Friday, January 31, 2014

Unsustainable gardening

We figured the time was right to slaughter the herd.  Our first tomato showing off a sunburned skin was reluctant to submit and hung onto the vine with all its tomato might.  Fine stay there then.  So with reluctance the store bought romas are slow roasting in the oven while our much pampered home grown heirloom is basking in yet another hot and sunny afternoon dreaming of Tuscany and Chianti Classico. The chives are out of control and wave about like horse hair in the breeze wafting over the basil that turned to seed quicker than you can say hey pesto.  With the afternoon research based around finding a recipe for chive pie with no tomato, no parsley and no spared three basil leaves, our herb garden has far from achieved its KPI's.  They've underperformed and outgrown their job descriptions before they even completed their probation.  Not one to be accused of harassing the herbs, I think these boxes will be re-assigned come next season.  Unless we take up smoking chives I think there will be some restructuring coming this way soon.  No more handouts for these hangers on. Let the (farmers) market forces prevail.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dole bluggers

With the new year bills neatly piled on the kitchen bench I am beginning to wonder if it's time they earned their keep.  With a renewed Government work for the dole scheme planned I'm thinking this might be worth considering for my four legged idle friends.  Number one son being highly qualified (best in class, can sit and drop) would be a suitable candidate for sniffer dog employment the minute toast crusts become illegal.  Max not so much.  His capabilities would be stretched on bird patrol having developed fond friendships with the backyard wildlife and food to Max is raised and produced in a purple pouch.  We have dangled freshly caught fish in front of him only to have him storm off in disgust as if we had served him up a shoe.  I'll keep working on it, there must be something out there for him.  Because with the current arrangements, it seems we work for him.

Friday, January 24, 2014

No bother biscuits

In honour of the up and coming Australia day I made Anzac Biscuits.  It should have been lamingtons but I'm not a fan of the dusty coated sponge cakes.  I used the recipe from the 1970's Australian Women's Weekly Original Cookbook and checked the kitchen wall for any ghost of a large hanging wooden fork and spoon.  Like a good all rounder the Anzac sits in the tin waiting for a mug of tea (ideally chipped painted metal if you can find one) and rested on a weary knee in the afternoon shade.  We don't bring out the fancy tea pot and stained silver strainer for Anzac biscuits they'd only protest so we leave the ceremony for the jam and scones.  A tablecloth is not required, neither chatter nor comment, just a knowing smile after a slowly chewed mouthful.  Good Anzacs are not too brittle to  injure vulnerable and worn out molars that have long since said goodbye to pork crackling and toasted muesli.  No fuss, easy going Anzacs.  Happy Australia Day

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't tell the pets they're pets

