Friday, November 30, 2012

Why I need to get a job

Well, the obvious answer is the slow slide into financial oblivion that has already taken so many luxuries such as after school activities for the girls, a clothes budget that is anything other than piffly and the cleaner (sob, sob).

But there is a deeper answer.  At the moment the girls primarily see me in housefrau mode.  When you ask Monster2 what she wants to do when she is grown-up she says "Stay home and look after the children, like you, Mum."

"Arrg", I scream.  How can you explain to a five year old that she is unlikely to be able to afford a mortgage on one income when her time comes and that we only just can now but we are luckier than most.  How can I explain that I have chosen this after great gobs of education and an interesting career, one that I could return to in a snap if I wished.  How can I explain that one of the reasons I can stand being at home is that I have had an interesting career and I will probably do so again in some form but this is just a breather - time aside to focus on them.

And finally, this is a girl who can make emptying the dishwasher last for over an hour (one fork at a time, hum a tune between each one, possibly with a little dance) and that she is completely unsuited to a life where you have to impose your own structure.

  • Reason number 3 - every month that goes by without an income, the husband seems to value my time less and less.
  • Reason number 4 - every month that goes by without an professional occupation, my confidence fades a little more.
  • Reason number 5 - the intellectual gratification of blogging has faded to a marginal return.  I need something chunky to think about or I will go through cranial melt down after which I will sit on the sofa drooling and reciting Dr Seuss.
  • Reason number 6 - neither of us want to clean the toilet again.  We want our cleaners back real bad.

Like this, but sludgier.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Literacy problems in children

I am starting to get concerned about several literacy problems I have been having around here.  Two problems, really.

Firstly, it used to be that I could tell my husband time-critical girl-excluded messages by spelling strategic words out.  This is no longer possible.  I think Monster1 would decrypt the words faster than the husband (who is not a nippy speller).  Monster2 has not even started school and she could probably have a good go at some words.   If the husb. and I both spoke another language we could use that.  It would have the natty side effect of generating bilingual children.

My second literacy problem relates to reading.  For the first time this year I have had to hide my Christmas shopping list.  It is hugely annoying.  You don't have these types of problems with illiterate children. 

My mother was the fortunate recipient of an education in a particular form of shorthand that became fashionable in 1964 then disappeared without a trace. It must have been handy for hiding things from us when we were children.

My mother once went overseas for some weeks when my brother and I were at university.  We had been left some money to pay bills, etc but we were running out of money to buy food.  We knew she had a bag of small change and we knew she would not mind if we snuffled in to it but we just couldn't find it.  When the parents returned from dining their way around regional France, we said, "We nearly starved.  For lords sake, woman, where was the spare change?"

She picked up a scrap of paper from her dressing table containing several small squiggles, and said, "under the bed."

Yep, unless a passing burglar had done shorthand in 1964, preferably at the hands of the Dominicans, that change was safe, safe, safe.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Surprise baby and a phenomenal act of memory

I went to my friend's birthday picnic today.  There was a baby wriggling around a rug that at some stage grabbed my hem.  I had to give several tugs to free myself before my skirt went skittering down demonstrating the voluminous nature of my undies.

An hour and a half into this picnic I realised the person paying the most attention to the baby was the mother.  I have known her for years, via my friend, but I did not even know she was pregnant much less the mother of an almost toddler.  Possibly I had been told and I vagued it out.  In any case these surprise babies are a bit of a shock on the old system.  It seemed like a nice one - round and smiley.

Mother and baby had gotten over a rough start and are in the groove.  It must be relieving if you start with a baby too small to register on the growth chart to hit the 50th percentile.

On a related picnic matter, I generally have a good memory (aside from the years lost to pregnancy and small children, of which I remember very little).  Its weakness is faces.  I am not great at them.

A woman arrived at the party and I started chatting to her.  I think we were both thinking, "how do I know this person?"  Then she took off her sunglasses.  She had very unusual pale green eyes.  I said, "Didn't we work together at XXX in about 2000?"  She was stunned. Then, to top it off, I said, "[address of the building],1st floor, to the left of the lifts."  Frankly, I was a little bit stunned myself.  You have to admit, I may miss entire pregnancies but sometimes I am a clever munchkin.

Thank you very much.  (Said in an Elvis accent)

Invocation of right of reply

 Re previous post

In his defense, the husband said he was looking forward to the roast chicken.

