Wednesday, June 29, 2011

False alarm

That's the trouble with cleaning up, you can never find anything again.

The other day the LOML went looking for the sledgehammer to break up some concrete that needs breaking up.  But it was nowhere to be found.  

Nor was the axe.

And there was wood to be chopped as well.

Minds were searched, as were sheds and cupboards and out-of-the-way hidey-holes but nowhere, nowhere were they to be found.

It was a dilemma of the financial and emotional security kind.  Had someone come into our home, into our safe space, and just taken them?  Who would be game enough to walk into our backyard, under our house, into our sheds and just help themselves to our things without worrying about who would see them, who could catch them red-handed?  How much would it cost to replace them?  Where could we get more of that quality for a reasonable (affordable right now) price?

It just couldn't be so, couldn't be.

Sigh.  Huff.  Sigh.

And then yesterday afternoon, the LOML found them.  

Hooray!  Hallelujah!  Cheers all round!!

In the spot where they are supposed to live.  Who'd-a-thunk it?

Not in the spots where they are usually placed after use, precariously perched behind wood piles and doors.  No, they were in their spot.  The result of a major clean-up of sheds and storage areas.

Phew!!  I'm going to sleep a whole lot easier tonight!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pooh understands

I'm a honey freak.

I love me some honey.

I love it on my toast for brekky.  I love it on my sandwiches for lunch.  I love it straight from the jar on the biggest spoon I can fit through that opening.  I love it when I have a sore throat and it soothes the pain.  I love it on my skin at night when I use my home-made face cleanser.

I love runny honey.  I love thick, hard honey.  I love honey flavoured things and I love flavoured honey.  But most of all I love candied honey.  Not that creamed honey you can buy some places, but honey that has crystalised and gone really thick (most people would most likely sit a jar of crystalised honey in some hot water or on a sunny windowsill to return to runny but they are MISSING OUT!!!).

Crystalised honey was a favourite of my nana and she always had a big jar full of it to smear over a thick slice of wholemeal bread for me to devour.  

My family and friends know of my love of honey and over the years I have received an assortment of honeys - dandelion flavoured honey from a hive on my Aunt and Uncle's farm surrounded by fields of dandelions, thick dark ironbark honey from an ironbark tree on a friend of a friend's farm, a 2kg pail of pure honey from our bee-man neighbour - and just recently this delicious jar of honey from Coffs Harbour from my sister and her family who picked it up for me while on holidays down south.
Sweet, divine honey.  What would I do without you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Winter Warmers

My top ten survival tactics for getting through the cold weather this year.....
  1. Red wine.  (Preferably Yellowtail Merlot but I'm not fussy and anything will do).
  2. Good food.  
  3. Good company. 
  4. Red wine.
  5. Chocolate liqueur.  Mmmmmm.
  6. Beanies.
  7. Scarves.
  8. Gloves.
  9. Red wine.
  10. Wool insoles.


Yesterday we had the wonderful Mr & Mrs H and their 3 on-school-holidays-kiddli-winks come to stay.  It was a glorious day - all crisp air and low sun - a beautiful day to be outside (a rarity this time of year).  Soccer balls were found to be kicked around the yard, veggie gardens were inspected for hidden strawberries and the most was made of a lovely afternoon before progressing inside to the warmth of the fire.

With them, Mr & Mrs H brought one of their delicious meat chickens which found it's new home in the oven....mmmmm roast chicken!....before being aided in consumption by roast veggies, mashed potato and hot bread to find it's new, new home in my belly.  Mmmmmm.  Washed down with a good dash of red wine (for me) and scotch (for everyone else - not kiddies though - they had soft drink!!), it was a meal fit for a king queen.  

I would have posted pictures of the divine spread we had happening but I wasn't quick enough with the me though, it tasted even better than it all looked!

The LOML woke this morning with a ripper of a headache and feeling more than a little seedy - sure signs he had a good night telling stories and sharing laughs between scotches.  Me, I'm fine and dandy though I did pull up a little earlier than him giving me a headstart on the recovery process!  I'm getting wiser as I age!  

Mrs H, bless her, read my whinge about cold feet and brought me a present.....
What a wonderful woman she is!  Thank you very muchly - my feet are very grateful!

Combined with my current obsession with crocheting headwear, witness my latest creation.....
....I am doing my utmost to keep the heat in!  Stylishly too!  For those interested, this is a ravelry pattern - Adult Bumpy Bobble Beanie.  The scary eye thing I have happening in this photo makes me look psycho - I'm not really and I'm not usually that intense!  Taking a decent photo of yourself is so hard, especially when trying to navigate double-chin tendencies!  Oh well, scary eye it is!  