I don't think it has occurred to Max (pictured) that there is a pecking order, no matter how small it may seem, in a household with pets and people.  In his view, we bought him a house with a blanket, a few beds, provide some acceptable meals and a smallish garden for enjoyment.  For pets we don't fare too badly.  They couldn't have trained us much better if they had sent us off to obedience classes.  We wake when they wake, we feed them on demand and entertain them at every opportunity.  I noticed this as I was lying on the kitchen floor for the third time last night retrieving a toy red mouse from under the refrigerator.  Max puts them under there and gets great enjoyment watching us retrieve them with various long pointy objects.  It occurred to me only recently being pursued hurtling along the hallway with a piece of frayed cord trailing behind me, hiding around corners and whispering "Max, Max..." that I had a) completely lost it; or b) I've spent a little too much time in the company of said cat.  I am looking forward to spending more time in employment this year before men in white coats come and take me away- still clutching a small red mouse.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Holiday time is drawing to a close as we start to pack up the relaxed atmosphere and get back into everyday busy.  I've never been much into outdoor holidays and could always value the importance of ensuite accommodation with the prospect of a campsite toilet block sending me searching for industrial strength bleach and the phone number of the nearest pest control company.  The back yard gardening I take no credit for having lost many plants over the years being root bound, under watered and not thriving after a liberal spraying of Baygon to keep the pests away.  But I do love nothing better when the sunshine is warming than to take a turn around the garden.  Having a garden that doesn't require too many turns to complete the small courtyard dimensions I see the changes in the plants everyday.  Fortunately my husband being more in tune with plants requirements offers me the joy of being able to pick our own flowers and eat our own herbs.  As the working ritual will soon return and the sun won't hang around for as long I appreciate our little holiday time with nature, all without having to give up any home comforts, or ahem...hygiene.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Max (pictured) is a great help around the house.  Yesterday he did his best to present me with a large beetle he caught under the hydrangeas.  I could see him frantically heading towards the back door with a mouthful of insect legs all waving about.  The door closed in his face.  Hate to be non appreciative but I'm pretty right for creepy crawly stuff all the same.  Having set a firm no spider policy many years ago ie., attention all spiders, you shall not enter my house and failure to comply will result in being disciplined severely.  My zero tolerance to bugs in the house comes from a long line of spider fearing women in my family.  Fully established nectarine trees have been chopped to the ground by the order of my mother who believed they harboured and smuggled huntsman spiders.  Back sheds raised, caravan holidays brought to a rapid end and above ground swimming pools along side an almond tree left idle mid summer for weeks on end.  You never grow out of it.  It's always that thing that moved from out of the corner of your eye.  I had an Aunt whose suburban weatherboard house was plagued by large black spiders.  "As big as a horses arse" she'd say with disgust as if they'd committed acts of indecency in the corners of her weather worn sash windows.   So Max's intentions to bring in gifts goes unrewarded including the cockroach deposited on the rug and the bit of mouse he left in the hallway, I'm just not sure what he's put in with the washing?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Did we move to Dubai and nobody told me?

We're waiting for the cool change.  Tonight they said.  That's what I told number one son (pictured).  No walk today, it's already over 35 degrees before 10am (really 9am) and the pavement will make a little dog's feet hot and therefore overheat a dog very fast.  So we watered the garden together, meaning I watered both him and the garden and we both looked on worryingly at the stressed plants with their baked brown leaves.  "There is not much more we can do for them today", I said facing another 44 degree day.  Although his suggestion of bringing them all inside and putting them on the red chair in front of the air conditioner instead of Max was thoughtful but not helpful.  The day brings more distress for animals as they desperately seek water coming out of their hidden places.  A large possum sat clinging to the neighbour's roof the other night not sure whether to let go and hopefully fall into the fishpond below or wander in through the upstairs window and hang out there for a while.  Two Myna birds sat at my back door step yesterday with mouths wide open in hope of cooling down or perhaps just in disbelief that I sat there in cool comfort and didn't let them in "OMG can you believe her?"  Max wouldn't have minded.  He usually shares his dinner with them in fact they bully him into leaving most of it for them so we've had to move his dining quarters inside.  So another day inside.  This must be what it's like to live in the middle east.  Except nobody told the plants we'd moved.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is there a David Austin cactus rose by any chance?

We've all become a little weather obsessed by now looking at an aggressive sun up early this morning with 44 degrees celsius predicted (or 111.2F in the old money).  Pets have thrown themselves dramatically in front of any perceived breeze or air conditioning hoping for a draft across a coat of warm fur.  Our much pampered garden has thrown in the towel with the recently purchased David Austin roses now looking like we've put them in the microwave.  The hydrangea blooms look like popcorn and I recon you could just about roll up the lavender and smoke it.  No amount of night time watering can save them.  This sun is like that bad guy from the Lethal Weapon movie that has a giant blow torch and fires on everything he sees. Our tomatoes are doing their best to pretend they're in Tuscany but are most likely going from heirloom to sun dried in a matter of days but the passionfruit still hangs green. My bay tree has dried leaves like you find in a packet in your pantry three years after the use by date and the gardenia is just never bloody happy "not enough water, not enough sun...too much sun". The upside is your laundry is dried quickly with the hot sun turning your clothes into cardboard in less than an hour.  If not careful you could snap off a sleeve just folding your shirts. Including today, two more nights to go.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

