandu and the first couple of days trekking and picked out a few to share.

colourful dyes at market stalls, Kathmandu

steps through abandoned shrines at Pashupatinath,which is a holy site with a river running through it. This photo was taken behind the main area, with the shrines that are no longer used. The main area has much more going on, including cremations and funeral celebrations, and was crowded due to the day falling on a festival day in which people honoured their ancestors.

holy man, outside a small shrine. There’s a prayer wheel there with him, and people were inside playing music and singing.

Bodhnath Stupa, one of the largest buddhist shrines in the world. It’s pretty impressive, but it was also pretty crowded with tourists!

Another temple! This one was the monkey temple. We caught a taxi there and arrived just on dusk. It has a great view over the city, and plenty of monkeys running around. There was also a rather healthy and friendly looking dog who joined our party at the base of the steps and accompanied us most of the way up to the top.

family of water buffalo in a pool in the middle of the road. This was our first day of trekking.

houses along the way, on our first day of walking

We climbed a rock!
This was at our first lodge, at Syuali Bazar. The lodge was by the river, and so was this rock.

I loved this sign. Who counted the steps?

having the first tea for the day in Gandruk. this was the second lodge we stayed in, and the first realisation that we really were up in the mountains of Nepal.

after this warning at a teahouse (i.e. “buy our stuff because it’s the last you’ll get for 2 hours”), I was so amused I regularly referred to getting “sneckers for trekkers”.
as a side note, snickers when you’re trekking are amazing.

this is when we started to get into the harder stuff, above Tadapani (fourth day of walking). It was steep, with narrow paths, and I had a tendancy to get a bit dizzy if I looked around without stopping, just because of how much you have to concentrate on where you are walking.

So that’s some of my photos, which makes a good start. I’ll try and post some more tonight. There are way too many to post all of them, and about 50 million of the same mountain from different angles and light, but I’ll pick them out and see how I go!

We have returned.

We have returned from the heights of the Himalayas.

I loved our trip. We have many stories… I got quite sick (common cold) in a rather inconvenient place (camping 4,200 metres up and sleeping in -6 degrees C.) and our group changed its plans (I was not the only one who got sick).

Our guide was wonderful, as were our Sherpas and porters. Our change of itinerary only meant that we spent more time in rainforest and hotsprings, and a little less time freezing our butts off in the altitude. Having said that, we made it to our highest camping spot, and walked a little higher than that. We ate so much delicious food, including a celebration chicken curry for one of the festivals in the mountains (apart from that the trekking menu was all vegetarian as it is forbidden to kill animals in the mountians, apparently. Except for on festival days.)

We met many people. We saw amazing mountians and forests and landscapes. We gazed upon the deepest gorge in the world (allegedly) and the highest peaks. We walked paths known only to locals (and our tour group). We danced – even Gary. I gathered bruises as a television set gathers dust. We learnt the wisdom of merry taxi drivers. We rode ancient yaks through the mystical breath of the cloud, high above the realms of ordinary men… ok that part was a tad fanciful. And completely made up. We didn’t ride any Yaks. We did, however, watch them come home out of the fog, seeking shelter from the frosty night.

A (much more accurate) detailed account is in order, however I am much too tired for that now. I also need to go through my ridiculous amount of photos.

For the moment, here’s one of my favorites:

Yak and the mountains from Khopra ridge (3660 metres)