Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Immunisation Debate

T immunise or not to immunise?

Yes I’m weighing in on it… I have good reason too. I am not immune to Rubella which means I rely on herd immunity. My unborn children rely on me to protect them but how can I do it if people aren’t getting vaccinated and are putting themselves (and myself) at risk of spreading the disease?

There is too much scaremongering out there and it’s making me mad. I am a trained Immunisation Nurse so many would say I am biased but I just like to remind them that I am informed. When I was studying for this title, I had to look into the research that was both for and against immunisation. I was open to being challenged and proven wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly benefits to natural immunity however the diseases we are asking people to vaccinate against often severely disable a person or kill them. These are not diseases to be messed with.

Today on, they published an article that generated A LOT of responses both for and against immunisation. You can read it here. The rates of immunisation are declining in some areas with some rates as low as 80%. This means that herd immunity is ineffective and nurses and midwives are recommending parents of newborns do not leave their houses for at least 6 weeks. How horrible for these people! In a time that is already very isolating, we are advising them to go on lock down because their child is at risk of dying.

This practice of staying in doors until your child has received the required immunisations is something I took part in when I lived in Papua New Guinea (A DEVELOPING COUNTRY!). This is not something we should have to do in Australia where the immunisations are readily available and FREE.

I am all for people having an informed decision and the right to choose however I do feel that the majority of these conscientious objectors are objecting because of poor information or deliberate misleading statements. Take the Australian Vaccination Network for example. Their very name implies they are the organisation in Australia that offers all the information at hand with regards to vaccinations so that an informed decision can be made. They are however, an organisation that is anti-vaccination and touts debunked research as fact. A lot of the articles they promote are considered by many researchers as poorly researched, flawed in their data collection (therefore not a true representation of what they are trying to prove), and state facts that have been disproved in later research. Whilst they are entitled to their opinions, in my opinion, they need to be careful of how they are representing themselves.

So after I read the article (I wasn’t too shocked as I knew the trends) I began to read the comments… bad move. It got me so motivated to inform some unfortunately misguided people that I wrote a comment essay. Just look for the long comment by ‘Brooke’ at the end… you won’t miss it.

But one response that I found hard to swallow was by a lady called, Anonymous. Here is what she wrote (word for word, unedited):

“I have recently had to eat a MASSiVE humble pie .I have for the past 12 years been very vocal in my stance against vacinating my children, not due to the AVN ,but due to my son suffering a major adverse reaction resulting in a vaccination injury causing his life to not be what should have been.
My beautiful best friend lost her 9 week old baby girl 6 weeks ago to whooping cough, she was living in the states in an area known for its low vaccination rates .She came back to Austrailia to to bury her little girl , after her funeral she came to me and said yes your boy suffered but you can still touch him and hug him my girl is gone because of people like you .I have never been so hurt in my life , to see the pain in her eyes was overwhelming .My husband and i really had to take a good look at our decisions, after much deliberation we decided to seek the opinion of a few doctors we had contact with in the past , doctors who previously assured me vaccination would be safe for my younger children but at the time i was too angry with my sons outcome i couldnt /wouldnt listen.Long story short , under the care of an amazing doctor who addmitted my children into hospital over night after the first neddle for observation , we now have past the first hurdel with no incident , one childs arm was a bit red and that was that , we are due for more in two weeks , although i will be nervous of the out come i feel we have made the right decision . Its all well and good to have your belives , untill some one close to you actually dies from a preventable diease i think it changes your views somewhat.”

Enough said.

Image thanks to

Pho-tastic Pho

I have been on the hunt for the BEST Pho recipe ever for at least 5 years now. I have asked so many Vietnamese for a recipe but they often dodge the question or simply shrug and say, ‘It’s just beef soup!’ If only it were that easy…

Yesterday I embarked on a 5 hour cooking bonanza and I tried a new recipe I found on the SBS website and Inside Cuisine (the recipes are exactly the same!). Apparently it is Luke Nguyen’s recipe but the SBS site doesn’t give him credit for it… who ever made this recipe, they deserve a thousand Pho-kisses because I will love them long time for it. 🙂

I now realise the difference between all the crappy recipes and this awesome one lies in using Cassia Bark NOT Cinnamon (Same, same but different? I think not!) AND char-grilling the garlic, ginger and onion prior to roughly chopping it and adding it to the stock. The char-grilled onion was an immediate reminder of the Pho I tasted in Vietnam and the traditional Vietnamese restaurants I visit every time I go to Melbourne or Sydney. I’m salivating just thinking about it… mmm.

So what do you do with your Pho that isn’t in this recipe? Have you got a better recipe?

The condiments

The condiments

The Pho-king Pho-tastic Pho!

The Pho-king Pho-tastic Pho!

2kg (4 lb 8 oz) oxtail (ask your butcher to chop it into 3cm/11/4 inch pieces)
4 tbsp salt
1 unpeeled garlic bulb
4 large unpeeled onions
150g (51/2 oz) unpeeled ginger
2kg (4 lb 8 oz) beef brisket
185ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) fish sauce
80g (23/4 oz) rock sugar
1.6kg (3 lb 8 oz) fresh rice noodle (you will need about 200g/7 oz per person)
400g (14 oz) trimmed sirloin, thinly sliced
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced freshly ground black pepper
Coriander (cilantro) sprigs
2 birdseye chillies, sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Spice pouch
8 cloves
5 star anise
2 cassia bark, about 10cm (4 inch) in length
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
40cm (16 inch) square piece muslin cloth

In a large pot, submerge the oxtail in cold water, add 3 tablespoons of the salt and soak for 1 hour, then drain.

To make the spice pouch, dry roast each ingredient separately in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Cool, then coarsely grind using a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder. Add the ground spices to the muslin square and tie up tightly in a knot. Set aside.

Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill pan over medium-high heat and grill the unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly for 15 minutes in total until all sides are blackened.

Now peel the blackened skins and discard them, and then roughly chop. (By doing this, the garlic, onion and ginger becomes sweet and fragrant, releasing more flavour into the stock.)

Put the oxtail, brisket and 6 litres (200 fl oz) of cold water in a stockpot and bring to the boil. While the stock is boiling, constantly skim any impurities off the surface for 15 minutes (this will ensure a clean, clear broth), then reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Add the fish sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, garlic, onions, ginger and spice pouch.

Cover and simmer for 3 hours, or until the stock has reduced to almost half.
Strain the stock through a muslin cloth. Remove the brisket, set aside to cool, then thinly slice.

Blanch each portion of noodles in boiling water for 20 seconds.

Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Place three or four slices of brisket on top of the noodles, followed by three or four pieces of raw sirloin. Pour over the hot stock to cover the noodles and beef.

Garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon of spring onion, a pinch of black pepper and a coriander sprig.

At the table, add chilli and a squeeze of lime.

The little maestro


Admittedly this photo was taken after I applied a soft gumption equivalent 3 times but you can still see the lovely wall art that BG thought she would… is improve the right word? … the wall.

My next attempt will be the tougher gumption or even sugar soap. We live in a rented house so her scribble art needs to be removed.

Have your kids done this before? How did you remove it like it never happened?