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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My rubber man in the kitchen drawer



I was rather outnumbered last Friday night, in a good way - Mr K had invited his best mate over for dinner.  He has recently become a bachelor, or rather, a week-on week-off dad, but this was his week-off so he was playing bachelor.  We also had the resident bachelor, Uncle J, just home from a trip to the island where he owns land, and in need of some home cooked Aussie tucker.  (I encourage his visits after he has been away as he normally brings me a large blue bottle from duty free!)
 
So there I was, making dinner for three men, the ultimate feminist - when I had need of my little rubber male replacement tool.  I keep it in the third drawer down in my kitchen drawers, as the kitchen is where I use it the most.  It's orange and rubber and dimpled, and it comes in handy when I don't have a man around.  But it failed to satisfy this particular night.  I had no choice but to get a strong male to help with the task.

I had a choice of three.  Mr K was otherwise occupied - having decided that now, with guests here, was a good time to fix the light in the pool.  He now had transformers and screwdrivers and globes on the outdoor table.

Mr New Bachelor was busy opening beer.

So that left Uncle J, who first had to give me stick for needing a man in the first place, teasing me that I had my own device for the job.  I told him that yes, I did have my rubber man, but this night, I could not manage on my own.  I needed a real man.  I think he liked the ego boost as he did as he was asked.

Either that, or he really wanted the pickled onions in the jar I was trying to open.

Do you have a rubber man in your drawers?


Mine was a party gift from Tupperware






Monday, October 29, 2012

A Story of Seven Summers - Hilary Burden

A book review, with love. 

This book has been a kind of bittersweet affair - I have wanted to read it, but also not wanted to.  So, not one to believe in 'fate' or 'it was meant to be' - I picked this book up last Friday when Strawb and I had a girls day out that started at the match-made-in-heaven Bookcaffe.  After morning tea (which sad to say was ordinary, except for the chai latte) I could not walk out of a bookshop without at least buying one book.  There this book was, begging me to buy her.



Let me explain why this was bittersweet.  I first saw this book review in my favorite magazine Country Style.  I could just tell by the cover alone that it was my kind of book - one that would have me wishing for more in my life, wishing to be somewhere and someone else. Chooks, apples, basket of herbs, a veranda ... yep, my kind of book alright.  Reading the review and the words Tasmania and Writer popped up.  OK, this was becoming like my ultimate fantasy (well the one where I am skinny and rolling about in the hay with a long haired Brad Pitt isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I needed a back-up fantasy).



I wasn't so sure about the red shoes, they don't look they would be much use in a chicken pen, but hey, who am I to judge - it was someone else's biography.  Hilary Burden is actually a very down to earth, warm and talented writer.  She left a career in journalism in London to go back to her home state of Tasmania, buy an old run down farm house, called White Cottage, but what Hilary calls, The Nuns House, as it used to be inhabited by Nuns, to live and thrive on her own.

I love the way she writes with such candor, with a personality and light shone on everyday, ordinary things and places.  It was like I became one of her close neighbours or friends and shared everything with her.  And the bonus at the end of each chapter was a country style recipe. I am going to try each and every one starting with the lemonade as I have an abundance of lemons at the moment.

Although I loved the book, and read it in 2 days, I knew it would stir up feelings of deep longing and frustration that I want to live this lifestyle, but I am stuck where I am for the next 5 years at least.  I have always wanted to go to Tasmania, but I cant bear to go visit - knowing that I will love the place and have to make the tough decision to either come home, or give up my family, friends and life here in WA, to stay.

Mr K has made a joke of it for years, that he won't ever take me to Tassie.  He knows too, that my heart won't come back from there if I go.



So, if you have a stronger constitution than me, do read the book if you get the chance.  It's so well written, uniquely Australian and country.  Hilary has also started a fresh produce business, and this is her blog about it. 

Hilbarn

Friday, October 26, 2012

Red Bull - Another wild ride



I was watching the Gruen Planet the other night, a debate on whether the stunt pulled by Felix Baumgartner, who dropped 39km out of the sky, was a very elaborate advertising campaign or sponsored science. It made me recall a time when my own sons, aged 5 and 7, acted recklessly  - all because of red bull.
My darling Strawb, single, footloose, a career girl - she was not married nor did she have any children.  Not even a dog, some fish maybe, but essentially, at this time in her life, she had no warm-blooded living being to care for.  I had come up to the city to visit her and get a taste of what city life and being single was like - except, I had my sons in tow. 

Strawb took me out for a day’s shopping and lunching in Fremantle and my wide eyed, country boys loved it.  They adore their Aunty Strawb, according to them she is way cooler than me.  After this incident, I am not sure I agree.  I was having a lovely time browsing the shops, except as all mothers know; enjoying shopping with children is a different experience to enjoying it without children.  Strawb, who was nursing a bit of liquid indulgence from the night before, was in need of rehydrating and took the boys off to get a drink while I had 30mins to power shop.
I met them sitting on a bench in the mall - both sons grinning and clutching a can of Red Bull each!!  If they had had a beer in their hand I don’t think I would have been as shocked.  Strawb, I said, what on earth were you thinking?  Huh? she says, confused.  The boys said nothing, adoring looks aimed at Aunty Strawb - but I could see the liquid making its way into their bloodstream - the fallout was coming.  Mean and horrible mother that I am, I took the cans off them both, feeling sick as I realised both cans were empty.