He also claims he understands my point of view and will never do it again.

I suspect the "understanding" was boosted by a certain sheepishness.  He had arrived at work and announced his lunch-less state to his co-workers and made the call to me in front of them. The result was clear enough for several of them to laugh themselves silly, while the dear husband sat with a pale face, saying, "I won't do that again."

Friday, November 23, 2012

You are a grown-up. Please organise your own lunch

On Wednesday morning Monster2 and I were lurking in some playground when we got a call from the school.  Monster1 had forgotten her lunch.

I rounded up the little monster and we rode off to the rescue.

Now last night was the husb's Christmas work dinner and he missed roast chicken.  I cooked enough for him and packed it up for him to take for lunch.  At 8.45 this morning, when anyone remotely knowledgeable about children knows is"harrying the children out the door while stacking the dishwasher" time, he rang.

This is where it gets suicidal.

Now I am prepared to spend 15 minutes taking a 6 year old her lunch.  She is not particularly forgetful and she is a little pip.

I am not prepared to spend an hour taking a man who is well into his forties his lunch.  He is a grown-up.  Even if I was not fantastically busy today (which, if he used his brain he would have remembered I was), it is rude to undervalue my time.

You forgot it.  Buy something.  Monster2 ate yours.

That is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The rose and pumpkin beads don't fit the string

It looks like Monster 2 is making me a bracelet.

In unrelated news, the Monsters are off on a jolly this weekend, leaving the husb. and I to our devices.  One of those will be the beater.  Step back people and take a deep cooling breath.  I refer to the beater to make a proprodigious amount of cream - breathe again - to construct a black forest cake to feed 20 people.

The last such creation, packed ready for picnicking.
You see, my lovely Grasshoppery friend is having a birthday picnic.  And frankly, if you must picnic under a tree in Spring, possibly drinking a glass of champagne, cake is quite essential.

It was her 40th several years ago and so I made cake for 30-odd people.  I probably made cake for 40 and boy oh boy, was she happy with a take-home wodge of cherry deliciousity.  She is a talented cake eker and made it last for days.

Meanwhile, I was biting my fingernails at the thought that cream that had already been on a picnic was being stretched to its bio-hazard limit.  Nobody wants to poison someone for their birthday.  Well, maybe terminal spousal relationships and people with really annoying children.  But then you would have to clean the vomit off the sheets and that way madness lies.  Best not to poison people.  Moving on.

On a related topic, I was speaking to my mother and she told me she had just had some quince jelly for lunch.  My quince jelly.  I have not made quince jelly for about 2 1/2 years.  If I could work out a way to make preserves spontaneously combust after a year, I would.  Not a big explosion that would blacked the cupboard and wipe out the biscuits.  A burn that would leave a small heap of ash in the jar, possibly with just enough heat to combust the label as well, because those labels are a cow to get off.

I do tell people not to keep things for more than a year.  I date the jars.  Preserves are not a suicide sport, people. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

I live with jam wolves

We had a preliminary pick of the mulberry tree yesterday.  Well, not pick.  The friut is still too high after the mega-trim so we went with the put down a sheet and shake the branches technique.  Monster2 did an excellent job crawling around the sheet for the precious berries.

It is still early in the season and it was not a major success.  Only 700g of berries.  Pack that out with a couple of green apples and a kilo of sugar and I made two and a half jars of jam.

Now there has been a mulberry jam drought around here.  The mega-trim was 18 months ago and so last summer was a pass on mulberry jam.

All eyes were turned towards the jars awaiting labels as the toast went in this morning.  There was some wolfish snarling as berries were counted out.

The famed raspberry patch, with the edge of the mulberry at right.
Now we have just over two jars of mulberry jam.  Oh, and a sheet with dark stains.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I hate Christmas shopping

[On an unrelated topic, Norman is a radio quiz.]

The husb. and I have a theory that the closer it gets to Christmas, the more desperate present buyers become, and the remoter the connection between the gift and the recipient.  Though I think there are some people who have such a vague conception of the personalities of their near relatives that they would get something randomly inappropriate even if they started in the June sales.