I'm trying to also re-teach myself to knit so that I can get stuck into all the patterns for sweaters and cardigans and scarves etc that are in all the old Australian Home Journals I saved from imminent destruction months ago.  I keep telling myself it will be like riding a bike - you never forget.  So with that in mind today I got me some bamboo knitting needles and some yarn.....

Watch this space for more crafty creations....!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It got me

It's my own fault really.  I had it coming.  All this complaining and moaning about the cold and now it's snuck up and got me.  Got me good.

The other night while I was tucked up snugly in bed sleeping my cares away, somehow, some-insidious-how, the cold got through 3 blankets, 2 doonas and a whole lot of flannelette and got me. I thought suffocation would be my only worry.  I remember being cold in my dream (weird alright) and then sleepily rolling over in a vain attempt to regain warmth from the fetal position but after a while of not being able to get back to sleep I realised I was too late - I had a chill.

Extreme lethargy (just repositioning myself on the couch is an ordeal that leaves me breathless and tired), followed by a sore throat (for two days - OMG I don't do a sore throat at the best of times and two days is just plain out torture!!!) and now it has joyfully taken over my sinuses.  Oh happy day.  

Normally I do a head cold pretty well.  I just keep soldiering on living on Sudafed, Vitamin C, hot chocolates and vegemite toast.  I'm still able to get things done, just a little slower.  But this one has me beat.  There is a pile of washing threatening to take over the house and I think every dish and spoon we own is sitting on the bench, dirty.  The LOML, bless his (last pair of clean) socks, just doesn't see that stuff.  He's big on making sure I'm all set with tissues, water, drugs and the TV remote but he sees through the mess forming around the edges.  Oh well, it's not like it's going anywhere.

So it's my own fault and I'm sorry winter.  I didn't mean to complain.  You do a wonderful job and I really do like you.  (I'd like you less if you weren't here for as long but....).  I'll keep my mouth shut from now on.  Promise.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winter Moan #421

Have I mentioned that I live in an old house?  A Queenslander no less, on stumps, with timber floors, VJ walls, sash windows and the like.  Beautiful old character house.

Have I also mentioned that I live in an area of Queensland that gets some quite shit weather - some of the coldest in Queensland, though not quite as cold as Stanthorpe (now that's cold!), with miserable rain and fog and frost?

Can you imagine where I'm going with this?

That's right.  I'm cold.  Holy-toledo-goddammit-I'm-cold.  

And at first glance today should be such a lovely day - sunshine (hooray!!!), clear sky - but with a bitter wind that goes straight through you.  Bbbbrrrrrr!  Weatherzone has the outside temp at 12.8 degrees with 'moderate winds, fresh at times'.  The apparent temperature says 9.9 degrees.  Good luck with that.  Feels more like 2.

Right now I'm sitting in the lounge room with the heater blasting away right beside me on the highest setting it will go and still my fingers are like iceblocks on the end of my hands.  The sheets and blankets I have rigged up over doorways and windows (first-time-out-of-home style) in a desperate attempt to keep the cold confined to rooms I'm not in, are billowing in and out.  Billowing?  Why the hell are they billowing?  I thought I'd blocked all the drafts!!!

Clearly not.

I seem to have forgotten about the cracks between the floorboards.  Those cracks through which I can see light when I forget to turn the downstairs light off.  Bugger.  

Not only is the wind trying to force it's way under doors, between window panes (and cracks in glass - let's not go there!) and down chimneys, it is also coming up through the cracks in the floorboards.  I give up.  I truly am fighting a losing battle here.  

I'm already wearing four layers on top, stockings and jeans, plus two pairs of socks and my ever-so-unsexy slippers.  Any more clothing and I risk suffocation.  Or becoming a fire hazard considering how close to the heater I'm sitting.  I'm also consuming far too many hot drinks than I should be given the temperature of the bathroom.

Next winter this house will be carpeted.  Throughout.

Otherwise you'll find me in Bangkok.  By the pool sipping cocktails with little umbrellas in them.  God's truth.

Sorry to be constantly ranting about the cold but when you can't seem to ever get warm no matter where you are in the house or what you are doing, it seems such a big deal everything else pales in comparison.  I dream of the winter's day when I live in a wind-proof building with warm flooring and lots of sunshine streaming in sealed day.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Really, I do like winter

I love the colours of the leaves as the cold weather sends them scattering on the winds.  I love the skeletal silhouettes of the naked trees, the smell of wood fires bringing warmth into homes around me.  
I love being able to wear scarves and jackets and jeans and boots.  Sitting in front of a warming fireplace, drinking red wine and eating delicious slow-cooked casseroles with loads of creamy mashed potato.  Flannelette sheets, slippers, beanies, hot chocolate, soups....all good and all best experienced in winter.