Strawb was a bit put out by my reaction, until I explained to her what was in Red Bull and how this is like LSD to a child!  She laughed.  I told her she could have them both, for the rest of the day, alone.  Then she could tell me how funny it was.  She sobered up at this point, after seeing the boys, now with Red Bull running in their veins, jumping from bench to bench along the mall.  The trip was coming.
Our only option now, was to take them somewhere far away from civilisation and with lots and lots of open space.  We quickly walked them to a park and let them run off the worst of it.

We still laugh at this, especially now that my sons are young men and go out on benders sometimes and need a pick me up the next day. I also look for my revenge but Strawb and her husband chose not to have children - I reckon it’s because she doesn’t want me getting even.  And I am too much of an animal lover to spike her dogs drinking bowl with red bull. (would be funny however!)
I told her I was writing about this incident and she corrected me on one crucial fact. She said it was the boys who told her to buy the Red Bull, she had never even heard of it, so she had no idea of its potential in the wrong hands. The little so and so's had pulled the beanie over her eyes!

So Master C and Master A - the gig is up and Aunty Strawb says you need to make amends for your wicked ways and setting her up like that - by buying her a drink called Sucked In - Red Bull and Gin - served with dinner and remorse.
 
In the interests of public health Red Bull contains:

caffeine ,
taurine,

glucuronolactone,

B-group vitamins,
sucrose,

glucose

The equivalent to 17 cocktail frankfurts, 2 glasses of red cordial, a pack of fairy floss and 5 showbags to a child

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sauce Tartare and other stories

I was reminded of how a short story I wrote many years ago came about because of an overheard conversation in a cafe.  What reminded me was this news article in news.com.au today:

Woman pleads guilty to assault for tipping cuppa over customer's head

What on earth were these men saying that would make her react so violently and publicly?  There is a story right there!



I wrote Sauce of Rebellion about 10 years ago after I was sitting in the cafe at the Alexander Library.  I used to go there to do family history research, in the good old days before you could do most of the research online.  As I sat with my coffee, this older couple walked in and I was just fascinated by the relationship between them.  The incident that happened in my story, really happened, but of course, the rest is all made up.  It's how I imagined their life to be.

This is my story - in its very rough draft form - and after my weekend workshop, I feel confident to rework it and re-create it into something better.  Just shows that people-watching can offer a wealth of writing material.


Sauce of Rebellion

Bernie walks apologetically across the floor, listlessly following his wife, her voluminous shadow dominating him, even though he is much taller, he has a slim, comic, emu-like frame.   He dresses as She told him: brown trousers, beige shirt, soft, silent, leather shoes. The effect is a drab man, all shades of brown, like a sepia photo, left in a drawer.  You almost have to look twice to see if he’s really there, or just your imagination, a shadow from his past.
She waits impatiently beside her selected table, for him to catch up and pull out the chair, so she can sit and rest her bulk. Despite her size, she is well dressed, middle class attire – woollen skirt just below the knee, butter yellow silk blouse ruffled along the buttons, matching jacket to the skirt.  Tasteful and perfect, never just thrown on in casual abandon, dressing with care and pride.

Bernie slides into the chair opposite her, only now brave enough to lift his gaze to the tables that surround them.  Who will be witness to his shame today?  He doesn’t bother with the menu, she will order for him.  She motions for the waitress to approach.
‘We, young lady,’ she emphasises the word ‘lady’ with a raised eyebrow, ‘will have the grilled fish and salad.  Thankyou.’

She superciliously looks over the waitress, making up her mind in an instant that this young girl will end up a single mother with a string of loser boyfriends, which her husband’s taxes will support.  As the waitress leaves, a vacuum of silence engulfs the table, Bernie lost to his own world, and She scowling, tsk tsking at everyone and everything.
The waitress smiles as she places a plate of fish and salad before Bernie, serving him first in defiance, removing the smile before she places the woman’s food before her.

‘Can I get you anything else?’ asks the girl.  Spurred on by the waitress’s smile, Bernie looks up from his bland meal and asks if he could have some tartar sauce please? His wife glares at them both, not for a minute missing the smile shared, and tells him No.
With No ringing in his ears, Bernie gets up, walks to the condiments table, selects a sachet of sauce from a cane basket, and strides back to his chair – grinning inside.  It happened in an instant, nothing noteworthy to anyone else, a common occurrence, except to two people.  The tension was electric, Bernie, beginning to realise just what he had done: he had fired the first shot, and now his pistol was jammed, the enemy glaring at him across the table, a cartoon character with steam coming out her ears.  She just glared, as Bernie fumbled with his sauce sachet.  He tried to ignore the fury opposite him by putting all his concentration into opening the sauce. It was proving to be harder than it looked, the struggle becoming more than just an attempt to render sauce to his fish, it was to save face.