I have to say I don't really care what I get given.  I figure if I don't want it, I can just give it to someone who does, including letting my local op-shop work out who wants it.  I certainly don't have Aunt Sadie's porcelain antlers in the back of the cupboard just in case she hits town.  Aside from a lack of Aunt Sadies and antlers, my cupboard space is meager and precious.  I have one change of sheets and towels because that is all that fits in.

I am not even in it for the Christmas dinner because if I were to write a list of my favourite dishes, roast turkey and fruit pudding would not come in the top 10,000.  I do like seeing the family, though. I also like the excitement of the kids.  They are a bit cashed up at the moment and I have to restrain them from buying themselves things I know they are getting without giving too much away.

I wonder when they will start looking under painting rags in the shed.  I have no idea why we didn't look there when we were kids but I don't remember really looking for them at all.  Perhaps I was too dopey to be curious.  Monster1 is working on her interrogation techniques in the hope we will let something slip.

One of my brothers once did his Christmas shopping at the only shop he found open on the way to Christmas dinner (a pharmacist), so he gave my other brother a packet of condoms.  I think my father got Old Spice, and I can't remember what I got but the event was memorable for its sheer silliness.

This is what happens when you let Monster2 near several colours of play dough, much to the annoyance of Monster1, a non-mixer.
Speaking of which, I was fishing something out of the top of my wardrobe and I came across an envelope with my father's name on it.  Inside was a Christmas card and some cash.  I must have forgotten to give it to him, possibly this year, possibly a previous one.  I hope he doesn't read this because I have put it in my purse for general frivelling.  Bad luck, Dad.  I guess that is not much better than the pharmacy debacle, so you see, it must run in the family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Yelling at Norman

Sometimes Norman makes me so frustrated I want to yell at him.  I try not to as I am fighting a war against screaming monsters so I like to set a good example.  Sadly, sometimes I just break out and yell.

It is mortifying.  He asks such good questions. 

Mostly I just listen to Norman.  I talk but he usually doesn't listen.  Only occasionally does he give me his undivided attention.  He is a great listener when he focuses.  If I do try to talk to him, things go to custard and my brain refuses to function.  I can hardly speak.  It is very embarrassing.

I love Norman, but I hate him too.

It is not a case of husband betrayal.  He knows all about Norman and can accept my passion.  He is a very tolerant man, lying beside me as I speak to Norman in the evenings.  I am listening to Norman croon at me now as I type.  The dear husband is reading a magazine beside me, not at all jealous.  He is not fussed by Norman - he can take him or leave him.

Norman has come into my life quite recently. He first arrived by accident as I was driving to some social event, years ago.  Then there he was in my car.   But I resisted him then.  I could have loved him for years but it is only recently that our relationship bloomed.   

I don't like to tell other people about my relationship with Norman.  It is a bit embarrassing, really.  Don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

10 more reasons I love my husband

1 When we first had a baby he trained himself to walk in from work ready to help out should it be required and he still does, even if it just to pour a drink as I cook tea.

2 He generally copes very well when I get attacks of devilment even though they may cost him.

3 He grows vegetables and installs watering systems, the latter leading to a plummeting in the death rate of plants.

4 He is willing to converse on a broad range of topics and have Jane Austen novels read to him.

5 Sometimes he needs to go out for cake.

6 He started as a man who dreamed of steak* and could not cook, and now he is willing to cook meals involving lentils (though he still dreams of steak - we just can't afford it).

7 A keen nookyist.

8 Turn-off-able hearing - generally considered a design fault in men but very handy for child wrangling when I have overdosed on noise and run away to my bedroom to wear industrial ear-muffs.

 9 Jam-lover - an essential acquisition for a non-eating jam-maker. (Though he does have a keen associate in Monster2.  They are prone to count how many whole mulberries they spy on each other's toast.)

10 Remarkable cat tolerater. 

A happy vegie patch, courtesy of the husb.

* The steak quality measures include a propensity to hang over the edges of the plate and a creamy sauce.

A monster bit the sun

Well, Christmas is starting to lurk with intent around here.  The girls are getting curious about the content of deliveries.  They are also starting to ask well-reasoned and sceptical questions about the activities of Mr Claus, vis a vis the time taken to accomplish his tasks, as well as the whole flying reindeer malarky.  I am fobbing them off in a general way with explanations of the time dilatory effect of the international date zone, assuming he goes around the right way.