What I don't like though is the drizzly, foggy, miserably overcast and soggy windy weather that goes with it here where I live.  In other places in the world winter means crisp, sunshiny days.  Days where grass snaps and crackles underfoot, where breath steams in the cold air.  Days that cry out for finding a warm, sheltered spot in the sun and curling up with a knee rug and a book.  Days that invite you outside for a brisk, cheek-chilling walk around the garden.  

We don't get days like that here.

In this place where I live, winter is characterised by rain, drizzle, wind, cold and a bit more rain for good measure.  A good four months of it.  Seeing the sun more than 1 day a week is a luxury, something to be celebrated for the immeasurable joy it brings.  As is being able to go outside without gumboots and an umbrella.  Drives me batty and is most likely the sole cause to drive me to drink (more!).  

Last year the rain started in May, bringing with it the cold.  It then didn't stop until about February this year - just after the floods.  No wonder people were shitty.  Everyone was, and still is, over it.

I want to see the sun.  I want to be able to hang the sheets on the line in the morning and get them dried on the same day.  I want to mop the floor and have it dry within the hour.  I want to open the windows and let the (bitterly cold) breeze blow out the cobwebs and freshen things up a little.  But most of all I want to see the sun.

So today, being our fourth day of wet (plus cold) this week, I will in protest of this lack of sun consume with gusto a full bottle of red wine with dinner tonight, just to get through it my message across.  It's a tough cause I know but I'm willing to give it a crack.

In the meantime, I shall commence my protest by heading to the heated shopping centre to wander the shops and look at all the pretty things....along with the rest of the population.  Maybe winter will hear our protests and bring out the sun tomorrow.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's just not fair

Why oh why can the LOML eat a whole family block of fruit and nut chocolate, washed down with at least a litre of full-strength Coke (no diet stuff here), without putting on weight? 

Why can he do no exercise at all (not counting walking the bins out to the kerb) and still maintain his weight?

Me, I so much as breathe in the aroma of a freshly baked choc-chip muffin and my bum is suddenly stretching the seams of my jeans in an alarming fashion.  Looking at pictures of cakes and slices in a magazine can make the scales climb higher.

It's just not fair.

Not fair at all.

And if the LOML does notice a little paunch suddenly encroaching over the top of his belt, well, he just stops the chocolate and the coke for a week and it's gone!  Gone!  Just like that!  No need for hour long runs on the treadmill five times a stupid week, no need for counting calories and sugar and fat for weeks on end, no need for removing all food containing said calories and sugar and fat from the fridge because you have no willpower to resist....nope, he just eases up on the crap and problem solved.  Totally not fair.

I keep telling him that one day his technique won't work and then he'll actually have to start eating a little better (ie no more coke and chocolate) and engaging in regular exercise in order to shift excess kilos (welcome to my world!).  Poetic justice that day will be.  I shall not be gracious in his defeat!

In the mean-time, I'll be the one hitting the pavement come rain, hail or shine* in an attempt to limit the addition to last year's winter coat and trying to contain my sweet-tooth so I don't resort to inhaling the entire contents of the sugar jar just to get a hit.

I'll also be the one in the corner crying 'it's not fair' over and over while rocking back and forth holding an empty box of fruit loops. 

* who am I trying to kid?  I won't be out walking in the rain or the hail but that's what I have a treadmill for....truly, it's not just for hanging clothes on!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Funny cos it's true

Every day our local paper has a joke of the day.  

Most times they aren't funny at all.  Instead they make me question the humour of the person in charge of this particular segment.  I bet they think a good night out involves last year's tax receipts and a glass of non-alcoholic rose.  Puh-lease.  (not that there is anything wrong with immersing oneself in the joy that is taxation accounting nor the inherent feelings of sobriety-whilst-looking-like-drinking-like-a-fish....let's just say that these things are not for me....).

So anyway, this was in the paper the other day.  I found it quite amusing, funny even, simply because it is true.......The characters are American and Mexican but could truly be anyone really.  Them and us.  Anyone really.

Here goes.....

An American businessman was at a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large fish.
The American then asked what didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?  The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.  
The American then asked what did the fisherman do with the rest of his time?  He said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life, Senor."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat.  With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.
"Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing and distribution.
"You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.
"After 15 to 20 years of hard work and when the time is right you would sell your company to the public and become very rich.
"But the best part is that then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

Funny, cos it's true.  I'm with the fisherman.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

If I had a super-power....