As She watched, She ran a monologue of instruction ‘here let me, I told you not to have sauce, not like that, give it to me’.  The diatribe continued, Bernie obviously flustered but determined to win this battle on his own.
He tried to get the corner to start peeling off, but it seemed to be stuck down fast, he was intently looking for an obvious corner to peel from, turning the sachet in all directions, when un-expectantly it happened. The sachet bent in half and squirted white thick sauce out like a bursting pimple.  Quickly, he looked up, coming eye to eye with his wife, a look of terror and fury and white gelatinous sauce, with little bits of green caper, on her face.  A blob dripped onto her yellow blouse, the oil making a shadow as it seeped into the material.  Bernie was losing control; a crack of a smile was threatening to enlarge into a grin, then a snicker and finally a laugh that took on a mind of its own.  Oh how good it felt, years of silence came flooding out in his laugh, releasing his bonds, an overwhelming feeling of freedom.  He didn’t care who saw them, didn’t care that his wife had murder in her eyes, and didn’t care about anything but this glorious moment, this rebellion.

Words : 737

© Jodie Sinclair 2012

 

 

 



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Grumpy Middle Aged Men - aka Statler and Waldorf

My Friday nights are normally spent with two grumpy old men.  Human, and maybe less hairy versions of the Muppet's below,  but they are every bit as grumpy, jaded, mocking, judgemental as these old boys.


I am not going to name names, lets just called them Mr K and Uncle J.  They know who they are and it doesn't matter as they would never lower themselves to read a 'blog' let alone mine, let alone a trivial women's blog.

This is how a typical Friday night goes (from my POV)
 
6:30PM - We, as in Mr K and I are still at work.  Uncle J sends a text message to me. 'How thirsty are you on a scale from 1 to 10?'  I am not in a drinking mood.  I am tired, stressed and just want to go home, take off my bra and shoes, put on trackies and slippers, have tinned tomato soup, toast and a book.  I sigh.
 
6:32PM - I reply 'Me? Only a 3.  Mr K - probably 7'  I can see Mr K from my office, he is opening his 3rd beer and having noisy banter with the staff.
 
6:33PM - Uncle J replies 'That's a combined score of 10 - on my way over via the bottle shop.  Just ate, so don't worry about dinner for me'
 
6:59PM - We are now home, I long for some alone time.  I did not for a minute fall for Uncle J's comment that he would not eat.  The man is a bachelor and is always hungry, especially for anything that is not preceded with 'Mc' or 'do you want fries with that?'
 
7:02PM - The front gate chimes, the dogs bark.  I am halfway out of my shoes.  The bra will have to stay on.
 
7:05PM - I am in the kitchen, glass of champagne (yes, it was French) just poured.  I scour the fridge and freezer for inspiration.  I have chorizo,wine and rice.  I start to make risotto, sipping at my champagne as Mr K and Uncle J make themselves comfortable on the deck.
 
7:20PM - I can hear mumblings and garawfs outside as I stir another ladelful of warm stock into the risotto.  The smell of cigar smoke is faint, but familiar. 

7:36PM -  Sprinkling Parmesan and parsley on the risotto, gathering plates and forks and napkins, I move towards the sounds of men and beer.  They are just finishing having a belly laugh at some unisex driver in an Audi who went the wrong way down a one way lane.  There is a metaphor somewhere there.

8:02PM - Risotto is all but gone, I get complimented by Uncle J 'Great you can make food like that without any kitchen noise - I can't stand all that kitchen noise'

8:16PM - I finish my one glass of champers, Uncle J has finished the rest of the bottle.  He asks if I want another drink?  What I really want is to lay on the couch with my old dog and watch lifestyle shows.  He cajoles me into another glass, just so he can justify opening another bottle. 

9:58PM - I have listened to politics, economics, business, programming, guns, survival techniques, knives, young women, more politics, religion, foriegn policy, and finally I have had enough.

10:12PM - I clear the table, stack the dishwasher, make myself a Milo and finally can go to bed and take my bra off.

How are your Friday nights spent?!
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Creative Writing Course - Brief

The Old Claremont Teachers College (now home to the UWA Extension Courses and AMEB)

Only a very brief post (for the moment) about my precious (think Gollum) gift of a day.

I attended the writing workshop today at UWA Extension and now feel intense pressure to write something pithy and extraordinary, but after six hours straight writing, my creative streak has run dry - for now!  My head and creative juices are overflowing, but I need time to let them all sink in.

If anyone is thinking of doing any of these creative writing courses, I highly recommend it.

Each lesson and subject we tackled was, to me, like a Christmas present, to be opened slowly and with anticipation of joy and wonder.  I wanted to savour each one, words and sentences thrilled me.  But then would come the next lesson - and I wanted to open that one too - but the last present still sat there, glittering at me and I was drawn in so many directions.

In a totally good way however .. it was all just so exciting and full of endless possibilities.

I have about 15 starts to short stories ... each one was an exercise but each one laden with promise of more to come.