I may well get away with it this year but the end is nigh.  I am ambivalent about this - it is a very silly concept and I am for rationalist children.  Not that I am against the idea of a little magic, but I am not displeased the monsters can think their way through it.

There are still several major impediments to focusing too fully on  Christmas-related matters, namely the endless painting task (1st enamel coat today) and the small matter of the opening of the jam season in a week or so.

The mulberry tree is looking like it could do with a pick, which is a bit early.  I was hoping for a week or two more to concentrate on painting.  It is also odd that the mulberry tree is running early when the raspberries (only 8 feet away) are running on time.  In any case, I expect to make 5-6 batches between the two of them by the time Santa is doing his final departure checklist (ho ho ho).  The stone friut comes in conveniently later around here - that will be a late January job.

While the mango season is upon us in all its tropical madness, I have decided to skip mango chutney this year. I think I need a spicier recipe.  In any case, there is the call of the paintbrush.  Only three coats to go and the drop sheets are drop-kicked.

My dearest Monster1 wrote a very comprehensive list to Santa.  Now I am a bit worried we will be getting her too much on her list, especially when you consider the generosity of my kind parents. Oh well.  She can have bread and spit for her birthday.

Speaking of which, happy birthday to the husband for tomorrow.  Today I love you because whenever we paint a room, you change over the stained, flickery power points.  Much better than flowers.

Last year it rained so much the clay became full as a boot so it leached under the house and made a swamp.  Pumps are not keen on immersion.
PS Today's title comes from a quote from a boy observing the solar eclipse this morning.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Arg, I have squeezed out another coat

In the never-ending saga of painting the hall I have just done the final undercoat.  Hand me the tape and I start on enamel woodwork next week. 

Meanwhile, the contents of the hall, a surprising amount considering it is a small and almost empty room in normal circumstances, are scattered around the house, still.  My not very big bedroom has had 3 large painting boxes for months (and a wall mirror and pelmet).  My nights crackle to the sound of the cat playing under the drop sheets for her 2am frolic.

Now my ambition, and I can see this is pushing it, is to finish this year.  Meanwhile, I have at least 6 coats of 3 different paints (taping in between) left to do and the calender is fast filling up with the pre-Christmas social and school-related event frenzy, 95% of which I would skip for a cupcake.  (Mind you, this is not a small set when you think of all the things you would not do for a really good cupcake with a dreadful amount of chocolate icing.)

Chocolate cupcakes
Focus, woman.  Right, coats of paint.  I figure I can slip on this ambitious time frame a bit.  Two of the coats are the outside of the front door.  This does not require painting sheets and taping over the entire hall.  And in fact, the front screen door could go back on, meaning we could cool the house on warm spring nights without the little Monster and I being attacked by formations of mosquitoes.  The other two will be bite-free as long as the girl and I act as bait.

So possibly my ambition is that by Christmas I hope to have no tape, furniture back in and the house less like it has been turned upside down by a clown with a very large spoon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I prefer my nuts deactivated and my water tappy, thanks

I have to say my general attitude to celebrity diets is, "meh!"  Mind you, the idea of eating activated almonds, alkalised water and organic spirulina is just a bit, oh, silly, really.

I can see that some people are very keen to turn their bodies from mere processing and waste disposal facilities to high-end, ultra-efficient nutrient uptake devices.  And possibly you get a reward for that.  Maybe your eyes pop open every morning with a faint pinging noise, only to leap up and do an hour of yoga, including those eye-poppingly tricky positions  with 20 minutes meditation at the end, before settling in for your organic spirulina with a slightly alkalised water with a cheery grin, a tidy waistline and a clear and alert mind.

Personally I prefer to turn off the radio when the sports starts after the main news, stumble down the corridor, spend quite a while in the first wee because the cat sits on the end of the bath for a morning tickle, then I like to stomp into the kitchen to greet the monsters and start the coffee and toast processes.  Not glamorous but I like it.  It makes the cat happy too.

You have to laugh, though ... alkalised water.  The human body is bloody keen on keeping itself at its preferred pH.  It is called human homeostasis or body pH.  Bad things happen if your pH level gets out of whack so there are a raft of mechanisms to make sure this doesn't happen from anything you pour down your throat, aside from other causes.