Image: would be the power of invisibility.  

I've thought long and hard on this (doesn't everyone?) and this is the best answer for me.  

Being able to disappear from view at a whim would suit me just fine.  Perfect for all of those times when I see people out and about and I just don't feel like talking, easy solution, just disappear!  I'd even be happy with an invisibility cape Harry Potter style - something lightweight and small enough to fit in my handbag.  Even better if it was crinkle-proof.

I had looked at the power of flight - being able to escape into the sky superman style would be a wonderful release but then I realised that I don't look good in tights and like I learnt on The Incredibles, capes get caught and will drag you to your gruesome death.  Likewise the realisation that things that fly get shot at.  So no powers-of-flight for me.

I also liked the idea of being able to read minds but when I looked at the freaks around me (and there are a lot of them, lets be truthful!) I realised that the less I knew about what went on in their freaky heads the better!  

Speed was another superpower up for consideration.  Being able to race around and finish chores faster than the speed of light would leave so much more time to enjoy the finer things in life (you know, reading, red wine, chocolate) but when I thought about it, it would actually mean more time to do more chores, all those ones that get put off because I don't have time to do them now.  So no on that one too.

Being able to breathe underwater would be cool but considering I don't put my face underwater as it is, it would be wasted.  Likewise being able to produce flames/ice/storms etc at will - I just wouldn't have the use for it.  And as for a skeleton of adamantium a-la Wolverine (don't tell me you don't know what it is!  Hugh Jackman in a chesty bonds...ggrrrrr!), well, I'm a wimp and I don't have it in me to go through the necessary process to get one.  I don't care that much. 

And as for super-strength.....well, I don't care to be too muscle-y.  I mean, I'm all for strength and toning but biceps-of-steel look odd on a woman.  And I like having a neck.

So invisibility it is.  There you see me, there you don.....

Monday, June 6, 2011

The thing with free advice.... isn't worth anything.

Have you ever been approached by someone, a complete stranger, in a public place, who has told you what to do/ what not to do/ how to live your life?  

I had one woman, years ago, interrupt me as I was reading a newspaper to tell me that the diet Coke I was drinking was causing me to be infertile and yes, looking into my eyes my irises indicate that irreversible damage has already been done and I would struggle to fall pregnant so I should stop drinking diet Coke RIGHT NOW.  Okay crazy lady, step away from the table.  Looking back, I wish I had said, "is that so? what a relief (take big swig of diet Coke), I don't want to fall pregnant so I'll just keep drinking diet Coke and stop taking the pill.  Thanks so much!"  But I didn't.  Instead I just stared at her in disbelief.  I'm pretty sure my jaw was dropped and my eyes were wide "Is she for real?!?!?!" while she continued with her rant.  I'm also sure she mentioned the fall of civilisation and the decent into anarchy.  Whatever.

Anyway, that was my one incident.  The LOML, he gets them all the time.  Predominantly women.  Women who think they have the right to go up to him and tell him what he needs to do to fix whatever it is that they think is his problem.  How he hasn't sworn at them I do not know.  He does swear a lot when retelling the stories though.  Not as much as I would if I was telling them :)

Just yesterday he had a woman, completely out of the blue, tell him he needs to eat more green beans.  I beg your pardon?, he said.  Green beans, you need to eat more green beans.  To fix your eyes.  My eyes?  There's nothing wrong with my eyes.  Green beans will get rid of the dark around your eyes.  Lady, the 'dark around my eyes' you are referring to is hereditary.  I don't have a problem with it.  Green beans will get rid of it.  You need to eat more green beans.  No I don't.  You seem to be the only one with the problem with my eyes.  I'm done talking with you.  (silence)  Well, you need to be more humble.  (what!?!?!?!)  You need to leave my store.

Okay, so that was the condensed, swearing-removed, retold version but this is just one incident of many.  'Oh I'm sure they only mean well' you say?  Meaning well is one thing, imposing your beliefs and opinions on others is another and one that is not on.  Particularly not when the person you are imposing on has not invited your opinion or advice.  And even more so when that person doesn't know you.

So what's the solution?  What's the answer?  How best to respond to someone who does this?  I don't know.  

Always there will be people who think they know better and that it is their place and their right to tell the world how to suck eggs.  Maybe they need a dose of their own medicine.  I wonder how they would take to being told to pull their head in and mind their own business.  I wonder what what their response would be to being told that they really need to eat more sugar and sweet foods because clearly from the tone of their voice and the puckering of their mouth as they talk they are in desperate need of something to sweeten their sour disposition.  I wonder how that would go down?  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saturday night Thai night


I've got my groove back and the taste for Thai was calling.....