I wont get a wink of sleep tonight ... my mind has already started my novel.






 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"I need to go to Bunnings"

"I need to go to Bunnings*" is a term that evokes a rainbow of emotions in this house.  It's generally uttered about a quarter the way into one of Mr K's projects,  usually the project I have been cajoling him to do for an eternity.  He just gets started ... and then it happens..

"I need to go to Bunnings"

The responses can be any/all of those below:
  • Oh good, I need to go too
  • Oh, how long will you be?
  • Really?  I thought you only went yesterday and had all you needed?
  • What could you possibly need now? 
To which Mr K will reply any/all of the following
  • OK, you can come, but we need to leave NOW, no time to change and brush your hair
  • I wont be long.  (oh this is the biggest fib this side of the black stump)
  • I did go yesterday, but have found that I need a different screw/drillbit/glue/you-name-it
  • Well, (and you need to sit down for this one) I have to cut the thingummy at a precise angle and the saw I have doesn't do what I need.  I need to buy a new Wizz-Bang-Saw, but I can use this for lots of other things that need doing.  (It's worth noting at this point that Mr K has a tool shed filled with every conceivable tool that were bought in just this way.).  I will just go to Bunnings and price them. (hahah yeah right)

Here is a typical Bunnings experience with Mr K.  (grab a coffee, get comfortable, this may take a while) We have to firstly clear out the back of the ute, so that there is room for all the 'stuff'.  It's normally filled with things like Jerry cans, tool kits, an esky, camping chairs, drop sheets ... that all end up on my front porch and remain there for weeks on end.  Then we have to let the dog down gently as he LOVES the ute but cant go to Bunnings. 

Once we arrive, there is always a lot of the in-and-out word used while Mr K tries to park right near the front door despite the fact the car park is ALWAYS full.  I don't know why he even bothers to try to park so close, just accept we will have to walk a little bit, get warmed up for the three miles we will walk inside the shop.  I get out of the ute, stressed, embarrassed and usually very carefully, as he would have parked so close to the other car I have one inch to squeeze out.

I ask him if he has a list?  He looks at me strangely.  He replies that he only needs a few things, no need for a list, it's all in his head.  I have a choice as this juncture -
  1. I can go off to the garden section and potter about or
  2. I can go with him, keep him focused, help him to find things that are in his head, give up that idea, and go off to the garden section and potter about.
I used to try gently encouraging him to hurry up by saying the longer I am in the garden section, the more things I buy - but he doesn't care and I have now run out of things to buy! So after I have read every plant label, looked at the different water fountains, checked out all the variations in paving stones, gone to the loo, sat in each outdoor setting, played with the secateurs, got a drink, gone to the loo again - I go looking for him. 

He will be still in the screws aisle, with a contemplative look on his face.  I enthusiastically ask if he is ready? (knowing full well he won't be).  He says he had to go to the tool section to get a drill bit that would match the screws and now he can't get the right screw to fit the size of the drill bit and will need to go back to the tool section to get another drill bit ..... aaahhhhh get me the hell out of this!

And this is only the first thing he needs.  I decide that at this point I need to get him moving and on track and I have run out of things to look at, besides the paint section. We go to get pool salt.  He reads every label, wonders if he can't get it 50cents cheaper at the pool shop, wonders how many bags he needs, then remembers that he did buy a few bags last time and where did he put them?  OK. So we don't need salt?  What next?  He says he needs a washer.  We head towards the plumbing section.  On the way he sees an air compressor on display.  He decides he might need one of these one day.  He stops to read the box.

I groan and go and look at the paint colours. 

Two hours later, we finally leave.  Of course we have to stop for a sausage sizzle - we both need the sustenance.

Maybe you think I am exaggerating or overreacting?

My sons will be testimony to this your Honour, as would my Dad.

My sons - they have recently been doing up a house of their own.  Mr K has been asked (reluctantly) to accompany them to help select what they need for their job.  They know they will enter a time warp and lose a few hours.  Many times I have received text messages from the distressed lads, asking if they will ever get out of there.  I assure them they will, but the world will be a different place when they do.

My Dad - he is a real worker and a real lets-just-get-on-with-the-job man.  If he comes over to help do a project, and the first part is a trip to Bunnings - he looks at me to help, he nails Mr K down and they write a list, he tells Mr K that they need to get in and get out as 'times a wasting'.  I get a distressed phone call from Dad after an hour - I tell him to go find a comfortable chair and a drink as he has a long way to go yet.

Of course, Mr K will deny all this, hurt that we all think this of him ... but the facts are the facts.


*  For those who are not from the West, Bunnings is like Masters - which we have just got here on the West Coast as well, and we all in live in fear the day Mr K says, " I need to go to Masters".



Friday, October 19, 2012

Ahhhh. Hows the bloody serenity?

