Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exsqueeze Me...

So sorry for all and any inconveniences to anyone who hasn't been able to get to the blog via http//  Have been moving ISPs from dotster to hover (I have no idea what that means, hubs is the IT Consultant and so I leave these matters in his hands).

This almighty decision (which has much to do with dotser charging an annual fee to hide our name, address and phone number on has necessitated a great deal of Being Cut Off, Not Found On Servers, and my becoming a victim of Registry Maintenance.  Yes, been losing sleep over that one.

However, all is now complete (apparently) and my slow descent into lunacy/weird gardening lady will once more be broadcast on the internet.


Have spent entire day in car today and have nothing else of interest to say except that the traffic on Penny Hills Road SUX.  Bazza (O'Farrell - new NSW Overlord) we NEED a solution to join the M2 to the F3 quick smart and don't you go whining about deficits to me.

Sorry, did I say that was going to be of interest? I apologise.

And for outlanders, the M2 is a major highway with trucks n stuff (and a main route from the south).  It is attached to Pennant Hills road (which is a horrific suburban artery road - not designed for 600 BDoubles an hour).  Which, in turn, is the only route to the F3 - a major highway which, naturally, is the only route north to the rest of the whole of Australia.  At the moment its costing about one life a month - and today hubs and I were nearly involuntarily contributed to that number.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Indeed I am the Glam Queen also a small rant including poems

So right now I'm in Hornsby Westfield, in the food hall, hooked up to Maccers free Wifi. Next to me sits a half-eaten egg and bacon McMuffin and a cardboard cup of tea. I have made friends with the one-armed light cleaning man, after a brief skirmish regarding the use of the one powerpoint in the place - and we have discussed his unusually smart 13yo daughter's gift for all things computery.

Yes, and there I was thinking a writing life was all glamorous dark smokey cafes, surly baristas and teetering on the brink of dire poverty :) !! 

Anyhoo, my dear friend Jill sent this poem to me this morning, and I thought I'd post it here, because its awesome...

enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own, even if she never wants to or needs to…
something perfect to wear if the employer, or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour…
a youth she’s content to leave behind….
a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age….
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra…
one friend who always makes her laugh… and one who lets her cry…
a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…
eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal, that will make her guests feel honored…
a feeling of control over her destiny.
how to fall in love without losing herself.
how to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without; ruining the friendship…
when to try harder… and WHEN TO WALK AWAY…
that she can’t change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents..
that her childhood may not have been perfect…but its over…
what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…
how to live alone… even if she doesn’t like it…
whom she can trust,
whom she can’t,
and why she shouldn’t take it personally…
where to go…
be it to her best friend’s kitchen table…
or a charming inn in the woods…
when her soul needs soothing…
what she can and can’t accomplish in a day…
a month…and a year…

I'll just go all arts-studenty on you for a moment and note that this poem is accredited to Maya Angelou, but, it is in fact an adaption of a list written by Pamela Redmond Satran for a magazine (the poem is much better than the list btw)

I was at the doctor's office yesterday, and made the unfortunate choice of picking up a copy of Cosmo to read.  That magazine is EVIL, just breathtakingly awful.  I haven't read it for years and years and I'd forgotten.  The values and mores it was bleating on about were cringe-making;  over and over again the message it sent was that a woman wasn't quite good enough if she didn't have the right shoes, make up, clothes, boyfriend... I mean WTF??

It reminded me of the line of another much loved poem of mine "Everyone is Free (to Wear Suncreen)" by Mary Smich

"Do not read beauty magazines... they will only make you feel ugly."


 Everyone is Free (to Wear Suncreen) by Mary Smich
Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. 

I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.
Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Post number 802: Pesto

YAY this is post number 802!!  Was planning on doing a bit of boasting when I got to post 800, but then forgot about it. sigh.  Story of my life really :)

We've got a bit of basil about the place at the moment, so I decreed this weekend to be pesto making weekend...

I used Stephanie Alexander's recipe in her Kitchen Garden Companion.  We ended up with about 3 cups of basil; picked, un-bugged, de-leafed and washed by hubs.

Being fundamentally lazy I fling it all in the blitzer - none of this mortar and pestle business, no siree...

Then I blitz it...

And then blitz it some more. We like our pesto smooth not chunky - well the kids do, and as they actually eat it, and it is green, I am happy to do it their way. 

Check out that awesome colour :)  That is around 600ml.  I was intending to freeze this lot, but then Ms Alexander said you can just cover the pesto with oil and keep it in the fridge and it will last until you get the next lot of basil in the spring.  So, with some trepidation, that is what I am doing.

Barring unforseen disasters (and oh yes, I'm sure there will be something) we should have enough basil in the next month or so to make another big batch, which I will freeze, just in case this lot starts to ferment on me.