No sea breeze here

With over 4 days this week forecast above 40 degrees Celsius (104F which sounds even hotter) the days seem to be stretching longer than necessary.  Air conditioners are cranked up to rattle mode and doors are kept shut to stop air stealing dry heat from creeping in. A trip to the supermarket has me lingering around the dairy cabinet as long as possible but the grocer's fruit displays are getting soft and sticky.  They are still playing tennis down the road a bit and while it's with concerns, my greater worry would be for the people who went along in fancy dress.  I don't get the connection, a Pope at the tennis? Obviously I don't follow enough sport.  The cloud is gathering under false pretenses with nothing more than a rattling thunder here and there but no rain and no temperature drop until Saturday.  After about the third day people get a little charred around the edges and start to lose niceness.  Sleepless nights of heated sheets and kicked off covers, the cool shower before bed that was effective only for a short time and the whooff, whooff of the ceiling fan brings not much comfort.  The air conditioner thumps into action with a polite dimming of the lights to remind us of the electricity meter in meltdown.  One night over.  Three more to go.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What's that teddy? Speak up I can't hear you

I was at a restaurant last night, one of the area's most popular and well deserved award winning establishments.  It was my husband's birthday so I was hoping for a quiet table for two near the window to enjoy the shadows of beach goers strolling alongside the setting rays of the sun.  As we were lead towards our table I could see in front of me a large party of talkers with a toddler seated in the high chair planted up against the table.  My immediate reaction was oh God, will this child ruin our night?  Will it hurl prize winning food on the floor and squeal like a stuck pig all night sending us scurrying to the emergency table alongside the kitchen doors?  It didn't.  It was silent.  Completely silent all night.  This child came equipped with ipad and noise cancelling earphones.  The parents were free to continue their one-upmanship conversation with their newly appointed acquaintances without a single squirm, squeal or murmur from their offspring.  Brilliant, yes in one way, not so sure in another.  As one who would see the benefits in educating children in the adult world of dining and food experiences, I'm not sure blocking them out entirely brings many benefits other than adult convenience and patron appreciation (and again, thank you).  While we can question what life skills this generation will have from ears filled with the noise of pong, pong, pong which I imagine accompanies the child level electronic games used to amuse, I can only hope that the pong, pong generation at some point get to learn some table manners in spite of the equivalent electronic lampshade put on their heads today.  As children we leaned in to adult conversation around dinner tables to gain valuable information about our parents.  We learned to understand their motivations, what made them laugh and we learned about food.  Toys were for playtime and whilst the evening paper may have made an appearance, teddy was rarely invited.  Even if he was, he would have been very quiet, he didn't require earphones and certainly didn't pong.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How do you spell Max?

Max wants a Facebook page. I've said no.  He'd be a terrible troll. Posting insulting remarks on the Cocker Spaniel Society page, best not I said.  I don't have a Facebook page. I don't share, I don't instagram, tweet, yammer, flicker, tumblr or any other social mispelt media.  Incorrect spelling bothers me and I'm the only person I know who uses punctuation in text messages.  It's important.  It's hard enough when new babies are born into the world with their parents stamp of creativity plastered on their birth certificates with bazaar spellings and newly created names to then come into this world of anti spelling culture.  For bazaar baby names, celebrities have taken the lead with inspiration not going much beyond the fruit bowl or outside the window ( sh*t) and I suspect Jesintar and Salli (with an 'i') will eventually become Jacint@ and $ally - you know, just to be different, of course.  For those of us who were beaten with splintered wooden implements as an approved method of teaching grammar having just been born outside the era where Latin was taught not because it was useful, but because it could, proper spelling is a hard won skill.  With the often sighted common mistakes particularly in relation to labelled paper products apparently not going anywhere and the word accommodation that's been short changed a letter or two you don't mind but if we no longer have any rules to draw from we will have a new generation continually asked 'how do you spell that?'  That's Max with an 'M' by the way, and don't skimp on the capital.