My little white dog is out the front gates barking (actually yapping in a way that only little dogs can yap).  I really should go out there and stop her but I am making a stance about all the other noise I hear:
  • One neighbours little girls are outside playing - which is really lovely, except they both squeal like only little girls can squeal (which is what set my dog off to start with).  It's ear piercing and extremely annoying and been going on for an hour now.
  • Three other dogs in the cul-de-sac are also having their afternoon bark-fest.
  • Another neighbour is still 'working' in his I-don't-think-its-legal welding and blacksmith workshop.  He is an artist in metal, and he gets the call to create at all hours of the day and sometimes night.  He welds and grinds and bangs most of the day.  I actually don't know how he gets away with it as his place is also a B&B.
  • Yet another neighbour is having Friday night drinks - its not too noisy yet, but its only early.  I can hear every single personal conversation and am quite tempted to pop over and enjoy the gossip.
  • Thank goodness they have stopped whipper snippering on the railway line for the day.  There are about 5 whipper snippers going full bore, the train comes along and sounds its horn, then a air blast from the works supervisor warns them again.  The whipper snippers cut to idle while the train goes past, and then they all start up again.
  • The border collie thinks the train line workers are there for his sole amusement and barks at them most of the day.  Its pointless trying to stop him (I even took him for a extra long run to wear him out, but this too failed)
  • The boy at the front of our house is playing basketball ... bounce, bounce, thwat, bounce, bounce, thwat ...
  • The sound of peak hour traffic on the main road is broken every now and again by a siren.  Which is then broken by a express train hurtling by.
  • The father of the little girls has got his blowervac out. Again.  He does this at least 2 times a week - has the man never heard of a damn broom?  He has already cut down all the trees in his yard, my neighbours yard and 'trimmed' the ones in my driveway.  What the hell has he got to clean up??
  • My mother-in-law has stepped outside for a smoke and is coughing up a lung (yes, she lives in a granny flat attached to our house)

Ahhhh.  Hows the bloody serenity?



PS: In case you missed it, I am NOT happy about being in suburbia right this moment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thai marinated pork chops with chilli dressing - Makes Bob a Good Cook!

This recipe is the discovery of the year... what my Dad calls a real 'Keeper'  And this was the letter I sent into Delicious Magazine to explain why...


You know how they say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?  Well my dad, along with my back catalogue of Delicious magazines is living proof you can!  I recently had my country parents come to stay with me in the city as my mum needed a hip replacement.  My dad was to take over the cooking duties for her when they got back home.  Doing a bit of homework, he came across my stash of Delicious magazines in my cookbook bookcase.  Each morning, at breakfast, he would read a new magazine, with accompanying yumms, and oohs and ‘oh this looks nice’.  He would carefully write out the list of ingredients of his chosen dish, periodically asking me what things like star anise or mascarpone was.  We would then go shopping, prepare the meal that night and a whole world of food and cooking and delight opened up to him.   When they got home, Dad ordered his own Delicious subscription, reworked the vegetable patch to include lots and lots of herbs and restocked the pantry!  My Mum is now well on the way to recovery and could take back the cooking reins but my Dad, the 75 year old, Old Dog, is having a ball.  So is my Mum!




Thai marinated pork chops with chilli dressing (<-- Original Recipe here)
Serves 4

4 eschalots, sliced
1 tbs grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Handful coriander, including stems, coarsely chopped
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs caster sugar
4 (about 200g each) pork cutlets
Olive oil, to brush
1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into chunks
Chilli dressing (recipe below) and mint leaves, to serve

  1. Place eschalot, ginger, garlic, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, sea salt and pepper in a food processor and whiz to a paste. Transfer to a shallow, non-metallic dish and add the cutlets. Mix well, then cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat a barbecue or chargrill pan to medium-high heat and brush lightly with oil.
  3. Grill cutlets for 3-4 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking.
  4. Serve with cucumber, chilli dressing and mint leaves.

Chilli dressing
Serves 4

2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbs caster sugar
1 tbs fish sauce
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbs thinly sliced spring onion
1/4 Lebanese cucumber, seeds removed, finely chopped

  1. Place vinegar, sugar and fish sauce in a bowl and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stir in chilli, spring onion and cucumber.

I have done this with lamb chops (Mr K's favorite), beef spare ribs and the pork.  All are equally scrumptious.  The Chilli dressing is also lovely over a salad or grilled vegetables.  Beware however ... once you have had this, you will never want to cook plain chops again!

Would love any feedback if you try it?


The best vege garden in suburbia

That's what I have always wanted.  And it still, to this day, it eludes me.  I am thinking of running off to live with Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall - here ...

River Cottage in Dorset UK

Then I could have chooks!

We built the house we currently live in 11 years ago.  It's smack bang in the middle of other houses, and although we have the beautiful Swan River only metres away, it's still suburbia.  To make my position worse, we live on a battle axe block next to, and I mean right next to, the train line.  We have neighbours on every side, including the front.  Now I know this is perfectly normal, and in fact we are lucky as the house at the back of us is on an acre of land and has huge, bushy gardens, but its still suburbia.  And I am still a country girl.

When I sit out the front yard I hear every word and movement of 2 neighbours.  If I sit out the side I can hear the side neighbour flush his toilet.  Really, the only place it is remotely peaceful is the side where the trains are ... and that's only for 15 minutes between trains!  I long, and yearn for my country retreat.  But in the meantime I try and have a little farm here.  Well sort of.