We used the stuff that wouldn't fit in the tub to make homemade chicken pesto pizza.  This is easy to do, and to die for...
1. Make pizza dough, roll out
2. Cover with tomato paste
3. Chop raw chicken breast into small pieces, fling in bowl, stir through as much pesto as you think fit
4. Arrange artfully on pizza
5. Sprinkle with a little bit of cheese (mozzarella)
6. Bung in oven, cook until you are SURE chicken is cooked through - takes a little longer than usual we find
7. Guard your two teeny weeny slivers from voracious children and husband - use any means necessary, you have my permission.

I do have to say that I am now, officially, sick of pesto.

Well for today.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cake Friday: The paltry remains

Wasn't fast enough with the camera, this was all that was left by the time I found it and the memory card (in different places as usual). 
This week I did a sponge, with a filling of Dad's strawberry jam and icing sugar on top to cover the burnt bits (curse my fan forced oven, curse it to hell).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Home from school

I'm sure they'll pick them up.  Just like I asked.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dust Bunnies

The dust bunnies are taking over the house and scaring the dog. When the dust in the corners is so thick you can write in it, I suppose its time to get matters under control and stop rabbiting on about Life Being Too Short for domestic servitude. SIGH. Just be thankful I didn't include a photo of the kids bathroom, shudder.

Of course I have leapt into this cleaning thing with unfettered enthusiasm.  So far I've made tea and toast, watered the garden and photographed the Pumpkin Of Hope, which is, as you can see, doing very nicely...

And discovered an eggplant on its way.  The Eggplant of Indescribable Joy.

Okay, okay, I'm going to clean now.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Jam and Japan

Oh Japan - its like having a front row seat to watch Armageddon.  I'm kind-of glad that the TV stations are not doing 24/7 coverage the way they did with Christchurch, as there is only so much relentless tragedy I can process - its starting to take on the unreal feel of a disaster movie; just when you think it can't get any worse, something even more awful happens.  Trouble is, there is no hero who will swing in at the end and make it all right.

I'm wondering what I can do to help - sending cash is not an option for us right now, so I was thinking about maybe knitting something; beanies, a blanket, that could be sent to a person who'd lost everything. 
It seems so little though.

On a lighter note, I have stopped falling over every time I stand up and the room has stopped spinning when I'm lying down. I'm still deaf as a post, but its actually quite peaceful, so I'm not complaining too much.

I have even made some jam with our leftover plums.  This blurry photo (it was in focus when I took it, I swear - but I was feeling a bit lightheaded at the time) is the leftovers that wouldn't fit in a jar and not the sum total of what I made.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sliding off the planet

So for the last four days I've had a cold.  But not just any cold, OH HELL NO - I mean this is me and my colds must be special, rather than common.  You see, instead of starting with a sore throat and moving on to sneezing, drippy nose etc, this wretched cold has taken up residence in my sinuses and inner ear, completely and utterly nixing my ability to balance, and turning my ability to hear on and off as the mood takes it.

Mmm. Interesting no?  (Don't answer that).  

So up until yesterday I was dogged by the sensation that I was falling over to the left, even when lying down. I kept wanting to lie on the floor and hold on.  Though I did refrain from this (have not vacuumed in an age and the dog is moulting). Instead I tried to beat it into submission by lying on the couch in my underwear, watching daytime talkshows and eating chocolate (lindt, natch).  Sadly there is no photo of this.

It seems to have worked.  Today things are improving, the cold is turning in to a proper cold (well yes, that would make it common, but its in my head so therefore it is still special - just ask hubs).  And though I've got that dizzy, spinny feeling you get when pissed and lying in bed trying not to hurl, I have managed to be up and about, and trying to catch up on all the domestic drudgery I let slide.

Well, let me clarify, I have been in the kitchen, cooking things I could eat as I was preparing them. Things with a lot of sugar and butter in them.  Like lemon curd. A lot of lemon curd.

I now have a scorching case of indigestion - damn cold, affecting my digestive system in such a way.

Anyhoo, I was going to ramble on about the garden, but I think I'll go and lie down and try not to slide off the face of the planet.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Milk It, Baby

Is it just me, or is everyone else out there a bit confused about about what the HELL Coles, Franklins, ALDI and Woolies think they are doing to our milk supply?

For overseas readers; Coles, one of our major supermarkets has dropped the price of milk to $1 a litre, which is, by all accounts unsustainable.  The other supermarkets are following suit.

