The Bane of my Existence: Cutting Onions

Do you hate cutting onions as much as I do?
This is a serious matter that I believe needs to be addressed. There are many people out there who are suffering the turmoil that is onion cutting. This probably sounds like the preface for a “once in a lifetime deal” for the Slap Chop or something, but I promise it͛s not. I just really hate cutting onions.
For one thing, it hurts. We all know cutting onions makes you cry. But it stings like nothing else, and as someone who wears contact lenses, it͛s a huge inconvenience. It also opens you up to people walking into the kitchen and jokingly saying “Aw, don’t cry, it’s okay” and I am over that joke. It is not okay.
Also, it’s just really hard to get it right. I’ve seen many cooking shows or YouTube videos where trained professionals just cut onions like they were doing it in the womb. Evenly diced pieces, or perfect salad slices – whatever it may be, I just can’t do it. And how does McDonald’s get that perfect millimetre cube? I’ll never know.
Well anyway, I have a few tips which may make this hell on Earth easier for all of us. Let me know if any of this works for you.
  1. Freeze your onions. This way, the juice can͛t squirt up and get you in the eye – because it͛s frozen. Genius. Also, it won͛t all fall apart as you͛re cutting it up, because it͛s stuck together. Double genius. ALSO! They͛ll last a lot longer – triple genius! It just makes it a lot more solid so you might have to put in a bit of extra muscle to get the knife through. Plus, it definitely doesn͛t make for pretty bits of raw onion – they end up all soggy and misshapen. I͛d only use this for when you͛re cooking them down; definitely not for salads or burgers.
  2. Sharpen your knife. If you don’t have any frozen onions on hand or if you need even slices, sharpen your knife. Similarly to how it hurts less to accidentally cut yourself with a sharp knife than a blunt knife, you get a much cleaner cut in your onion and less onion blood (juice) squirting around when you use a sharp knife.

    onions 1
    Another helpful tip
  3. Food processor. You can easily get a fine dice in a food processor, just be careful not to over-process, lest you end up with onion mush.

  4. Soak your onions. After chopping a raw onion in half and peeling it, put it in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to draw out some of the juice. It shouldn’t compromise the taste, and it might help to make the task a little more bearable.
  5. Onion powder. If you really, really hate cutting onions, let Masterfoods do the work for you. It will probably taste like crap, but at least your eyeballs and dignity will be saved.


Review: ‘Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’

Were you one of the people who rolled their eyes at the prospect of a FIFTH addition to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Did you even realise that this was number 5? The actors are getting older, and so is the audience. The first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, came out fourteen years ago. Since then, we have had a fairly steady stream of Captain Jack Sparrow into our lives… and we can’t seem to get enough. To put it in perspective: since it opened a few weeks ago, Dead Men Tell No Tales has made $606 million worldwide – already close to what The Curse of the Black Pearl has made in total. Granted, the first film is the lowest grossing of the franchise, but I definitely remember it being quite popular. The fact of the matter is this: I wasn’t expecting to like it, because often I find film franchises to be very tedious and cheesy. But I did like it, quite a bit. That’s not to say it wasn’t tedious or cheesy in parts, but I did like it.
The film centres around the quest to find the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful and legendary object said to be able to break every curse of the sea. Jack Sparrow teams up with two headstrong young partners Henry Turner and Carina Smyth (each equipped with their own daddy issues) to track it down, all the while being pursued by an old nemesis, Captain Salazar, and his crew of dead Spanish navy men. The new main characters in the film were very well done. Notably the malevolent Captain Salazar, played by the master of vengeance and tension, Javier Bardem. It took me a while to figure out why he always looked like he was floating, but it’s actually quite a nice touch.
Brenton Thwaits plays Henry, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan. His character fills the role of the much needed antithesis to Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) behaviour, being kind, innocent and determined. The other role to fill is that of the girl, who in this film is Carina Smyth, played by Kaya Scodelario. A thoroughly independent astronomer and horologist, she comfortably dodges any cringe-worthy movie clichés of being an attractive woman surrounded by men (something that the Pirates franchise has always been good at). I will also give a brief mention to David Wenham who plays Scarfield of the British Navy, simply because I have a huge soft spot for this Australian actor and anything I have to say about him will be unfairly biased. He does do a good job though.
In what I would imagine to be a team effort, directors Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg and actor Johnny Depp have managed to avoid tedium or cheesiness in the most likely of places: Captain Jack Sparrow. He isn’t drunk throughout the entire film, and his classic Johnny Depp mannerisms still find new ways to be amusing. He still gets stuck in awkward situations which bear no consequence to the rest of the film, and somehow it’s not tiresome. But while it is successful in being an iconic and highly-stylised caricature performance, I would, deep down, love to see Johnny Depp bring out his dramatic acting skills every once in a while as well.
Despite an overall enjoyable story, there were a few parts which didn’t quite sit right with me. Two of them related to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. I physically could not restrain myself from rolling my eyes (I tried, I promise) at the pointlessness of Keira Knightley’s silent cameo. And why are there no other crew members from the Flying Dutchman around when we see Will Turner? And while we’re on the topic of the Flying Dutchman, the events in the film have some serious implications on this ship and its crew, and I think this needs to be addressed. It basically makes the entire Dead Man’s Chest film – the highest grossing of the franchise – completely redundant. In fact, it sort of makes all of the films redundant. Similarly to the question of ‘why didn’t Gandalf just get the birds to take Frodo to Mt Doom in the first place’, I have to ask, why didn’t they just suss out this curse-breaking trident in The Curse of the Black Pearl (I’m looking at you, Barbosa)? Without giving too much away, it would have saved them all a lot of messing around, and saved Will Turner a bunch of facial barnacles (not a metaphor – literal facial barnacles). But, these eye-rolls are only minor in the scheme of Dead Men Tell No Tales. There were plenty of moments where I laughed out loud or found myself on the edge of my seat. In future, maybe I won’t be so quick to write off the fifth instalment to a movie franchise, or for that matter, the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film.


Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas on a Budget

In a similar vein to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day gives you the opportunity to show your loved one how much you truly appreciate them, because lord knows you probably don’t do it year-round (this is a joke – you definitely should do it year-round). But even though we don’t really need a single day of the year to spoil our significant others or, better yet, tell someone how you really feel, it’s still somewhat expected of you to acknowledge February 14th. If you’re stuck on ideas for gifts, here’s some inspiration for you that won’t cost your life savings.

Bake something. It’s a widely acknowledged fact that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly. I would say the same is true for females too. This is the cheapest way to make someone feel special and like you’ve really put some effort in. Make some heart-shaped cookies or a decadent dark chocolate brownie. Chuck them in a nice box and voila! You have one dirty kitchen and one happy boo.

The cheesiest, lamest, sappiest object you can find. Rather than giving your better half something meaningful, why not be ironic and head down to the $2 shop and grab a small teddy bear holding a heart-shaped red pillow with some kind of cringe-worthy phrase on it. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like tacky clichés.

A night at the arcade. Because you probably can’t afford a real diamond ring, but if you score yourself enough tickets you might be able to trade them in for some kind of plastic alternative. And your partner will know how hard you worked for it.

Pick some fresh flowers. Getting an elaborate bouquet of flowers can often end up being incredibly costly. Instead of all that, sneak into your neighbour’s backyard where they work tirelessly all year to perfect their manicured lawn and immaculately designed flower bed, and clip off a few of their roses. Hand-deliver them to your lover for extra effect, but just make sure said lover doesn’t go bragging at community meetings about it.

Easter chocolate. Why be traditional when Easter chocolates are already in the supermarkets? Everyone knows Easter chocolate tastes better than normal chocolate, and better yet, they come as super cute bunnies or baby chickens or even bilbies if you know where to go. Plus, I’m pretty sure Coles currently has a two for one deal on mini eggs rn. Everybody wins.

Get their windows cleaned. I know, cheap shot. But hey, there’s nothing more beautiful than your own house, and imagine how thrilled your partner would be to have crystal clear windows for Valentine’s Day. It’s a practical gift that your lover will love. And if you get it done with Flash Window Cleaning, it definitely won’t break the bank!
Better yet, mention this article and get 14% off your next clean, in honour of February 14th!

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Windows of the World: Stained Glass

Religion and art have seemingly always gone hand-in-hand, especially for Catholicism. Commissions for artwork by the church served many purposes; to give a visual depiction of a particular story, to educate the illiterate, dogma, and simply the pure beauty of the artworks at hand. Paintings, tapestries, sculptures; many have stood the test of time and been analysed, interpreted and deconstructed by students of both religion and art, and provided immense wonder and joy to those who stand in the presence of such masterpieces.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating and invariably beautiful of these mediums, is that of the stained-glass window. Light is symbolic in many religions, so it only makes sense that this would be harnessed to bring religious art to life.

Stained-glass windows are created by cutting glass into appropriate shapes and fusing them together with lead, creating a latticework which is called ‘came’. Impurities in glass cause the different colours, hence early glass manufacturers figured out that by adding different metals they could manipulate the results, allowing for a spectrum of different colours. Eventually, artists realised that this method was expensive and impractical, and opted instead for painting neutral-coloured glass. Unfortunately, the colours of these windows deteriorated much quicker than the previous method.

These days, glass is much cheaper and cutting glass is far easier to do. You can probably take a lead-lighting course at your local community centre; a luxury many of the early artists would not have had available to them.

Some of the oldest stained-glass windows are unfortunately under threat from our modern environment and climate. Even throughout various wars, many stained-glass windows were left relatively unharmed, which is either because of their removal and storage in safe places, or sheer good luck. Air pollution and humidity are a significant threat against these beautiful art works. Acid rain, grime build-up and temperature fluctuations also pose a risk to the longevity of stained glass.

Double-glazing is a practical means to protect the glass. As I am sure you would be aware if you’ve ever considered getting your own windows double-glazed, this can help to insulate your home, and would do the same for the stained-glass. It keeps the glass away from the elements, and hence will help to prevent an erosion. In 1861, England’s York Minster was equipped with double-glazing, only with the intention of insulating the building. In turn, this process has definitely helped to preserve the beautiful stained glass. The key is to leave a small gap between the window and the glazing, where humidity can be controlled, much like between a painting and its protective glass in a gallery.

Double-glazing however only offers protection to one side of the window. The other side is subject to modern heating systems; which medieval churches were obviously never built to withstand. Another suggested protective method would be to create a controlled micro-climate around these windows, independent of the heating system inside the church. This is potentially impractical due its complexity and costs, but in order to preserve these stunning artworks, it may be necessary and worthwhile.

Despite the conservation efforts in place, my suggestion would be for anyone who is interested, make sure you give yourself the opportunity to see these amazing windows around the world before the deteriorate to the point of illegibility.

Elliott, Sara. 2008. How Stained Glass Works.
Frenzel, Gottfried. 1985. The Restoration of Medieval Stained Glass.
2016. The Lead Came Technique.