Friday, January 10, 2014

No walk today

The hot weather has arrived early this morning. The bedroom fan stayed on all night blowing Max's fur gently across his stretched out body in rabbit pose.  Number one son gives me his 'let's hit the beach' look but the wind and the flies that stick to your face make this less appealing for some.  I'll skip the coffee this morning.  Northerly smothering winds and hot pavements ask for icecreams not lattes.  On days like this we hibernate in our homes with a recorded movie hopefully set somewhere in snow.  When we were kids it didn't matter so much, you threw on the togs, put your feet in your thongs, grabbed a threadbare towel from the cupboard and you were off.  Nowadays you'd plaster enough sun block on to reflect a nuclear blast and sitting on the beach means bringing the sun deflecting beach tent with built in cooling vents and hard floors.  Fish and chips have been replaced with pulled pork sliders and the only need for the esky would be to keep the medication cold.  Summer is for young people where skin is thick and robust.  Sunburn is unthinkable when aged skin starts to resemble filo pastry and your hair once dipped in the ocean sticks to your scalp like dumped seaweed.  Coming home from the beach in our day meant flaming hot car seats and seat belt buckles so hot they would brand you with the car maker's logo on the palm of your hand.  The steering wheel was so hot you drove with fingers only and air conditioning was dependent on you to wind down your windows.  At least cars keep cool these days.  Number one son might get a drive to the shop instead of a walk today.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Butter is back but the dish ran off with the spoon

I bought a butter dish.  It's not an antique and it has little monetary value but it turns out it's as rare as...butter dishes.  I've been on the hunt for over a year now carefully maneuvering my way around some very cluttered antique and 'olde worlde' shops just to come up blank.  I've looked at cheese dishes (too big and clearly shaped of a cheese wedge) and I've been shown dishes with no lids but according to the people in the know, they are hard to come by.  I even scoured the tiny towns of Tasmania and looked in stained glass window shops with crumbling verandas amongst the tacky and the taxidermy.  Having tripped over an elderly dog's bed's by an open fire I was told they're just not around anymore.  When margarine became popular the butter dishes were either turfed in the garbage tin or got broken and never replaced. Now when I get my dish out of the fridge, I do so very carefully. It sits in the fridge on the centre of the middle shelf with room to grasp and no risk of crowding.  In its first incarnation I imagine it never really moved far off the kitchen table and sat closely with the jam for company.  It knew square white bread and a Sunday scone and the mixed multi grain sliced sourdough must seem completely alien.  It could probably remember rationing and lard but will learn to live with the Lescure Unsalted.  So here's to the welcomed return of the butter dish.  If you have one, hang onto it - with both, non buttery hands.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A place for everything and everything in its place

I read an article in todays' online newspaper The Age called 'Seven tips for a more organised home in 2014' .  The first piece of stirling advice was to bring less into your home (ie., stop buying crap).  The second and third points where about finding a place to put it.  Easier said than done.  Our pets have organised our house into their most suitable of arrangements.  Destroyed designer blankets placed daily at the end of the bed complete with inserted twigs and clumps of fur, a slobbered on tennis ball can be located in most rooms and a piece of chewed string with a felt mouse tied to the end can be relocated from room to room as required.  The scratching post that's big enough to require a planning permit has been shunned to the bathroom and the loungeroom chairs have been punished as a consequence.  Laundry items are snuck off into Number One Son's bed and rocks lined up along the back door are ready for chewing. 'Watch out for perfectionism' is the sixth point of wisdom as the days of rug straightening were left behind with excitable puppy paws sliding in all directions towards the hall runner that now no longer resembles its former middle eastern hand stitched self.  The dead mouse bits, dirt, bones, dog, cat sick, what were we thinking?  No, this is an organised house alright.  We're just not sure whose house?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Don't mock the lamb