I have heard quite a few stories as to how the supermarkets are able to do this without destroying the dairy industry, and how (apparently) the money we 'save' on our milk is not coming directly from the pockets of our dairy farmers.
  • Coles reckons it gave the diary farmers a 'pay rise' last year to offset the drop in income from the cheap milk (sounds a bit elaborate but okay) - but what then are the other supermarkets doing, having been caught unawares by Coles aggressive grab for customers?  Giving pay rises to their suppliers?  Somehow I doubt it.
  • Another theory is that the supermarkets are diluting their milk with water or adding more permeates to it.  
    • Firstly, Baristas are reporting that the cheap milk is harder to froth, suggesting that either the milk is diluted or that fat has been removed (put simply fat makes froth). 
    • And Secondly WFT are permeates?? "Permeate is a waste product of dairy production created by removing all the fat {from milk} and then concentrating the material that is left, it can make up to 12 per cent of some milk brands in supermarkets.
      NSW farmers say permeate costs less for processors to buy than milk, so the two can be mixed to produce a cheaper product."
      Article here
    • I found this diagram (click to enlarge) about how they process milk...
    •  That makes you feel better about our milk supply doesn't it - natural product?? really??
  • Finally today they are saying that the supermarkets (both Coles and Woolies own a large number of petrol stations) are increasing the price of petrol to cover the shortfall in income/profit
The Senate Economic Committee has already started an inquiry into how this discounting can be happening, and the ACCC is being called on to get involved.  Which is great, if they actually do anything. 

Apparently eggs are next on the radar - I shudder to think what that price war will involve (increasing grain costs and less profits for the farmer will mean they will cut costs in areas that include quality of life for chickens, and the food that they are fed, which is ultimately the food you eat) - and I have forgiven our chooks for digging up the asparagus AGAIN.  

I've been loving the cheap milk, we go through around 6 litres a week - more if I'm making yoghurt and so on.  But after doing some research I just don't trust that the cheap milk is not a lesser quality product that is being produced at the expense of our dairy industry and the expense of the consumer at the petrol pump.  So I've decided that I'm going to start buying branded milk, organic if I can get it.  Yes.  Triple the price, maybe more, and we are utterly skint at the moment.  But I think its the right thing to do.  In fact, I don't think I have a choice.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Slipping Away

Granddad has taken a turn for the worse.  At 94 he's done damn well. Incredibly well.  He's still completely compos mentis, lives in a retirement village in his own little flat, does the crossword, fiddles about on the stock exchange (he has a passion for buying and selling stock in mining companies or 'penny dreadfuls' as he calls them) and generally potters along.  But his body is giving up on him.  Yesterday he had a health crisis, and we are hoping and praying (or as close as my family ever comes to praying about anything - we're a bunch of heathens) that he comes through it and is able to live a dignified comfortable life after. 

He's the last of his generation in our family, he fought in WWII ffs, he's still got so much to tell us, so much to hand on.

Growing old is hell.  And I don't mean turning 40.  I mean getting to 85, getting to 90.  Having your address book you've had for fifty years and slowly crossing out every single person in it as they pass away.  Watching your partner die.  Seeing yourself no longer able to do the things you used to love.  Feeling 20 on the inside.

In my role as grandchild there isn't a lot I can contribute at this point - though I'll keep offering, mostly my job is to support my mother, whose selfless dedication to helping both her parents in the twilight of their lives brings me close to tears.  If nothing else, I will be there for her in the same way when its her turn.

A part of me is angry about it all, why does old age have to be so awful?  Why do people who were once strong and vibrant and had the world at their feet, have to endure this deterioration.  But most of me is worried and sad and hoping we're not facing the inevitable now, that its not now, that its later, that its distant and future. Just a few more months, maybe a couple more years if we are lucky, weeks perhaps, we'll just take more. 


Monday, March 07, 2011

E-Readers Changed My Life & Pancakes

Its Read An E-Book Week - hurray.  It is also shrove Tuesday (or pancake day at our house) tomorrow.  Am trying to decide which event thrills me the most.  I mean, now I get to write a long and possibly faintly ranty post about how awesome my kindle is AND well... pancakes with lemon and sugar, or butter and brown sugar.  FTW.

So, kindles and other e-readers.  Now don't go all 'but I just want to curl up with a REAL book,' on me in the comments.  That just makes me assume that you are old fashioned and afraid of change.  Do you really want me to think that about you, really? 

Why so passionate about e-readers?  After all, my books come in e-form and print-form, so its not like I have some agenda going on.  But it's more what e-readers have done for me.  That is, got me back into reading and introduced me to a whole host of new authors.

Anyone who has small kids will know that the mere thought of browsing in a bookshop is enough to bring on a case of hives.  It just doesn't work.  After Miss 6 showed up I gave up on reading, I never had books in the house and I completely lost touch with it. 

Then I got my kindle. 

Last night I finished Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum novel (Sizzling Sixteen), was able to go straight to the Amazon bookstore and download Room by Emma Donogue (which, incidentally, I heard about through Goodreads - brilliant website if you are after something to read but not sure where to start).  Did not even have to put one toe outside of my warm snuggy bed.