We can't have chickens because:
  • Every square cm of the yard is being used or is paved/concreted
  • I want to free range them and they will poo on the doormats (even when we had 26 acres and I let the girls out, they would still come and poo on the doormats - what's with that?)
  • We have a border collie that will round them up 24hrs a day
  • There just isn't the room!
  • The neighbours on the side where we could squeeze a chicken pen have their entertaining area there and she is terrified that chooks will bring snakes.
OK, so no chickens, surely I can have a vege patch?
  • The only spaces available are also walkways - and racing tracks for the dog
  • I tried once to have a patch and it got run over by the dog, the cat used it as a loo, the dog thought that's a good idea and also used it as a loo, the couch came in and took over - fertilised by cat/dog manure.
  • I asked Mr K if we could dig up our lawn and put in raised garden beds - apparently that was an affront to every red blooded Aussie male - to mess with his lawn
  • For the past 5 years I have grown vege in pots - lots and lots of pots.  It cost me a fortune in pots, potting mix, Thrive and water.  Each tomato (although yummy) cost us $57! (approx!)
  • I begged Mr K again to build me a raised bed, one I could keep pets off, grass out of and large enough not to dry out.  The colourbond sheets and timber are still sitting on the ground, no doubt now home to a family of dugites.
  • I NEED to grow things in real soil and worm castings and sheep poo.  It's like breathing to me.
So I found this place and am going to order some raised beds and have them delivered and then the cat, dog, couch, Mr K and dugites can all go get nicked. 



I take out a mortgage today to pay for them!  Cost of tomatoes has just gone up to $90 each.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Strawberries

It isn’t summer unless there are strawberries.  On pavlova, in champagne, with camembert and rocket and balsamic vinegar, on pancakes and in smoothies.
 
The trouble is, although we can buy many plastic boxes of them at very cheap prices in the supermarkets, they all have a generic, pale taste.  Yes they are big and perfect – at a cost to flavour.
 
 
 
What I want are the strawberries from when I was a kid and Mum grew a patch of them down by the chook pen. We would wander in, barefoot and brown, and pick and munch away on delicious, juicy berries.  Occasionally, we would disturb a bobtail lizard who shared our taste in strawberry heaven, and he would hiss at us and waddle off to find a cool, safe spot.  But mostly we would have the patch to ourselves – taking payment in kind when mum asked us to pick a bowl full for dinner - one for the bowl, one for us.  I don’t know what Mum fed them, but I guess it was just chook manure and lots of water.
 
 
 
Last year I bought 5 strawberry plants.  I planted them in those half round wire baskets and hung them along the fence outside my kitchen window. I had visions of strawberries hanging over the edges, red and ripe and juicy.  Wildlife always seems to be drawn to strawberries and between the possums and rats they all but disappeared.  I did manage to eat a few while I did the watering and they were so sweet and tasty. Small, but just how strawberries should taste.
 
 
 
When the plants did their reproducing at the end of summer, I planted all their little runners into smaller pots.  I now have about 20 plants ready for this summer.  Trouble is, I don’t have any real space for them, and I don’t want to hang them near where the rats and possums can get them again.  I also want to plant them in deeper soil as during the long hot summer we get, I had to water them twice a day to shop them drying out.
 
 
 
There is an old broken down wheelbarrow that I salvaged (much to Mr K’s disgust) from the bring-out-your-dead rubbish collection a few years ago.  Last year I grew rocket in it.  I think it will make a good strawberry bed.  I might even paint it white and make a feature of it.  Yep.  That’s a good weekend project right there.  Might go check out Pinterest for some inspiration!
 
 
 
Do you have memories of summer and fruit?  Does tasting something take you back to your childhood?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Babblers

My Mum, a self confessed birdo (bird watcher, or what I like to call a bird voyeur), and wildlife carer, asked me to write about her favorite bird.  I don't know how she can possibly single out one favorite bird (their garden in the South West is full of wild birds) but she chose the Babbler. It doesnt have striking plumage, it goes about its day quietly, its what you would call in the human world - a quiet achiever.  But they are 'characters'. 



I think she likes them so much as they exhibit all the traits that she does - great housekeepers, very family orientated, live in a small but select community, monogamous, great parents and carers, and although seemingly plain, are actually very interesting and animated.  A lot like my Mum. 



Once, in a life not so distant, I could not understand at all what Mum got out of watching birds for hours, carrying around her binoculars, walking for miles in bush and heat, getting a cricked neck from looking up all the time.  Now, after I have experienced it for myself, I get it on all its levels.  Not that I watch wild birds .. I am more the domesticated chook watcher, although I do have a penchant for the pelicans.

But this is not about my favorite birds, but Mums.



So the little babblers.  Written by Mum.


The White-browed Babbler is 18 to 22cm in size, brown with mask like white markings on head and chest. It is a very gregarious bird living in pairs or up to 10 birds in a family group. I used to love to see them in our garden on the ground digging with their beaks in leaf litter and mulch for all sorts of insects. They would come into the bird bath and if there were any leaves in it they would pick them out.