House and home magazines over Christmas shared with us old recipes from someone's grandmothers handwritten book with jam drops, boiled fruit cakes, preserves and chutneys that gave us all a warm vintage yuletide glow.  On a recent rummage through an opportunity shop I discovered the family favourite cookbook for the 1970's.  Not a great era for foodies I believe, the birth of low fat food and compulsory dinner parties sent most competent bakers packing with rolling pins replaced by fondue sets and sizzling steak platters.  According to my 1977 edition of the Australian Women's Weekly ORIGINAL COOKBOOK (their capitals not mine) nothing could liven up a party more than a pineapple.  This cookbook is a burnt orange reminder that in this era it was all about impressing the neighbours - back in the days when we actually knew who they were.  With chapters dedicated to 'International Cookery' as if from faraway undiscovered lands we were introduced to Roast Pork for the first time.  I'm pretty sure pigs have been in this country well before the 1970's but maybe we just kept them as pets or didn't know where bacon came from.  Words like tropical and flamed come up often and guests will be in awe of anything with 'a la Creme' in its title.  Canapes are partying hard being Titbits, Stuffed or on Horseback and the recipe for Tomato Soup requires a 500g can of condensed tomato soup!  The drinks are punches and the salads are basic with a Classic Green Salad requiring 1 lettuce and 1 french dressing but we invited people over anyway.  We've come a long way from tinned asparagus tips and dried basil but the recipe for Mock Ham should be treasured for ever.  Just not sure where one would get a pumped corned leg of lamb from and since when did sheep start going the gym?  And yes, it comes with canned pineapple.  Start the party now.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Another day

Some mornings just feel harder to get out of bed.  The older you get the more it's noticeable.  I wish I could sleep like those teenage years again.  The type of sleep that could have a forest being felled in your bedroom and you still awake oblivious as every other morning.  The day begins in our house with birdsong that awake cat then dog.  Carpet is clawed to make the point followed by intermittent whimpering beside the bed.  As the early daylight creeps in under my eye lids and forces them apart, hungry eyes stare back at me in anticipation. We want breakfast.  The morning television broadcasts roll through the holiday headlines about the misfortunes and misguided.  Question after question they want us to respond, tweet, email and text asking our thoughts, should we change, rename, punish or publish?  But the big question of the morning really is Strips in Sauce with Juicy Duck Flavour or Delicious Lamb?  The big decisions of the day over, Max will allocate a good 10 minutes or so to play, lately it's a stuffingless felt mouse that slips along the floor with ease, then retires to a selection sleeping arrangements long enough to stir for self cleaning then dinner.  With the new year only just out of the box, the resolutions still a vague commitment, another question comes of who you would like to be in your next life.  Mine would be Max. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

All over for another year

We're over it.  Christmas and New Year. And fortunately it is over.  Although I suspect the Easter displays are being unpacked by Supermarket nightfill staff as we speak.  Even if there is some tradition of leaving the Christmas decorations around for so many days I am glad to be rid of mine for another year. I was taking that tree down with an ax if I had to look at it another day.  And being plastic that would have taken some chopping.   I'm glad I don't need to bake another shortbread, put out another Christmas napkin and say one more time 'no need to wash those in the sink I'll put them in the dishwasher'.  By the time they've located a tea towel, dried each plate, knife and bowl, asked someone where each one of them is kept and eventually given up and left them neatly stacked on the bench, I've started repainting the house.  Step away from the tea towels and get out of my kitchen I say.  New Year celebrations are ideal for anyone who can stay awake that long.  And although it would appear the organised New Year's Eve events are mostly aimed at those who are partially deaf,  require medication and struggle with bladder control, they are for the younger generation. No, it's all over for another year.  Until some bright spark says 'only 51 more weeks until Christmas'.  Where's that ax?