\rm H_2O+CO_2 \leftrightarrow H_2CO_3 \leftrightarrow H^++HCO_3^-
Scary chemistry bit

This system can be overwhelmed by say, a pint of drain cleaner, but I am pretty confident it can laugh off alkalised water.  I mean, sure, alkalised water is apparently a cure to:
  • High blood pressure
  • Morning sickness
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Hyper-acidity
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Common colds
  • Water retention
  • Muscle aches
  • Hangovers
  • Urea Stones
  • Body odour
  • Slow wound healing
  • Obesity
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Migraine
  • Gout & arthritis, and
  • Gastric problems 
But then so were the patent medicines of the late Victorian era, assuming you didn't OD on the morphine in them. And frankly, people, when you see a list like that, shouldn't your bullshit filter be red-lining and making a whoop-whoop noise?

I am all for water - drink heaps of it.  From a tap.  In a glass.  Not a cure for urea stones and body odour (as far as I know), but fine, I am sure.  I am just glad to live in a place where the tap water does not make you ill.

Mind you, if you want your water to come in packaging on a long truck trip so your body can change its pH in a zillisecond, go right ahead.  I hope it is expensive.

Lets just leave the activation level of my nuts for another day.

Oops, lost a week

Well, that one whizzed by.  I have emerged from bed after a week of flu, tired, weak and in desperate need of something delicious.  Sadly the tummy is not ready for deliciousity so I shall continue with the raw veg and toast for a little longer. 

After a number of days without, I had a weak coffee with skim milk this morning.  Two things I wish to say about that.  Firstly, I can't be that much of a caffeine addict if I can go without for days simply because I couldn't get out of bed to make it (or hold it down should I attempt to sip). Definitely not an addict, haha haha ha!  Secondly, weak coffee on skim is CRAP, but it is better than no coffee at all (said in a pathetic, grateful voice).

So you see, I must be better.

Mind you, it definitely doesn't help when you are contemplating yet another slice of toast and your father describes the cheesecake he is just about to fork into for morning tea.  Bad father. Go back to your rust patch, you dessert gloater.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The cat lay on the parsnips and leeks

My husband has a veggie garden.  It is primarily for the production of tomatoes and zucchinis (T&Zs).  We love T&Zs though things get a little torrid in a heatwave.  In one particularly bad year, after the 20th kilo of Tommy Toes came in to the kitchen, I ordered the husband to pull out the plants.  The larger tomatoes were coming in by then and those little devils were driving me crazy.

I have a book of collected T&Z recipes, each recipe using at least a kilo of either or both.  In a hot week I have a lot more than 7 kg of each to dispose of.  Chutney, anyone?  Alternately, I have spread a wave of culinary mystery around work as I give people yellow bobbly zucchinis shaped like a slumped pear with the instructions that you can fry em or stuff em and bake em and they taste like peanuts.*You might be able to steam them but I suspect wet, peanutty sludge would result.

Ye gads - are they aliens?
Then there was last year's pumpkin crop.  It was a wet year and aside from the twenty-five 2 kg doobies we ate over winter, there was a rogue Queensland Blue that self-seeded in a fertile spot beside the vegie patch.  It roamed around the garden for months leaving 12 kg rocks of pumpkiny goodness as it went  Now if you cut a kilo off a 12 kg monster and use it in a soup, you have 11 kgs of pumpkin to go.  This takes up the entire milk shelf in the fridge.  No milk.  Further, do you think you can use it up the rest in a week before it goes funny?

We gazed at the beasts drying in a row under the clothes line and made the big decision.  I called a food charity to come and get 60 kg of pumpkin.  They seemed pleased about it.  Good luck with that.  Delicious to eat but try an axe.

Being spring, the garden has just been planted with a range of things.  It has a net to discourage the birds from pecking up seedlings and stealing the worms.  The net also keeps the cabbage moths from laying eggs so the seedlings aren't decimated by green caterpillars.

If we had a serious bird or possum problem the net would not really help but the mulberry tree is a sacrificial anode for the vegies and raspberries.  You do get a fair bit of sloppy pink poo about though.  It goes through a digestive tract pretty quickly, a mulberry diet.

Now the cat has a special skill.  She can lift things and sneak under.  This can make walking around the house at night tricky as she may well be skulking under a rug.  Needless to say, her adept little paws have no problem with with a light net.  She likes to lay.  The seedlings are tiny.  Poor husband.
Cat practicing stealth
*Technically a yellow crookneck bush squash.