As they are quite a big bird only a couple would get in the bath at once but the others would wait their turn. They would then sit around on the branches nearby preening themselves, and each other, almost falling off the branch as they stretched out sunning themselves, in a type of stupor.

There were 10 in our babbler family at one time, but gradually the numbers went down. I'm sure they were killed off by cats that tenants in one of the neighbours old house's owned. I saw one of their cats right up at our place early one  evening*.

The last I saw of our group, there were 4 birds and one had an injured wing and could only fly low to the ground.
 
They also roost in a communal nest, though only the dominant female lays and incubates the eggs. Two to three eggs, but rarely four, in a large messy domed nest with spout like entrance.  The other birds in the group help feed the young, probably only after they have left the nest.

The male and female look alike, but individuals have different white markings on the end of their tail feathers. I have a record of all the markings that were on our group.

They are called babblers I suppose because of their happy chatter. I could always tell when they were around as they came through the garden on a regular basis, chattering and calling. They are also called 'happy families' as they do seem to be enjoying themselves.
 
Love Mum



*My folks are in an area where there is a covenant on the land that no cats or dogs are allowed by the householders, so that wildlife can be protected.  However, just down the road there are no such restrictions and cats and dogs do roam about and cause this destruction.  Mum does try and educate people about keeping their cats inside, but seems some people don't listen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Daddy Legless Spider

There was a serious workplace injury in my bathroom this morning.  A poor Daddy Long Legs, on his way to work, across the bathroom tiles, over the bathmat, met with a disturbing fate.  Between you and I, I think he had been drinking, for he was wobbling all over the place in a very ungainly manner - come to think of it, he looked like all of his kind, totally uncoordinated and like he had drunk his fill, left the pub and was now walking home - in a zigzag fashion.

Meaning well, I tried to give him a lift, but he struggled and panicked and in all the ruckus ... one of his eight legs FELL off.   Yep, just fell to the ground where it lay on the white tiles twitching and moving like it was still attached.  I was really quite fascinated, in a gross way, and as I stood transfixed by the jerking limb, Mr Daddy One-Less Leg made his escape.  He was on a bit of a lean, but did his best to hobble up over the (now) crumpled bath mat to the safety of the bathroom cabinet.  I should have rendered first aid, but wasn't sure how to pick up his lost limb or if I should put it on ice or not?

The spider's twitching limb - sounds like a Halloween movie title


I watched his lifeless leg twitch for a full minute and a half ... isn't that just amazing?!

 


I left what remained of the spider, hiding under the kickboard of the cabinet. Poor guy ... he deserved a day off after that ordeal. 

Poor Mr Daddy One-Less Leg - rough day at the office


Wonder if I should advise Worksafe?  But I don't want them delving into his obvious alcohol problem ... this was 8am this morning - far too early for a spider to be drinking!  Bet he will have a hell of a hangover tomorrow and wonder how on earth he lost a leg.  Good luck explaining that one to the missus mate!  Great story for the mates however.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A very nice thing happened to me today...

... and I have been itching to write about it all day.  Itching I tell you!

Except I couldn't.  Tell you that is.  Well I could if I really wanted to, but it would have been a rushed and slapdash job and we all know about my perfectionism meets all-or-nothing tendencies.

I wanted to make sure this post reflected how I really felt, not some warmed up left over words thrown onto the page as a makeshift meal.

But.

I had work to do.  You know that damn four letter word?  And yes, I know I work for myself. At home. So if anyone could skive off work to play in Blog Land it is me.  Words and sentences kept popping into my head during the day - as I waited for my teabag in a cup of hot water to do its thing, as I held the door open for the old, blind, dog to go outside (she takes AGES!), as I stood in a shower that went hot and cold as I had stupidly put the washing machine on before I showered.

On my desk sat two fat folders - one says 'To Process' and the other 'To Action'.  I had to do both today - process AND action.  But finally, at 4:33PM in cloudy Perth I have finished.  Except now I have 30 minutes before its cat/dog feeding time.  They have already started to descend on me - the cat is on my desk, walking over the keyboard, sticking his head into my empty coffee cup.  Old Blind dog is on her mat beside me, with an ear cocked for the sounds of dinner being served, and the young and impetuous border collie is sitting up on the cane chair looking into my office window, nose pressed against the flyscreen and yapping at a decibel that only working dogs can manage. 

So here it is.  My Thank You post.

To Jacana,  a blog I follow and have loved for her warmth and humanity, thank you for your post about my Journey to Contentment today.  I don't know how you managed to capture me on a day when the sun struggled to shine, but seeing your post, about me, was all that I needed to change my bad day into a very happy one indeed.  After reading all that you do for others - I should not be surprised by your kindness.

So thank you, thank you so very much.  This post is for you.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Creative Writing Course



I did it, finally. 