So last night Chicken and Cashew Nut was on the menu - the LOML's all-time favourite (after the special omelette from Skala in Bangkok!).

This one is very easy yet tastes like it should be an ordeal to produce.  
I have a tendency to add veggies to recipes like these - I have to have some greens and not just a meal of all meat!  But I think it works well and there are never any complaints!

I cook using a $15 steel wok that I got from the Asian grocery store not long after we got back from our big trip last year.  My brother made up the trivet for it to sit on while I'm cooking (it was a test early on to do everything one-handed while using the other hand to keep the wok level on the burner!).  My brother's a boilermaker/ metal worker and whipped up the heaviest trivet I have ever come across using leftover bits of steel from his work!  What a champion!  I paid him in Thai dinners!
Anyway, here is the recipe I follow for Chicken and Cashew Nut.  I use the term 'follow' very loosely as I am a guestimator - I rarely measure!  This makes enough for the LOML and I, sometimes with leftovers for his lunch the next day.  If I need it to feed more people, I increase the amount of chicken and veggies, and then add a bit more water to extend the sauce.  I also serve it with lots more rice to make it go further!

Chicken & Cashew Nut
1 chicken breast (cut into 3 lengthwise, then slice into bite size morsels)
2 tablespoons oil (I use rice bran oil because it has a high smoke point)
4 dried chillies, cut in half (use less if you don't like chilli heat)
1/2 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 onion, quartered
1 cup vegetables, cut into bite size pieces (eg beans, brocolli, capsicum)  * optional *
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon white/light soy sauce
1 teaspoon black/dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar (I use brown sugar)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with a little water to form a paste

1 cup shallots/green onions, cut into 2cm lengths
1/2 cup unsalted roasted cashew nuts

1.  Heat the oil in the wok and fry the chicken for about 5 mins.
2.  Add the chillies, garlic and onion to the pan and fry until onion starts to soften.
3.  Add vegetables and stir to combine.
4.  Add oyster sauce, soy sauces, sugar and water and stir-fry until heated through.
5.  Add cornflour/water mix, green onions and cashew nuts.
6.  Stir until sauce thickens and green onions wilt.
7.  Serve with steamed rice.

Note:  I don't recommend actually eating the chillies in the finished dish.  They taste a little like a dried leather shoe and if you are unlucky enough to bite into a chilli seed, well, you can imagine the burn!  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Potato, Potahto

Months ago I had some potatoes slowly growing eyes in the bottom of the cupboard.  

Truth to tell, they almost had legs and arms as well and were about to hold hostage the bottles of tomatoes and cucumber pickles!  Anyhoo, I thwarted their tyrannical tendencies and conducted a sneaky early-morning raid and put them to service in the garden!
At that time I had mulched some new garden beds - under the lemonade trees, along the fence line.  I had read somewhere (Jackie French?) that potatoes are wonderful at breaking up hard, difficult soil and turning it into something nice and crumbly with no back-breaking digging needed.  With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a go.  Into the mulch and lawn clippings I put about twenty chitting potatoes.  Loosely covered, I then watered them in and promptly forgot about them.
Eventually they poked their heads up above their coverings and announced their presence to the world.  A bit more water (when I remembered) on my part and they were away.  I also planted some into a spare garden bed - one can never have too many potatoes over winter!
And now, finally, after months of neglect, ignorance and downright apathy on my part, they are putting out, and putting out big time!  This afternoon I went out with the intention of pulling a few weeds (any excuse to spend some quality time in the fading winter-afternoon sun) and came back inside with half a bucketful of spuds!  Yummo!
Interestingly, the plants planted in the spare garden bed (with it's delicious soil) haven't produced anywhere near as well as those that were chucked willy-nilly under some grass clippings and mulch and left to fend for themselves.  Only one decent sized potato as compared to five or six. Note for self there - less care = more return.  If only that applied everywhere!
So tonight we are having potatoes for dinner.  I don't know how yet - mashed, roasted, coated in garlic butter, wrapped in foil and thrown in the coals of the fire, mmmmm - a minor detail for sure!

On a side note, the potatoes did a wonderful job at loosening the soil.  Their roots broke it all up and kept it beautiful and moist and a simple slide of the fork into the soil to lift them was super easy.  The no-care factor means I will definitely be using this method again!  What can I say, I'm lazy!
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