The other reason I love my kindle?  Book prices and new authors.  Generally they are a lot cheaper than the print versions, and this makes me more confident about having a crack at a new author.  When books are priced at upwards of $20, I am not going to spend the money in case I hate the book by the end of chapter three.  But when its a quarter of the price, well, I'm happier to give it a go. 

Take The Book Thief for example.  Hated it.  The authors voice gave me the absolute icks.  But I'm not fussed that I did hate it, not annoyed that I bought it, it only set me back a few dollars and I'm glad I had the opportunity to look it over even if I didn't finish it.

One final thing about e-readers that not a lot of people know.  They display their text using technology called 'Smart Ink'.  Its not backlit, and therefore nothing like what you see on a computer screen.  It looks just like text on paper.  Now I'm not saying reading with an e-reader is precisely the same as a print book (especially when the slackarse publishers can't format their e-books properly) but it comes really close and is easy on the eyes. 

As an author I can tell you that e-readers are the way of the future for fiction - no not your beautiful cookery type books, but yes the way of fiction.  Watching the publishing industry as I have over the last few years, it is becoming screamingly obvious that publishers have to move to e-books to keep up and to survive.  In Australia we've seen Angus and Robertson go bust in the last few weeks (they owned Aussie Borders btw, so that's why Borders went at the same time) and that says more than anything that bookshops as we know them are not going to be sustainable. 

So jump on that person reading the kindle in the cafe (hell, that's what everyone does to me, am thinking I should start running seminars at T2 in Hornsby) check one out, ask your questions and get into it.  Oh and it doesn't have to be a kindle - there are lots of other brands.

Hello? Are you awake? I get a bit ranty about e-readers.  Sorry about that.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Vampire Hunter

 We fed it chocolate...

 And then sent it vampire hunting...

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Cake Friday

I try to bake a cake each Friday, to treat the kids when they get home after chess club and because I get to lick the bowl with no interruptions.

This Friday I had a surplus of local plums after a foraging mission by Hubs and I to Galston.  They are pretty sour so I made Stephanie Alexander's Easy (HA - clearly she and I have different definitions of easy. I see easy as chuck four ingredients in the mixer then whack it in the oven, not as fourteen million different steps and the same number of bowl and ingredients) Plum Cake from her Kitchen Garden Companion, because its got a sugary crumble-like topping.
Yums :)

Friday, March 04, 2011


Its been one hell of a month, hubs and I have weathered pretty much every crisis known to a married couple living in the suburbs (so not earthquakes - though my cousin was in chch, cyclones or floods; but unemployment, overdrawn bank accounts, sick kids, and relentless stress), Miss 6 has been suffering from a grumbling appendix (now seems to be ungrumbled, but we're keeping an eye on her), and Miss 5s antics to get herself expelled from school will make for an excellent 21st speech, and I am promising myself that one day we'll look back and laugh. Maybe.  She has improved spectacularly in the last week (hubs and I are praying she gets through today with no tantrums and gets her good behaviour certificate - what caused this improvement? bribing her with money; if she's good she earns dollars to spend at the tuckshop!! sigh)

The thing that got to me most of all has been the garden.  Destroyed by chickens and heatwaves, rust, powdery mildew, nematodes, snails, blossom end rot, wilt... everything seemed to get wiped out over a two week period in late January.  It got so bad that I just could not bring myself to go outside and see all the barren, empty beds, what was the point when there was nothing to inspect and nothing to get excited about.

But about a week ago I was checking on the chooks - we've had a brush turkey invasion as well - and I suddenly noticed that a pumpkin had self seeded in the sweetcorn bed.  It had got pretty big, and I know it sounds insane but I really hadn't registered that it was growing, I was delightfully surprised and then, on closer inspection I saw we had a baby pumpkin...

Then I noticed the basil had gone wild, so I hacked all that back and threw it into the herb dryer to replenish my dried basil supply. And then gardenate emailed me with a list of what I should be planting, and suddenly it was autumn, and new season apples are coming in at Hornsby farmers market, and it seemed as my life reestablished its equilibrium so the garden came back into balance as well - and we both started to thrive again.

So yesterday I planted oodles of Tatsoi and Pakchoy, carrots and turnips and swedes - note cunning anti chicken tripping sticks - they get covered in shadecloth as well. Chickens apparently don't like to eat eggplant leaves (the big green leafy plant to the right of centre). The basil is reshooting after just a week, and there is a very sad looking capsicum (yes, that scrap of green in the middle) which I am determined to eke at least one capsicum out of.

So its good.  A long, difficult summer is behind us and the future is somewhat less daunting than it has been.