I have been peeking into the UWA Extension courses for ages now, hesitant but entranced.  Each course was like a jewel that I had to admire and turn around in the light.  They made me giddy with the possibilities – but then fear and doubt would creep in and I would just bookmark them and leave.  I doubted myself, my ability, my talent. Finally, today, I was brave (or just plain reckless) and despite the doubt still there, I pressed the ENROL button, paid my fees and now am off to do a creative writing course called:

Glint of light on broken glass: short story writing and the art of suggestion. 

(Makes me tingle just writing that.)
I am very excited, but nervous too.  Will I be good enough? Will my writing be immature and silly? Will I find my way there and not get lost?  After my last episode into the ‘art’ world, I have some serious doubts about my sophistication when it comes to anything artistic. 

I have to also take my own lunch.  Bit panicked about what lunch box to pack it in?  Should I take one that the boys left behind when they moved out, black plastic box with a Perfect Circle sticker?  Edgy, yes, but maybe not that creative? (Does have its own little bottle you can freeze with cordial that doubles as a cooler block however).  Or, the large purple and pink Tupperware one, that is really more for a family picnic – the other writers might think I am greedy?  (But I could fill it with home baked muffins to share, and they will think I am a real Martha?  Too pretentious?  Yeah, I think so too).  So maybe the best option will be a plain old paper bag. It will look a bit arty, green, conscious about the planet (oh? Or are paper bags out now too as they use trees … I am not sure, it all changes all the time .. I don’t want to offend but I want to make a good impression).  Maybe I will just go for a walk and find a cafĂ©?  Or a Hungry Jacks for some more writing material?


Of course, I will have to go and buy a new writing journal.  I have only about a gazillion of them, all of them started and used, but very few filled to the end.  I keep liking fresh starts.  Nothing more exciting than a brand new, crisp journal to get you inspired.  (Of course it’s also a good excuse to go shopping – have to have a reason to go there in the first place).  While I am there, I will buy a new pen – even though I prefer to write in pencil, the sound of me constantly sharpening (my pencil HAS to be very pointy for me to write with any style) may put off the Other Writers.

I wonder what they will be like?  These Other Writers?  Will they have horn rimmed glasses and let their grey hairs all grow out?  Will they be quiet and only talk in well thought out witty quotes?  Will they think I am a fraud amongst the real writers? 
 
Maybe I should write about how I feel about writing with writers?  Ah well.  I have paid my money now, they have my enrolment details, so if I wag the class I am sure they will call my mother and then I will be in bigger trouble. 
Roll on 21st October.  If I like this one day course, there are lots more to do, a whole world of dare I say it, writing.

 

Hairdressers - no, not again!

I think I may be weird?!  Or at the very least, not normal.

My sympathies lie with the poodle

I HATE having to go to the hairdressers, beauty salon, nail parlor, day spa ... anything that involves the following I loath:

  • Long hours sitting/lying still with bubbling brook or Enya music
  • Wasting hours and hours of my time with tin foil in my hair
  • Looking at myself in a mirror for hours as a pre-occupied hair 'sylist' looks at herself in the mirror at the same time - and if our eyes meet a pale, weak smile from both of us
  • Having to endure inane chatter about the weather, what she/he/I did last weekend, the latest boyfriend/girlfriend or both
  • Having to flick through stupid gossip magazines, or worse, Vogue - with blank looking twigs on the pages.
  • Have the apprentice girl/guy make me really bad coffee and have to pretend its fine.
  • Pay an absolute fortune to have my grey hairs covered, my split ends trimmed and be called 'darl.
This certainly would not be me - I can't smile like that in a salon!

 

So, I rarely have any 'beauty' treatments, other than a 6 weekly visit to the beautician to have my eyebrows whipper snippered, which is necessary so I can see.  My hair gets attention only 3 times a year ... and I have the brown/grey drag strip down my part line and split ends to prove it.  The only time I have ever had a manicure or pedicure was in Bali - and that was because my BFF told me I had to!

Today I had to go and buy shampoo (I do treat myself to the good stuff, but only because it does last much longer and helps my very bad split ends) from my usual hairdresser and my 'colourist' served me and asked when I was coming in to do something about the very obvious dark roots.  I had also been gently chastised by son #1 on the weekend for being such a mess, so I booked a three hour (yes three insufferable hours) session this Friday.  Jarad, my colourist, will cover the dark roots, add foils, and highlights, give me a 'treatment' complete with a hot towel and a scalp massage. Then my stylist, Laura, will trim, tutt how bad it is, shape, blow wave and mousse my hair into a boofy, silly 'do' that I will have to go back to my office wearing and endure the painful 'oh that looks nice' or 'had your hair done?' comments by the staff.

Unbearable, but has to be done.  When I moan to other women about this they all stare at me blankly. When I moan to men about it, they all wish I was their wife instead. 

Recently, I declined a free half day session at a day spa when a friend offered it to me, as she had booked it, but an emergency with her mums health stopped her attending.  I had no other reason to decline, other than I could not bear the thought of wasting half of my Saturday laying about being pampered.  I feel awkward, weird, and certainly not relaxed.  Give me a good book and half a day in bed and I will show you relaxed and pampered!

Apparently I am weird?